Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The Press

The Seattle Times dumps its editorial page? - Well, no...

James Vesely (Seattle Times editorial page editor) starts out with this:

TWO days hence, much of our commentary and opinion will move to a new, online presentation that includes letters to the editor, op-ed essays and a variety of cartoons, comments and blogs.
He says it’s because opinion – not news – is what’s popular online...
Online-information searches during the day and evening hours is deciding for us where most people go for commentary.  Currently, commentary is king in the online world, where opinions vary and clash hourly in the process of democracy.
At least, that’s my impression, after unpacking that first sentence (“searches ... is”? “deciding...where”?).

And since nobody (to speak of) buys advertising on the opinion page, why not eliminate what doesn’t sell?  (Here’s why.)

But all is not lost!
Most op-eds, the guest essays that often place notable politicians and writers in front of you, also will move to the Web site, leaving us room for local columnists and local editorial opinion in print.
(Did’ja really believe they’d dump the editorials?  How would anybody know what to think?)

2Blowhards (where there seems to be the impression that the Times is dumping print  editorials altogether) via Dustbury (who RTFA and is Not Deceived).

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In Passing

Democrats steal the march on laptop searches *again*

Senator Feingold of Wisconsin is offering the most detailed legislative proposal yet to rein in the essentially unfettered authority customs officials have claimed to search laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices travelers bring into or out of America.

Under a 29-page bill Mr. Feingold introduced on Friday, customs agents at airports and borders would need to document a “reasonable suspicion” before inspecting a computer or similar device carried by an American resident and could only hold on to the device for 24 hours before starting the process of seeking a warrant from a judge.

“Requiring citizens and other legal residents of the United States to submit to a government review and analysis of thousands of pages of their most personal information without any suspicion of wrongdoing is incompatible with the values of liberty and personal freedom on which the United States was founded,” a preamble to the bill declares.
Senators Akaka of Hawaii, Cantwell of Washington, and Wyden of Oregon, all of whom are Democrats, are co-sponsoring the legislation. - The Sun

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear the Republicans call anything “incompatible with the values of liberty and personal freedom on which the United States was founded”? Just for a change?


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Time to question their patriotism?

Much head-shaking about the “illogical” actions by the Democrats re: the bailout plan and yesterday’s vote.[1]

But suppose they’re not being illogical:

Before the 1994 Republican takeover, Democrats had sixty years of virtually unbroken power in Congress - with substantial majorities most of the time.  Can a group of smart people, studying issue after issue for years on end, with virtually unlimited resources at their command, not come up with a single policy that works?  Why are they chronically incapable?


One of two things must be true.  Either the Democrats are unfathomable idiots, who ignorantly pursue ever more destructive policies despite decades of contrary evidence, or they understand the consequences of their actions and relentlessly carry on anyway because they somehow benefit.

I submit to you they understand the consequences. - James Simpson

Long and disturbing read, here.

[1] The Anchoress:
Pelosi got up there and insulted the very people whom she insisted give her political cover on a bill she said she WOULD NOT JUMP for without the GOP; she then proceeded to play politics and lambaste them.
You know, it would be easier for me to believe this was a crisis, if the people in charge were acting like it was a crisis, instead of just an opportunity for graft. Then again, to some of these people, everything is just an opportunity for graft.
And contrast this:
Obama said in his television interview that he was inclined to support the bailout because it includes increased oversight, relief for homeowners facing foreclosure and limits on executive compensation for chief executives of firms that receive government help.

“None of those were in the president's provisions. They are identical to the things I called for the day that Secretary Paulson released his package,” Obama said. “That I think is an indication of the degree to which when it comes to protecting taxpayers, I was pushing very hard and involved in shaping those provisions.” - Fox News: “Obama: McCain’s Role in Bailout ‘Katrina-Like’”
with Obama campaign co-chair Jesse Jackson Jr.’s vote against it.

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Aha! NOW we know!

Lee uncovers a startling secret:

In light of this discovery, Francis W. Porretto raises the critical question:

...Should we struggle to produce more oil, so the quality of the music will increase, or should we attempt to draft better composers and musicians into rock ’n’ roll, so we can have more oil?

Via: Dolly

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Monday, 29 September 2008


There’s a hot new group in town...

Is this something like what everyone had in mind?

Gimp-ified picture (stolen from Roberta!) from Sunday’s festivities.
CD 12” red vinyl release pending.

Coverage here.here.here and here.
(And a paragraph here, but that post deserves its own link.)

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“Discussion draft” of bill is up...

Ace has it here. Michelle Malkin here.

This is a “discussion draft,” i.e., not the final version. There is still plenty of opportunity for mischief. I expected the first draft to be relatively clean and without any surprises; watch out for things that get added at the last minute.

Took a quick scan through the draft’s 110 pages, and IMO it pretty much falls in line with the earlier statements.

Commenters at Ace are concerned that the combination of Section 103 (excerpted):

In exercising the authorities granted in this Act, the Secretary shall take into consideration—
(1) protecting the interests of taxpayers...
(2) providing stability and preventing disruption to financial markets...
(3) the need to help families keep their homes and to stabilize communities...
... [6 other considerations omitted]...

Combined with Sections 109-110 (excerpted):
—Upon any request arising under existing investment contracts, the Secretary shall consent, where appropriate, and considering net present value to the taxpayer, to reasonable requests for loss mitigation measures, including term extensions, rate reductions, principal writedowns, increases in the proportion of loans within a trust or other structure allowed to be modified, or removal of other limitation on modifications.
(2) MODIFICATIONS.—In the case of a residential mortgage loan, modifications made under paragraph (1) may include—
(A) reduction in interest rates;
(B) reduction of loan principal; and
(C) other similar modifications.
especially the “shall consent” language in §109(C) might constitute a backdoor mandate to the Secretary to “...turn high interest mortgages into low ones, forgive portions of the PRINCIPAL not just interest, etc. for people who borrowed too much f*cking money to begin with.”[1] I’m not enough of a lawyer to evaluate that argument, but I’ll agree that the use of “shall” instead of “may” bothers me.

Malkin sat in on the evening conference call, and has a large list of objections.  Rather than repeat it here, I’ll just link... I urge you to read the whole thing.  Here’s one reason:
Nevertheless, GOP House Minority Leader John Boehner and the House Republican leadership have thrown in the towel... Boehner called the deal a “crap sandwich,” but told House Republicans he’ll vote for it.
Paging Bill Quick!

[1] comment here.

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Sunday, 28 September 2008


Okay, here it is...

Bailout plan comparison based on statements and press coverage.  Sources and revision history at the bottom.

IssueOriginal (Paulson) PlanInterim proprosals (mostly Frank-Dodd)
9/28 compromise
Cost$700 billion taxpayer-funded Line-Of-Credit
(all at once)
$700 billion
in $150 billion tranches
$700 billion:
  • $250 billion at once
  • $100 billion on report to congress
  • remaining $350 billion requires further congressional approval
If after 5 years the government has a net loss of taxpayer funds as a consequence of the purchase program, the President will be required to submit a legislative proposal to recoup such funds from program beneficiaries.
Applies to“Toxic paper” backed by subprime mortgages.
‡ Adds “other troubled assets” owned by “pension plans, local governments, and small banks”
Government Acquires Equity?
Mandatory equity interest in all participating firms.Mandatory equity interest in total takeover scenario.

Proportional equity interest based on percentage of assets sold if deemed appropriate by Treasury Secretary.

Requirement to establish mandatory insurance/guarantee program at no expense to the taxpayer. “Pay to play” for participating companies, based on risk.
Oversightnone, plus immunity from court review
(“trust us”)
(Various reporting and oversight requirements)Bipartisan oversight commission, split evenly between minority and majority.

† Inspector General and GAO to monitor Treasury Dept. actions.

† Treasury must post all transactions online.

† Immunity provision OUT.
Executive Pay
Executive compensation standards that would affect companies not involved in this financial crisis.

Lowered the deduction on executive pay to $400,000 for ALL companies.
Prohibitions on executive compensation to ensure bad actors are not rewarded:

In a total takeover (like what happened with AIG), no golden parachutes or severance pay.

‡ Recovers bonuses paid based on promised gains that later turn out to be false or inaccurate.

For equity participation over $300M, total ban for top 5 executives on golden parachutes and tax deduction limit on compensation above $500,000.
“Affordable Housing” Slush Fund
20% of any transaction profits channeled to Housing Trust Fund and Capitol Magnet Fund. “Profit” calculated on each individual sale, taxpayers stuck with any losses. See Jim LindgrenOUT
“Say on Pay”

(Mandated union representation on corporate boards)

Mandate a nonbinding shareholder vote on proxy access [by unions] and other corporate governance issues for any company in which the Treasury Department buys a direct stake in certain assets. OUT
Bankruptcy “cramdown”
Allow bankruptcy judges to reduce mortgage principal.OUT (Blunt) but...

‡ “The government can use its power as the owner of mortgages and mortgage backed securities to facilitate loan modifications (such as, reduced principal or interest rate, lengthened time to pay back the mortgage)” (Pelosi)
Loan to auto industry
$25 Billion for developing energy-efficient vehiclesMoved to continuing resolution.  (Not part of this bill, but will be spent anyway.)[2]
Oil shale development ban[1]
Extend to September 30, 2009 Not in “discussion draft”[3]
“Mark-to-Market” Accounting Standard

GAO study on the impacts of mark-to-market accounting standards and effects on the banking crisis.

Restatement of existing authority to suspend mark-to-market.
Tax benefits for community banks

Allow community banks to offset capital losses on GSE assets (= Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac paper) against ordinary income. (i.e., tax deduction)
Personal taxes

‡ Extends a provision (passed earlier in this Congress) to stop tax liability on mortgage foreclosures.

Anything I’ve missed?

House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (via Tapscott).
† Wall Street Journal coverage
‡ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
[1] (Added 23:35)  Thanks to “Vic” at Ace
[2] (Added 23:55) thanks to Bill Quick
[3] (Added 080929 14:01)

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Because maybe...

“Maybe it gave them a teeny, tiny, isty bitsy, little glimmer of - maybe? - hope.”

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Saturday, 27 September 2008

In Passing

This time it’s Wal-Mart

Have we not been here.before?
Yah, ve have been here.before!

Important Information About Your Digital Music Purchases

We hope you are enjoying the increased music quality/bitrate and the improved usability of Walmart’s MP3 music downloads.  We began offering MP3s in August 2007 and have offered only DRM (digital rights management) -free MP3s since February 2008.  As the final stage of our transition to a full DRM-free MP3 download store, Walmart will be shutting down our digital rights management system that supports protected songs and albums purchased from our site.
You’ve got until October 9th to back ’em up.  Isn’t that special!

Via:  BoingBoing

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Senator Jim DeMint talks with John Hawkins about the bailout

One more wrinkle:

The biggest creditor is China and that’s a big part of this equation that’s not being talked about.  If America was not in such deep debt, we could deal with this problem much more effectively -- but China has essentially told the U.S. that we make good on all the debt that they're holding, which is nearly a trillion dollars, or they're going to stop lending us money.  To show that they’re serious, they’ve already stopped lending us money and if we can't borrow money every day, literally hundreds of billions of dollars, we default on the loans that are coming due.

So, this is a house of cards that the government has created and my biggest frustration with this whole mess is that it is being blamed on free enterprise, capitalism, and corporate greed -- when in fact, this is a good example of what happens when the government gets involved in the private sector.

The whole thing is here.

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