Re: Shorter Alan Dershowitz.

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Gawd, he's a douchebag.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 10:50 AM
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blood thirsty ghoul

Apo is an anti semite!


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 10:57 AM
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My favorite part was: "Although I am personally opposed to the use of torture..."

See, he's personally opposed to it, so you don't ever have to worry about Alan Dershowitz torturing you or your children. However, Alan Dershowitz demands a government that will torture you or your children for his voyeuristic gratification.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 10:58 AM
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Semites, as I'm sure you're aware, aren't from the area of Cambridge, and Dershowitz might be a ghoul, but semitic he is not.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 10:59 AM
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Although I am personally opposed to the use of torture

This seems to be a clear falsehood.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 10:59 AM
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blood thirsty ghoul

Did I really make that two words? Crap.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:00 AM
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3: yeah. Did God really give you a brain so that you could figure out a way to advocate torture while claiming to be personally opposed to it?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:00 AM
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5: What he means is, he's opposed to the use of torture against his own person.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:01 AM
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apo, you type too fast.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:02 AM
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7: Better to have semen on your hands than blood.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:02 AM
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If holding a sibling down so as to tickle them mercilessly, then I am personally for torture but politically against it.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:02 AM
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For a salutory corrective to the Dershowitzes of the world, check this out from a recent Ron Paul speech:

The war mentality and the pervasive fear of an unidentified enemy allows for a steady erosion of our liberties, and, with this, our respect for self-reliance and confidence is lost. Just think of the self-sacrifice and the humiliation we go through at the airport screening process on a routine basis. Though there is no scientific evidence of any likelihood of liquids and gels being mixed on an airplane to make a bomb, billions of dollars are wasted throwing away toothpaste and hair spray, and searching old women in wheelchairs.

Our enemies say boo, and we jump, we panic, and then we punish ourselves. We are worse than a child being afraid of the dark. But in a way, the fear of indefinable terrorism is based on our inability to admit the truth about why there is a desire by a small number of angry radical Islamists to kill Americans. It is certainly not because they are jealous of our wealth and freedoms.

We fail to realize that the extremists, willing to sacrifice their own lives to kill their enemies, do so out of a sense of weakness and desperation over real and perceived attacks on their way of life, their religion, their country, and their natural resources. Without the conventional diplomatic or military means to retaliate against these attacks, and an unwillingness of their own government to address the issue, they resort to the desperation tactic of suicide terrorism. Their anger toward their own governments, which they believe are coconspirators with the American Government, is equal to or greater than that directed toward us.

These errors in judgment in understanding the motive of the enemy and the constant fear that is generated have brought us to this crisis where our civil liberties and privacy are being steadily eroded in the name of preserving national security....

The American Republic is in remnant status. The stage is set for our country eventually devolving into a military dictatorship, and few seem to care. These precedent-setting changes in the law are extremely dangerous and will change American jurisprudence forever if not revised. The beneficial results of our revolt against the King's abuses are about to be eliminated, and few Members of Congress and few Americans are aware of the seriousness of the situation. Complacency and fear drive our legislation without any serious objection by our elected leaders. Sadly, though, those few who do object to this self-evident trend away from personal liberty and empire-building overseas are portrayed as unpatriotic and uncaring.

It's like having McManus in the race. He's the Unfogged candidate!


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:02 AM
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Although I am personally opposed to diving into shallow pools...


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:02 AM
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Huh, that Ron Paul bit is good.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:05 AM
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He's a crazy pro-lifer, too, isn't he? Still.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:10 AM
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Paul's anti-imperial stuff is alright (even though I do think there's an American place in international organisations), but Christ Almighty, he is not the Unfogged candidate if as a member of the borg I have any say in it. Nevermind for a moment the gold standard (my grandad in the Yukon would've been all for that, but he was also a fiscal crank), Paul is ANTI-ABORTION. How he can be a crotchety libertarian and anti-abortion, I don't know. C'mon, where's the Mike Gravel love, then?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:10 AM
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What I love is the idea that the President should have an official ability to declare real life a "Jack Bauer moment". I've been reading a bit lately on the history of the CIA and you know what? I'm increasingly convinced that there has never been a ticking time bomb situation for reals, period. Everyone who relies on the idea to make an argument about torture has to just say, "I heard about this story the other day from this guy who knows a few people who says that maybe the Israelis kind of knew about a thing kind of like this", and it all comes down to whether you believe the person telling you, the guy he heard it from, the people the guy heard it from, etcetera, when none of it is ever or will ever be confirmed because it's TOP SEKRIT.

So yeah, sure, we should create a special exemption for a constitutionally-constrained executive to commit extraordinary violations of law and rights for an instance that's pretty much a hypothetical that belongs in late-night college bull sessions after at least three beers have been consumed and nowhere else. Dershowitz does observe, helpfully, that torture really does work even if there is no ticking time bomb: that is, if you're Nazis trying to get the names of resistance fighters. Or, if Dershowitz would bother to look at that case a bit more carefully, if you'll take any name you get and murder them even if they're not really resistance fighters, because, eh, he was probably a communist or jew anyhow and in any event he was French, so there.

Why stop with a Special Law that lets the US President be a temporary Nazi in case of Ticking Time Bombs? I think we also need a Special Law that allows the President to use nuclear weapons on US soil if we are attacked by aliens with force fields, a Special Law that allows the President to appoint a heroically handsome skilled martial artist/NSA agent to be the President if Air Force One is hijacked, and a Special Law that would make Superman the President if General Zod escapes from the Phantom Zone and takes over Russia.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:11 AM
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The John Birch Society is staunchly opposed to waterboarding, by the way. What is the world coming to when I agree with Paul & the Birchers over Jews from Brooklyn, Cambridge, & San Francisco?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:11 AM
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12:If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve. Too busy burning the Southron cities and spreading the ashes on the fields.

I found the comment section on MY's post on Guy Fawkes & V for Vendettta both inspiring and humbling. There are those who blow up Parliaments, and those who build them. Thus is positive GDP generated. We are going to need help for the economy next year.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:12 AM
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Dershowitz seems to have a random package of opinions and behaviors, all highly aggressive. I believe that he's right about one or two things.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:12 AM
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Paul was talking like this in 2004, when it was really risky. Here he is on the House floor opposing a resolution praising the war and the troops in Iraq:

http://www.house.gov/paul/congrec/congrec2004/cr031704.htm

Opposing sanctions against Iran as a step toward war, again in 2004:

http://www.house.gov/paul/congrec/congrec2004/cr050604b.htm

And in case you think that as a libertarian he has nothing to offer aside from his anti-imperialist stance, here he is supporting prescription drug re-importation from Canada, and implicitly opposing government enforcement of patent monopolies for pharmaceuticals as "special privileges for large corporations". That's a radical left position in U.S. politics:

http://www.house.gov/paul/congrec/congrec2004/cr050604b.htm



Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:14 AM
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Comparing that to MacManus is a bit of a stretch, though. Maybe David Neiwert.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:15 AM
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He's a crazy pro-lifer, too, isn't he?

Seriously. No voting for Paul.

OT: Hypothetically, would it be bad to send your child to a private school that plants little pink and blue flags for the "unborn children" who were not born if that child's relations were responsible for that preventative act?

Ancillary questions:

what if the school is really good?


Posted by: Jane Doe | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:17 AM
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Paul is ANTI-ABORTION

Ron Paul is a Christianist. This being my pet issue, if I were to rank the GOP candidates, he'd come in near the bottom.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:17 AM
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23: Yes and there are lots of good schools.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:19 AM
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23: A school that does that and doesn't have Christian propaganda subtly (at the very least) integrated into the curriculum? Surprising.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:21 AM
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23: not hypothetically? bad. bad bad bad bad.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:22 AM
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17 -- No, he just needs a special law to let him torture someone to find out whether or not there are any ticking time bombs. Other than Article II, of course, upon which he has been relying to do that very thing.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:23 AM
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My favorite part was: "Although I am personally opposed to the use of torture..."

The obscene thing about it is that he uses the tip of the hat to moral intuitions to forestall people from injecting them into the the technocratic question he lays out. "I have the same moral intuitions, so that's baked into this technical cake. Now trust my pedigree." Well, an obscene thing about it.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:23 AM
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Of course, the Rob Paul boom is not about Paul's issues, even Iraq. It is about the anxiety, frustration, and rage. Anybody notice the Greenberg focus group story, where positive items were passed to the audience and they physically attacked the pollster? Paul is just another Gorge Wallace, Gene McCarthy, John Anderson, Ross Perot...a placeholder for middle-American rage. None of those were about issues either

Boy-o-boyo, are we reaching a tipping point. I am serious folk, 2008 is going to be worse, or better if you enjoy interesting times, than 1968 or any year in my lifetime. I do believe Repubs & HRC understand this, and maybe Edwards and Obama. It will be useful chaos.

Everywhere the sound of marching charging feet boy.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:27 AM
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It's unclear that Paul wants any Federal regulation of abortion, I believe he would leave the decision up to the states as to whether to ban it.

Paul has a central committment to states rights. We could all live in California. The Christianists get Alabama. Letting Alabama put up the ten commandments seems a cheap price for averting potential middle east disaster. I think we need to think about politics in a new way here. Times are bad.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:27 AM
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"You're a very lucky little girl, because even though your parents are willing to kill innocent babies, they didn't decide to kill you. Here, do you want to see what you would have ended up looking like if they had decided they didn't want you? We have some pictures right here. Here's the kind of blade they would have used to chop you up if they had decided to go that way".

I'd say stay away.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:29 AM
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I am serious folk, 2008 is going to be worse, or better if you enjoy interesting times, than 1968 or any year in my lifetime.

No, it really won't.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:30 AM
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Shorter Alan Dershowitz.

That's a Jewish joke, isn't it.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:32 AM
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To me, on Bob's list only John Anderson was a placeholder -- almost certainly a Republican stalking horse.

Paul is a sign of the Democratic failure, that's for sure.

I keep asking myself whether the things that the candidates know that we don't know about our threats and bribes that they've recieved (as opposed to seekrit information about al Qaeda.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:33 AM
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No, it really won't.

Tim, have you ever been gloomy a day in your life? What happened to wearing black on the outside because that's how you feel on the inside?


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:33 AM
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I believe he would leave the decision up to the states as to whether to ban it.

He wrote the Sanctity of Life Act of 2007:

Declares that: (1) human life shall be deemed to exist from conception, without regard to race, sex, age, health, defect, or condition of dependency; and (2) the term "person" shall include all such human life. Recognizes that each state has authority to protect the lives of unborn children residing in the jurisdiction of that state.

Amends the federal judicial code to remove Supreme Court and district court jurisdiction to review cases arising out of any statute, ordinance, rule, regulation, or practice, or any act interpreting such a measure, on the grounds that such measure: (1) protects the rights of human persons between conception and birth; or (2) prohibits, limits, or regulates the performance of abortions or the provision of public funds, facilities, personnel, or other assistance for abortions.

Yeah, yeah, he'd leave it up to the states:

Abortion on demand is the ultimate State tyranny; the State simply declares that certain classes of human beings are not persons, and therefore not entitled to the protection of the law. The State protects the "right" of some people to kill others, just as the courts protected the "property rights" of slave masters in their slaves. Moreover, by this method the State achieves a goal common to all totalitarian regimes: it sets us against each other, so that our energies are spent in the struggle between State-created classes, rather than in freeing all individuals from the State. Unlike Nazi Germany, which forcibly sent millions to the gas chambers (as well as forcing abortion and sterilization upon many more), the new regime has enlisted the assistance of millions of people to act as its agents in carrying out a program of mass murder.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:36 AM
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37: It's this sort of thing that reminds me that some people actually being taking seriously as candidates at all is a more depressing commentary on the state of the union than who is plausibly next.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:38 AM
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36: Claims like bob's seem to me to understate how much worse the past was for any number of people in the US and, short though we are of various goals, how far we've moved. It implicitly gives short shrift to the people who did the moving (and even those who were moved), and that irritates me.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:40 AM
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This Ron Paul stuff reminds me so much of this excellent post at Overcoming Bias. His arguments are really quite good--the best that will serve whatever conclusion he's decided to reach. When he's right, the arguments are sound. But his conclusions don't have anything to do with his arguments.

I suppose he's not exceptional in that regard.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:40 AM
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Dershowitz seems to have a random package of opinions and behaviors

I have a highly parsimonious explanation for Dershowitz's seemingly random positions.

All of his publicly stated beliefs flow from one of three core principles.

1. He is a principled civil libertarian.

2. He will take any position to avoid the logical necessity of criticizing Israel, even this position contravenes (1)

3. He will take any position that a sufficiently pecunious client pays him to take, even if it contravenes (1), provided it does not contravene (2).

Can anyone come up with an example that can't be explained via this framework? I didn't think so.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:40 AM
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33: Yes it will. It is the Republican plan to repeat 1968, this time with a bad economy. There will be an attack on Iran, and that will blow up the Democratic Party, as Vietnam blew up Dems in 1968. If that isn't enough, the economy is going to get very bad, while we are told it is just fine. The economy was great in 68.

Will there be assassinations and violence in the streets? Maybe not, but that wasn't the story of 1968. The story was the anxiety, tension & hate in the livingrooms. And that good White Sox team in a 4-way pennant race decided on the last weekend.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:41 AM
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What happened to wearing black on the outside because that's how you feel on the inside?

Or just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:41 AM
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Ron Paul's arguments, that is.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:41 AM
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Crap. Too many comments too fast.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:42 AM
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that wasn't the story of 1968

For one thing, the soundtrack was so much better.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:42 AM
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I think that KR explains Dershowitz pretty well.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:44 AM
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The stage is set for our country eventually devolving into a military dictatorship

America is a bit further along that road than you may realize. In my view, any country that spends $643.9 billion annually on their military, yet refuses to set up a universal health care system for their own people have passed the "setting the stage" portion of military dictatorships. The government is very clearly announcing where its priorities are. And those include making sure torture doesn't get too bad a rap.

Enough is enough. You are all welcome to come live in Montreal. My apartment is small, but we'll figure things out.


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:46 AM
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And 1 and 2 together explain not just Dershowitz—except for the hired-gun aspect of 3— but also the people who distress Katherine.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:47 AM
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2008 is going to be worse, or better if you enjoy interesting times, than 1968 or any year in my lifetime

Maybe you're right, bob, but predictions like that remind me of that one movie where the Dennis Hopper character says to the Kiefer Sutherland character, 'The '90s are gonna make the '60s look like the '50s!' Seemed remotely plausible at the time, but in retrospect, not so much.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:47 AM
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"how much worse the past was for any number of people in the US "

35 years of declining real wages, the loss of employment, health-care & pension security, the decline of any political faction to the left of what was liberal republicans in 1968, massively rising inequality on and on and on. The loss of hope. That white workers can now be as insecure as blacks is not progress.

I was there. It was better than. We though we could stop the war. We were wrong, but at least we felt free. Maybe only us fogies can recognize this glittercage for what it is. Free to work 16 hour days and get nice shoes & a Ipod is not free.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:48 AM
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48: Montreal is a lovely little city, but all the yuppies buying up the plateau are going to ruin it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:50 AM
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37: well, the sanctity of life act does leave it up to the states.

Of course I have to admit you have a good point. But I care a lot more about getting the views quoted in 12 into the public sphere than I do about rehashing abortion arguments yet again. It's not like Paul will actually get elected.

And I respect him as a person, for the consistency and nature of his views and his courage in expressing them. There are some pretty radical anti-war Catholics who are also anti-abortion, I can respect them too.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:50 AM
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Free to work 16 hour days and get nice shoes & a Ipod is not free.

For white men, perhaps. For the rest of us, it at least beats what came before.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:51 AM
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What bothers me with foreign policy debates is that are the unspoken assumptions. The questions of whether these policies actually work is nearly non-existent in debates.

We speak like if Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction then, of course, invasion would have been necessary. In terms of national security, is that actually true?

So what if water boarding is deemed not to be torture? But does it work? There are very credible sources, including ex-military interrogators, who say no.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:52 AM
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52: they haven't quite taken over yet though, and we've always got Mile-End. And health care.


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:52 AM
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You are all welcome to come live in Montreal. My apartment is small, but we'll figure things out.

I only skimmed the other thread, but Lucy isnt actually inviting us is she? Or, if she is, does the invitation implicitedly include sex? I didnt read the conclusion of the thread.

Otherwise, she makes excellent points.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:52 AM
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54:God bless our capitalist overlords!

No, Tim, it is not better.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:52 AM
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repeat 1968, this time with a bad economy

And more homeruns.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:54 AM
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56: A good point. Actually, it's a city I'd move to in a flash, assuming a tt job. (a big assumption)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:54 AM
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The 3 laws of Dershbotics.
Isn't Chris Dodd a more sane Dem equivalent?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:55 AM
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60 continued --- even if the winters kind of suck.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:55 AM
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Careful using undefined abbreviations abound Lucy, soup biscuit. There's no telling what she'll think you meant.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:56 AM
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48. One of the things that I don't fear is military dictatorship. The military takes its oath to the Constitution, and I doubt there will be a leader charismatic enough to destroy that bond.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:57 AM
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54:God bless our capitalist overlords!

Now you're just being a jerk, Bob. You know, if it is better for black people today than it was in 1968 -- and I tend to believe it is -- it's not actually because of our capitalist overlords. It's because of, to borrow your language, people feeling they could make a difference. Except they were right.

You racist cracker.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:58 AM
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39- It implicitly gives short shrift to the people who did the moving (and even those who were moved), and that irritates me.

So what's the argument?


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:58 AM
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17 - Well said.

Personally, I would like to torture the "ticking bomb scenario" to get it to confess to being absolutely specious.*

* (Or whatever the hell else I want it to say.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:58 AM
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does the invitation implicitedly include sex
No. That could only happen under very, very narrow circumstances. I'm not accustomed to fucking refugees, (though I don't see anything wrong with that) even if I do promote their migration to countries that offer better governments as well as better socio-economic conditions.


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:58 AM
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does the invitation implicitedly include sex

That depends on what your definition of "implicitedly" is.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 11:59 AM
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68, see this thread


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:00 PM
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64 is cute in a norman rockwell sort of way


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:01 PM
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I'm increasingly convinced that there has never been a ticking time bomb situation for reals, period.

This is almost certainly true. But invoking the ticking bomb scenario means you're a hard-nosed realist, whereas questioning the real-world existence of the ticking bomb scenario means you must believe in unicorns.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:02 PM
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means you must believe in unicorns

Tell me where the unicorn is, IA. Tell me or you get another shock.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:03 PM
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. One of the things that I don't fear is military dictatorship.

Me either. What I do worry about is the absence of a better integration of the military and the meaning of the military among Blue folk. It's not very hard to imagine a society in which the military and the military ethic are gigantic, near explicit political forces. (I haven't said that very well.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:04 PM
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71. Heh- have you noticed the Norman Rockwell echo in the ads for "American Gangster"? When Denzell brings in the turkey?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:05 PM
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It's not very hard to imagine a society in which the military and the military ethic are gigantic, near explicit political forces.

Yes, it often does not require much imagination to envision the way things have actually been for decades.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:05 PM
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74: Imagine?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:06 PM
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75: No, I haven't seen ad add. That's a nice touch.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:07 PM
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During the ticking-time-bomb debate I would ask for specific examples from time to time. Few were ever given, none that I remember, and people seemed to think that my question was off-topic. People seemed puzzled that I should care.

I blame trolley-car ethics, where mental experiments entirely replace messy old human history and actual experience.

That's right, Philippa Foot is to blame for Abu Ghraib!

I'm sure that all ticking-time-bomb mental experiments were accompanied by mental click-tracks like they use on TV to show that Time is Running Out.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:09 PM
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77: all the people...


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:09 PM
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Look, we just aren't going to see a "Seven Days in May" scenario. Further erosion of civil rights is a distinct possibility, however. And to be blunt, torture should not be policy, period. When one needs information from KSM don't blab how you got it or there will be repercussions. As there should be.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:14 PM
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I'm the leftwing alarmist here (along with Bob, Stras, and maybe Frowner and Minneapolitan) but I think that most of us do not realize how far things have gone already. Very few of us have been impacted personally, yet at least, but a lot of mechanisms are being put into place.

The restrictions on what can be said on most of the media are what most strikes me. Ann Coulter is respectable and Noam Chomsky is not.

You do have a lot of people like the Dixie Chicks, Hollywood folk, and other musicians speaking their mind -- entertainers are just entertainers. But the wise heads are handcuffed.

Olbermann is an exception, and while he's not that great, and very bad in Britney ways, it's so refreshing to hear someone come out and say things I think myself (though it reminds me of how seldom that is). Two days ago he pointed out that waterboarding is intended to get false confessions, and that there's good reason to believe that Bush knows that he's committed prosecutable offenses and is running the government to a large extent for the purpose of protecting himself from that possibility.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:17 PM
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There's not reason for there to be a Seven Days in May. Most of what they want has already happened. I have no confidence in anything that any of the Democrats will do.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:19 PM
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TLL is right and Bob is wrong. (My god, did I just write that!) We will not see an explicit military dictatorship in this country in our lifetimes. In America we are blessed to have our patriotism linked to contracts and principles, rather than, say, race or soil.

This does not rule out the possibility that our democracy and respect for the constitution might be reduced to empty lip service. I don't want to rule that out, because it has already happened, and only a fool would say that the actual isn't possible.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:20 PM
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81: I think that you're correct that there will not be such a scenarion, just not (at all) about the reasons. Further expansion of the political & economic influence of the military? Sure. Further privatization to merc forces? Sure. Whitewashing bad behaviour of same abroad and (less so, but still) at home? Sure. More funneling of public money through this mechanism, mostly into the pockets of a few well placed players? Sure; even more blatantly as the economy gets worse. More connections to drug money and other profitable but questionable activities abroad. Absolutely.

But no 7 days in may. There isn't really a need, when you think about it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:20 PM
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When Bush is a civilian President and he takes orders from Dick Cheney, a military dictatorship is unnecessary. They've pretty much gutted the Bill of Rights, they've packed the judiciary, they've de facto accomplished the unitary executive, they've entirely intimidated the Democrats and have coopted most of the media, they've started an endless war, and they have a lot of emergency powers on the shelf which they haven't even used yet.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:23 PM
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Well JE that's not exactly military dictatorship then is it? We voted for these guys. We can still vote them out. The problem is that most people don't think that there is a problem, and certainly don't think that the lefties are the answer.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:23 PM
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I used to be a left-wing alarmist, but I had trouble keeping too many bad things in my head at the same time. So now I'm an optimistic left-wing sentimentalist. Roll the union on!


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:25 PM
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We voted for these guys. We can still vote them out.

Ha ha. Ha ha ha.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:25 PM
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While we are on this topic, did anyone hear Nina Totenberg's personal essay on Morning Edition today?

The shorter version: "Did you know that I am deeply embedded in the ruling class? I am. I am good friends with all sorts of important people, and my father was, too. He was an immigrant, but he loved it when we was accepted into ruling class America. Gosh the ruling class is swell."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:25 PM
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Very few of us have been impacted personally,

That is, if you are not a minority.


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:31 PM
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As long as the rich run America there will be no military dictatorship.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:33 PM
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92: a very small, aggressive oligarchy might as well be a Military dictatorship


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:36 PM
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87: What lefties? I'm serious.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:37 PM
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I remember hearing Dershowitz advocating for torture on the radio in the early afternoon of 9/11, by the way. "Who the hell is this guy? He thinks acting more like Israel is the way to stop terrorism by Islamic extremists?"


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:40 PM
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91 is both tautological and a good point.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:44 PM
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No, it's not exactly a military dictatorship. Neither was Italian Fascism or German Naziism. A military coup is a fifth wheel straw man at this point, for reasons I have given. I don't know where the "Seven Days in May" meme came from here.

My lack of trust of the Democrats contributes enormously my black outlook. I don't trust even half of them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:46 PM
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While we are on this topic, did anyone hear Nina Totenberg's personal essay on Morning Edition today?

No. I missed it. But NPR is increasingly pissing me off.

We are regular listeners to NPR and I send my money in during pledge drives. I've found myself sending more and more emails about their fox news style reporting. (Mostly Juan Williams and Mara Mara Liasson)

I'm feeling more and more like a grumpy old man.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:46 PM
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I trust about 20% of the Democrats.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:46 PM
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Katherine: a glass fifth-full person. It's all about accentuating the positive!


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:48 PM
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For you ticking bomb deniers, Dershowitz does offer his example:

Recently, Israeli security officials confronted a ticking-bomb situation. Several days before Yom Kippur, they received credible information that a suicide bomber was planning to blow himself up in a crowded synagogue on the holiest day of the Jewish year. After a gun battle in which an Israeli soldier was killed, the commander of the terrorist cell in Nablus was captured. Interrogation led to the location of the suicide bomb in a Tel Aviv apartment.

Interestingly, he undercuts his own narrative in the very next sentence.

Israel denies that it uses torture and I am aware of no evidence that it did so to extract life-saving information in this case.

So in Dershowitz's narrative, he has no evidence that this ticking bomb scenario was solved using torture, and therefore we should consider using torture in such circumstances.

This is the logic of a bullshitter, and any evidence presented by a bullshitter, as I said recently in another context, is necessarily worthless. Whatever the true underlying narrative behind Dershowitz's suicide bomber, you can almost guarantee that it's substantively different than what Dershowitz presents here.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:48 PM
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For an excellent response to the Israel argument, scroll down to the brief about Israeli military.

http://www.mayerbrown.com/probono/news/article.asp?id=3706&nid=291


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:51 PM
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Sometimes it seems that only a military dictator could effect any substantial change in our Middle East policies, if you know what I mean and I think you do.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 12:58 PM
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This is the logic of a bullshitter lawyer.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 1:05 PM
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The only interesting question about Dershowitz' advocating torture is, who is his client? Perhaps Rumsfeld, perhaps Cheney, maybe someone not well known. Someone who expects to be indicted by the next administration for authorizing torture, and doesn't mind paying retainers a few years ahead.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 1:36 PM
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53 - We've moved past this, but Pat Buchanan was pretty good on the Iraq question, too. Paul is right on the war and right on civili liberties, since he is a libertarian isolationist. He's wrong about well-nigh everything else, and the goldbug stuff just reeks of crank.

And yes, it's embarrassing that the no-hopers (plus quasi-hopers Dodd and Richardson) are the only people in the race who seem to behave as though they are aware that 65% of America is sick of torture, sick of being ashamed of American actions, and goddamn sick of the war. I don't agree with Emerson about the root causes, but I certainly agree with him that cutting policies to fit what the Washington/NY media axis has limned as acceptable is a major, major factor in the Democrats' shittiness.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 1:37 PM
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Re: the possibility of a Republican coup.

I was speaking last week to a former Army intelligence officer at Drinking Liberally. He's been out for about a year, after serving twelve, including a 16-month tour in Iraq.

He said the Army's officer corps is very Republican, about 80%. It's not that they have a strong ideology backing up that political preference, it's just that Republican presidents have always increased the military budget.

I asked him if the Army officer corps would support a coup, and he said that he was certain they would not.

I'm a lot less worried now about the possibility that Bush will extend his eight-year term illegally.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 1:43 PM
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The only interesting question about Dershowitz' advocating torture is, who is his client?

The advocacy of torture flows from Principle 2 of Dershbotics, not Principle 3.

Dersh would be a bad courtroom advocate in this case, because he has explicitly argued that current law needs to be modified to relax the legal prohibitions on torture which Rumsfeld's lawyer will have to argue, à la Yoo, were inapplicable.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 1:45 PM
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re: 1968 and 2008. In 1968 16,500 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam. That's 20 times more than any year of Iraq, and 2008 will probably be somewhat lower than that (and in 1968 they were draftees, and the population base was much lower). Other highlights of the year included the assassinations of RFK and Martin Luther King. I view the likelihood of assassination of both Hilary and Obama as rather low. There's no point in pretending the nation is worse off than it is, or than it was.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 1:45 PM
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While we are on this topic, did anyone hear Nina Totenberg's personal essay on Morning Edition today?

God, it was awful. I didn't want to wake up to a celebration of Nina's connections.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 1:48 PM
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106: Paul is a lot more honorable than Buchanan -- leaving aside racial stuff, Buchanan cooperated in the dirty tricks of the Nixon White House. He was fine with the expansion of state powers during the Cold War that helped lead us to the current pass.

I admire Paul as a person, not so much Buchanan. And I think the issues he's right on are the key things to get into the national conversation.

Also, I hate this stuff about calling people "isolationists" when they are against military intervention. It's a lot more isolationist to turn your country into an armed camp than to peacefully trade with the rest of the world.

Anyway, I'm clearly turning into one of those Ron Paul spammer types, but last thing I'll post is a recent interview on PBS:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec07/paul_10-12.html

It's radical, but sort of sensible in that he realizes his more far-out positions could not be implemented rapidly if at all.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 1:49 PM
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I was driving back from Vegas this weekend. Somewhere in the Mojave, by a burnt-out diner, there was a semi-trailer parked by the side of I-15 with a call to join the Ron Paul Revolution. Pretty cool.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 1:54 PM
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108: To complete the parallel to the Asimov's laws, the laws of Dershobotics need to be arranged to represent his real priorities.

1. A Dershobot shall take no position that logically implies criticizing Israel.

2. A Dershobot will take any position he is paid to, so long as it doesn't conflict with the first law of Dershobotics.

3. A Dershobot will be a civil libertarian in the few remaining situations in which advocating civil liberties do not conflict with the first and second laws.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 1:54 PM
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Objectively I don't think that most or even many Americans are worse off than 40 years ago. I think that there are a number of delayed-action backloaded time-bombs up ahead, though, for example in the fiscal effects of the deficits and tax cuts.

The militarization, plans for permanent war, decimation of civil liberties, corruption of the judicial system, marginalization of Congress, corruption of the media, damage to the electoral process, and imposition of the unitary Presidency are the things I worry about. A lot of more specific issues flow from these, of course, because of the auspices it's happening under.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 2:00 PM
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114.2 is a pretty good summary of it all.

I was thinking, with today's Cheney impeachment talk, that off the top of my head I probably couldn't provide a comprehensive list of all the reasons the SOB needs to be impeached. There's just too many now.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 2:19 PM
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I've been spending too much time here. I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said "Cheney/Satan 2008" and my immediate reaction was to want to get my "redundant!" comment in there before 10 other people did the same thing.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 2:21 PM
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I've been spending too much time here.

New mouseover text!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 2:30 PM
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Will,

We are regular listeners to NPR and I send my money in during pledge drives. I've found myself sending more and more emails about their fox news style reporting. (Mostly Juan Williams and Mara Mara Liasson)

On the Media did a segment on Juan Williams interview with Bush and his Fox-news ties. NPR has decided that the President is allowed to grant interviews to NPR and that NPR gets to pick who does the interview. Bush had granted an interview to Juan. He did the interview in January. The White House wanted to discuss the Anniversary of Brown v. The Board of Education, and the President reached out to Juan himself.

Here's the audio. My favorite line from the piece was, "But if anyone in the White House press office fretted about exposing the president to the leftist rantings of Radio Moscow, they needn't have been concerned." And he described Fox News as the "GOP House Organ."


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 2:35 PM
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114. Between the warnings of Gen. Smedley Butler and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower you would think we would learn something, but nooooo.

When wasn't the United States an oligarchy? I guess I was sick that day.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 2:39 PM
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Military coups, whatever. I am talking about the war, and especially the economy. A military coup wouldn't effect me much, $5 gasoline might put me in the street. Y'all need to hand out at Barry Rittholz, Roubini, Calculated Risk. The credit meltdown is real, and it's gonna be a motherfucker. The ways in which the Fed is shifting the costs to consumer inflation...

And I wasn't really making a statement about the general well-being of Americans, but more specifically about the politics of the forthcoming year. And, honestly, of SCMT and the rest of y'all peacefully and placidly accepted a halving of your stds of living(+endless genocidal wars+erosion of civil liberties) I would consider that much worse than riots in the streets. Sadly, I expect the liberals will proudly say:"We may be poor and oppressed, but at least we are quiet about it. What's on HBO?"

Halving of SoL? Euro from low 90 to near 150 today. That is how much poorer you have become compared to Europe in 5 years.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 2:59 PM
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Calculated risk is good. So is Naked Capitalism. But Bob, exchange rates aren't particularly good indicators of wealth.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:06 PM
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121: exchange rates are a funny thing. He's right about the meltdown though, a goodly portion of the economy is floating on bullshit right now, and it's going to come back and bite everyone.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:12 PM
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The discussions of whether the country is worse off than in '68 is a difficult one to manage to say the least. But I am very pessimistic with new characteristics of the industrial military complex. Self-determined right of preemptive strikes. Professional, long-term killing forces of a non-drafted army. Subcontracting of large number of unaccountable fighters.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:13 PM
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floating on bullshit right now, and it's going to come back and bite everyone

Sometimes a mixed metaphor works.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:15 PM
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Couldn't agree more about the credit crunch. Alot of people who think they have alot of money are in for a very rude awakening, but I'm not convinced that it is 1929 all over again. In other words, I don't think it bites everyone or even most.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:16 PM
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The most significant difference from 1968 is that there were no Vietnamese terrorists who could potentially get nukes.

Seriously, check out Pakistan.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:19 PM
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and 114 is good.

Lower exchange rates do mean it will be more expensive to get your Wal-Mart on.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:21 PM
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73:
means you must believe in unicorns

Tell me where the unicorn is, IA. Tell me or you get another shock.

I'm going to keep linking to this until y'all are completely sick of it.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:23 PM
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122: I'm thinking a credit crunch is going to be very ugly at the high but not uber-rich end of the income spectrum. I'm reasonably conservative with money, but not outrageously so; still, the consumption patterns that seem to conventionally go with my income look way, way out of reasonable reach to me. I think there are a lot of very overextended high-income urban types. Now, this is a social group where I kind of fundamentally don't care if it gets ugly, if people like that can't live within their incomes my sympathy is limited, but I bet there's going to be some upheaval there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:25 PM
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Enh... the tanking of the dollar is a) making gas more expensive here, the way a lot of people will tell you it should be, b) making what exports we have (airplanes, software, internet auction services, internet ads) a lot more competitive and making outsourcing look a lot less attractive, and c) transferring a lot of economic pain to the Chinese as long as they keep their currency pegged to the dollar. The massive global financial imbalances had to end somehow, and this is as good a way as any.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:25 PM
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Lower exchange rates do mean it will be more expensive to get your Wal-Mart on.

To the extent that most of what gets sold in Wal-Mart comes from China, and China keeps the RMB pegged to the dollar, not so much. It makes things we buy from countries that don't peg to the dollar (cars from Japan, oil from around the world, maybe a bunch of imported produce) cost a lot more.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:28 PM
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Share our Wealth.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:29 PM
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The text at the link in 132 doesn't actually match the speech in the audio/video, and is a lot less interesting. (And yes, I know Long's policies were crazy.)


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:31 PM
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131: yeah, how could I forget about that.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:32 PM
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129- But isn't it the lower classes that have a greater propensity to over extend themselves in our economy? I remember an Ogged post in which foreclosures in the SF area were largely with the entry-level homes.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:37 PM
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135: sort of. But imagine your typical entry level home, which some poor sucker bought for $400k with a zero-down stated-income option ARM. Can't make the payments, bank forecloses, takes it back, and sells it. Only problem is the house is now worth $200k. At the end of the day, the person who bought the house is out his credit rating, which is a pain in the ass to be sure, but the person who bought the mortgage is out $200k. The person who bought the mortgage is likely to be a lot richer than the person who bought the house.

I'm reasonably conservative with money, but not outrageously so; still, the consumption patterns that seem to conventionally go with my income look way, way out of reasonable reach to me.

Hmm. How many other people here feel this way? I know I do, and I guess I know some people who are in serious debt, but it seems like there must be many more out there.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:46 PM
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15 16 23

So it is more important to be pro-abortion than anti-war?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:50 PM
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If you're endorsing a fantasy candidate who doesn't have a shot in hell of winning, there's no reason to settle on any of your issues.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:52 PM
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137 is like one of the classic sowing dissent moves. "Hey peacenics, I heard the feminists say you were cowards. Are you going to take that from them?"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:53 PM
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Is $400 k a starter home? Lake Wobegon has ruined me for the real world.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:54 PM
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"Hey Blacks, haven't you noticed how the while liberal establishment....looks down on you. They don't take you seriously. They prefer the homos. Stay home this year."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:55 PM
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136.2: Pretty much, yeah. I assume that it's some combination of family wealth (real estate, primarily) and debt, but it still doesn't make much sense.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:55 PM
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139: Yes


Posted by: peacenic | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:56 PM
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138: thing is, as fantasy candidates with no shot go, Paul actually has a conceivable path to victory in the way that, say, Gravel or Kucinich don't - the Democratic frontrunners have all squished over in a generally anti-Iraq War way in ways that make it hard for a hard anti-war candidate to open daylight, while Paul clearly has plenty of daylight there and an easy target to aim at; should a Republican anti-war constituency miraculously appear, he could ride it to an epoch-changing victory.

Whereas Gravel and Kucinich just have no chance at all.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:59 PM
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Is $400 k a starter home? Lake Wobegon has ruined me for the real world.

In the Bay Area, until recently, yes. But the same point still stands, no matter what the dollar amounts involved are. A lot of people who loaned money out aren't going to be getting it back.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 3:59 PM
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131:Here is an Yglles post on exchange rates. Don Williams and Lemuel Pitkin are smart enough in the comments to confuse me. Angry Bear has a time-chart on exchange rates that shows not very much. Rittholz is screaming that the US Fed is the only central bank in the world to exclude food & energy from inflation calculation.

I am watching food prices, other prices. I think we are importing a lot more of our food, precursors/ingredients, and other commodities than we were fifty years ago, and a change in exchange rates will have a larger effect. Pitkin says the exporters will have to eat our inflation, nevertheless, food prices seem out of control.

Newberry says watch inflation closely because somebody always benefits.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:02 PM
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he could ride it to an epoch-changing victory on a magical rainbow pony


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:02 PM
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What kind of consumption patterns are y'all talking about? Jake and I discussed this briefly at the meetup, and I think I see it too, but I guess I just assume that VC money is flooding this place and people are living large. But I don't actually know personally the people my age that I see driving BMW 750s.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:05 PM
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138

On the other hand if you actually want to end the war (or preserve the right to abortion if that is your priority) you should accept all the help you can get.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:06 PM
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136

"Hmm. How many other people here feel this way? ..."

Not me. Maybe it is different if you have a family.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:10 PM
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137:I connect everything, and compromise on anything and everything at the voting booth. War is directly connected to repro-freedom is connected to the min wage and estate tax is connected to the thighbone.

I looked up Harrington last night at Wiki. I read him during the 80s, so wasn't familiar with his Vietnam-era biography. I know socialists are supposed to be opposed to war, but it seems to me the demo-socialism is a necessary and sufficient condition for a peaceful nation. Whereas rapacious capitalism may end this war but will always start another one.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:11 PM
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In New York it's all about the real estate; I know what it costs to rent or buy in a given neighborhood, and I know people who seem to be living in very unlikely locations based on what I think I know about their incomes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:13 PM
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Family wealth provided the down payment?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:16 PM
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Oh, in any individual case it's possible, and my judgment overall may be off. My sense, though, is that there are a lot of heavily credit-fueled lifestyles among my coworkers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:19 PM
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148, 152, 153: Here, it's mostly real estate and private school tuition, in that order, with consumer spending (BMWs, expensive accessories, etc.) often in the mix. I think part of the answer is families that have owned property for a long time and are in a position to help out, but that can't be the whole explanation.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:20 PM
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The lending industry has been letting people borrow at crazy debt to income ratios. Buying houses that were 8 times their income, or even higher. Madness.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:22 PM
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Real Estate is also a biggie for me in SF - I know how much lofts and TICs cost, how much money I make/have, and unless other people are making way more than seems likely, I have no idea how they manage to afford the places they have. Unless they are just incredibly overextending themselves, or their family provided a HUGE down payment.

Nice cars, vacations, etc etc, but to a lesser extent.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:25 PM
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Couple those debt ratios with additional measures like ARMs, interest only loans, etc. and we're looking at shitloads of people who are wildly overextended on their houses. Like Jake said, the value's dropping, and the financial industry is going to be left holding the bag.

Everyone remember to thank Greenspan for recommending ARMS.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:26 PM
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156:The subprime mortgages aren't really the story. The liquidity needed to be converted into tradeable profitable securities, SIV's, CDO's, etc, and real estate was a means. And the mortgages are about 10% of the bad debt out there. 500 to a trillion dollars worth.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:27 PM
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$500 is not so bad.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:27 PM
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160: every dollar counts when you're thrifty like the world economy, heebie.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:30 PM
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Here, it's mostly real estate and private school tuition

By the way, maybe there's hope for education reform yet. The voucher initiative here in Utah got crushed last night.

http://www.sltrib.com/ci_7392263


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:30 PM
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The N&O had a story on Sunday about a woman who's driving her home-decorated Ron Paul bus to NASCAR events and handing out buttons. She has a monkey that drinks beer. She uses racial epithets when describing Paul's positions. I laughed until I curled up in a fetal ball and rocked myself unconscious.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:38 PM
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The subprime mortgages aren't really the story.

It's a pretty big part of it. People have been buying at inflated prices, and people who already owned were cashing out that inflated equity to finance their lifestyles. It's a self perpetuating cycle (for a time), and Greenspan cheered it on.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:39 PM
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Re the "ticking bomb". An incident from the Algerian War deserves to be better known. Alistair Horne describes it in his history A Savage War of Peace:

In November 1956 [Paul Teitgen, secretary-general of police in Algiers] was confronted with an appalling moral dilemma. Fernand Yveton, the Communist, had been caught red-handed placing a bomb in the gasworks where he was employed. But a second bomb had not been discovered, and if it exploded and set off the gasometers thousands of lives might be lost.... Teitgen was pressed by his Chief of Police to have Yveton passé à la question.

"But I refused to have him tortured. I trembled the whole afternoon. Finally the bomb did not go off. Thank God I was right. Because if you once get into the torture business, you're lost."

Teitgen's reluctance to order his suspect tortured, despite the ticking bomb, might have had something to do with his experiences at Dachau in World War II, where he had been tortured by the Gestapo.

(Unfortunately few French policemen and soldiers had Teitgen's courage: torture -- including waterboarding -- and murder were endemic during the Algerian War.)


Posted by: Gdr | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:40 PM
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She has a monkey that drinks beer.

I thought it was Cheney who mostly hangs out in undisclosed locations.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:41 PM
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158.2 - You know, I tend to think Greenspan is an evil hack, but that one struck me as egregious even for him. It didn't help Bush or Republicans, particularly. It didn't provide the quasi-sexual joy of promoting tax cuts to give him more dollars to burn at the feet of his Ayn Rand statue. It just helped a bunch of shitty mortgage brokers at the -- obvious at the time -- cost of urging people to make a disastrous fiscal decision that surely would leave at least some of them without their houses. Go Maestro!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:41 PM
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165 - And the fallout of the Algerian War led right-wing French military officials to launch a coup attempt! May the circle be unbroken.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:43 PM
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159:$500 billion writeoffs in 2008, 750 in 2009. And I think that is only the bad mortgages, not the derivatives etc.

Now helicopter Ben may try to prevent recession/depression but I am really thinking the consumer won't take the inflation much longer. But the economy will be the driver in 2008, even if the media and candidates don't want to talk about it. Mysterious things will happen, like Ron Paul or an Edwards victory. The economy is always the story.

Americans bitch about war like they bitch about titties and explosions on television.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:43 PM
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Some choice quotes from that Salt Lake Trib voucher article.

Voucher supporter Overstock.com chief executive Patrick Byrne - who bankrolled the voucher effort - called the referendum a "statewide IQ test" that Utahns failed. ...

Byrne said the referendum defeat may have killed vouchers in Utah, but "There are other freedom oriented groups in other states - African-Americans in South Carolina are interested in it."

That condescending prick Byrne put approx. three million of his own money into trying to pass that voucher initiative. Bwahahahahahaha.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:46 PM
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Reminds me of a Congressional candidate we had a few years back whose platform was basically "vote for me if you know what's good for you." He lost, gave a very gracious concession speech about how sad, backward, and stupid we were, and left the state. I think he's deputy undersecretary of something or other in the Bush Administration now.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:50 PM
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152

How long have they lived there? Prices weren't so high 15 years ago.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:52 PM
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Wait, so the conservative primary backer of private school vouchers in Utah is the chief executive of a company whose advertising tagline is "it's all about the O?" I should have guessed.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:53 PM
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Now helicopter Ben may try to prevent recession/depression but I am really thinking the consumer won't take the inflation much longer

No? I thought inflation was good for those who have borrowed money and/or own hard assets, and bad for those who lent money or hold large amounts of cash; consumers should be comparatively indifferent.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:53 PM
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I'll have my people develop dossiers and send them along, Jim. Huh, maybe that's the difference -- you think possibly my coworkers are saving money by not having a team of private detectives on retainer at all times?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:54 PM
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165

"Unfortunately few French policemen and soldiers had Teitgen's courage: torture -- including waterboarding -- and murder were endemic during the Algerian War.)"

And according to movie "Battle of Algiers" (which was made by the victors) torture was effective, at least in the short run.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:55 PM
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And according to movie "Battle of Algiers" (which was made by the victors)

What an unbelievably weird way to describe (Marxist Spaniard) Pontecorvo.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 4:57 PM
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172 isn't completely ridiculous; even ten years ago in San Francisco, prices were maybe a third of what they are now, if that. Anyone who made a bold foray into real estate at the time would be sitting pretty right about now. I know maybe one or two people who did just that.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:00 PM
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He lost, gave a very gracious concession speech about how sad, backward, and stupid we were, and left the state.

I would probably really enjoy that speech. I love when I get to see people being unselfconsciously petty in formats that don't hurt anyone else.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:02 PM
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172 isn't completely ridiculous; even ten years ago in San Francisco, prices were maybe a third of what they are now

Well yeah, but I'm assuming a fair number the people LB's talking about are close enough to her age that they weren't buying 15 years ago.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:04 PM
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What I love is the idea that the President should have an official ability to declare real life a "Jack Bauer moment".

But here's the thing: we have a perfectly good mechanism whereby torture can be illegal and yet still available in the highly unlikely case of a ticking time bomb scenario. We have had this since the constitution was written.

If you're a high ranking military or police officer with a suspect in custody, and you sincerely believe there's a ticking time bomb situation, you go in the windowless room and torture the guy. You come out and throw five or six of the guy's teeth on the floor and say "the bomb is in the basement of Trump Tower, now place me under arrest."

If several lives are saved, even Dennis Fucking Kucinich would have to pardon you. If the terrorist played you for a chump, you're going to jail.



Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:07 PM
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176 -- Yes, the French campaign of torture and murder was brutally effective in the short term. It brought an end to the bombing campaign in Algiers and inflicted a severe defeat on the FLN.

But it utterly destroyed any possibility of a compromise settlement between the French and the Algerians. Before the battle of Algiers, there were a few Muslim groups who were still prepared to negotiate with France, but afterwards (in the words of an anonymous pied noir quoted by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber) "it's finished. No one any longer. As a result of bullying them, arresting them, interning them, and occasionally killing them -- you've won, but everybody who represents anything of importance in this country has gone over to the FLN. There are no more intermediaries."


Posted by: Gdr | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:08 PM
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Sure, my comparatively cheap apartment had tripled in value over the seven years we'd owned it for awhile (it's probably down to more than doubled again.) The impression I've got, admittedly unsupported by solid data like people's tax returns and cancelled mortgage checks that I'll post up as soon as Della and Paul Drake get back from going through my coworkers' filing cabinets, that even accounting for changes in real estate value, people I know are living in places that are financially over their heads.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:09 PM
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LB, if some of those uber rich are hedge fund guys they're toast. Gas prices are affecting food prices, but food is still damn cheap. No bonus this year at Goldman, so high priced restaurants might be able to squeeze you in after all.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:31 PM
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Oh, I'm not even talking about financial industry types -- those guys, I don't have any kind of clear idea what they make. I'm talking lawyers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:35 PM
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Well the days of easy credit are certainly over, which will mean dramatically less consumer spending, which hurts retailers, but the financial geniuses who were sure that this time it's different are the ones who will pay, as they should.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:41 PM
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I've read about mortgage brokers qualifying people for loans based on the artificially low teaser rate when payments were bound to double or triple within a few years, and I guess that someone had to be taking these loans. I don't see how people could overlook the inevitable disaster, but I guess they do or just figure they'll either deal with it when it arrives or declare bankruptcy.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:41 PM
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(Unfortunately few French policemen and soldiers had Teitgen's courage: torture -- including waterboarding -- and murder were endemic during the Algerian War.)

I don't know whether to be impressed or not that Massu, before he was willing to order electric shock be used on prisoners, insisted on undergoing it himself.

At the very least it's a stark contrast with the current administration.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:43 PM
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the financial geniuses who were sure that this time it's different are the ones who will pay, as they should

Also a goodly number of soon-to-be foreclosed financial non-geniuses who bought the bullshit they were sold.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:45 PM
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Many of the borrowers thought (or were told) that they could refi at the reset, problem is, prices went down, not up, so there is no equity. Borrower walks, but has not lost any (much) money. The lender sold the loan, so they're OK. The guy holding the paper, or one of its derivatives is the one who is fucked.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:45 PM
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I don't know whether to be impressed or not that Massu, before he was willing to order electric shock be used on prisoners, insisted on undergoing it himself.

At the very least it's a stark contrast with the current administration.

DO NOT GO THERE. One of the things that got us into this mess was figuring that we could do to others anything that we're willing to do to our own people in training. That the purpose of the training was to learn to resist the sorts of tortures that evil regimes use somehow got lost along the way.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:48 PM
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Not much money can be a whole lot to people buying their first house ever. It will certainly set them back financially several years (years when their kids are young?). In the short term it is a huge disruption to their lives (at best).

(Sincerely) Can you tell me a story that would make me sympathetic to the guy holding the paper?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:49 PM
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190: No, the borrower is also very much fucked. No house and screwed up credit is a bad thing.

Maybe someday we'll figure out that Stupid People Are Fair Game is a lousy basis on which to run an economy.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:50 PM
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Can you tell me a story that would make me sympathetic to the guy holding the paper?

I'll try: you're him (via Calpers or a bond fund or some such).


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:52 PM
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Although I seem to recall reading that in many states, purchase loans are recourse while refinance loans are non-recourse. This means that buyers who refinanced may end up losing whatever assets they'd accumulated prior to taking out their loans. But broadly 190 is right.

Also, people who bought houses they could afford in the last few years will get somewhat shafted when the value of those houses drops a lot.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:52 PM
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The whole business was predicated on the market continuing to go up. A few years at the easy mortgage rate, and by the time the chickens came home to collect the cows, you'd either sell the house, or renegotiate the mortgage, so that payment that you couldn't afford would theoretically never materialize because you'd distract the chickens with the unicorn.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:54 PM
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I'll try: you're him (via Calpers or a bond fund or some such).

What are the relative scales?

Homebuyer loses $20K s/he put into first house.

My CalPERS goes down... $100? $2 per foreclosed house?

Sleazy-ass mortgage brokerage in Orange County loses... how much?

I don't understand how the ripples propagate. And who I can demonize.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 5:59 PM
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196

Actually if prices had continued to go up then in a few years they could probably have qualified for an affordable fixed rate mortgage.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:06 PM
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Megan, if you want a primer into how the whole sleazy industry works and whos left holding the bag (including my IRA! Whee!), you could do worse than read the Calculated Risk blog mentioned upthread, especially Tanta's Compleat Uber-Nerd Guide to Mortgage Origination. It'll take you a couple hours to go through it, and then you'll know as much as a bunch of Wall Street jokers who are going to lose their jobs.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:07 PM
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whos s/b who's


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:07 PM
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197: I'm not suggesting that hearts ought to be bleeding for bondholders rather than foreclosed homeowners. OTOH I do think it's more a matter of sleazoid investment bankers and go-go mortgage marketers screwing both homebuyers and bondholders than of bondholders screwing borrowers.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:08 PM
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183

I suspect you are underestimating the amount of inherited money floating around. Are these people giving off financial strain vibes?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:11 PM
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sleazoid investment bankers and go-go mortgage marketers screwing both

Can I demonize them?

I have some notion of the process, but I'm still curious at TLL's statement that the true victims are not the people who took out the loans. Seems to me they feel the hurt most directly, so if there's someone in worse hurt, I'd like to know who that is.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:15 PM
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Depends on how many people CalPERS covers. If someone puts down $20k on a house in Stockton they bought for $400k, and it gets foreclosed on and sold at auction for $200k, if CalPERS holds the mortgage, they'll lose the other $200k. Of course, they may have bought some amount of default insurance, in which case CalPERS will lose $100k and the insurer will lose $100k. But the insurer will probably have borrowed money (sold debt), so when they get wiped out by losses the people who hold their stock will lose $20k and the people who hold their debt will lose $80k. There may be further propagations outward, but basically if you have stock in a mortgage company, homebuilder, or bond insurer, you can probably kiss that goodbye. If you hold stock in a bank, or bond funds that don't specifically avoid high-yielding MBS, you can probably expect decent-sized losses. If you have high-yielding money market funds, you may lose money.

Who you can demonize... mortgage brokers for selling bunk loans and fund managers for buying them? Regulators for not regulating? Realtors for fighting regulation?


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:16 PM
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203: Line forms to the left.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:16 PM
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Man. I scanned the post on mortgage origination. Sometimes I think I am contemplating very fine distinctions about the types of rights that should go with a single block of water, but I am clearly a rank amateur. Compared with distinguishing all the many distinctive properties of a single mortgage, and selling each in different directions, my thoughts are amusement for simple children.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:24 PM
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Actually if prices had continued to go up then in a few years they could probably have qualified for an affordable fixed rate mortgage.

How? If you owe $200k on a house, you will still owe $200k less whatever principal you've paid off in the interim, no matter what the value increases to. If you can't afford the payments on $200k, you can't really sell and buy another house, because the value of that one will have increased too. You could sell the house you own and buy a smaller house, thus pocketing the difference in equity, but I don't think that's what you're suggesting.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:25 PM
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181 actually hits the nail right on the head.

Where's the fucking courage of the people who think that the occasional ticking time bomb requires ad hoc inventions of torture? If soldiers can put themselves in harm's way and sometimes suffer death or lifetime maiming and disability, then you know what? A CIA agent or FBI agent or Attorney General or President can accept the risk that if in some extraordinary circumstance, they think they'll have to use torture, then they might have to go to jail for it. In fact, MUST go to jail if they're wrong. There should be someone who is in jail for life for every single case where we've demonstrably detained the wrong guy in Gitmo or used rendition to send him off to torture. That is the extraordinary risk that a potential ticking time-bomb hero should accept with the same resolution and bravery that a soldier accepts when he's deployed. If he's wrong, a lifetime in prison. If he's right, expect to have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if you're President.

All of this legal bullshit in the last eight years has come from cowards afraid of facing the consequences of their own declared principles. Most of what they've done is to protect themselves. Before they bothered to give US military armor on their vehicles, they were busy armoring up against administrations to come.

Of course, with an opposition like Feinstein or Schumer, what's to fear? I don't mind the Democrats playing it safe on the huge metanarratives, but holding the Administration's feet to the fire on choice of Attorney General is strictly inside-the-Beltway stuff.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:44 PM
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OK, remember: there's no such thing as agency.

No one can be to blame, except possibly the people who lost their homes.

Shit happens, and it's Communist to ask why or how.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:44 PM
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207

Because a fixed rate mortgage with 50% down is much lower risk than a teaser rate variable rate mortgage with 0% down and hence gets a better rate. So if the value doubles in a few years you can replace the high rate subprime mortgage with a lower rate mortgage and be able to continue to make the payments.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 6:45 PM
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The APR on a fixed-rate mortgage with a high down payment may indeed be much lower than that of some sketchy I/O or payment option or teaser rate mortgage. But the initial payments on the sketchy mortgage are often much lower than on the fixed rate one. There are lots of people who got mortgages for which they could only afford to make the initial teaser payments, and could never hope to refinance into a fixed-rate mortgage.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 7:02 PM
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210's right. The idea was to get into the house with zero down and a horrible rate with a grace period of interest-only, and then once the house doubled in value before the real payments kicked in, refinance the remainder, and be fine. The problem with (as in 190) that is that it all depends on the value going up. Value doesn't go up, all of a sudden your mortgage payment is more than you can afford.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 7:04 PM
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i might be willing to vote for paul, at leaast over hillary. his bad ideas are unlikely to be implimented


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 9:26 PM
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yeah, 210 has it. The point is the financial resources that the rise in value of *your* house gives you. People were essentially placing highly leveraged bets on the future values of their homes.

Now, mortgage defaults are highly correlated to real estate price declines.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 10:07 PM
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It has been interesting to scan back and retrace the development of this thread.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-07 10:11 PM
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personally opposed to torture = don't believe in using torture on a person like me.


Posted by: Bryan | Link to this comment | 11- 8-07 3:53 AM
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They will win if they are seen as just as tough but a lot smarter on how to deal with real threats to our national interests.

Or if they can successfully point out the extraordinarily obvious point that the sanction of torture is a real threat to our national interest.

What a dumbass.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11- 8-07 4:51 AM
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