Thursday, February 21, 2008

Burnt Orange Report::: Thousands of Prairie View Students March 7.3 Miles to Vote

Burnt Orange Report::: Thousands of Prairie View Students March 7.3 Miles to Vote: "Early voting starts today in Texas. In Waller County, a primarily rural county about 60 miles outside Houston, the county made the decision to offer only one early voting location: at the County Courthouse in Hempstead, TX, the county seat.

Prairie View A&M students organized to protest the decision, because they felt it hindered their ability to vote. For background, Prairie View A&M is one of Texas' historically Black universities. It has a very different demographic feel than the rest of the county. There has been a long history of dispute over what the students feel is disenfranchisement. There was a lot of outrage in 2006, when students felt they were unfairly denied the right to vote when their registrations somehow did not get processed."


Katrina Vanden Heuvel | Where Did the Water Come in?

"Officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) point out that there is no uniformity in how loan documents spell out the terms of loans, and some are woefully inadequate. The Times also reported that 'many lenders peddled the most abusive and costly loans to unsophisticated, first-time home buyers. Known as 'affordability products,' the mortgages generated big commissions up front and were designed to require refinancing later on - which included yet another round of luscious fees for lenders. With refinancing no longer an option, it is becoming obvious that these loans were designed to fail.' Madigan told NPR, 'I have had hundreds of people come to our office once they realized that they were in one of these high-cost subprime loans… telling us that they did, in fact, ask 'Is this a fixed-rate loan?' They were told yes, only to find out two or three years later it was an adjustable rate loan. I've had people tell us, you know, 'we told them that our income was only $2,000 a month…' [But] we find when we look at the documents it was written down [by the lender] as $7,000, $9,000 a month. So people were being put into loans in spite of the fact that they were… giving the correct information. And it is all because of the fact that the brokers and the lenders were receiving incentives, in large part because there was just this demand on Wall Street for these mortgage-backed securities."

"Nobody seemed to care because of who was profiting, on the one hand, and who was being exploited on the other," Jackson said. "But now the water is - like the Titanic - the water is up around the deck where the big people hang out. But where did the water come in? The water came in at the bottom of the ship. The poor always pay more for less - for cars, goods and services, insurance, food, banking money. This time, however, it's affecting the whole economy, that's what is different about this. Again, if the government had not allowed the rich to get richer at the expense of the vulnerable you wouldn't have this crisis."

It is now estimated that 2.2 million subprime home loans have already failed or will end in foreclosure - the highest foreclosure rate since the Depression - with a total equity loss of $164 billion. Moreover, neighboring homes to foreclosed properties will see a decline in value of $200 billion. A US Conference of Mayors Report estimates that the foreclosure crisis will reduce home values by an additional $519 billion in 2008, bringing the total forecast of lost equity for the nation's homeowners to $1.2 trillion.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis

"Speculators have also flooded into the credit insurance market recently because these securities make it easier to bet on the health of a company than using corporate bonds.

Both factors have resulted in a market of credit swaps that now far exceeds the face value of corporate bonds underlying it. Commercial banks are among the biggest participants — at the end of the third quarter of 2007, the top 25 banks held credit default swaps, both as insurers and insured, worth $14 trillion, the currency office said, up $2 trillion from the previous quarter.

JPMorgan Chase, with $7.8 trillion, is the largest player; Citibank and Bank of America are behind it with $3 trillion and $1.6 trillion respectively.

In 2000, $900 billion of credit insurance contracts changed hands. Since then, the face value of the contracts outstanding has doubled every year as new contracts have been written. In the first six months of 2007, the figure rose 75 percent; the market now dwarfs the value of United States Treasuries outstanding."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

US credit crisis escalates as defaults spread - Telegraph

"Arrears on 'prime' mortgages have reached a record 4pc, confounding expectations that middle-class Americans with good credit records would be able to weather the storm.

While sub-prime and close kin 'Alt A' total $2,000bn (£1,019bn) of debt, the prime market in all its forms is roughly $8,000bn. If prime default rates rise on their current trajectory, they could ultimately cause huge financial damage."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Hope for us akward types

As someone who attempts to embrace her bull in a china shop self, I have to say I find this article comforting.

By self-monitoring, people assess how their actions affect others and adjust to fit the appropriateness of the situation. They screen their words and behavior to suit the people around them.

"High self-monitors are social chameleons," said Northwestern University professor of communication studies Michael E. Roloff."And, because they're quick to pick up on social cues, are socially adept and unlikely to say things upsetting to others, they are generally well-liked and sought after."

but wait......

High self-monitors seem to avoid face-threatening interactions and honest self-disclosure. Thus partners of these people may be completely in the dark about the extent of their significant other’s degree of commitment and regard.

"It's not that high self-monitors are intentionally deceptive or evil," Roloff said. "They appear to have an outlook and way of achieving their goals that makes them attractive to us socially but that prevents them from being particularly happy or loyal in their romantic relationships."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Debt Slavery-Or not?

Are moral obligations an issue?

Avalon writes: 'Mish, I'm very disappointed that you don't think people are morally obligated to try to honor their agreements. Just because it's legal doesn't make it right.'

Let's explore the issue of moral obligation with a series of questions.
  • Where was the moral obligation of those willing to lend money to someone who they knew could not possibly afford the house?
  • Where was the moral obligation of those willing to lend money to someone when the lender did not care how overpriced the home was?
  • Where was the moral obligation of those willing to lend money to someone when the lender explicitly knew how overpriced the home was?
  • What are the moral obligations homeowners to provide for their family the best legal means they can?
  • Suppose someone could "afford" to make payments but at the expense of say health insurance or better schools? What's the moral obligation on that person?
  • Does moral obligation only run in one direction?
  • Should someone have a moral obligation if he signs a contract with a thief?

Friday, February 08, 2008


The following is an excerpt from an article that is being published in this month's Atlantic. I subscribe to The Atlantic because they have some of the best long format articles on politics out there as far as I am concerned. I'm a political junkie, so this works for me. I had noticed though over the years of reading it, that they seem to have an "issue" with women. This is most obviously represented by their hiring of Caitlin Flanagan who is easily one of the most desperately confused humans I have ever seen in print.

Now they print this chick. Nothing makes my heart warmer than seeing a woman in print decide that because they really feel something, it must in fact be true. If I'm not worried, I'm in denial? Seriously? Can you really not imagine a life narrative where a person, female or male, would be happy and satisfied with the non standard narrative? This does not make me a liar, it makes you an unimaginative moron.

I know women in this age bracket who don't want to be alone. They want to get married and are very aware that marriage is a contract with imperfections and significant, confusing compromises. They are not waiting for their soul mate, they are hoping to meet someone they like enough to settle for.

It hasn't anything to do with feminism. Modern life demands more energy out us than we often have to give. We are still learning how to prioritize what we spend our energy on, but anyone who is complaining about that being their issue is ignorant. Feminism has never been about women or men having to be alone. Humans are social animals and seek companionship in almost all situations. What does wanting a partner/companion/spouse have to do with feminism? Seriously, who the fuck told you that to be a feminist meant having unrealistic ideas about marriage and what it takes to make a life partnership work? That makes you an idiot, not feminism a faulty premise. OK, done now.

"To the outside world, of course, we still call ourselves feminists and insist — vehemently, even — that we’re independent and self-sufficient and don’t believe in any of that damsel-in-distress stuff, but in reality, we aren’t fish who can do without a bicycle, we’re women who want a traditional family. And despite growing up in an era when the centuries-old mantra to get married young was finally (and, it seemed, refreshingly) replaced by encouragement to postpone that milestone in pursuit of high ideals (education! career! but also true love!), every woman I know — no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure — feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.

Oh, I know — I’m guessing there are single 30-year-old women reading this right now who will be writing letters to say that the women I know aren’t widely representative, that I’ve been co-opted by the cult of the feminist backlash, and basically, that I have no idea what I’m talking about. And all I can say is, if you say you’re not worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying. In fact, take a good look in the mirror and try to convince yourself that you’re"

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cosmic Finger Taps Our Galaxy's Shoulder - Yahoo! News

Cosmic Finger Taps Our Galaxy's Shoulder - Yahoo! News: "As if reaching out with a come-hither motion, a giant gas finger emanating from two neighboring galaxies has hooked into the starry disk of the Milky Way and is pulling all three galaxies closer.

This extremity of hydrogen gas is actually the pointy end of the so-called Leading Arm of gas that streams ahead of two irregular galaxies called the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds."

Sexism is still OK

I have definitely been torn between Hillary and Obama and this posting is not helping.

Goodbye to the double standard . . .

—Hillary is too ballsy but too womanly, a Snow Maiden who’s emotional, and so much a politician as to be unfit for politics.

—She’s “ambitious” but he shows “fire in the belly.” (Ever had labor pains?)

—When a sexist idiot screamed “Iron my shirt!” at HRC, it was considered amusing; if a racist idiot shouted “Shine my shoes!” at BO, it would’ve inspired hours of airtime and pages of newsprint analyzing our national dishonor.

Young political Kennedys—Kathleen, Kerry, and Bobby Jr.—all endorsed Hillary. Senator Ted, age 76, endorsed Obama. If the situation were reversed, pundits would snort “See? Ted and establishment types back her, but the forward-looking generation backs him.” [...]

Goodbye to the toxic viciousness . . .

Carl Bernstein's disgust at Hillary’s “thick ankles.” Nixon-trickster Roger Stone’s new Hillary-hating 527 group, “Citizens United Not Timid” (check the capital letters). John McCain answering “How do we beat the bitch?" with “Excellent question!” Would he have dared reply similarly to “How do we beat the black bastard?” For shame.

Goodbye to the HRC nutcracker with metal spikes between splayed thighs. If it was a tap-dancing blackface doll, we would be righteously outraged—and they would not be selling it in airports. Shame.

Goodbye to the most intimately violent T-shirts in election history, including one with the murderous slogan “If Only Hillary had married O.J. Instead!” Shame.

Goodbye to Comedy Central’s “Southpark” featuring a storyline in which terrorists secrete a bomb in HRC’s vagina. I refuse to wrench my brain down into the gutter far enough to find a race-based comparison. For shame.

Goodbye to the sick, malicious idea that this is funny. This is not “Clinton hating,” not “Hillary hating.” This is sociopathic woman-hating. If it were about Jews, we would recognize it instantly as anti-Semitic propaganda; if about race, as KKK poison. Hell, PETA would go ballistic if such vomitous spew were directed at animals. Where is our sense of outrage—as citizens, voters, Americans?

Goodbye to the news-coverage target-practice . . .

The women’s movement and Media Matters wrung an apology from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews for relentless misogynistic comments ( But what about NBC’s Tim Russert’s continual sexist asides and his all-white-male panels pontificating on race and gender? Or CNN’s Tony Harris chuckling at “the chromosome thing” while interviewing a woman from The White House Project? And that’s not even mentioning Fox News.


Women have endured sex/race/ethnic/religious hatred, rape and battery, invasion of spirit and flesh, forced pregnancy; being the majority of the poor, the illiterate, the disabled, of refugees, caregivers, the HIV/AIDS afflicted, the powerless. We have survived invisibility, ridicule, religious fundamentalisms, polygamy, teargas, forced feedings, jails, asylums, sati, purdah, female genital mutilation, witch burnings, stonings, and attempted gynocides. We have tried reason, persuasion, reassurances, and being extra-qualified, only to learn it never was about qualifications after all. We know that at this historical moment women experience the world differently from men—though not all the same as one another—and can govern differently, from Elizabeth Tudor to Michele Bachelet and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

We remember when Shirley Chisholm and Patricia Schroeder ran for this high office and barely got past the gate—they showed too much passion, raised too little cash, were joke fodder. Goodbye to all that. (And goodbye to some feminists so famished for a female president they were even willing to abandon women’s rights in backing Elizabeth Dole.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

End of Days?

Mongabay alerts us that the current issue of GSA Today, a journal published by the Geological Society of America, features a peer-reviewed article by scientists arguing that the 11,550-year-old Holocene epoch, witness to the glorious entirety of human civilization, ended at around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. At that point, the human impact on the planet starts to become so great as to effectuate what geologists like to call 'stratigraphically significant change.' That means: change you can notice, if, say, you were looking back in history from a million (or hundred million) years from now.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the Anthropocene.

From "Are we now living in the Anthropocene?":

A case can be made for its consideration as a formal epoch in that, since the start of the Industrial Revolution, Earth has endured changes sufficient to leave a global stratigraphic signature distinct from that of the Holocene or of previous Pleistocene interglacial phases, encompassing novel biotic, sedimentary, and geochemical change. These changes, although likely only in their initial phases, are sufficiently distinct and robustly established for suggestions of a Holocene-Anthropocene boundary in the recent historical past to be geologically reasonable.

Titanic Shift

Titanic Shift:
"At least $2.4 trillion worth of securities, that is $2,400 billion (€ 1.64 trillion) are at risk to the financial insurance monoline downgrades. This is the early phase of the most severe financial crisis the United States has faced in its entire history, vastly paling 1929. It is now inevitable that the US Federal government will soon be forced to enter the “financial guarantee” business, assuming the obligations of municipal bond from the “monolines” and mortgage-backed securities insurance."

Hundreds of US financial players – from small hedge funds to the major money center banks – with complex books of derivative trades, now have a very serious problem. Their “hedged books” contain supposedly offsetting risk exposures that were to have created a reasonable portfolio risk profile. The breakdown in Wall Street finance has transformed these highly leveraged “books” into essentially unmanageable “toxic waste” and financial land mines. The heart of the securitization process has been to make financial exposure less and less transparent. In good times, few cared. Now everyone cares. Banks dare not to trade with other banks fearing unknown risks.

Gout is hot.

BBC NEWS | Health | Gout surge blamed on sweet drinks: "Sugary drinks have been blamed for a surge in cases of the painful joint disease gout.

Men who consume two or more sugary soft drinks a day have an 85% higher risk of gout compared with those who drink less than one a month, a study suggests.

Cases in the US have doubled in recent decades and it seems fructose, a type of sugar, may be to blame, the British Medical Journal study reports."