Street justice.

An interesting story in the Wall Street Journal today, about the tough decisions communities are making with their paltry share of the $4 billion Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a congressional grant to help mitigate the disastrous fallout of the foreclosure crisis. “Help” and “mitigate” are pretty ridiculous words, when you consider the extent of the damage and the fact $4 billion doesn’t go very far these days, not when it’s spread across the entire country.

The story focused on Avondale, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, where workers and activists are trying to determine which buildings are worth saving and which are bulldozer bait. One passage jumped out at me:

One house the officials would love to tear down is located in an area of the city that housed migrant farm hands. It’s a blue, wooden, 576-square-foot shack on a bare dirt lot. The owner, according to the city officials, was an unemployed woman with a history of drug abuse. In February 2007, at a time when the house was assessed at $50,100, a finance company gave her a $103,000 second mortgage on the house.

If someone with a keener business sense than mine — that would be, roughly, all of you — can explain why everyone connected with this transaction shouldn’t go to jail, please do so. There’s a picture of the place in the accompanying slide show, although the description does it pretty well — roughly a 20-by-30 shack sitting on bare dirt. This is why the top of my head threatens to pop off when I hear someone say the fix we’re in is the result of irresponsible borrowers getting in over their heads. Irresponsible lenders milking fees out of housing stock that ran dry a generation ago? Healthy profit-seekers getting their piece of the American dream!

In Detroit these guys went house-to-house, ringing doorbells, stuffing brochures in mailboxes, buying billboards, advertising endlessly on local radio and TV. Today there are entire neighborhoods that were hanging in there just a few years ago, poor but stable, now dotted with boarded-up homes and flapping tarps, scrappers circling like jackals. People say there should be consequences. Well, there they are — the consequences. Meanwhile, Angelo Mozilo still has his tanning bed. It’s things like this that make me consider becoming an anarchist.

Elsewhere, Editor & Publisher reports the speculation of a credit-rating firm that says, “several cities could go without a daily print newspaper by 2010.” Among the media firms in trouble are McClatchy and Tribune Co. McClatchy bought Knight Ridder, the chain we used to work for. I sold all my KR stock to buy our house, and Alan sold a little not long after we moved in to buy his boat. What remains is so worthless now that the last time we talked about it, Alan said, “At least I have my boat.”

My sister had a friend who went bust in the dot-com crash in 2001. He told her, “When the stock was high, I sold some and bought a BMW. People told me I was crazy, that I should have hung on and not spent it on such a frivolous purchase. Well, at least I have a BMW now!”

We’ll probably be living on that boat by the end of things. Look for the Mad Max couple with the sulky daughter and elderly dog, washing their clothes on the rocks.

Welcome to Surly Friday! Tapping the deep vein of rage in us all, since roughly an hour ago.

So let’s! Get! Surrrrrrly!

If your kid came to you and said, “Mom, when I grow up I want to be a makeup artist,” what would you say? “No, no, kitten — go to college so you’ll have some real earning power. There’s no money in makeup.” Well, you would be wrong, at least if the makeup artist in question works for Sarah Palin.

Hey, lawyers in the house: What was Clarence Thomas thinking when he cleared the way for the Obama-citizenship dispute to go to a conference of the entire SCOTUS? I’m aware there could be a back story that explains it better than, “because he’s jealous, bitter and crazy, duh,” so let’s hear it. Before we get any surlier.

Unemployment at 6.7 percent! Buy krugerrands! Dump your stock! Get surly!

Or just take to your bed with a sick headache, once you read about the guy who took his fiance out to the romantic Pacific promontory to pop the question, only to watch her get hit by a wave and swept out to sea. Presumably drowned. No kidding.

Actually, I remember reading once about a similar case. There’s a famous news photo of a man being carried into a hospital ER, impaled on a sizable length of wood. We’re talking landscaping-timber size, and it hit him a bullseye, right through the sternum. Only in the picture he’s awake and conscious, seemingly unsurprised that he has a huge chunk of wood sticking out of his chest. The story is, the impalement was a one-in-a-million shot, the timber effectively shoving his vital organs to the side. The stake was removed in a lengthy surgery, and the guy spent most of a year in the hospital recovering. Not long after his release, he was walking along a jetty on Long Island when a wave hit him and took him out to sea, never to be seen again. One is reminded of Faust. While it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the guy in Oregon is lying and he really dumped his girlfriend off a cliff somewhere — that’s just the mood I’m in today — let’s take him at his word and reach the inevitable conclusion: THE WORLD HATES US, AND WE ARE BUT PLAYTHINGS FOR THE GODS. Although I have a dirty house at the moment, and bright sunshine outside, so I’m going to take advantage of actually being able to see the dust bunnies, and go clean them up.

Have a nice day!

Posted at 10:09 am in Current events |
 

75 responses to “Street justice.”

  1. Connie said on December 5, 2008 at 10:18 am

    The swept away by a wave thing was a regular occurrence at the Holland Pier during my younger years, and probably still is. I especially remember when a summer dance was cancelled because half the band got swept off the pier and drowned, a day before the dance.

  2. Snarkworth said on December 5, 2008 at 10:43 am

    It’s things like this that make me consider becoming an anarchist.

    No, Nancy, anarchy allows bullies and thieves free reign. When pushed to the brink by blood-sucking CEOS, you’ll want to sign up as a jacobin. Especially if you have a guillotine and know how to use it.

  3. mark said on December 5, 2008 at 10:46 am

    nancy-

    On Clarence Thomas- the story moe linked to yesterday gave a possible rationale. I don’t stay current on supreme court procedures but, apparently, they would allow the petitioner to seek the same relief from each justice, one at a time, assuming each denies relief in turn. This petitioner almost certainly would do so.

    Thomas, as the first alternative justice after the justice assigned to the circuit from which the appeal arises, could simply deny the petition and allow petitioner to take his next shot with the next justice. By setting it for conference, it can be disposed of completely. Again, this was suggested in the article moe found. If this is true, Thomas is just shortening the process and avoiding a lot of useless paperwork. Filing anything with the Supreme Court takes lots of time and money, including for the party responding (Obama).

    Whether Thomas intended it or not, his action will end the issue more quickly.

    On mortgages- There should be criminal prosecutions. But there is no money. There are so many of these issues out there, and these mortgages all got bundled up, sold, resold, split into tranches, etc. Nobody knows what’s out there.

    If the cost was as low as $100/hr. for prosecutor and private attorney time to sort out who did what, do you think there is enough value in the shack you mentioned to pay the cost of finding the bad guys? I wish we would do it, because the wrongdoing was widespread. But each mortgage is just one spot on a very big iceberg and the list of bad guys is very long: real estate frauds, mortgage brokers, home appraisers and inspectors, mortgage servicing companies, scrap metal thieves, etc. all the way up to big investment houses and elected officials.

  4. Gene said on December 5, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Clarence Thomas likely agreed to bring it to the full court to quash it once and for all. Had Thomas himself declined to hear the case, the guy behind it (Donofrio, I believe his name is) could have gone to another justice and kept wasting everyone’s time. Thomas is the second Supreme to have this birth certificate case fall on his desk.

  5. LA Mary said on December 5, 2008 at 10:54 am

    I have a neighbor who was the makeup artist for one of the stars of “Friends.” She seemed to be making a buttload of money at the time. Now she does commercials and fashion shoots, and she’s driving a Lexus hybrid SUV, has a horse, and appears to take a lot of nice vacations. There’s money in makeup, but I think the well paid gigs are rare.

  6. moe99 said on December 5, 2008 at 10:56 am

    The one other explanation of Thomas’ behavior that I came up with yesterday is that Thomas, as an African American, may have been sensitive to charges of bias, if he failed to refer the matter to the full court. But I rather prefer the gotcha explanation. I understand from Court gossip that Thomas is a bitter man with a chip on his sholder even now, all these years after his nomination debacle. Although it was good to publicly raise the issue of on the job harassment–it was a teachable moment for many–Thomas should have been voted down because he was not a lawyer of the caliber that would make a good Supreme Court justice. But, of course, no one had the guts to say that out loud.

  7. nancy said on December 5, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Mark, when you boil it down that way — attorney time vs. value of the house — of course it makes no sense. But as my GOP friends always say when we talk about capital punishment, society has a right to seek justice.

    One of my former newspaper employers used to deal with frivolous lawsuits thusly: Total up what it would cost to pay all the lawyers, etc. against what it would take to get the complainant to go away. And guess what? They got sued a lot. So they hired a new lawyer, who took every one very seriously. Didn’t take long before word got out, and the lawyer had a lot less to do.

    I don’t know who should swing for this, but presumably at some point someone laid actual human eyeballs on this property, or the mortgage application, and said, “Sure, $103,000 sounds about right.” Start with him or her, and work your way up the chain.

  8. brian stouder said on December 5, 2008 at 11:00 am

    See – here’s the problem: all y’all are thinkin’ too much.

    Slip your brain into cruise-control, and it can all be so much easier to comprehend.

    Housing crisis/credit crash/economic turmoil? It’s ALL Obama/ACORN/congressional Democrats’ fault!!

    Auto industry collapse? That’s Obama/congressional Democrats (for the CAFE standards that “ruined” the business…somehow!) – and for liberals in state governments across the land that require child-restraint car seats (which force you into larger cars, doncha know?)

    I heard a (darkly humorous) caller to the Rush Limbaugh show make that ridiculous point yesterday. Uncle Rush was ready to cut her off when she blamed the current crisis on “them”; he thought the “them” she was attacking were the auto execs, until she clarified and defined “them” as the aforementioned state government safety regulators.

    Uncle Rush and sh*t-for-brains cousin Sean go to great lengths to blame even the Dow Jones plunge on Obama. Clarence Thomas just assured himself of a footnote in the history that will be written about these days

    (Pam watched Uncle Rush on Baba Wawa last night. I skipped it, but she tells me that Baba whacked him pretty good. It may be worth listening to him whine about it today….or not)

  9. garmoore said on December 5, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Mark – I think you’re right as to what may be going on with the Clarence Thomas action. Rule 22 of the Supreme Court rules, which deals with rulings by a single justice, authorizes going to the next justice junior to the circuit justice “if the circuit justice is not available,” then down in seniority to the junior justice followed by the Chief Justice. It would make sense that someone at the Court realized that this is not going to stop without everyone having their time taken up by this action, so why not simply schedule it for conference and get all nine to rule at once? For the irrational, and demonstrably persistent, petitioner, this may be a practical way to put this matter to bed once and for all.

  10. Gasman said on December 5, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Let’s see, during the recent campaign, a certain vice presidential candidate spent:
    Clothes & accessories $180,000
    Hair & makeup $110,000

    Total $290,000

    The candidate in question was only on the scene for about three months. By my math, to cover the cost of all those vital necessities, that works out to $3,222.22 per day!

    If we allow a 12 hour workday for this candidate, the total is $268.52 per hour of campaign work. Will somebody please explain why this candidate should or should ever have been taken seriously by anybody, for any reason? If folks were pissed because of the seemingly arrogant decadence for the Big Chiefs from the Big Three automakers, shouldn’t we be foaming at the mouth over this candidate’s obscene penchant for living large on someone else’s dime?

    Can’t we just set her adrift on an ice floe already?

  11. nancy said on December 5, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Agreed on Thomas. The story Moe linked to yesterday didn’t make that clear.

  12. Jeff Borden said on December 5, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I don’t know why we’re surprised that the poor are being blamed for the housing and credit crisis. The poor never, ever catch a break. Whether it’s a natural disaster like a hurricane or a twister, an economic tumble like a deep recession or depression or an allocation of limited resources from cash-strapped public institutions, our poorest citizens always take it in the ear. Hard.

    In the summer of 1995 (I think), Chicago sweltered for several days in temperatures that topped 100 degrees. More than 700 Chicagoans died from the heat. I’ll give you three guesses as to which neighborhoods recorded all these deaths. Hint: Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast were not among them.

    This mess has many creators. Sure, some of the blame should fall on those who recklessly sought out these risky mortgages. But this blanket indictment of the poor and, specifically, the enacting of the Community Renewal Act as the alleged catalyst, is disgusting.

  13. moe99 said on December 5, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Another acquaintance of mine made the point that the Detroit bailout vs. the bank bailout pits the blue collar vs. the white collar workers. Guess which one is getting a more sympathetic ear from Congress?

  14. coozledad said on December 5, 2008 at 11:28 am

    It looks like the Federal government might also have to start insuring the endowments of colleges and universities.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122832139322576023.html
    I wonder how long it will take us to get to the place you can’t find two dimes to rub together.

  15. mark said on December 5, 2008 at 11:34 am

    nancy-

    I would love to see that happen. I made my efforts several years ago, with no success.

    Legal services asked me to help a lady named Ruby, a 73 year-old widow living on Oliver Street. Ruby was the victim of the aluminum siding scam with a new twist.

    Pre-scam Ruby had a tidy little home worth maybe 20K and social security survivor benefits as her only income. She owed about 2K on a mortgage and 6K on an auto loan at 7%. Post-scam, Ruby had a half-sided home worth maybe 20K minus the cost of completing the siding and a 29K mortgage at 12% for 30 years.

    The new twist to an old scam was the siding man was also a mortgage broker. Ruby signed lots of papers, though she can barely see and had maybe a seventh grade education.

    The loan documentation showed an appraisal of $35K and a false income of 30K+ for Ruby. No actual appraisal was ever found. The closing statement showed disbursements of 2K and 6K for the old mortgage and the car loan, plus 16K for the siding and more than 3K for mortgage brokerage fees. This was in addition to the 2.5K in kickback brokerage fees paid by the lender because the broker put her in a higher interest rate mortgage than she could have qualified for given her (admittedly bogus) loan application.

    There were 7 other attorneys representing 9 other homeowners with similar situations involving the same siding guy and a total of three lenders. Eight motivated pro bono attorneys can get a lot done when they want to. We sued like crazy and generally raised a ruckus.

    Very quickly the lenders agreed to simply forgive the loans. it was much cheaper than fighting us. In the case of Ruby, she came out ahead because the cost of completing the siding was far less than the value of payment of her old mortgage and car loan.

    After settlement we took our information to the local prosecutor. There was no interest. it was a civil matter. It had been resolved and there was no longer a victim. The complainant should be the lenders.

    We took the information to the lenders. No interest. The loans were written off and closed.

    I’m happy for Ruby and the others, but the experience was an eye-opener for what was going on with mortgages even 10 years ago. And nobody cared. Lots and lots of money was being made even after allowing for defaults and litigation.

    Sorry to take up so much space but this issue has been dear to me for years. And btw, if all your Republican friends favor capital punishment, you need more Republican friends. Lots of us oppose it.

  16. nancy said on December 5, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Mark, good on you for trying. That scam is very common around here — quit-claim deeds slipped into stacks of documents being signed by elderly person, etc. It almost makes you hope for a vengeful God.

  17. Jolene said on December 5, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Here’s an excerpt from a WaPo web chat w/ David Broder going on right now. Broder’s response is lame, but I got a kick out of the way the chatter referred to the affiliations of Sens. Shelby and Corker.

    Boston: As a financial analyst, I am not allowed to go on TV or be quoted in a paper without disclosing conflicts of interest.

    However, on a daily basis I see and hear Sen. Shelby (R- Mercedes SUV), Sen. Corker (R-Nissan Pathfinder), and others with very big stakes in our auto bailout talks being allowed to spin their side of the story without any mention of their conflicts.

    As a reader/viewer I know the bias that an official from Michigan brings to the table. Why do the other guys get off scot-free?

    David S. Broder: You make a good point about the senators from states which have attracted large investments from foreign car companies. But it’s commonplace for senators to reflect home-state interests without ever acknowledging that.

  18. Danny said on December 5, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Nancy, the swept-out-to-sea and scattering-ashes threads reach a convergence here. This is the story of a Chargers’ coach who’s ex-wife committed suicide right after the Chargers won the AFC Championship game in 1995. The adult children went to scatter their mother’s ashes in the Pacific and were swept away by a wave. The daughter, 32, drowned. The son, 23, survived, barely.

    Odd thing is, the ex-wife was supposedly depressed that she would not be going with the father of her children to attend the Superbowl. Had she known how badly the Chargers would be spanked by the 49ers, she may still be alive.

  19. LA Mary said on December 5, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Did you see Jon Stewart explaining why we should bailout the auto manufacturers? He summed it up nicely.

  20. del said on December 5, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Nancy, how ’bout some workout music? What better place than here? What better time than now?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JSBhI_0at0

  21. Dexter said on December 5, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    TRUtv immediately shook out the numbers and came up with a minimum of 7 1/2 years incarceration for you-know-who.

    However, by the time it hit print-news, OJ got another 18 months…this blurb from The Times: “…was sentenced Friday to a minimum of nine years in prison.”

    Not being a lawyer, when Judge Glass said “15 years fixed term for…” I jumped off my chair. I originally missed the part where she clarified he would only be bound to serve 5 of those years. Other sentencing , almost of it concurrent with the previous counts, give us the 7 1/2 or nine years figures.

  22. Jolene said on December 5, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    MSNBC and the WaPo are both saying a minimum of nine years, Dexter.

  23. Catherine said on December 5, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    There might actually be a vengeful God — OJ’s finally going away!

    And on the Sarah P makeup thing: All that money and they still couldn’t get her to give up those earrings shaped like Alaska? Michelle would NEVER wear Illinois earrings!

  24. moe99 said on December 5, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    del, some of the photos in that video still resonate but the equation of Bush w/ Gore is truly wrong as proven by subsequent events, and dated. Music’s not bad tho….

  25. LA Mary said on December 5, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Thanks for figuring out what those earrings are, Catherine. I was looking at them wondering what was going on. I think some Hawaii earrings would be nice. You need five holes in each ear, but still…

  26. Jeff Borden said on December 5, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Hey now! What’s with all the snark about the $180,000 makeover for our favorite Hockey Mom? Don’t you liberal elitists know this is actually what the average hockey mom spends on clothes, hair and makeup every two months? Maybe you would if you lived in the “real America.”

    Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving. Or, perhaps more accurately, taking. How is this spotlight addict going to adjust to life as the governor of a state so far from the glare of the national stage?

  27. mark said on December 5, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    jeff-

    Last I looked, Palin is still overwhelmingly popular in her state, still a leading contender in the GOP if she wants to be, getting a lot of credit for the margin of victory in the GOP Georgia win, still married to a nice, hard working, good-looking guy, still has a beautiful, healthy family, still has her looks, her parents, her health and her job, and is currently commanding 30K to 50K for speaking gigs and negotiating a 5 million plus book deal.

    I sincerely hope life is treating you and yours so well.

  28. moe99 said on December 5, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    You will all be glad to know that the atheist sign posted next to the Nativity and hannukah displays in the State Capitol in Olympia, has been recovered the day after it was stolen and will be going back up (whatever happened to “thou shalt not steal”?) and that a Festivus display will now also be put up, this by a private citizen.

  29. Gasman said on December 5, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    mark,
    I sincerely hope that you and other like minded souls are able maintain such a chirpy attitude toward Sarah Palin. I would be quite content if she were the Republican nominee for president come 2012. She is this liberal’s dream Republican candidate.

    As to her usefulness in electing Chambliss, that is not so clear. I think that many Rs tend to confuse the hyped up base at Republican rallies that Palin attends as evidence of her political viability. She’s very popular with a very narrow segment. That segment is unlikely to sway a national election anytime soon. However, please do all you can to support her candidacy. I’d even send a small contribution in support.

  30. brian stouder said on December 5, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    a Festivus display will now also be put up, this by a private citizen.

    …for the rest of us

  31. LA Mary said on December 5, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Mark, I think the Dem voters not coming out in the numbers they did on election day when Obama was on the ticket may have had more to do with Chambliss getting reelected than the simple Jane Winebox Hockey mom did.
    Also, being good looking, having a good looking husband, and being popular are all very nice things. God help us if she became president, though. She is uninformed and finds nothing wrong with that.

  32. joodyb said on December 5, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    i just love it when you channel Jim Cramer.

  33. mark said on December 5, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    gasman and LA mary-

    good points all, although my early backing goes with Jindahl of LA. I want him to be the first to break the “candidates weighing less than 130 pounds dripping wet ceiling.” Kucinich keeps trying but hasn’t gotten close enough to even give it a good whack.

    I’m just guessing that Palin sleeps well at night, and I have no reason to want things to be otherwise.

  34. Rana said on December 5, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    I posted this already at Lance Mannion’s blog, but it seems germane to the conversation here, so I’ll beg your indulgence to quote myself:

    This does seem to be the season for screwing over small, local, domestic producers… it’s not just the automakers who are facing a doubtful future while the work moves overseas. There’s a law that goes into effect February 10th that mandates end-product testing for goods that may be used by children. It sounds like a good thing, especially in the wake of the scandals issuing from China, but here’s the thing:

    It requires a new test for each component – even if previously tested by the maker of that component – that goes into a new product. And this obligation applies to each new product line.

    In practice, what this means is that if a small craftswoman is making stuffed animals to sell on Etsy or eBay, she has to pay for a test on each part of each new animal that is not 100% identical to previously tested ones. That means a test for the plastic eyes, a test for the thread, a test for each of the kinds of fabric that goes into it, a test for the stuffing. It doesn’t matter if the manufacturers of eyes, thread, fabric and stuffing already tested them; she has to re-test them, because they are going into a new product. If she makes a red elephant and tests it, then a blue elephant or a red giraffe, she needs to test again, because they are different products.

    And each test runs $100-$200. So a person selling unique handmade toys that use $20 of materials and sell for $40 dollars is going to have to pay several hundreds of dollars in testing in order to comply with this law.

    Worse, any items that were made prior to Feb. 10th must also undergo such testing, if the person wishes to sell them after that date.

    It’s that bad; people on Etsy who make a living at this are freaking out in major ways, as are other small manufacturers of things like children’s science kits. Large manufacturers aren’t thrilled either, but they can weather the expenses more easily, due to greater capital resources and larger product lines.

    Meanwhile, funding to the FDA and for inspecting containers at the ports – in other words, checking the products that are from known violators – is severely lacking.

    For more info, see here, here, and here.

  35. LA Mary said on December 5, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    I’m sure she sleeps well. No worries.

  36. Gasman said on December 5, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    mark,
    I will agree with you that Jindahl is a better choice. He at least has shown a capacity for measurable cerebral activity. Kucinich, physical lightweight that he is, was my first choice among the Ds this last election. However, I knew that he stood a snowball’s chance of getting nominated, let alone elected. He has been tagged as too liberal and flaky, but damned if he hasn’t been 100% spot on concerning his views on the war in Iraq. I’d love to see Obama use him in some capacity. Not much representation on the ultra liberal side in his administration yet.

  37. mark said on December 5, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    gasman-

    I like Kucinich a lot, even if I wouldn’t vote for him. I think his views are well-developed, intellectually consistent and honestly held. I love him as a commentator and, to his detriment, he got more play in that venue than on the campaign trail. He adds to the discussion at a time when most politicians prefer to manage it.

    But unless his metabolism holds…Jindahl will be the champion of the morbidly slender.

  38. MarkH said on December 5, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Imagine this, if you can, people: Instead of the hip-shot choice of Palin when it became clear the far right would not tolerate Lieberman as VP choice, McCain took Jindal. Less time in politics than Sarah, but more on a national level. Ethnic alternative vs. gender alternative providing a different dynamic against Obama, as opposed to alt-Hillary. Most intelligent, politically aware, shows a great temperment; I mean, can you imagine the debate vs. Biden? Instead of a sideshow waiting for Palin to implode, real substantive debate with candidates more equally matched. Biden would have been tap-dancing for certain. I blame McCain’s poor judgement in the Palin choice for his defeat. Once she showed her true self (after about 48 hours), it more allowed Obama’s clear message focus to come through and convince independents and undecideds. He could have done far worse than Jindal, and hey, he proved it!

    BTW, don’t hold your breath waiting for the same old Palin in 2 – 4 years. Handlers will descend and convince her of the value of a complete political make-over, that is, education, awareness which wil make her a truly appealing candidate. Likely not president to be sure, but the senate looms. In any case, she’s a political animal and she ain’t going away.

  39. Jolene said on December 5, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Although Palin seems to have drawn crowds in Georgia, I can’t imagine that the outcome would have been much different if she had stayed in Alaska. What’s surprising is not that a conservative Republican eventually won, but that, in the initial go-round, he almost lost.

    Elections are mostly won and lost on fundamentals—voter registration, for instance. We only need to worry about the influence of individuals when something unusual happens, such as when the presence of Barack Obama on the ballot alters traditional turnout patterns.

  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 5, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    What mark said on GOPers and death penalty (and Our Sarah).

    To cheer up, whatever your affiliation, come to Granville OH tomorrow afternoon and evening. It’s as close as you’re gonna get to Hogsmead. Plus, you can help support cool stuff like this — http://www.newarkadvocate.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008812030373

    Everybody happy now? See you by the wassail bowl tomorrow night . . .

  41. Jolene said on December 5, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Check out this headline:

    Poll Suggests Wave of Humanity Will Crush D.C. to Rubble

    How’s that for something to look forward to?

  42. alex said on December 5, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    Don’t have a link handy for it and too lazy to look, but today read a piece by right-wing kook Michael Medved, in which for once he actually made some sense. He said that right-wing punditry is ruining the GOP by making it appear to be the party of the most paranoid and gullible five percent of the population and by encouraging all this yapping about RINOs, which alienates the broader public the party needs if it expects to win.

    He’s right. Lifelong Republicans told me this year that it was quite evident to them McCain and Palin weren’t interested in their votes.

    Jesse Jackson used to be the kind of spoiler Dem candidate that Sarah Palin will be for the GOP in 2012. She’ll corral the base and then demand the nominee lick her ass in exchange for an endorsement, and in turn will stigmatize the party for a generation.

  43. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 5, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Snag a copy of one of my very favorite books of any sort of all time, “Paul Revere and the World He Lived In” by Esther Forbes, and compare the revolutionary conservatism of Paul Revere to the radical conservatism of Sam Adams. Paul was a “every Sabbath” church goer, but you find very little of “God did,” “God said,” or “God demands,” let alone “God requires” in his writings and letters, whether of public policy or personal notes on the death of family members.

    Sam Adams was tediously consistent on making the same points Revere usually made, but using God as a sock puppet for his interests. Meanwhile, Adams’ own behavior was fairly indistinguishable from general society, while Revere worked tirelessly and at great personal expense for the mentally ill (ok, they said “feeble minded” in the early 1800’s), the poor and homeless in Boston, and for openness and transparency in government.

    In the phrase i’ve liked and borrowed from Brother Maynard on the internet, “Live your faith, share your life.” Theocons would do well to emulate Paul Revere more than Sam Adams.

  44. Rana said on December 5, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    He’s right. Lifelong Republicans told me this year that it was quite evident to them McCain and Palin weren’t interested in their votes.

    Alex, this is very true – my father left the Republican party when Bush Jr. ran, is now an independent who was disgusted by Palin and proud to vote for Obama, and gleefully enjoys tweaking his cousins still in the party with jokes about how they should now “kiss his [Democratic] ass.”

    It’s not unlike what happened when the NRA moved from defending hunters’ right to own rifles and shotguns, to advocating the removal of all restrictions on semi-automatic and automatic handguns – my father (with whom my liberal hippie college self had many arguments about politics, esp. taxes and welfare) got completely fed up with what he saw as an abandonment of common sense. It was a classic case of “I didn’t leave the party; the party left me.”

  45. moe99 said on December 5, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    B.b.b.b.but Sarah Palin and her family are soo good looking!!

    Gah. As if that had anything to do about how to competently run a government.

  46. Jolene said on December 5, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    The Republicans may find themselves in a position much like that of the car guys. That is, they’ve lost big chunks of the population (voters under 30, Hispanics, college-educated voters, single women) this time, and, unless Obama screws up massively, those folks are not likely to go shopping at the Republican store the next time they’re in the market for a new president.

  47. Gasman said on December 6, 2008 at 12:54 am

    The Great White Hype that is Governor Sarah Palin has yet even more ethical lapses:

    http://www.adn.com/sarah-palin/story/611015.html

    I love the line from Palin’s spokesman Bill McAllister who “said that he could not explain the timing of when and how they were caught, but that it was irrelevant because the error was corrected.”

    So, let me get this straight. As long as the error is eventually corrected, it obviates any previous wrong?

    “That whole legacy of 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation doesn’t matter anymore because we corrected it.”

    As to Palin’s popularity in Alaska, it is not anywhere near the stratospheric levels that it was this Spring. As of a month ago, she had lost approximately 50% of her popularity in a matter of about 3 or 4 months:

    http://newsminer.com/news/2008/oct/30/palin-sees-dip-popularity-alaska-rest-nation/

    That’s an impressive rate of descent. I’m willing to bet that with the continuous revelations about her seemingly unending series of ethical lapses, her popularity is not going to rise anytime soon.

    I heard recently that if oil dropped below $50/barrel that Alaska’s budget would be shot to hell. As of today, it closed at $41.74/barrel. Given Governor Palin’s lack of financial acumen, what chance do think she has of steering her state away from the very big financial rocks looming ahead?

    She’s not much more than a very expensive empty designer suit. She came into office while the state was awash in money from high oil prices. She could afford to be merely cute and flirtatious. Now that things are falling apart, what will she do? If she can’t provide some genuine leadership soon, she won’t be able to bat her eyelashes and “get back to ya’ on that one.”

  48. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 6, 2008 at 9:00 am

    It’s a fine time for a third party to take a run at building a regional base, and then work through the growing pains of national competition — if the Reform Party hadn’t been a one man show, it could have started something over a couple election cycles, but devolved into farce with Pat Buchanan and John Hagelin. The Libertarian Party lived down to their stereotypes with the appalling Bob Barr, further limiting their ability to present an appealing alternative to the country.

    The Republican Party began in the 1850s as a regional response to Whig irrelevancy. Today, i think the question of which of the two is the next Whig Party will be determined by which stances a new third party uses to build a consensus, and how the two major parties react. Yes, i still think the Democratic Party is as vulnerable to collapse and extinction as the GOP — in many ways, the Democratic Party didn’t win the election, Obama/Axelrod did. If you doubt that, consider the first raft of cabinet appointments.

    If the Democratic Party rallies strongly around Obama-centrism and whatever signature left issues he chooses to foreground, and the hypothetical new party can find a set of issues to layer around protecting national borders (security and controlling immigration) and reducing expenditures in ways that make sense to older voters, the Republican Party could crater quickly.

    But if Obama chooses issues that leave interest groups out that can effectively agitate against their exclusion in national media, and a higher tax/increased protectionism/union-centric Congressional presence becomes an internal counterparty on the Hill, then a third party that taps into a centrist vibe of “social responsibility goes both ways, with gov’t creating opportunities & protecting the vulnerable, while helping everyone compete in the global economy” could be a cleaver that chops big hunks of the DNC into bits while other fragments fall into marginal Greenish McKinney and Kucinich camps.

    And the Republican Party will tend to redefine into the gaps left uncovered. Like evangelical Christians on marriage and family, they’ve earned their way into irrelevancy on “reducing spending & reducing taxes,” but someone somehow is going to be able to claim that ground — when middle class total tax burdens grow north of 40%, 50% is going to be a line many ostensibly liberal, college-educated Americans are going to say “i’m not crossing that line, and who will stand with me?” If the GOP can’t figure out how to repent and reframe themselves on that ground, someone else will stand on it — but it’s the electoral high ground, so it won’t be vacant very long.

  49. alex said on December 6, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Off topic, but I’m sitting here right now watching nuthatches playing in my Christmas wreath outside the front door. If you could put this scene on a greeting card, people would surely insist that it had to have been Photoshopped. Alas, my digital camera has gone kaput. The viewer now looks like a bunch of purple static and if you snap a picture, purple static is all you get. Or just blackness.

  50. caliban said on December 6, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Nuthatches and a wreath is a most soothing image. Our feral peacocks (wherever they came from) make my day.

    When things come to federal money, why doesn’t anybody bitch about the Bushco obsession with keeping the Raygun SDI obsession alive?

    Thesetests are shams designed to succeed. They send up sitting ducks, and they’ve missed more than half of them. “Countermeasures are very difficult to deploy” actually means if counter measures are deployed we don’t hit anything but Dickless Cheney’s lawyer. And no amount of cash paid to Raytheon could have prevented that near tragedy. Moron with a shotgun and a couple brewskis jacking his meds.

    Remember the glorious success story from the HW years about how the Patriot missles were 90% effective? Well, Patriot missle system
    weremnt as it turned out. More like 10%.
     
    Of course, North Korea is a poor choice for a partner in a new cold war. They don’t have missles that go any farther than half-way across the Sea of Japan. And the $100 billion figure is a lie. They’ve spent closer to half a $trillion, and committed to nearly a $trillion. That money could have been useful in the rust belt in general and in Detroit in particular.
     
    Michael Bean had it right:
     
    I don’t think there are any Russians
    And there ain’t no yanks
    Just corporate criminals
    Playing with tanks
     
    But in this case, the tanks are rockets, and the cost plus the stupidity is astounding. I always heard the last line as ‘and renegade banks’. Ya ya ya ya ya ya ya.

  51. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 6, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Caliban, of course you have feral peacocks.

    I’m just going to use my I-magine Image Viewer & NeuroPhotoShop metalinguistic programming and just visualize Alex’s nuthatches . . . oooo, cool! Thanks for the picture, Alex.

    Warning to diabetics: do not come to the village of Granville, OH right now. The four corners of downtown can induce sugar shock simply by looking at it. Sweetness on steroids, dusted with confectioner’s snow.

  52. MichaelG said on December 6, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Quickies:

    Lance has an excellent take on the auto industry bail out. Nancy has the link on her blog roll. It’s the current post.

    Caliban is absolutely right about the starwars boondoggle. Feral peacocks are a horror I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

    How much money are we giving to agribusiness every year? To the oil companies in the form of tax breaks and incentives?

  53. alex said on December 6, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Rana, what you said with regard to the NRA reminds me of what happened with unions to the detriment of the left. They began as something benign, but with the accrual of power over time they became absurd and ultimately irrelevant. Same’s true of the pro-life movement, which won’t contemplate such obvious methods for alleviating demand for abortion as encouraging sex education and birth control, and now has inserted itself into the realm of medical science to prevent stem cell research, much to the consternation of many who might otherwise have some sympathy for their cause.

    The gay movement, once it obtains universally basic rights for its constituents such as fairness in jobs and housing and marriage/probate, will likely become an absurd parody of itself as well. The religious right fantasizes that we’ll want to seize their churches and schools and force sexuality on the sexless. No, we’ll probably just field spoiler candidates who promise such things as lifetime benefits for treating post-traumatic stress disorder and make the Dem nominees lick their asses.

  54. Catherine said on December 6, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Alex, do you think you could put a webcam on your nuthatches? It might be the next puppy webcam — plus it’s seasonal!

  55. Catherine said on December 6, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    It probably goes without saying, but: No feral peacock webcams, please. We get plenty of them around here. Truly a scourge.

  56. Rana said on December 6, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I adore nuthatches. If you are willing to stand perfectly still for about a minute, arm outstretched, you can get them to take a sunflower seed from your hand.

    On feral peacocks – the friends I mentioned in comments on coozledad’s blog w/regard to a burro and a goat also had several peacocks roaming about their rural property. One was particularly obnoxious, and ended up as the centerpiece of a meal as a result. It was tasty, but rather tough.

  57. brian stouder said on December 6, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    in many ways, the Democratic Party didn’t win the election, Obama/Axelrod did. If you doubt that, consider the first raft of cabinet appointments.

    poppycock.

    Recall that the Obama-less Democrats also whacked the Republicans in the 2006 congressional elections, after the all-powerful Republican administration and congress had turned in ROCK-ASSED BOTTOM performances on fiscal policy and national defense, responding to 9/11 with war in Iraq and Afghanistan plus tax cuts!!! and then making an absolute hash of Iraq, and flatly failing Americans in New Orleans and the gulf coast after Katrina

    But I suppose if the metric is simply “in many ways” the Democratic party didn’t win, so much as the Republican part lost, then I guess I agree (although we are then into the land of distinctions without differences).

    As for regional parties, that is precisely the defacto status of the Republican party, right now.

    Just finished Allen Guelzo’s book about the Lincoln Douglas debates in Illinois in 1858, and a fascinating undercurrent in the narrative concerns the cross-currents and complications revolving around people who were Whigs or Douglas Democrats or Buchanan Democrats or Republicans or Know Nothings…quite a swirl, especially when Republicans such Lincoln had to appeal to old Whigs (mostly in the center of the state) and Buchanan Democrats (who were at war with the Douglas Democrats…talk about your president actively pushing a political agenda in firings and patronage!)…quite often the hand bills and so on would not actually refer to these Republican candidates for the state house as “Republicans” at all! – very like how Republicans ran in many races this year.

    By way of saying – I agree that Henry Perot tapped into a potentiality existed in 1992; a pent-up disatisfaction with the two parties….and the Obama campaign main-streamed the same sort of effort.

    I think polarizing figures – such as Palin on the one hand, or whoever her left-most counterpart might be (maybe pretty-boy Edwards before the scandal) are the dinosaurs.

  58. brian stouder said on December 6, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    These are some excerpts from some Human Events spam I just got, which exemplify (in my opinion) what is wrong with the Republican party right now:

    Congressional Bailouts Are Out of Control

    Dear Conservative Friend,

    Remember the HUGE “bailout” that Congress passed for Wall Street banks, just a few weeks ago? Remember how over 90 percent of Americans OPPOSED the Wall Street bank bailout? Remember how Congress IGNORED us, and spent $850 BILLION of taxpayer money on that pork-laden, unconstitutional bailout bill… which then did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to help solve the “banking crisis”?

    Now Congress is trying to stick it to us AGAIN, with ANOTHER bailout, costing BILLIONS of dollars MORE — this time, transferring taxpayer money to the Auto Industry! Who’s next — the airline industry? The steel industry? The News-media?

    Congress is OUT OF CONTROL!!!

    We MUST take action NOW to stop ANY MORE “bailout” bills, before Congress wastes even MORE of our money on billion-dollar bailouts that do NOTHING but drive our economy even further down!

    etc etc etc, and then:

    Friends, nationalizing banks and setting company practices for various industries is not called “helping” the American economy. It’s called SOCIALISM. As Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said, “Just giving them $25 billion doesn’t change anything. It just puts off for six months or so the day of reckoning.” Isn’t it bad enough that we just elected a socialist as the next U.S. president? Now they want us to continue the socialistic practices they began with the Wall Street bailout… before Obama even takes office! Please, someone tell us just WHERE it says in the United States Constitution that the government can just TAKE OUR MONEY and use it to bail out private companies — and then to practically take over those companies?The answer, of course, is NOWHERE — but that’s exactly what they’re trying to do! WE MUST STOP THEM!

    and then there’s this:

    In fact, if you want to know what the REAL Ford position on bailouts would be, listen to what the REAL Henry Ford said on February 11, 1934: “Let them fail; let everybody fail! I made my fortune when I had nothing to start with, by myself and my own ideas. Let other people do the same thing. If I lose everything in the collapse of our financial structure, I will start in at the beginning and build it up again.” THAT is what made America GREAT.

    Well. Huh. See, if you revisit Whig history, the last thing they did before disintegrating was to elect a presidential ticket in 1848, which didn’t actually believe anything. Zach Taylor was a war hero/political non-entity who was electable, especially with the Democrats split over slavery.

    And the GOP (including me) elected a guy who obviously didn’t bellieve much of what the fellow from Human Events is ranting about up there, at all! In fact, in fiscal terms, President Bush is worse than any “SOCIALIST” boogeyman that the hard right can possibly conjure! (although this email missive spends several thousand words in a very sweaty effort to conjure up the bestest worstest boogey man EVAH!!)

  59. MaryRC said on December 6, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    B.b.b.b.but Sarah Palin and her family are soo good looking!! Gah. As if that had anything to do about how to competently run a government.

    And if they’re so good-looking why’d the RNC have to spend close to $300,000 to make them look good?

  60. coozledad said on December 6, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Rana: We had an obnoxious peacock. He insisted on chasing me through the yard, and trying to fly up and kick me in the midsection. Once, when the vet was packing up to leave, he took advantage of the distraction to kick me in the balls. I went straight down. My wife managed to take him out of my reach and cage him before I could manually separate his head from his body. Every time we carried animals to the vet thereafter, she would make a point of mentioning the peacock. “How’s he doing?” Then if there were other clients waiting around she’d tell them how “Dingy” kicked my ass.
    Fucking bird.

  61. alex said on December 6, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    A nuthatch cam. Hmmmm. One that could eventually serve as an all around nature cam depending on the season and subject matter that presents itself. Now that’s an idea.

    Actually know someone who says he’s got a shroom cam. He grows them on someone else’s property in a dung pile and monitors the crop from home.

  62. Connie said on December 6, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Here’s a nuthatch cam for you: my back deck. Threw in a woodpecker just for fun. http://elmores.net/round-here/comments.php?id=1539_0_1_0_C

  63. brian stouder said on December 6, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Very cool, Connie!

    Plus, gotta love the snowy background. Here in Ft Wayne, its beginning to look a lot like Christmas (snow has been flurrying all day), so that this evening Shelby and I went downtown to mail some bills, and were suitably ‘wowed’ by the re-bulbed (and ‘green’) Santa-on-the-broke-bank, and very pleasantly impressed by Perfection bakery! They have strings of lights all along their big building on Pearl Street, and the effect is very beautiful (we went aroud the block so as to see it again!)

  64. LA Mary said on December 7, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    My Christmas cactus is blooming. It’s a little early, but it is on the sunnier side of the house now so I think it gets confused. Thank you, Connie for the nuthatch photo. I miss winter birds. We don’t get cardinals for nuthatches here. Hummingbirds aplenty, though. I like the photo of the deer too, and the charming email from Liberia.

  65. Julie Robinson said on December 7, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Agreed, Brian, espeially the area that is iridescent. We went around twice too, the second time to look more closely. What did you think of Santa’s mouth? (It’s blue.) For the life of me I can’t remember color it was before. Anybody?

  66. brian stouder said on December 7, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Julie, thanks to JC’s supercool search device, entering Santa Fort Wayne lead me to

    http://nancynall.com/2007/12/24/its-a-fort-wayne-christmas/

    I think the blue is truly new

  67. moe99 said on December 7, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I love my bird feeders in the backyard, but they’re a draw for rats. Does anyone have any ideas on how best to trap the rats without getting the squirrels or poisoning my dogs in the process? I have an aging black lab who is worthless and a miniature dachshund who is clueless on catching the rats. Either a terrier or a cat, but with a cat the birds would be at risk. Life is complicated…..

  68. basset said on December 7, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    our indoor Christmas cactus is just about to bloom on the windowsill in Nashville… buds are showing some color.

    you’re supposed to, what, keep them in the closet or in a paper bag or something to time the blooms, right? went to a nursery a few years back which had huge greenhouses full of Easter lilies, the windows were all blocked off and grow lights running on a strict schedule… they told us that if someone turned their car around outside at night if the curtains were up the headlights would throw everything off and make the lilies bloom early, or late. forget which.

  69. alex said on December 7, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Brian, the new LEDs are a huge improvement. Santa’s jiz stream was half-discolored last year, as you can see in the above-linked shot. Not sure what color Santa’s lipstick was from that photo, however.

    Only hint for keeping rodents away from bird feeders is to put a tarp on the ground around them and shake them into the garbage regularly. Around here I deal with chipmunks and squirrels and right now something’s clawing my ceilings, not sure what. Gonna borrow my mom-in-law’s mouser and put it in the attic for a day.

  70. Catherine said on December 8, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Whatever you do, don’t get those glue traps. There is nothing worse than listening to/watching the rodent of your choice drag one of those things around in its death throes for 3 or 4 hours. Yes, I speak from experience. Much better to have it shaken to death quickly by a perky rat terrier. My sister’s is named Stimpy, and he spent her wedding reception eagerly digging for gophers. Now there’s a dog worth his feed.

  71. Dexter said on December 8, 2008 at 8:59 am

    So here’s where it stands: Rick Waggoner has lost any confidence the US Senators had in him and he may have to go away.
    Ford has a lot of cash and will move out of the crisis in better shape than the the other Big Three giants. Alan Mulally stays.
    Robert Nardelli has only been honcho at Chrysler for about 16 months, and Chrysler still has the reputation of not being able to conquer the quality-gremlins. I mean, the styling is terrific, but why do the axles break and the cars won’t start sometimes? New cars. Who knows how the shareholders really feel about Nardelli? Has he had enough time to make his impact yet?

  72. Dexter said on December 8, 2008 at 9:44 am

    ..a month ago we read that Lance Armstrong had “apparently changed his mind” and was dedicating all his time to his “Livestrong” activities.
    Well, now the worm has turned. Good luck to him, but the Tour De France would have had just as much appeal to me with or without him.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~And now…GOOD NEWS for all the Scarborough / Mika sycophants!
    Starting in 17 minutes, you can hear those two knuckleheads live-streaming on your computer at WABC.com .
    Yep…they now follow Imus , 10:00 AM.
    And yeah…I am listening to Imus right now, but only for Rob doing his “Dr. Phil”…and yes, he did call Imus an A-hole!

  73. brian stouder said on December 8, 2008 at 10:31 am

    John Roberts and the Supremes have summarily rejected the ridiculous lawsuit regarding President-elect Obama’s qualifications to assume office.

    The same lunatic lawsuit also challenged Senator McCain’s citizenship – so that if the thing had prevailed, the spectacular debacle that would have followed would have seen the Electoral College ignore and reject ALL the popular votes cast for McCain and Obama.

    In such a ridiculous scenario, heaven only knows what we would have ended up with…that is, regardless of the unknown political turmoil (in the teeth of an epochal financial crisis, which the political paralysis could only worsen), one imagines that social order itself would have broken down.

    “Street justice” indeed…how many millions of us (myself included) would have taken to the streets?

  74. Peter said on December 8, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Setting up a Festivus display? Molly Ivins lives! Financial Crisis aside, these sure are wonderful times!

  75. garmoore said on December 8, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Here’s a post-mortem on the “Obama is not a citizen” petition that was in the news last week:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28111773/

    Just cut and paste to read it. Apparently I don’t do links. Sorry.

    Back to the story. Apparently, there’s one more petition before the Court, this one saying “He’s not really a citizen, he’s from Kenya and maybe Indonesia” or something to that effect.