June 18, 2005

YBK [Part 4]: Massachusetts, the state that has had the highest growth in real estate prices in the nation since 1980, as well as one of the lowest bankruptcy rates, has experienced a 28% increase in foreclosures over the past so far this year. If a meltdown is going to take place in the fall, than Massachusetts will be the canary in the coalmine.

BTW, the oft-mentioned chart relating home values, bankruptcy filings and voting behavior in the 2004 Presidential race is here. Have fun with it. My previous YBK posts are here, here and here.
This is the passage from Senator Durbin's speech that has caused all the to-do. Judge for yourself whether this statement is offensive, or whether the conduct he describes really is a "day at the beach":
When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.
Again, the critical question to ask is whether this sort of treatment is closer to what the Nazis did to P.O.W.'s during WWII, or to what we expect the behaviour of Americans to be, based on our own ideals and principals. If you accept the actions at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib as appropriate, even desirable, during a state of "war", than Osama bin Laden has truly won.
Ass Clown of the Day:
Well, he gets out of it in terms of the fact that there's an allegation of mistreatment. But what the FBI memo alleges, and it is an allegation, is, you know, would be considered a day at the beach in the Soviet gulag or Nazi...I mean, what was so horrific in the memo, and I'm not saying, you know, there aren't legitimate questions there, is that someone is chained to a floor and forced to defecate on themselves, and has loud rock music playing. Excuse me? I mean, you know, Auschwitz? Bergen Belsen? The Soviet gulag? I think they would have been very happy to be allowed to defecate on themselves.
--Chris Wallace, Fox News (emphasis mine, with link via Radioblogger), on Senator Durbin's speech criticizing human rights abuses at G-mo. Note in particular Mr. Wallace's initial understanding that Pol Pot and the Killing Fields occurred in Thailand.

June 17, 2005

Those of you who have read Josh Marshall's blog over the last week know that he has written a pretty devastating expose of San Diego-Area Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, whose coziness with a defense contractor has manifested itself in various tawdry ways. Democrats should not get their hopes up about capturing his district in 2006, however. Although he's considered to have the most vulnerable district among Republicans in California (David Dreier won by a narrower margin in 2004, but that was due to certain factors, including a conservative talk radio campaign to boot him in order to send a message on immigration, that will not likely be in play next time), he still won by 22% last time. Any other Republican would be able to defend the seat, so Democrats' hopes hinge on Cunningham getting renominated with these problems still hanging over his head.

June 16, 2005

Question of the Day:
"Is there any idea how long a 'last throe' lasts for?"
--ABC White House Correspondent Terry Moran, trying to pin down the oleaginous Scott McClellan on the "waning" strength of the Iraqi Insurgency.
James "Mr. 36,000" Glassman writes that all this talk about the Housing Bubble is overblown. Translation: SELL NOW !!
Guantanamo: It's more humane than Treblinka !! The ADL comes out foursquare in defense of G-Mo, in a press release that reads like it had been drafted by David Irving (the reference to "alleged excesses at the Guantanamo Bay facility" is a particularly nice touch). Objections to criticisms about our little torture camps are starting to sound a little like that Chris Rock routine...you're SUPPOSED to follow the Geneva Conventions !! [link via AmericaBlog]
So, who wants to climb Mt. McKinley?

June 15, 2005

A good summary of the impact stemming from the Bankruptcy Reform Act so far, in the Orlando Sentinel. Filings nationwide for the first quarter were up 8% over the previous quarter, which is particularly significant since a) filings were significantly down in the first two months of the year, so the surge in filings shown above occurred in only one month, March; and b) the measure wasn't signed by President Bush until mid-April, well after the end of the first quarter.

The increase in May has been by far the most telling number. Traditionally, March and April tend to busy months for bankruptcy attorneys, as debtors begin to take account of their finances after the Christmas season, but then work slackens off as we move toward the middle of the year. This year, the preliminary figures indicate that May was even busier than March or April, which is almost unheard of in bankruptcy court. Unless the rate of filings begins to decline as we enter the summer, we could be in for an explosive situation come September and October, before the measure takes effect.
Martha Mitchell Redux: Can't we all just agree that Howard Dean is a needed breath of fresh air AND a buffoon? That he's both a "fighting Democrat" who's willing to take the battle to the other side, AND a tactless moron?

The Democratic Party has become far too complacent in recent years, far too willing to appease Big Business and Big Religion, and it hasn't translated into wins on the only scoreboard that matters. Dean, with his Tourette's mannerisms and rhetorical shtick, gives the party a long-overdue chance to finally have a "Sista Souljah" moment with its decrepit neo-liberal/DLC wing. Since we're going to be in the minority for awhile, it's a good idea to have someone leading the charge whom you just know everyone else is going to be paying attention, for better or worse.

June 14, 2005

June 13, 2005

In researching the YBK issue, I've been playing around with a chart that compares the increase in home prices with the bankruptcy rate in each state (and as soon as I figure out how to hyperlink a WORD document, I'll show it to you). One of the things that I noticed when I identified the states with the highest bankruptcy rates is that those states, for the most part, were Red States (ie., they voted for Bush) in the last election. In other words, the less frequently a state's residents filed bankruptcy, the more likely they were to vote for John Kerry. I wonder if that's what Michael Barone meant when he wrote about Soft vs. Hard America.

But there's an even stronger correllation between a robust housing market and Democratic voting patterns. In fact, the correllation gets stronger the further back you go in time. While there are a handful of Blue States in the third quartile of the housing market for 2004, and only one (Michigan) near the bottom, only one Blue State (Michigan, again) was in the lower half from 2000-2004. Going back even further in time, every state (and the District of Columbia) that voted for John Kerry last year, without exception, was among the top 24 states in the country in terms of the increase in residential property values since 1980. The 27 states with the lowest rate of increase, again without exception, voted for George Bush. Only four Red States (Virginia, Florida, Nevada and Colorado), placed in the Booming 24, and Kerry was competitive in each of those states.

I don't know what it all means, but I thought I'd share that with you.

UPDATE [7/1]: Here's the chart I was referring to in the above post.

UPDATE [7/3]: Further musings on the subject, here.
Perhaps a better explanation for the demise of the "Oldies" format on FM-radio might well be that the stations playing the format suck. The local monolith, KRTH-FM, has a playlist that probably doesn't number more than three dozen songs, and as classic as "Dock of the Bay", "Stand by Me", or "Get Off of My Cloud" might be, it's painful to have to listen to them two or three times a day, surrounded by the clatter of unfunny DJ's and tire ads. No wonder the "Jack" format is catching on. [link via Hit and Run]
Regardless of how one feels about the likelihood that a wealthy pedophile was able to convince a jury to let him walk (I should point out that I feel the jury came to the correct result based on the evidence presented, and that Michael Jackson is a pervert), anytime our criminal justice system pisses off Nancy Grace is a good day.
Watergate Burglars for Truth: Funny piece by Jonathan Alter, about how talk radio, bloggers, FoxNews, et al. would have helped Nixon cover-up Watergate if it had happened today.
I wonder if Eric Alterman thought that his crack about "Little Roy" today was "witty". Dude, it's a blog. You're supposed to occasionally post about embarrassing personal matters. You blog about Springsteen, your ever-busy lecture series and whatever jihad you're having against whoever called you a "self-hating Jew" this week, and Sullivan blogs about his battle against AIDS. That includes the medication he's taking and the physical symptoms he's experiencing. Try to deal with that in a way that isn't cruel and offensive.

June 12, 2005

Minnesota 5, Los Angeles [N] 3: Great seats, best Dodger Dogs in years, but a dull interleague game Saturday night. H-sC did have a nice blast in the sixth, almost clearing the right field pavillion. He had a better game Sunday, leading to this terrible pun from the local paper of record. No fights with gang members, thank god. Before the game, there was the annual "Hollywood Stars" match-up: the biggest surprise was how well Jon Lovitz and Sarah Silverman pounded the ball.