Quick Hits -- September 29

A couple of things that are on my desk today…

First of all, an update to the Bow. James Bow Election Pool. There is still time to vote in the first phase of prediction, and make an early guess as to what the results will be. Now that we have more details, I can tell you that phase one will end at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, October 2. That’s the day of the second leaders’ debate, and will mark the official start of the second phase of the campaign. Comments will be closed on the first phase post, and I’ll make an announcement on a new post that will start gathering your second round predictions of the final result.

Remember, people who didn’t participate in phase one can still make their predictions in phase two, they just have to overcome a penalty for not predicting early. Phase one participants can show what they’re made of and say “let it ride!”, so that their first round prediction becomes your second round prediction. Those who don’t make a prediction in the second round will have been deemed to have done this.

So, phase two begins in three days. Happy predicting!

On Gigantic Bailouts

So 1/3rd of Democrats and 2/3rds of Republicans in the House have decided to vote down the proposed $700 Billion bailout of the U.S. financial sector. Yes, I know it’s a risky move. I know the numbers are scary, but a part of me still believes that these representatives have done the right thing. If nothing else, that mad appeal for $700 Billion to buy up bad debt from beleaguered financial companies sounded too much like a blank cheque. There needs to be more oversight, at least.

But, according to Forbes Magazine, the Treasury Department doesn’t have a coherent plan of how to actually deal with the financial crisis in the United States. That $700 billion figure they put up to buy back bad loans? They pulled that out of a hat.

In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.

“It’s not based on any particular data point,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”

To which the Treasury spokeswoman added, “and our advisers told us that ‘bazillion’ wasn’t actually a number.”

Doesn’t inspire confidence, does it?

Hat tip to the Vanity Press.

Why Not Have Things Trickle Up For a Change

Catelli says a lot of what I’ve been saying about the approach to this crisis: rather than bail out financial companies, why not bail out homeowners who are on the verge of foreclosure? If you’ve got $700 billion handy for a massive bailout of corporations, why can’t that be used at the other end of the economics? This idea came from Senator Clinton:

I’ve proposed a new Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), to launch a national effort to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. The original HOLC, launched in 1933, bought mortgages from failed banks and modified the terms so families could make affordable payments while keeping their homes. The original HOLC returned a profit to the Treasury and saved one million homes. We can save roughly three times that many today. We should also put in place a temporary moratorium on foreclosures and freeze rate hikes in adjustable-rate mortgages. We’ve got to stem the tide of failing mortgages and give the markets time to recover.


In Canada, we have the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation to back home loans. Maybe it’s time for an American Mortgage and Housing Corporation to get the country out of this crisis and keep people in their homes.

The Arrogant Media (Updated)

So, last week, I went off on a rant because Stephen Harper, in reacting to critics of his cuts to arts and culture programs totalling $40 million, said that the issue wouldn’t resonate with ordinary Canadians. I said he was selling ordinary Canadians short.

Given how I reacted at the suggestion above, you would think that my reaction to this quote would be even stronger. And, yes, it is. People, I give you Andrew Potter, national editor for the Ottawa Citizen, and a former speechwriter for former Prime Minister Paul Martin.

What worries me, though, is that we’re seeing the “democratization” of politics, in the most literal sense of the word: The people — the great idiocratic mass of mouth-breathers out there frantically swiping the drool off their keyboards as they Google around for “dirt” — are running the campaigns now. There aren’t war rooms anymore, directed by parties with smart, educated, responsible adults in charge — it’s Hobbes’ state of nature as imagined by Mike Judge.

(link, hat tip Dr Dawg)

Wow. That is simply a staggering display of contempt for ordinary Canadians, the likes of which renders Harper’s intemperate words tame.

Potter is, of course, joined by Scott Reid, he of “beer and popcorn” fame:

“[W]hat are the three things you need to be a blogger? Your laptop. Your basement. And your virginity.”

Ex-Liberals. Reminding us once again why we voted to turf them from office in 2006. Thanks, guys, for the reality check.

For further reading, please be sure to check out Dr. Dawg’s excellent takedown of these two pundits.

(Update: Tuesday, 8:01 a.m.): I’ve been corrected for some of the mistakes of the paragraph above. Among other things, Andrew Potter was not a former speechwriter to Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin. Secondly, it has been suggested that Mr. Potter was speaking in jest, given that he is himself a blogger. Reading over the whole post, I can see that I may have jumped on that paragraph out of context.

So, I’d like to correct the record and I regret the error. Though I note that, in this day and age, it seems harder for people to detect what is satire and what isn’t. Remember that whole hullaballo over the New Yorker magazine’s cover lampooning anti-Obama hysteria, which got roundly criticized for perpetuating said hysteria? It took a satire of that satire in Entertainment Weekly before people started laughing. Sometimes I think the Internet dulls our sensibilities in understanding each other.

Post #: 2004

I was rather startled to discover that I had passed my 2000th post on this blog. This post turns out to be the magic number.

Two thousand posts. Wow. That’s a lot to blog about. And let’s not stop there. There’s more to talk about tomorrow.

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