Mistakes Were Made! Frank Raines--Rhodes scholar, Harvard Law, Lazard Freres, potential future Treasury secretary, etc.--has blotted his copybookat Fannie Mae. (His bio has already ignominiously disappeared from its former spot on Fannie Mae's Web site.) But unlike other semi-disgraced executives, Raines has a chance to redeem himself. How? By giving back the absurdly plush retirement package ($1.4 million a year plus stock options worth an estimated $16 million or so, according to WaPo) he'll get for leading his taxpayer-aided company to a possible $9 billion accounting loss. I think that if Raines gave it back--gave it all back--it would be such a dramatic, atypical gesture he might become something of a folk hero, turning a defeat into a PR victory. It's not as if Raines and his family would starve if he gave up the millions--he'd still have the absurdly plush pay packages he received in prior years (e.g. $10.9 million in 2001). But he'd salvage his political future, which you have to believe is important to him (no matter what his buddies say). ... Which will it be: his money or his career? ... He's thinking! ... P.S.: Why isn't Raines' overpaid predecessor, former Mondale campaign manager Jim Johnson, catching more of the shame for the Fannie Mae scandal? According to Albert Crenshaw, Johnson was apparently still formally running Fannie Mae when at least one of its questionable moves--failing to take $200 million in losses--took place:
An Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight report in September accused the company of improperly deferring $200 million of estimated expenses in 1998, which allowed management to receive full annual bonuses. Had the expenses been recorded that year, no bonuses would have been paid, the report said.
Fannie Mae reported paying bonuses in 1998 to Johnson, who received $1.932 million; Raines, who then was chairman-designate, $1.11 million ..... [Emph. added]
Even after Johnson stepped down as chairman at the end of 1998, he apparently remained the head of Fannie Mae's Executive Committee. Isn't he accountable? ... It's not as if Johnson is no longer important--a few months ago he was runnng John Kerry's vice-presidential selection operation. Yet, according to NEXIS, Johnson's name hasn't been mentioned in the N.Y. Time'scoverage of the mounting Fannie Mae controversy since October 6. ... P.P.S.: Johnson specialized in attempting to protect Fannie Mae's government-subsidy racket by "buying off potential critics with well-publicized good works," including cosponsoring a concert series with the Washington Post, according to this eerily prescient Chatterbox column. ... For an excellent Matt Cooper article that Johnson called "unbelievable trash," click here. ... [You went out of your way to mention those WaPo concerts because the Post is buying Slate.--ed Why, yes. But the Post has also done a much better job bringing Johnson into the story than the NYT, and has historically been quite tough on Fannie Mae (especially by running a big David Vise series in 1995).] 12:51 A.M. link
Polipundit embarrasses CBS (if that's even possible at this point). He also offers a disappointingly abbreviated Year in Cocooning. (No Ruy?) Update:kf gets results! P.S.:Polipundit explains that Teixeira was "an all-too easy target," invoking a principle kf does not recognize. "First, shoot the fish in the barrel" is the motto around here. ... 10:19 P.M.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
R.U.R.--A.S.A.P.: Some people seem to think this video is funny. I say scary. Imagine 100 of them coming at you. 11:22 P.M.
Now you can help Mark Geragos find the real killer of Laci Peterson! PayPal accepted! ...[thanks to reader J.H.] 11:48 A.M.
Eduwonk, who persists in making education policy entertaining, is all over those recently-publicized studies that either show or don't show charter schools failing to beat public schools. ... 3:30 A.M.
Alert reader M.O. notes that I recently used the phrase "a frisson of schadenfreude." ... [Classy!-ed.] 2:14 A.M.
Andrew Sullivan goes on vacation and his blog gets better! ... This is why kf always at least pretends to be on the job. 2:09 A.M.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
1.There are "more African Americans in the upper income bracket than ever before. The portion of black households making $75,000 to $99,999, for example, increased nearly fourfold between 1967 and 2003, rising to 7 percent of the black population." (For whites the figure is 11 percent.)
2 "Since 1967, the earliest year for which statistics are available, median household income for blacks has increased by nearly 47 percent, to $29,645 in 2003. That's much faster than the 31 percent growth rate for white households during that time."
3. "African Americans have made substantial advances in the service sector and have been opening small businesses at a pace quicker than whites. ... The number of black-owned businesses jumped 33 percent to 823,499 in 1997 from 621,000 in 1992, according to the latest census figures." [Emphases added.]
Naturally, WaPo thinks the picture is bleak! African Americans reaching "the middle income rung" are "finding it a hollow promise," Alec Klein reports, because in "earlier decades a union-protected factory worker or government employee ... could expect a comfortable life ...." Klein's main subject is a college graduate, an executive at an image-consulting business, who, with her husband, makes more than $60,000 (if I add up the numbers right). They live in an apartment with their two children. Her mother, in contrast, had "worked as a state foster care secretary for 32 years," and lived near the projects in a "small three-bedroom home with as many as 15 relatives packed in at once." Her father was "killed during a robbery" in his home. But her mother had "career security." ...
P.S.: Middle class life is clearly less secure than it once was, for all races. I'm not saying middle class African-Americans aren't even less secure than whites, or even that the black middle class isn't somehow reeling after the boom years of the late '90s. I'm saying this weak story, featuring vague complaints about how "blacks have taken it on the chin," doesn't come close to demonstrating those propositions, or to debunking the optimistic scenario painted by the statistics Klein tries to skate around--i.e., that big, permanent progress is being made. ...
P.P.S.: The economic strain faced by Klein's subject is captured, we're told, by "the cubic zirconia ring on her wedding finger," which was "all her husband ... could afford." Do you own a diamond?
P.P.P.S.: Why assign this story now? It seems like a quickie job. Is it an awkward attempt to pander to the economic anxieties and frustrations of the Post's middle class African-American readers? Klein's story comes at a time when the Post is trying to recover from the race-tinged in-house controversy that followed the naming of a white managing editor over two other candidates, one of whom was black. [Excellent 'comes-at-a-timing.' You must have no evidence of a connection at all!-ed None. But it's a bizarrely bad article.]
P.P.P.P.S.--Buried lede? The growth of black entrepreneurship is "a significant and unreported trend," notes alert reader R.G.--a common explanation for the relatively slow economic rise of African-Americans being that they've been too heavily concentrated in government and union jobs with the "career security" the Post simplistically praises. 11:34 P.M.
Bangle's Still Big. It's BMW's sales that have gotten smaller! It sure looks from this AutoSpies post as if the Howell Raines of the automotive design world--BMW's arrogant, pretentious Chris Bangle--may be in for some sort of comeuppance. The overdone 'flame-surfaced' Z4 sports car he championed ("as big a jump in terms of aesthetic value systems as there was between an Eve before the fall … and an Eve after the fall") apparently isn't selling too well in the U.S.., as predicted in Gearbox's eerily prescient coverage ... The little people just don't appreciate Bangle's genius. ... But he talks a good car! ... See also this post. [Thanks to reader C.G.] 8:51 P.M.
Attention DJs, A & R persons, moguls: I've now received a CD from obscure L.A. singer-songwriters In-Flight Movie, and it's as good as expected (and expectations were absurdly high). I especially like some cuts that aren't, alas, available on their Web site. (They should put up "Quality Time" and "Gray Days.") ... 8:16 P.M..
Michael Kinsley's piece-- on the speed with which he got useful reponses to his Social Security argument from the blogosphere--skirts an obvious point. It's not just that Kinsley got more helpful criticism from the blogosphere (when Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall posted it on their sites) than he got from the bigshot economists he sent it to. Kinsley got more overall attention for his argument by making it in the blogosphere than it would have gotten if he'd printed it in the rather large conventional paper whose opinion pages he runs. And I'm not just talking "more attention" in the sense that the blogosphere is big--bigger than the conventional print-centric media elite. Kinsley's thesis got more attention not just in the blogosphere but within the conventional print-centric media elite, even from those who pay little attention to blogs, because he got it posted on some blogs. ... Crudely put, Tim Russert and Al Hunt and William Safire and Bob Shrum and Sen. Harry Reid re more likely to know about Kinsley's idea because Kinsley bypassed his own LAT op-ed page. ... In part that's because East Coast elites aren't used to paying attention to the L.A. Times op-ed page. But the same could be said for all opinion pages except those of the NYT, WaPo and the WSJ. A lot of opinion-generating effort that used to be wasted writing editorials for the Houston Chronicle and Cleveland Plain Dealer can now can have a national impact. And, for all the energy that goes into distinguishing the MSM (mainstream media) from the blogosphere, the dirty little secret is that the elite MSM has become addicted to (and inevitably dependent on) the blogosphere as a source of new angles and arguments. ... [So why did Kinsley go to work for the L.A. Times?--ed. They have a Web site!] 7:53 P.M.
Troubling and mysterious development at the Iraq the Model blog. One of the three blogging brothers--Ali, the one who hasn't been touring the U.S.--appears to have quit, citing "the act of some Americans that made me feel I'm on the wrong side here." He goes on to say "I will expose these people in public very soon and I won't lack the mean to do this." ... Link via Sullivan, who makes a vague-but-possible connection to American torture and abuse in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Whatever the cause, there are indications this was something that's been in the works since before Ali's brothers left for their U.S. visit. A week ago Ali wrote:
I was very excited to meet our friends that we met through this blog, and I wanted to be able to say "Thank you America" in America, but I decided few days before the trip not to go (for reasons that I'll discuss in the future, probably). However, my invitation was cancelled even before I tell the people who set up the trip about my decision. So I asked Mohammed and Omar to go ahead, as I thought it might be good for our project "Friends of Democracy" and Iraq. [Emphasis added]
Stay tuned. ... Pressure on: Roger Simon to tell us what this is all about. ...Update: At least WaPo's Kurtz didn't come out Monday with a favorable article on Iraq the Model that missed the weekend 'Ali quits' story entirely. ... Oh, wait. ... 1:10 P.M.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Raines Must Fall? Frank Raines is presumably a fine man, as was his predecessor and fellow Democratic bigshot Jim Johnson. But executives at Fannie Mae are so wildly overpaid--it's where politicos go to heaven--and so self-congratulatory about the alleged affordable-housing mission that makes them rich that it's hard not to feel more than a frisson of schadenfreude when they get in trouble. ... True, Henry Blodget depicts Raines as the victim of a political or bureaucratic campaign to make "what looked like normal accounting a few months ago" seem fishy today. And Floyd Norris appears to uphold Blodget's view on one charge (the big-dollar "derivatives" controversy). But the proper treatment of the value of mortgages when interest rates plummet and homeowners refinance seems pretty cut and dried. Norris:
Fannie Mae should have taken a $400 million hit to profits, but instead it deferred half of it. That meant executives qualified for bonuses that would not have been paid had the full impact been taken.
Nor does it seem wildly unfair to hold Fannie Mae, which depends on Congressional and taxpayer support in the form of perceived federal backing, to a higher standard than a regular Fortune 500 corporation when it comes to 'smoothing' out earnings for appearances (and bonuses?) sake. ... More:WaPo's Pearlstein says Raines should go. Nell Minow disagrees. ... You can't make the call! That is, unless you know a lot more about accounting than I do ... ... 3:11 A.M.
Friday, December 17, 2004
"Off Message": Great column name. ... 5:33 P.M.
Andrew Sullivan needs another vacation! He's turned from joking about his "power glutes" into a humorless PC scold, defensively seeking victimhood, subtle homophobia all around him. Latest example: He takes offense at a bit of hypothesized banter:
If it emerges in conversation that a man is married to a woman, would he be offended if a gay guy were to say, "What a waste"? I think he would. Or am I wrong?
When a reader tells him that yes, he's wrong, he still can't quite climb down from the lectern ("[F]rankly, I wince when gay men sexualize straight men inappropriately. A little mutual respect is more seemly."). ... 5:07 P.M.
Heather Mac Donald succeeds in demonstrating that there are gaps in border security that increase the risk of terrrorism:
Every week, agents in the border patrol's Swanton sector catch Middle Easterners and North Africans sneaking into Vermont. And every week, they immediately release those trespassers with a polite request to return for a deportation hearing. Why? The Department of Homeland Security failed to budget enough funding for sufficient detention space for lawbreakers.
In May alone, Swanton agents released illegal aliens from Malaysia, Pakistan, Morocco, Uganda and India without bond. Since all these aliens chose to evade the visa process, none has had a background check by a consular official that might have uncovered terrorist connections. All are now at large in the country.
She also reports at least one pre-election episode in which the Bushies seem to have sacrificed security to Hispandering. ... [Just last week you were calling concerns over terrorism a "surface argument" when the "real" concern at the borders was controlling immigration generally--ed Mac Donald has convinced me they're both concerns. But we should be able to publicly discuss both. Right now, "enforcement" advocates like Mac Donald and Michelle Malkin (e.g) reflexively go out of their way to deny that they are anti-immgration. Maybe they aren't. But what's so terrible about being anti-immgration? If you weren't for open borders before the terrorist threat emerged, then there must have been some underlying reason--a reason like boosting low-end wages, assuring assimilation, preserving culture, controlling extremes of income inequality, or preventing a Quebec-like situation. If those are permissable justifications for limiting immigration, it should be equally permissable to say "I think the limits are being reached." And if that's "anti-immigration"--or even "anti-immigrant"--so be it. During the pre-1996 welfare debate, defenders of the welfare system charged that reform advocates wanted to "stigmatize" those on welfare. To which the best response was: "And you're point is ... " That's also the best response to the "anti-iimmigration" charge, it seems to me. ... 4:39 P.M.
Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides! Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty. Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left. Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required. NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare! Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog. Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog. B-Log--Blog of spirituality! Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk