Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy 50th David!

It was yesterday but the cake is still good. Happy 50th birthday to my brother David!


More Financial Foolishness


In the great financial unwinding of 2008-2009, bond insurers want to be let off the hook for $125,000,000,000. Wow, wonder if I can get my bank to wipe out my debt, it's a lot smaller.

Aline van Duyn of the Financial Times:

Bond insurers such as Ambac, MBIA and FGIC are talking to banks about wiping out $125bn of insurance on risky debt securities in what could be the only way to limit the financial damage surrounding the bond insurers.

Discussions about “commuting” these insurance contracts, which were sold by bond insurers to banks in the form of credit default swaps, have taken on a renewed sense of urgency amid a rash of ratings downgrades in the bond insurance, or monoline, sector last week. [snip]

Bond insurers are in different stages of financial trouble, with smaller ones such as FGIC already rated in the junk category. Last week, Ambac and MBIA lost their last triple A credit ratings after Moody’s downgraded them to double A and single A respectively. Both ratings have a negative outlook. [snip]

There is little certainty about whether or not these CDSs will ever have to be paid out. In theory, bond insurers could be on the hook for billions of dollars, but it is possible that if market conditions stabilise and improve, their actual pay-outs might be low.

So in theory, if nobody sneezes, the whole house of cards might hold. Good luck with that.


photo by crazyneighborlady

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Too Shrill a Mockingbird

Question put to me: why is it bad to make fun of Jane Hamsher's hair?

I was good, I waited patiently while various possible answers filtered up through my mind. Screaming, no. Swearing, no, but has possibilities. Mumbling incoherently about civilization, no.

Interesting that these are often the stages of reaction to crises at work, where I am an employee of this woman with the lovely hair. So here's what I ended up with:

Dear Friend,

It matters because it's making fun of someone for being sick. Cancer nearly killed this young woman -- again -- and she has gone through hell over the last year with chemo. Now her own hair has grown back in and she can get rid of the wig, and someone finds that worthy of scorn? ["Newly platinum blonde" is a slur about a low class dye job.]

What if it were a different kind of illness or injury that left her physically crippled, and she went through hell doing rehab every day for a year, and then someone mocked her because she walked crooked? [in fact one of our top writers is recovering from such an injury]

Now the one exception would be if you are very close to the person and they themselves encourage joking around about their condition. My mom makes fun of the way she walks "like a little old lady" but if some stranger said that, I might not see the humor.

We don't allow people on our blog to make fun of McCain's disfigured face which is from cancer. As human beings we have common enemies -- death and disease -- and we would do well do work together to fight them, not mock those who are the scarred survivors.

Love and homemade cookies,

photo by Diane Newbery

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Remembering Russert

[written friday 13 june, when Russert died]

Tim Russert was only 2 years older than me. Very sobering loss.

I am watching MSNBC, Brokaw, Olbermann, and others deal with the loss of someone who is like family to them. The day will come when our own organization will face losses of this kind, and I hope those on the other side of the political spectrum will be able to acknowledge our common humanity.

Thinking ahead to our Sunday Talking Heads there will be people commenting on Russert however we handle the post, we'll need to be prepared once again for some rough comments. It won't be a typical Sunday morning, the only thing we can hope is that the angriest folks will be sleeping in and not here to dance on the grave. I was really shocked by some of this stuff today. Are we not all human beings? Do we not all face the same foe at the end?

Of course we found his reluctance to do followup questions in the piercing way that our FDL prosecutors would exasperating, but now I am trying to look at his situation from a different perspective. What would it be like if some of the media including him KNEW what was going on and it was so big and ugly that if they got too far out of line they would just be fired? I personally know one individual on national television who is not a koolaid drinker who has had to be very very careful in what she/he does on the air. Maybe some of them are doing what they can, in the way that some people in Congress that I know are taking the steps they can. I liken it to having a garden hose to put out a forest fire. There is a very big concentration of power that does not take well to being challenged. Russert might have seen this -- I had not realized he was Daniel Patrick Moynihan's aide -- and tried to push things as best he could. It would not be our way, but then, we aren't in his shoes.

I wouldn't put this on thread because I have been scolded for being too inside and too quick to defend people that "should" speak out. I'm saying, maybe there are people who are giving it their best, and likely he was one of them. Condolences to Russert's famiy and friends and colleagues at msnbc.

photo from ericbargeron

Kissell Sells Gas for $1.22 for Fathers' Day

Congressional candidate Larry Kissell is conducting a campaign event today where gas is being sold for the amazing price of $1.22 a gallon.

This is the second such event Kissell has held to dramatize how much gasoline prices have gone up during the Bush administration, the first being in 2006.

Kissell came within a few hundred votes of incumbent Robin Hayes in 2006 and is challenging him again for Congress this November.

NC-08 in '08!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Blue America: The Next Generation

crossposted 7 june 2008 at firedoglake


Now what?

We've spent so much time on the primaries, let's take a step back today and look at the larger picture of building progressive infrastructure.

What kinds of political organizations are we building, what networks can we develop? Who can be brought into the process and at what level? For those of us who are relatively new to political activism, how do we take that next step?

Howie, who is flying around the country today helping to build that next generation of progressive politicians, asked me to step in for him today. I thought it would be cool to look at one of our own pups who has been very involved with local and state politics and see what we can learn from her. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present our dear friend Rayne.

How did you get started within your local party as an activist?

I'm a member of a local party club, a subset of the party itself. Several like-minded folks founded this club in 2005 after a year of trying to work within the party itself; we found that as a more wired and more youthful group that we were scaring the older, more traditional party and losing traction on our objectives. Our club has a bias for action on a year-round basis, where the local party tends to work on a cycle that is geared towards the election cycle. They're both fine, just different perspectives about getting the job done, and I'd rather work year-round.

You'll notice we didn't wait for a blessing from anybody; we just plunged ahead and did it.

But I started this journey back in 2003. I had been blogging for a year and thoroughly pissed off about my stepson getting shipped off to Iraq when I heard about this guy who'd balanced a state budget for eleven years straight and managed to get health care for all children and elderly residents at the same time. I was hooked once I met some of his supporters at a local Meetup -- and from then on I was a Deaniac.

After Howard Dean's exit from the primary, I stayed with the group his campaign spawned, Democracy for America.