This is what I found interesting, so it’s today’s broadsheet from the FM website pressroom, with several sections of hot news. Lot’s happening in the world today, mostly either overlooked or misinterpreted by the mainstream media.
- Links to interesting news and analysis
- Quote of the day, about our love-hate relationship with technology
- Today’s rebuttal to right-wing propaganda (aka lies)
- Another rebuttal: the truth about the ACORN videos
- Stand-by for action — the mortgage crisis enters a new phase
- Plus an Afterword
(1) Links to interesting news and analysis
- “$57,077.60 – Surging by the Minute“, Jo Comerford, TomDispatch, 17 December 2009 — Cost of the Af-Pak surge, and how this money might be spent to really improve America’s security.
- “Humans prefer cockiness to expertise“, New Scientist, 10 June 2009 — A powerful explanation of charlantans’ success in fields from finance to geopolitics.
- “Making criminals out of all Americans“, Gene Healy, Washington Examiner, 15 December 2009 — An excess of laws is inherently a bad thing, as described in The Federalist Papers #62.
- “How Changes in Oil Prices Affect the Macroeconomy“, Bank of Canada, Brian DePratto, Carlos de Resende, and Philipp Maier, December 2009
- “Real Prospects for Energy Efficiency in the United States“, National Academies of Science, December 2009
- “Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles“, National Academies of Science, December 2009
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(2) Quote of the day, about our love-hate relationship with technology
From a Review of Avatar, Josh Tyler, 17 December 2009:
Pretty, but preachy. Though the script leaves many of its supporting characters underdeveloped and muddles through some of the specifics of what’s going on, it’s spot on in delivering its message. It’s one you should be used to by now, particularly if you live in a state where right thinking people drive a Prias. It’s technology and progress that’s the real villain in Avatar and, like everything in this movie, it’s not subtle about it.
The Na’vi are wonderful because they’re primitive and in tune with the cosmos. The humans are evil because they’re only interested in progress and creating the machines which make things go. Our heroes are heroes because they shun technology in favor of riding wild animals and climbing trees with alien primitives. If only we’d all take off our clothes and wander around in the forest, surely we’d see that’s a better way to live. Who needs television or antibiotics when you can walk around barefoot? One presumes that Cameron missed the irony in making an anti-technology movie using the most technologically advanced tools available.
(3) Today’s rebuttal to right-wing propaganda (aka lies)
Pernicious propaganda circulated by the right-wing blames Obama for the large Federal deficits, although they were quiet during the Bush years. For example, Glenn Reynolds (the Instapundit), has made this an almost daily theme. This study, like many before, proves that the recession caused the deficit to skyrocket — and decreased revenue is the largest single responsible factor:
“President Obama Largely Inherited Today’s Huge Deficits – Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers“, Kathy Ruffing and James R. Horney, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), 16 December 2009 — Esp note Table One.
(4) Another rebuttal: the truth about the ACORN videos
Charges and counter-charges swirl about the ACORN videos, exchanged by partisans on both sides. The report comissioned by ACORN cannot be definitive, as its principal author (Harshbarger) is not a neutral. Still, the reports provides strong rebuttal to initial stories. Also, the accusers refusal to release copies of the unedited tapes says much about which side is telling the truth.
- “An Independent Governance Assessment of ACORN: The Path To Meaningful Reform“, Scott Harshbarger and Amy Crafts, 7 December 2009
For a discussion of the review and its implications see “ACORN videos were propaganda“, Joe Conason, Salon, 11 December 2009 — “A report hammers the organization’s leadership but points out duplicity in the famous tapes”
(5) Stand-by for action — the mortgage crisis enters a new phase
The Federal Reserve’s Flow of Funds reports used the FHFA home price index (formerly the OFHEO index, equally bogus with either name). The 3rd quarter report mentions this revision (page 8):
- The market value of residential real estate (B.100, B.102, and B.103) has been revised from 2000:Q1 forward to reflect revised data for the repeat-sales house-price index from LoanPerformance (a division of First American CoreLogic).
The switch to a new index increased prices through Q1 of 2008, and decreased them thereafter. The Q2 value dropped $2.08T (11.4%). Using reasonable extrapolations from the FoF data, this indicates that the aggregate home equity for homes with mortgages is aprox zero. Since many homes have small mortgages, a large fraction must have substantial negative equity.
As was clear back in 2007 — but ignored by most economists — the level of home equity is the most accurate predictor of mortgage default levels, the real crisis has moved into a new and alarming phase. Foreclosure rates increasing from current levels is IMO politically problematic. AKA dynamite. Current programs of foreclosure moratoriums and mortgage modifications must be accelerated. The small-scale programs converting debtors into renters is one promising solution. Another is to de facto nationalize most mortgages, as done with the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (set up in 1933).
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