Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kindle A Fire

Amazon solved my Kindle problem by releasing a Kindle iPhone app that reads Kindle formatted books and is backlit, unlike the Kindle. Thanks, Amazon! Now I don't have to pay $359 for your proprietary reader!

Of course, there's the whole thing about being able to buy the book in, you know, COMPLETELY PORTABLE PAPERBACK FORMAT too. Amazon just really shot itself in the foot, I think. Far more people own iPhones and like myself, Amazon just made sure I never end up buying a Kindle until the price drops to something far more reasonable. For the price of the Kindle you can get an iPhone...oh and it does all the things an iPhone can do. Plus, I already have the iPhone.

Kindle swindle, indeed.

And The Seas Boiled, And The Moon Became As Blood

...And Karl Rove agreed to testify to Congress.
The House Judiciary Committee announced late Wednesday afternoon that they had secured the agreement of former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to testify in transcribed depositions under threat of perjury.

The Committee did not immediately announce what terms, if any, had been reached with Rove, but said the agreement had been made with representatives of the former Bush Administration. They did say that they would get access to Administration documents, and that Rove and Miers had agreed to testify publicly if called.

"The Committee has also reserved the right to have public testimony from Rove and Miers," House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) said in a statement.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said the agreement was "good news."

The "agreement is good news," Luksin said in an emailed statement. "Mr. Rove looks forward to addressing the Committee's concerns" and is "pleased that the Committee and President Bush were able to resolve their differences."
How very...interesting. It really is a new world.

Epic Do As I Say, Not As I Say Fail

GOP: Rush is not our leader, and the White House made all of this up to draw attention away from the issues! It's an attention getting ploy to get attention! There are substantial issues that the White House is dodging so it can demonize one guy as a publicity stunt. A publicity stunt, we say!

Rush: And I demand that President Obama debate me on my show! It would be great publicity!


Headlines We Don't Want To See

They surely include stuff like "Hidden Pension Fiasco May Foment Another $1 Trillion Bailout".
The misleading numbers posted by retirement fund administrators help mask this reality: Public pensions in the U.S. had total liabilities of $2.9 trillion as of Dec. 16, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Their total assets are about 30 percent less than that, at $2 trillion.

With stock market losses this year, public pensions in the U.S. are now underfunded by more than $1 trillion.

I'm gonna find me an accountant and hit them. Really. I am.

The Obama Recession Is A Myth

An overwhelming majority of the American people agree that Obama is not responsible for the current state of the stock market right now, a whopping 84 percent find this is a situation Obama inherited through no fault of his own.
On the Today Show yesterday, CNBC’s Jim Cramer caused a lot of buzz when he declared that President Obama’s policies have resulted in “the most, greatest wealth destruction I’ve seen by a president.” But in a new NBC News/WSJ poll, the vast majority of respondents said that Obama shouldn’t be blamed for the economy’s problems. In fact, 66 percent said it would be at least a year until Obama’s policies “are mostly responsible for the country’s economic conditions”.
For the most part, Barack Obama has until 2010 or 2011 before the country sours on his economic plans. But the AFOP crowd can go to hell. The country is firmly behind the President's economic plans.

The Centrists Are Revolting, Sir

"Well of course they're revolting, have you ever looked at a centrist like Evan Bayh?" (h/t TPM)
Before the budget even comes to a vote, however, the 2009 spending bill must be taken care of -- and one of those centrist Dems, Evan Bayh (IN), is urging Obama to veto the $410 billion measure in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today. From Bayh's piece (emphasis mine):
The omnibus debate is not merely a battle over last year's unfinished business, but the first indication of how we will shape our fiscal future. Spending should be held in check before taxes are raised, even on the wealthy. Most people are willing to do their duty by paying taxes, but they want to know that their money is going toward important priorities and won't be wasted.

Does that fiscal-discipline argument against the spending bill sound familiar? Ah, right, House Republicans made it last week. Also, could someone remind Bayh that he voted against the Bush tax cuts that he's now unwilling to see expire?

BooMan also has more on Bayh's Backbencher Blue Dog Bunch.

It's looking like Obama has something of a problem. While Blue Dogs in the House can't really outright stop legislation, Bayh's Bunch certainly can kill anything in the Senate. They could very well exact a steep price for their votes from Obama, forcing him to cripple legislation more effectively than the Republicans could dream of. It's clear they expect to have massive influence over both the omnibus bill still on the table and the budget for next year.

In other words, six weeks into the President's term, Evan Bayh is already running on an anti-Obama ticket for reelection in 2010, and he's recruited a hefty chunk of backbenchers to help him...including Joe F'ckin Lieberman.

Things might get pretty stupid from here.

[UPDATE] As StarStorm reminds me in the comments, Bayh was on the short list for Obama's Veep at one point. And as I said back then on a number of occasions that Bayh was a truly rotten choice for his Centrist bullcrap.

The Mike Steele Error

The Politico hit job on RNC chair Michael Steele is a calculated strike, the door is now open for Steele's job. Taking on Rush may just have sealed the deal on losing his job. (h/t Balloon Juice).
A month after Michael Steele became the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee, key party leaders are worried that the GOP has made a costly mistake — one that will make it even harder for them to take back power from the dominant Democratic Party.

Steadily becoming a dependable punch line, Steele has brushed back Rush Limbaugh, threatened moderate Republican senators, offered the “friggin’ awesome” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal some “slum love,” called civil unions “crazy” and promised more outreach to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings” via an “off the hook” public relations campaign.

He even threw a shout-out to “one-armed midgets.”

That’s in just 30 days on the job — and that’s just the PR part.

On the organizational side, Steele does not have a chief of staff, a political director, a finance director or a communications director. Last week, one of the two men sharing the job of interim finance director was forced to resign.

For now, “the fourth floor,” as the RNC’s executive suite is known, is being run by a pair of consultants.

“There’s frustration that there’s no discipline, no planning,” said a well-known Republican consultant. “He’s risking being overexposed by accepting every interview, which makes gaffes more likely.”
There's more hit pieces out there in the usual places for Republicans, namely the DC Examiner and US News & World Report. Given that, I'm giving Mike a 50/50 shot at making it to next week. It's clear the El Rushbo wing is in full revenge/purge mode against him, and if they decide they want him gone, he'll be convinced to resign. The only thing keeping Mike in his job is the fact that replacing him would be a PR nightmare, especially if his replacement was racist prick Katon Dawson or local vote suppressing scuzzbag Ken Blackwell. Both of them are lining up behind Rush, and it's pretty clear judging from these recent RNC chairman runner-ups that there may very well be another RNC chair vote in the near future.

We'll see how this goes. But if Steele resigns, there would be zero doubt that El Rushbo controls the entire GOP party apparatus. To me, it's staggering that the GOP honestly thinks here that the problem with the party right now is Michael Steele and not Rush Limbaugh.

The Oxycontinfather will not be denied, and he's making an offer nobody in the GOP dares refuse. Of course, Digby's had Rush's number for years now. Nothing's really changed, he's been the heart, soul, and mind of the GOP for a long, long time now.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

One in five mortgages are now underwater.
One in five U.S. homeowners with mortgages owe more to their lenders than their homes are worth, and the rate will increase as housing prices drop in states that have so far avoided the worst of the crisis, a new study shows.

About 8.31 million properties had negative equity at the end of the year, up 9 percent from 7.63 million at the end of September, according to the study released Wednesday by First American CoreLogic. The percentage of "underwater" borrowers rose to 20 percent from 18 percent over that time.

The study covered 43 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

While states such as California, Florida and Nevada were particularly stressed, the study showed worrying signs of deterioration in relatively healthy parts of the nation.

"The economic slowdown is broadening," said Sherrill Shaffer, a banking professor at the University of Wyoming at Laramie and a former Federal Reserve official. "As more people lose jobs, it will be more difficult to sustain the levels of pricing and home ownership, and that is a big factor driving down housing prices in more parts of the country."

I fully expect this number to top 25% (one in four), if not 33% (one in three) of all mortgages. Home prices will fall another 15-20%, folks. As it does, more and more Americans will end up owing more money on their homes than the home is worth.

The problem on this is the penalty rate of the mortgage, typically this kicks in when you get far enough underwater that you owe 110% to 115% of the home value on the mortgage, such as a situation where you took out a $300,000 mortgage on a home five years ago that's now worth, say, $200,000. You still owe $250,000. If the house is worth $300,000 then you're fine, you'd actually have $50k in equity. But if it's worth $200,000 then you owe 125% of the value of the home to the bank, deep into the penalty rate of the mortgage.

It's at this point where the mortgage holder (bank or mortgage company) jacks up your mortgage payment every month until you get under that penalty rate. So, you go from a situation where you were paying your mortgage on time to the point where suddenly your mortgage is a good $1,000 or more expensive every an economy that's hemorrhaging jobs, and that negative equity means you're a massive, massive credit risk.

Everything else in your life suddenly gets a lot worse through no fault of your own. These are the people Obama is trying to help refinance with his plan, the 9 million he's talking about.

It may be a lot more than 9 million who need help by the end of the year.


ADP's monthly numbers on job losses in the private sector for February are nothing short of staggering: an estimated 697,000 jobs lost last month despite the fact that February's announced layoffs were down somewhat from January's numbers.

If the official job loss numbers on Friday are anywhere close to that 700k mark however, we're in dire, dire trouble. A while ago I threw out an insane number of 10 million jobs lost in 2009 as worst case scenario. That's still waaaaaaaaaay high, but if we're losing a good 1.35 million jobs every 2 months here, 8 million jobs down in 2009 are certainly not out of the picture if this keeps up. Should the pace accelerate more, well...maybe I'm not so insane after all.


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