Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Great news about the real estate market!

Housing prices drop more than 6%.
I know it's hard for business journalists to believe, but for a lot of us, news of plummeting housing prices is fantastic news.

Reports of falling prices are always accompanied by words like grim, dire, anxiety, woe and meltdown (and it's unquestionably Bad News). In this fantasy world, everybody who's anybody already owns a house and that house is supposed to be their ticket to riches.

Take this article for instance:
Until recently, Seattle-area homeowners could bask in the knowledge that their houses would appreciate handsomely. Median home prices rose 16 percent in 2005 and 21 percent in 2006, a Seattle Times analysis found.

When this year's final numbers are tallied, the median annual increase will probably be more like 2 or 3 percent, Seattle real-estate economist Matthew Gardner says. That puts Seattle ahead of many cities; still, it's the lowest appreciation rate in roughly a decade.
So a person who bought a house in Seattle at the start of 2005 saw his home's "value" increase by over 40% in 2 years and can look forward to only another 2-3% increase this year. The title of that article? Real-estate anxiety: What's next in '08?

Keep that in mind that when you hear that home prices could fall 30% - in that nightmare scenario that Seattle homeowner would simply break even.

Still, it's true, the half of the market that are looking to buy want to buy low - or at least buy something affordable. This may seem greedy to people who expected double-digit markups year after year - but anybody who thought that prices could climb several times faster than wages forever needs a lesson in basic economics.

Which brings me to a comment from this article:
Housing Optimism - Why the year in real estate wasn't all bad news

[I]t's always wise to treat broker happy-talk skeptically, and that includes the NAR's prediction of a housing market rebound in 2008. But amid their blarney, the realtors do make some valid points about how much is right with the economics that support the buying and selling of homes. Unemployment remains low. Interest rates remain very attractive by historic standards. It may be a less-than-stellar time to sell a house, due to extraordinarily high inventory levels, but it sure is a great time to buy one. Since many homes are bought by first-timers, who needn't worry about selling a current house before they buy one, there is a pool of buyers who should stand ready to make offers.
It will be a great time to buy a house when the monthly mortgage is well under half your monthly income and it isn't cheaper to simply rent it. That time hasn't arrived - and no, getting an interest-only or adjustable rate mortgage doesn't cut it. Those contrivances are what helped drive up housing prices in the first place and are a big reason people are facing foreclosure today.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Everybody hates Ron Paul

At least all the partisans do.

It wasn't too surprising to see FOX news question Ron Paul's Republican credentials during the debates and later suggest he's taking orders from al Qaeda . Nor was it surprising to see any mention of him banned from the rightwing Redstate blog. Ron Paul is, after all, a staunch opponent of the Iraq war, of torture, of suspension of habeas corpus and expansion of presidential powers. In today's Republican party, that's pretty much heresy. The only thing that keeps John McCain out of the doghouse is his unwavering support for expanding the current war.

Ron Paul's supporters are regularly described as trolls, shills, Ronbots, and dysfunctional hacks who live in their mothers basements (regardless of the evidence that they exist in large numbers - and have jobs.)

It's more surprising to see the sheer vitriol leveled at Paul from the left. He and his supporters are generally regarded as a fringe extremists, and those are the nicer descriptions.

Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald took fire from the left after Andrew endorsed Paul for the Republican nomination and Glenn defended his record as a conservative defender of civil liberties:
In a speech last month, [Naomi] Wolf cited Paul's sponsorship of The American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007 -- which would restore habeas corpus, prohibit torture and rendition, bar warrantless surveillance, protect journalists from prosecution for reporting on classifed matters, outlaw the use of secret evidence, and compel Congress to sue to challenge the validity of signing statements -- as a measure necessary to "stabilize democracy long enough to take a breath."
Glenn was responding to Dana Goldstein's assault on Andrew. She claimed that Ron Paul's anti-abortion stance proved he was a hypocrite when it comes to civil liberties.
What is "freedom and toleration" without a woman's right to control her reproductive destiny? What is an "ability to grasp that not all human problems are soluble" without the acknowledgment that unplanned pregnancy, and the havoc it brings, are features of human life that can not be eradicated? What candidate who stands against "Christian meddling" would strengthen the theocratic movement by allowing states, in the name of religion, to repeal women's rights over their own bodies? Sure, Paul's assessment of the Iraq war is correct. But his libertarianism is in name only when it comes to half of the population. That isn't so principled, and it isn't so exciting. Paul doesn't deserve the endorsement of any thinking person committed to individual rights.
But Paul doesn't become a hypocrite for failing to live up to a progressive caricature of libertarianism. He believes that human life starts at conception and to him arguing that a woman has a right to terminate a fetus is like arguing that a mother has the right to smother her newborn child. Disagreeing with Dana doesn't make him an unprincipled misogynist.

Greenwald's defense of Ron Paul earned him a rebuttal by Goldstein, in which she essentially claimed that Ron Paul's base was made up of little more than anti-semitic skinheads. Ezra Klein, Jeff Feck, and the Sideshow piled on, slamming Greenwald for his comments.

Here's Ezra's case against Paul:
[L]et's be clear: Paul wants to destroy the minimum wage, dissolve Medicare, end the Constitutional right to choice, prevent gay adoptions, preserve "Don't Ask/Don't Tell," undermine Social Security, dismantle public education, etc, etc.
Good point. You've just described the entire Republican field.

In fact all the attacks on Paul could easily be leveled at any of the Republicans running. Why Rudy Giuliani is typically described as a pro-choice social moderate after insisting that he'll nominate judges who'll abolish abortion rights is beyond me.

This goes double for Romney - declared by many of these same bloggers to be the least bad Republican despite his intention to push for constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and abortion and to wage war on Iran (not to mention his support for torture, suspension of civil liberties and his own regressive tax proposals). The belief apparently is that he couldn't possibly be serious.

Ron Paul is simply the only Republican in the race who agrees with progressives on anything. And for that he and his supporters are branded anti-semitic, misogynistic, racist wackos - by the very people who should be relieved that there are still some conservatives who believe in fundamental human rights.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good luck with that, guys.

Senior Senate Republicans finessing their election-year message are emphasizing that their conference will need to take a more prominent role on healthcare to win sorely needed independent voters in their uphill bid to retake the majority in 2008.
This is the same group of Republicans that twice upheld the president's veto of children's health insurance and specifically attacked two children whose families lobbied for the bill.

Republicans were worried that too many middle class kids might get covered.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chris Dodd: man of the hour

The 4th amendment. Image originally uploaded by wemeantdemocracy.

At least one of the Democrats running for president remembers that he already has a platform to fight back against President Bush's power grab.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) -- a presidential candidate who returned from Iowa Sunday night to fight the measure -- quickly claimed victory after the bill's withdrawal, and he again vowed to "utilize all the tools available" to block passage once Reid calls it up in January.
Reid, unfortunately, has done all he could to undermine his fellow Democrat and Dodd got little support from his colleagues. Only 10 Senators joined him in voting against moving the FISA bill forward. 35 of his fellow Democrats voted against him (those who think we simply need more Democrats in the Senate should keep that in mind).

Dodd took a significant risk against long odds in what has been one of the few victories against George Bush's assault on the rule of law.
Dodd has been an outspoken opponent of any measure that would offer retroactive immunity to telecom companies that participated with the Bush Administration in violating the civil liberties of millions of American. He announced in October he would put a hold on any bill that included retroactive immunity language. Although his hold was disregarded, he has remained a strong opponent to the bill. Dodd was prepared to offer an amendment that would strip the retroactive immunity provision of the bill and announced he would filibuster the bill if his amendment failed.
I consider it very strange that none of the other Democratic Senators running for president have taken advantage of their positions to prove their ability to lead on controversial issues. Bush's claims of presidential power cannot be defeated by the next president from within the White House. If Congress continues to capitulate to his whims, they no longer are a co-equal branch of government.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

You're kidding right?

President Thompson discusses the Indian problem with Senator McConnell.

The previous great Republican hope takes on the new one.
We apologize for telling reporters that a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University doesn’t, in fact, make Huckabee more qualified to fight the war on terror than say…Fred Thompson.
After all Fred is the only candidate who has been a Major General and an Admiral and director of the CIA. (He even has executive experience).

h/t James Joyner

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Nice timing Pinnochio

Arlen Specter (right) has a chance encounter with Karl Rove on his way to the Senate. Image originally uploaded by nanotron.

: Arlen Specter is furious at Harry Reid for calling him a puppet of George Bush
Specter, R-Pa., cried foul and declared that Reid had not only violated Senate Rule XIX, which prohibits the questioning of a senator’s integrity, but was just flat wrong.
12/06/07: Arlen Specter acts to protect Karl Rove from a Congressional subpoena
A Senate Judiciary Committee vote on contempt resolutions against Karl Rove and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten were postponed following an objection by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).
h/t ThinkProgress

Why Michigan and Florida don't care about DNC threats

Vote Here. Image originally uploaded by cursedthing.

So the DNC attempted to halt the competition over who gets to vote first and ended up potentially alienating the voters in two must-win states in the process.
In August, the Democratic National Committee responded by stripping Florida of its convention delegates after the state scheduled its primary for Jan. 29. Yesterday in Vienna, the DNC's rules and bylaws committee issued the same penalty to Michigan for its Jan. 15 primary date.
If you're wondering why the DNC didn't short-circuit the problem by cracking down on Iowa and New Hampshire (whose insistence on being first is driving the race to the bottom), it's because Iowa and New Hampshire don't care about losing their delegates, they want to be kingmakers. These states not only demand that they go first, they demand that everyone else wait a week before voting. This way they are able to dictate the debate and compel the candidates to focus on local issues (like farm subsidies and small town "values") instead of federal ones.

Of course, every state thinks its own interests are the most important and the larger, more urban ones have been chafing at the idea that the list of candidates available to them has been culled by voters who have very different priorities.

So Michigan and Florida have taken the gamble. And does anyone believe that if Hillary Clinton wins those primaries by a 20-30 point margin the rest of us will even have Obama or Edwards to vote for come February 5th?

If they can decide the victor, they don't need any delegates.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

George Bush: preparing for World War III

Sometimes you have to ask yourself, would you rather have a complete incompetent or a baldfaced liar as your president?

(Of course, there's no rule that says you can't have both)
BUSH: I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was John -- Mike McConnell came in and said we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze.
So Mike McConnell comes strolling into the president's office, tells him we have new information concerning a country that's supposedly planning to nuke Israel (or Poland?) and Bush doesn't even ask for a quick summary. And he doesn't ask about it for 3 months!

video at ThinkProgress

Monday, December 3, 2007

Yes, Hugo Chavez is an autocrat

Here's a simple rule:

If you try to overthow the government in a military coup, disband the legislature, rewrite the Constitution, stack the courts, silence the media and politicize the military. Then you're an autocrat.

And it doesn't matter whether your name is Putin, Musharraf or Chavez.

h/t Matthew Yglesias

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mike Huckabee and the flight of the bumblebee

Humble Bumble. Image originally uploaded by Memotions

Mike Huckabee revives the old wives tale that scientists have proven that it's impossible for a bumblebee to fly:
"The bumblebee, being unaware of these scientific facts, goes ahead and flies anyway"
This is just another entry in the Republican habit of claiming that scientists are idiots. It doesn't actually matter that it isn't true, or that scientists figured out how a bumblebee flies years ago.