September 30, 2006
This piece originally appeared on The Patriot Project
Imagine that it’s 1997, and you’re a strategist trying to figure out how to get George W. Bush, of all people, into the White House. Your candidate’s record is, to put it mildly, not so great: he had been elected Governor of Texas in 1994 and before that … well … never mind. His term as government is marked by cronyism and corruption, and if elected to the nation’s highest office it promises to be more of the same.
If you’re going to win this you will need to mask your candidate’s record and agenda. You need a strategy that turns your opponent’s advantages into disadvantages, and, most important, that distracts everyone from your own candidate’s awful record. And to accomplish this you need a team that is willing and cynical enough to do what it is going to take to sell your guy. Bush’s top strategist Karl Rove learned his licks alongside Lee Atwater. Rove and Atwater went back a long ways,
Back in 1972, the 22-year-old Rove was a candidate for chairman of the College Republicans. The rambunctious Atwater was his Southern regional coordinator.What kind of campaign schooling did Rove receive? In 1981 Atwater, then a Reagan strategist, said in an interview,
You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can't say 'nigger' - that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff.In 1988, Atwater ran Bush’s father’s campaign against Michael Dukakis,
During the election, a number of false rumors were reported in the media about Dukakis, including the claim by Idaho Republican Senator Steve Symms that Dukakis's wife Kitty had burned an American flag to protest the Vietnam War, as well as the claim that Dukakis himself had been treated for a mental illness.Rove’s own background follows a similarly questionable ethical path,
Rove's first foray into politics involved gaining entry to the office of Alan Dixon--a candidate for state treasurer in Illinois in 1970--stealing some campaign stationery and printing and distributing a fake invitation to Dixon's campaign headquarters, promising "free beer, free food, girls, and a good time."Later, working for Nixon’s “dirty tricks” team,
…Rove infiltrated Democratic organizations on behalf of Nixon's infamous 1972 campaign. Rove's formidable talents came to the attention of George Bush Senior, then incoming Republican National Committee chairman, and the rest is history.Finally, in Texas,
In 1986, Rove, by then in Texas, announced that his office had been bugged by Democrats during a gubernatorial race. The accusation, which spurred an FBI investigation, never panned out, leading some critics to charge that Rove had bugged his own phone.So you’ve got your Rove on. Next, you line up your operatives – people like Tom Synhorst and Ralph Reed. If you’ve got a stinker to sell, it’s a good idea turn to the very best at selling real stinkers. Tobacco marketers were so good that they could convince people to kill themselves with your product and hand over their money to you in the process!
Before moving into political consulting, Tom Synhorst had been employed by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company coordinating RJR’s “grassroots” efforts. Later he had worked on George W Bush’s 1994 campaign for Governor of Texas. Mother Jones, in 1996’s groundbreaking story Tobacco Dole,
Synhorst … illustrate[s] an important aspect of the tobacco industry's survival plan: Create grassroots front groups to make pro-tobacco legislation handed down by state and national politicians appear to be the public's will. These groups, many posing as "anti-tax" organizations, are key to the tobacco industry's efforts to win over the anti-big government segment of the electorate.Known as the “Johnny Appleseed of Astroturf,” Synhorst founded the firm Direct Connect, Inc., or DCI in 1988. DCI continued to work for tobacco companies as well as political campaigns and the NRA, specializing in “strategic message development and delivery,” and using Astroturf methods to make it appear to members of Congress that there was popular support for their positions.
Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition (and now implicated as part of the Abramoff lobbying/corruption ring) is a help, because at some point you want to get your candidate in front of the leaders and followers of the theocratic Right – and especially get their machine behind you. Reed was probably helpful in facilitating a relationship between Bush and the Council for National Policy. (See here, here, here, here and here.)
The White House acknowledged Friday that in 1997, as George W. Bush was deciding whether to run for president, his senior political adviser Karl Rove recommended GOP strategist Ralph Reed for a consulting job with Enron Corp. Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, went to work for Enron as a strategist, making from $10,000 to $20,000 a month, according to The New York Times.After you’ve got your operative ducks in a row there’s those pesky primaries to get through (ask Joe Lieberman about that). In the primaries you face John McCain, an experienced Senator, a man perceived as a military hero who had spent five years as a POW, and as an honest “straight talker.” If you are a strategist for George W. Bush, of all people, how do you go up against that?
And then following the primaries you still have the general election where you’ll be up against Al Gore, the most involved Vice President in history, coming from four years of peace and prosperity, a former seminary student, Vietnam veteran, with one of the strongest records of any Senator.
Turning McCain’s record into a liability – how they did it.
If you’re really, really cynical, why not turn a record of honorable record of military service and dedication to America into a liability!
From Patriot Project’s The Swiftboaters Are Back in the Water,
… Bush surrogates (several later involved in the Kerry swiftboating effort) skillfully turned McCain's service record against him (thereby deflecting questions about Bush's own service record.) They planted stories that the torture McCain suffered as a POW had brought about mental instability, including rumors that he had been programmed as a "Manchurian candidate" who "collaborated with the enemy." No longer could McCain use the fact that he had endured torture as evidence of dedication to serving his country.And as explained in Patriot Project’s Did Paul Galanti Sell His Medals,
In the 2000 South Carolina Presidential primary Bush surrogates circulated stories that McCain’s five years as a POW had made him "mentally unstable," gave him a "loose screw," that he "committed treason while a POW" and "came home and forgot us." The stories also called McCain "the fag candidate," called his wife a drug addict, said McCain “chose to sire children without marriage” and had "a black child" (the actual wording of that last smear from the flyers and e-mails that circulated is not printable here).This information was passed using flyers, e-mails, word-of-mouth and “push polls.” As McCain’s campaign manager, Richard H. Davis, later wrote in his article about what happened, The anatomy of a smear campaign that,
And when McCain responded by asking whether this kind of smear campaign showed that voters should think twice about trusting Bush, saying Bush was “twisting the truth like Clinton,” Rove was able to turn that against McCain¸ by accusing McCain of “going negative.” Unlike Rove and Bush, McCain hadn’t understood the value of attacking with surrogates.
Anonymous opponents used "push polling" to suggest that McCain's Bangladeshi born daughter was his own, illegitimate black child. In push polling, a voter gets a call, ostensibly from a polling company, asking which candidate the voter supports. In this case, if the "pollster" determined that the person was a McCain supporter, he made statements designed to create doubt about the senator.But other Bush surrogates threw smoke into the air, accusing the media of making up the whole story,
Thursday night ABC, CBS and NBC all featured full stories about John McCain’s indignation over "push polling" by the Bush campaign -- based solely on the second-hand recitation by a mother about a phone call her 14-year-old son supposedly received tagging McCain a "fraud" and a "liar."Synhorst’s firm specialized in push-polling. According to a Feb. 11, 2000 Washington Post story,
While all the stories included denials from the Bush campaign that they made any such calls, by making the allegation the basis of their campaign story of the night, only ABC ran a second story on another subject (see item #2 below), the networks served the agenda of the McCain campaign.
[Bush campaign spokesman Ari] Fleischer said the advocacy calls were being made by the firm of Feathers, Hodges, Larson and Synhorst, a Phoenix-based company that has worked extensively for the Bush campaign to identify and turn out voters in key states.Reed also had his own background in nasty, smearing push polling. According to Josh Marshall,
Back in 1996 Reed was the one who helped save Bob Dole in Iowa by orchestrating a campaign of so-called "push-polls" attacking rival candidate Steve Forbes for, among other things, tolerating his father's "alternative lifestyle."
And, also according to Marshall,
Reed's frequent partner in "astroturf" work is Tom Synhorst. Let's run through some of his exploits in the "astroturf" biz. Synhorst's main shop is Direct Connect Inc., DCI. DCI did the "astroturf" work for the 'Health Benefits Coalition,' trying to kill the Health Care Bill of Rights back in 1998 (Nat. Journal July 11, '98); DCI also spearheaded various efforts by the tobacco industry and the NRA; it also helped set up Americans for Competitive Technology and Americans for Technology Leadership, two Microsoft front groups agitating against the Justice Department's antitrust suit.(Remember that Reed working for Microsoft at the same time as he was employed as a Bush campaign strategist.)
And finally, let’s bring in the Wyly Brothers. The Wyly Brothers ran their own smear-McCain operation. According to the Dallas Morning News,
During Mr. Bush’s 2000 primary fight with John McCain, the [Wyly] brothers backed a $2.5 million television ad campaign praising Mr. Bush’s environmental record in Texas and attacking Mr. McCain’s Senate votes. Until that point, it was Mr. Bush whose record had come under fire from environmental groups.So what is up with McCain today, turning around and joining up with the very foes who smeared him in 2000?
The ad’s sponsor was identified only as “Republicans for Clean Air,” a new group at the time…
From the Dallas News story,
Earlier this year, the Wylys’ relationship with Mr. McCain took a surprising turn. They each sent $10,000 checks to his political action committee and were set to co-sponsor a Dallas fundraiser on his behalf.
And from ABC’s April 23, 06 story, Gearing Up for '08? McCain Befriends Old Enemies,
Also co-chairing the [McCain] event are Rob Allyn, a Texas PR man who was paid $46,000 to produce the Wylys' "Republicans for Clean Air" ads, and businessmen Albert Huddleston and Harold Simmons, who gave $100,000 and $3 million respectively to the controversial independent group, "Swift Vets & POWs for Truth." McCain called "dishonest and dishonorable" the "Swift Vets" group's 2004 campaign ads that helped sink the presidential chances of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.Interestingly the Wyly Brothers may have gotten the money to smear McCain from Texas taxpayers, with Bush’s help. But that’s a story for later…
… Also co-chairing the event are Rob Allyn, a Texas PR man who was paid $46,000 to produce the Wylys' "Republicans for Clean Air" ads, and businessmen Albert Huddleston and Harold Simmons, who gave $100,000 and $3 million respectively to the controversial independent group, "Swift Vets & POWs for Truth." McCain called "dishonest and dishonorable" the "Swift Vets" group's 2004 campaign ads that helped sink the presidential chances of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
… McCain has been criticized by many liberals and pundits in recent weeks for agreeing to speak on May 13 at Liberty University, the school founded by Christian conservative Rev. Jerry Falwell, who McCain in 2000 labeled "an agent of intolerance." McCain told NBC's Tim Russert earlier this month that he no longer held that opinion.
"The, quote, 'Christian Right' has a major role to play in the Republican Party," McCain said. "One reason is because they're so active, and their followers are."
John Dean, in the preface to his book Conservatives Without Conscience, writes,
How do people – particularly those who have never put their life on the line fot their country – engage in, or condone, attacks on Senator John McCain’s life-defining experiences as a Vietnam POW or question Senator Ma Cleland’s courage in building a new life after his loss of three limbs in Vietnam? What causes them to dispute Senator John Kerry’s valor during voluntary combat duty in Vietnam or to contest Representative Jack Murtha’s war record in Vietnam? … These questions have clear answers. … In fact, these people cannot be trusted to exercise the powers of government responsibly.
The Patriot Project is working to expose the front groups, their funding, their connections and their tactics.
The slowdown in the housing market is already affecting the sales of pickup trucks. Housing slowdown brakes pickup sales | Chicago Tribune,
General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co., the world's three largest automakers, are discovering that a housing slump can do what record fuel prices couldn't: cripple demand for pickup trucks.
From 1995-2005, sales of full-size pickups surged 46 percent as home builders bought them for work-related projects and consumers followed suit.
But sales are down 14 percent this year, hurt by a housing slowdown that caused existing-home prices to drop for the first time in 11 years last month.
Like I have been saying, we are only now BEGINNING to see the bubble pop and the ripples that will follow across the economy. Here, just from the first signs of a slowdown we see pickup truck sales way off. There are layoffs in the mortgage industry, and certainly realtors are cutting back. What sectors will be affected as sales slow further and prices drop? Home Depot comes to mind...
Remember what happened to the stock market? Like stocks, housing has a certain value that you can calculate. Housing prices MUST revert to the mean, and the mean is less than half of current prices. So I think that there is a lot more pain to come.
September 29, 2006
My mother's cat - in New York.
Say what you will about Foley, he was the Congressman most dedicated to protecting children. I'm concerned about the possibility that during the period while his replacement is being selected and trained, children will not be adequately protected. Someone ought to bring this problem up with Speaker Hastert, to make sure that he replaces Foley with someone equally dedicated to child-protection.
And keep asking him, and asking him, until we get a straight answer. We need to be sure that the children are being protected.
Update:I have posted this comment on several comment threads, and a lot of people take it seriously and get mad. I don't blame them; Republican trolls are impossible to parody, because it's impossible to write something stupider than what they really think.
This piece originally appeared on The Patriot Project
A new, factory-produced front group named the Black Republican Freedom Fund is running ads saying - sit down for this, and do NOT have a cup of coffee anywhere near your face - "Martin Luther King, Jr. Was a Republican."
Last week in Patriot Project's report, Front-Group Economic Freedom Fund and Meridian Pacific, the question was asked,
"How is it that so many front groups are able to appear just in time to spread their lies and poison into campaign seasons? It is almost as if there is a template that is used, with a factory that cranks them out, all the parts assembled, needing only a misleading name -- and a target."That story discussed how one person is able to fund a front group that is now conducting nasty (and in one case likely illegal) "push polls" and running ads against Democrats in Congressional districts around the country.
That Patriot Project story concluded,
"These connections show more than the fact that there is very little beyond obscure legal wording that separates these front groups from the core Republican Party. They show that there is a far-reaching, "in-place" infrastructure ready to be called on at a moment's notice to secure the objectives of the party and its funders. Organizations like the Economic Freedom Fund can be set up according to a template. Just put money in this end and smears and lies are sprayed out of the other. Inside, operating the machinery are people who move freely between these front-group firms, campaigns, corporate lobbying organizations and the Party. Front groups are set up to obtain signatures for a ballot initiative, saturate the airwaves with ads in favor of or against any candidate or issue - or smear someone like John Kerry or John Murtha. Just write the check, and there you go."Today Patriot Project further explores this front-group phenomenon, looking at the arrival of yet another factory-produced, turnkey operation: the Black Republican Freedom Fund (BRFF). BRFF is funded, according to their June 30, 2006 report, by over $129,000 in "unitemized contributions" plus a number of other, smaller contributions, all but one under $1,000.
BRFF is running a "Martin Luther King, Jr. Was a Republican" campaign attempting to convince African-Americans that the largely-white Republican Party is their true home. But in this election the Republicans seem to be having a bit of a race problem. For example one Republican, Senator George Allen, has been in the news for calling a non-white person "Macaca" and telling him "Welcome to America." More recently there have been revelations that he has a history of using the "n-word" and even may have placed a severed deer head in the mailbox of the "nearest black person." So yes, the Republican Party does appear to have a slight bit of a race problem on its hands. So the answer? Why, accuse the Democrats of having a race problem, of course.
Here's how the cynical process works. Your opponent is strong and you are weak in a certain area - in this case it is about strong African-American support for Democrats and a Republican race problem making its way into the news. To fight this you set up a front group that is designed to drive a wedge into the core of their support while providing "cover" to deflect attention from you. And to get this done you say anything - whatever is necessary to trick the voters into thinking their interests are served by your cause. So in this case the front-group Black Republican Freedom Fund is set up to run ads in urban areas that say, "Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan," "Democrats released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks" and "Democrats blocked the minimum wage passed by Republicans."
This cynical wedge-driving process is reminiscent of the line from The Godfather, "It's not personal. It's business." It's just how it's done - you do what you have to do. It's just a job, just business.
Further illustrating the factory-made process of setting up these front groups, NBRA shares the same street address and suite number as the DC office of another far-right front group, the National Center for Policy Analysis. This is not to say the two organizations are connected or share facilities or personnel -- a call to a law firm also sharing this address disclosed that this is an "executive suites" facility, which is, in a way, the office equivalent of a post-office-box address. The point is that these are ready-to-go offices that you can move into or out of immediately while giving every appearance of being an established, credible operaiot - quite appropriate for the kind of factory-made, ready-to-go front group that pops up just in time to set a nasty tone and drive a wedge into a target demographic for the election.
Gilliard told RAW STORY that the ad was particularly offensive because "it assumes that blacks are unsophisticated voters, who are driven by emotion," when Maryland just "may have the highest concentration of blacks with advanced degrees on the planet."BRFF, yet another 527, is entirely a creation of the National Black Republican Association (NBRA). The "About Us" page of the BBRA website makes their association with the Republican Party very clear,
"So to try and rewrite history is insulting," Gilliard added. "People know the history of the two parties and this is just offensive."
MISSION: The mission of the National Black Republican Association (NBRA) is to be a resource for the black community on Republican ideals and promote the traditional values of the black community which are the core values of the Republican Party: strong families, faith in God, personal responsibility, quality education, and equal opportunities for all.NBRA's website also explains the relationship to BRFF,
GOAL: The goal of the NBRA is to return black Americans to their Republican Party roots by enlightening them about how Republicans fought for their freedom and civil rights, and are now fighting for their educational and economic advancement.
The Black Republican Freedom Fund: Our affiliated political action fund, the Black Republican Freedom Fund, will strongly support, both politically and financially, black Republican candidates under the NBRA's Blue County Victory Plan. This strategy entails identifying, training and financing black Republicans to run for election in districts populated largely by black Americans, with the aims of getting black Republican elected and winning votes for the top of the Republican ticket.Perhaps a review of the rules about connections between front groups and political parties is in order.
NBRA shares a certain extremist bent with other front groups Patriot Project has examined. NBRA Chair(wo)man, Frances Rice, writing at far-right Human Events - a publication that features Ann Coulter - demonstrates this extremist tone, (note the early-1960's John Birch Society-style wording "Democrat Party")
"And as one pundit so succinctly stated, the Democrat Party is as it always has been, the party of the four S's: slavery, secession, segregation and now socialism.Rice has been in the press before,
It was the Democrats who fought to keep blacks in slavery and passed the discriminatory Black Codes and Jim Crow laws. The Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan to lynch and terrorize blacks. The Democrats fought to prevent the passage of every civil rights law beginning with the civil rights laws of the 1860s, and continuing with the civil rights laws of the 1950s and 1960s.
[. . .] Today, Democrats, in pursuit of their socialist agenda, are fighting to keep blacks poor, angry and voting for Democrats. Examples of how egregiously Democrats act to keep blacks in poverty are numerous.
[. . .] We must demonstrate that the Democrat Party policies of socialism and dependency on government handouts offer the pathway to poverty, while Republican Party principles of hard work, personal responsibility, getting a good education and ownership of homes and small businesses offer the pathway to prosperity."
Back in February of this year, we caught Frances Rice, one of the state's leading Republican organizers, plagiarizing Washington Post columnist Colbert King; when cornered, she accused Venice Florida! dot com of racism.And, finally, an endnote -- events last year following Katrina. From Sept. 2, 2005,
BLACK REPUBLICAN GROUP PRAISES BUSH'S DISASTER REACTIONThis was apparently too much for even the organization's own Board of Directors to stomach. Just one week later, on September 12, seven of ten Board members resigned,
Seeing the hundreds of relief convoys pouring into New Orleans, bringing medicine and millions of gallons of food and water to provide relief and comfort to the people devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the National Black Republican Association (NBRA), a grassroots organization, issued a statement of praise for President Bush and his show of compassion and leadership in directing the relief effort.
... "As African Americans," NBRA officer Andre Cadogan said, "we are deeply concerned about efforts of President Bush's critics to politicize, for their own partisan political agenda, a disaster that affects so many of our fellow African American citizens."
RESIGNATIONS AT THE NATIONAL BLACK REPUBLICAN ASSOCIATION
More than half of the newly formed National Black Republican Association's board of directors has walked out, according a now former high ranking board member.
... The exodus comes as President Bush has come under fire for his administration's slow response to Hurricane Katrina, a storm in which many blacks died.
The Patriot Project is working to expose the front groups, their funding, their connections and their tactics.
Well, now we know WHY there have been so many recent accusations that Clinton had a chance to kill bin Laden and did not. It's because the Republicans knew a book was coming soon that exposed that Bush was begged to do something about bin Laden ad didn't.
What is the STF Rule? When Republicans accuse, it means it is something THEY are guilty of.
CIA Director George Tenet and his counterterrorism head Cofer Black sought an urgent meeting with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on July 10, 2001, writes Bob Woodward in his new book "State of Denial."Also see Think Progress.
They went over top-secret intelligence pointing to an impending attack and "sounded the loudest warning" to the White House of a likely attack on the U.S. by Bin Laden.
... Black later calculated that all he needed was $500 million of covert action funds and reasonable authorization from President Bush to go kill Bin Laden and "he might be able to bring Bin Laden's head back in a box," Woodward writes.
... Tenet said he had hoped the meeting would shock Rice into encouraging the President to take immediate action against Al Qaeda.
... Woodward says that Tenet described the meeting as a "tremendous lost opportunity to prevent or disrupt the 9/11 attacks."
Tenet also claims that his alarm over Bin Laden was downplayed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who asked, "Could all this be a grand deception?"
Keep this in mind. If your neighbor's mean-ass pit bull comes into your yard and bites you, you don't get mad at your own dog for not protecting you. First order of business is to get rid of the god-damned pit bull. After all, he's the one that's really responsible for your wounds. Once that's done, then you can worry about giving your own sorry pooch some watch-dog training.Go see the whole list, then send EACH of their challengers in this election $1000. EACH ONE!
(And if you really do that, remember my tip jar, too!)
So... just HOW dishonest is Bush? Well, let's approach this scientifically. Remember in May, when the White House said that Jack Abramoff only had two contacts with the White House? White House logs list only 2 Abramoff visits - May 10, 2006,
Newly released visitor logs show disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was signed in to the White House complex on two occasions since President Bush took office in 2001, including once when the president was out of town.Well it turns out the White House misunderestimated the number,
The House Government Reform Committee report, based on e-mail messages and other records subpoenaed from Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying firm, found 485 contacts between Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying team and White House officials from 2001 to 2004, including 82 with Mr. Rove’s office. [emphasis added]So, there we have it. We can now calculate that when the White House says '2' the truth is '485'.
Let's hope they aren't saying we'll be occupying Iraq for 2 more years.
September 27, 2006
RADIO: Taylor Marsh has an Interview with Kristen Breitweiser on Intelligence Failures -- about her new book "Wake-up Call".
Kristen Breitweiser is one of the "Jersey Girls" -- "four women from New Jersey who were widowed when their husbands were killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks and subsequently researched the policy and intelligence failures that led up to the attacks."
Although Breitweister stated that she was a Republican and she voted for George W. Bush in 2000, she became an Independent due to her anger over Bush's response to 9/11 and vigorously supported John Kerry in 2004 and is now an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration, claiming Bush has not made the United States safer since the attacks, as well as criticizing the war in Iraq.
I hope Digby doesn't mind too much but I'm just going to quote this entire post. I've had a bad day, and there's the torture bill, and Iraq is falling apart, and the housing bubble popping threatens to explode the debt bomb and maybe I'd better start taking anti-depressants. So here's Digby's post:
SickI mean, what in hell is wrong with these people? Jesus.
It really takes a lot of gall for the NY Post to obnoxiously ridicule Keith Olberman for calling the police when some asshole sent some white powder to his house with a note that said it was in response to his commentary against the president. The NY Post was one of the places that the original anthrax killer hit in 2001 --- and their own employees got sick.
What in the hell is wrong with these people? Jesus.
September 26, 2006
If you scroll down the left side of this page you will come to "Links to Other Blogs:"
What you have there is a list of LOTS of other progressive-oriented bloggers, all of them with something important to tell you.
I suggest picking a random blog, visiting and reading. You might find a new second-favorite blog. (Seeing the Forest WILL remain your first favorite.) It's a good habit to get into, because this is about the Voice of the People. Democracy. Sticking up for each other. Kumbaya. All that stuff.
(If you find a blog that has stopped posting, etc. let me know.)
Bush says waterboarding is something your government should continue doing to people. But just what IS waterboarding?
"It's completely illegal according to the congressinally-passed Geneva Conventions. Let Robin Williams show you what Bush has made the theme of the Republican Party, 2006."Click and watch.
Vote No To Republican Values.
The long-predicted correction in U.S. housing prices has apparently begun.But wait, there's more!
The median selling price fell for the first time in 11 years last month, on an annual basis, pushed lower by the largest glut of unsold homes since 1993, and some economists fear the worst may lie ahead.
The price fall comes amid concerns that the U.S. housing slump could quickly spread to other areas of the economy as consumers react to the falling value of their nest eggs. In recent years, homeowners have used the equity built up in their homes to finance their lifestyles. A U.S. downturn now could also spill over into dependent economies, including Canada's.
The year-over-year drop in median sales prices represented a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for the once high-flying housing market, which last year was posting double-digit price gains.Stats show dramatic slowdown in California housing market,
"Pop goes the housing bubble," said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. He predicted prices will fall further as home sellers struggle with a record glut of unsold homes.
Fresh evidence poured in Monday that the national and Bay Area housing markets are declining sharply.Sometimes, just the headlines say it all - that's all most people see anyway:
The California Association of Realtors reported that statewide home sales year to year fell 30.1 percent in August, the greatest decline since the housing market was facing double-digit interest rates in the early 1980s.
September 25, 2006
New book -- go watch the video.
Arianna Huffington, in Bill Clinton's Bipartisan Love-In Blows Up in His Face writes,
Hooray! Good for Bill Clinton. He finally called Fox News and the right-wing on their BS, right? Well, sort of.There is a fundamental point here. I, and many others, think that the Democratic leadership has profoundly misjudged the nature and intentions of the conservative movement. John Dean, in his book Conservatives Without Conscience, warns that we are witnessing the rise of an authoritarian government, and Kevin Phillips, in American Theocracy, warns that the current Republican leadership is intent on bringing about a theocracy. This is not politics-as-usual. THIS is what the bloggers are so shrill about.
... I'm glad the Chris Wallace interview is flying all over the internet, but I really hope that one person who will watch it over and over again is Bill Clinton. And that on the fifth or sixth viewing it might occur to him that the more cover he gives Bush and his cronies, the more they're able to increase and entrench their power. Power they use to destroy everything that Clinton purports to stand for.
In March I wrote,
Maybe, just maybe, they mean the things they are saying. And I think this warning about the extreme things the Right is saying is a big part of what political blogging is about.
... So political bloggers are more likely than others to be visiting websites and forums where right-wingers more openly discuss their ideas, or are more likely to be listening to Limbaugh and others on the radio. And what we are reading and hearing is frightening. The things they are saying to each other are DIFFERENT from what they are saying to the public. The things they are writing and saying are extreme and violent and subversive. It is not like what we as Americans are used to reading and hearing.The signs are all around us -- take it seriously.
The things the Republicans are saying and doing are so extreme that regular people refuse to believe it when you try to warn them about what is happening.
... Bloggers are trying to warn the public that what is going on in America is DIFFERENT from politics-as-usual. The bloggers have been trying to get the Democratic leadership and the media to understand this. We are seeing something new to America forming, something dangerous to democracy. The "pendulum" is not swinging back.
... When will the Democratic leadership begin to realize that the extreme things the Republicans are saying might be what they mean to do?
Watch your backs.
Here it comes. After this news buyers will start demanding price reductions. This can only accellerate -- this bubble could "unwind" very rapidly. Where IS the bottom? Just remember what happened when the stock market bubble popped. Existing-home prices fall for 1st time in 11 years,
Median sales prices of existing homes fell from year-ago levels in August for the first time in 11 years and just the sixth time in the past 38 years, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.And the ripple effects are beginning to spread with mortgage companies and realtors starting to lay off employees:
Sales of existing homes fell 0.5% in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.30 million, the industry group said.
Countrywide Financial Corp., the country's largest mortgage lender with about 5,700 workers in Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village, instituted a 60-day hiring freeze and plans to reduce staffing in several areas, Dave Sambol, president and chief operating officer, said in a memo obtained by The Star.Jump ship or pink slip for some realtors,
They are jumping ship or receiving the pink slip. America's real estate agents and mortgage lenders, that is.
Now that the glory days of the most recent U.S. housing market are over, its deterioration is taking a toll on employees who profited from its record-breaking five-year run.
With home sales slumping and loan demand diminishing, layoff announcements and resignations have become increasingly common, evidence that the sector's slump is broad.
September 24, 2006
The new Rolling Stone article, Will The Next Election Be Hacked? by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in cludes an on the record claim by a former Diebold employee that they changed the software in the machines the night before Georgia's 2002 primary election. This, or other altered software could still be there for the November election. Of course, the point is, with these machines there is no way to prove that the reported vote counts reflect how the voters voted.
From the article,
Then, one muggy day in mid-August, Hood was surprised to see the president of Diebold's election unit, Bob Urosevich, arrive in Georgia from his headquarters in Texas. With the primaries looming, Urosevich was personally distributing a "patch," a little piece of software designed to correct glitches in the computer program. "We were told that it was intended to fix the clock in the system, which it didn't do," Hood says. "The curious thing is the very swift, covert way this was done."Impossible to know. THAT is the problem.
Georgia law mandates that any change made in voting machines be certified by the state. But thanks to Cox's agreement with Diebold, the company was essentially allowed to certify itself. "It was an unauthorized patch, and they were trying to keep it secret from the state," Hood told me. "We were told not to talk to county personnel about it. I received instructions directly from Urosevich. It was very unusual that a president of the company would give an order like that and be involved at that level."
According to Hood, Diebold employees altered software in some 5,000 machines in DeKalb and Fulton counties - the state's largest Democratic strongholds. To avoid detection, Hood and others on his team entered warehouses early in the morning. "We went in at 7:30 a.m. and were out by 11," Hood says. "There was a universal key to unlock the machines, and it's easy to get access. The machines in the warehouses were unlocked. We had control of everything. The state gave us the keys to the castle, so to speak, and they stayed out of our way." Hood personally patched fifty-six machines and witnessed the patch being applied to more than 1,200 others.
The patch comes on a memory card that is inserted into a machine. Eventually, all the memory cards end up on a server that tabulates the votes - where the patch can be programmed to alter the outcome of an election. "There could be a hidden program on a memory card that adjusts everything to the preferred election results," Hood says. "Your program says, 'I want my candidate to stay ahead by three or four percent or whatever.' Those programs can include a built-in delete that erases itself after it's done."
It is impossible to know whether the machines were rigged to alter the election in Georgia: Diebold's machines provided no paper trail, making a recount impossible.
Here is the solution: The machine is used as a data-input device ONLY. This solves all the problems from earlier ways of voting, including "hanging chads" etc. It then prints out a paper ballot, filling in the voter's choices from the touch-screen. The voter looks over the ballot and, if it has the right information, puts it into a separate ballot box. Then there is a way to PROVE how the voters voted. AND it doesn't MATTER what software is on the machines.
Go watch the clip, the whole clip and everything in the clip.
And then, start DEMANDING that the press ask Bush what HE did about bin Laden before 9/11. Ask Bush what HE did after receiving an August, 2001 intelligence warning titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike WIthin US." Ask Cheney how many times, after being put in charge of the anti-terrorism task force, he met with them. Ask Condi Rice what she did after Richard Clarke asked her to set up a meeting to discuss terrorism.
September 23, 2006
I'm back from New York and the Clinton Global Initiative. But I'm jet-lagged and exhausted - didn't get more than 4-5 hours sleep any night this week. So maybe not much blogging from me today, maybe not tomorrow.
September 22, 2006
I forget - WHO was it that received a CIA warning titled, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the US" and did NOTHING, leaving on vacation?
Go read this: Think Progress : Clinton Takes On Fox News,
CLINTON: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t…I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke… So you did FOX’s bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me. But what I want to know..
I recommend you look at this graphical description of what is probably coming as the housing bubble bursts. Lots of charts, including this chart:
It's over at Daily Kos: Housing: A Picture is Worth 1000 Words UPDATE
And WOW go look at the last chart in the post.
Link TV wrote to me about a show this weekend that "tackles the stereotypes the West has come to associate the Arab world by providing entertaining, humorous and historically-relevant clips of Arab TV"
Tune in this weekend to Ramadan Primetime Program premieres Saturday at 5 p.m. PT/ 8 p.m. ET. And Sunday, Sept 24, 8:30 p.m PT/11:30 pm ET
This Link TV original production explores the unique television programs that people across the Arab Muslim world watch during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins this year around September 23rd. It is in this season of high TV viewership that Arabic-language networks premiere their most exciting primetime programs — from light- hearted game shows, racy soaps and Friends-inspired comedies to religious talk shows and epics.
In contrast to the typical images the West has come to associate with the Middle East, this 30-minute documentary showcases the specially-crafted Ramadan primetime programming shown on hundreds of Arabic television channels.And from the press release:
What do thirty nights of special TV programming tell us about the tastes, preoccupations, preferences and politics of the 280 million people in the Middle East? Tune in to this lively look at last year’s Ramadan programs and find out.
Ramadan Primetime will air on DIRECTV channel 375 and Dish Network channel 9410 and on cable in select markets, including New York, San Francisco and Washington DC. Tune in Saturday, September 23, 5 pm PT, 8 pm ET and Sunday, September 24, 8:30 pm PT, 11:30 pm ET.
During Ramadan, which falls in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, more than a billion Muslims around the world mark their “month of blessing” with prayer, fasting and charity. Each evening at sundown, families gather to break their fasts with a lavish “Iftar” feast, followed by a large dose of bonding time, often spent in front of the television. It is in this season of high TV viewership that Arabic-language networks premiere their most exciting primetime programs — from lighthearted game shows, racy soaps and Friends-inspired comedies to religious talk shows and epics like Hoor Al Ayn (Beautiful Virgins), a 30-part miniseries that delves into a terrorist cell in Saudi Arabia.
Ramadan Primetime explores the unique television programs that people across the Muslim world watch during the month of Ramadan, which begins this year around September 23rd. In contrast to the typical images the West has come to associate with the Middle East, this 30-minute documentary showcases the specially crafted Ramadan primetime programming shown on dozens of Arabic television channels — entertaining their audiences with a mix of drama, music, game shows, and comedy.
Produced for Link TV by Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, whose productions have aired on PBS and The Sundance Channel, Ramadan Primetime explores the unique television programs that people across the Muslim world watch during the month of Ramadan, beginning this year around September 23rd. In contrast to the typical images the West has come to associate with the Middle East, this 30-minute documentary showcases the specially-crafted Ramadan primetime programming shown on dozens of Arabic television channels — entertaining their audiences with a mix of drama, music, game shows, and comedy.
“Even as domestic media inundates us with detailed reports of terrorists bombing Saudi apartment complexes, moderates and extremists clashing over the meaning of Jihad and continued struggles between neighboring countries, there’s a feeling that Americans are not getting the whole picture of what life is like in the Mideast,” said Link Media Inc. President Kim Spencer. “Our new Ramadan Primetime program offers insight into the how people in the Middle East observe Ramadan, relish entertaining shows and celebrate the season and their culture with their families. In essence, it gives the rest of the world a glimpse into life through Muslim eyes by illustrating what daily life is really like in the Arab world.”
In Ramadan Primetime, leading Muslim experts, scholars and regular viewers at home in the Middle East and the U.S. discuss Ramadan television and address how the satellite programming affects and unites the global Arabic community. What do thirty nights of special TV programming tell us about the tastes, preoccupations, preferences and politics of the 280 million people in the Middle East? Tune in to this retrospective of last year’s Ramadan programs and find out.
A special broadcast of the talked-about documentary American Ramadan, produced by Dallas-based filmmaker Naeem Randhawa, will precede the program. Filmed on location in Dallas and Los Angeles, the feature-length documentary follows the lives of five American Muslim families during the month of Ramadan in 2005. In contrast to media stereotypes of Muslims as sheltered and outcasts, the film illustrates the everyday struggles, fears, hopes and challenges that everyone faces — Muslim or not.
Both programs will be available via satellite to more than 28 million nationwide on DIRECTV channel 375 and Dish Network channel 9410 and on cable in select markets, including New York, San Francisco and Washington DC. American Ramadan airs Saturday, Sept. 23, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and Sunday, Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m. PT, 10:30 ET. Ramadan Primetime airs Saturday, September 23, 5 pm PT, 8 pm ET and Sunday, September 24, 8:30 pm PT, 11:30 pm ET. Visit www.linktv.org for additional information and repeat show times.
I just had a short meeting with Senator Hillary Clinton. I'll write more about this when I return home.
One economist calls the popping bubble "the house of horrors." Use caution when trying to counter housing downturn
Merrill Lynch economist David Rosenberg calls it "the House of Horrors."Other stories:
He's referring to his fear that a plunging housing market could turn even uglier, taking the breath out of the economy and the stock market.
... He was fretting about foreclosures nationwide surging 53 percent year-on-year in August. He was pointing out that while many adjustable-rate mortgages have yet to move upward, already the Homeownership Preservation Foundation is receiving a record number of calls from borrowers seeking help.
Whether the housing downturn will still allow a so-called soft landing for the economy or yank the shopping instinct out of the American consumer remains to be seen.
On Wednesday, the United States Federal Reserve chose to keep its target interest rate unchanged at five-point-two-five percent. The Federal Open Market Committee said a main reason for its decision was the slowing housing market.
[. . .] As fewer new homes are being built, existing homes are going unsold for longer periods of time. The government reports that the number of existing homes remaining on the market has increased by almost forty percent in the last twelve months.
... Most experts expect declining home sales to slow the economy in the near future.
And a call to lower prices: Economist says builders should take lead in housing correction,To bring the housing market into balance, Phoenix area home builders need shrink their inventory and home sellers need to realize they won't get top dollar for their homes.A Silent Crash In Home Prices
... Resales are controlling the market, he said, as many sellers continue to seek top dollar for their homes as they did during the housing boom of late 2004 and all of 2005. As a result, Brown said, fewer houses are selling.
That combined with large home builder inventories, has slowed the market. "We need to achieve a more realistic balance between supply and demand," Brown said.
I was watching the morning news as I got ready to head over the the Clinton Global Initiative today. Senator John McCain was on, saying that "the ACLU doesn't want us to question terrorists."
September 21, 2006
Before the luncheon plenary, President Clinton announced several commitments, including the bite-sized chunk of a program to vaccinate 10,000 Honduran children eagainst hepatitis-A, costing $1 million.
Peter Goldmark, Program Director, Environmental Defense moderate a panel of
John Chambers, President and CEO, Cisco Systems
Klaus Kleinfeld, President and CEO of Siemens
Dr, Muhammad Yunus, Founder and Managing Director, Grameen Bank
Al Gore was asked about what would be involved in getting the US and China on a path to sustainability.
The US is still the one nation best able to lead the world. We face a full-scale planetary emergency. The US should be the pace car, out in front, leading. Other countries, particularly China, need to see leadership from us to push them into increased ation. To get China on the right road we need to get the US on the right road. The debate over global warming is over. The debate now is how we can best craft emergency solutions to solve the crisis.
Mohammed Yumas was asked about micro-credit. He gave an example of a project with the beggars in Bangladesh. His bank gives loans to beggars, to help bring them out of begging. The loan is used to purchase merchandise to sell as they go house to house. “They’re going from house to house anyway.” Now as a result of this program more than 80,000 beggars are in business for themselves. The cost to set each up in business was a $12 loan.
Klaus Kleinfeld talked about Siemens finding ways to sequester CO2 produced when burning coal, and developing much more efficient turbines.
John Chambers talked about setting up network schools around the world, training people in skills setting up and maintaining networks.
Gore then talked about how it is government that sets the rules within which business competes. He talked about the need to change the tax structure to encourage businesses to solve the problems of pollution, particularly global warming. He proposes a revenue-neutral shift away from payroll taxes – taxing work – to taxing pollution. He says business will follow that and find ways to reduce pollution.
Kleinfeld said that tax incentives should also be part of the plan to help kick-start new approaches and technologies, and then the incentive reduced and eliminated so the business model becomes sustainable rather than dependent.
Chambers talked about how Cicsco didn’t even know what their CO2 output was so they conducted an audit –measured the CO2 footprint – that allowed them to see where to reduce.
Gore made an important point that business leaders need to start policing their colleagues to stop those putting out irresponsible misleading PR. He specifically mentioned Exxon, which is spending a lot of money putting out PR and funding organizations saying that there is no global warming, etc. and that this is polluting the public discussion of this issue.
He said we need to reawaken the conversation of democracy, with integrity, start having honest conversations, and stop having taboo topics and marginalization tactics.
CGI - Richard Branson and Virgin Transportation Group To Dedicate ALL Future Proceeds Toward Global Warming
At a press conference today with Former President Bill Clinton Richard Branson today committed to dedicating ALL future proceeds from Virgin's transportation companies - airlines, trains, etc. - to bio-fuel initiatives aimed at reducing the use of fossil fuels and fighting global warming. He estimates this will bring approx. $3 billion dollars to the global warming fight. The company is working to develop jet fuels that are environmentally friendly, enzymes to break down prairie grasses into ethanol, and other efforts.
Pres. Clinton called this "serious money."
Mr. Branson said this is because of his admiration for the work of President Clinton and his Clinton Global Initiative process. He said that Al Gore came to his house to ask him to take a leading role in the global warming fight, which led to this announcement.
"We just don't have any time left," said President Clinton. We are running out of oil, and climate change is beginning to threaten civilization. "It is a serious problem likely to produce calamitous results."
Mr. Branson said the shortages are showing up now, that his company's costs for jet fuel is up over a billion dollars in the last three years.
At 8:45 I got a rare seat in the press conference room for President Clinton's 9am press conference. It started at 10:15. Last week I was in a blogger meeting with President Clinton that went on for an extra 1 1/2 hours. (With a NY Times reporter cooling his heels in the lobby watching us through a glass window.) That was a good thing. THIS week I waited in a crowded hot room on the other end of that deal. Heh. I only hope he wasn't talking to the NY Times.
More and more I think that Nyhan set up TAP in order to get visibility. With Wonkette's help, he hopped right to Time magazine with his whine.
To the traditional "big-media liberal" category (Alan Colmes, Richard Cohen) we now have to add the "big-media blogger". When Time decided they needed a representative of the blog demographic, they unerringly chose Cox. Why? Because I think that could tell that she would be willing to play ball. Nyhan is superficially very different than Cox, but I think that he's been working that same angle: he'll play ball with Time, but not with TAP. (I could see that coming with him a year or two ago, just as I could with Cox).
By now, in any group of ambitious young liberals or young Democrats with journalistic aspirations, there will be a few who figure out that 1.) being too liberal or too Democratic can be a serious career disability and 2.) there's a niche for someone who's willing to play ball with the media while purporting to represent liberals and Democrats.
"Being willing to play ball" = "being a team player" = "getting real" = "getting with the program" = "knowing what you can say" = "knowing who to blow" = "omerta".
I've watched two whole generations play this game by now.
This morning Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek moderates a panel of:
Bishop Tutu talked about how South Africa managed the transition to representative government. He said that the African culture understands that anger, resentment and the desire for revenge are corrosive, so the people were able to proceed without retribution.
President Karzai, asked about transition in a multicultural society, said they conducted a number of discussions with different elements of the country - tribal leaders, etc., to decide how to set up the country, what language to use, etc. In the current national anthem they mention 14 ethnic groups of the country. ("The poet was great, he shortened it a bit.") Q: What about the Taliban, who have roots in Afghan society? A: I am being tolerant. Those Taliban who are Afghans who are not associated with al Queda and not part of terrorism are part of the Afghan people. Other than those who have or are committing crimes, we want to have them back.
Queen Rania is concerned with just how much the roots of division between the East and West has deepened. These had existed on the fringes, but they are being pulled into the center by two forces. The first is the lack of knowledge we have of one another. The west does not see Arab diversity. The challenge for the 21st century is finding ways for us to understand each other, which she finds baffling in this day and age. Living in the same neighborhood is not multiculturalism, youhave to invite people into your own home. An ideology of hatred is turning into a culture of fear. Grievances that have not been dealt with turn into hatred. The Palestinean problem MUST be dealt with. This is the issue that is at the core of our region and in the heart of every Arab. This is fueling the extremism. It is critical for us to try to find a solution to this problem. (Note - as far as I know, every speaker from the region has said that this is the core problem that MUST be solved before other problems, including Iraq, can be addressed.)
The Queen says we must not keep ruling out diplomatic solutions and relying on military options.
Regarding Lebanon, over the course of two months the Arab public became much more radicalized. The moderate majority has shrunk and extreme voices are taking over. The voices of moderation and negotiation are being marginalized. People are not seeing the dividends of peace.
President Karzai says it is a policy of others to turn Afghanistan into an extremist society, and take away its traditions of diversity. Hesays the current violence seems more political, to try to subvert, and turn demoralize people, not from extremist ideology. Calculated to try to subvert the movement to democratic society.
Bishop Tutu, asked about the Pope's speech, said there is no faith that he knows of that advocates violence and hate. If you use a knife to cut bread it is good, if you use it to cut someone it is bad. He says it is bad to slide into talking about "Muslim terrorism." He hasn't heard the guy who bombed Oklahoma or those fighting in Northern Ireland as examples of Christian terrorism. Most Christians would be appalled if you said that is a characteristic of Christianity - it is a perversion. He hopes that we get to learn that we can survive only together, be free only together, be safe and secure only together. God created us different not so that we should be alienated from one another but so that we can know one another. The totally self-sufficient is sub-human.
Regarding the Pope's remarks, Queen Rania said the timing was unfortunate. Not only the content enraged, but the reactions would not have been so violent if it had taken place at a diferent time in history. Hilights the need for more inter-religious and intercultural dialog between us. We have more in common than we have that separates us. The fact that he would choose to focus on the 1% difference rather than the 99% that binds us was unfortunate. We need a tolerance movement that makes acceptance part of our daily lives. The next phases of needed government and private sector reforms is to have a multicultural responsibility.
President Karzai, asked about American troops in Afghanistan, started by saying there is a serious misunderstanding of Islam in the West. It was the same people who blew up the towers in New York were making Afghanistan suffer, killing people, and Karzai and others were begging the West to come help, or it would eventually reach them. No attention was paid because those in the West were not hurt, and that was wrong. (Note - this echoes what President Musharraf said about lack of assistance for Pakistan - "high and dry" - following the USSR laving Afghanistan.) Do not take the voice of the bad as the voice of the people. We forget the epole because they do not have an organization that is their voice, we must stop takig the voices of kilers as the voice of Islam.
Bishop Tutu - you and I are frequently appalled by the amount of evil around in the world, but it makes us blind to all the good. But this conference and the incredible generosity exhibited here is part of saying this is a moral universe. This is a universe in which right and wrong matter and good will prevail. You and I are people who are made for goodness. This is why the people we admire are not the macho, the aggressive. The world reveres Ghandi, Martin Luthor King, Jr., the Dali Lama. It is because we are made for goodness, embracing one another, and that is what is going to prevail.
The high-minded and nonpartisan Brendan Nyhan has blown the American Prospect popsicle stand after two posts. He parleyed his firing into an invitation to the Wonkette assfucking paradise at Time Magazine.
No more cheesy ideology for this hott, freshfaced young fella! He's sucked his way up to where the serious players are. Bye-bye, losers!
TAP was probably set up. Nyhan was quite capable of giving TAP what they wanted, but why should he have? That rag doesn't pay.
I keep expecting David Broder to disintegrate in the middle of a sentence, like the Wicked Witch of the West, with his body parts shelving off one by one and falling to the floor until nothing is left but a fragrant mass of gelatinous putrefaction.
That would certainly be a fantastic opportunity for young Nyhan! He's been gunning for exactly that niche.
September 20, 2006
I met Keith Olbermann tonite at the press reception. I shook his hand in the name of all of my readers.
Oh yeah, Bill showed up, too, for a while.
Housing construction plunged in August, falling to the lowest level in more than three years as the industry showed further signs of a dramatic slowdown.
The Commerce Department reported yesterday that construction of new homes and apartments fell by 6 percent, the third consecutive decline and a much bigger setback than analysts had been forecasting.
Will the economy be dragged down by the slowdown in housing, or will it hum along, virtually unaffected?
Economists are split.
Housing starts have declined for six of the last seven months and August starts, reported Tuesday, dropped to the lowest level in three years. The decline in August was double what economists had expected.
As you know, I am posting about the Clinton Global Initiative conference over at Live From The Clinton Global Initiative. That site is using blogger. If you have been reading Seeing the Forest for a while you know about the problems I had using Blogger - and the meaning of the word "bloggered."
Well, it's nice to see that Blogger is still having all the problems it used to have. It's down right now, and I can't post. It's bloggered.
I just met President Jimmy Carter. This seems like a good time to plug one of my personal issues. Looking back from today's issues and problems, I think that Carter's "Malaise" Speech was one of the great speeches in our history.
And he said I should tell everyone to support Jack.
Over at Truthout, Swiftboating the Swiftboaters,
This time, however, the Swiftboaters are not going unanswered. James Boyce, a fifteen-year marketing and advertising veteran who served as a senior advisor to Kerry's presidential campaign, has organized a watchdog group called The Patriot Project. Its mission, according to Boyce, is to "defend any man or woman, regardless of party or affiliation, who is attacked or defamed and whose patriotism is questioned simply because they exercise their rights as Americans. The primary way we do this is to expose and make transparent front groups so that voters who hear their advertising and charges can make an informed decision about those claims.
Immediately following the Opening Plenary Thomas Friedman hosted a panel discussion on Urgent Issues and Innovative Solutions Panel. The attendees were
Friedman said they would follow UN rules, and proceed in alphabetical orer. The president of Columbia began by talking about how his country is working to restore security. When he took office there were 70 homicides per 100K population and now it is still far too high at 39. His government is working to make Columbia a modern democracy. Security and social cohesion go hand-in-hand in that effort, as well as providing access to institutions for the poorest people.
Illicit crops have destroyed vast portions of the rainforest jungle, but now through a UN-financed program they are paying farmers to grow legitimate crops and to restore jungle. So far 43,000 families are participating, and he is working to expand this. Paying is cheaper than crime and terrorism.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia talked about rebuilding the country from war, addressing the needs to kids who were forced into combat, and the need for people to work in villages identifying and helping solve what the villagers feel are their primary problems, so that the villagers have a stake in ongoing efforts. Her short point - they need "tools and seeds" to help farmers move from substistence to surplus so they can begin to have an income. She sounds very much like an investment banker, saying her country needs skills-training so they can attract investment capital.
Pervez Musharraf was asked about the issue of modernity and Islam. He said his government is working to transmit economic gains to the people of Pakistan - including clean drinking water. He said the remarks of the Pope have caused tension at this critical moment and were most unwarranted. He tried to correct misperceptions ("misperceptions" was a word he used a lot both about Pakistan and Islam) that Pakistan is aligned against the West. Until 1979 Pakistan was moderate and peaceful. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has led to fallout. They took in 4 million refugees and were left "high and dry" with no assistance after 1989. The Mujahadin was strengthened and financed by the West, but Pakistan was left with no assistance whatsoever while they coalesced into al Queda. Then came the Taliban, then war. Simultaneously there were the tensions with Kashmir in their East. So they suffered the fallout of militancy on their East and West with no assistance. Now we need to understand the environment. We cannot address terrorism alone without addressing extremism. Talibanization is a mindset that must be curbed. There is no military solution. (from a later question) An important distinction to make is that the Taliban is local, al Queda was not local people. al Queda is being wiped out but the Taliban is rising due to resentment of the presence of foreign troops. Asked directly: "So we (the US) are part of the problem and part of the solution?" Answer: "Part of the problem."
Javier Solana talked about how providing security is fundamental to development. Without security there is no development and without development there is suffering. Responding to a later question about Islam and the West, he said that the divide is profound. The world cannot abide provoking just for the sake of provoking.
Musharraf then said this is a time to build bridges not burn bridges. At this time blasphemous cartoons are like salt in the wounds, when Muslims believe they are being targeted. There is a fringe of the Muslim world that believes that modernization = Westernization.
Finally he said that the number one problem - the core of it all, is the Palestinian problem. No other problem will be solved until that is solved. He wishes that President Clinton would come back to diplomacy.
The conference opened with former President Clinton welcoming the more than 50 current and former heads of state who are attending. He gave a short talk explaining that the idea of the conference is an attempt to tackle big global challenges in bite-sized pieces, and asked the attendees for promises to take action. He pointed out that some projects with smaller budgets can have a very large impact, and that beyond just money pledges of time and talent can have an impact, too.
President Clinton then introduced First Lady Laura Bush, who spoke about global education and literacy - and had a big announcement.
Mrs. Bush talked about the goals shared by people in every country - the desire to have a better life for them and their families. Poverty, lack of education, endemic diseases have kept people from achieving their desires. She outlined different programs the US government is engaged in, including schools and teacher training for women in Afghanistan, malaria programs, and AIDs relief in 120 countries.
Then she announced a new public-private alliance to address the problem of lack of clean drinking water in Africa and other regions called Play Pumps. These are children's merry-go-rounds that are also pumps, pumping water out of wells, "fueled by a limitless energy source." Children playing brings up clean water. This program is funded in an alliance with Steve Case's Case Foundation and Ray Chambers' MCJ Foundation.
Immediately following these opening proceedings there was a panel on Urgent Issues and Innovative Solutions.
The Press Overview session was conducted by Jay Carson, Clinton Foundation Spokesman
This is the second Clinton Global Initiative conference. This conference comes out of President Clinton attending many conferences of world political and business, and coming back year after year to find everyone talking about the same things. Also, that he felt there was too much “speechifying.” So he set up this conference, at the same time as the UN gathering, around the idea of few long speeches, and working sessions where leaders have discussions on solving problems.
Attendees are required to make and meet a commitment, or they are not invited back. “A number of people”(less than 20) from last year, for example, were not invited back. Some of the commitments are very large dollar amounts – last year produced $2.5 billion in commitments toward solutions to the problems discussed.
There are four working areas for this conference, with discussion “tracks” of working groups:
It seems that the blog is Back Up. Most of yesterday the server was down - which also means the posting server was down. Of course, if I wrote about the server being down you woldn't have been able to see it anyway -- because the server was down.
It’s 7:30am and I am in the press “filing” room. (I couldn’t find the “posting” room for bloggers, so I came in here.) I’m waiting for the IT person who is rumored to be coming to tell us all how to log in to the special wireless that is set up for us. It has a nice, strong signal, but requires an ID and password. If you are reading this you’ll know that I did, indeed, get an ID and password.
Security is very, very tight. First, there was a bomb-sniffing dog out front. The metal detectors are set to a sensitivity that even flagged the strips on the credit cards in my wallet. And there were at least seven Secret Service watching the process as we came in.
The press accommodations here are very nice. We have a special area with several rooms. There is coffee, soda, water and pastries. Across the street there is even a restaurant that is set up to feed us -- for free. This means that the Clinton Global Initiative will get Good Press.
September 19, 2006
Well, live might be the wrong word - I've been trying to access the blogging software all day. (Has the blog been offline as well?)
I flew to New York yesterday evening, and now have my credentials to cover the Clinton Global Initiative. It is at the Sheraton Towers Executive Conference Center, not all that far from the United Nations. Needless to say, there were Secret Service all over the place when I was there this morning.
Along with posts that you will see here, I am also blogging over at Social Edge, at a blog they set up named ... well what else? Live From The Clinton Global Initiative
The dominance of TV means that the US is increasingly ruled by an oral tradition. In an oral tradition inconvenient facts can be disappeared, and the past can be bent to present needs. A true oral tradition is uncheckable; you just have different memorized versions of the "text". (The book 1984 described a deliberate attempt to return a literate tradition, with checkable records, to orality.)
Archiving TV helps some, the way Media Matters does it, but people who are primarily TV creatures, like Bush or his spokespeople, are completely brazen about forgetting what they said last week. In the TV oral tradition, if it sounds good it's true.
I think that this is as big a factor as "relativism" in the decline of critical thinking.
Already, by now, things said in 2003 are in the distant past. For one example -- remember RAWA? The women who bore witness against the Taliban? They still exist, and they're unhappy with the US and with their new Afghan overlords, but they're no longer on TV because they aren't needed any more.
September 18, 2006
No good news in today's housing story:
Housing Slump in U.S. May Lead to First Drop Since Depression ,
The sharpest slowdown in U.S. home-price growth in three decades is trapping owners with mortgages they can't afford, pushing unsold homes to a record 4.42 million and gutting profits for builders such as Lennar Corp. and Toll Brothers Inc. The U.S. median home price next year may fall for the first time since the Great Depression, says Gabriel Stein, chief international economist with Lombard Street Research in London.
The confidence of U.S. home builders fell for the eighth straight month in September, dropping to the lowest level since February 1991, the National Association of Home Builders said Monday. The NAHB/Wells Fargo housing market index dropped by three points in September to 30 from a revised 33 in August, indicating that most builders think the housing market is poor. Economists expected the index to fall to 31. A year ago, the index was at 65. A reading of 50 would indicate builder sentiment was balanced between good and poor.And more bad news:
Ripple effects: US consumer expectations to decline due to weakening housing market,
Analysts at ING Financial Markets say that US consumer expectations are likely to decline again on account of the weakening housing market.Fannie Mae could be hit hard by housing bust: Berg - Mortgage giant could lose $29 bln, long-term bear argues in investor letter,
We are not sure the folks running the show fully embrace the risk of declining house prices," Berg wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by MarketWatch. If the housing market continues to decline "a major portion of Fannie Mae's value could be wiped out." He declined to comment for this story.And, knowing the Bush administration's record, possibly the worst sign of all: US treasury secretary dismisses housing dip,U
S treasury secretary Henry Paulson, making his debut at a meeting of Group of Seven (G-7) economy chiefs on Saturday, told them they need not worry about a housing-led collapse of the world’s largest economy.With their record this means we ALL need to worry about just that.
(Posted as a comment here).
People have been have been wondering why ABC ran their money-losing, credibility-destroying 9/11 series. I don't think that there's any mystery.
I've said this many time in many places, but I think that in most of the media, the financial management makes the political-coverage decisions for operations management. Tax breaks and deregulation moves can make an enormous difference on a big company's bottom line, and the Republicans deliver.
We know that the Scaife, Moon, and Murdoch operations are ideologically right-wing, but the non-ideological media operations all have Republican financial interests.
It's a mistake zeroing in on individual writers and editors. The problem is at the highest management level. The flunkies whose names you know are just doing what's expected of them.
Graham at the Post and Sulzberger at the Times both chair both boards -- the financial board and the operations board. The financial board rules.
I've been saying this for a year and a half, and no one's picked up on it -- not even as a discussion topic. People are afraid of Graham and Sulzberger, I think.
(I'm responding to this story.)
I have been dreading the October Surprise since March. I said then that the Democrats should be pre-positioning themselves to react effectively if this happened, and should loudly warn against it whenever the trial balloons went up. The Democrats did not do this; the party as a whole is still following DLC Rule One: "We can't be seen as doves".
This is what the bad guy meant when he said "We make reality, we don't respond to reality". Hot war in Iran is capable of erasing the Republican Congressional polling deficits overnight. I don't say it will certainly succeed, it's probably about a 50/50 shot, but it's the only move Bush has left. Whether it succeeds or not depends partly on whether the Democrats as a team respond effectively to whatever he does, and I doubt that they are able to do that.
If Bush maintains Congressional control, even by a fingernail, it will be seen as an enormous triumph. The media will suck up to him even more, and he'll start in on his big projects.
At some point the American experiment with democracy might come to an end. I think that Bush's intentions in this respect are clear. Only paranoids say this kind of thing, but paranoids are sometimes right.
September 17, 2006
This week's housing news is not expected to be good. Housing starts expected to tumble again,
The fragile U.S. housing market probably weakened further in August and early September, economists said, looking ahead to the coming week's economic data.Hree's a story about a buyer who understands that prices are dropping, encountering sellers who do not yet get it. Standoff in a soft housing market: Bargain-hunters find negotiations tough as prices grudgingly fall,
Home builders have turned very sour on their industry as inventories of unsold houses soar, canceled orders pile up and prices sink.
The week's calendar will offer two views of the home builders: what they do and what they say. In both cases, the story's the same: grim.
"When I went to renegotiate . . . they wouldn't budge at all," Murgia said.But wait, there's more...
Indeed, only now, months into a soft market, are home sellers finally beginning to concede on prices -- but only so much.
From the Detrot Free Press, U.S. housing slowdown could have global reach,
The slowdown in the U.S. housing market could be sharper than expected, which would hurt the U.S. economy, global growth and financial markets, an official from the International Monetary Fund said last week.From The Housing Bubble blog, It’s Common To See Price Reduced Signs’ In California
If the Bush administration truly believes that “Islamofascism” and Iran are threats to the very survival of the United States, then for the good of the country there are steps they can take to get the public to rally behind the effort.
First, they need to recognize that they have lost credibility because of their “mistake” about Iraq’s WMD. They said the United States needed to invade Iraq because we faced an imminent threat, an they were wrong - with the severest of consequences for the United States and the Middle East. So it is hard for the public to trust that they are right now. If we really do face such a serious threat then for the good of the country Bush and Cheney should declare that Iran is a serious enough emergency to warrant that they leave office and ask the Congress to put in place leadership that the American public and the world can trust.
Second, they should immediately implement the draft, so that there will be sufficient forces available to prevail in what they are saying will be a decades-long “clash of civilizations.”
Third, they should immediately repeal their tax cuts and impose an additional 50% surtax on incomes above $250,000. This is necessary to immediately balance the budget and begin paying down the massive debt they have accumulated. The country will need to be strong financially to purchase the necessary weaponry.
This fourth suggestion is really important. The Republican election strategies are tearing the country apart. If they really do believe that we are in a war for the country’s survival they should stop this stuff right now. Calling people traitors does not motivate them to join arms with you against a common enemy. A divided country is a weakened country. President Bush (before resigning and requesting that the Congress bring in credible leadership) should DEMAND that the Ann Coulters, Rush Limbaughs and John Bohners and his other surogates stop attacking other Americans as unpatriotic, and begin working to bring the country together.
They would do these thing if they really do mean what they say, and all this talk isn’t just another cynical, divisive election tactic.
Former Reagan Administration official Paul Craig Roberts, America Has Fallen to a Jacobin Coup,
The most important casualties of September 11 are respect for truth and American liberty. Propaganda has replaced deliberation based on objective assessment of fact. The resurrection of the Star Chamber has made moot the legal protections of liberty.
The US invasion of Iraq was based on the deliberate suppression of fact. The invasion was not the result of mistaken intelligence. It was based on deliberately concocted "intelligence" designed to deceive the US Congress, the American public, and the United Nations.
[. . .] There is an even greater cost of the war – the legal system that protects liberty, a human achievement for which countless numbers of people gave their lives over the centuries. The Bush administration used September 11 to whip up fear and hysteria and to employ these weapons against American liberty. The Orwellian-named Patriot Act has destroyed habeas corpus. The executive branch has gained the unaccountable power to detain American citizens on mere suspicion or accusation, without evidence, and to hold Americans indefinitely without a trial.This is just excerpts. Go read it.
Foolishly, many Americans believe this power can only be used against terrorists. Americans don’t realize that the government can declare anyone to be a terrorist suspect. As no evidence is required, it is entirely up to the government to decide who is a terrorist. Thus, the power is unaccountable. Unaccountable power is the source of tyranny.
[. . .] The collapse of the institutions that confine government to law and bind it with the Constitution was sudden. The president previous to Bush was impeached by the House for lying about a sexual affair. If we go back to the 1970s, President Richard Nixon had the decency to resign when it came to light that he had lied about when he first learned of a minor burglary. Bush’s failures are far more serious and numerous; yet, Bush has escaped accountability.
Book Alert! Bill Scher from Liberal Oasis has written a book that comes out THIS WEEK. The book is Wait! Don't Move to Canada: A Stay-and-Fight Strategy to Win Back America for a whopping $8.
You may have heard Bill on Air America's Majority Report, so you know he's very smart, and has remarkable insight and analytical skills.
GO BUY! Run up his advance numbers on Amazon for only $8. A higher ranking tells bookstores to order the book.
Frustrated liberals are mired in the political wilderness, while disgruntled Democrats and Republicans have grown weary of unprincipled politics, shoddy governance, and the general ineptitude of our public servants. 'Look, it would be a lot easier to cut and run to Canada,' say Janeane and Sam in their foreword, 'but we all have an obligation not to.' To those willing to stay and fight, Bill Scher offers a 10-step plan to rally popular support for a better, more effective, more liberal vision of government.
September 16, 2006
So next week I'm blogging from the Clinton Global Initiative. There will be Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings and Queens and many other distinguished world leaders (see the list here). So I am doing my homework, studying up. Just today I am learning what to say in case I meet the King of the Pirates.
I expect they will have a little card table set up in a corner where the bloggers will eat.
This piece originally appeared on The Patriot Project
A new front group has appeared on the scene. Yesterday in her Patriot Project post Robert J. Perry is Back, Taylor Marsh wrote about Robert J. Perry plunking down $5 million (!) just to fund the Economic Freedom Fund (EFF). Perry - who has close ties to Karl Rove and Tom DeLay - was a prime funder of the notorious Swift Boat Vets for Freedom - the smear front-group that made claims including that John Kerry shot himself to get his medals - and now this one person is providing $5 million in funding for a national front group that is attempting to have an influence on the control of the Congress in this election.
In government filing documents (here and here) EFF lists its contact as Charles Bell, of the Sacramento, California law firm Bell, Mcandrews & Hiltachk. Charles Bell is general counsel to the California Republican Party, is Vice Chairman of The Federalist Society's free speech and election law practice group, and is active in the Republican National Lawyers Association.
There is an interesting read at the firm's website, In the Right Place at the Right Time,
"When Charles Bell Jr. got on the bus carrying the California Republican delegation to a party Monday night, he received the kind of introduction political lawyers dream about.Bell, Mcandrews & Hiltachk's clients include the California Tribal Business Alliance - an "Indian Gaming" organization. Their mission statement is "to safeguard and enhance the success of the business enterprises of our tribal government members" ....... and "will foster business development and coalition building with like minded government and business leaders in California."
"This guy's Mr. Campaign Law," was how one delegate described Bell to a colleague. "He'll keep you out of jail."
Another Bell, Mcandrews & Hiltachk client was Californians for Paycheck Protection - yet another front group - this one sponsoring a California anti-union ballot initiative. (Their major funders in 2005 (go see how much) included the Chamber of Commerce and the California Republican Party.)
Another client is the notorious anti-environmental Congressman Richard Pombo.
And, of course, always, always showing up with this crowd, big tobacco: BELL, MCANDREWS & HILTACHK Philip Morris Outside Counsel".
A different partner at this firm, Thomas Hiltachk, filed the "Fair Pay Workplace Flexibility Act of 2006" - a stealth attempt to get rid of California's overtime rules.
Stories about this EFF front group running nasty Republican push-polls in districts around the country are popping up in the blogs. A story about one EFF poll appears at the Iowa Radio Blog,
The call started by asking if I plan to vote in November. It's a recorded voice asking the questions, and it only accepts "yes" or "no" as responses. ... There were no questions about local races (neither Lamberti nor Nussle), but the questions were designed to cross-check Bush's popularity with the issues Republicans, particularly conservatives, have pushed.Another blog post appears at Diary of a political madman, clearly about the same Iowa poll but listing a transcription of the questions shows that this is a "push-poll,"
1) Would you like your taxes not raised and if possible cut?Go read the full list.
2) Do you believe that frivolous and abusive lawsuits cost us all too much money?
EFF push-polling shows up again at the Indiana Democratic Party News page,
INDIANAPOLIS - Voters in Indiana's Ninth District began receiving automated calls yesterday from a group supporting Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel. The call, which attacks Democratic challenger Baron Hill, was paid for by the Economic Freedom Fund, a Virginia-based 527 special interest group.So here we have yet another extremely well-funded, nasty front group, deeply connected to the Republican Party, working to undermine our democracy.
In response, Indiana Democrats today called on Attorney General Steve Carter to investigate the calls as a violation of Indiana law. Carter issued a letter in August to both major political parties instructing them that automated political calls violate Indiana's Regulation of Automated Dialing Machines Act (IC 24-5-14).
Patriot Project will have more - much more - information on this group and its connections in the next few days. Stay tuned.
The Patriot Project is working to expose the front groups, their funding, their connections and their tactics.
There's a good summary of the week's bad housing news at Daily Kos: This Week's Housing News -- More Cause for Concern.
Adjustable rate mortgages may be beginning to indicate symptoms of rate shock. All types of ARMs had higher delinquency rates than in the first quarter of this year while fixed rate mortgage loans were either unchanged or showed a lower rate of delinquency.This is good: US Housing Crash Continues - San Francisco Bay Area Hit Hard, "When rates go from 5% to 7%, that's a 40% increase in the amount of interest a buyer has to pay."
Other headlines: National Delinquency Study Is Just A Bit Disquieting
During periods of bubbly exuberance, prices can shoot up 20 percent or more a year. It's like every homeowner is a lottery winner, drunk on dumb luck. Gimmicky instruments such as interest-only loans allow speculators to feed in a frenzy. Houses get flipped as fast as In-N-Out burgers during lunch hour.Land investors seek fortunes in the desert - Get-rich-quick dreams spur nearly $16 million in real estate sales in Southern California's Newberry Springs
Then, just like that, the mood changes from bubbly to flat. The flippers worry they'll get caught upside down, owing more than their houses are worth. Buyers stand back, worried they'll plunge in as the market heads south.
That appears to be about where we are now. In a leery standoff between buyers and sellers.
September 15, 2006
Watch Sen. Ted Kennedy supports Net Neutrality and rate it up so more people see it.
Some of Tuesday's meeting with former President Clinton was on the record, but much of it was off. I am (still) waiting for a transcript so I can write about it. The people at the Clinton Foundation are busy, because they are getting ready for next week's Clinton Global Initiative. (I'll be there. Check out the guest list and tell me what I should wear.)
But one thing Clinton said has me thinking about something else, (and it was in the off-the-record part of the meeting but was the kind of thing I am sure it is OK to repeat). He said something about how conservatives can become very compassionate when they have direct contact with something. He mentioned as an example how they are supposedly against gay people, but the ones who actually know any gay people don't have any problem with it. He used the example of Vice President Cheney whose daughter is a lesbian and Cheney is OK with it. He repeated this a few times, about how conservatives have to have personal contact with something before they seem to get it...
This reminded me of something I came across recently.
I am reading George Lakoff's latest book, Whose Freedom? In the book, Lakoff explores the difference between direct and systemic causation, and how conservatives focus on direct causation while progressives focus on systemic causation. Lakoff explains direct causation as, "You throw a ball and the ball goes through the air. You flip a switch and a light turns on." But a systemic relationship is a a causal relationship involving a complex system. Example" "Global warming is causing the melting of the polar ice caps. The use of fossil fuels is causing global warming." He cites the use of "i "A complex system functions over a significant period of time, during which human prevention or corrective action can occur."is causing."
So conservatives say that driving their SUV doesn't cause the polar ice caps to melt because they only put a little bit of CO2 into the air. It's like they have to be hit over the head, something right in their face, before they see connections. (Unless it's connections between the UN and black helicopters, I guess.)
Anyway, this is just a quick note explaining why I haven't yet written very much about the meeting. I do have a lot to say, but I think I should wait until I know what s on or off the record.
Meanwhile, go read Christy at Firedoglake.
September 14, 2006
On a blogger call with Senator Reid today, I asked if there is any indiaction that the administration is using the NSA's powerful surveillance capabilities for political purposes. Senator Reid said that he is so disillusioned with the Bush admnistration, with how Cheney just comes out and lies, and Rice just lies - saying things on the news shows this weekend that they certainly know to be false, intending to mislead the public - that, "I don't know what they would do."
Watch your backs.
San Diego County's residential real estate market continued to cool last month, with overall prices down 2.2 percent from August 2005.An example of the ripple effect is beginning -- fewer rail cars are transporting lumber. Housing slowdown hits RailAmerica August carloads,
It was the third straight month of year-over-year price declines, the research firm DataQuick Information Systems reported yesterday. It also was the slowest August in terms of sales volume since 1997.
RailAmerica said lumber and forest products carloads were affected by the continued slowdown in the housing market.Mortgage delinquencies ticking upward,
Faced with higher mortgage rates and deteriorating housing markets, more Americans are having trouble paying off their mortgages this year, according to the latest quarterly report on delinquencies from the Mortgage Bankers Association released Wednesday.And the bulk of the ARMs don't start "hitting" - the payment increases when the "initial rate" goes away - until later this year and next year.
The report examined the delinquency rate - the proportion of borrowers at least 30 days late with a payment - for all mortgages held on residential properties of one to four units.
It revealed that though the overall rate in the second quarter ticked up only slightly, the picture was worse for adjustable rate mortgages, which constitute about 25 percent of all loans.
The delinquency rate for ARMs, climbed 0.51 percentage points compared with the second quarter of 2005, to 2.70 percent. That represents an increase of 23 percent in the number of borrowers in this category who are falling behind.
Those easy-mortgage chickens are coming home to roost.A wave of housing foreclosures set for this fall,With the housing market cooling off from just about every conceivable consumer angle, so rests the hundreds of thousands of risky loans that sprang up in the last four years as housing prices crept up.
This fall the adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) that millions of Americans took out during the recent housing boom will be reset, and many homeowners will see their monthly mortgage payments shoot up by as much as 20%.
This piece originally appeared on The Patriot Project
The Republican “527” front-group Progress for America has reemerged, and is running a TV advertisement that echoes and amplifies the “be afraid” election campaign theme launched by President Bush. The ad is currently running in Missouri and nationally on cable TV.
The ad, titled “The War on Terror,” is not even a little bit subtle, marketing pure fear. “There are people who want to KILL … US!” it shouts in a horror-movie-advertisement voice, as dark-skinned, Middle-Eastern faces appear on the screen.
Just as President Bush did all last week (political campaigns traditionally begin on Labor Day), the ad conflates different groups like al Queda, Islamic Jihad, and Hezzbollah together as if they are one group. The ad reinforces the Bush administration and surrogate’s repeated claim that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attack. Referring to “the evil” that happened five years ago while showing a plane hitting the World Trade Center, the ad then says President Clinton “took little action” against al Queda and says that “after 9/11 we destroyed al Queda terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Also, echoing current Party talking points, the ad claims there are those who want to “cut and run” from the war on terror.
Reflecting another campaign point advocating warrantless wiretapping of Americans, the ad goes on to say “we have narrowly escaped another 9/11, using proven surveillance that some would stop” – even though it was British law enforcement that caught those involved, using warrants.
Finally, the ad closes saying “the war on terror is a war for our country’s freedom, security and survival.”
The Progress for America website claims its mission includes:
• Winning the "War on Terror" in Iraq to prevent future terrorist attacks in America;Of course, in this supposed war for our very survival there is no call for sacrifice or public effort of any kind beyond voting for Republicans – no draft to provide the needed troops who fight for our freedom and security, no taxes to pay for this war for our survival, and certainly no energy conservation or even fuel use standards to reduce the flow of money flowing to the supposed “enemies” from oil purchases. Such appeals to national sacrifice for the war effort might cause the Republicans and Progress For America to sacrifice something they desire much more than defeating terrorists – votes.
• Increasing the public’s awareness of the under-reported positive news and advances in Iraq;
• Educating the public about the necessity of winning the war on terror by completing the mission in Iraq;
Progress for America is a front-group. It is a “527” organization. As Patriot Project pointed out in Behind the Front: The Creation of Vets for Freedom, Opensecrets.org writes:
"527 groups are tax-exempt organizations that engage in political activities, often through unlimited soft money contributions. Most 527s on this list are advocacy groups trying to influence federal elections through voter mobilization efforts and so-called issue ads that tout or criticize a candidate's record."
And Common Cause writes:
"In the 2004 election, 527 groups influencing federal elections spent an estimated $400 million. About 25 individuals alone gave $146 million to these groups, some of which were staffed by political operatives who had close ties to the national political parties. The fear was that 527 groups would be a backdoor route for parties to once again collect soft money, and to evade Federal laws on the books for more than 50 years that have prohibited labor unions and corporations from using their treasury funds to influence federal elections."
Initially intended as an Astroturf operation to create the appearance of public support for President Bush’s policies such as tax cuts, energy deregulation and judicial appointments, PFA was one of the largest political operations in the 2004 Presidential campaign. According to SourceWatch,
“In the last three weeks leading up to the November 2, 2004, election, PFA-VF outspent the next largest spending Democratic 527 group three-to-one on political ads.”Following the election, PFA is reported to have spent as much as $20 million – much of that received from investment firms anticipating commission fees – in support of privatizing Social Security. From the Feb., 2005 Washington Post story, Conservatives Join Forces for Bush Plans,
"For corporations wary of publicity over their involvement in [promoting Social Security privatization, tort reform] and other controversial issues, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform, the Club for Growth and Progress for America pointedly offer donors the promise of anonymity."The next PFA cause was pressing for Bush’s judicial nominations, and later fighting against “Net Neutrality.” And now, like clockwork, PFA has arrived on the scene, with an ad campaign that exactly correlates with the Republican Party and President Bush’s election-season message of extreme fear.
PFA was formed in February 2001 by Tony Feather, who had been political director for the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign. PFA is closely-linked to the Republican firm Feather, Larson & Synhorst DCI Group (DCI). According to the Center for Media and Democracy,
FLS-DCI specializes in creating phony front groups to make it appear as if there's a groundswell of support for its clients' issues.Tony Feather was also a founding partner of DCI, which does extensive work for the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney campaign ($17 million combined in 2004). <
Tom Synhorst, PFA strategic advisor, also a veteran of Bush/Cheney 2000, was the founder of DCI. Previously Synhorst worked as a tobacco PR specialist, and an associate of Christian/lobbyist Ralph Reed.
Chris LaCivita, former National Republican Senatorial Committee director, later employed at DCI, became Executive Director of PFA before he went over to help the Swift Boat Vets to attack John Kerry’s service record with claims like he lied, or that he shot himself to get his medals.
(Incidentally, DCI, which is still receiving large payments from PFA – over $147,000 just this year, as of June 30. and its Republican ties have been in the news for other reasons as well. DCI employee James Tobin, New England campaign chairman for the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign, was convicted last December for his part in a plot to jam Democrat’s phones on election day.)
So here we have yet another front group, misleading and manipulating the public. They want us to be afraid. Perhaps we should be afraid of what they are doing to democracy.
September 12, 2006
Gas Prices are dropping -- just in time for the election. AAA Says Gas Prices Keep Falling; Down 42 Cents Since Reaching Highest Price This Year,
The nationwide average price of self-service regular gasoline is continuing to fall and is 42 cents lower than it was on August 7; the date prices reached their highest point this year of $3.036 per gallon.What do you think will happen to gas prices after the election?
I just came out of a 2 hour meeting with Bill Clinton, with a group of bloggers. I'll have more later, and hopefully some pics.
Bill Clinton reads blogs.
Update - this just in:
mcjoan writes here and Bill Sher sent a pic:
Barbara from Mahablog writes.
The slowdown in the US housing market is a key threat to global growth.Housing numbers out today,
This is according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its half-yearly Global Financial Stability Report.
Real estate experts expect to see slowing sales and price gains and increased inventory, but nothing resembling a bursting bubble, when the Northwest Multiple Listing Service releases its August numbers today.Heh. We'll see. More later.
September 11, 2006
Bush seems intent on splitting this nation in two. He laid a wreath at "ground zero" last night - accompanied only by Republicans.
My mother lives a few blocks away from the WTC site, and we're heading outside to see the twin lights.
Summary: In a "Free Speech" segment on the CBS Evening News, Rush Limbaugh attacked unnamed critics who are "not interested in victory" over what he termed "Islamofascism" and who do not conform to his definition of "patriotism," specifically those who "are more interested in punishing this country over a few incidents of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay than they are in defeating those who want to kill us."The new Republican/PFA ad message: "These people want to kill us."
September 10, 2006
I'll be on airplanes Monday, flying from SF to NY. I'll check in some time after I arrive.
Morning Update - Got through security in 5 minutes, and there's good wireless reception outside of the Admiral's Club. They have the same wiresless as Starbucks, so here I am for a while.
Here's the kind of headline that is starting to reach home buyers: House hunters' tip: Prices may fall, a first in 13 years. This news that people should expect falling prices is only starting to sink in out there. Changing people's expectations is a slow process. But when it does sink in -- that is when we will start seeing real drops in prices. Right now we're still in a housing bubble and buyers think they are seeing "bargains" while sellers are holding out with unrealistic expectations. Once it really sinks in that prices are falling - and falling fast - the buyers will start expecting ever lower prices, and the sellers will either take their homes off the market or dump them before prices fall further.
Prices will likely revert to the mean. This June chart from The Economist -- "The worldwide rise in house prices is the biggest bubble in history. Prepare for the economic pain when it pops" -- shows where prices were in relation to the mean (100 on the chart) back in 2005, and shows what happened when Japan's smaller bubble popped.
From the Economist story,
Japan provides a nasty warning of what can happen when boom turns to bust. Japanese property prices have dropped for 14 years in a row, by 40% from their peak in 1991. [emphasis added]
And more housing bubble news: Housing slump harsher than predicted,
For years, real estate brokers and home builders promised that the soaring property market eventually would glide to a soft landing. These optimists predicted that home prices, which had more than doubled in parts of the country between 2000 and 2005, would continue to rise, but at a more normal pace of 5 percent or 6 percent a year.Builders Brace for a Housing Downturn,
It isn't working out that way. The rapid deterioration of the market over the past 12 months has caught many homeowners and builders off guard. Some are being forced to cut prices far below what their homes could have fetched a year ago.
...The market may be weaker than the Realtors' widely followed monthly reports suggest. The group's data don't reflect the latest transactions.
The housing market is looking sicker by the day. On Sept. 7, the perpetually optimistic National Association of Realtors acknowledged for the first time that housing prices are likely to fall on a year-over-year basis, at least for a time.
After writing the post below I replayed the new Republican/PFA ad and noticed something. The ad says,
“Many times before 9/11 al Queda attacked America and we took little action."Interesting how this lie exactly corresponds to the theme of ABC's Path to 9/11. Interesting how the ad is rolled out at the same time.
OK, we're wrapping up the first week of election campaign season, which traditionally begins on Labor Day. How is my July Election Prediction holding up so far? Here is what I wrote then,
Here is my election prediction.So far we're right on schedule. And remember, Path to 9/11, in which a major TV network tells the public that Clinton was responsible for terrorism, and Bush was a hero trying to prevent the attacks, is only the very beginning. Watch the first PFA ad that will be saturating the airwaves, and read this article, In a Pivotal Year, GOP Plans to Get Personal; Millions to Go to Digging Up Dirt on Democrats, for just a glimpse at next week.
In November we are all going to be in shock that the Republicans would do that, go that far, do such things, let it get to that point. We simply aren't going to believe that that could have happened in this country, this world, this day and age. All of us.
Two years ago I did a pretty thorough study of the 9/11 report. The report was released right before the Democratic Convention and didn't get the attention it deserved. (Coincidence?) My conclusion was that the Committee had put in enough information to condemn Bush, but it hadn't dotted the i's and crossed the t's, so that readers had to draw the conclusions themselves. It was a big shaggy dog story, like a string of jokes without punchlines.
This is the way people learned to write in Czarist and Stalinist Russia -- tell the smart people what they need to know, but write it in such a way that the average man won't understand it.
Here are the links. Later I'll probably pull some stuff up and repost it, but if you're interested you can go to it all now.
September 9, 2006
Everyone involved in politics (or marketing), or concerned about politics (or marketing), should go read this. Daily Kos: Madison Ave. Ad Exec Reveals How GOP Wins Elections
The perception you create IS the reality! Take heart! If they perceive something despite obvious evidence to the contrary, you will be able to make them perceive any number of things! Including your point of view! Rove knows this and uses it -- you must too!
ABC's Path to 9/11 doesn't just fictionalize - it intentionally tells the public the very opposite of what happened. It doesn't just broadcast the right-wing myth that Clinton was responsible for 9/11, it also misleads the public into thinking that the Bush administration was trying to prevent the attacks. But in fact the Clinton administration was "obsessed" with preventing terrorism and the Bush administration ignored terrorism.
According to Joe Conason at Salon, in The Sept. 11 that never was,
The movie shows ... Condoleezza Rice demoting Clarke in January 2001 when she takes over as national security advisor. Clarke tries to warn her that "something spectacular" is going to happen on American soil, and she assures him that "we're on it," which they assuredly were not.This is pure right-wing propaganda, following the Republican campaign theme.
Indeed, the script downplays the neglect of terrorism as a primary threat by the incoming Bush team -- and never mentions the counterterrorism task force, chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney, that never met for nine months before 9/11. The famous Aug. 6 presidential daily briefing, which warned the vacationing Bush that al-Qaida intended to strike here, is given due attention. But the movie then shows Rice telling her associates that "as a result of the Aug. 6 PDB, the president wants to take real action" against al-Qaida. But the 9/11 Commission report's section on the PDB clearly states that the August warning was not followed up on by Rice. [emphasis added]
Update - Orcinus has more.
Here's what the "Path to 9/11" claims American Airlines did on the morning of September 11. According to Disney/ABC, American Airlines had Mohammad Atta at its ticket counter and a warning came up on the screen when he tried to check in. The AA employee called a supervisor who kind of shrugged and said, blithely, just let him through. The first employee, shocked, turned to her supervisor and said, shouldn't we search him? The American Airlines supervisor responds, nah, just hold his luggage until he boards the plane. The scene is clearly intended to make American Airlines look negligent.We now know that David Horowitz is involved in this smear, and that Horowitz has been working on a long-term strategic effort to rewrite history and shift blame for 9/11 away from Bush and the Republicans and onto Clinton.
Only problem? It never happened.
We also know that the reality was that the Clinton administration was "obsessed" with preventing terrorism, and that the Bush administration ignored it, and went on vacation after receiving a warning alert titled, "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Within US."
September 8, 2006
According to Max Blumenthal at Huffington Post, Republican strategist (and Karl Rove friend) David Horowitz was involved from the start in ABC's Path to 9/11 smear blaming Clinton for 9/11. This is significant because Horowitz has been involved for some time in a strategic PR effort to shift blame for 9/11 from Bush to Clinton. According to a Feb. 26, 2002 story in O'Dwyer's PR Daily, titled "PR CAMPAIGN BLAMES CLINTON FOR SEPT. 11 ATTACKS",
The Center for the Study of Popular Culture, in Los Angeles, has begun a PR campaign to pin the blame of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Clinton Administration.From Eat The Press | Max Blumenthal: Discover the Secret Right-Wing Network Behind ABC's 9/11 Deception | The Huffington Post,
The Center has mailed copies of David Horowitz's new pamphlet entitled "How the Left Undermined America's Security," to about 1,500 media outlets on Feb. 19. Horowitz is president of the Center.
The 46-page pamphlet charges that the U.S. national security interests were undermined by the left, leading to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
In fact, "The Path to 9/11" is produced and promoted by a well-honed propaganda operation consisting of a network of little-known right-wingers working from within Hollywood to counter its supposedly liberal bias. This is the network within the ABC network. Its godfather is far right activist David Horowitz, who has worked for more than a decade to establish a right-wing presence in Hollywood and to discredit mainstream film and TV production. On this project, he is working with a secretive evangelical religious right group founded by The Path to 9/11's director David Cunningham that proclaims its goal to "transform Hollywood" in line with its messianic vision.
...With the LFF now under Horowitz's control, his political machine began drumming up support for Cunningham and Nowrasteh's "Untitled" project, which finally was revealed in late summer as "The Path to 9/11." Horowitz's PR blitz began with an August 16 interview with Nowrasteh on his FrontPageMag webzine. In the interview, Nowrasteh foreshadowed the film's assault on Clinton's record on fighting terror. "The 9/11 report details the Clinton's administration's response -- or lack of response -- to Al Qaeda and how this emboldened Bin Laden to keep attacking American interests," Nowrasteh told FrontPageMag's Jamie Glazov. "There simply was no response. Nothing."So it is becomming clear that ABC's Path To 9/11 is part of a long-term campaign to smear the Clinton administration - and by extension Democrats and others opposed to Bush's takeover. This is an attempt to distract public attention from Bush's own lack of concern about - and efforts to prevent - terrorism before 9/11.
But remember, George Bush was given an August, 2001 document titled, "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside U.S." and left for vacation instead of doing anything about it. In contrast Bill Clinton was accused of having an "unhealthy American obscession" with terrorism while Republicans tried to block his administration's anti-terrorism efforts..
This April 2, 2000 Washington Post article, An Obscure Chief in U.S. War on Terror, discusses the extent of Clinton's anti-terrorism efforts - which were ignored or even stopped after Bush took office. I am quoting extensively because of the contrast to the Horiwitz/Republican efforts to rewrite history.
Four weeks before, Clarke had sketched out a plan on the whiteboard in his office at the National Security Council for neutralizing the latest threat from the Afghanistan-based Saudi exile. Approved by President Clinton and his top foreign policy advisers, Clarke's plan became the basis of administration efforts to prevent bin Laden supporters from ringing in the New Year with what officials believed could be dozens, perhaps hundreds, of American deaths in a series of simultaneous attacks from the Middle East to the West Coast.
Central to Clarke's strategy was a major disruption effort, orchestrated by the CIA and implemented by friendly intelligence agencies around the world, aimed at harassing members of bin Laden's al Qaeda organization and forcing them onto the defensive. Other moves included putting the FBI on a heightened state of alert, dispatching counterterrorism teams to Europe and having the State Department issue an informal ultimatum to Afghanistan to keep bin Laden under control.
... As the national coordinator for infrastructure protection and counterterrorism, Clarke has presided over a huge increase in counterterrorism budgets over the past five years to meet a wide array of new--and some would argue, still hypothetical--challenges, such as cyber warfare or chemical or biological attacks in New York or Washington. Last month, the administration submitted an $11.1 billion request to Congress to strengthen "domestic preparedness" against a terrorist attack.
... Such talk irritates national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, Clarke's direct supervisor, who insists that the threat of large-scale terrorist attacks on U.S. soil is "a reality, not a perception." "We would be irresponsible if we did not take this seriously," he says. "I hope that in 10 years' time, they will say we did too much, not too little."
Clarke's warnings about America's vulnerability to new kinds of terrorist attack have found a receptive ear in Clinton. With little fanfare, the president has begun to articulate a new national security doctrine in which terrorists and other "enemies of the nation-state" are coming to occupy the position once filled by a monolithic communist superpower. In January, he departed from the prepared text of his State of the Union address to predict that terrorists and organized criminals "with increasing access to ever more sophisticated chemical and biological weapons" will pose "the major security threat" to the United States in 10 to 20 years.
... He compares the current threat of global terrorism with the situation faced by Western democracies in the period leading up to World War II, when appeasement carried the day. Imagine what would have happened, he says, had Winston Churchill come to power in Britain five years earlier and "aggressively gone after" Nazi Germany. Hitler would have been stopped, but in all likelihood, Clarke says, Churchill would have gone down in history "as a hawk, as someone who exaggerated the threat, who saber-rattled and did needless things."
Which is precisely what some of Clarke's critics have said about him.
... The latest administration request for $11.1 billion in counterterrorism funds--compared with $5.7 billion in 1996--includes $1.5 billion for defense against weapons of mass destruction and almost $2 billion for protection of computer networks, utility systems and other "critical infrastructure." The figures do not include intelligence spending, which remains classified.
... Clarke's authority derives in large measure from the fact that Clinton shares his area of interest. According to aides, the president is a voracious reader of popular books on terrorism...
... The U.S. budget to fight terrorism has grown by more than 90 percent over the past six years in response to a series of terror attacks at home and abroad. New programs have been launched to counter the threat of terrorists using nuclear, chemical or biological agents. But critics question how dangerous the threat remains. [All emphasis added]
At Think Progress, Gore On Path to 9/11: ‘It Would Be Fundamentally Irresponsible To Air Such Distortions’. Gore's statement:
By all accounts, “The Path to 9/11″ is riddled with inaccuracies and contains material that directly contradicts the factual findings of the 9/11 Commission. I am deeply concerned that ABC is considering going forward with their plans to broadcast this so-called docudrama. The lessons from the events leading up to that tragedy are too important to trivialize, and it would be fundamentally irresponsible to air such distortions.
Go see Progress for America's ad, which will saturate the airwaves for the next two months. (Progress for America IS the Republican Party - all the same people, all the same funders, etc.)
"THEY WANT TO KILL US." The site says the War on Terror is a war for our country's freedom, security and survival.
But, of course, the Republicans respond to this threat to our very survival without a draft or taxes to pay for it, or even buying less oil from our "enemies."
Update-Go see this new DNC video, responding.
Calculated Risk: Housing: Difference a Year Makes, has a great chart of year-to-year changes in the housing market. Keep in mind that the real news of a downturn in housing is only recently hitting the press in a way that will penetrate to average people. These numbers are what is causing that news - and NOT from people reacting to that news. Things will really start happening when people start reacting, and start understanding that their house will be worth less next year, and start thinking about taking a profit - or just getting out - now.
Recent data quantify housing cooldown (year-over-year changes).Go see the whole chart.
Builders’ sentiment down 52.2%
New-home sales down 21.6%
Purchase-mortgage applications down 20.9%
Building permits down 20.8%
National home prices are likely to fall below where they were in late 2005, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.U.S. Home Prices May Fall for First Time in 13 Years,
The same trend could occur in the Bay Area, local experts said, reflecting a broad-based market shift in which homes for sale generally outnumber eager buyers.
``I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a drop in prices of 10 or 15 percent by the end of the year, from the peak,'' said Edwin Resuello, president of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, referring to home prices countywide.
U.S. home prices may fall for the first time since 1993 as a record number of homes for sale gives buyers the upper hand in negotiations, the National Association of Realtors said.Housing decline: How 'temporary'?
You know the boom is over when even the brokers start predicting lower prices. That was true of the stock-market bubble in 2001, and it's true now, as the air comes out of housing.
... Other forecasters are less sanguine than the Realtors. Global Insight, the economics firm with offices in Eddystone, found prices falling even in parts of the country where housing has been relatively tame.
In Michigan, Ohio and Indiana - some of the flattest real estate markets in the country - "modest gains have given way to losses as mortgage rates rise and economic conditions soften," the Global Insight team reported.
September 7, 2006
There's NEW STUFF here!
Some of the more observant of you have noticed something that looks like this at the end of every post:
Share this post: Digg it:
Each of those little pictures is an icon that you can click to go to a service that lets you SHARE and RECOMMEND posts that you like with other people. If you hover your mouse over the ones at the end of a post (not these here), a message pops up telling you which service the icon represents. Digg is a well-known example of this, del.icio.us is another. They are free, you go there and see what other people are recommending, and (at Digg) you can "Digg it" which means adding a recommendation of your own. (Do you "del.icio.us it" at del.icio.us?) When enough people recommend something, it gains wider attention.
I suggest signing up at some of these sights. Then, if you see something here that you think more people should know about, click one or all of those icons, and go recommend it to others.
You also now see see a more prominent "Email this" at the end of posts. This is through FeedBurner. The old way is still there below the comments at the end of an individual post (which you see if you click "more," "comments" or "permalink"). If you think a post says something worth sharing, e-mail it to others.
I wrote about Spotlight the other day. Spotlight lets you bring a post to the attention of specific journalists with your own message.
Also, there is an ad between some of the posts now. Gotta pay for the bandwidth somehow.
Yes, the TIP JAR is still there.
The cooling housing market and a softening of capital spending will bring a slowdown in U.S. manufacturing activity next year, according to a study released by an industry trade group on Thursday.U.S. Stocks Fall as Housing Slump Deepens,
... "The housing market has turned, it's going to be down this year and even down more sharply next year," Dan Meckstroth, chief economist of the Arlington, Virginia-based trade group, told Reuters.
U.S. stocks dropped for a second day after two homebuilders cut their earnings forecasts, fueling concern that the housing slump may curb economic growth.
A U.S. housing sector downturn may last for years because of excess supply and faltering consumer confidence stemming from worry over U.S. foreign policy and federal government competence, the head of nation's largest builder of luxury homes said on Wednesday.NAR says housing prices will fall,
... "This isn't a soft landing, it's harder than a soft landing," Toll told Reuters in an interview. But he denied the market was headed for a more dramatic decline in prices as some observers fear. "We are not crashing," he said.
The National Association of Realtors has lowered its forecast for home sales this year, and says housing prices will probably fall below year-ago levels in the short term.Economic Outlook: Housing market weaker still
Every single day Bush equates the Iraq occupation with the "War on Terror." You and I know that Iraq had NOTHING to do with 9/11. But 43% of the public is still fooled. The Republican messaging will only increase between now and November 7.
From yesterday's CNN poll:
Asked whether former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 52 percent said he was not, but 43 percent said they believe he was. [emphasis added]Go watch this video clip in which Cenk fro The Young Turks instructs us on the proper attitude to have over this. Cenk writes about this at HuffPo today.
This is a colossal failure on the part of the press. It is the job of the press to get information to the public. They have failed miserably. Five long years after September 11th, 43% of the country still believes Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for 9/11.
Obviously, the mainstream media did a woeful job of communicating the truth to these people. This should be an everlasting mark of shame on the press. And it is not in the past - it is in the present. These people still believe Saddam did it. When is the press ever going to let them in on the truth?
.. Recently Zogby conducted a poll of US troops fighting in Iraq. And in this group, 85% believe Saddam was responsible for 9/11. When in the world are we going to tell these poor kids the truth? Don't they deserve to know that they are fighting and dying for a lie?
Crooks & Liars points out something,
The poll also shows that the lower education someone has, the higher the chances they believe in the Saddam/9-11 connection.As well as other stuff the Republicans feed them, I bet.
September 6, 2006
Election campaigns officially begin on Labor Day, which was Monday. This is Wednesday and there's a BIG election-related announcement: Iraq to take control of armed forces. From the story,
"This is such a huge, significant event that's about to occur tomorrow," U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said of the shift in the Iraqi command.All timed to affect the election... Everything between now and November is about the elections, and not about anything else. Bush and the Republicans are not about the good of the country or winning in Iraq or ANYthing besides getting and increasing power.
ABC is attempting to spread a lie and manipulate the public to vote for Republicans in the coming election. George Bush let 9/11 happen -- and to cover themselves they launched a campaign to blame Clinton. Now ABC is "propelling the propaganda."
Down the left column (should be at the top) is a TAKE ACTION section. Go do everything they say. Right now.
...But the peak has passed, and the consequences of the deflating bubble are buffeting the housing market, in Washington and across the United States.
What sold in a weekend here last year is taking months to unload. And increasingly nervous home sellers are slashing prices to get rid of properties before their value sinks even further. One buyer recently threatened to walk away from a signed contract on a $1.6-million house unless the seller took $100,000 off the price to reflect the drop in value since the deal was struck. The seller quickly buckled, fearing the house might be worth even less if put back on the market today.
"Look how fast prices were going up. The same thing is happening on the way down," observed Ms. Gaus, who's been selling homes in Potomac for 16 years.
The U.S. housing crash may prove to be the economic equivalent of the canary in the coal mine -- a warning of impending danger in an economy that has surged too far, too fast. Many experts are now openly speculating about a possible U.S. recession next year, brought on by consumers reacting to the shrinking value of their nest egg. If they're right, the fallout could prove to be far nastier than the collapse of the technology bubble at the start of the decade.There's more, go read. Then go read Home prices show huge slowdown and Home Prices Fall in Nearly One-Fourth of Metropolitan Regions,
"It could throw the economy into recession if consumers go into a shell," worried economist Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland. "I don't see anything out there to compensate."
Price declines are spreading to more parts of the country. The 89 areas affected in the second quarter compares to 66 metropolitan areas where prices fell in the first three months of the year. In the fourth quarter last year, only 29 areas reported such declines.If you know anyone thinking of buying a house, suggest they offer 25% less than the asking price just to see what happens. They might find themselves owning a house -- that they still paid way too much for.
'The Wheels Are Coming Off' - a terrifying roundup of the problems battering housing, including a reference to Bloomberg yesterday, U.S. Home-Price Gains Slow as Housing Slump Deepens,
U.S. home-price growth slowed during the second quarter from a year earlier in the sharpest three- month plunge on record, according to a government report issued today that indicates this year's housing slump is deepening.Keep in mind, this is only the very start of the popping of the housing bubble. It's only just hitting the news in a way that spreads out to the broad public. It is only after it becomes generally understood that housing prices are not going up anymore and people take price appreciation out of their buying calculation that we will start to see real changes. Prices have a long way to fall before things get back to normal.
"The wheels are coming off the housing market,'' said Scott Anderson, an economist at Wells Fargo & Co. in Minneapolis. [emphasis added]
And, always, everything at The Housing Bubble blog.
Throw the rascals out.
September 5, 2006
At Cracking a Diebold In 4 minutes and 12 Dollars. How easy is it to hardware hack a Voting Machine?
Go see the pictures. In four minutes they had complete access to the memory card without disturbing the official seals that are supposed to certify that the machine could not have been tampered with. And remember, because these seals supposedly guarantee that the machines have not been tampered with, these machines are often allowed to go to people's homes the night before the election or are otherwise allowed to disappear from official supervision.
This is about proving that the vote counts reflect the will of the voters. We need to require paper ballots that the voter looks at and agrees represent the voter's intentions.
These machines should be nothing more than input devices for paper-ballot printing, and the voter should be required to double-check that printed ballot. There is no other way to prove that the vote counts reflect the will of the voters. And with this system we don't need expensive - and ineffective - security measures for the machines.
This story comes from the Moonies, who would know a little something about secretly funneling millions of dollars into campaigns. GOP secretly channeled millions to Lieberman,
The White House funneled millions of dollars through major Republican Party contributors to Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s primary campaign in a failed effort to ensure the support of the former Democrat for the Bush administration.
A senior GOP source said the money was part of Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove's strategy to maintain a Republican majority in the Senate in November. The source said Mr. Rove, together with Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, directed leading pro-Bush contributors to donate millions of dollars to Mr. Lieberman's campaign for re-election in Connecticut in an attempt that he would be a "Republican-leaning" senator.
... The source said that under Mr. Rove's plan, Mr. Lieberman would vote with the GOP on national security issues and help provide the party with a 50-50 split on major legislation. The deciding vote would then be cast by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Tell me how the radical fundamentalist Islamists are somehow different from our own Republicans? Maybe it's some kind of who-can-be-further-right competition they're having. Iran head wants liberal teachers ousted,
Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Tuesday for a purge of liberal and secular teachers from the country's universities, urging students to return to 1980s-style radicalism.Update - Max Blumenthal at HuffPo.
Here is an opportunity to watch a strategic narrative develop in real-time. Remember the other day when the Republican National Committee had a picture of Howard Dean with a Hitler mustache? Maybe that was a tip-off of something coming. The Republicans are trying to make the public think that liberals hate Jews.
A few days ago several bloggers noticed a flurry of anti-Semitic comments suddenly showing up at their blogs. It was obvious that the next step would be widespread circulation of right-wing stories about those anti-Semitic liberals...
And, right on schedue: HATEFUL 'MOVE' VS. JOE By MAGGIE HABERMAN - New York Post Online Edition: News,
A string of anti-Semitic rants about Sen. Joe Lieberman have popped up on the liberal MoveOn.org's open forum Web site, drawing criticism from the Anti-Defamation League.And of course, the chorus chimes in, here, here, here, here, here, here, and I'll add as they show up...
The type of hatred evinced by MoveOn.org and by George Soros is dangerous.Right Voices, MoveOn.org and Hateful Jewish Slurs Aimed At Joe
Free Republic, MoveOn.org: Hot-bed for Anti-Semitism
OK, the larger echo chamber is kicking in now:
Update - Will we see this in the right-wing media? ADL Welcomes MoveOn.org's Responsiveness in Removing Anti-Semitic Messages,
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the responsiveness of MoveOn.org Political Action in removing anti-Semitic messages that had been posted on the Action Forum on their Web site.
In response to a letter of concern, Eli Pariser, Executive Director of MoveOn Political Action, has been in direct contact with ADL. He indicated that MoveOn.org found the comments abhorrent and had them removed.
ADL is pleased with Mr. Pariser's responsiveness to our concerns and believes the matter has been resolved satisfactorily.
Seeing the Forest is joining The Spotlight Project. This will enable you to forward an individual post that you think is important to several journalists by name, with your comments. Following every STF post, at the end of the line that starts with "Link to this," you will see a "Spotlight" link. Click that link, and you are taken to The Spotlight Project, and all the information about the particular post comes there with you. You then can choose which specific journalists you would like to send the post to with your message attached.
May I suggest that you start with this post about ABC's right-wing 9/11 propagana show. Click "Spotlight" in the line that follows the post, beginning with "Link to this". (Yes, the line in which the second item is "Tip Jar," where you can leave a few dollars when you like a post.)
This Spotlight demonstration page explains further.
An upcoming ABC 9/11 "docudrama" contains right-wing-planted propaganda, including a lie that the Clinton administration refused to kill bin Laden. We need people to act on this. Click this link.
In fact, Clinton had authorized killing bin Laden. In fact the Republicans BLOCKED Clinton's anti-terrorism efforts. In fact, Bush received a memo titled Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the US and went on vacation instead of doing something about it.
Meanwhile, ABC distributed info on the show to right-wing outlets only. Digby has more,
When this was revealed, the lefty bloggers who asked ABC for copies so that they might see it too, were told that they would have to wait until this week. Obviously, none of us will be able to screen it until Wednesday at the earliest and probably not even then.
... Smells of agenda, indeed. Obviously,since only some people have had a chance to watch the movie and guage its accuracy, it's difficult to know.
When challenged to explain why the right-wing blogosphere is abuzz with praise for the film, director David Cunningham responded that "we are also being accused of being a left wing movie that bashes Bush" — a claim for which there is absolutely no evidence. I searched Technorati for mentions of the film and found 260 references, mostly from conservative websites, every single one of which had nothing but praise for the film. And although I found numerous examples of conservative pundits and bloggers who reported seeing pre-broadcast screenings, no leftist pundits or bloggers had been given a chance to see it...Also - ABC not allowing progressive bloggers on a press conference call about the show.
"These data are a strong indication that the housing market is cooling in a very significant way," said James Lockhart, OFHEO director. "Indeed, the deceleration appears in almost every region of the country."And in other housing news:
It's the fastest deceleration in the index in its three-decade history, OFHEO said.
... Prices fell in the second quarter in four states: Michigan, Massachusetts, Ohio and Indiana.
Prices in Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, and California cooled to less than 0% annualized growth in the second quarter. [emphasis added]
The housing stock nearly has quintupled and prices are virtually flat when compared to last year's levels. Home sale time-frames now are measured in months, not days.US Aug layoffs surge, housing slowdown cited,
"Yeah, we miss those times," Darrell Muhammed, a local agent, said of last year's market.
While average prices have yet to tumble, concern mounts that an ever-increasing housing inventory, coupled with coming hikes for variable rate mortgage holders, could send the market south in a hurry.
Planned U.S. layoffs surged 76 percent in August compared with the previous month amid signs that a slowdown in housing was starting to have an impact on employment, an independent report showed on Tuesday.
... "Job-cutting in real estate this year is nearly double last year. However, we have not as yet seen a major uptick in job cuts in the sectors we might expect during a significant slowdown. The housing slowdown has not had a major impact on the job market, yet."[emphasis added]
September 3, 2006
All eyes will be looking at Tuesday's release of the Office of Housing Enterprise Oversight home price index, which will cover April-June. Home price data takes center stage this week,
Home values are critical to the economic outlook. Economists disagree about how the housing slowdown will impact consumer spending.Estimates are that it will show a slowing in the rise of prices.
The rise in home prices has been an important driver of consumer spending. Many consumers have been refinancing their mortgages based on the higher home values and using the cash to finance purchases.
... On a national average basis, home sales have not fallen in any year since the late 1940s, said Berson. There have been some quarterly declines, and prices have been down annually in some regions.
September 2, 2006
The most influential moderate Shia leader in Iraq has abandoned attempts to restrain his followers, admitting that there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war.Juan Cole writes,
Aides say Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is angry and disappointed that Shias are ignoring his calls for calm and are switching their allegiance in their thousands to more militant groups which promise protection from Sunni violence and revenge for attacks.
"I will not be a political leader any more," he told aides. "I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters."
It is a devastating blow to the remaining hopes for a peaceful solution in Iraq and spells trouble for British forces, who are based in and around the Shia stronghold of Basra.
I no longer have power to save Iraq from civil war, warns Shia leader
I take it he is saying that it is his perception that he is no longer in a position to play that pivotal role because Iraq's Shiites have been turning to leaders such as Muqtada al-Sadr. (Since al-Sadr is sort of an all-but-dissertation Ph.D. student and Sistani is the most eminent professor in the system, this desertion of the old man for the younger one in the street is a real slap in the face to the Najaf establishment.)From Kuwait, Sistani calls for barring non-governmental troops from carrying arms,
Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said Saturday after meeting the top spiritual guide of Shiite Iraqis Sayyed Ali Al-Sistani that the top scholar called for barring non-governmental troops from carrying or keeping weapons.If only it can happen...
"Al-Sistani called for unifying the nation and restricting arms to government troops," the senior official said at a news conference held in the holy city of Najaf.
"The national reconciliation plan is a governmental plan which was agreed upon by all political forces," pointed out Al-Maliki, and added that the current government is the only authority responsible for seeking the welfare of this country.
Update Sunday - More at Gorilla's Guides.
This month's figures prove that the so-called "housing bubble" is not only real, but that its cratering faster than anyone had realized. As the UK Guardian reported a couple of days ago, “the orderly housing slowdown predicted by the Federal Reserve will (soon) become a full-blown crash.”Madison - Housing bubble has burst; prices will tell you why
To hear the real estate agents tell it, the housing market has "lost steam."
What they really mean, of course, is that it's hit a wall - though you won't get them to admit that publicly. And from all indications it's not going to improve any time soon.
Five and a half years ago the equity bubble popped. Within six months, the US economy went into mild recession, and the global economy was quick to follow. Today, America’s housing bubble is finally bursting. Is the die cast for another bubble-induced downturn in the US and global economy?Pending Home Sales Index Points To Easing Market ,
Home sales should be leveling out in the months ahead at a lower pace, according to an index based on pending home sales, a leading indicator for the housing market published by the National Association of Realtors®.On housing front, it's beginning to get ugly,
The Pending Home Sales Index,* based on contracts signed in July, is down 7.0 percent to a level of 105.6 from a downwardly revised reading of 113.5 in June, and is 16.0 percent lower than July 2005.
.... Lereah said psychological factors account for much of the decline in July home sales. “We’ve never seen a general decline in the housing market against a healthy economic backdrop where jobs are being created, the economy in growing and interest rates are favorable,” he said.
File this under car wreck, as in, you don't really want to see it, but you cannot look away. I'm talking about the latest batch of housing numbers. They all show pretty much the same thing: sales slacking off, inventories rising.(Those last two found through Housing Bubble and House Prices Tracker)
If and when certain markets collapse 20% to 30%, it should not be deemed a bubble. It will happen in some markets and has happened in over-built condo markets. But these units will be absorbed in the next few years. The greatest pain will be felt by the biggest speculators and the most overzealous people participating in unorthodox loan programs.
I think the fashion industry is a good analogy for the out-of-touch pundit and political insider class. Take a look at what the insiders think we're supposed to look like. It really does resemble what the Washington Conventional Wisdom crowd wants us to think like.
Let's start with Christian Dior with that special look for meeting his parents:
But wait! There's more!
Here is the new office attire we'll be wearing next year:
And for casual Fridays:
And from Givenchy, a new look in makeup, for when you want to impress that special guy:
And for the men, the "emperor's new clothes" look from Calvin Klein:
They really DO think we're dicks!