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Archive for August 20th, 2008

It’s Ashwin Madia Blog Day!

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 20, 2008

Let Howie Klein explain:

When 9-term Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad (MN-03) decided to pack it in and retire from politics this year, he was doing a favor for the residents of the Hennepin County suburbs surrounding the twin cities. Ramstad isn’t some kind of radical right extremist like bizarre neighbors John Kline and Michele Bachmann; he’s a mainstream conservative in a moderate blue-trending district (PVI- R+1). Bush managed to win the district with 51% of the vote in 2004; in a rematch today he’d be lucky to break 30%. Ramstad’s would-be successor, Erik Paulsen, is not a mainstream conservative; he’s a far right extremist more in the Kline/Bachmann mold. Hennepin County Democrats have nominated a far more suitable candidate, Ashwin Madia.

Minnesota bloggers are out raising funds for Ashwin today. It’s Ashwin Media Blog Day. He deserves a hand– and in a race that the polls show neck and neck, a hand is just what he needs. The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll of March 12 shows Ash and Paulson in a statistical dead heat. Right-wing PACs, Big Pharma, commercial banks, the Insurance Industry have all been pouring money into Paulson’s campaign. Ash has managed to pretty much keep up thanks to grassroots and netroots efforts on his behalf. Paulson’s biggest donor: Target Corp. Ash’s: ActBlue.

Ashwin Madia is a strong friend of the GLBT community, and a Marine Corps lawyer who served in Iraq. He’s also running neck-and-neck with Paulsen, as of the last polling done back in March — which is admittedly an eternity in political time, but political observers like the WaPo’s Chris Cillizza give him a fair-to-good chance of taking the seat.

UPDATE: Check out Madia’s ripping Short Ride Joe Lieberman into little tiny bits:

Today, the Republican Party announced that the loudest defender of status quo policies on Iraq, Senator Joe Lieberman, will be a prominent speaker at the Republican National Convention in my home state of Minnesota. Senator Lieberman and I do have one thing in common. We’ve both changed political parties. I left the Republican Party in 2002 after it replaced “balance our budget” with “borrow and spend” and after we started a war without a plan for success; a war we did not need.

With all respect to Senator Lieberman, talking tough about Iraq is not brave. Bravery is not demonstrated through words but instead through action.

I wish I lived in Madia’s district!

Posted in 2008, Democrats, Democrats with spines, Republicans | Comments Off on It’s Ashwin Madia Blog Day!

The Big Con: Is housing market permanently broken?

Posted by Charles II on August 20, 2008

Some time ago, I put to Tanta at Calculated Risk the question of how much bad mortgage debt had been put on the books of Agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after the mortgage crisis had begun. She opined that only the FHA was likely to have added dubious mortgages, since Fannie and Freddie had standards that would have prevented that.

An article by David Hilzenrath in the Washington Post (via Barry Ritholtz) now brings that question back:

Fannie Mae aimed to benefit from subprime loans and expand the market for them — and hoped to pass much of the risk on to others, documents show. Along with subprime loans, which were typically issued to borrowers with blemished credit, the company targeted so-called Alt-A loans, which were often made with no verification of the borrower’s income.

In an interview, Fannie Mae Executive Vice President Thomas A. Lund said the company pursued the purchase of subprime loans in 2006 and 2007 at the request of lenders, who wanted Fannie Mae to take the loans off their books.

Hilzenrath notes that the scale of Fannie’s involvement was relatively small: as of March, 2007, $55 Billion in subprime versus $3T in total mortgages. Apparently, the Alt-A is about $330B. Since 2007, losses have been $3.4B on subprime and Alt-A, only about a percent.

But the crisis at the Agencies is likely to have a much wider effect than a few billion dollars of bad loans might suggest. If the Agencies were used to scrub the balance sheets of investment banks, will taxpayers want to foot the bill? For that matter, with massive deficits, will the bond market permit it? Isn’t it likely that government support of the housing market will be radically reduced?

For a number of reasons, it’s difficult to see a catalyst for recovery of the housing market. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in mortgage crisis | 5 Comments »

The Sisters She Won’t Talk About

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 20, 2008

Cindy McCain’s been telling people she was an only child.

Um, not quite:

When Cindy McCain talks about growing up, she usually refers to herself as an “only child” — a phrase that ignores the existence of her half sisters.

“It’s terribly painful,” Kathleen Hensley Portalski said yesterday. “It is as if she is the ‘real’ daughter. I am also a real daughter.”

Portalski and McCain are both children of the late Jim Hensley, the Arizona businessman who founded one of the largest beer distributorships in the nation. Kathleen, 65, is the product of Hensley’s first marriage in the 1930s to Mary Jeanne Parks. Hensley divorced Parks for Marguerite “Smitty” Johnson, whom he met at a West Virginia hospital in World War II and married in 1945. Cindy was born nine years later.

The half sisters had little contact growing up and have not spoken since Hensley’s funeral in 2000. In his will, he left just $10,000 to his older daughter; Cindy inherited her father’s multimillion-dollar fortune.

Portalski told our colleague Kimberly Kindy that she stood quietly by for decades while her father lavished attention on his second family. But the past few months — with Cindy McCain’s glowing childhood memories and repeated references to being her father’s only child — finally became too much. “I was his family, too,” she said from her home in Phoenix. “I saw him at Christmas and I spent my birthdays with him.”

But there’s more: Cindy McCain has another half sister. Before her marriage to Hensley, Johnson had a daughter, Dixie Burd, by a previous relationship. Burd, who is much older than Cindy, could not be reached for comment.

Posted in 2008, John McCain, Republicans acting badly | 4 Comments »

Can Wal-Mart Do Local?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 20, 2008

That’s a good question.

Even better is: Can local farmers survive on the cash Wal-Mart gives them? Though, if Wal-Mart saves a bundle on shipping costs (suddenly that cheap produce from Mexico isn’t so cheap thanks to rising diesel fuel prices — another motivator to go local), they might actually pay local farmers good (or at least liveable) money.

To be sure, as their labor practices show, whatever the Walton family does is not purely out of the goodness of their hearts, so this bears watching.

Posted in capitalism as cancer, energy, environment, family values, farming, food | Comments Off on Can Wal-Mart Do Local?

Steve Bell’s farewell to Musharraf

Posted by Charles II on August 20, 2008

Steve Bell on Musharraf's exit

Posted in Pakistan | 2 Comments »

Wednesday Morning News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 20, 2008

— MI5, the UK’s domestic spying agency (their version of the FBI, as opposed to MI6, which is their version of the CIA) has realized that being gay isn’t a security risk when you’re open about it.

— Want an easy way to save both energy and money while reducing your carbon footprint? Wash your clothes in cold water. (It’s better for your woolens anyway.) Want to save even more? Use a clothesline or (if clotheslines aren’t a feasible option) a drying rack instead of a dryer. If you have the space for it, drying racks help provide indoor humidity during the winter. Another option is to use the dryer’s lowest heat setting for the minimum amount of time and to air-dry those clothes that aren’t fully dried at the end of the cycle. Your towels might not be as fluffy, but they’ll last longer, as will everything else you launder.

Thomas Schaller explains why the populism card won’t win and hasn’t won back Dixie for the Democrats (and why Webb’s squeaker of a victory in Virginia is in fact a demonstration of how difficult it is for Democrats to win even in the bluer parts of the old Confederacy). There’s a reason why the GOP’s main tool for electoral dominance over the last four decades is called “The Southern Strategy”.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez met with leaders of the World Jewish Congress last week as part of efforts to boost his country’s relations with the international Jewish community. These relations had been strained by his willingness to criticize Israel for its bombing campaign against Lebanon and his refusal to treat Iran as a pariah state.

Posted in 2008, Chavez, civil rights, climate change, conservativism, Democrats, energy, environment, gay rights, international, Southern Strategy, Venezuela | Comments Off on Wednesday Morning News Roundup

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