Tuesday Mashup (3/30/10)

  • 1) I must tell you that I came across something that was utterly hilarious in the Op-Ed section of the Bucks County Courier Times today.

    Editorial Page Editor Guy Petroziello published a letter in which he wrote that the paper could not publish letters in favor of health care reform and thanking U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy who voted for the law because Petroziello believed that the letters were orchestrated by the Democratic National Committee, and “we cannot publish letters that are part of an organized campaign” (he also pointed out that the paper’s editorial submission policy, as stated in the Op-Ed section, does not allow publishing of thank you notes; he made it sound as if he was making an exception to the policy by publishing any thank-you letters to Murphy at all).

    Which begs the question – is Petroziello actually naïve enough to believe that anti-Murphy letters actually aren’t part of an organized campaign also?

    Check out PA Water Cooler or (especially) BucksRight every so often, Guy. Right-wing social networking is very much alive in this state and can easily lend itself to letter-writing campaigns also. Besides, when you get about a hundred letters all complaining about a “Patrick Murphy/Pelosi/Reid” axis, “Obama-care,” “taking over one-sixth of our economy,” “trillion-dollar tax hike” and (in particular) “tort reform to lower health care costs,” as well as everyone complaining that Patrick Murphy didn’t hold an in-person town hall so the teabaggers could stage their antics, then I definitely do not believe that you are talking an organic phenomenon, however much you may believe to the contrary. And those letters apparently run into no obstacles at all before they are printed.

    Also, in the right-wingnuttia department, J.D. Mullane (in between recycling columns as to whether or not college is “necessary”) opined as follows on the subject of someone at a Burger King who, it is alleged, recently viewed porn on a PC provided at one of their eateries (the company’s defense is that it blocks porn sites and the individual was reading an E-mail attachment, or something)…

    What’s the big deal, when even former Sen. John Edwards has a sex tape – and he could have been president of the United States.

    I’m the last person who is going to defend the lies and stupidity of John Edwards, but as noted here, his mistress Rielle Hunter acknowledged that she created the tape (I don’t know if Edwards ever consented to the recording, for the record, not that it really matters much I suppose). And as nearly as I can tell, the tape traveled in one way or another between Hunter and former Edwards campaign staffer (and tell-all book author) Andrew Young. To my knowledge, Edwards never “had” the tape.

    If you’re going to shamelessly demagogue as you attack Dems, J.D., at least go to the trouble of getting your facts straight.

  • 2) And if that isn’t enough yuks for you, Pantload Media’s Helen Smith tells us here how Jeff Goldstein and others of the right-wing world of bizarro reality should deal with “the Left’s disrespect and lack of empathy.”

    This is what Goldstein said when Ben Domenech, co-founder of the blog Red State, was nailed in 2006 on allegations of plagiarism after Domenech was given a forum for his diatribes at the Washington Post…

    Ben has owned up to his mistakes. He has, as I anticipated he would, taken that most difficult first step to rehabilitating his credibility. Now it’s time for other folks to do the same: Molly Ivins; Larry Tribe; Stephen Ambrose; Dan Rather; Jason Leopold; Joe Biden; Micah Wright; Ward Churchill; Eason Jordan; CNN’s agreement with Saddam’s Iraq; Joe Wilson; Steve Erlanger—we’re looking at you.

    And of course, Goldstein provided no citations for his charges (and as Atrios points out, historian Stephen Ambrose died in 2002).

    I report, you decide.

  • 3) And finally, N. Gregory Mankiw appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times and told us the following (here)…

    When I was chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, I spoke openly about the need to reform regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I did not know when or how these government-sponsored enterprises would come crashing down, but I thought they posed undue risks for the economy and for taxpayers.

    I was not alone in that judgment. While working on the issue, I consulted privately with an economist who had held a high-ranking position in the Clinton administration. He shared precisely my concerns, as did Alan Greenspan, who was then the Fed chairman.

    I would say that this exchange between Greenspan and Henry Waxman, then head of the House Oversight Committee speaks volumes (deflating Greenspan’s “magical thinking” on the markets).

    Continuing with Mankiw…

    Why was nothing done (about reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)? Many members of Congress were worried less about financial fragility than about expanding access to homeownership. Moreover, lobbyists from these companies assured Congress that there was no real problem, while the sheer complexity of these institutions made it hard for legislators to appreciate the enormity of the risks.

    I recount this story not because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the main cause of the recent financial crisis — they were only one element — but because it shows the kind of problem we’ll encounter on a larger scale as we reform oversight of the financial system.

    I have to reluctantly point out that Mankiw is correct when he says that he warned of risks to so-called government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs (here, primarily Fannie and Freddie…of course, Mankiw cheered the deficit and offshoring at the same time also, but those are subjects for another day). The problem, as noted in this Wikipedia article about Congressman Barney Frank, is as follows…

    In 2003, while the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, Frank opposed a Bush administration proposal, in response to accounting scandals, for transferring oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to a new agency that would be created within the Treasury Department. The proposal, supported by the head of Fannie Mae, reflected the administration’s belief that Congress “neither has the tools, nor the stature” for adequate oversight. Frank stated, “These two entities…are not facing any kind of financial crisis…. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”[50] Conservative groups criticized Frank for campaign contributions totaling $42,350 between 1989 and 2008. They claim the donations from Fannie and Freddie influenced his support of their lending programs, and say that Frank did not play a strong enough role in reforming the institutions in the years leading up to the Economic crisis of 2008.[51] In 2006 a Fannie Mae representative stated in SEC filings that they “did not participate in large amounts of these non-traditional mortgages in 2004 and 2005.” [52]In response to criticism from conservatives, Frank said, “In 2004, it was Bush who started to push Fannie and Freddie into subprime mortgages, because they were boasting about how they were expanding homeownership for low-income people. And I said at the time, ‘Hey—(a) this is going to jeopardize their profitability, but (b) it’s going to put people in homes they can’t afford, and they’re gonna lose them.’” [10]

    So Bushco, including Mankiw, wanted to further remove Fannie and Freddie from visibility by sticking them in Treasury away from congressional oversight because they were supposedly in trouble, and pushed them towards higher risk home mortgages at the same time to make sure they would be in trouble.

    And here is something else to consider (from Wikipedia)…

    Frank further stated that “during twelve years of Republican rule no reform was adopted regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2007, a few months after I became the Chairman, the House passed a strong reform bill; we sought to get the [Bush] administration’s approval to include it in the economic stimulus legislation in January 2008; and finally got it passed and onto President Bush’s desk in July 2008. Moreover, “we were able to adopt it in nineteen months, and we could have done it much quicker if the [Bush] administration had cooperated.”[54]

    Also, I thought this post was amusing, in which Mankiw claimed that people with “good genes” make lots of money and pass their intelligence off to their kids who then get high SAT scores.

    And if they’re really lucky, they get a column in the Sunday Times from which they can create partisan mythology about once or twice a month.

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