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January 8, 2011

gabrielle giffords

So the news is everywhere, so no link, but Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot to death in front of a Tuscon grocery store not an hour ago.

Giffords was "targeted" by a little election campaign by Sarah Palin.  Promos for the campaign included targets on a map.  Accordingly, it won't be a couple of hours before Palin apologists start accusing the Left of politicizing this horrible act for pointing out inconvenient facts.

I've been wrestling with myself this week over our (my) tendency to make value judgments over political events — i.e., my side is "good", and the other side is "bad".  A human phenomenon, sure, and those that don't do it are largely made up of those that just don't care.

But I will say this: my side, my "good" guys, generally don't go murdering politicians.

I'm sorry that Giffords' family now has to deal with her unasked for, unneeded and unwarranted martyrdom.

[UPDATE 2:45p]  Reports are now saying that Giffords is still alive, and in surgery.  I pray that that remains the case.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:14 PM

January 7, 2011

grown-up gop behavior 1.711

I'm just gonna note the general grown-up behavior of the Republican caucus of the House, so that I have a running record as time goes by.

•  Wednesday was the day that the 112th Senate was sworn in, though sadly, two Republican representatives didn't make it.  Oh, you could excuse a couple of wet-behind-the-ears citizen legislators, eager to bring their Tea Party to the corridors of power and touch Michelle Bachmann's hem, but no, these two scalliwags were career insider Pete Sessions of Texas and Pennsylvania's returning Mike Fitzpatrick.  They have sixteen years in the House between them.  They were late because they were at a party.

•  So the top legislative priority for the 112 is to pass a symbolic piece of legislation (symbolic b/c the GOP controls neither the Senate nor the White House) repeal of the health care reform bill passed last year.  The name of this symbolic act will be "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act".  So rarely has an utter lack of imagination collided so efficiently with a pre-adolescent sensibility.

•  And in his first presser, Speaker of the House Boehner, when confronted with the fact that the (Job Killing!) Health Care repeal would cost $230 billion over ten years, Speaker Boehner rejected it out of hand.  The estimate was from the Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan mechanism tasked with number-crunching and argument-settling.  "CBO," Boehner said, "is entitled to their opinion," perhaps misundertanding the report as a comment on the size of his gavel.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:49 AM

January 6, 2011

wish i owned a home, even one under water

Add real estate to the list of complex systems I know nothing about and yet reference, as "the president and chief executive of a real estate franchise organization" contributes an Op-Ed that just may solve the underwater mortgage crisis — owners whose house is worth less than the paper on it should just give the vanished equity to the bank:
Here’s how it would work.  Let’s say a homeowner purchased a house in 2004 for $300,000 with no money down, and the property is now worth $150,000 — a 50 percent drop in value.

In an equity-sharing arrangement, the lender would write a new loan for $150,000, retire the original $300,000 loan and, to make up for that loss, take a 50 percent deeded ownership interest in the property.  The homeowner would also agree to split 50 percent of the net proceeds of any future sale of the property with the lender.  The new arrangement would also include a buyout provision, so that if the homeowner ever wanted to take over the lender’s share, he would simply pay the lender a predetermined amount of cash.

So basically the lender gets a percentage of the homeowner's equity for nothing.  Payments on the original mortgage?  In the lender's pocket.  Lender takes absolutely no hit whatsoever.  And the homeowner loses a portion of ownership equal to the drop in value of the home.

The author notes that the excellent! thing about this plan is that it costs the taxpayer nothing.  Well why would the taxpayer need to fork over cash is homeowners agree to take it bending over like that?

Well, there is the "good citizenship" of not willingly defaulting on a financial instrument because it no longer makes financial sense to do so — which is a warm fuzzy feeling that the business world outgrew decades ago.

Again, I'm no expert in owning things, but if it looks like a scuzzy deal to me, an idiot, then it must be pretty scuzzy.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:00 PM

oh please with the circular firing squads

With the President naming his new Chief of Staff, William Daley, who is as related to Chicago politics as his predecessor, the predictable response from the people on the Left who say things in public is dismay — Mr Daley is a former Clinton official and rumored to be a centrist of sorts.

I empathize with this response, but ultimately am dismayed by it.  Surely we pin our hopes and dreams on a president whose candidacy we supported, but the one thing we do not get is to run him like a marionette.  The Obama Adminstration is not a Choose-Your-Own Adventure, and it is especially not one where we skip to the back pages to figure out how not to get crushed by a boulder.  It's like having a child: no matter how good of parents we are, it still will probably drop out of college on us.

And this is especially so when it comes to staffing issues.  Yes, we would all be happier were Paul Krugman Secretary of the Treasury, Rachel Maddow as Press Secretary and Antimatter Roy Cohn as CoS.  But government is not an RPG, it's what happens in the real world.  President can hire whoever he or she wants, and can do so for the sake of expediency.  But ultimately, the centrist hired works for the president and not the other way around.  If you want fan fic then read David Brooks.

And to be clear, of all my progressive tendencies, my belief that our big businesses do little to help and much to hurt the world is primary, so yeah, Bill Daley and I don't agree on much, on paper.  But Bill Daley was not hired by me; he is hired by a man I voted for.

I will save my chagrin for what actually happens.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:20 PM

good morning 1.6.11

Upon reflection, I realize that with the return of the GOP House majority, I also return to shrill partisanship and excessive use of the word "asshole".  It's all very 2003.

I don't want to apologize for that.  It's on purpose.  Maybe life cycles back and forth between "I MUST SPEAK OUT!" and "Nothing matters and so what if it did."  But now I feel like my voice added to the subject of political leadership in America might if not make a difference, at least help throw sand bags on the levee.

And the following should go without saying: (i) just because I favor the Democrats does not mean that I excuse them their excesses — they are at least on the surface for the little guy, and to the GOP the little guy is the "Workforce"; and (ii) I never call anyone an asshole that I wouldn't call an asshole to their face.

But good morning.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:48 AM

January 5, 2011

david koch bought the tea party

Speaking of industrialist assholes funding the Tea Party, Hamilton Nolan reports on what looks like a campaign to discredit Jane Mayer, the author of the New Yorker piece that nailed the Koch brothers as pulling the Tea Party levers behind-the-scenes:
Nothing's been confirmed so far.  But the circumstantial evidence does seem indicate that someone out there is planting (weak) negative stories about Mayer with any news outlet who might take them.  There have been at least three efforts so far.

Not exactly earth-shaking, but not exactly out-of-character, and an excellent reminder that, no matter how much money David Koch gives to the New York City Ballet, he is still an asshole buying wholesale a "grassroots" movement to suit his Ayn Rand ways.

NYCB should give the money back.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:27 PM

hello 112th congress

So I had Olbermann on in a feverish haze last night, and clicked on the news once or twice today.  Basically endless stories about handing over gavels and voter mandates and that sort of stuff.

And I realized that, failing anything else, now that the GOP is claiming some sort of highground, it's going to be a lot easier to be pissed off.  Yeah, governing is hard and messy and sometimes misses the point, and the past two years didn't exactly achieve everything my liberal ass wanted, but still.  I didn't have the ruling party calling the their colleagues across the aisle the "Rebuplic Party", and I didn't have a fake orange goblin telling me that Americans are demanding tax cuts for billionaires and less regulations for economy-wrecking corporations.

The Tea Party was one thing.  Sad, mostly.  Uniquely American: vain, proud and unattractive.  But their story was that of the naive, grasping for some lost primacy, being manipulated by industrialist assholes.

But now that we're going to do really productive things like read the Constitution on the House floor, it's going to be a lot more clear cut: those dudes are assholes.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:08 PM

i got sick

I hate to go through the trouble of explaining an interruption, which has been the least good aspect of having a blog for lo these ten or so years, but I am laid low with a stomach virus and on against-my-will bed rest.

I could go into the details of this stomach virus, but I'm sure they're easily imagined.

So I'm just going to lie here and think about whether I should attempt a broth.  And instead of the two hundred words about it I was gong to write, I'm off-handedly suggesting that this wrap-up of the continually unfolding WikiLeaks brou-ha-ha, written by Bruce Sterling a couple weeks ago, is now officially the best thing written about it so far, and is more than worth the fifteen minutes of your time it'll take to read it.

Maybe a milkshake instead of broth.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:41 AM

January 3, 2011

dumb economic question

A little pressed for time this morning, but here's a question: what is the end game for our economy?

I am no expert, just a dedicated novice, but I know that the conventional wisdom says that unemployment can only be solved by economic growth.  Well, more jobs, duh, but it is presumably economic growth that brings that.  And in fact a certain amount of growth (Krugman puts it at 2.5% per year) just to keep up with population growth.  So assuming these to be valid assumptions, what does a world look like that's predicated on infinite growth?

Well, this one, obviously, but how does infinite growth play out?  I mean, can you think of any other system that's not cyclic in some way?  Even the expansion of the universe is supposed to reverse at some point.  Also, are we presuming infinite population growth?  That doesn't seem too smart, given certain planetary sustainability issues.

And there may well be an easy answer to this, and an answer that I'll stumble across as I continue my slow research on the topic.  But I've been reading William Gibson and Neal Stephenson all weekend, so I'm kind of wired to ask dumb questions out loud.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:36 AM