Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for July 14th, 2008

Look! Tild Made Me A Pretty!

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 14, 2008

Courtesy of Tild of Tildology.

Courtesy of Tild of Tildology.

Tild’s a fan of old fruit-crate art, and she’s been doing some lovely knockoffs of same. Just exquisite.


Posted in Good Things | 2 Comments »

The Terror Watch List Is Worse Than Worthless

Posted by MEC on July 14, 2008

Every time Jim Robinson travels by air, he has to convince the TSA that he’s not a terrorist, just because the name “Jim Robinson” is on the ever-growing “watch list” that the government insists will keep us safe from terrorist attacks.

What makes Mr. Robinson’s ordeal particularly absurd — and appalling — is that he has a top-secret security clearance. He was Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton Administration.

It’s possible that someone who passed the vetting process for such an important position is now a terrorist. But it’s even less probable than my becoming Ralph Nader’s running mate.

For every high-profile individual who is inconvenienced because of the watch list, there are thousands of people who are abused because of it. For example:

Chicago-area computer consultant Akif Rahman, who was born in Springfield, Ill., said he has been detained at least seven times after traveling abroad. During one such incident in May, he said, he was held for five hours, shackled to a chair and kicked by a Customs Service agent after being stopped at a U.S. checkpoint on the Canadian border.

The watch list doesn’t make us safer: it makes us afraid. It’s not about national security, it’s about the Bush government’s nearly unchecked ability to abuse its power to keep us afraid and docile.

It’s a distraction from real efforts to prevent terrorist acts, and it’s a threat to our democracy. Getting rid of it needs to be high on the agenda of the next president and Congress.

Posted in abuse of power, no-fly list, TSA, wrong way to go about it | 7 Comments »

Squeezing the lemon

Posted by Charles II on July 14, 2008

Tanta at Calculated Risk has a very nice analysis of why Krugman is wrong to give unqualified support to a bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The central questions have to do with how much Fannie and Freddie actually facilitated the mess and how much the bailout will benefit the shareholders. Here are Tanta’s most interesting observations:

They [the Agencies] have always been about recycling lending capital and taking long-term fixed interest rate risk off depository (and eventually non-depository) lenders much more than about merely absorbing credit risk. This goes against the grain of much current media over-simplification of “securitization” of mortgage loans that sees laying off credit risk as the main or even the only point of selling loans….

Fannie and Freddie had about as much to with the “explosion of high-risk lending” as they could get away with. We are all fortunate that they couldn’t get away with all that much of it. …

But they didn’t like losing their market share, and they pushed the envelope on credit quality as far as they could inside the constraints of their charter…

They got into “documentation relief” in a big way through their automated underwriting systems, offering “low doc” loans that had a few key differences from the really wretched “stated” and “NINA” crap of the last several years, but occasionally the line between the two was rather thin….

Furthermore, both GSEs were major culprits in the growth of the mega-lenders. Over the years they were struggling so hard to maintain market share, they were allowing themselves to experience huge concentration risks. As they catered more and more to their “major partners”–Countrywide, Wells Fargo, WaMu, the usual suspects–they helped sustain and worsen the “aggregator” model in which smaller lenders sold loans not to the GSEs but to CFC or WFC, who then sold the loans to the GSEs….

I think we can give Fannie and Freddie their due share of responsibility for the mess we’re in, while acknowledging that they were nowhere near the biggest culprits in the recent credit bubble….If there has ever been an argument for serious regulation of the mortgage markets, the GSEs are it….

the minute it looked like the party was over, Congress and the administration both fell all over themselves to push the GSEs into jumbo markets they had at least managed to stay out of during the worst of the boom, cheerfully lifting their portfolio caps at the same time….

Fannie Mae didn’t start out as a “GSE,” it started out as a government agency. It can go back to being a government agency if the government needs to further the economic goals of liquidity in the home mortgage market–and maybe it can go back to doing business with Podunk National, rather than lavishing its capital on mega-lenders who aren’t going to be subject to regional liquidity crunches. …

Any “rescue” that doesn’t wipe out the shareholders is simply making a bad thing worse.

The irony of the “subprime” situation, it seems to me, is that we probably all would have been better off if the GSEs had gotten into it in a big way. If the GSEs had been able to create a market in “vanilla” subprime–fixed rates, no prepayment penalties, careful documentation requirements, competitive pricing–….
(emphasis added)

I don’t doubt but that the Congress, as with the telecomm amnesty, will treat this as an opportunity to extract campaign contributions from industry in exchange for a bailout.

[Update: Krugman agrees that the shareholders should be wiped out]

[Update: Tanta thinks that FHA, but not FNM or FRE may have refinanced bad loans onto its books.]

Posted in doing the right thing, economy, mortgage crisis | 3 Comments »

An assessment of China’s army

Posted by Charles II on July 14, 2008

Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Blasko in Asia Times has an interesting piece which basically says that China’s army is not particularly capable because of weakness in joint operations and in informational warfare capability. Nothing surprising in any of this, but it’s an opinion worth reading.

Posted in China | 2 Comments »

Hey, You! Yeah, You!

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 14, 2008

You want a cheap bike handlebar bag, tough and durable, with lots of features, yet made in the US of A by workers getting paid living wages.

Here you go — the Heartland Handlebar and Shoulder Bag, by Battle Lake Outdoors of Clarissa, Minnesota:

Here are the features:

Two compartments, with two flat, organizer pockets in the front compartment. Zippered flat pocket in the main compartment. Reflective trim. Shoulder strap attachment rings at the ends of the main zipper. Silent zipper pulls with reflective cord. Carrying handle. Removable and dual position hook and loop straps attach the bag to the handlebar. ¾” quick release shoulder strap.

The fabric? 1000 Denier made-in-the-USA Cordura outer shell, with a 420 Nylon packcloth lining; this thing is nearly bulletproof. #10 and #9 Heavy Duty YKK Zippers. Taped and double stitched seams. Reinforced stress points. Nylon webbing. Height – 5.5″; Width – 9″; Depth – 5″; Volume: 220 cubic inches.

It’s $19.50 plus shipping from Battle Lake Outdoor. They have other dirt-cheap and mule-tough stuff, too.

Posted in Good Things | Comments Off on Hey, You! Yeah, You!

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