The house with the tarp.

Part of the problem with the Wall Street mess is, hardly anyone understands it. I was discussing this — in the sense that “exchanging instant messages” = “discussing” — with my boss last night, two reasonably smart people whose job it is to read the papers, and we both admitted we could just barely get our heads around it. It’s kind of like understanding precisely how large the universe is; just when you think you’ve got it, someone throws another intensifier at you. “Now multiply that by infinity, and that’s the answer.”

And yet, I still regularly come across the Grandpa Simpson explanation of the mortgage meltdown, from people who should know better: “Some dirtbags got in over their heads and didn’t make their house payments.” What a neat trick, shifting blame for a global financial disaster engineered at the very pinnacle of world finance onto the most powerless parties, the ultimate “you wouldn’t have gotten raped if you hadn’t dressed that way” hand-washer. Funny how that absolves a person of all those uncomfortable thoughts the current crisis arouses, the ones that whisper it’s even worse than you think and the people who are supposed to be overseeing this don’t have a clue, either. As long as you can blame some poor person in Cleveland, one’s hands and moral conscience remain clean.

If that’s true, if all the money extracted in second mortgages went for manicures and two-week cruises and cars, we ought to have some very rich manicurists and cruise lines and carmakers in the world, and I don’t see that’s the case.

Here’s a story I heard this weekend, and I can’t vouch for its veracity: On Labor Day, a few of us toured a grand old house in Palmer Woods in Detroit. It belongs to a friend of one of our little moviemaking crew, and he offered it to us as a spooky-mansion set, before restoration work really gets going on it. At one point I looked out a window in back and saw the real spooky mansion, another big house, not as magnificent as the one we were in, but a big solid house that once doubtless housed a well-to-do family. Unlike the one we were in, however, it was beyond salvation. It seemed to have been abandoned in the middle of a complicated renovation project. Tattered blue tarps and Visqueen flapped in the breeze. Particleboard walls had been exposed to the elements for several seasons and were bleached the color of bones. It’s a teardown now, and barely worth that. “Very sad,” said our host, and added that the house was at the center of vigorous fraud — that it had changed hands several times in recent years, each time delivering a tidy sum into the hands of someone, each time never welcoming a single soul who intended to live there. A lot of people had joined hands — buyers, lenders, appraisers — winked at one another, flashed their cufflinks and extracted cash from the house like an ATM.

I didn’t learn the punchline until this weekend, however: “Oh, that’s the old Romney house,” one of my dinner guests said. “When Mitt was campaigning in Michigan, they wanted to hold a fundraiser there, in the house where he grew up. And then they saw it.”

Certainly, that would have been very awkward, holding a GOP fundraiser in a house that stands at a living, tangible monument to what can happen when you turn greedheads loose in the world with no rules, and expect the invisible hand of the market to keep the playing field level, i.e., a very GOP, laissez-faire sort of economic policy.

So while, yes, it’s possible at this point to say the current crisis came from dirtbags not paying their mortgages and have it be technically correct, it’s equally possible to say that isn’t the whole story. Once again, for the best single explanation of the underpinnings of the current crisis, see “The Giant Pool of Money,” which you can download or stream free. (When you get to the part about 23 dead people in Ohio receiving mortgages, it should start to dawn that it’s a bit more complicated.)

And that’s only the beginning. What’s happening this week — the failure of Lehman Brothers, et al, and the bailout of AIG — is several steps beyond that, and sorry, but I can’t explain it, either. If you can, you know where to leave it.

Such excellent bloggage today. This is going around, but it’s too good not to share. Where I come from, this sort of thing is called poetic justice:

He met her in the bar of the swank hotel and invited her to his room. Once there, the woman fixed the drinks and told him to get undressed.

And that, the delegate to the Republican National Convention told police, was the last thing he remembered.

When he awoke, the woman was gone, as was more than $120,000 in money, jewelry and other belongings.

Actually, at this point it’s just called “getting rolled.” This — in which the victim is interviewed several hours before the fateful tumble into the honey trap — is what makes it poetic justice:

Live by the pork sword, die by it, feeb.

Now if we could only arrange the same treatment for the mortgage thieves, we might have ourselves some justice going on.

Have a swell day, all. Remember: Economic education in the comments. We all need it.

Posted at 9:30 am in Current events |

100 responses to “The house with the tarp.”

  1. michaela said on September 17, 2008 at 9:48 am

    I got nothin’ in the way of further education, but will second your recommendation of the This American Life piece. We listened to it in traffic, in the rain, with a cranky toddler in the backseat over the summer and managed to absorb pretty much the whole scenario. Well, well worth the 95 cents to download it.

    On another note, a friend’s recent-college-grad daughter started her new job at AIG on Monday. Wonder how that’s going?

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  2. Dwight said on September 17, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Bullshit. It’s ALL about personal responsibility. A lot-lot-lot of people signed for mortgages they didn’t understand and couldn’t afford.

    That is on THEM. Not the mortgage industry, not Bush. THEM.

    “Personal responsibility.” Learn it, live it. love it.

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  3. 8th grade mom said on September 17, 2008 at 10:02 am

    So did you see that Rick Redfern (the investigative reporter) was downsized (got the axe) today in Doonesbury? Art following life or vice versa?

    I also, find it the economy difficult to understand. I cannot understand why Bears Stearn was allowed to fail, Merrill Lynch was sold, Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail and AIG not. Does anyone but me think that this unfolding mortgage crisis is just in the 2nd wave and that Waves 2 through infinity are merely waiting in the wings ? It seems like every state and pension board must have purchased these securitized (is that even a word?) mortgages and still as them in their portfolio – when is this going to start to hit? What then? If the government isn’t any good at business, why are we spenindng $85 billion (we don’t have) to rescue them? What’s the personal responsibility on the part of Wall Street?

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  4. coozledad said on September 17, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Thank you Dwight. I’ll remember you that way forever, baby.
    You’ve actually given me a greater understanding of the French Revolution.

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  5. john c said on September 17, 2008 at 10:13 am

    The people who took out mortgages they couldn’t afford are accepting personal responsibility for their actions. They’ve lost their homes. It’s the Wall Street Fat Cats who need the lesson.

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  6. Kirk said on September 17, 2008 at 10:20 am

    The thieves, liars and other slime who hornswoggled people into believing they could afford something they couldn’t have a few yards of personal responsibility to take, too.

    Maybe one Lehman Bros.-type big shot, one noose, once a month on TV would help.

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  7. kayak woman said on September 17, 2008 at 10:26 am

    I am having a hard time with the Wall Street brain-wrapping thing too, so no education from me. My uneducated *opinion* is that a lot of people on many levels share the blame here. That includes those who, in many cases, knew they were borrowing more than they could afford to pay back.

    My dad and my grandfather were both small town bankers in Sault Ste. Marie. My dad died a couple years ago and, in the last years of his life, he often repeated a story about helping his dad collect a cow. This would’ve happened in about the late 50s, I guess, and my grandfather was the bank president at the time. The cow was on nearby Sugar Island, which was and still is, only accessible by car ferry. They arranged for some kind of farm truck to take them to the ferry dock, then boarded the ferry on foot. When they got to the island, they walked a mile or so to the farm, collected the cow, and walked it back to the ferry and across to the waiting truck. My dad loved to deliver the totally deadpan punchline, “When you are in the banking business, you can get into all kinds of sh*t.”

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  8. coozledad said on September 17, 2008 at 10:41 am

    The people who wrote these mortgage instruments with the blessing of Bush and his cronies knew damn well they wouldn’t be paid in full. In fact, they were counting on it. Bush is, in fact, on tape touting his plan to put more Americans in homes through “innovations in the home mortgage industry”. I know this because my congressman, Brad Miller (NC13) is on the House Financial Services Committee, and he warned them it would blow up in their fucking faces. Repeatedly. Warned.Them.
    This, like the Iraq War, is another Republican creation they will not accept personal responsibility for. But this one is tattooed all over Phil Gramm’s bald-ass head. You’re going to eat this one, freaks.

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  9. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 17, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Dwight, aside from his cake-eating callousness, is onto this much — McCain was right to keep signaling that the default mode of government is not, cannot be bailouts. I suspect we will see the economic models released over the next few days that show the insurance load AIG carried would have cost the economy more than $85 billion to absorb through liquidation, hence the late call to bailout AIG while letting Lehman fall — not the same cost/benefit ratio.

    But we have to keep some level of risk out in the open (“moral hazard”) or the entire set of mechanisms that allow risk to be dispersed through the stock and bond market, let alone futures and commodities. Financial markets work because they don’t create risk, they manage it (as insurance does on a smaller level for individuals and homeowners). The derivatives and sub-prime crash came because at some point — the books will start coming out in a few months, helping us figure out exactly where that point was — those instruments began creating risk, which then becomes indistinguishable from gambling.

    Commodity trading takes an existing, unavoidable risk — how much corn will hit the market in November? — and allows investors and speculators to spread the risk out and maintain profitability. If no one can lose, then people will make ever more irrational decisions, creating unnecessary risk, which is why the possibility of failure has to be in the equation, at least as an actual potential, driving better (less risky) decisions.

    Which is why full privatization of Social Security continues to be a non-starter, but many say that a risk-opportunity factor needs to be present to get more people to understand their own role in saving for retirement. The impending flood of Boomers with absolutely not one dime saved for retirement (outside of “magic” Social Security) is a big chunk of the weakness in the current economy, and most so-called privatization plans are aimed at getting people to take mental and practical ownership of their own responsibility to do emergency and retirement planning, while maintaining a basic safety net because, hey, that’s what this country oughta be able to do.

    No privatization plan seen in Congress has promoted total stock market individualism, which would be silly. Dex, there are waaay more people than you realize who got totally lied to by mortgage brokers and then signed papers that tie them down to a broken dream. But he and i agree — companies that did that, that created risk out of pure greed — those companies should be allowed to crash. It won’t even be a short-term major problem for the economy; the problem is the artificial home prices that in-betweeners counted on that no longer are the same asset, and won’t be for a decade.

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  10. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 17, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Oh, and don’t forget to check your name —

    Torpedo Vindicator Palin is the best i’ve seen so far, but my wife is fortunate in most ways other than marriage!

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  11. Connie said on September 17, 2008 at 10:47 am

    What I’d like to know is, where did all the real money go, or was there any at all? Who got rich?

    And I am Seagull Junker Palin.

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  12. alex said on September 17, 2008 at 10:54 am

    High-risk lending on homes was really just an extension of what banks were doing already with credit cards and auto loans — charging exorbitant interest to people with imperfect credit histories, and luring them in with promises of low payments at the outset. The banking industry, during Bush, also lobbied for and succeeded at changing the laws to make it next to impossible for people to file for bankruptcy, and without making any exceptions for people who weren’t living high on credit but in fact were in trouble because of job loss or medical bills, the kind of people for which the safety net of bankruptcy was intended.

    People a lot smarter than you have lost their homes, Dwight.

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  13. Joe Kobiela said on September 17, 2008 at 10:58 am

    I believe in the fannie may or freddie mac deal the guy that made the most by inflating earnings and such was the head of Clintons budget committee when ol honest Bill was Pres, and I think his number 2 is heavily into the chosen messiah, Obama’s campaign. Can’t verify this as I caught it on Fox’s news and we all know how they can’t be trusted. I for one will only believe it when that sterling news man Kieth Oberlin and his side kick Chris Matthew report it.
    I crack myself up.
    Old conservative Joe the pilot

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  14. moe99 said on September 17, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Just a minor correction, but it illustrates the inconsistency of the Bush administration: Bear Stearns was rescued, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were rescued, AIG was rescued but Lehman was not. I have no idea why Lehman got left out of the bail out but am cynical enough to think it has to do with how much they gave to the Republicans over the years.

    I started work at the SEC as an enforcement attorney in 1983 and left in 1994 when the Clinton administration closed the Seattle Regional office as part of reinventing government. I am not a financial analyst by training but here is my inexpert take on the situation:

    Since 1983 we have had the following gyrations in the market ( caution in that I am only listing the biggies now): the insider trading scandals in the early part of the Reagan administration involving folks like Ivan Boesky and Michael Milliken. In 1987 we had the market meltdown. In 1999 we had the blow up of the dot com market, and now this. All of these were brought about the conflict between the overwhelming desire to make money juxtaposed against lax regulation/oversight by the regulators.* If you look at the investment market, you will see this is what happens historically–folks are looking for a way to get rich by exploiting the system which can occur if those in charge of the morals either don’t have the tools to do their job or look the other way. Home ownership traditonally was supposed to be different from investment or securities ownership because home ownership is a cornerstone of the American myth in the Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Beautiful Life sort of way. There was a separation between securities and mortgages in terms of how they were regulated and controlled embodied by the Glass Steagall Act, which was repealed by a Republican Congress in 1999 (Phil Gramm was the prime mover but Bill Clinton signed it into law) What happened as a result is that the controls in place got removed and mortgages became the next, big thing in investment. People began to view their homes not just as a place to live for the rest of their lives but as their major investment vehicle. And the protections that had been in place to assure that e.g. home buyers met the financial worthiness to purchase were gone. It was like the residential real estate sector of the economy got turned into Wall Street with all the greed and none of the controls in place. And the homeowners were the base of this but their take was incremental compared to the ones that made money off of them in the fees and the slicing and dicing of the mortages into different tranches and reselling them on the market–essentially mortgages were cut up into complex investment vehicles where the interest payments went one way and the principal payments went elsewhere; they were recombined and resold to generally very large investors as money makers but there was no way to assess the soundness of these new, hybrid investment vehicles, so certain insurance companies either expanded their roles or were created to assure investors of the creditworthiness of the investments. It all grew like topsy, because at the bottom line, there was no there there as to whether these investment vehicles were in fact solid–it became quite the pyramid.

    I know that I am not explaining this very well, but I would urge those who want to know more to go and read back posts by Duncan Black at his Eschaton blog. He cites to folks like Nouriel Roubini who really do look at what was going on in the market, without drinking the kool aid or wearing the rose colored glasses and tell us what was/is going on.

    *I had a case involving the sale of a machine that was said to separate gold from dirt. It worked very well in people’s living rooms because the dirt was finely ground like the gold flakes that were added to it, but in the wild, the energy that had to be expended to get the same consistency cost way more than the gold that could be extracted. But once people had seen this device work, they got ‘gold fever.’ It is real and it is like a virus. The desire to make money can overcome all the constraints society places upon us. I have seen it in real life.

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  15. LAMary said on September 17, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Bang Walmart Palin here.
    Phil “nation of whiners” Gramm, who advises McCain, had so much to do with all this. He clearly couldn’t do it alone, but he did have a lot to do with bringing us Enron, 4.75 per gallon gas, and the current financial meltdown. Let’s just say he was the big thinker behind all this, and people who saw a chance to make fast, big bucks jumped on the bandwagon.

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  16. Gasman said on September 17, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Yeah, when I read your post, I thought of bullshit.

    How convenient that you blame anyone and everyone but those responsible for this mess. The folks who got mortgages who probably shouldn’t have didn’t go into banks with guns drawn and scream “Give me a mortgage or I start blasting!” If these folks shouldn’t have gotten mortgages, it should have been the banking professionals that that recognized that from the start.

    You sound like so many Republicans that simply refuse to accept responsibility for the screw-ups wrought by your party. This mess has the unmistakable stench of the Republican Party all over it. This is what happens when there is zero regulation, when the government is too cozy with industry, and the free market can do whatever it wants.

    The only thing trickling down is the bullshit from on high. The only thing worse than the screw-ups is the absolute and total unwillingness to acknowledge responsibility for your party’s ineptitude and wanton greed.

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  17. alex said on September 17, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Anyone catch Moyers last night? Good discussions of the issues we’re facing all around.

    The bankruptcy law changes and this meltdown are yet two more good reasons why the GOP deserves a time out. Jeff, I do not see how in good conscience you can reward these snakes with your vote.

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  18. Kirk said on September 17, 2008 at 11:36 am

    And I would be Bomb Locomotive Palin

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  19. Danny said on September 17, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Kirk, you weren’t in LA last weekend, were you?

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  20. nancy said on September 17, 2008 at 11:47 am

    And I’m your hostess, Flex Gunship Palin.

    Great conversation today! Have I mentioned lately I love you guys? A round on the house, even for Dwight.

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  21. Kirk said on September 17, 2008 at 11:51 am

    I plead the Fifth.

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  22. Julie Robinson said on September 17, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Taupe Armageddon Palin here. What are the criteria used for the names?

    It’s always been a house of cards, but when it gets too tall it falls down. The rich insiders make their dough, and the rest of us pay for it. The end.

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  23. moe99 said on September 17, 2008 at 11:59 am

    I remember a quote from someone who said about the 1929 stock crash: “when the elevator boys were giving me stock tips, I knew it was time to get out.”

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  24. derwood said on September 17, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Cue Manhunt Palin

    All I can say is…wow.


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  25. Danny said on September 17, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Moe, I think you’re explanation was very good.

    Regarding the lack of a bailout for Lehman, I read an this article yesterday on CNN that said it was because Lehman had about 1/10th of the ability to affect the market that Bear Stearns did.

    Okay, here are some things that I find very troubling and it probably affects both parties:

    1. Phil Gramm and Carly Fiorina are advising McCain. Not good.

    2. Alex is right on about the bankruptcy law changes. I remember when that was passed and signed with very little fanfare and I was thinking: “What just happened and why had I heard nothing of this up until the day it was signed?” Not good.

    3. Apparently McCain was calling for an overhaul of Fannie/Freddie for a couple of years. Word that I read is that Clinton admin were very involved in getting companies to extend loans to folks who had no business getting loans. Also why wasn’t Barnie Frank saying anything about Fannie/Freddie being at risk? Not good.

    4. Why is it that Congress just a few weeks back signed into law that prospective home buyers must show proof of income? I just figured this was a law. I have never gotten even a car loan without showing pay stubbs. Not good.

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  26. Danny said on September 17, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Bowl Antler Palin, here.

    Man, I just LOVE Flex Gunship Palin. What a wonderful name, Nance… er, Flex.

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  27. Howie said on September 17, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Shaver Razorback Palin here.

    Thanks, moe99 for an excellent summary, with blame in the correct places (1999, Republican Congress, Gramm, Clinton). And thanks for an objective tone, the vitriol of partisans can wear a little thin, even when they happen to be right.
    I’ll be sure to check out your references at the end of the post. So we’ve had the Savings and Loan bailout, the Dot Com Bubble, the Mortgage Investment Crisis (coming in waves). In the Obama Presidency, I’ll be wary of the Green Energy Boom and Bust.

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  28. Jenflex said on September 17, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    I think the key issue is confusing “caused” with “triggered” or “set off.” The current crisis may have been “set off” by individuals not paying their mortgages, so it is convenient to blame them.

    However, “cause” is an inherently ambiguous word, and I think that’s the underlying issue. Beyond that which triggered the disaster…the match which lit the forest fire, so to speak…there are the many individuals motivated/blinded by actors like greed and ignorance (is there any more dangerous combination???) who set the “favorable conditions” — the drought in the forest of dead trees.

    I think our beloved hostess is meaning the root causes. Or, to use the Latin, radicalis….

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  29. Mindy said on September 17, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Mole Valdez Palin here. Got me some impressive bifocals, so this kinda fits.

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  30. brian stouder said on September 17, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Uncle Rush just now told me that ‘guhvmint regulation’ is the cause of all this, and we don’t need any more ‘guhvmint regulation’. And he told me that Obama “will be a dictator” (his words!), just before going to a Rush Limbaugh-voiced ad for Lending Tree*(I am not making this up!).

    I propose the immediate and total deregulation of radio broadcasting. If some investors can afford a 500,000 watt broadcast facility, and use it to blows the Blowhard off the air every afternoon, why, that would be unfettered free market cpaitalism, right?

    *I think we might use Kirk’s idea, and string up a few of the more egregious money grabbers (the folks who made $90,000,000 “compensation packages” over 5 or 6 years back in the fat times) from the branches of some suitably stout “Lending Tree”

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  31. Scout said on September 17, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Stinger Assassin here.

    Many of the people I know who got in over their heads did so because they were assured that the value of their homes would keep increasing by the professionals in the industry. They were told that when the “introductory rate” expired they would be able to refi or sell at a profit. That values declined rather than rose is not neccessarily the fault of the real estate/mortgage industry, but it does explain why so many people made such poor choices at the time.

    The fact remains, no matter how badly the righties want to spin it otherwise, that in allowing folks to buy more than they could afford, the banks were making money hand over fist and now that they’re in trouble they want to pretend they had no hand in the inevitable. It’s the same old bad apples story about the rot at the bottom while refusing to acknowledge that the dead fish carcasses on top are what initiated the decay.

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  32. jcburns said on September 17, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    When I saw the headline, I thought you were blogging about our house. But our tarp is safely stowed away, the last of the painting is in progress, and it’s clear we once again have poured, are pouring a chunk of our own money in addition to the insurance money into this shelter around us that we’re supposed to think of, in some contexts, as an investment.

    Home sweet home. It just seems so absurd to think of it as anything but that-which-keeps-the-rain-and-the-heat-at-bay when the economic world spins as it does. I squint at the bricks and fancy insulation and try to turn it mentally into a big pile of retirement cash…but it remains bricks, sheetrock, and foam. More foam than you’d think.

    Oh, crap. Bush Gator Palin.

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  33. paddyo' said on September 17, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Hump Gizzards Palin says there’s a reason for regulation in the lending biz, and that’s the clusterf— that is now upon us all.

    I agree that personal responsibility trumps all. But just as the lendees need to own up to their own inability / cluelessness / instant gratification in getting zero-down, zero-interest, zero-this-and-zero-that loans (except for that pesky small-print, giant-frigging-BALLOON-adjustable-rate-coming-at-ya) . . . then so, too, do the largely unregulated, conniving, greedheadedly beneath-contempt snakes, pimps and pushers who proffered these so-called loans and sloughed off the responsibility on “the system” and government backstops need to take at least equal responsibility.

    Hell, I’d argue that these fraudster-lenders are even MORE personally responsible because they knew better and looked the other way on loan applicants who couldn’t hope to qualify, and yet magically did.
    Meanwhile, those poor, sad — and, yes, irresponsible — schmucks are now renters again after their American Dream Of Owning Your Own Home got whacked like the Galveston coast did by ‘Cane Ike.
    It’s the proverbial plague on both your houses. All your houses.
    Except the houses ain’t theirs anymore . . . and we’re all gonna pay.

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  34. alex said on September 17, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Greetings from Commando Coalfire Palin.

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  35. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 17, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Yah, people defaulting on skanky mortgages did not “cause” anything. Symptom at most, more like an index.

    Alex, i still think McCain will put a hurting on Republicans as much or more than Democrats in the fat, stupid, and compliant department, Congresswise. Fannie/Freddie being a good index of his sincerity in that area. Biden was a key mover in the 2005 Bankruptcy bill that probably helped to build the environment we’re in now for homeowners and credit-dependent folk, and i’m still not convinced Obama has the chops to push the vision that i’m still not convinced he has in the first place.

    All my liberal arts college faculty friends are going on and on and on about how Palin’s not qualified because she’s never been to Europe. I cannot fathom a) how that has picked up such overwhelming currency on the Left, and b) how they cannot see that the more they say that kind of stuff out loud, the more of their fellow citizens, non-passport holding themselves, are made all the more affirming of Palin for exactly that reason.

    And the more i read out of Alaska, the more i see a commish who serves “at the pleasure of the governor” who richly deserved termination, and who has a union steward that was just trying to help him get the best possible settlement, and who now finds himself in the middle of the biggest employment administrative law case in US history. Keep it up, Axelrod. You are just not ready for prime time.

    For those behind in the generator stakes — — Log Justice Palin

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  36. jcburns said on September 17, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Yeah the point: personal responsibility on the consumer side is all well and good.


    Leaving bankers, lenders, insurance weasels, governmental administrators, oil executives, corporate board-sitters, investment bankers, broadcasters, airline operators, drug manufacturers, food processors, medical administrators, , carmakers, waste managers, telcom billionaires, real estate developers and salespeople, politicians in general and, oh yeah, lawyers to their own unregulated consciences, trusting in their own sense of personal responsibility to “do the right thing”?

    How many people think that’s a smart thing to do at this point, after all these excruciating object lessons, year after year?

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  37. LAMary said on September 17, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Taupe Armageddon Palin is the name I really want. I’m so not Bang Walmart.

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  38. LAMary said on September 17, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    If I use my maiden name, I’m Beans Harpoon Palin. That’s a lot better.

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  39. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 17, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Hey, i’m feeling even better about Johnny Mac — The Club for Growth* (cue hairplug jokes here) has fired warning shots over McCain’s bow, but i suspect he will continue full steam ahead, drat the torpedoes:

    “Unfortunately, these two bills do not close the book on Senator McCain’s regulatory indiscretions. Over the years he has voted for a number of other big-government bills. These include:

    * Voted for an amendment that would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to set prices on prescription drugs under Medicare

    * Voted against a bill that would prohibit an increase in CAFE standards

    * Voted for an amendment that would prohibit oil drilling in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska

    * Voted (along with all of his Senate colleagues) in favor of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, an overreaction to corporate malfeasance that imposed heavy financial burdens on companies

    Much like his record on taxes, these terrible votes cast a dark shadow on Senator McCain’s positive votes. His anti-growth votes are exacerbated by his characteristic vociferousness in cases like the Patients’ Bill of Rights and the Climate Stewardship Act. His occasional eagerness to support and encourage increased government regulation suggests a troublesome mistrust of the free market.”

    *noted free market fundamentalists, beloved in anti-tax starve-the-beast quadrants of the right.

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  40. coozledad said on September 17, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I skipped the generator altogether. I’m Rhythm Method Palin. You just know these things, sometimes.

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  41. LAMary said on September 17, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Jeff, I’m sure all those votes are real. I’m also sure he sold his soul to the Bush folks a few years ago. I used to respect him a whole lot more.

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  42. caliban said on September 17, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    How’s everybody feeling about privatizing social security about now? You know, let Lehman Bros. gamble with the future. What could go wrong? AIG’s got your back, at no cost to taxpayers.

    Not long ago, this was the cornerstone of W’s second term legacy, and McCain was his chief legislative cheerleader.

    Biden voted for the morally bankrupt bankruptcy bill, and should be ashamed of himself. As should every single Republican member of Congress, which corrupt bunch voted for it unanimously, and W, who couldn’t wait to sign it with nary a signing statement after Clinton vetoed it twice. What this has to do with the current sinking ship is a little beyond me, and trying to blame the economic wasteland on anybody but greedy and manipulative Republicans, serial deregulators like Phil Gramm (McCain’s Brain) appear to be Oxycontin-based, not reality-based.

    Actually, where this all started was the raging desire to let the Smartest Guys in the Room establish hedgeHog heaven with neither control nor oversight as the 21st Century paradigm for capitalism run amok. True to expectations, they’ve eaten their own. Anybody stupid enough to believe a word out of McCain (R., Keating) on this subject deserves whatever she gets.

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  43. brian stouder said on September 17, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Pipe down, Bang Walmart!

    Ya don’t know Beans!

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  44. alex said on September 17, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Biden’s beholden to the consumer credit industry, which is to Delaware what the energy industry is to Texas, but his involvement in the bankruptcy overhaul hardly excuses the GOP for its unanimous support of it. As for McCain occasionally showing some signs of integrity, he’s done 180s on every one of the above for this campaign, Jeff.

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  45. moe99 said on September 17, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Vise peeper palin

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  46. MichaelG said on September 17, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Muzzle Mammoth Palin. Another group of vics here is the shareholders. But then they’ve been getting abused all along by the corp officer corp.

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  47. Hattie said on September 17, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    I sure got a kick out of that interview with the guy who got rolled by the hooker. It almost makes it up to me for seeing my country fall apart.

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  48. Dorothy said on September 17, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Stockyard Mudslide Palin.

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  49. Stockyard Mudslide Palin said on September 17, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Now it’s official. I’m no longer Dorothy. Just call me Mudslide!! (I’m doin’ the trendy thing and dropping my first name.)

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  50. Danny said on September 17, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Hey, Flex G., Mudslide and everyone, here’s part of an analysis I just read at Motley Fool. They think that taxpayers will get very penny back and then some on the AIG deal:

    The reason is that AIG isn’t insolvent, it’s illiquid. The difference: Someone with $1,000 in debt and $100 in the bank is insolvent; someone with $1,000 in debt and a farm worth $100,000 that’ll take six months to sell is illiquid. With the Fed’s credit facility, AIG will now have the liquidity to start selling assets at a non-fire-sale pace, with the proceeds going first and foremost toward paying off the government’s loan. Knowing that taxpayers’ downside is largely protected surely made Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Paulson’s decision a little easier.

    We’ll see…

    EDIT: I’m changing my name slightly to “Bow Antler Palin.” Makes more sense than “Bowl.”

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  51. LAMary said on September 17, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    “EDIT: I’m changing my name slightly to “Bow Antler Palin.” Makes more sense than “Bowl.”

    It’s better than Bowel Antler Palin.

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  52. ellen said on September 17, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Copper Catfish Palin believes that greed always beats common sense. I read in NYT that Lehman execs were getting up to 60 percent of their compensation in Lehman shares and options. And this after Enron. Does this make them any smarter than the poor folk who bought more house than they could afford? Both sets believed the value of their assets could only rise, despite the Economics 110 lecture that the economy is always cyclical and for every boom there is a crash, it’s just a matter of how hard. Greed is good. Until it’s not.

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  53. Connie said on September 17, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Hey Mudslide! Come on down and I’ll make you one. Sad to say, a Mudslide is one of the few cocktails I know how to make. Amaretto Sour anyone?

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  54. brian stouder said on September 17, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Screaming orgasm for me, please

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  55. Danny said on September 17, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Screaming Orgasm Palin? I just don’t believe that… I think you made that up, Brian.

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  56. Scout said on September 17, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Danny, I think Brian was ordering a cocktail!

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  57. Danny said on September 17, 2008 at 5:24 pm


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  58. MaryC said on September 17, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    I’m Clamp Noodle and I’m disappointed. Not only is it kind of blah but a commenter on another blog got the same name. Is Clamp Noodle the new Jennifer?

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  59. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 17, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    And to think it all began with Brian calling Sarah a “Saucy Cipher.”

    Say, i just tried to make a string of home visits, and i’m here to tell you Newark and Licking County, Ohio is still a flipping disaster area. Utility trucks everywhere, but also streets closed with cable down everywhere, punctuated by massive tree limbs.

    If you are Chainsaw Lube Palin, you can come here a make a fortune. And my son will not go to school for the fourth day tomorrow — i can already tell you that we’re not making plans for the first week of June, because calamity days that number 5 on the school schedule will be used up before we hit October, meaning this year is already looking to go into overtime. I’m just praying for Friday school and a chance to get a little caught up here . . .

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  60. Suzi said on September 17, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Snort! Roller Texas Palin. . . yee haw! Think I’ll join a derby girl club.

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  61. Suzi said on September 17, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Egads! I’m married to Shot Corrugated Palin, is that incest?!

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  62. joodyb said on September 17, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Danny, Fannie-Freddie takeover worked out nice for bondholders. my PIMCO fund actually made money by the end of last week.
    Rock Crane Palin

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  63. Kirk said on September 17, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    A feller I work with turns out to be Creation Schwarzkopf Palin.

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  64. Danny said on September 17, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Wow. Someone or several someones hacked into Sarah Palin’s personal email account. Apparently, they have posted screenshots at gawker.

    I have a feeling that someone or several someones are about to get a major proctological exam from the Secret Service.

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  65. MichaelG said on September 17, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    My car and truck used to be insured by 20th/21st Cent. They were bought out recently by AIG. The deal with AIG being insolvent is that if I get in an accident, AIG has no money to pay me. “Sorry, Mike. It’s a stiff finger for you.” My policy is up at the end of the month. I’m moving to somebody else Friday.

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  66. MichaelG said on September 17, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Tina Fey did an amusing Sarah Palin, but Gina Gershon is to die for.

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  67. Catherine said on September 17, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Speck Backfire Palin here.

    One more dimension on the whole Wall Street mess: Risk. Jeff mentions it above. Some of the newer debt instruments remind me of MBA class projects. Yes, you can get the math to work out so that your risk is close to zero. But that math rests on certain assumptions — like, home prices will go up/remain stable/decrease by 5% a year. If you don’t run the numbers with disaster scenarios, you’ll never see the worst case. Sometimes the MBAs stare a little too hard at the spreadsheets and forget to lift our heads up and look around. Not excusing, just saying.

    And, there is definitely the mortgage-pusher aspect. Friend of mine, whose husband used to buy mortgages, told me an story about how he refused to buy a mortgage taken by someone who obviously wasn’t going to be able to make the payments long term. There were no consequences to him if he bought a bad mortgage — he just didn’t think it was a good thing for the customer. She told the story to illustrate what a good guy he was(and he is) but I was boggled at the whole setup and the pressure on him to just buy ’em and resell ’em, forget the long term.

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  68. Jenflex said on September 17, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Wow! I’m Stag Tunnel Palin, and married to Steam Fangs Palin. (With less than a million Alaskans, we sometimes have to marry our own….)

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  69. alex said on September 17, 2008 at 8:27 pm


    I don’t have sound at work and we’re not supposed to hog up the server watching youtube, so I didn’t get the full effect of the colorful Coloradan earlier. He’s so noxious it’s hard to imagine there’s a hooker who’d suffer him. Whoever she was, I’d say it was money well earned.

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  70. Connie said on September 17, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Alex, my impression was he had no clue it was a hooker, he thought he had picked up a hot chick in the bar.

    And sorry Brian, that drink is not in my limited cocktail repertoire.

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  71. basset said on September 17, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Pistol Tanker Palin here… I do have some experience with the former so maybe it’s not all that far off.

    someone mentioned a 500-thousand-watt radio signal way back up the thread… it’s been done, by WLW in Cincinnati from 1936-39. just by comparison, the max now is 50-thousand, with different and less efficient antennas, and full-power AM stations like, for example, WSM in Nashville, WBBM in Chicago, and WWL in New Orleans can be heard at amazing distances, mainly because their signal reflects off the upper layers of the atmosphere and back down.

    that effect, the “skip,” works only at night… but during the 500kW period WLW was so strong it had a regular daytime audience in Hawaii. and not everyone outside the cities had electricity back then, it wasn’t unusual for farmers to still be using DC battery lights charged by a windmill… WLW put so much radiation into the air around the transmitter that some of the nearby homes’ lights wouldn’t shut off at night, they had to buy RF suppressors (essentially radiation filters) for more than a few farmhouses.

    OK, tangent over…

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  72. basset said on September 17, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    just went back and watched the “plant a flag” guy. I’m surprised the hooker let him live.

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  73. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 17, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Ah, ain’t that America — except it’s Mexican radio (cue Depeche Mode), but with the Carter Family —

    And i can’t recommend the book “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?” too much, in pb by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg. Amazing, riveting book about the roots of popular music going deep into strange and wonderful crevices of American culture.

    I think it was XERA-AM? Google or wiki that. (Checks…) Right, XERA and goat glands. The Denver lawyer may want to look into that one of these days, poor silly tool.

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  74. Linda said on September 17, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Hi! Halter Grasshopper Palin here.

    Dwight, the people who took out the loans were dumb and overoptimistic, and they worked hand-in-hand with mortgage firms and banks to create debt that would never be paid. But the financial crisis was precipitated by taking those terrible loans and bundling them into financial instruments made out of mortgage debt–both good and bad –that were purchased by investors. The small-scale dummies didn’t do that–the pros who should have known better did. And they did it all by themselves. Why aren’t you ripping THEM a new one?

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  75. joodyb said on September 17, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    these names are just killing me! great great entertainment.

    has anyone wondered why the operatives are bigfooting troopergate? don’t they want to clear Polly Purebred’s record in the family scandal?
    also, someone reports on slate that a facebook check shows bristol ref. to herself as bristol palin-johnston today. is the deed done? did i miss?

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  76. alex said on September 17, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    The deed was done ten years ago. They’re only just now solemnizing it.

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  77. brian stouder said on September 17, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Mr Lover Boy seems to have the Elvis Presley-wannabe look going, and all the jewelry only reinforces that impression. Plus, I laughed when he smashed the word “surgical” together with the word “strategic” (arriving at “strategical”) when describing what sort of bombing missions he wants to see carried out in Iran!

    The money quote in the newspaper article was this one:

    “As a single man, I was flattered by the attention of a beautiful woman who introduced herself to me. I used poor judgment.”

    ‘Poor judgement’. As the Proprietress said, poetic indeed, given the man’s stated foreign policy pronouncements!

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  78. Linda said on September 17, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Jeff-I second your endorsement of Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone–a book on country music history, social history of the U.S. and a couple of love stories in the Carter family that could have been made into country songs.

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  79. Dexter said on September 17, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    The absence of regulation is the culprit. Greed in high places caused this mess, as moe99 chronicled earlier here. There is no “do the right thing”, of course, in any department in this administration…it was mere days ago we discussed Interior’s orgies with oil execs that I give here as an example. John McCain’s thirty years in Washington has yielded a record in which he has stood up for big investors and corporations 100% of the time, and he has never done one thing to help any type of “average Joe”.
    Well, you folks have dissected the financial crises…have you heard what’s going on about all this “DRILL BABY DRILL” nonsense? Congresswoman Slaughter (D-NY) explained at great length tonight how the oil companies have no desire or intention of drilling randomly…they have no equipment if they did want to. Yesterday’s legislation , necessary because WBush had lifted the off-shore rules and they are due to expire 9-30, grants offshore drilling priviledges to the big oil companies, but NOT ONE REP even asked Rep. Slaughter one question abut ANY of it…they are not going to drill any more…they want nothing to do with it. They already have 44 million acres leased for exploration, most of it under water, and it’s consistently untouched. So the “DRILL BABY DRILL” story is an empty convention cheering point, nothing else.
    Oh, the Democrats just took away all the Big Oil tax breaks, too. Again, NOT ONE oil executive uttered a peep of disapproval, in the wake of multi-billion dollar quarterly profits.
    Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has already been discussed as a drilling site, but NO OIL COMPANIES have showed any interest in actually going in there and drilling. This was a surprise to me, but I heard Rep. Slaughter say so.

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  80. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 17, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Seriously — on the Carter Family, as fairly and accurately described in “Will You Miss Me…” even aside from the goat glands (who paid the bills for the transmitter in Del Rio): if John Irving did a novel based strictly on the facts as we have them, he’d be accused of going gonzo even beyond “The Fourth Hand.”

    They are an epic narrative, with Johnny Cash their Theseus and the Carter Family Fold their Eleusis.

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  81. Dexter said on September 18, 2008 at 12:09 am

    on the topic of Johnny Cash…this may be his most powerful performance Rusty Cage

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  82. moe99 said on September 18, 2008 at 12:39 am

    Let me weigh in on what I mean by government regulation.

    In general what I want is DISCLOSURE. I want a transparent market so that investors know the risks before they invest. Most people when you talk about government regulation see the big hairy hand of NO coming down, and that’s not what I mean at all.

    I think folks can invest in anything they want as long as the pitfalls are cleanly and clearly spelled out in registration documents and periodic reports filed with the SEC, who I hope to hell, find their cojones one of these days. God, what I would not give to have another Irving Pollack. Now there was an enforcement director.

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  83. ellen said on September 18, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Dexter, I have heard the same from petrochem industry types. There are plenty of potential areas where big oil already has permission to drill, but they have not done so. And why would these companies have any interest in adding surplus to the market and reducing the price of oil? Their shareholders suddenly don’t like dividends? Granting access to unexplored areas means at least 5-10 years (likely more) before any sort of major drilling operation can begin operation. By then the national attention will be focused on a different bright shiny object. It’s a cute chant, just frat-boy risque enough, but it’s a complete red herring.

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  84. Dexter said on September 18, 2008 at 2:23 am

    exactly, ellen, exactly.

    I keep hearing 15 years before a massive new drilling campaign provides enough oil to make even a slight impact on retail gasoline pricing.
    The real kicker is, of course, Big Oil would just sell the new oil to China anyway…who could possibly enforce the Big Oils to channel all the new oil for domestic USA consumption?
    Well, kudos to GM and Chevrolet in particular for making news about the new plug-in hybrid, The Chevy Volt. It’ll still be a while, until then, let us all pledge to only buy four-cylinder cars.

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  85. basset said on September 18, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Four-cylinder Subaru and a bus pass here…

    >>“As a single man, I was flattered by the attention of a beautiful woman who introduced herself to me. I used poor judgment.”

    he’s gotta have a little tiny one. no question.

    about the Carter Family stuff… I would recommend Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin’s “Songs of the Carter Family,” very nicely done and mostly less-known ones, no “Wildwood Flower.” I would also recommend “Heart Songs,” their Utah Phillips collection… actually I would recommend just about anything with their name on it.

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  86. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 18, 2008 at 8:08 am

    Free fun for most of the regulars — — yet i love Anne Lamott’s writing, and here she is getting so wrought up that i’d have to whisper “Dick Cheney” in her ear to calm her down.

    I do not get the reaction to this woman. And i’m out here to tell y’all that it’s not building any support for Obama-Biden in the mushy middle, which is where i spend most of my days wading. It’s creating McCain-Palin supporters and defenders where there had been dissmissive indifference.

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  87. beb said on September 18, 2008 at 8:13 am

    GM has their Volt (“It’s not a hybrid” they claim. It’s an electric car with an on-board generator. Hybrids are gasoline cars with battery assist.) and Ford has their 65 mpg econo car which they will only sell in Europe. Why not in America? Because the car, a compact or sub-compact, will cost $24,000. And it uses a diesel. “Americans don’t buy diesels” we’re told. Also because highways are funded by fuel taxes and trucks cause more damage than cars, there’s more taxes on diesel fuel.

    Some days you just can’t win.

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  88. MichaelG said on September 18, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Ford only sells one Ford car in the US as far as I can tell. That’s the Focus. Everything else is a warmed over Mazda or Volvo. They sell countless different SUVs. Maybe that’s their problem. Maybe Ford should make a car.

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  89. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 18, 2008 at 8:55 am

    I just learned that Philo Farnsworth, at the end of his busy life having already invented TV (boo-yay, depending on your opinion about that), was working with his electron-focusing tubes to make a form of fusion — a fusor — which fellows like Bussard (now deceased) and Rider and Nebel are trying develop in a funky format called a “polywell.”

    And you can’t generate usable power with a Farnsworth Fusor, but you can reach fusion, in your basement, safely. Depending on parts availability, you can do it for $600 to $3,000 (and up, there’s always up).

    So the question is, would the Lovely Wife consider this project acceptable, versus, say, buying a boat as a hobby?

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  90. coozledad said on September 18, 2008 at 9:03 am

    My wife and I were discussing the economic meltdown over a nice dinner last night, and she reminded me that people eligible for good loans were sold bad loans because the mortgage industry was paying higher commissions for the sale of garbage loans.
    Also, the sale of collateralized debt obligations (as moe99 mentioned) in tranches is proving to be the economic equivalent of a black hole. They can’t even figure out where the stuff has gone. The trail of debt has been taken apart and reassembled so many times the people who developed the systems for managing it have thrown up their hands and walked away.
    Goddamned anarchy’s what it is.

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  91. Julie Robinson said on September 18, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Weive been feeling smug because we resisted the siren call of adjustable rates when we refinanced, and got a really low fixed rate. But of course the mortgage was sold later, to WaMu. Can someone more clever than I tell me what that will mean when they go belly-up?

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  92. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 18, 2008 at 9:17 am

    You’ll change the address you send your check to. Mortgages are like cockroaches — they never die, even as everything around them melts down.

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  93. nancy said on September 18, 2008 at 9:19 am

    I think you’re wrong, Jeff. I think, if Julie checks the fine print on her loan papers, she’ll find that she now …[game-show host voice]… owns her house free and clear!

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  94. Connie said on September 18, 2008 at 9:30 am

    I still wonder who has all the money. Some guy on Terri Gross yesterday I only heard a couple of minutes, never got his name, yes I could be a good librarian and go look it up but last night I had to deal with the good Christians trying to get all books on homosexuality topics removed from the public library – for issues of public health? – and I am just not in the mood.

    Anyway the guy who wrote a book and is a law professor specializing in the esoteric subject of financial derivatives, says it was all play money.

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  95. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 18, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Those are not the good Christians. I know they said they are, but i just checked with God and they aren’t. Tell ’em to get in line with the mufti who wants Rushdie’s book out of the library, and he’s got “27,” then shout “9!”

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  96. Stockyard Mudslide Palin said on September 18, 2008 at 9:41 am

    I just had to try my husband’s name. He’s Goalie Sanka Palin. Makes sense since he’s a huge coffee drinker. But Goalie?? Does that make him a hockey dad? **shudder**

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  97. alex said on September 18, 2008 at 10:10 am

    Dang. WaMu sold mine to Chase.

    It was four years ago at this time that I moved from Chicago to Indiana. I paid mostly cash from my previous home’s equity, but took out a small mortgage. The lender tried to browbeat me into borrowing more and borrowing at an adjustable rate — he stopped just short of calling me a fucking idiot for taking a pass on such a magnificent deal and told me he’d have to charge me high interest on my small fixed-rate loan. It’s 6.25%.

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  98. Connie said on September 18, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Thanks Jeff. They do present themselves as representing all right minded Christians.

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  99. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 18, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Right minded or left brained? See, there’s the problem — i’m left-ish handed and right brained, so they must not be speaking for me.


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  100. MichaelG said on September 18, 2008 at 6:22 pm


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