The Will and the Wallet Launch

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stimson ann clemons.jpg
The foreign affairs and defense budget issues blog Budget Insight has been relaunched now as The Will and the Wallet via the Stimson Center — and for those of you in Washington this morning, I will be appearing on a panel discussing defense and national security budget issues with Gordon Adams, professor of international relations at the School of International Service at American University and a Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center.
Josh Rogin who writes Foreign Policy‘s “The Cable” will also be on the panel as will be Politico‘s Jen Dimascio and National Public Radio’s Tom Gjelten.
The program rolls at 9 am at Stimson at 1111 19th Street NW, 12th Floor.
More soon.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

106 comments on “The Will and the Wallet Launch

  1. questions says:

    POA,
    I rarely bother answering your taunts any more, but I’ll do this one cuz why not…..
    Do I still see this proposed law as a bargaining chip? Is the violence settled yet….
    First, what I think I said was, if the loyalty oath passes (and I noted in all caps that it wasn’t yet a law), then maybe it was enough of a sop to the ultra right wing that they’d shut up about a settlement freeze long enough to get border negotiations moving forward and maybe get a document out that would grant the WB some kind of provisional status for a trust-building era.
    Do I still think that’s possible? Yes, I do.
    Is the violence settled yet?
    I don’t think I said things would be happylandesque by the 20th of October.
    I think what I said was that I hoped for some kind of document signing in time for the Nov elections here, and I think I even wished out loud for it to happen in Florida for Crist’s sake.
    I still hope that the right wing chills out enough that there is a document signed before the elections here. And I hope that it is signed in Florida for Crist’s sake.
    The violence has a long way to go to end completely, though the wall did slow it up a bunch, actually.
    At any rate, if the oath passes, I would guess in a generation or two, many Israelis will be grossed out by it, the way that many Americans are grossed out by DADT and other noxious things we’ve done over the years.
    It’s a messy progress, this history thing. Messy and hurtful and there are lots of victims.
    I’m not going to condemn Israel any more harshly than I condemn the US on this, and I will note that all the posters here are beneficiaries of our noxious history.
    ****************
    By the way, your 8:23 a.m. post runs as follows:
    “Actually, some Israeli politicians DEBATED the oath, calling it “fascism”. But the oath was approved as an amendment to the Citizenship Act prior to this debate. The “Citzen Act” WAS PASSED, with the amendment.
    But don’t let facts get in the way, Questions. Its all just a big ‘ol conspiracy theory, anyway, right? How’s that “settling the violence” prediction working out for you, questions?

    ******************
    And I think you were flat out wrong….. Near as I can tell, at any rate…..
    And what does “conspiracy theory” have to do with whether or not the Knesset passed the law that hasn’t even been written up as a bill yet, but was merely a proposal dealt with in the cabinet? Go figya….

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  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well thats comical. Heres Nadine saying that….
    “it’s not even a bill yet, and it’s unlikely to become one. It’s being discussed in committee. That’s enough for all the Israel-bashers to wail and scream and accuse — committee discussions! Might it make you pause and wonder if they are running low on real outrages?”
    So, I guess we can assume that if this becomes law, Nadine is going to call it a “real outrage”?
    Fat chance. Although admitting right now that it is an “outrage”, she is only doing so to nurture a position favorable for her to cast insult at those of us that ARE truly outraged that Israel may pass such a law. Watch her tune change drastically if in fact it becomes law.
    One wonders if questions still sees this proposed law as a “bargaining chip”. Is the violence “settled” yet?

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  3. questions says:

    From your link, the crux of the matter:
    “Members of Israel’s Knesset are elected on a party list, and have no direct constituents. There is no way an individual politician can bring home kosher pork (though some parties exist solely for this purpose). Re-election, the reason d’

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  4. nadine says:

    questions, it’s not even a bill yet, and it’s unlikely to become one. It’s being discussed in committee. That’s enough for all the Israel-bashers to wail and scream and accuse — committee discussions! Might it make you pause and wonder if they are running low on real outrages?
    Yaacov Lozowick has the details http://yaacovlozowick.blogspot.com/2010/10/if-it-was-reported-it-must-be-true-or.html

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  5. questions says:

    “Mr Netanyahu gave instructions to extend the controversial bill, his office said.
    The law has angered Israel’s Arab minority and Israel’s Labour party.
    It still has to be passed by the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.
    The cabinet had backed the amendment to the Citizenship Law in its current version by a majority vote last week.
    However, Mr Netanyahu said on Monday he had instructed Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to prepare a draft bill that would also require Jews to pledge allegiance to Israel “as a Jewish and democratic state”.
    The original proposal to require some citizens – mainly Israeli Arabs – to swear allegiance to a Jewish state has proved deeply divisive within Israeli society, and on Saturday thousands protested against the bill in Tel Aviv.
    Israeli media reported last week that all five ministers from the left-leaning Labour party voted against the proposal, as did three cabinet members of Netanyahu’s own Likud.
    It had been welcomed by right-wing ministers in the coalition cabinet, including ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
    Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is one of Israel’s key demands in any eventual peace deal with the Palestinians.
    The Palestinians, in the form of the Palestinian Authority, have agreed to recognise Israel as a state, but have rejected the demand to recognise its Jewish character.”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11571064
    From 18 October
    And there’s this:
    The US citizenship oath:
    “The Oath of Allegiance of the United States
    The United States Oath of Allegiance (officially referred to as the “Oath of Allegiance,” 8 C.F.R. Part 337 (2008)) is an oath that must be taken by all immigrants who wish to become United States citizens. The first officially recorded Oaths of Allegiance were made on May 30, 1778 at Valley Forge, during the Revolutionary War.
    The current oath is as follows:
    I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.[1]”
    And from the page that ran the oath, here’s this:
    “As the Ledger went to press, news out of Israel came that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to draft a bill calling for all those seeking Israeli citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish, democratic state” – including Jews immigrating under the Law of Return.
    The move intends to quell the public outcry that greeted the cabinet’s original approval of an oath of allegiance that would be recited only by those not eligible to enter the country under the Law of Return – i.e., non-Jews, such as foreign workers.
    In announcing the change, Netanyahu said Monday evening, Oct. 18, that the government expected all those seeking Israeli citizenship to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and as a democratic country.
    “Israel was not founded as just another state,” he said. “It was founded as the sovereign state for the Jewish people on its historic homeland, and as a democratic state for all its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, who enjoy equal civil rights.”
    Anyone seeking Israeli citizenship must recognize “these two lofty ideals,” he said.
    Oaths of citizenship are common among many countries, including those that are democratic – including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States of America.
    http://www.jewishledger.com/articles/2010/10/20/news/news05.txt
    From 20 October

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  6. questions says:

    Here’s an al Jazeera thing
    “Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Jerusalem, said the bill would become law once approved by a simple majority in the Knesset [parliament].
    The Israeli supreme court would then have to adjudicate whether the new language is at odds with the country’s basic law, he said.”
    from Oct. 10
    Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Jerusalem, said the bill would become law once approved by a simple majority in the Knesset [parliament].
    The Israeli supreme court would then have to adjudicate whether the new language is at odds with the country’s basic law, he said.
    Has there been a Knesset vote? I haven’t seen anything about that. Post a link?
    And the courts will weigh in, too. So who knows….
    And this, below, is from JPost:
    “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu directed Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman on Monday night to prepare a bill obliging all people seeking Israeli citizenship, including Jews immigrating here under the Law of Return, to pledge allegiance to Israel as a

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  7. questions says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/business/20bond.html?_r=1&hp
    The NYT weighs in.
    My favorite parts include:
    “And it is going to be a fight. On Tuesday, after watching its shares get pummeled again, Bank of America went on the offensive, vowing to

    Reply

  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Actually, some Israeli politicians DEBATED the oath, calling it “fascism”. But the oath was approved as an amendment to the Citizenship Act prior to this debate. The “Citzen Act” WAS PASSED, with the amendment.
    But don’t let facts get in the way, Questions. Its all just a big ‘ol conspiracy theory, anyway, right? How’s that “settling the violence” prediction working out for you, questions?

    Reply

  9. questions says:

    According to a kos diary, the Knesset rejected the loyalty oath THING….
    So there’s a political process in Israel it would seem.
    Wonder what it’ll do to the right to have this THING voted down.

    Reply

  10. Paul Norheim says:

    And here is the famous Clara Rockmore playing the Theremin:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSzTPGlNa5U&feature=related

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  11. Paul Norheim says:

    The real story about The Thing is actually quite interesting (with
    ties to geo-politcics, electronic music, Russian intelligence and
    the Cold War).
    Leon Theremin, known for inventing the Theremin (an electronic
    instrument), also invented The Thing:
    “The Thing and the Curious Life of Leon Theremin
    by Krell on Aug 8, 2010
    L

    Reply

  12. questions says:

    The Thing! The Thing! The Thing!
    Is this one a new link or not?
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/10/19/911679/-Bank-of-America:-Bondholders-Want-Their-Money-Now!
    The comments are really something. bobswern and war on error having a mild difference of opinion on just how many levels of fraud there have been in the thing!
    Worth going through….
    How do I defraud thee?
    Let me count the ways.
    I defraud thee to depth, breadth, and height my off shore account can reach….
    And if I can, I’ll defraud thee better after the November elections.
    (ok, it ain’t poetic at all!)

    Reply

  13. questions says:

    And on the mortgage THING:
    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/b-of-a-pressured-to-buy-back-bad-mortgages-report-2010-10-19
    The URL says it all….
    And here’s a kos source as well…..
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/10/19/911679/-Bank-of-America:-Buy-Back-the-Bad-CountryWide-Mortgages
    If Obama can tie some of this to the Republicans without causing the admin and the economy huge pain, they should go for it.
    So many Republicans are looking not so good. O’Donnell doesn’t understand the First Amendment, Miller is a disaster. NY is coming out fine. CA is still pretty hopeful. There’s one single lonely poll out there showing Feingold not in the worst shape ever….
    It’d be nice to grab some House races based on some of the mortgage thing — but only if the admin is actually going to propose to do something about the mortgage thing. Of course, they may just try to wait it out…. Hopey it changes into a mortgage triumph or something. But I don’t think this one will.
    There’s a little time left, people don’t like the after taste of Republican policies, we’re drowning in the effects of those policies. It’s a good time to get some House aggression regarding the THING/MESS.
    And man does Joe Miller look bad!

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  14. questions says:

    More on Joe Miller from kos…..
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/10/19/911676/-Breaking:-Joe-Millers-Big-Tax-Evasion-Problem
    If this one is true, he’s paying himself rent on a law office he owns in order to avoid paying himself a salary on work he does in order to avoid paying SoSec taxes…..
    He pays a LOT of rent on a not so expensive piece of real estate. He pays 50-100k per year in rent to himself and then pays himself not a lot of income.
    It’s all kind of interesting.
    Of course, when he retires, he’s not going to have much income unless he games it to give himself a higher income later in life.
    Of course, II, this is only an issue if he loses the election to the Senate. Here’s hoping he loses the election.

    Reply

  15. questions says:

    More from bobswern who imports from naked capitalism:
    “Guest Post: Mortgages Were Pledged to Multiple Buyers at the Same Time
    By George Washington
    Naked Capitalism
    Tuesday, October 19, 2010 3:16AM
    Bank of America alleged in a court filing this June:
    It appears as though many loans and other mortgage-related assets have been double and even triple-pledged to various constituencies.
    Boa Answer to Freddie Objection in Re Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp.
    April Charney – a consumer lawyer with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid – and CNBC’s Dennis Kneale noted in February 2009 that courts have found that some mortgages have been sold again and again to different trusts, when they should have only been sold once.”
    Read the whole thing!!!!!!!
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/10/19/911587/-Mtge.-Fraud-Bill-Escalates-As-Stiglitz-Bashes-Bernankes-QE

    Reply

  16. DonS says:

    Silly little Nadine. Doncha know it all relative?

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  17. nadine says:

    Deficit hawk, Don? and a 1.42 Trillion dollar deficit doesn’t get your attention?

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  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Remember the time when I helped diagnose the bug with comments posting on TWN and POA concluded that my computer skills were proof I was a Mossad agent?”
    I’ve never accused you of being Mossad. You’re confusing the words “mossad” and “maggot”.
    I admit I did at one time misconstrue you as being a “rabbi”, but only after having a terrible nightmare where some gal with a weird black hat, a beard, and long curly tresses was trying to run me over with an Andy Gump truck.

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  19. DonS says:

    Take it elsewhere Nadine. I was a deficit hawk probably before you were born. But that doesn’t make me a deficit stooge.

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  20. questions says:

    Is he, ain’t he, is he, ain’t he — is Joe Miller a Tea Partier?
    Here’s a look at his security guys!
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/10/18/911452/-Joe-Millers-Private-SecurityVideo!UPDATE
    And nadine, length complaints just don’t fly as argument…. So stop with the logorrhea complaints. If I’m too short with an answer, it’s not complete, if it’s complete it’s too long…..
    UGH.
    Remember, it’s spelled MUR KOW SKI or perhaps it’s spelled SCOTT MC ADAMS……
    How comes it so many Tea people are so thuggish and unenlightened? Or maybe they aren’t tea people at all…..

    Reply

  21. nadine says:

    So I asked how you tell when enough government is enough, and from DonS I got accusations of political footballs, and from questions, logorheia whose point (as far as I can make it out) is that it’s never enough.
    Oy. I rest my case.

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  22. nadine says:

    So I asked how you tell when enough government is enough, and from DonS I got accusations of political footballs, and from questions, logorheia whose point (as far as I can make it out) is that it’s never enough.
    Oy. I rest my case.

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  23. questions says:

    When is enough government enough? Well, I suppose when we run out of harms that come about from lack of communication, coordination, and coercion, when we run out of dangerous practices that stem from a love of profit and a concomitant asymmetry of information, when selfishness and the invisible hand work BEFORE some number of people die or are horrifically wounded as the hand decides whether or not to put in an appearance, when people stop using their private stupid prejudices to deny services that are quasi-public even if still sort of private, when we can leave sectors of the economy and society completely unregulated and no one kills, destroys, defames, endangers others just to make money off the “relationship.”
    Given that it’s fantasy-land to think any of this will come true on any medium or large scale, I’ll keep rooting for government interference in my right to be a complete ass to other people, in my right to ruin or kill or deeply harm other people, in my right to cheat and lie and steal, in my right to damage the commons for my private good, in my right to put myself so totally in front of others that it is as if the others don’t exist and only I in my solipsistic musing and acting am in the world.
    As for the Tea Party, as my newly favorite blogger Jonathan Bernstein over at a plain blog about politics notes (today, even), the Tea Party is many many things and until they stop calling for the kinds of tax cuts they are calling for, the deficit reduction thing (!!!!THING!!!!!) can’t be taken seriously at all.
    I would add to the plain blog reading of THINGS (!!!!THINGS!!!!!) that the Tea Party is seemingly the conservative wing of the Republican Party and they are pretty much the same profile of people who simply HATE democrats. There are, in no particular order, some race issues, some redistribution to unworthy others issues, some unemployment issues, some loss of status issues, some sense that Obama raised taxes, that the economy always does better under Republicans, that if you tax the millionaires then these guys won’t get their chance at the big time, that things just aren’t right.
    They also seem to hold tight to the Reagan myths that deficits matter, that families balance their budgets, that tax cuts “pay for themselves,” that Reagan wasn’t a Keyenesian (it’s a newer theory I’ve seen around lately — he massively jacked up deficits and spent like crazy and that’s kind of what Keynes argued would help in countercyclical fashion.) For the record, families do not balance their budgets if they: have mortgages, take out student loans, borrow for cars or appliances or furniture or vacations, carry a credit card balance, loan their relatives money, borrow money from their relatives, or in any other way carry balances across time. So, no, the conservative “gee I have to balance my budget so the government does too” line is just nonsense.
    As for deficit and percentage of gnp or gpd or whatever, there are a couple of strains of current thought — one is that short term we’re in a crisis so let’s deal with the housefire before we worry about whether or not we put the leftovers in the fridge, and second is that deficits don’t matter as long as they are deferred and never actually come due all at once. It’s a newer thought, and worth some time to puzzle over. The population is larger, the deficits get larger….
    Please also don’t forget that a fair amount of the organizational money for Tea-events comes from the top down, not from the bottom up, and please don’t forget the vast amount of free tv time these people get from Fox.
    There likely wouldn’t be much of a movement w/o this top down support, even if there might be some inchoate feeling of disgruntlement (see above).
    Surveys seem to show that Tea Party identified people lean Republican for the most part, and lean conservative for the most part. This isn’t a new segment of the population.
    Don’t sell short vague racial and partisan concern as an underpinning to the movement. It’s vague and quiet for the most part, but probably really is part of why things just don’t “feel” right.
    The gov’t isn’t suddenly meddling in ways it never did before, nor is it setting up programs totally unrelated to things it’s ever done. Health care reform is right next to Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, S-CHIP, county vaccine programs and public hospitals, NIH, and vast amounts of research.
    The gov’t has long interfered in private sexual and relational matters, has banned a variety of private practices, and in doing so has had the imprimatur of a large segment of the conservative population of the country. In short, we’ve had HUGE government interference in private social life and conservatives of one stripe have welcomed this intervention.
    We’ve had wars which kill our citizens, the death penalty which kills our citizens, imprisonment which takes away the freedom of our citizens and people on the right are A-OK with these government programs.
    Many in the TeaParty side of things don’t seem to be rejecting their SoSec checks, their disability checks, their unemployment checks, their bank accounts in regulated and insured banks, their visits to professionals who have licenses of one sort or another, their inspected food and vehicles, their well-built and well-maintained roads, their running water, their certified elections, their orderly change of government, their public transit around DC for their marches, their pretty damned safe airline trips to DC for their marches….
    And if you ever come across a story about a noble Tea Party member who doesn’t have health insurance and so chooses not to go to the emergency room with chest pains, but nobly dies on his living room floor and doesn’t leave a family behind who suddenly needs public aid, let me know….
    So, as many have asked, what are these Tea Party people going to cut? Their own SoSec? Their own health and safety regs? Their own finance relations? Their own trips to the E.R?
    Nope. Not their own. Someone else’s. Some illegitimate other is the cause of what ails ye.
    When I see a budget with precise cuts that impact the actual people who are doing the actual cutting, when I see these same people grapple with what it would cost to replicate the public sphere with its scaled savings with a private replacement and no economy of scale at all, then maybe I’ll listen to them, maybe I’ll take them seriously.
    For now, perhaps it would be a good idea for every MTPF (member of a Tea Party faction) to think about how difficult things would get were only the private sphere to have power? How powerless are we against the mortgage dudes? How powerless are we against massive market manipulation of commodities and utilities? How powerless are we against adulterated products of one sort or another?
    And these people are worried about what??
    (hope this doesn’t double post….)

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  24. DonS says:

    “Must government spending expand indefinitely, Don? If not, how do you tell when enough is enough?” (nadine)
    No, but its funny all this concern for deficits comes at a time when the economy needs some help for the middle class, and when defense posture and spending is still sacrosanct, and when raising taxes on the rich, or letting their tax breaks expire are all off the table. Funny how that selective concern for the deficit comes just when isn’t not helpful in the short term to the worst economic crisis is 6 decades comes along.
    Oh, and it wouldn’t happen to be a political football either, would it?

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  25. nadine says:

    “Tea baggers have a visceral reaction to all government, except defense, therefore any government activity must be bad.” (DonS)
    Classic reductio ad absurdum argumentation, as if wishing to return the Federal budget to less than 20% of GDP meant that the entire safety net must be dismantled. Do you understand that the Federal budget has doubled in the last ten years?
    Must government spending expand indefinitely, Don? If not, how do you tell when enough is enough?

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  26. nadine says:

    Paul,
    Interesting article on the milk thing. But I thought geneticists had concluded that cows were independently domesticated in three different areas: Europe, East Africa, and India? all regions of heavy milk usage. The article doesn’t mention Africa or India.
    Re: the Tea Party. Sounds so plausible when you put it that way, and I know who you’ve been reading to come to your view. Unfortunately, it’s a mile wide of the mark. Peter Berkowitz explains why liberals don’t get the Tea Party: the Tea Party’s philosophy is rooted in America’s foundational philosophy, which liberals have rejected and neglected to study for several generations:
    “To be sure, the tea party sports its share of clowns, kooks and creeps. And some of its favored candidates and loudest voices have made embarrassing statements and embraced reckless policies. This, however, does not distinguish the tea party movement from the competition.
    Born in response to President Obama’s self-declared desire to fundamentally change America, the tea party movement has made its central goals abundantly clear. Activists and the sizeable swath of voters who sympathize with them want to reduce the massively ballooning national debt, cut runaway federal spending, keep taxes in check, reinvigorate the economy, and block the expansion of the state into citizens’ lives.
    In other words, the tea party movement is inspired above all by a commitment to limited government. And that does distinguish it from the competition.
    But far from reflecting a recurring pathology in our politics or the losing side in the debate over the Constitution, the devotion to limited government lies at the heart of the American experiment in liberal democracy. The Federalists who won ratification of the Constitution

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  27. nadine says:

    Hi Dan, I only became a rabbi due to one of POA’s multitudinous difficulties with reading comprehension. I quoted a rabbi and he mistook the quote for my own words. I have been many things to POA. Remember the time when I helped diagnose the bug with comments posting on TWN and POA concluded that my computer skills were proof I was a Mossad agent?

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  28. nadine says:

    Hi Dan, I only became a rabbi due to one of POA’s multitudinous difficulties with reading comprehension. I quoted a rabbi and he mistook the quote for my own words. I have been many things to POA. Remember the time when I helped diagnose the bug with comments posting on TWN and POA concluded that my computer skills were proof I was a Mossad agent?

    Reply

  29. Dan Kervick says:

    I thought Nadine was a rabbi, not a small business owner.

    Reply

  30. DonS says:

    right on time, the Republicans want to investigate how the poor people caused the housing bubble, not investigate the massive foreclosure fraud:
    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/10/18/issa-investigates-poor/

    Reply

  31. questions says:

    OMG,
    It’s appraisal fraud, too!!!
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/10/18/911328/-2002-2009:-Appraisal-Fraud:Check-Maps-and-Charts
    I think “mortgage thing” is the best descriptor at this point.
    Note to Paul, short and sweet aphorisms are short and sweet and then someone writes really long explanations of them. So I’m a long-form writer who uses shorthand here and there, too.
    Maybe instead of addressing my writing style and parodying me once a month or so, you could consider saying something about the topic I’m dealing with at any particular moment. The “mortgage thing” could possibly send the US economy back down the tubes with some worldwide ramifications of the unpleasant sort.
    I have seen speculation on both sides of the issue of depth of disaster at this point, and given that the experts don’t have consensus, and given that I’m no expert, I’m not going to weigh in on the world-ending possibilities.
    But I think that if the housing market has many more hitches on the way down to complete correction for the bubble, we’re going to see some serious market turmoil. And if the investors start suing the lenders who sue the appraisers who sue the brokers…and we all sue the banks, we’re really going to see problems. (There’s a Tom Lehrer song lurking in there somewhere!)
    The disruption of the flow of capital is a fundamental barrier to a return to fiscal health.
    The Republicans are not likely to act at all to fix this mess. Tax cuts won’t do a damned thing. Indeed, there’s going to have to be some new round of bailouts or burials under rugs or something to get us out of this.
    What I wonder is if there are any other lurking problems that maybe we should just expose at this point…. Anyone know anything else out there, or under there?
    Anyone wanna ask Sarah Palin, Joe Miller, Christine O’Donnell, Rand/Ron Paul, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, or any other Republican what they plan to do about this mess? Ask, even, if they understand the full force of the problems here?
    It’s seemingly possible that ANYone who has a mortgage that dates from this era, that went through MERS, that was sold on the secondary market, no longer has clear title to the property, and that upon selling that property, the new buyer will have no way to clear title either.
    One commenter on kos mentioned “quit claims” and said that Hawaii uses them. Basically it seems that a quit claim merely says the seller has no claim, but says nothing about the history of prior claims. But I’m not sure about this, and I’m not sure what it would do to land sales to move from the current title searches and guarantees we generally use for property transfer to a quit claim system. Any real estate attorneys out there? How likely is this to be a solution?
    That ol’ mortgage thing…….

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  32. Don Bacon says:

    More on MERS, from FDL:
    So this is how you end up with multiple foreclosures by different servicers on the same home, or foreclosures on homes bought with cash. Basically, the servicer doing the foreclosing becomes whoever MERS wants it to be. And MERS, by standing in as the

    Reply

  33. Paul Norheim says:

    Cheer up, Questions, and have a glass of milk!
    It’s rainy in Bergen today. How’s the water thing going in NYC?
    Note to self: read up on Feuerbach – “Der Mench ist was er I

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  34. questions says:

    Mortgage foreclosure fraud scandal — how’s that?
    Except of course, there are many parts to the mortgage foreclosure fraud scandal, so perhaps I should list them one at a time:
    Mortgage Electronic Registration System
    Bank of America
    JP Morgan Chase
    GMAC
    PNC
    Wells Fargo
    Citi Mortgage
    (And I’m sure there are plenty more, but I guess this short hand will have to do for now.)
    And I guess I could list every single property transaction there’s been in the last n years. But that might take a while to to do, and a lot of bandwidth, come to think of it….. And all the lawyers, hedge funds, tax laws, investors, acts of securitization, bond raters, and the rest of the pieces of the puzzle.
    For people who bitch and moan about how many many words I use, you all are pretty funny bitching about the lazy shorthand of “thing” which actually captures the sense that there are many parts to the scandal, many players, many layers. And that we’ve created a “thing,” a monstrous “thing” that is likely to consume us all…….
    Whateveh. You’ll bitch no matter what. Mostly, you think bitching is productive, so bitch away. Meanwhile, keep an eye on this mortgage thing as it’s likely to get uglier.

    Reply

  35. DonS says:

    Nadine, FWIW, my wife owned her own business for many years, over 20. Owning your own business is not a disqualifier for having a social conscience, which is a matter of individual ethics, or for recognizing that government has a legitimate role in creating a fair business environment. And why, pray tell (or not) would even a negative attitude about governments role vis a vis business automatically lead one to have an anti attitude about all areas of government activity, except defense? It wouldn’t, of course. I’d venture that it works, for the most part, the other way around. Tea baggers have a visceral reaction to all government, except defense, therefore any government activity must be bad.

    Reply

  36. Paul Norheim says:

    Ok, here’s my comment on “the milk thing” (with ties to other
    agricultural issues) – as promised to Questions in my post
    above…
    While Nadine argues with Dan for the hundredth time whether
    the Jews or the Arabs were in Palestine first (during Biblical or
    Torah times), here is a refreshing neolithic perspective on how
    these Middle Eastern barbars conquered Europe – and later, as
    we all know, America:
    Title:
    How Middle Eastern Milk Drinkers Conquered Europe
    By Matthias Schulz
    Quote:
    “At around 5300 BC, everyone in Central Europe was suddenly
    farming and raising livestock. The members of the Linear
    Pottery culture kept cows in wooden pens, used rubbing stones
    and harvested grain. Within less than 300 years, the sedentary
    lifestyle had spread to the Paris basin.
    The reasons behind the rapid shift have long been a mystery.
    Jens L

    Reply

  37. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Can I post a bit about the thing thing? Please, can I, huh? We really do need to get into the thing thing. And I don’t mean that thing thing, because it’s this thing thing that needs to be hashed out if we’re ever really gonna understand that other thing thing. And besides, it could be very dangerous if we adresss one thing thing before we address the other thing thing. God knows what could happen, we might make matters worse.
    On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t do anything about anything.

    Reply

  38. Paul Norheim says:

    My point?
    Oh, just a mild parodic reference to your stream-of-
    consciousness/-note-to-self/energetic-paralyzed style in
    some of your posts here, Questions…nothing more than that.
    Apparently Steve has moved from Washington to China. He’s
    been there so long now that we could have learned Chinese in
    the meanwhile. Instead, we waste our time writing (as usual!)
    on- and off-topic comments about I/P, the Teabaggers, the
    economy, and other subjects. Among them, the mortgage
    thing.
    “The mortgage thing”?
    In my book, that’s lazily formulated prose, Questions, so I
    couldn’t resist the temptation to introduce “the ant thing”.
    And I’m really tempted to post a comment on the milk thing in
    my next post. With ties to other agricultural issues….
    We’ll see…

    Reply

  39. questions says:

    And your point is…?
    Hobbes actually hit on this in a nice passage in the Leviathan — people get pissed off, they think they are better than others…. I think he talks about ants and bees, not just ants.
    But plenty of really smart people over the ages have talked about forgiveness, about what you can and cannot control, about doing less to do more, about stopping desire, or about conforming your desire to you possibilities, about not cutting off your nose to spite your face….
    So, again, what’s your point?

    Reply

  40. Paul Norheim says:

    More on the ant thing, with ties to other social issues…
    “For ants, only the structure of the network matters. For us, the
    content is crucial. We care about what the emails say; the ants
    care only about how often they get them.” (Gordon)
    “My only question is… how do we know that ants are not aware
    of the content of their received message? I know of no study that
    adresses that question.” (toopik)
    http://www.bostonreview.net/BR35.5/gordon.php

    Reply

  41. questions says:

    More on the mortgage thing, with ties to other economic issues…..
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/10/18/911257/-Has-The-MortgageForeclosure-Fraud-Crisis-Gone-Surreal
    bobswern tends to be on the leading edge of alarmism. Of course, sometimes the alarmists are totally right.
    I worry.
    nadine, thanks for finding more on MERS. It’s a huge issue…. The sheer volume of paperwork moving seems to have been part of the story. But the other part seems to be that MERS allowed the avoidance of paying fees to deed recording offices and so saved bunches of money…. Wow.
    I assume the admin had some inkling of this stuff, as it hasn’t been absent from some people’s cognitive range.
    How can anyone deal with the broken chain of property ownership underlying the VAST securitization market? This stuff would seem to represent huge amounts of US land, US wealth, and US prosperity. Yikes.
    Clearly, not cracking down too hard on the banksters was a strategy designed in the hopes that the housecleaning could be done with minimal destruction, and seemingly we’re going to have to do more of that.
    Property won’t move unless people have clear title.
    We’re back to the look forward/look backward dichotomy that we’ve been in with so many other bubbly messes related to law and order, security and prosperity, and greed.
    We’ve had such deep corruption, and we have no way of going backwards or of making up for injustice or of reworking what we’ve done.
    I just watched Measure for Measure last night. The misdeeds and the forgiveness in response would seem to be fairly timely. Angelo is one nasty piece of work suffused with the deepest hypocrisy, motivated by both absolute morality and fealty to the LAW and the basest desires to profit off of relationships and satisfy desires. And yet, Mariana can forgive him, Isabella can forgive him, he does the equivalent of paying a fine and learning English and he goes off to his happy (or not) proper life.
    That Isabella can forgive the baseness that is Angelo (no angel he), should be a mode for the mortgage market. We have no other choice, I fear.
    Jail doesn’t help, fines don’t help, we’re too tied in our own good to the lawlessness of the bankster class. How many would have their homes and good schools without the securitization market?
    Wow.
    *****
    And on another topic, the NYT has an interesting piece on the resurgent “culture of poverty” thesis in sociology. The first 40 or so comments I read this a.m. on the piece were far more informative, especially one that traced the history of the field of sociology and explained why “culture” faded and why it’s coming back as a term of reference.
    Allowing comments on stories is a good idea. It helps with the short-comings of journalists’ writing beyond their expertise.

    Reply

  42. Paul Norheim says:

    “from some with good intentions to the racist to the usual
    down right stupid and ignorant.”
    That’s my impression of the Tea party movement too (from the
    other side of the pond). One may agree or disagree whether,
    say “fiscal responsibility” is a good mantra during such a grave
    economic crisis, and also agree or disagree on the role of
    government – but the intentions among many of these ordinary
    people are not necessarily bad, and the worries are real.
    So let’s say 33% good intentions and real worries.
    And 33% funding by the Koch Brothers and other non-
    grassroot entities with non-grassroot, faux-populist motives.
    And then there is the last 33%: The scapegoating and hysterical
    demonization – of Muslims, Obama, “the left” etc. etc –
    enhanced by the role of demagogues, partisans and hysterics
    like Beck, Limbaugh and others.
    Perhaps it’s the “movement”-character of this phenomenon: the
    lack of a consistent ideology and leadership, that attracts all
    kinds of bad elements like racism, scapegoating and
    demonization – with roots in real frustration and confusion and
    hardship during an economic crisis, but enhanced by Fox news
    and other media outlets within the Murdoch corporation.
    And then there is the somewhat surprising position of the pro-
    Israel American Jews. In earlier decades they would have been
    strongly opposed to a movement like the Tea Party. Today,
    however, the staunchest defenders of Israel may disagree with
    core principles within the movement – like fiscal responsibility,
    anti-Keynes, anti-government. But even if they don’t agree
    with these basic principles, they agree with some of the worst
    tendencies within the movement: The racism, the bigotry, the
    demonization and scapegoating of minorities and the negro in
    The White House.
    Parts of this is also reflected here on this blog- A “keynesian”
    commenter like WigWag may strongly disagree with the
    economic position within the Tea Party movement, but is
    certainly attracted by the demonization of minorities and
    scapegoating of Muslims.
    While Nadine apparently is comfortable with every single
    elements within the movement – from the Koch brothers and
    fiscal responsibility to grass root anger, anti-government, Fox
    News demagoguery, and scapegoating of minorities…
    This scapegoating and demonization is of course not confined
    to US domestic policies. The British far right group The English
    Defence Legaue – a mixed bag of football hooligans, frustrated
    youngsters, anti-Muslim mobs and racists – have ties to the
    Tea party Movement. This was recently confirmed by both
    sides:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/oct/10/english-defence-
    league-tea-party
    And then there is the anti-Muslim Enlightenment
    Fundamentalists on both sides of the pond – from Geert
    Wilders in Holland to Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others in the US.
    Apparently we are witnessing new ideological alliances and
    constellations on a rather grand trans-Atlantic scale;
    constellations that would seem plain absurd just a couple of
    decades ago:
    Looking into this witches` brew, we’re seeing good old
    fashioned fear of foreigners and grass root racism and
    homophobic hate in alliance with pro-Israel groups,
    Enlightenment Fundamentalists, Christian Evangelicals, pro-gay
    positions, Murdoch’s News Corporation, hysterical and partisan
    radio hosts, and large elements of the Tea Party movement.
    Watching it from the outside, these alliances and constellations
    do not make much sense. They do not agree on much. What
    connects them, however, is not what they are for, but what
    they are against. And the loudest and most shrill common
    denominator is their fear and hostility against Muslims and
    foreigners.
    In this perspective, the Tea Party may or may not have a
    significant life post US mid-elections. But as a symptom, I
    believe it is not confined to US domestic politics and cultural
    life, but part of a growing and much larger tendency within the
    Western world – and an omen for yet unseen, very ugly things
    to come.

    Reply

  43. Carroll says:

    About the Tea Party nonsense.
    The original tea baggers are not the current Tea party baggers. The original tea baggers got co-opted by two Republican political consulting organizations.
    The original real grassroots tea baggers were going to sue the Republican orgs for using their name but since they were ‘really’ grassroots they didn’t have the money to file the lawsuit.
    The public backer of current Tea Party is this group below… run by Dick Armey and another guy.
    But actually Freedom Works gets the money from the Koch Brothers, Coors Family and a few unnamed others. It is Freedom Works that pays the bills for Palin and others to do the tours and rallies and is probably funding of lot of the tea bagger candidates.
    http://www.freedomworks.org/about/about-freedomworks
    I am sure 90% of the Tea Partiers don’t even know where the money is coming from that promotes them….anyway they are a very mixed group…from some with good intentions to the racist to the usual down right stupid and ignorant. The tea bagger problem is most of them aren’t smart or informed enough to know what they should be pissed about.

    Reply

  44. nadine says:

    DonS, neither very young nor very impressionable. But I do own my own business, like many of my tea party buddies, which gives me an entirely different view on the usefulness / uselessness / burden of government. If you work on salary for a corporation or academia or government, you don’t feel it on your own skin, so to speak. Other people have to bother with the nonsense, you can pretend it’s all for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

    Reply

  45. Don Bacon says:

    Remember the Iraq purple finger? The goal was to bring democracy to Iraq. But it’s got to be a US-controlled “democracy.”
    news report
    BAGHDAD, Oct. 15 (UPI) — Washington said it would no longer back incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unless he breaks ties with Moqtada Sadr, a source said.
    Maliki moved close to the 163-seat majority needed to form a government in Iraq after lawmakers loyal to Sadr, an anti-American cleric, their support behind the incumbent.//(end)
    It’s an old, familiar problem for the US — radical nationalism. Those damn people want to go off on their own. It’s incompatible with US hegemony, and it won’t be permitted.

    Reply

  46. DonS says:

    And I’m not calling you brain washed Nadine. My only other surmise is that you must be very young, and very impressionable. And perhaps very concrete.
    The folks you are dealing with here, for the most part, are not your tea party buddies, full of piss and vinegar and convinced that the latest fad is the ultimate. They are serious, informed adults. You would do well to think about that.

    Reply

  47. nadine says:

    I’m not calling you extremist, Don, I’m just pointing out the degree of statist control that already exists, which you want more of. You seem unaware of the degree to which regulation is smothering the manufacture and construction in this country – just like you thought that mortgages have been operating in a free market.
    A heavy load of regulation seems so natural to you, that you call it a free market and demand even more regulation when things go wrong, which of course they often do, when government is trying to manage the markets for its own political purposes.

    Reply

  48. DonS says:

    I’d say!

    Reply

  49. DonS says:

    “Which side of the political spectrum has more reason to quote this[Madison], the side that wants statist control over every aspect of economic life, or the side that wants limited government?” (nadine)
    Your habit of attributing extremist views to commenters here, while seeming much more to display those traits yourself, turns folks off to taking you seriously. I mean ‘statist control of every aspect of economic life’ — no one here wants that. but you juxtapose it to the oh so reasonable “limited government”. An excellent example of your tendentious attitude.
    Why I bother telling you this I don’t know. It’s akin you skewing things in partisan terms, which others have pointed out to you, whereas the issues discussed hereabouts are far more serious than a partisan categorization would cover. Your posing makes you look like a hack, unserious. Maybe that’s why people get that impression.

    Reply

  50. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “If the left hadn’t spent the last generation ignoring the founding documents of this country….”
    How does this partisan mouthpiece avoid embarrassment and self-loathing for comments such as that?

    Reply

  51. Don Bacon says:

    In 1980 the Ayatollah Khomeini, who had led the Islamic Revolution in Iran, called for his revolution to spread throughout the Muslim world. He despised Saddam Hussein’s secular state of Iraq and vowed to replace it with an Islamic Republic. Iran and Iraq then fought a bloody war.
    Thanks to the USA, Khomeini’s wish has come to pass. Allahu Akbar. According to the Iraq constitution Islam is the state religion and a basic foundation for the country’s laws, and no law may contradict the established provisions of Islam.
    Not only is the new Republic of Iraq Islamic, but it is now ruled by the majority Shi’ite sect, as is Iran. No worries — Iran can expect that the 50,000 US troops will control any resistance by the minority Sunni sect for at least another year.

    Reply

  52. nadine says:

    “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations…. The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” — James Madison
    Which side of the political spectrum has more reason to quote this, the side that wants statist control over every aspect of economic life, or the side that wants limited government?
    If the left hadn’t spent the last generation ignoring the founding documents of this country, they might spend last time unwittingly supplying arguments to the opposition.

    Reply

  53. erichwwk says:

    DDK:
    A few more Madison quotes:
    “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations…. The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” — James Madison
    “In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. … War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will which is to direct it. In war, the public treasures are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. … It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace,” – James Madison
    And perhaps speaking to “Sieg Heil” most directly:
    “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Reply

  54. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Iran isolated? I think not”
    It is the United States and Israel that are becoming “isolated”. Do these pieces of shit in DC and Israel think the global community is blind to what we are doing?

    Reply

  55. DonS says:

    Final word on the teabaggers. It’s not just the economy, stupid. It’s the wacked out, mean, reactionary, white boys (and girls) club, who feel entitled to be arbiters of what goes in THEIR America. John Birch society redux.
    http://firedoglake.com/2010/10/17/all-together-now-the-tea-party-isnt-about-economic-insecurity/

    Reply

  56. DonS says:

    Thanks for the Madison quote, DBK. Apparently 200 years hasn’t been enough of a learning curve, except of course for the oligarchs who have learned only too well.

    Reply

  57. Don Bacon says:

    Iran has not only gained Iraq and kept Syria as close allies, but has gained Lebanon according to PM Netanyahu. Lebanon is quickly becoming an additional Iranian satellite, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.
    Turkey is close. PM Erdogan has said that Pakistan,Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran have a common future. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon has praised progress made by the Iranian nation in various fields, calling for the strengthening of cooperation with the Islamic Republic.
    On Iran’s northern border, Turkmenistan has opened a second gas pipeline to Iran, further eroding Russia’s historical domination of its energy sector.
    The US has a different, but incorrect, take. “[Iran] faces an increasingly bleak future and is further isolated from the international community as our announcement today underscores,

    Reply

  58. DakotabornKansan says:

    RE: the “Sieg Heil” Resolution, to exempt military expenditure proposals from all rational scrutiny. [Posted by erichwwk, Oct 17 2010, 11:27AM]
    Let no crisis ever be wasted

    Reply

  59. Don Bacon says:

    More on the Iraq “victory”:
    from The Guardian:
    According to Guardian sources, [President] Maliki’s renewed grasp on power and the Sadrists’ elevation as influence brokers have been brought about by a consortium of the Middle East’s most-powerful Shia Islamic players, whose power bases are rooted in the region’s other main player, arch US foe Iran.
    It has been spearheaded by the Islamic Dawa party, which opposed Saddam Hussein from a base in Tehran during the Ba’athist years, as well as by Maliki’s adviser, Tareq Najim Abdullah. Sadr and Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri, a key exiled figure, who has acted as Sadr’s godfather, also led the way.[snip]
    Syria has been a problem, but–
    art. cont.
    “Around the same time the Iranians made their second move. Ahmadinejad touched down in Damascus on 18 September on his way to the UN in New York. The pair spoke for two hours. According to a senior Iraqi government official in the days afterwards, Assad told his advisers: “Our Iranian friends want Maliki, and Maliki it is.”//end
    http://tinyurl.com/2bvupgm
    Score another “victory” for Team USA. Or for Iran, that is.

    Reply

  60. nadine says:

    Here’s an important letter from John Mauldin (letters available by free email subscription) on the still-ongoing mortgage crisis, which goes into some necessary detail of how it happened.
    Note that the answer cannot be simply “more regulation” because there was existing regulation in place, which should have prevented much of this mess. The regulations were not observed.
    Also bear in mind as John Mauldin discusses subprime debt that the nearly all the subprime market was a creation of the government; lenders who need the borrower to repay the loan in order to make money are naturally very reluctant to make many subprime loans. It was government interference that allowed the lenders to make money whether the loan was ever repaid or not. All that new subprime money sloshing into the mortgage market had a huge hand in inflating housing prices, which are now deflating.
    __________________________________________________
    There’s trouble, my friends, and it is does indeed involve pool(s), but not in the pool hall. The real monster is hidden in those pools of subprime debt that have not gone away. When I first began writing and speaking about the coming subprime disaster, it was in late 2007 and early 2008. The subject was being dismissed in most polite circles. “The subprime problem,” testified Ben Bernanke, “will be contained.”
    My early take? It would be a disaster for investors. I admit I did not see in January that it would bring down Lehman and trigger the worst banking crisis in 80 years, less than 18 months later. But it was clear that it would not be “contained.” We had no idea.
    I also said that it was going to create a monster legal battle down the road that would take years to develop. Well, in the fullness of time, those years have come nigh upon us. Today we briefly look at the housing market, then the mortgage foreclosure debacle, and then we go into the real problem lurking in the background. It is The Subprime Debacle, Act 2.
    It is NOT the mortgage foreclosure issue, as serious as that is. I seriously doubt it will be contained, as well. Could the confluence of a bank credit crisis in the US and a sovereign debt banking crisis in Europe lead to another full-blown world banking crisis? The potential is there. This situation wants some serious attention.
    This letter is going to print a little longer. But I think it is important that you get a handle on this issue.
    Where is the Housing Recovery?
    We are going to quickly review a few charts from Gary Shilling’s latest letter, where he review the housing market in depth. Bottom line, the housing market has not yet begun to recover, and it is not only going to take longer but the decline in prices may be greater than many have forecast. I wrote three years ago that it could be well into 2011 before we get to a “bottom.” That may have been optimistic, given what we will cover in this letter.
    First, existing and new single-family home sales continue to slide, in the wake of the tax rebate that ended earlier this year. We have declined back to the down-sloping trend line. If you are a seller, this is not a pretty picture.
    The homebuilding industry, which was the source of so many jobs last decade (aka the good old days), is on its back. This country needs a healthy housing construction market to get back to lower unemployment, and until the overhang in the foreclosure market is cleared out, that is unlikely to happen.
    Lending is tighter, as is reasonable. Banks actually expect you to have the ability to pay back the mortgage you take out (solid FICO scores) and want reasonable down payments. Only 47% of applicants have the FICO score to get the best mortgage rates.
    (Sidebar: Gary writes, “Furthermore, false appraisals rose 50% in 2009 from 2008. The tax credit for first-time homebuyers cost taxpayers about $15 billion, twice the official forecast, in part due to fraud. Over 19,000 tax filers claimed the credit but didn’t buy houses, while 74,000 who claimed $500 million in refunds already owned homes.” Where are the regulators?)
    Shilling thinks prices are likely to fall another 20%. Given what I am writing about in the next section, that is a possibility. There is certainly no demand pressure to push up housing prices.
    Finally, two charts on foreclosures. Residential mortgages in foreclosure are near all-time highs, close to 1 in 21 of all mortgages, up from 1 in 100 just four years ago. That’s got to be bad for your profit models.
    Anyone who tells you the housing problem is “bottoming” either has an agenda or simply does not pay attention to the data. I really want to see housing bottom and then turn around and the home builders come back; the nation desperately needs the jobs. But my job is to be realistic. When we see 3-4 months of non-stimulus-induced housing sales growth, then we can start talking about bottoms.
    But housing sales are not really the issue. Let’s look at the next leg of the problem.
    The Foreclosure Mess
    OK, in a serendipitous moment, Maine fishing buddy David Kotok sent me this email on the mortgage foreclosure crisis just as I was getting ready to write much the same thing. It is about the best thing I have read on the topic. Saves me some time and you get a better explanation. From Kotok:
    “Dear Readers, this text came to me in an email from sources that are in the financial services business and with whom I have a personal relationship. The original text was laced with expletives and I would not use it in the form I received it. Therefore the text below has had some substantial editing in order to remove that language. The intentions of the writer are undisturbed. The writer shall remain anonymous. This text echoes some of the news items we have seen and heard today;
    however, it can serve as a plain language description of the present foreclosure-suspension mess. There is a lot here. It takes about ten minutes to read it. – David Kotok (www.cumber.com)
    “Homeowners can only be foreclosed and evicted from their homes by the person or institution who actually has the loan paper…only the note-holder has legal standing to ask a court to foreclose and evict. Not the mortgage, the note, which is the actual IOU that people sign, promising to pay back the mortgage loan
    “Before mortgage-backed securities, most mortgage loans were issued by the local savings & loan. So the note usually didn’t go anywhere: it stayed in the offices of the S&L down the street.
    “But once mortgage loan securitization happened, things got sloppy…they got sloppy by the very nature of mortgage-backed securities.
    “The whole purpose of MBSs was for different investors to have their different risk appetites satiated with different bonds. Some bond customers wanted super-safe bonds with low returns, some others wanted riskier bonds with correspondingly higher rates of return.
    “Therefore, as everyone knows, the loans were ‘bundled’ into REMICs (Real-Estate Mortgage Investment Conduits, a special vehicle designed to hold the loans for tax purposes), and then “sliced & diced”…split up and put into tranches, according to their likelihood of default, their interest rates, and other characteristics.
    “This slicing and dicing created ‘senior tranches,’ where the loans would likely be paid in full, if the past history of mortgage loan statistics was to be believed. And it also created ‘junior tranches,’ where the loans might well default, again according to past history and statistics. (A whole range of tranches was created, of course, but for the purposes of this discussion we can ignore all those countless other variations.)
    “These various tranches were sold to different investors, according to their risk appetite. That’s why some of the MBS bonds were rated as safe as Treasury bonds, and others were rated by the ratings agencies as risky as junk bonds.
    “But here’s the key issue: When an MBS was first created, all the mortgages were pristine…none had defaulted yet, because they were all brand-new loans. Statistically, some would default and some others would be paid back in full…but which ones specifically would default? No one knew, of course. If I toss a coin 1,000 times, statistically, 500 tosses the coin will land heads…but what will the result be of, say, the 723rd toss? No one knows.
    “Same with mortgages.
    “So in fact, it wasn’t that the riskier loans were in junior tranches and the safer ones were in senior tranches: rather, all the loans were in the REMIC, and if and when a mortgage in a given bundle of mortgages defaulted, the junior tranche holders would take the losses first, and the senior tranche holder last.
    “But who were the owners of the junior-tranche bond and the senior-tranche bonds? Two different people. Therefore, the mortgage note was not actually signed over to the bond holder. In fact, it couldn’t be signed over. Because, again, since no one knew which mortgage would default first, it was impossible to assign a specific mortgage to a specific bond.
    “Therefore, how to make sure the safe mortgage loan stayed with the safe MBS tranche, and the risky and/or defaulting mortgage went to the riskier tranche?
    “Enter stage right the famed MERS…the Mortgage Electronic Registration System.
    “MERS was the repository of these digitized mortgage notes that the banks originated from the actual mortgage loans signed by homebuyers. MERS was jointly owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (yes, those two again …I know, I know: like the chlamydia and the gonorrhea of the financial world…you cure ’em, but they just keep coming back).
    “The purpose of MERS was to help in the securitization process. Basically, MERS directed defaulting mortgages to the appropriate tranches of mortgage bonds. MERS was essentially where the digitized mortgage notes were sliced and diced and rearranged so as to create the mortgage-backed securities. Think of MERS as Dr. Frankenstein’s operating table, where the beast got put together.
    “However, legally…and this is the important part…MERS didn’t hold any mortgage notes: the true owner of the mortgage notes should have been the REMICs.
    “But the REMICs didn’t own the notes either, because of a fluke of the ratings agencies: the REMICs had to be “bankruptcy remote,” in order to get the precious ratings needed to peddle mortgage-backed Securities to institutional investors.
    “So somewhere between the REMICs and MERS, the chain of title was broken.
    “Now, what does ‘broken chain of title’ mean? Simple: when a homebuyer signs a mortgage, the key document is the note. As I said before, it’s the actual IOU. In order for the mortgage note to be sold or transferred to someone else (and therefore turned into a mortgage-backed security), this document has to be physically endorsed to the next person. All of these signatures on the note are called the ‘chain of title.’
    “You can endorse the note as many times as you please…but you have to have a clear chain of title right on the actual note: I sold the note to Moe, who sold it to Larry, who sold it to Curly, and all our notarized signatures are actually, physically, on the note, one after the other.
    “If for whatever reason any of these signatures is skipped, then the chain of title is said to be broken. Therefore, legally, the mortgage note is no longer valid. That is, the person who took out the mortgage loan to pay for the house no longer owes the loan, because he no longer knows whom to pay.
    “To repeat: if the chain of title of the note is broken, then the borrower no longer owes any money on the loan.
    “Read that last sentence again, please. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
    “You read it again? Good: Now you see the can of worms that’s opening up.
    “The broken chain of title might not have been an issue if there hadn’t been an unusual number of foreclosures. Before the housing bubble collapse, the people who defaulted on their mortgages wouldn’t have bothered to check to see that the paperwork was in order.
    “But as everyone knows, following the housing collapse of 2007-’10-and-counting, there has been a boatload of foreclosures…and foreclosures on a lot of people who weren’t sloppy bums who skipped out on their mortgage payments, but smart and cautious people who got squeezed by circumstances.
    “These people started contesting their foreclosures and evictions, and so started looking into the chain-of-title issue, and that’s when the paperwork became important. So the chain of title became crucial and the botched paperwork became a nontrivial issue.
    “Now, the banks had hired ‘foreclosure mills’…law firms that specialized in foreclosures…in order to handle the massive volume of foreclosures and evictions that occurred because of the housing crisis. The foreclosure mills, as one would expect, were the first to spot the broken chain of titles.
    “Well, what do you know, it turns out that these foreclosure mills might have faked and falsified documentation, so as to fraudulently repair the chain-of-title issue, thereby ‘proving’ that the banks had judicial standing to foreclose on delinquent mortgages. These foreclosure mills might have even forged the loan note itself…
    “Wait, why am I hedging? The foreclosure mills did actually, deliberately, and categorically fake and falsify documents, in order to expedite these foreclosures and evictions. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism, who has been all over this story, put up a price list for this ‘service’ from a company called DocX…yes, a price list for forged documents. Talk about your one-stop shopping!
    “So in other words, a massive fraud was carried out, with the inevitable innocent bystanders getting caught up in the fraud:
    the guy who got foreclosed and evicted from his home in Florida, even though he didn’t actually have a mortgage, and in fact owned his house free – and clear. The family that was foreclosed and evicted, even though they had a perfect mortgage payment record. Et cetera, depressing et cetera.
    “Now, the reason this all came to light is not because too many people were getting screwed by the banks or the government or someone with some power saw what was going on and decided to put a stop to it…that would have been nice, to see a shining knight in armor, riding on a white horse.
    “But that’s not how America works nowadays.
    “No, alarm bells started going off when the title insurance companies started to refuse to insure the titles.
    “In every sale, a title insurance company insures that the title is free -and clear …that the prospective buyer is in fact buying a properly vetted house, with its title issues all in order. Title insurance companies stopped providing their service because…of course…they didn’t want to expose themselves to the risk that the chain of title had been broken, and that the bank had illegally foreclosed on the previous owner.
    “That’s when things started getting interesting: that’s when the attorneys general of various states started snooping around and making noises (elections are coming up, after all).
    “The fact that Ally Financial (formerly GMAC), JP Morgan Chase, and now Bank of America have suspended foreclosures signals that this is a serious problem…obviously. Banks that size, with that much exposure to foreclosed properties, don’t suspend foreclosures just because they’re good corporate citizens who want to do the right thing, and who have all their paperwork in strict order…they’re halting their foreclosures for a reason.
    “The move by the United States Congress last week, to sneak by the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act? That was all the banking lobby. They wanted to shove down that law, so that their foreclosure mills’ forged and fraudulent documents would not be scrutinized by out-of-state judges. (The spineless cowards in the Senate carried out their master’s will by a voice vote…so that there would be no registry of who had voted for it, and therefore no accountability.)
    “And President Obama’s pocket veto of the measure? He had to veto it…if he’d signed it, there would have been political hell to pay, plus it would have been challenged almost immediately, and likely overturned as unconstitutional in short order. (But he didn’t have the gumption to come right out and veto it…he pocket vetoed it.)
    “As soon as the White House announced the pocket veto…the very next day!…Bank of America halted all foreclosures, nationwide.
    “Why do you think that happened? Because the banks are in trouble…again. Over the same thing as last time…the damned mortgage-backed securities!
    “The reason the banks are in the tank again is, if they’ve been foreclosing on people they didn’t have the legal right to foreclose on, then those people have the right to get their houses back. And the people who bought those foreclosed houses from the bank might not actually own the houses they paid for.
    “And it won’t matter if a particular case…or even most cases…were on the up -and up: It won’t matter if most of the foreclosures and evictions were truly due to the homeowner failing to pay his mortgage. The fraud committed by the foreclosure mills casts enough doubt that, now, all foreclosures come into question. Not only that, all mortgages come into question.
    “People still haven’t figured out what all this means. But I’ll tell you: if enough mortgage-paying homeowners realize that they may be able to get out of their mortgage loans and keep their houses, scott-free? That’s basically a license to halt payments right now, thank you. That’s basically a license to tell the banks to take a hike.
    “What are the banks going to do…try to foreclose and then evict you? Show me the paper, Mr. Banker, will be all you need to say.
    “This is a major, major crisis. The Lehman bankruptcy could be a spring rain compared to this hurricane. And if this isn’t handled right…and handled right quick, in the next couple of weeks at the outside…this crisis could also spell the end of the mortgage business altogether. Of banking altogether. Hell, of civil society. What do you think happens in a country when the citizens realize they don’t need to pay their debts?”
    (I am not sure who wrote this, but if you want your 15 minutes of fame, I will be glad to credit you next week. – John)
    Some Foreclosure Takeaways
    Let me add a few thoughts. First, I agree, this is very serious. It has the possibility of seriously hurting the housing market, which as we saw in the first section is already on the ropes. But at the end of the day, there is a cure.
    Someone borrowed money for a mortgage. Some entity is cashing a check if that person is paying. That entity should have the title until it is paid off. If someone is not making their mortgage payments, they should be removed from the house and it should be sold to the benefit of the ultimately correct and what everyone thought was the proper title holder.
    If you took out a mortgage and now the title is in some doubt because the investment banks and mortgage banks and all the middle guys screwed up (big-time!) because they wanted to save some bucks and make some commissions, you did not win the lottery. That is not America as I know it. You can’t pay the mortgage, I am sorry. But you do not get to keep the house. The people who (thought) they bought the mortgage in a fair deal need to end up with that mortgage.
    If you pay your mortgage, you get to have the American Dream.
    We CANNOT allow this debacle to continue. It will bring the system down. Who will want to buy a mortgage that is in a securitized package with no clear title? Who will get title insurance? Some judge somewhere is going to make a ruling that is going to petrify every title company, and the whole thing grinds to a halt.
    Let’s be very clear. If we cannot securitize mortgages, there is no mortgage market. We cannot go back to where lenders warehoused the notes. It would take a decade to build that infrastructure. In the meantime, housing prices are devastated. Whatever wealth effect remains from housing gets worse, and the economy rolls over.
    This is beyond my pay grade, but there have to be some adults who can make everyone play nice in the sandbox. Ideally, someone in authority at the Treasury, with bipartisan support steps in and says everyone follow these rules, whatever these rules need to be.
    I had a very spirited conversation with good friend Barry Ritholtz today (of The Big Picture). Barry runs money but is also a lawyer and has a somewhat different perspective. He thinks we do not need any legislation and there is a legal cure. He says that real trained people (lawyers and paralegals) need to look at each mortgage and figure it out, and that it can get resolved. It is expensive to the banks; but I agree, if it is just dollars I don’t care. Fix it.
    But that is a maybe. Other people I talk to disagree. Some think we need some regulatory fixes. Some think we will need a legislative cure. But if we need to, there need be no finger pointing, no partisan BS. This needs to get solved.
    Someone took out a mortgage. Some entity thinks they are owed money. Fix the damn paper trail so that happens, whether in a legal if time-consuming manner, in a regulatory fix, or with legislation.
    Now, that is not to say the people who did this stuff did not commit felonies and such. We can sort that out over time. The longer we wait the worse it will get. Fix the problem and then go round up the bad guys. There are bigger issues in play here. (I know this will be somewhat controversial. Oh well.)
    I get the fraud being done here. I am regulated by FINRA, the NFA, various states, the British FSA, and ultimately the SEC. If I did something in my business like the stuff described above, someone would come in and justifiably shut me down, fine me, and ban me from the securities business. Oh, wait. These guys ARE regulated by the above groups.
    Finally on this topic, I shake my head when I think that the FDIC is now running several of the banks (think IndyMac) that are part of this foreclosure crisis. These are the guys who are supposed to be preventing something like this. Again, where are the adults?

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  61. nadine says:

    Not at all a red herring. If those securitized mortgages had all been good quality mortgages which behaved according to historical precedent, the ensuing bubble and collapse could not have happened to anything remotely like the degree that occurred.
    You had a perfect storm of a market bubble, a securitization bubble, and a huge base of total crap mortgages that were being written ONLY because Fannie and Freddie were buying them up, thus creating a gravy train of free money for the loan generators.

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  62. Don Bacon says:

    “The US has had a “free market” and “limited government” on mortgages and look what happened.” “Absolutely not!”
    The securitization of home mortgages into residential mortgage-backed security (RMBS) was unregulated by the government but when the housing bubble burst, caused by the recession and the decline in home values, the government had to rescue the lenders. Government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchased mortgages from private lenders.
    That’s not the end of it. The foreclosures have been robo-signed without evidence of title — the title chain was destroyed by multiple securitizations — and so lending institutions have been taking possession of properties that they don’t hold title on. Major lenders have declared moratoria on foreclosures as a result, and it isn’t over yet.
    There obviously needs to be regulations which prevent fiascoes like this.

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  63. DonS says:

    “Absolutely not! There was no free market! It had massive government interference in the mortgage market designed purposely to increase home ownership. Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (who now own almost 100% of mortgages, did you realize that” (nadine)
    A red herring. If you don’t know by now that’s not the main factor that brought down the housing market, perhaps you should google ‘securitized loans’ for starters, then maybe try ‘credit default swaps’. Then come back and defend ‘free market’.

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  64. DakotabornKansan says:

    All Americans should read James Madison

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  65. nadine says:

    “You can’t make this stuff up. ” (Don Bacon)
    As Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod last week, “Is that the best you’ve got?” The Democrats have no message. None! They can’t run on the economy. They can’t run on their legislative record. So now they’re trying to make an issue of foreign money from the Chamber of Commerce? Are you kidding me? This from the candidate who campaigned in Berlin? and raised over $100 million in the last two months of the campaign from a website with all its security checks disabled so you could sign in as Donald Duck and give unlimited amounts of money from anywhere on the globe? Talk about chutzpa! How desperate can you get?
    “The US has had a “free market” and “limited government” on mortgages and look what happened. ”
    Absolutely not! There was no free market! It had massive government interference in the mortgage market designed purposely to increase home ownership. Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (who now own almost 100% of mortgages, did you realize that? at our expense), who created the subprime market and bought the junk loans no questions asked. The mortgage market ran well for 80 years then blew up after a decade of this government interference.
    As for cuts, yes, Paul Ryan has laid out his plan of cuts, which I wish more Republicans would back. It will take cuts all over, particularly in those areas where Federal spending just shot up in the last two years. Do you understand that the current Federal deficit is twice the size of the ENTIRE military budget? You’re not going to balance the budget on the military cuts.
    “The adherence to the Constitution and to individual liberty apparently does not extend to the freedom of forming personal relationships nor to a woman’s right to control her own body. etc.”
    For many of the Tea Partiers it does. You are conflating the Libertarians with the Social Conservatives. They agree on fiscal issues but often disagree on social ones. Even most of social conservatives who oppose gay marriage would bow to it if their state legislature passed it; but they consider it illegitimate for an unelected judge to find some emanation of a penumbra of the Constitution that says keeping the definition of marriage in use for the last two thousand years is unconstitutional.

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  66. Don Bacon says:

    So the Dems are running on local issues while it’s the bad national economy that is dooming them. Hellooo! Why aren’t they running on fixing the economy?

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  67. Don Bacon says:

    Robert Gibbs was on “Meet the Press” this morning.
    On Meet the Press, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked why Democrats

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  68. DonS says:

    “Displeasure at runaway spending, yes, at intrusion, yes, but the Tea Partiers have clearly articulated their ideas: they don’t want America fundamentally transformed. They want America back: with free markets and rule of law instead of bailouts and waivers for the favored, and limited, sustainable government in accordance with the Constitution. They don’t want a government that steals trillions from the next generation.”
    What a bunch of boilerplate malarky, Nadine. I asked, identify one who wants to slash defense spending? How about one who wants to fund infrastructure on a scale large enough to help unemployment? Or is that a ‘bailout’. You’re mixing grand shibboleths about the anger at the “favored” (who just happen to be the filthy rich), with assumed anger at sensible economic policies to ‘help’ the struggling middle class. You probably even think that not taxing the very rich more actually does have a salutary effect on economic well being (except their own wealth). You throw around “free markets” as if we have had free markets, except for the rich and thieving, for decades; you’re willing to sacrifice economic fairness at the alter of ‘anti-regulation’. Your message is a confused mish mash of sound bites. You won’t even answer whether you favor 25% across the board cuts in defense — a stand alone proposal — which any human with two brain cells to rub together, and any understanding that defense is the biggest source of government waste and fraud, could agree to.
    “Stop looking to Frank Rich for an explanation. You won’t find one there. The liberal chattering class has been running scared of the Tea Party for the last 18 months: they’re racists! fascists! Nazis! Klansman! Angry white men! RW astroturf!”
    The republicans are running even more scared.
    “Maybe someday they will admit it’s not just driven by “anger”,”
    What’s wrong with anger? What’s important is the reason for the anger. The tea partiers are shaking things up but they sure don’t have a coherent message.

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  69. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Don, “the lesser of two evils” is a myth if the saying is applied to the current gang of scumballs vying for leadership.

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  70. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And heres Nadine arguing for “the rule of law”. But watch her bitch and moan if anyone argues for the criminals in the Bush Administration to be held accountable before the law.
    KNOWN perjuries, torture, illegal survellience of American citizens, illegal detentions, the ivisceration of the right to protest, paying members of the Fourth Estate to masquerade as responsible journalists while marketing political policy, the list is long and damning.
    It is indeed comical seeing Nadine unabashedly display unfathomable hypocricy, without embarrasment or regret. She actually cements my argument that the Tea Party movement is a pawn of the far right. To see this shameless RW/zionist propagandist blowing her bugle for the Tea Party should be a message to us all.

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  71. Don Bacon says:

    When I write “clearly articulate” I have in mind something beyond whining complaints and bogus remedies.
    The US has had a “free market” and “limited government” on mortgages and look what happened. The teapartiers “rule of law” apparently doesn’t extend to the UN Charter which prohibits elective war and is a part of US law. The adherence to the Constitution and to individual liberty apparently does not extend to the freedom of forming personal relationships nor to a woman’s right to control her own body. etc.
    So yeah, they’re irresponsible but the status quo is more so. Call it favoring the lesser of two evils, like voting has become.

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  72. nadine says:

    “Although there have been attempts to write manifestos about what they believe in, nobody is too sure because the main glue that holds them together, to the extent they are united on anything, is displeasure with high government spending and intrusion into citizens’ lives, reactions which are not uncommon on these pages. The members themselves, as far as I know, haven’t been able to articulate their feelings except that they are unhappy.” (Don Bacon)
    Displeasure at runaway spending, yes, at intrusion, yes, but the Tea Partiers have clearly articulated their ideas: they don’t want America fundamentally transformed. They want America back: with free markets and rule of law instead of bailouts and waivers for the favored, and limited, sustainable government in accordance with the Constitution. They don’t want a government that steals trillions from the next generation.
    Stop looking to Frank Rich for an explanation. You won’t find one there. The liberal chattering class has been running scared of the Tea Party for the last 18 months: they’re racists! fascists! Nazis! Klansman! Angry white men! RW astroturf!
    But the pros know better, that’s why they are terrified. That’s why we see these barricades falling one by one as they come out of denial and begin to admit the Tea Party is a real, large grassroots movement. Maybe someday they will admit it’s not just driven by “anger”, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s a principle with Dems that Reps have no ideas, just greed or anger.

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  73. Don Bacon says:

    Regarding the tea partiers I have little doubt that they will “see the light” after they get elected (if they are) and are then called individually into a smoke-filled room, as all newbies are, and given a lesson on dollar-based democracy American-style. In the meantime they are shaking up the elite just a bit and that is good. There is a lot of unhappiness in the land and the system needs a shake.
    “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.”– Edward Abbey
    The purpose of the Iraq Surge was to foster a reduction in violence in order to promote reconciliation between Shia and Sunni. The Surge mainly consisted of the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad, the removal of Sunnis. The Awakening, the payment of Sunni dissidents in Anbar, had already been initiated. But there was no political reconciliation, which the brilliant Obama hasn’t picked up on. This is being reflected now in the failure to form a government as well as the possible return of the Sons of Iraq to armed resistance.
    Do we see SecState Clinton making back-and-forth trips to this global hot-spot to try to solve the political problems brought on by American stupidity? Any interest at all? No. What we see is the Commander-in-Chief declaring (w/o checking with the enemy) an end to combat and a new military “Operation New Dawn” requiring 50,000 US troops. Thanks, Barry. As I recall, you ran on getting out of Iraq and Hillary claimed you were lying.

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  74. DonS says:

    I hear Don’s point about ‘unrest’ being a potentially good thing, as well as POA’s that their (Tea Party) thrust and likely cooptation(!) is along right wing lines. It is true that some anti-government sentiment gravitates towards supporting ‘privacy rights’, but push come to shove would you trust an angry mob to advocate for the rights of all minorities to be respected?
    The right wing of the republican party, and some conservative dems, have no problem shouting about government intrusion and violation of privacy rights, but they are just as adamantly in favor of electronic eaves dropping and limiting the recognition of gay and lesbian rights. Now you can can find a few very far right types, like the militias, who hate government snooping; but they are outliers, sort of the exception that proves the rule.

    Reply

  75. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Don, I’m a bit suprised at your take on the Tea Party. Yes, its grass roots membership may well be pissed off citizens. But behind the curtains you must surely see that it is the RW manipulators that are pulling the puppet strings of the so-called Tea Party “leaders”. Perhaps a few of these “leaders”, barely a handful, will manage to ride this anger into office. But, once there, then what? Who will actually hold the majority and dictate policy? It will be the heavy hitters in the GOP, and they will easily herd these neophyte Tea Party jokers into any stance or policy direction they deem fit.
    This Tea Party movement is a win-win for the far right.
    And as far as Iraq goes, Obama stepped on his own dick on that one. He shoulda leveled with the American people. Instead of fostering this myth known as the “success of the surge”, he should have explained to us what the surge actually was, (a costly pay-off), and explained why it was doomed to fail, (a cut off of bribery funds, and insurmountable tribal/ethnic animosity and competition). Iraq IS going to implode, and because Obama nurtured this bullshit about “success” he will be blamed when it all falls apart, as it obviously is going to do.

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  76. Don Bacon says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about unrest in Iraq because the Commander-in-Chief has declared an end to major combat operations. (snark) The fifty thousand US troops still in Iraq are merely offering advice and assistance to the New Iraq Army.
    The 50,000 U.S. troops are still at risk. They can still earn combat awards and still get hazardous duty pay. So far this year, 55 American troops have died in Iraq (compared to 400 in Afghanistan). There have been several hundred injuries. But most of these casualties are from non-combat actions (highway accidents are still a big problem). Many American troops still suit up for combat frequently, especially those who advise and train Iraqi troops. American combat troops have to be called in, by the Iraqis, to any combat situations, and frequently the U.S. troops are (but usually only in situations where the Iraqis are getting hammered).

    Reply

  77. erichwwk says:

    On the ABQ City council agenda for Mon, Oct 17, in response to the effort to oppose spec ops military expansion into much of private and common public property in northern NM and Southern Colorado and the LASG lawsuit against the CMRR, DOE, LANL, what I call the “Sieg Heil” Resolution, to exempt military expenditure proposals from all rational scrutiny:
    CITY of ALBUQUERQUE
    NINETEENTH COUNCIL
    COUNCIL BILL NO. ENACTMENT NO. ________________________
    SPONSORED BY:
    RESOLUTION
    RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE AND SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES IN THE DEFENSE OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE ECONOMIC IMPACT THAT IT HAS ON THE CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE.
    WHEREAS, Kirtland Air Force Base has a long and distinguished record of providing leadership and support to United States Armed Forces who fight
    and sacrifice to keep America and the world free and safe; and
    WHEREAS, the total value of Kirtland Air Force Base’s economic impact is
    approximately $5.6 billion; and
    WHEREAS, Kirtland Air Force Base employs nearly 25,500 individuals with
    high paying and highly skilled jobs in Albuquerque; and
    WHEREAS, Sandia National Laboratories performs major research and
    development functions in the areas of homeland security, energy,
    science and environmental technologies, and economic research; and
    WHEREAS, Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Labs play a key
    role in supporting our country’s national security objectives and freedom
    around the world.
    BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL, THE GOVERNING BODY OF
    ALBUQUERQUE THAT
    Section 1. The City of Albuquerque expresses its appreciation
    to Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories. The
    City continues to support their mission and recognizes the vital contribution
    these patriotic service members and civilians make to our local
    economy and freedom.

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  78. Don Bacon says:

    The Tea Party is not really a party but rather disparate spontaneous bunches of pissed-off Americans. They have beaten regular GOP candidates in the primaries. Although there have been attempts to write manifestos about what they believe in, nobody is too sure because the main glue that holds them together, to the extent they are united on anything, is displeasure with high government spending and intrusion into citizens’ lives, reactions which are not uncommon on these pages. The members themselves, as far as I know, haven’t been able to articulate their feelings except that they are unhappy.
    This is a measure of the mood in the country, where congressional approval is at 20% and 2/3 of the people think that the US is going in the wrong direction. Displeasure with the skyrocketing national debt, increased by nonproductive subsidies to banks and Wall Street, including the stimulus, is widespread.
    It might be considered that the The Tea Party movement builds on the past Howard Dean and Barack Obama movements to energize change, both of which have failed to produce any change.
    My opinion is that while some dishes might get broken a modicum of citizen unrest is welcome in a country where government power has been increasing exponentially for far too long. It isn’t like Washington (and its nefarious programs including war) is going to collapse any time soon.

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  79. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Speaking of scams and con-jobs, so much for “the success of the surge”. I wonder, will Petreaus still ride the wave of adoration he has garnered for being the architect of this con-job when Iraq implodes, or will this ridiculous asshole Obama mewl and groan when the RW blames him for squandering a “success” that never really existed?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/world/middleeast/17awakening.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

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  80. JohnH says:

    Frank Rich notes that Tea Party “anger is also more likely to claim minorities like gays, Latinos and Muslims as collateral damage…The mad-as-hell crowd in America, still not seeing any solid economic recovery on the horizon, will lash out at any convenient scapegoat.”
    All that is missing are the brown shirts and a charismatic leader.

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  81. JohnH says:

    “The Tea Party message is not to get rid of government but to cut it back to sustainable levels . . .”
    Social Security is fully sustainable until 2040, and is funded by a dedicated revenue stream.
    Medicare is currently 100% funded by a dedicated revenue stream.
    Discretionary spending (mostly “defense” spending) is unsustainable because it is only half funded as a result of skyrocketing “defense” expenditures and tax cuts for the wealthy and for enormously profitable corporations.
    What do the Tea Party folks want to cut? (NOT “defense” spending)

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  82. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And it is truly hilarious watching some slobbering RW Bush worshipper like Nadine pretend a concern for Constitutional law and governance.

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  83. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Fact is, the “Tea Party” is just a rebranding of the same old GOP shit. Its a con-job, just like Obama was. The cabal of DC scumbags have not escaped noticing how fed up the American people are with both parties and the status quo, so they are inventing fraudulent “alternatives”, carefully marketed as “change”, but backed by the same special interests, thieves, corporations, and globalists that have steered us to the brink of the abyss.
    It is comical watching these fuckers like Hannity and Limbaugh jump on the Tea Party bandwagon when they have always been mouthieces for the the far right. What, they suddenly are upset with the very band of maggots they have so disingenuously and voraciously defended all these years? Bullshit. There is a reason this scam known as the “Tea Party” is being marketed at this time. And it is the same reason that the “Obamanation” was marketed.
    And the collective is ignorant enough, misinformed enough, and brainwashed enough, that they are gonna buy it lock stock and barrel.

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  84. DonS says:

    Frank Rich on ignorance, rage, homophobia, gun violence, fear mongering etc., led first and foremost by . . . the Tea Partiers!
    “Don

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  85. DonS says:

    “The Tea Party message is not to get rid of government but to cut it back to sustainable levels . . .”
    And which candidates want to slash defense spending, not just cut Social Security, Medicare, and education funding? That’s what we’re talking about here, slashing defense spending, 20, 30%. Tea Partiers are angry, like just about everyone else. But do they want to slash defense spending, the irrelevant waste that supports the MI complex? Who?
    Irrelevant and corrosive defense spending.

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  86. nadine says:

    No, the Tea Party is entirely and absolutely relevant. 24% of voters say they support the Tea Party. That’s more Tea Party supporters than there are liberals! Again, don’t believe me, believe Mr. Pew and Mr. Gallup.
    The Tea Party message is not to get rid of government but to cut it back to sustainable levels before the Federal Government runs out of credit, and return it to Constitutional operation, which puts some check on its overreach.

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  87. DonS says:

    “Tea Party Movement.”
    A right wing protest without grounding in reform of government; mainly, ‘get rid of government.’
    Irrelevant for practical response this thread is about.

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  88. nadine says:

    “One has to admire the French. Unlike us, they don

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  89. DonS says:

    “One has to admire the French. Unlike us, they don

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  90. nadine says:

    Don, Clean tech manufacturing is shifting to China the same way every other kind of manufacturing is shifting to China. Meanwhile, China is opening a new coal-fired power plant every week to try to meet its growing needs for power.

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  91. DakotabornKansan says:

    Speaking of wills and wallets

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  92. erichwwk says:

    Great post and comments. More later (like tomorrow). But on the subject of Stimsom:
    “Unfortunately, I have lived long enough to know that history is often not what actually happened but what is recorded as such.” – Henry Stimson, from his memoir

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  93. DakotabornKansan says:

    The proper question is not “what is the right vehicle for the job” to be solved by the Army coming up with a “new strategy,” but rather by answering some fundamental national questions:
    *In determining the right vehicle for the job, what is the job?
    *Is the US going to keep invading countries or not?
    *Is the small terror crime threat going to be handled properly with intelligence and policing or stupidly with huge counter-productive military operations?
    Good questions!
    Unfortunately,

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  94. Don Bacon says:

    news report:
    “By putting its $40-billion ground combat vehicle (GCV) procurement plan on hold, the U.S. Army is giving itself a breather to come up with a new strategy for its ground vehicle force.
    “Army ground programs

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  95. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Meanwhile……..
    1. SHELBY COUNTY USED TWO DIFFERENT ELECTION DATABASES SIMULTANEOUSLY DURING THE AUG. 2010 ELECTION, SOMETIMES TRANSFERRING DATA FROM ONE TO THE OTHER, SOMETIMES HIDING THE DATA FROM THE PUBLIC ALTOGETHER.
    2. EDITABLE ELECTION DATA IS AVAILABLE TO WORKERS ON THREE COMPUTERS
    3. SHELBY COUNTY ELECTION DATABASES WHICH APPEAR TO BE THE SAME (WITH IDENTICAL FILE NAMES) ACTUALLY CONTAIN DIFFERENT DATA.
    4. MULTIPLE “SETS OF BOOKS” WERE CREATED AND USED IN SHELBY COUNTY
    5. SHELBY COUNTY HAS DELETED SOME OF THE ELECTION DATABASES IT CREATED, OR HAS HIDDEN THEM FROM INSPECTORS.
    6. SHELBY COUNTY EMPLOYEES ENTER AND ALTER THE GEMS DATABASES ANONYMOUSLY
    1-6 = MISHANDLING OF SHELBY COUNTY DATABASES DESTROYED THE INTEGRITY OF THE ELECTION
    http://www.bbvforums.org/cgi-bin/forums/board-auth.cgi?file=/8/81126.html
    This story is THE story of the year, and is being ignored. It has exposed the malleable and insecure computer voting system for what it is, a tool designed to rob the people of their voice. If they can do this in Shelby County, they can do this nationally. Who is to say this was not a test run for the mid-terms? Who is to say this has not already occurred in national elections, as many of us believe?
    Nothing will come of this. And that simple fact should tell even the dumbest of you that we can no longer trust in the results of ANY election that is conducted using these systems.

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  96. Don Bacon says:

    The US is upset that China is investing so much money in clean technology and claims that it is violating international rules.
    news report:
    U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said his office was probing allegations filed last month by the United Steelworkers Union that China was subsidizing its domestic producers of wind, solar and electric car products in violation of World Trade Organization rules.
    Clean-tech manufacturing and investment is increasingly shifting over to China, and Asia in general. U.S. companies, such as giant Arizona-based manufacturer First Solar, are now working on major projects in China. Several firms have complained that the Asian country is much more welcoming of clean-tech ventures than the U.S.///(end of report)
    Well, I think that China should complain that the US is investing so much money in military forces and wars in violation of international rules, like the UN Charter for example. Since China has to deal with a major US war in bordering countries, US naval ships cruising along its shores, military sales to its province of Taiwan and an increasing US military presence in nearby Korea, it is uniquely qualified to initiate this complaint.

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  97. nadine says:

    “On behalf of the Nevada taxpayers, I’d like to know, we’d like to know, how did you become so wealthy, on a government payroll?””
    Now there’s a question that should be asked of a lot of our Congresscritters.

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  98. Don Bacon says:

    Speaking of money, Sharron Angle went in for the kill last night during her debate with Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader:
    “[Senator Reid] you came from Searchlight [a small hilltop village in Nevada] to the senate with very little. Now you are one of the richest men in the US Senate. On behalf of the Nevada taxpayers, I’d like to know, we’d like to know, how did you become so wealthy, on a government payroll?”
    And it isn’t like Harry has thrown a two million dollar wedding for one of his kids or anything.

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  99. Don Bacon says:

    Important drivers of the military budget are the members of Congress, who only want more military procurement and more military activity in their districts, not less.
    Here’s just a slight taste of what would-be budget-cutters are up against.
    The Congressional Robotics Caucus:
    The Congressional Bi-Partisan Robotics Caucus, chaired by Congressman Mike Doyle (PA) and co-chaired by Congressman Phil Gingrey (GA), was formed in 2007 to focus on key issues facing the nation’s robotics industry and related emerging technology.
    The House Military Depot and Industrial Facilities Caucus:
    The House Military Depot and Industrial Facilities Caucus is a coalition of Members of Congress who represent military industrial facilities, including aviation depots, shipyards, arsenals, ammunition plants, and energetic material production facilities.
    The U.S. Senate’s new Aerospace Caucus:
    Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced Congress’ newest caucus May 6, saying it was being founded “to fight for the needs of our aerospace industry in the years to come. . .There are some very big warning signs that our aerospace industry is headed towards trouble,” she said. “There is a lack of certainty among our aerospace manufacturers about what the future holds and what they should be building for.” [translation: Expensive aircraft needed for manned flight are obsolete compared to cheap drones.]
    Congressional Submarine Caucus
    Chaired by: Reps. Jim Langevin (D-Rhode Island) and J. Randy Forbes (R-Virginia) Recent activity: Met earlier this year with the Submarine Industrial Base Council, which was lobbying lawmakers to support funding for the next generation ballistic missile submarine.
    Long Range Strike Caucus
    Chaired by: Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) and Rep. John Fleming (R-Louisiana) Recent activity: Just officially formed on October 29, but plans to advocate for the next generation strategic bomber as well as cruise missiles, ICBMs, and nuclear weapons technology and facilities.
    The Navy last summer notified Congress of its intent to drop plans to build seven Zumwalt DDG 1000s destroyers, build only two, and instead buy at least eight and possibly more additional DDG51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers.
    Congressional concerns, particularly from Maine’s Senate delegation, soon led the Navy to amend its plan to restore the third Zumwalt DDG1000. In 2009 the per ship price for the Zumwalt destroyers had reached $5.964 billion, 81 percent over the Navy’s original estimate used in proposing the program. The Arleigh Burke destroyer DDG51 is about a billion dollars a copy. “The Navy . . . was surprised at the outcry from the New England congressional delegation. Almost everybody in New England was up in arms about this surprise decision to stop building the Zumwalt class,

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  100. DakotabornKansan says:
  101. Don Bacon says:

    The recent (May 2010) National Security Strategy has a lot of flowery language on grandiose aims that go way beyond defending the country. quotes:
    *the United States of America will continue to underwrite global security
    *renewing American leadership so that we can
    more effectively advance our interests in the 21st century.
    * An international order advanced by U.S. leadership that promotes peace, security, and opportunity
    *we must once again position the United States to champion mutual interests among nations and peoples (end quotes)
    The US can no longer afford to do all this, even if it were desirable.
    A recent concept which has been raised in this era of financial belt-tightening by Admiral Roughead and others is offshore balancing. It is a strategic concept used in realist analysis in international relations. The term describes a strategy where a great power uses favored regional powers to check the rise of potential hostile powers. It arguably permits a great power to maintain its power without the costs of large military deployments around the world. –wiki

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  102. DonS says:

    I was in the planning shop of a federal agency at he end of the ‘6o’s to mid 70’s, through the transition from ZBB to PPBS. We were responsible for implementing it. Not sure if our exercise did a whole lot to influence actual budgetary decisions. But it did force us to think about hard questions and tradeoffs.
    Of course the policy shop, at least where I worked, was considered something of a necessary nuisance by other parts of the agency primarily because we did ask questions, guided as we were by an old OMB hand who actually saw the budgetary process as involving competition among potential priorities for limited resources.
    Now several things about what Don Bacon states stand out. First, DOD programs fall under an out-of-control ‘defense’ framework that bears no resemblance to actual need. Which do you do first: nit pick around the edges of programs to try to bring the budget a little under control; or expose the entire edifice for the massively dishonest construct it is? Welfare for the MI complex as it were, with no serious feed back loop, and no serious institutional critics.
    I think individual programs have to be given hard looks and hard questions. But to me the crying need is to pull the covers off the horrendously irrelevant institution of the military, and that means leveling with the American people about the outdated paradigm that it is based on.
    Few deny the need for defensive capabilities, including in the new era of technological threats and assymetrical tactics. Making the case for shifting the paradigms may be a task beyond the capability of our political system; our politicians seem to have little stomach for it these days, where they are not overtly making the case for the existing irrational paradigm or, at best, wringing their hands about “waste”, etc.
    So what are we to do? Hope that ‘reform’ of significant scope and nature arises from within the ranks of the ‘professional’ military planners themselves? How likely is that? The lowly planner aint gonna get far. And the big boys (and girls) just rotate between the military, the defense contractors, the think tanks, and the lobbying faction.
    I think I’ll stop thinking about this. It makes my head hurt.

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  103. Don Bacon says:

    “Congress and the administration can no longer ignore the reality that Americans have neither the will nor the wallet for unprecedented spending that does not set priorities for our statecraft.” – Gordon Adams, testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on July 20.
    The problem is that the Pentagon budget is not based on any rational threat assessment, rather it is an ongoing welfare program for established corporate and government interests. Then they need a fancy-pants “national security strategy” full of BS to justify it.
    There is no current conventional military threat to the US. The US hasn’t been invaded since 1814. So why does the US maintain a standing two-million person military force? Why does the US maintain obsolete surface naval vessels and piloted aircraft, as well as fifty-ton tanks and heavy artillery? Nobody talks about these matters.
    But they might. The Navy has its take on what a new Congress might do. “As the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan and Iraq and land forces encounter more and more obstacles to operating

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