Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Zandar's Thought Of the Day

Which is more "dead" politically after the events of the last week:
  • Mark Sanford's 2012 presidential candidacy
  • President Obama's policy towards the current Iranian regime
  • The Waxman-Markey Bill (American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009)
  • Health care reform that includes a public option
My inner cynic says not a one is a going concern right now, frankly.

Appalachian Trail Seems Like An Odd Name For A Mistress, Must Be Portuguese

Mark Sanford: Ditched his security detail, flew to Argentina, didn't inform his Lt. Gov where he was going, had his staff lie to everyone about it, oh, and cheated on his wife, too.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted Wednesday, amid speculation over his whereabouts for the last several days, that he has been engaged in an extramarital affair with an Argentinian woman.

"I've been unfaithful to my wife," Sanford told a news conference in Columbia, the state capital. "I developed a relationship with what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina."

His voice choking at times, Sanford apologized to his wife and four sons, his staff and supporters, and said he would resign immediately as head of the Republican Governors Association. The affair was discovered five months ago, Sanford said.

The South Carolina governor had not been seen in public since June 18. When questioned, Sanford's staff had told media outlets that he was hiking in the Appalachian Trail. But Sanford was spotted Wednesday in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The South Carolina governor said he had been in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

You stay classy, Republican presidential hopefuls!

Sarah Palin wins the GOP nomination by default in 2012 because she's literally the only Republican not thinking with the wrong head.

[UPDATE 3:36 PM] As BooMan says, the affair isn't the problem, but leaving the state with no contingency plan and no contact info in case an emergency happened most certainly is. It quite frankly amounts to dereliction of duty of the office of the impeachable offense.

Home Is Where You Hang Your Hat

Via CalcRisk comes this disturbing WaPo article on the fact that about a million American homeowners are months, in some cases over a year behind on their home payments...but the banks can't or won't foreclose.

The backlog of seriously delinquent mortgages, which so far affects about 1 million borrowers, is a shadow over hopes for a rebound in the nation's housing markets. It masks the full extent of the foreclosure crisis and threatens to depress prices even further just as some parts of the country are hinting at recovery. For lenders, it could portend even more financial losses tied to the mortgage meltdown.

"It just means foreclosure rates are going to keep rising," said Patrick Newport, an economist for IHS Global Insight.

Rising mortgage delinquencies were at the root of the recession, and many economists say an economic recovery will be difficult until the housing market recovers and home prices stabilize.

And even though a delayed foreclosure can be a blessing for some troubled homeowners, for others, it simply prolongs the financial distress, leaving them on the hook for the condition of the property. Even if they move out, they cannot move on.

"I have even begged them for a foreclosure," delinquent mortgage-holder Charlotte Jensen said. When she realized she couldn't save her Glen Allen home last year, she filed for bankruptcy, packed up her family and moved out. Nearly a year later, Bank of America has yet to take back the home.

During the first quarter of this year, the share of all homeowners seriously delinquent on their mortgage but not yet facing foreclosure more than doubled to 3.04 percent, or about $227 billion in loans. There was a total of $97 billion in such loans during the same period in 2008, according to Inside Mortgage Finance. In more prosperous times, the rate is much lower -- it was less than 1 percent in the first quarter of 2007, according to the industry publication.

Some of the backlog reflects the inability of lenders to keep up with the swelling rolls of delinquent properties.

"Lenders are having an immensely difficult time handling the capacity. They are torn between loan modification, short sales, foreclosures, and they are finding they can't do all these things at once, and do them well, so we're seeing a lot of things falling through the cracks," said Howard Glaser, a housing industry consultant and a housing official during the Clinton administration.

And let's face it, when banks foreclose they not only have to write up the home loan as a loss , they have to then take the loss on the property as the value continues to fall. The banks actually save money by not foreclosing immediately. They're waiting for the housing market to turn around too. So much of their assets are the 30-year loan variety, foreclosings of this magnitude only cost the bank more and more.

So yes, millions of people in America are now living mortgage free. Everyone is trying to sweep the housing crash under the rug, and the problem is the rug is no longer big enough to hide the train wreck anymore. When the townships, cities, counties and states come looking for property tax revenue from these limbo homes, this is going to detonate. The housing numbers should be significantly worse than they are, the only reason they are not is because banks are overwhelmed by the backlog of foreclosures.

And it'll only get worse.

Hence The Need For The Plan

Doug at Balloon Juice looks at some depressing campaign numbers for the GOP:
Reading an annoyingly titled but interesting piece about the next election cycle, I came across this interesting tidbit, which I hadn’t seen before:
As The New York Times’ John Harwood recently noted, McCain won the same percentage of the white vote that Ronald Reagan did in 1980 — and lost.

Reagan and McCain each won 55% of the white vote.

Here’s something else interesting: Bush won 58% of the white vote in 2004. If McCain had won 58%, he still would have lost badly. If he’d won 65% of the white vote, the race would have been essentially a tie.

And yet the GOP is doing everything it can to alienate non-white voters, particularly blacks and especially Hispanics. It's still the same GOP from 1980. The country just changed.

A majority of the white vote no longer guarantees a win, that's been true for some time now, but even a two-thirds majority of the white vote is no guarantee anymore for Republican presidential candidates.

Any wonder then why the GOP is still fixated on limiting the vote of minorities through state-level voter ID laws?

South America, South Carolina, What's The Diff?

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford went on a nice week-long vacation to Buenos Aires from his recent troubles, which is fine...he's a state employee after all.

Only he didn't tell his wife or pretty much anyone where he went, and his staff lied and said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. The family man vanished for week over Father's Day weekend, and didn't even tell his family where he had gone. It was a "last minute" thing.
Sanford's whereabouts had been unknown since Thursday, and the mystery surrounding his absence fueled speculation about where he had been and who's in charge in his absence. His emergence Wednesday ended the mystery.

Sanford, in an exclusive interview with The State, said he decided at the last minute to go to the South American country to recharge after a difficult legislative session in which he battled with lawmakers over how to spend federal stimulus money.

Sanford said he had considered hiking on the Appalachian Trail, an activity he said he has enjoyed since he was a high school student.

"But I said 'no' I wanted to do something exotic," Sanford said "... It's a great city."

You know, I'm thinking that's a silly, silly thing to lie about, and the whole thing is about as fishy as an Atlantic City mermaid convention.

[UPDATE 10:33 AM] TPM is reporting Sanford will hold a press conference at 2 PM. Odds of his wife being at his side after he, you know, ditched her and didn't tell her he was in Argentina for a week? Not real good I'm thinking...then again, it's possible the entire Sanford family will be there. If that's so, then things are about to get Jon & Kate interesting.

It Takes A Village... descend into self-parody like this.

As the kids on the internets would say, "It's meta."

Cap And Trade Goes To The House

Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a Friday House vote for climate change legislation (the Waxman-Markey Bill) and remains confident it can pass.
The bill aims to cap greenhouse-gas emissions at 17% of 2005 levels by 2020 and at roughly 80% by 2050, creating a market for companies to buy and sell the right to emit carbon dioxide and other gases. It also mandates a new renewable electricity standard and establishes new national building codes.

It would mark the first time that either of the two chambers of Congress have voted to impose mandatory reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions -- a goal President Barack Obama wants to achieve before a round of international climate talks in December in Copenhagen.

Mr. Obama on Tuesday said the House climate bill is "extraordinarily important for our country," urging House members "to come together and pass it." The president said it would create millions of new "green" jobs that can't be shipped overseas.

Mr. Obama also sent his top cabinet officials, including his Energy, Interior, Transportation and Labor secretaries, around the country to gather public support.

The real news however is what Henry Waxman gave to farm country Dems and Agriculture Committee chair Colin Peterson. Peterson was blocking the bill and refusing to let it out of committee without major revisions. It looks like Peterson and Waxman cut a deal instead.

On first glance, the last-minute deal that Waxman struck with Peterson doesn't look very appealing from an environmental perspective. For one, the USDA will now get primary oversight over what sorts of agricultural projects qualify for offsets under the cap-and-trade program. The EPA will have an undefined role that the Obama administration will have to determine later. (Basically, the EPA takes a much stricter view of what farm projects—from methane capture to no-till farming—actually reduce carbon.)

Waxman also agreed to exempt ethanol from indirect-land-use analysis for five years. In other words, if corn or soy in the United States is grown for fuel and that, in turn, prompts farmers elsewhere to clear a patch of forest and grow their own corn, well, the EPA can't consider that in its assessment of the impacts of ethanol. Joe Romm deems this a minimal concession, since corn-based ethanol is already exempt from this sort of scrutiny, and newer biofuels like cellulosic ethanol—where this rule could do a lot of damage—are more than five years away anyway. That's the optimistic take, at least

Finally, Waxman consented to grab a sliver of the permit money that was slated for renewable energy and give it over to rural coal generators. This won't affect the overall carbon cap, but it's a pretty sleazy giveaway. On the other hand, Waxman really needed farm-state Dems support (since few Republicans will vote for this bill), so he had little choice.

So, more weakening of the bill, and that should continue through the Senate as well. Coal Belt, Rust Belt, and farm state Dems are going to do everything they can to try to gut Waxman-Markey down to a "voluntary set of suggestions" for proceeding...and we haven't even gotten to the Republicans yet.

It's looking better than it was a few days ago, but still very grim.


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