Here come the tycoons.

It seems to me there are two narratives to the mortgage crisis. The first one is about the deadbeat who bought a $750,000 house in the suburbs, either with a liar loan or just because they are Stupid About Money. The stories of these elegant Mediterranean mini-manses with their green pools, perhaps littered with trash from the eviction, arouse every contemptuous emotion we have.

This one is popular among many Republican pundits. I don’t need to tell you why — it underlines their bedrock beliefs of personal responsibility and the blamelessness of the holy market, which knows all and is perfect. It puts blame for the disaster not on a corrupt system (except for that part that passed the Community Reinvestment Act), but on millions of individual shoulders, but, it goes without saying, never their own.

There’s a second mortgage narrative unwinding, however. It’s starting to get its share of attention, a bit of it this weekend, in a NYT magazine cover story and in a longer piece from the Associated Press. The magazine story is about Cleveland, the AP’s about Detroit, but the datelines are interchangeable — both stories apply to both cities. If all you read is the first narrative, you might not know that the crisis hit the inner city particularly hard, maybe harder than it hit the suburbs, and with more devastating fallout. You might not know that the stupid decisions made by individuals were aided and abetted by aggressive salesmanship on the part of the mortgage industry, whose representatives cold-called and went door-to-door with pitches that promised poor people $8,000 cash in hand by the day’s end if they’d sign here and here, initial here, and sign again here.

Many of these transactions were outright fraud. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard a version of this story:

Waver Brickhouse, gray-haired and soft-spoken, has come undone twice during the nation’s housing crisis. In 2005, she fell behind on her mortgage payments and turned to a so-called rescue firm, which, court papers allege, tricked her into signing away the deed to her Brooklyn home. She says the company, Home Savers Consulting, secretly sold her home, with the help of a mortgage from IndyMac Federal Bank, and ran up huge new debts.

You wouldn’t think it would be possible to steal a house, would you? And yet it happens all the time.

Fraudulent or not, what’s happened as a result of all this vigorous capitalism has been devastating to poor neighborhoods. Detroit’s problems haven’t been getting much ink because Detroit was on the ropes before it all began, but I’m telling you what I’ve seen with my own eyes: While many of these neighborhoods were poor before subprime came to town, they were still neighborhoods. They were hanging in there. Houses were shabby but occupied. Today virtually every neighborhood in the city is dotted with what, if they were trees, would be called “standing dead” but in the real-estate world is called “O.V.V.” — open, vacant and vandalized.

Last year, a friend of mine wrote about the proliferation of $1 houses in Detroit. His editors weren’t convinced it was much of a story, but it was picked up by blogs all over the world, and for weeks, months afterward, his phone rang regularly with calls from potential “investors.” One gentleman called from Australia. “I don’t see how I can possibly lose,” he said. A house for a single dollar? It’s like finding gold on the ground. Ron said he tells these folks that a $1 house will require thousands in repairs, usually comes with thousands in unpaid back taxes, and frequently has judgments from the city to either improve or face court-ordered razing. Here’s one of Cleveland’s housing investors, from the Times magazine story:

So much here defies reasonableness. It’s what (city councilman Tony) Brancatelli keeps telling me. A few months ago, he met with Luis Jimenez, a train conductor from Long Beach, Calif. Jimenez had purchased a house in Brancatelli’s ward on eBay and had come to Cleveland to resolve some issues with the property. The two-story house has a long rap sheet of bad deals. Since 2001, it has been foreclosed twice and sold four times, for prices ranging from $87,000 to $1,500. Jimenez bought it for $4,000. When Jimenez arrived in Cleveland, he learned that the house had been vacant for two years; scavengers had torn apart the walls to get the copper piping, ripped the sinks from the walls and removed the boiler from the basement. He also learned that the city had condemned the house and would now charge him to demolish it. Brancatelli asked Jimenez, What were you thinking, buying a house unseen, from 2,000 miles away? “It was cheap,” Jimenez shrugged. He didn’t want to walk away from the house, but he didn’t have the money to renovate. The property remains an eyesore.

And so we come to the next chapter in the decline: The arrival of the flippers, the would-be landlords, the investors. The AP story is hopeful, but points out how many of these people aren’t even Americans. Like Ron’s Australian caller, they don’t see how they can lose:

“Do the math, you can buy and rehab a home for $20,000, then rent for $900 a month,” he said. “Three to four months of the year, rent is going to pay the taxes.”

The person doing the math is from England, who thought “it would be quite good fun to have a look,” and ended up buying six houses, with plans for “many more.” Well, I wish him luck. The story points out he’s not buying the $1 OVV’s, but decent places in still-stable neighborhoods. However, it’s hard to keep an eye on a real-estate empire from across the pond, and I think he may be overestimating the rental market in a metro area about to lose not just its biggest employer, but its bedrock industry. I heard an estimate over the weekend that if GM and Chrysler go under, we can expect a 25 percent unemployment rate in Michigan. Which officially clears the betting table, I’d say. I don’t see how he can possibly lose.

Come the apocalypse, I’m moving to the Upper Peninsula, where I will bitch about winter eight months out of the year, instead of my customary five.

Anyway, there’s your official Depressing Modern Life update. How about some grim humor?

Alcohol: Cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems. Especially when combined with firearms.

And now, felled as I was by the grippe this weekend, I’m going to bed for a brief spell. Carry on in my (koff, croak) absence.

Posted at 9:05 am in Current events, Detroit life |

58 responses to “Here come the tycoons.”

  1. jeff borden said on March 9, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Man, that story about the high-speed shootout is wrong on so many levels. Drunken driving. Kids in the car. Handguns blasting away. I’m trying to figure out how the NRA might spin this delightful tale. Perhaps Wayne LaPierre will explain how if all the other drivers had been carrying guns, they would have been able to shoot out the tires of the offending vehicles and saved the day.

    I’m pretty inured to gun violence and know that nothing –absolutely nothing– will ever be done to control any kind of guns. Still, the story about the minister shot while delivering a sermon (some of the bullets struck the Bible he was reading from), a headline in the Sun-Times today that 506 kids have been shot in Chicago in just 18 months, the incident Nancy cites above, test my ability to just shrug my shoulders and act all world-weary.

    Perhaps the simplest solution to protecting all the innocents being killed is to give every gun owner in America target-shooting practice. At least then, when the gangbangers pulled out their 9mms, they would hit each other instead of the little kids standing nearby.

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  2. adrianne said on March 9, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Nance, the NYT story on the predator lenders in Cleveland was quite chilling. I’m somewhat familiar with Slavic Village – my brother used to live there – and the current state of the neighborhood is horrifying. Not enough of these jackals are going to jail, although I like the bit in the story about the “rat court” judge whom everyone is terrified of because he takes these guys to the cleaners.

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  3. Jolene said on March 9, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Agree, Jeff, that the story showing just how well people behave while armed and inebriated is too amazing.

    On an unrelated topic, Gene Weingarten published a story in yesterday’s WaPo Magazine about events almost too terrible to name–infants who died of hyperthermia because their parents forgot them in their cars. The story raises the question of how, if at all, society should respond to these tragedies. This isn’t my favorite piece of the Weingarten opus, but it is, obviously, a compelling topic.

    Gene is holding a web chat at 12:00 Noon EDT today. Am typing this on my phone, so can’t link to the story. It’s easy to find, though. Just search on Gene’s name on the WaPo website. Title is “Fatal Distraction”. Link to web chat is “below the fold” on left.

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  4. del said on March 9, 2009 at 10:23 am

    On Friday I met with a high school pal who’s a Princeton-educated economist. He put me in, uh, let’s say, a “dour” mood about our economy — so I’ve been trying to focus on some positives. And something positive I’ve noticed lately is that matters of social justice that have been mocked in recent times, are gaining traction. Maybe the economic troubles have awakened a sense of awareness that, yes, this can happen to me. In civil cases matters once cynically dismissed as claims of riff-raff advanced by greedy trial lawyers may be gaining leverage. (Remember GWB skewering trial lawyers? Fuggetabout the people they represent.) Just last week the U.S. supreme court ruled that drug companies that put harmful products to market are not immune from liability just because their drugs have been approved by the FDA. And in criminal cases we’re reconsidering policies that have at least doubled the percentage of Americans imprisoned over the past 25 years. Even saw a story about a court taking on the case of a California prisoner who was allegedly wrongly confined to solitary for years.

    Yeah, it’s not all bad. “Things are gonna change, I can feel it.”

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  5. del said on March 9, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Danny, on the way back from meeting my friend on Friday I heard a Rush song on the radio: “And the men who hold high places, must be the ones to start, to mold a new reality — closer to the heart.” Obama?

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  6. Jolene said on March 9, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Yesterday, in a defense of earmarks on one of the Sunday chat shows (maybe Meet the Press?), Chuck Schumer spoke about using an earmarks to get funding to hire investigators and other personnel to combat mortgage fraud in Brooklyn. Maybe there’s hope that there won’t be too many more Ms. Riverhouses. I wouldn’t bet on it though. Desperation and ignorance create ready targets for avarice and greed.

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  7. Sue said on March 9, 2009 at 11:06 am

    So Nancy wants to be a Yooper, eh? On some Sundays we get a Finnish-language program on one of the UP stations at our northern WI cabin. Hopefully that will survive the apocalypse and your entertainment will be taken care of. A warning, though: when that fractious bunch up there does succeed in breaking away and forming their own state, Wisconsin is prepared to invade. Goodbye pasties (no not those pasties; we’re talking the plural of pasty), hello brats.

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  8. nancy said on March 9, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Michigan stole the UP from Wisconsin fair and square, and we’re going to defend it the same way.

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  9. Sue said on March 9, 2009 at 11:22 am

    UP – Finns. WI – Germans. Wouldn’t count on it.

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  10. Connie said on March 9, 2009 at 11:24 am

    But UP also has Trenary Toast. Hard as rock, could bean plenty of Wisconsites with it. My mother-in-law grew up in Trenary.

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  11. Sue said on March 9, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Nah, soak it in some beer, no prob.

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  12. moe99 said on March 9, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Jolene, here is the address of that story:

    Very good journalism, but very tough to read.

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  13. derwood said on March 9, 2009 at 11:53 am


    Thanks to all you NN.c peeps who got me to dvr the Breaking Bad first season. What a great show.


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  14. Joe Kobiela said on March 9, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    There is a air intersection up north in da up called ufduh, That is a expression that a friend of mine girl friend used to use. She was a yooper.
    Pilot Joe

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  15. Jolene said on March 9, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Glad you appreciated (“Liked” doesn’t seem like the right word.) the Weingarten piece, moe. Did you look at the chat? Was interesting to see what Gene had to say about meeting and talking with the people in the story.

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  16. Jolene said on March 9, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    I had pretty much the same reaction to the Detroit and Cleveland pieces as you did, Nance. That is, after being stunned by the descriptions of how things are, I was dumbfounded to think that anyone would buy rental property in places where very few people want to live.

    I really wonder what will be in those places ten years from now.

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  17. Danny said on March 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    del, funny you should mention that, I was pondering the bailout for mortagage owners in over their heads and the Rush verse that came to mind was, “and the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe and saw.”

    Hehe..I guess it’s all perspective.

    Dexter, I read your post the other day about the bubblegum quality of Rush’s lyrics and I do agree. But take into account that some of us came to love them when we were young and the lyrics seemed positively sagacious to my 14-year old self. Plus my main love of them has always been for the instrumental quality of the music.

    Not to shortchange the conversation on mortgages, but is anyone else disappointed in the number of earmarks that have made it onto some of these recent spending bills? I know, drop-in-the-bucket and all that rot, but still. I mean we are supposed to be up against the worst economic crisis in maybe ever and these folks are fiddling while we burn. And the Republicans are such a bunch of hypocrites. Makes me sick.

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  18. nancy said on March 9, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    …where very few people want to live.

    An alternate theory is that this is a grand time to be a landlord because no one wants to buy. Everyone I know who is planning a move in the next few months is settled on renting until we find the bottom of the market. So there’s that.

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  19. Sue said on March 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    From what I understand, ufdah is one of those all-purpose words like “aina” in Milwaukee. Ufdah means something along the lines of “whatever” or “that’s the way it goes”.

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  20. Jolene said on March 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm


    I would never say that list of earmarks doesn’t contain some real stinkers, but I actually think a lot of them are worthwhile projects that, for one reason or another, didn’t fit into a budget category. A lot of them seem to have to do with promoting tourism or some other local economic interest.

    I also think that both the press and politicians speak about these projects in idiotic ways. Bobby Jindal’s disparaging remarks re volcano monitoring, but there have been many others–several having to do with wildlife management.

    So, I guess I’m more interested in general restraint and–here’s the latest buzzword–transparency than in anguished cries from Sen. McCain and others re eliminating earmarks.

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  21. jeff borden said on March 9, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Earmarks always make great copy and there is little question some of them are pretty dumb, but they constitute a tiny percentage of the budget at large.

    As much as voters moan about earmarks and entitlements, it would be fascinating to turn our attention to defense spending, which has been sacrosanct for decades. There’s tons and tons and tons of pork in the defense budgets, most of which will never do our men and women in uniform any good, but which will never be challenged lest the politician who raises the question be labeled as not supporting our troops.

    We could use a Harry S Truman kind of guy in Congress. Truman earned his national rep by aggressively targeting and prosecuting war profiteers during WWII. Would that someone like him had been in Congress while we were frittering away tens of billions in no-bid contracts in Iraq to firms like Halliburton or Blackwater. I’d have love to have seen a sanctimonious bastard like Blackwater nee XE honcho Erik Prince skewered by Give `Em Hell Harry.

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  22. Gasman said on March 9, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Jolene & Danny,
    Earmarks are outrageous if they’re not in your district or state. If they are, then your representative is being an effective congressman/senator.

    Actually, the more attention that the Republicans have focused on individual earmarks, the better these projects seem. The Rs speak of them in mocking and condescending tones, but these projects are often the very stuff that the local folks want back home. Like the volcano monitoring, most of the projects the Rs have chosen for ridicule seem like the very thing we should be spending our money on.

    Sen. McCain at least has been consistent in his refusal to request earmarks for AZ and in his criticism of his colleagues who cannot themselves refrain from the practice. Every other Republican complaining about earmarks is simply engaging in hypocritical grandstanding. The last I heard, 6 of the top 10 hogs at the earmark trough were Republican.

    If we have transparency in the process, maybe we can agree that a certain amount of local spending is appropriate and even necessary. If my local rep. isn’t going to speak up for local projects, who the hell is? If we remove the last minute, sneak-them-in-during-the-dead-of-night aspect, maybe we’ll remove some of the stench from the process.

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  23. moe99 said on March 9, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Ok, I’m going back to a debate that was a while ago, having to do with the firing of US Attorneys when a new president comes into office. I seem to recall that there was a heated, or at least testy, discussion about the whys and wherefores of such behavior.

    It appears that Obama is parting from his predecessors in that he is keeping a large number of sitting USAttys in their jobs, at least for now. Fancy that.,0,6248126.story

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  24. del said on March 9, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I bet Brian will have something to say about “Give ’em hell, Harry.”

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  25. Jolene said on March 9, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Nancy: I can’t read your message (For some reason, my phone turns your text into microtext.), but based on Sue’s reply, it appears that you were asking about “Uffda!”. It’s an all-purpose exclamation. Approximately equivalent tio “good grief”, but good for lots of other purposes too. For instance, if you had carried a heavy box up a flight of stairs, you might say “Uffda” as you set it down–more or less like “Whew!” Can be paired with “may” for extra emphasis.

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  26. MichaelG said on March 9, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    “Uffda”? Guess I haven’t spent enough time in the UP. I was there once when I was a kid.

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  27. Sue said on March 9, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    From earmarks to stimulus money: have any of you been following the stimulus at your most local level? My municipality had a slightly contentious Council meeting last week on two projects that were going to be submitted to the State for consideration on stimulus funds. My guess – I can’t verify – is that these were budgeted projects already in the pipeline. No way, no how can anyone put together even a basic proposal for an infrastructure project in a few weeks. Even I know that. So, my question is, is it “stimulus” if a government body uses the money on an already-funded project, and then does not move any other capital improvements forward? Does a (possible) slightly lower tax rate the following year (done by rolling over the money “saved” into the next year’s budget) count as stimulating the economy? Maybe I’ve got this all wrong, and there’s some requirement that these stimulus projects have to meet some kind of test along those lines. What’s going on in your communities?

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  28. brian stouder said on March 9, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Hah! Del – you know me too well (or I’m too predictable!)

    Actually, I greatly admire HST’s war-time watchdog role, and agree completely with Dave’s post.

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  29. Joe Kobiela said on March 9, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Perhaps I missed something, but didn’t President Obama say he wasn’t going to have any earmarks in his bills???
    This is just a wild thought, but on July 8 1947 witnesses claim that a ufo with five alians crashed onto a sheep and cattle ranch just outside Roswell New Mexico. I know most of you know about the cover up. However what you may not know is that nine months later in April of 1948 the following people were born.
    Al Gore
    Nacy Pelosi
    Hillery Clinton
    John Kerry
    Bill Clinton
    Howard Dean
    Dianne Feinstien
    Charles Schumer
    Barbara Boxer
    No wonder they support all the bills to help Illegal Aliens
    Just a coincidence?
    I wonder?
    Pilot Joe

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  30. jeff borden said on March 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    There’s a heartbreaking story in the papers today about the difficulty some of the former staffers of the Bush Administration are having in finding gainful employment. Among the victims of America’s new recession are Alberto Gonzales, the hapless former attorney general, and David Addington, John Bybee and John Yoo, who authored those memos allowing El Presidente to confine and torture anyone he wanted wherever he wanted.

    Times are tough, but surely there must be something for men of such august accomplishments in shredding our Constitution. Are there no septic tanks that need a good cleaning from the inside out? Are there no jobs burning toxic waste? Are all the positions as crash test dummies taken?

    The thought of these poor souls shuffling through this tough economy, unable to find work justifying torture or politicizing justice, just tears me up. Where, America, is your compassion???

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  31. judybusy said on March 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Back to the light-hearted discussion of uff da: it’s Norwegian, and for extra emphasis, you can say uff da maida (not sure of spelling there) As a born and raised Minnesotan of Norwegian extraction, I found it amazing people didn’t know it was a Norwegian expression, but thought it was some how a general expression. As much as I try to shed my humble origins, uff da still comes out of my mouth sometimes… in Minneapolis it’s considered the height of Hicksville expressions.

    A Mexican friend taught me that they say “Changos!” which means monkeys to express frustration, like when we say “Rats!” So we use that a lot just for the change up.

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  32. Sue said on March 9, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Jeff Borden, can you link that? That’s surprising, because almost always at that level – Democrat or Republican – there’s a big book deal, board seat or think tank waiting on the horizon.

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  33. Jason T. said on March 9, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Joe K., another load of straw men just arrived. Where do you want them?

    Naturally, the president doesn’t write legislation. That’s the whole “checks and balances” thing. Representatives and senators write the bills … and insert the earmarks:

    > Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or
    > programs where the congressional direction … curtails the
    > ability of the Executive Branch to properly manage funds.

    But you know that, and you’re just funnin’ us, I guess.

    Uffda! Or as we Hungarians say, “jó istenem!”

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  34. brian stouder said on March 9, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    My mom (native of Brooklyn, whose mom came over on the boat from Italy) always referred to dish rags as “mopenes” – and so I always used that word, and was surprised in later years when I drew blank looks and/or got laughed at.

    And whenever she saw something that she thought was ridiculous – the wrong sauce on a pasta dish, for example, or (worse) drinking milk with your antipasto –

    she’d say “mitigon” ….and after all these years, I finally asked her just a few months ago what specifically “mitigon” means – and she said “no no no – not ‘mitigon’ – it’s ‘American’!”

    And that ‘mitigon’ saying goes straight back to her immigrant mom!

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  35. jcburns said on March 9, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    “This is just a wild thought…” Pilot Joe is getting a little too much ionizing radiation from flying at high altitudes, methinks. Might want to check those Raybans.

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  36. jeff borden said on March 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm


    It’s a Page One story in the NYT. Several sites including have picked up on it.

    I doubt we’ll see creeps like Addington or Yoo flipping burgers, but you have to figure even the wingnut welfare outposts have to watch their pennies in this recession. How many hacks can Richard Mellon Scaife keep afloat, right? Donations to the RNC are way down, too, which would suggest support for the conservative hothouses like Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, also may be faltering. Let’s hope.

    These bastards deserve to be tried for their crimes, but since that is unlikely, they should at the very least have to grovel for a living. I know there is a move afoot to get Yoo’s sorry ass kicked out of USC/Berkeley, where he is a professor. (He’s currently a visiting faculty member at another college.)

    I suppose Addington can find work applying lotion to Dick Cheney’s backside, which he did throughout his White House career. This assumes there are no openings in Addington’s first choice of a job — drowning puppies or kittens.

    What a crew of creeps. They come close to the Nixon gang,though W.’s minions are far less colorful. They’re the very definition of the banality of evil.

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  37. paddyo' said on March 9, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Or, Jeff B. and Sue, have the aforementioned poor-little-Bushies been offered various/sundry posts but have declined them on grounds of, oh, I dunno, being not august enough, or not quite six-figure-y enough, or just plain beneath contempt for imperial-minded ex-White Houseans?

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  38. MichaelG said on March 9, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Here in California we just say “shit”. Or my ex would say “merde”. She also dreamed one up. Something had gone wrong one day and she was staring at it all pissed off and frustrated and said “It’s – it’s – gondolian!” “Gondolian” just came out of her mouth and everybody hit the floor laughing. Ever since, “gondolian” has been a substitute for “screwed up”.

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  39. moe99 said on March 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    I thought Yoo was tenured at Berkeley and presently teaching at Chapman university school of law?

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  40. jeff borden said on March 9, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    You want hubris, I give you Alberto R. Gonzales, who declares that his inability to land a good job makes him another “victim of the war on terror.”

    The last physical fight I engaged occurred in the 5th grade and I truly abhor real violence (as opposed to the violence in the action movies I like), but I wonder if I could avoid popping that mewling little shithead in the nose if the chance presented itself.

    Ohhh, come on karma, come on. Get to work on these guys.

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  41. jeff borden said on March 9, 2009 at 4:59 pm


    You’re correct. The NYT story notes that Yoo is suffering largely because of a Justice Department ethics investigation and a lawsuit filed on behalf of an accused terrorist who was tortured. And Bybee got a life time appointment to a federal judgeship.

    Gonzales and Addington haven’t been quite so lucky.

    The gist of the piece is that rather than being sought after rainmakers at big law firms, they’ve all been tainted by their involvement with the torture memos. Yoo even has been singled out by the Berkeley City Council, which is one record as favoring his prosecution for war crimes.

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  42. Kirk said on March 9, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    The birthday list is bullshit, by the way. Al Gore was born on March 31, 1948. None of the rest of them were born that year. Ken Blackwell was born in February 1948, though, and who the hell knows what might have fathered him?

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  43. Dave K. said on March 9, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Pilot Joe may be suffering from excess radiation jc, but my guess would be AM radio waves, sent out by WOWO 1190, just about high noon each day. Anyone want to bet that’s where the “funny” Roswell story came from?

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  44. Scout said on March 9, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I’m just glad Nancy doesn’t weed the crazies out of the comments. Sometimes it’s good fun to be able to point and laugh.

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  45. jeff borden said on March 9, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    What year was Joe the Plumber born? Talk about someone who sounds like they emerged from Area 51. I see over the weekend our favorite non-plumbing guy who is not really named Joe was trashing the hapless Michael Steele over his comments that the GOP had to go hip-hop to attract new voters. Joe said something along the lines that there is nothing conservative about hip-hop.

    Au contraire, mon frere. Rappers and hip-hop artists who rise from the streets are Horatio Alger stories, no? Self-starters who overcome their beginnings to become well-paid performers without ever taking a penny from the government ought to be celebrated by the likes of Joe, who is still dry-humping that 15 minutes of fame.

    Meanwhile, mega-wealthy beer distribution heiress-to-be and daughter of John and Cindy McCain, Meghan, is picking a fight with Ann Coulter. Meghan says the bony one drives away the young and the cool with her rhetoric. This may or may not be true, but it’s difficult to argue with Meghan’s thesis that while the Democrats are seen as hip, the GOP is as cutting edge as Donny Osmond. Actually, that Donny might be a little too far out for them, too.

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  46. paddyo' said on March 9, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Expecialley the spelings, Scout, like alians and Hillery

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  47. Deborah said on March 9, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    You guys know everything so here’s a question for you that has nothing to do with anything. I was reading Roger Ebert today (I’m home sick), on one of his posts he showed a video of the “In Memoriam” segment of this year’s Oscars (I missed the show). My question is who is singing “I’ll be Seeing You”? My husband says it’s Queen Latifah. Is that true? It’s a tear jerker to be sure.

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  48. nancy said on March 9, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Yes, that was Queen Latifah, a rapper who can not only sing, but sings fabulously. You wonder why she ever bothered with hip-hop.

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  49. basset said on March 9, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    that “why don’t we have open season on white people” remark she made a few years ago put me off anything she has done, will do, or might ever do… and I actively avoid rap, hip-hop, whatever it’s called this week.

    I know that’s way too white and desperately unhip, but get over it.

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  50. Dexter said on March 9, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    I love the Queen…she’s been big-time for at least 15 years now.

    I visited my brother’s former inlaws in St. Paul a few years ago. The elderly aunt kept saying “UFF DA!” and I had to have my brother explain it.

    A co-worker retired 12 years ago. He told his wife they were moving to Lake Superior’s shores. She said “maybe YOU are.”
    And so he did. They got a divorce after 40 years together and off he went.
    He found a cabin near L’Anse, and a friend visited him there, living alone, burning wood for heat, fishing, hunting, thoroughly content.

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  51. nancy said on March 9, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    She never said that, Basset. That was Sister Souljah.

    She is a really great singer. Does the standards songbook.

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  52. basset said on March 9, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    OK then, I’ll avoid her because she’s a rapper. Sister Souljah too.

    and “uff da” is pretty hard to avoid if you’ve ever contributed to your local public radio station… there’s usually a coffee cup or a t-shirt or some other oh-how-ironic item with that on it in the fund-raising catalog.

    come to think of it, Garrison Keillor can stay out of my life right next to the other two.

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  53. Colleen said on March 9, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Nothing with uff da in our station’s inventory.

    Latifah can SING. Oh my. Her “Dana Owens Album” was in our jazz rotation for a long time.

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  54. Cosmo Panzini said on March 10, 2009 at 12:12 am

    As for protecting the innocents during gun battles, I like Chris Rock’s solution: we don’t need gun control in this country, we need BULLET control. Yeah, make bullets $5000 apiece. Eliminates stray bullets entirely. (You know, “Nigger you lucky Wal-Mart don’t have no lay-away on bullets. Or, “That nigger ain’t worth no $5000”.) I’m just sayin…Come to think of it, might see a drop in 7-11 and liquor store holdups too.

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  55. Jolene said on March 10, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Another “amen” for Queen Latifah. She may have started out as a rapper, but really isn’t one anymore. Based on talk show appearances, she’s bright, warm, and funny, and, oh yeah, she can sing.

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  56. Dexter said on March 10, 2009 at 2:09 am

    The Queen is great in that movie “Mad Money”, with Diane Keaton, playing workers who swindle the US Mint out of old cash meant to be destroyed.

    Colleen…I don’t know which city you work in, but if it’s Ft. Wayne, do you remember a lady who hosted the late night jazz shows—I can only phoneticize her name, “Leah Turko”? I used to call in right before Labor Day and fill her in on the Montreaux Detroit Festival Schedule that is held at Hart Plaza.
    I used to do the bike ride the station sponsored, too. In 1997, we took buses to a Cubs game. Fun stuff.

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  57. Connie said on March 10, 2009 at 6:12 am

    Sue asked about stimulus at the local level. Yesterday I completed application forms for four project proposals for the Indiana portion of the stimulus funds. It was a simple online form, we had only a few days notice of the looming deadline. Two new buildings for which plans are already in place, one major HVAC upgrade for half a million, replacing 1963 boilers, and one more. I have little faith in the gov, but here’s hoping.

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  58. basset said on March 10, 2009 at 7:11 am

    The $5000 bullet reminds me of a guy I used to fish with who always had the same response to any discussion of what it might cost to keep someone on death row or to execute them:

    “Pistol bullet costs a quarter!”

    Say what you will about gun control, whether you’re for or against it it’s like any other prohibition… impossible to enforce, at least in a free society.

    That amusing little uff-da coffee cup was in the NPR national fundraising catalog, forget the name of it… meanwhile, this:

    and now I’m gonna have “Red Wing” stuck in my head all day… I’m hearing the Asleep at the Wheel version right now, probably switch over to Bob Wills’ sometime later…

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