But they're banks, so it doesn't count

Bank walkaways add to housing crisis - chicagotribune.com

A new type of property is adding to neighborhood blight: the bank walkaway....

Abandoned foreclosures are increasing as mortgage investors determine that, at sale, they can't recoup the costs of foreclosing, securing, maintaining and marketing a home, and they sometimes aren't completing foreclosure actions. The property, by then usually vacant, becomes another eyesore in limbo along blocks where faded signs still announce block clubs.

Conservatives who spend so much time worrying about tyranny...

...ought to spend less time whining about health care and more time contemplating this:

Homeland Security's laptop seizures: Interview with Rep. Sanchez - U.S. House of Representatives - Salon.com

When you really think about it, it's simply inconceivable that the U.S. Government gets away with doing this.  Seizing someone's laptop, digging through it, recording it all, storing the data somewhere, and then distributing it to various agencies is about the most invasive, privacy-destroying measure imaginable.  A laptop and its equivalents reveal whom you talk to, what you say, what you read, what you write, what you view, what you think, and virtually everything else about your life.  It can -- and often does -- contain not only the most private and intimate information about you, but also information which the government is legally barred from accessing (attorney/client or clergy/penitent communications, private medical and psychiatric information and the like).  But these border seizures result in all of that being limitlessly invaded.

The border, in this context, means everything within 100 miles of a border, including a coastal border, an area which includes two thirds of the U.S. population

Extremely cool although somewhat suspicious (ahem) video: Megawoosh

(From our Seattle bureau - H/T Kellie)

(For more, try this.)

Who says we're running out of places to dump our junk? (Part 2)

Commonly used coal tar-based pavement sealants contain toxic chemicals - chicagotribune.com

If a company dumped the black goop behind a factory, it would violate all sorts of environmental laws and face an expensive hazardous-waste cleanup.

But playgrounds, parking lots and driveways in many communities are coated every spring and summer with coal tar, a toxic byproduct of steelmaking that contains high levels of chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems.


Snow crop's looking good

We're feeling so relieved

JPMorgan's Fourth-Quarter Profit Rises to $4.8 Billion - NYTimes.com

JPMorgan Chase kicked off the earnings season on Friday with news that it turned a strong $17.4 billion profit in 2010, up 48 percent from $11.7 billion the year before, as the consumer lending environment improved and commercial banking notched record results.

Hey, at least somebody's making money. Maybe someday they will return the favor and bail us out. Or is that too much to ask? 

Meanwhile, Bunky, check this out:

S&P, Moody's Warn On U.S. Credit Rating - WSJ.com

That's right! The same two companies that only recently rated giant, odiferous piles of hog manure AAA are now getting all huffy about the U. S. of friggin' A. We are just going to have to shape up, I guess. We wouldn't want them being upset.


UNDERNEWS: Retired generals & admirals double dipping big time

So, these generals, who retire at full pay which ranges from about $100,000 to $200,000 a year and generous benefits including health care, were pulling down large salaries from a defense contractor to lobby and pressure their former colleagues (these defense contractors then bill the Department of Defense for their salary) and the Department of Defense was hiring them back as mentor consultants making double or more money than their general's salary (which they still also received).


Turning the screws on Gramps

Seniors may have to pay for Medicare home health - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON – Medicare recipients could see a new out-of-pocket charge for home health visits if Congress follows through on a recommendation issued Thursday by its own advisory panel.

Until now, home health visits from nurses and other providers have been free of charge to patients, but the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission says a copayment is needed to discourage overuse of a service whose cost to taxpayers is nearing $20 billion a year.



Yes, winter's here

After Dare, Boy Gets Tongue Stuck To Frozen Pole - Oklahoma City News Story - KOCO Oklahoma City

It's not exactly a triple dog dare seen in the classic "A Christmas Story," but the results were the same Tuesday morning.

The Woodward Fire Department said a boy was rescued after his tongue became frozen to a pole.

And you think you've got it bad


It's winter in Wisconsin 
And the gentle breezes blow,
70 miles per hour at 52 below!
Oh, how I love Wisconsin
When the snow's up to your butt;
You take a breath of winter air
And your nose is frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
You may think I'm a fool.
I could never leave Wisconsin,
Cause I'm frozen to the stool.
(H/T Charlie) 


Borowitz Report

Elsewhere, Verizon trumpeted its new iPhone, announcing, “For the first time, consumers will have a choice of which wireless carrier drops their calls.”

How about, he's nuts?

Police mystified by biting suspect - MassLive.com

SPRINGFIELD - Police said they are still trying to figure
out why a 50-year-old city man allegedly jumped into the
back seat of a parked police cruiser early Tuesday morning
and bit a handcuffed drunken driving suspect on the

Pummeling! Dude!

New England battles blizzard conditions - Yahoo! News

BOSTON (Reuters) – New England battled blizzard conditions on Wednesday with the second major snowstorm of the winter season pummeling parts of the region with nearly two feet of snow...

"A snow storm will continue to bury New England today with fierce blizzard conditions toward the coast, creating nightmares for travelers and residents," said Accuweather.com senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

Nightmares! Luckily where I live we just got, you know, some snow.

A foot

That's about how much snow we got last night. It's still snowing and blowing, so we'll have more to shovel this afternoon. But the hardest part of it is likely done. With the three men who live in the building and the five year-old next door all working at once we can move a lot of snow in a reasonable amount of time. And this snow was pretty lightweight. It's a relatively balmy 25º, cold enough to keep the snow dry but not cold enough to freeze your eyebrows, which is just about right.

673 adults are fools

Most Americans do not blame political rhetoric for AZ shootings, survey says | Raw Story

WASHINGTON - A majority of Americans reject the view that heated political rhetoric was a factor in the weekend shootings in Arizona which killed six and critically wounded a congresswoman, a CBS News poll said on Tuesday.

The problem for progressives here is not that some vaguely-reported quickie let's-phone-a-few-people poll finds a couple of hundred adults who don't think political rhetoric had anything to do with the Arizona murders, it's that in order to pin any violence at all on political rhetoric you also have to be willing to indict movies, TV, rap lyrics, and videogames, not to mention the current and former crop of arguably unnecessary wars in places with faraway names, which isn't likely to happen any time soon.



Just be sure to spell the name right

Sales In Glock Pistols Up After Arizona Shootings

Hey, everyone. Not to unnerve you, but apparently, days after a madman went on a murdery rampage with a Glock in Arizona, Arizonans are heading to gun stores in droves to purchase the very same weapon used by Jared Lee Loughner. It's as good an example as anything to demonstrate that there really is no such thing as bad publicity...

OK, that's just excessive

AccuWeather.com - Greenfield, MA Weather Details: Local Greenfield Weather Forecast

12.9 Inches of Snow on the way

Take notes

Wage Drop Has Been Worst In Decades

Wages for American workers have fallen dramatically since the financial crisis, in what will likely turn out to be the worst such plunge since the Great Depression, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Many American workers. Most American workers, even. Not all. I know a few people who've done well - they work in states that have had among the lowest unemployment rates through all this. Massachusetts is one of those states, but that's because Boston has held up pretty well. Here in the western part of the state, among the old mill towns down along the river, things aren't all that fine. All this rejoicing in the press about adding a few new jobs here, a few there, doesn't apply where we are.

I was rejoicing a little earlier about not having to work tomorrow (there's a big snowfall in the forecast and this time they just might mean it), but now I do. There is an intro-to-Windows class scheduled for this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon and the woman who usually does that asked me to take it for her so she can help with the mob of people in the waiting room today. That kind of crowd is not unusual on Mondays but today is, of course, Tuesday. Most of the people waiting today were told yesterday to come back, and by the end of the morning today people were already being told to come back tomorrow. 

I don't know if these are people who just got laid off last week or if they're folks who need to come in to renew unemployment benefits. It's easy to tell they'd rather be working than sitting around waiting to see someone for help. Things get tense. They probably haven't heard the recession's over. Maybe they can't afford a newspaper.

At least the rich guys got to keep their tax cuts. 

False alarm

My personal rule is, when it gets down to 10º it's time to bundle up. So when the widget said 9º a little while ago, I did. Bundle up. Trouble is, in the time it took me to do that the temp zoomed to 15º so now I'm overdressed. I think I'll just live with it.

Today (1/11/11, by the way) is the first of the "dead of winter" - what Accuweather says is historically the coldest month of the year, January 10 to February 10. Nothing about snow there, but we have a pile of it forecast for tomorrow. I don't have to work tomorrow so my plan for when I get home today is to put on a pair of really, really warm socks, make a big pot of soup, and read a book. Until Thursday or so.

The book will be Matt Taibbi's Griftopia. I started it last night because I decided I'd rather obsess about the economy than about State Department leaks or massacres in Arizona and so far it's a terrific read. It will be on the book list before too long, no doubt. Meanwhile the most recent book on the list (and the first this year) is Sinclair Lewis's 1921 satiric novel about small town life in the Midwest, Main Street. Main Street is a book I read and admired half a century ago and it turns out to be one of the books that's aged extremely well. Great long chunks of it could have been written yesterday. If you've never read it, now's the time - and it's free from the Gutenberg project.

This can not end well

Goldman Sachs to Fine-Tune Business Practices - NYTimes.com

Goldman Sachs, after a nine-month review of its business practices, has concluded its operations need only a fine-tuning, not a complete overhaul.


And more

Watering the tree of liberty - War Room - Salon.com

Loughner was not a Gadsden Flag-wielding Tea Partyer incited to violence by the Twitter messages of Sarah Palin. But he is a product of the culture, and there's a reason he chose to attack a Democratic congresswoman. There's a reason why his paranoia was directed at an elected official, the closest representative of what he saw as in illegitimate government. The attempted assassination of a member of Congress seems depressingly like the inevitable conclusion of two years of hysterical revolutionary language suffusing every single domestic political debate.

Read it. 


Drinking Fountain

Photo: Lynn C Dot

Ahhhh - it's the internet's fault

Mueller doesn't rule out domestic terrorism - On Congress - POLITICO.com

Jared Loughner will be charged Sunday afternoon with the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and the killing of Judge John Roll and others in Tucson, Ariz., FBI Director Mueller said Sunday....

Mueller declined to comment on Loughner’s possible motives, but added: “The ubiquitous nature of the Internet means that hate speech and other inciteful speech is much more readily available ... than it was eight or 10 or 15 years ago, and that absolutely presents a challenge for us.”

Normally I don't like this kind of argument but I'm making an exception: If this guy Loughner looked even remotely middle-eastern, or Mexican, or, for that matter, were anything but snow white there would be people running in the streets right now screaming eek! terrorists! and demanding scanners and pat-downs on every street corner, you know there would. But because Loughner is a white guy and presumably a U. S. citizen he's just a solitary wackjob, not influenced in any way by any right-wing blabbering about Second Amendment solutions and "if ballots don't work, bullets will" (and Rand Paul helpfully chirps "guns don't kill people, blah blah") but, of  course, there's the internet.

Guns may not kill people but you'll have a really hard time convincing me this guy could have done as much damage as he did with a tire iron.



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