Archive

  • Hidden Housing Price Declines

    As I mentioned in a prior note, house prices may be dropping in ways that are not picked up by price indices because the indices all use the contracted sale price. Currently sellers are using a variety of kickbacks that reduce the effective price below the sale price. Today's Washington Post has a good example. Centex, a major national builder, has a full-page ad (sorry ads don't appear in the web edition) offering mortgages at well below the market rate, plus closing cost assistance. (The difference on the 30-year is about 0.8 percentage points.) The ad also promises realtors a $5,000 bonus. So, on a $400,000 home, these incentives could easily come to 5 percent of the purchase price. So the next article on housing prices that doesn't mention kickbacks of this sort gets a special BTP goat prize. --Dean Baker
  • IS OUR CHILDREN...

    IS OUR CHILDREN LEARNING? Via Billmon by way of The Arabist , I see that apparently 30 percent of Americans, according to a new survey, can't recall what year 9-11 happened. And five percent don't remember the day and month of 9-11 . As Billmon asks, "I wonder how many of them know who's buried in Grant's tomb?" --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: FAULTY TOWERS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: FAULTY TOWERS. Yes indeed, Oliver Stone keeps his politics in check for his new film World Trade Center . He seems to have done the same for his storytelling skills, according to Sudhir Muralidhar . --The Editors
  • IRANIAN-AMERICAN RELATIONS, D.C.-STYLE....

    IRANIAN-AMERICAN RELATIONS, D.C.-STYLE. When did "Do you speak Farsi?" become the new pick-up line in D.C.? First, I read this report on Michelle Persaud , dubbed the number one looker in The Hill 's annual 50 Most Beautiful People issue: Seeing her dark eyes and mocha skin, her flowing black tresses and expansive lashes, [men] sidle over, take in a breath and start speaking � Farsi! �I just look at them and smile,� the Maryland native, who has no Persian ancestry, says with a chuckle. �I get that all the time.�... Although Persaud looks Iranian, her family comes from the small South American country of Guyana, a former British colony where East Indians, Africans and Europeans settled centuries ago. And now, not two hours ago, some man followed me from across the street, into the TAP office building, and up to our seventh floor offices in order to try to hit on me. His opening line: "Do you speak Farsi?" Are there really that many Iranian women living in the city that this works? It's...
  • THE OTHER BOSSMAN.

    THE OTHER BOSSMAN. This from the occasionally sensible Jonathan Chait is crazy-making enough on its merits. Why shouldn't there be an emboldened left-wing of the Democratic Party, particularly if it results in a demand to change course in the middle of the greatest foreign-policy cock-up of the age, a change that today seems to have the support of 60 percent of the American people? Chait will have to forgive some of us if we don't feel like waiting any longer for the principal architects of this idiocy -- including those who work down the hall from him -- to shut up and slink off to the babbling obscurity they so richly deserve. Taking some of these people seriously about Iraq is like listening to Joe Hazlewood on celestial navigation. So, he'll have to be patient with outbreaks of genuine democracy. So who's Chait afraid of? Michael Moore ? That capitalist tool who self-finances his own movies and who didn't have to marry into a sewing-machine fortune to buy himself a platform? After...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: IT'S MEDICAL FRIDAY!

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: IT'S MEDICAL FRIDAY! Three pieces relating to health care/medical issues are up today. Maggie Mahar raises doubts about Merck's much-hyped new cervical cancer vaccine, and argues that the drug's ascendancy illustrates a good deal about American health care inefficiencies and inequities. Meanwhile, following Humana's recent announcement of higher-than-expected earnings last quarter due to the Medicare prescription drug program kicking in, Barbara Dreyfuss gives us the gory details of how it and other insurance companies rigged the Medicare drug bill in their favor three years ago. And finally, Aziz Huq talks to Steven H. Miles , author of the new book Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity and the War on Terror , about military physicians' role in aiding and abetting detainee abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. --The Editors
  • THE CASE FOR REDEPLOYMENT.

    THE CASE FOR REDEPLOYMENT. "Retreating from Iraq and 'redeploying' to Okinawa is not a sufficient response" to the threat of terrorism, wrote White House hack Peter Wehner yesterday. Okinawa, of course, is a straw man. But there's ample reason to believe that redeploying resources out of Iraq and to other locations would be very helpful in fighting terrorism: We could send more troops to Afghanistan, where our military venture is running into some significant problems but where there are still much better prospects for success than in Iraq. We could reassign Arabic-speaking U.S. government personnel to translating and monitoring signals that intelligence has gathered from terrorism suspects instead of having them do civil affairs work and train Iraqi security forces. We could stop using such a high proportion of our surveillance satellites on force protection in Iraq and use them to better monitor the rest of the world and get a better handle on what's going on in the Horn of Africa,...
  • A CHALLENGE.

    A CHALLENGE. I didn't know that acknowledging that the Israeli government has pursued some policy shifts in recent years -- shifts that those of us who oppose Israeli expansionism should cheer -- makes you a " Likudnik, " but allow me to defend my honor. A cursory glance at the website I edit, CampusProgress.org , will reveal three articles on the current conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Two are reported from Beirut and the third from both countries. I challenge anyone to find any AIPAC talking points in any of them. As I've stated earlier , it is precisely because I think Israel needs encouragement to remove itself from the occupied territories that I think pointing out the fact that Christian Zionists are to the right of the Israeli government is so necessary. --Ben Adler
  • A GERMANO-NAZI BY ANY OTHER NAME.

    A GERMANO-NAZI BY ANY OTHER NAME. This is sweet : ISLAMO-_____ [Kathryn Jean Lopez] I am reminded that in February Jim Woolsey told a Senate committee that Islamo-fascist is too understated. He prefers Islamo-Nazi. So if CAIR is so unhappy with Bush and Santorum's terms, maybe they should go ahead and be clearer... Well, that makes sense. After all, insisting that the enemy be named "Islamofascism" implies that National Review takes a consistent anti-fascist line whereas, in reality, the magazine is rather fond (Franco "is not an oppressive dictator.... only as oppressive as is necessary to maintain total power" -- hilarious) of Spanofascism. To get semi-serious here, as outlined in the Islamo-blank schema, the main idea here seems to be that we need a proper noun to describe our foes. The noun ought to be pejorative, and it ought to include "Islam" or some equivalent. There's not really any precedent for this sort of thing. We called the Nazis "Nazis" because that was the name of the...
  • THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT: LIBERAL, ANTI-WAR, AND ELITE.

    THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT: LIBERAL, ANTI-WAR, AND ELITE. Over at Slate , Bossman Tomasky has a riposte to Jacob Weissberg 's " Lamont as McGovern " piece . As Mike stresses, the evidence beyond Connecticut of a destructive intra-party revolt against hawkish and/or "moderate" Democrats is basically non-existent. Elsewhere on the Weissberg pushback front, Matt and many others point out that Weissberg's conflation of Iraq War opposition with unseriousness about terrorism is close to the opposite of correct. I should say, I happen to be very pessimistic about the possibilities of anti-war politics succeeding. Three days out of the week, I tend to think that even given a war that is both clearly failing and actually unpopular , the prospects for success of an opposition party that takes up the dovish line in the face of classic American war demagoguery are basically doomed. And given that I don't consider faking support for a catastrophic war opposed by large majorities of one's own...

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