Friday, October 12, 2007
News of note — Oct 12 07
- Republican Representative Ralph Regula of Ohio announced his retirement today. Regula held onto his district for 36 years, but at 82 he's all porked out. To be fair, he seems to have been one of the old-school moderate Republicans.
Democratic Idea of the Day
I would not be able to bear the tragedy if there were not so much comedy in it.
The Congressional Democrats held a press conference to address the coming subprime mortgage disaster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, citing a report from the National Consumer Law Center, put it this way—
If we do not act, subprime lending could end up eliminating more homeowners than it created, and the number of Americans foreclosed out of their homes could exceed the number of Americans from the Gulf Coast forced out of their homes by Hurricane Katrina.
So the Democrats want Bush to appoint a "mortgage czar" to help with the "crisis." Even if we assume the appointment of some sort of "czar" would have a measurable impact on the problem, the notion is ludicrous in light of Bush's record of appointments. In the Bush administration competence is the foremost ground for removal.
But wait! Representative Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, had a name to suggest—and a Republican, at that!
Talking to reporters after the press event, Frank named Jack Kemp, the former GOP vice presidential candidate, as his top choice for the role of mortgage czar, citing his career as a star quarterback: “You need to be an energizer. Jack would be great.”
Even now I can hear Kemp in the huddle, "Okay, guys. We've got to get this punt off before the clock runs out."
So whom would I favor instead? Personally, I think the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders may be the answer.
The subprime debacle continues at home and abroad (10/11/07)
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Dates to watch
Translation Problem of the Day
Concerning the now-famous assertion by Iranian President Ahmadinejad that there are no gays in Iran—
... a media adviser to Mr. Ahmadinejad tells Reuters that he was misunderstood — that the translator failed to capture the president’s subtle way of speaking —Mike Nizza writing in "‘No Gays in Iran’? An Aide Says, Make That ‘Not Many’"
Since I don't speak Farsi, I can't get directly into the fray, but the French website Têtu has the goods. After reviewing the controversy Paul Parant writes—
However, some news sources tend to believe that the Iranian president was perfectly in command of his speech of September 24. After his talk at Columbia University, he even repeated it in the course of a question-and-answer session quoted by CNN: To the question "Could you expand upon your assertion concerning the absence of homosexuals in Iran?" Laughing he replied: "Seriously, I don't know a one. I don't know where homosexuality could be. Give me an address so we too can learn what's going on in Iran."
[a SimplyAppalling translation]
Ahmadinejad exposed: Proof of homosexuals in Iran (9/27/07)
The subprime debacle continues at home and abroad
Eoin Callan reports that "Moody’s, the ratings agency, found that lenders had eased terms on only 1 per cent of subprime loans resetting at higher interest rates in January, April and July this year." The Bush administration's call for lenders to renegotiate mortgages in order to save homes is as ineffectual as everything else the administration does—other than tyrannize the population.
Fresh forecasts from the National Association of Realtors on Wednesday suggested the housing market was set to fall further, as the group reduced its expectations for the tenth time this year.
Sales of newly-built homes are likely to decline 24 per cent to a 10-year low, while purchases of existing homes are likely to fall 11 per cent to a five-year low, NAR said.
Keep in mind that being upbeat about real estate is part of the NAR's job description! Isn't it great what deregulation of the financial markets has brought us?!
Now Ireland, the "economic miracle" of Europe is feeling the pinch—
Ireland has already seen its religious orders selling off land. Now it is the members of some of the country’s exclusive golf clubs who are voting to cash in their greens and fairways to make way for new housing.
Some clubs have pulled off attractive deals with developers, but others may be too late to the party amid signs the Irish property boom has come to an end. Gerard McDonnell of Pembroke McDonnell estate agents believes the reality is rather worse. “Prices are down 10 per cent and that’s if you get it,” he says.
The debate now is whether the country can engineer a soft landing – as most local commentators believe – or be plunged into an economic recession which some outside analysts think will be hard to avoid.
The general economic backdrop is certainly worsening for Ireland, one of the best performing European economies of recent years. Gross domestic product contracted by 1.4 per cent in the second quarter, giving a year-on-year growth rate of 5.4 per cent, compared with 8.1 per cent in the year to June 2006, according to the Central Statistics Office.
Fall in revenue from house sales has converted the Irish government's projected surplus into deficit.
From an environmental standpoint not all of the consequences are bad. The St. Joe company, which was assisted by Governor Jeb Bush in its plans to pillage the Florida Panhandle at taxpayer expense, is having a comeuppance of sorts.1 According to Stacy-Marie Ishmael,
St Joe, Florida’s largest private landowner, will slash its workforce, sell 100,000 acres of land and scrap its dividend as it shifts from real estate to project development.
The company will cut 760 jobs – more than 75 per cent of its workers, sell 190 homes and about 1,200 developed home sites, it said on Monday.
It isn't exactly a victory, but it's something.
St. Joe became Florida's largest private landowner by buying up property during the Depression. Another great opportunity for the wealthy appears to be in the offing.
A note on understanding elites (9/3/07)
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
News of note — Oct 9 07
- The BBC plans to cut 12% of its workforce, up to 2800 employees. Most work in what they call "factual programming"—programs such as "Planet Earth."
- The European Union is considering how to make its financial markets more "transparent." As in the US, they haven't a clue where the money is going—or where it went. "All G7 members have agreed reforms are needed, including the US, which had formerly resisted joint action, according to a person close to the G7." When the Bush administration contemplates increased regulation of any market, you know they're worried.
- The Canadian military, training police in Afghanistan, has decided to pay its charges directly, thus bypassing the extremely corrupt Afghan government. "Police were forced to steal for a living when their pay didn't arrive from Kabul, which hurt morale and fostered resentment among local Afghans."
Threat of the Day
To put an end to the terrorist organisation operating in the neighbouring country, the order has been given to take every kind of measure, legal, economic, political, including a cross-border operation if necessary.
If I hadn't given the game away, you might have assumed that statement came from the White House or US State Department as a "warning" to Iran, or even to Syria. But no. Elements of Turkish society, not least the military, are demanding more military action against the Kurdish separatist movement, the PKK.
The headline for Boland's story is misleading, since Turkey has been conducting "forays" into Iraq at least since 2005 (see "If this is true...") and who knows for how many years before. It's one of those recurring events that the American media find too insignificant to mention.
What is being threatened here is more on the order of a full-scale invasion—
In the past few months Turkey has amassed up to 100,000 troops along its border with Iraq, and special units are understood to have undertaken several raids across the border to carry out specific strikes against the PKK. A large-scale invasion, however, would require parliamentary approval, and there is no sign that the government is ready to seek this yet.
If the Turkish parliament is anything like the US Congress, authorization for an invasion should be a shoo-in.
The great irony here is that as the US threatens to bomb Iran (the latest excuse being the alleged supplying of arms to Shia factions), the US government, the Iraqi "government" and the Kurdish Regional Government apparently lack the will or means of stopping Kurdish incursions into Turkey. Oh, and into Iran as well, which has its own Kurdish region.1
Here is former ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith's analysis, provided to us by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) —
All parties act as if the Kurds on Qandil were someone else's problem. Iran and Turkey demand that the Iraqi government stop the cross-border attacks. But the Iraqi government has no presence within a hundred miles of Qandil, which is in territory nominally controlled by Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government. For its part, the regional government has neither the stomach to battle fellow Kurds nor the helicopters to reach the remote Qandil base.Concerning the Kurdish problem in Iran he writes—
The United States, on the other hand, has the military power to dislodge both the PKK and the PJAK, but the last thing Washington needs now is to open a new front in the Iraq War. The Bush administration has told Ankara it sympathizes with its concerns but has no resources to strike the PKK. Meanwhile, the Iranians accuse the United States of supporting PJAK, a charge Washington denies.
There is little hope for a settlement with Iran, however. In April 1992, I listened to the Kurdish leader Sadik Sharafkindi outline his hopes for peace with Tehran. But four months later he was shot dead by Iranian agents posing as peace emissaries. To this day, Iran has refused to deal with even moderate Kurds, and the price it pays is growing support for extremists like PJAK.Of course Iran should be encouraged to find diplomatic solutions to their Kurdish problems. But the Bush administration has lost all authority, moral or otherwise, to demand such a dialog, since the Iranians mirror US intransigence in its dealings with the forces in the region.
Seymour Hersh reported in 2004—
Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel’s view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria....
Asked to comment, Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said, “The story is simply untrue and the relevant governments know it’s untrue.” Kurdish officials declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the State Department.
However, a senior C.I.A. official acknowledged in an interview last week that the Israelis were indeed operating in Kurdistan.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Recipe of the Day
Well, I'm a little tuckered out today from the festive celebration I attended last night of Canadian Thanksgiving. Since my hosts were American I thought maybe they were extreme Canadaphiles or at least had a cousin in Waterloo. But it turned out they just love turkey and didn't want to wait until November. Something about a need for tryptophan.
It was totally delicious, and by the end of the main course we raised our glasses in an attempt to sing "O Canada." As it turned out no one knew the words so we ended up making humming noises. Thinking back on it today, I believe the tune I actually hummed was "Love Me Tender."
Our hostess had made a pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin and told the story of her attempt to select the best pumpkin for eating, when the young clerk said in surprise, "I didn't know you could make a pie out of these!" Now get this: Not only was the pie from fresh pumpkin but the crust was of Graham crackers—homemade.
Sorry you couldn't be there.
When my friend called to ask if I could attend their Canadian Thanksgiving dinner, of course I said "Yes" without hesitation. (I've been saying "Yes" to almost anything ever since Nancy Reagan told me to "Just say no.") But I carried with me some ideas of what a traditional Canadian Thankgiving dinner might be like. I was imagining saddle of elk or rack of moose, wondering all the while where they got the moose.
So today I've been thinking about exotic meats and came upon this intriguing recipe at Corrente, which was devised in honor of Tom Delay's resignation back in '06. It's appropriate, however, for any dinner in celebration of a Republican resignation, indictment or conviction—
- Procure one well-fatted Republican.
- Remove the suit, the forked tongue, and the heart. Set aside the heart in case Dick Cheney changes his mind.
- Wash the inner cavity of the Republican, then stuff with golf balls. Close and truss.
- Steep the carcass in corruption until tender or indicted, whichever comes first.
- Secure the Republican to the rotating spit device. Adjust the amount of spin as needed.
- Place an oilpan beneath the Republican to catch the drippings.
- While the Republican is turning, prepare the Orange Jumpsuit sauce.
- When juice runs clear, remove the Republican from heat.
- Slice the Republican into wedges.
- Arrange wedges on a bed of shredded lettuce and garnish with the testicles of centrists. Drizzle with Orange Jumpsuit sauce.
- Serve under the Capitol Dome.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Sinking ships at the Capital Yacht Club
Gary Crooks of Idaho's Spokesman-Review has noticed a strange cluster of yachtsmen at the Washington DC dockside—
Did you know the unsinkable Larry Craig lives on a 42-foot yacht there? At a nearby slip is U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and his 53-footer, according to the New Yorker.
Other floating politicians are U.S. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who is under investigation in a bribery case, and former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who calls a federal prison home after being convicted of bribery. Before they began bunking in federal cells because of bribery, former Reps. Bob Ney and James Traficant also lived on houseboats in the area, according to the New York Times.
One vessel in the area is called the Miss D'Meanor. When Craig was in the House of Representatives, he lived on a houseboat called the Ida Ho.
So what's the name of his yacht? Ida Cock?