04/06/2012 archive

New York Metropolitans Opening Day



Step right up and greet the Mets!

Bring your kiddies, bring your wife;

Guaranteed to have the time of your life

Because the Mets are really sockin’ the ball;

Knocking those home runs over the wall!

East side, West side, everybody’s coming down

To meet the M-E-T-S Mets of New York town!

Oh, the butcher and the baker and the people on the streets,

where did they go? To MEET THE METS!

Oh, they’re hollerin’ and cheerin’ and they’re jumpin’ in their seats,

where did they go? To MEET THE METS!

All the fans are true to the orange and blue,

So hurry up and come on down –

’cause we’ve got ourselves a ball club,

The Mets of New York town!

Give ’em a yell! Give ’em a hand!

And let ’em know your rootin’ in the stand!


Step right up and greet the Mets!

Bring your kiddies, bring your wife;

Guaranteed to have the time of your life

Because the Mets are really sockin’ the ball;

Knocking those home runs over the wall!

East side, West side, everybody’s coming down

To meet the M-E-T-S Mets of New York town!

Of New York town!


With yesterday’s 1-0 win by Ramirez over the Atlanta Braves I can say, for what is probably the last time this season, that they have a share of the lead in the National League East.

It’s been a bad few seasons with team ownership caught up in the Madoff scandal, a situation that is not yet fully resolved, despite what The Guardian says (you’ll note they still owe in excess of $425 Million).  With the loss of Jose Reyes to free agency any objective observer can only call the team weaker.  They’ve moved in the fences by as much as 12 feet and lowered them by 8 for no good reason I can think of.  It’s not like they’re going to sell the extra 102 seats in what, with tons of luck, will be a .500 season.  Perhaps they will not finish at the bottom of the Division and there are worse teams, though not many of them.

It’s the 50th year for the Club and they usually get off to a good Opening Day start, winning in 33 of the past 43 seasons.  Only one other time have they done it 1-0.

But Santana is healthy for now, and spring is a time for hope and renewal.

Let’s go Mets!

Super Fun PACk Sold Out!

Read it and weep.

I formed my own SuperPAC and all I got was this lousy Peabody Award.

What’s Cooking: French Onion Soup

So now that you’ve finished dying eggs naturally using onion skins, what do you do with all those onions? Make French Onion Soup, bien sûr!

French onion soup in France is served as the traditional French farmer’s breakfast or the end of the day repast for the late night café and theater crowd. It was made famous in the great open market of Les Halles in Paris where hungry truckers converged from all over France with their fresh produce. On my first visit to Paris in 1966, I made a late night visit to Les Halles with some friends to savor the tradition and practice my very rusty college French. The truckers and waiters in the little café we “invaded” were quite friendly and chuckled as they good heartedly corrected my pronunciation. Needless to say, je parle français bien mieux maintenant. Les Halles was torn down in 1971 and replaced with a modern shopping area, the Forum des Halles. But I digress, we are here for the food.

My favorite recipe is from Bernard Clayton, Jr.’s The Complete Book of Soups and Stews with some variations. It is from a restaurant near the Halles Metro station. M. Calyton’s version uses a hearty homemade beef stock which is time consuming to make. I found that either Swanson’s or College Inn Beef Broth produces a good result, just reduce the salt. The low sodium broth didn’t produce the hearty broth that’s needed to compliment the flavor of the caramelized onions and the cheese.

You will need some “special” equipment for this soup: individual oven-proof bowls, enough to hold 1 1/2 to 2 cups. I have the bowls with a handle and a lid that serve double duty for baked beans, and other soups and stews. You will also need cheesecloth for le sachet d’épices, that’s a spice bag for you Americans ;-), and butcher’s twine or some other cotton twine. Those items can be found in the gadget aisles of most large grocery stores.

Soupe à l’oignon des Halles


Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Paul Krugman: Beware of Austerity’s Vicious Circle

One of the key arguments made by the proponents of fiscal austerity, even in a deeply depressed economy, has involved a sort of macroeconomic version of Pascal’s wager. Yes, the more open-minded admit, borrowing costs are very low in the United States and Britain. Yes, the arithmetic suggests that cutting spending now will do very little to improve long-run fiscal prospects. But you never know – maybe the last trillion dollars of spending will be what causes a sudden loss of market confidence, turning you into Greeeeeeece. (Cue scary noises.)

Leave on one side the enormous difference between countries that do and don’t have their own currencies (and debt in their own currencies). Let me instead point out that there are other risks.

Robert Sheer: Obama by Default

The Republicans are a sick joke, and their narrow ideological stupidity has left rational voters no choice in the coming presidential election but Barack Obama. With Ron Paul out of it and warmongering hedge fund hustler Mitt Romney the likely Republican nominee, the GOP has defined itself indelibly as the party of moneyed greed and unfettered imperialism.

It is with chilling certainty that one can predict that a single Romney appointee to the Supreme Court would seal the coup of the 1 percent that already is well on its way toward purchasing the nation’s political soul. Romney is the quintessential Citizens United super PAC candidate, a man who has turned avarice into virtue and comes to us now as a once-moderate politician transformed into the ultimate prophet of imperial hubris, blaming everyone from the Chinese to laid-off American workers for our problems. Everyone, that is, except the Wall Street-dominated GOP, which midwifed the Great Recession under George W. Bush and now seeks to blame Obama for the enormous deficit spawned by the party’s wanton behavior.

Robert Reich: The Fable of the Century

Imagine a country in which the very richest people get all the economic gains. They eventually accumulate so much of the nation’s total income and wealth that the middle class no longer has the purchasing power to keep the economy going full speed. Most of the middle class’s wages keep falling and their major asset — their home — keeps shrinking in value.

Imagine that the richest people in this country use some of their vast wealth to routinely bribe politicians. They get the politicians to cut their taxes so low there’s no money to finance important public investments that the middle class depends on — such as schools and roads, or safety nets such as health care for the elderly and poor.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: While Jamie Dimon Gently Weeps, Another “Big Stick” Bank Attack on Democracy

He’s at again — and we’re glad. A lot of smart people are dedicating their lives to fighting the corrosive effect of Wall Street on our economy and our democracy, but the best spokesman for that cause comes from Wall Street itself.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is still the poster child for today’s morally degraded, self-entitled banker mentality. I don’t know why he keeps talking, but he’s the gift that keeps on giving.

At every major junction in the post-crisis debate about banking, Dimon has stepped in with a perfectly tactless remark that illustrates both the vacuity and the moral corruption of his industry. This week was no exception.

Joe Conason: The High Court’s Supremely Unethical Activists

How the Supreme Court majority will rule on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act may well have been foretold months or perhaps years ago-not so much by their questions during argument this week, as by their flagrant displays of bias outside the court, where certain justices regularly behave as dubiously as any sleazy officeholder.

While the public awaits the high court’s judgment on the constitutionality of health care reform, it is worth remembering how cheaply Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in particular have sullied the integrity of their lifetime appointments, and how casually Chief Justice John Roberts and their other colleagues tolerate such outrages.

Glen Ford: Strip-Searches: Obama Wants You to Bend Over (Or Squat) and Spread ‘Em

Humiliation is the law of the land. When you fall into the clutches of the police, for any reason, or no good reason at all, you can be compelled to bare your private parts before being placed in the general jail population. Five of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled that Constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable searches end at the jailhouse door, even if there is no reason to suspect that the person under arrest is in possession of anything that could be called contraband.

The decision throws out laws against unreasonable strip searches in at least ten states, and overrides federal law enforcement regulations against intrusive searches. The High Court decision also flies in the face of international human rights treaties to which the United States is a signatory. In effect, the Supreme Court majority ruled that the whim of the local jailer trumps any standard of reasonableness. The American Correctional Association, which represents jail guards, is pleased that its members now have the “flexibility” to look into virtually every human orifice that enters their domain, even though the association’s own standards currently discourage blanket policies of strip-searching everyone.

Bl McKibben: Payola for the Most Profitable Corporations in History

And Why Taxpayers Shouldn’t Stand for It Any More

Along with “fivedollaragallongas,” the energy watchword for the next few months is: “subsidies.” Last week, for instance, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez proposed ending some of the billions of dollars in handouts enjoyed by the fossil-fuel industry with a “Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act.”  It was, in truth, nothing to write home about — a curiously skimpy bill that only targeted oil companies, and just the five richest of them at that. Left out were coal and natural gas, and you won’t be surprised to learn that even then it didn’t pass.

Still, President Obama is now calling for an end to oil subsidies at every stop on his early presidential-campaign-plus-fundraising blitz — even at those stops where he’s also promising to “drill everywhere.” And later this month Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will introduce a much more comprehensive bill that tackles all fossil fuels and their purveyors (and has no chance whatsoever of passing this Congress).

On This Day In History April 6

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 6 is the 96th day of the year (97th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 269 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1896, the Olympic Games, a long-lost tradition of ancient Greece, are reborn in Athens 1,500 years after being banned by Roman Emperor Theodosius I. At the opening of the Athens Games, King Georgios I of Greece and a crowd of 60,000 spectators welcomed athletes from 13 nations to the international competition.

The 1896 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad, was a multi-sport event celebrated in Athens, Greece, from April 6 to April 15, 1896. It was the first international Olympic Games held in the Modern era. Because Ancient Greece was the birthplace of the Olympic Games, Athens was perceived to be an appropriate choice to stage the inaugural modern Games. It was unanimously chosen as the host city during a congress organized by Pierre de Coubertin, a French pedagogue and historian, in Paris, on June 23, 1894. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was also established during this congress.

Despite many obstacles and setbacks, the 1896 Olympics were regarded as a great success. The Games had the largest international participation of any sporting event to that date. The Panathinaiko Stadium, the only Olympic stadium used in the 19th Century, overflowed with the largest crowd ever to watch a sporting event. The highlight for the Greeks was the marathon victory by their compatriot Spiridon Louis. The most successful competitor was German wrestler and gymnast Carl Schuhmann, who won four events.

After the Games, Coubertin and the IOC were petitioned by several prominent figures including Greece’s King George and some of the American competitors in Athens, to hold all the following Games in Athens. However, the 1900 Summer Olympics were already planned for Paris and, except for the Intercalated Games of 1906, the Olympics did not return to Greece until the 2004 Summer Olympics, some 108 years later.

Reviving the Games

During the 18th century, several small-scale sports festivals across Europe were named after the Ancient Olympic Games. The 1870 Olympics at the Panathenaic stadium, which had been refurbished for the occasion, had an audience of 30,000 people. Coubertin adopted Dr William Penny Brooke‘s idea to establish a multi-national and multi-sport event-the ancient games were in a sense international, because various Greek city-states and colonies were represented, but only free male athletes of Greek origin were allowed to participate. In 1890, Coubertin wrote an article in La Revue Athletique, which espoused the importance of Much Wenlock, a rural market town in the English county of Shropshire. It was here that, in October 1850, the local physician William Penny Brookes had founded the Wenlock Olympian Games, a festival of sports and recreations that included athletics and team sports, such as cricket, football and quoits. Coubertin also took inspiration from the earlier Greek games organized under the name of Olympics by businessman and philanthropist Evangelis Zappas in 1859, 1870 and 1875. The 1896 Athens Games was funded by the legacies of Evangelis Zappas and his cousin Konstantinos Zappas and by George Averoff who had been specifically requested by the Greek government, through crown prince Constantine, to sponsor the second refurbishment of the Panathinaiko Stadium. This the Greek government did despite the fact that the cost of refurbishing the stadium in marble had already been funded in full by Evangelis Zappas forty years earlier.

On June 18, 1894, Coubertin organized a congress at the Sorbonne, in Paris, to present his plans to representatives of sports societies from 11 countries. Following his proposal’s acceptance by the congress, a date for the first modern Olympic Games needed to be chosen. Coubertin suggested that the Games be held concurrently with the 1900 Universal Exposition of Paris. Concerned that a six-year waiting period might lessen public interest, congress members opted instead to hold the inaugural Games in 1896. With a date established, members of the congress turned their attention to the selection of a host city. It remains a mystery how Athens was finally chosen to host the inaugural Games. In the following years both Coubertin and Demetrius Vikelas would offer recollections of the selection process that contradicted the official minutes of the congress. Most accounts hold that several congressmen first proposed London as the location, but Coubertin dissented. After a brief discussion with Vikelas, who represented Greece, Coubertin suggested Athens. Vikelas made the Athens proposal official on June 23, and since Greece had been the original home of the Olympics, the congress unanimously approved the decision. Vikelas was then elected the first president of the newly established International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The Haunting Housing Crisis

It seems like there is no end to the housing crisis that continues to be a major drag on the economy. The recent foreclosure agreement solved little to nothing of the problem and may have exacerbated it with thousands of homeowners still facing foreclosure or loss of equity in their homes. There is also the matter of all those homes that sit vacant, boarded up as a sign of the “suburban decay” that is plaguing minority neighborhoods the worst.

David Dayen at FDL News Desk points out the bright side and dark side of suburban foreclosures:

Kaid Benfield from the Natural Resources Defense Council takes a look on the bright side in regards to the foreclosure crisis, postulating that it will sound the death knell for exurban communities and sprawl. [..]

I don’t think there’s much question, from my perspective, that a sharply reduced exurbia would benefit the country. It would limit fuel consumption and demand; and culturally, more livable, walkable, sustainable cities would foster a greater sense of community, which typically aligns with progressive values. Sprawl policies can answer for a number of societal problems over the past decades. [..]

And yet I’m not convinced that we’re in for an era of reduced sprawl. The private equity players trying to purchase homes at a discount and rent them back out will find most of their inventory in the exurban areas. The expected rental market increase will probably increase the number of single-family units for rent more than anything. In fact, a report in today’s Washington Post finds that these kind of units are practically the only livable vacant properties left. Studies show that banks maintained their properties in white areas at a far greater rate than the ones in minority areas.

With regard to the Washington Post article Think Progress‘s Travis Walden had this to say:

The report is the latest sign of discrimination on the part of big banks when it comes to America’s housing market. Earlier reports found that blacks and Latinos were twice as likely to have been affected by the housing crisis, largely because an industry that has become infamous for its predatory lending practices was even more predatory when dealing with black and Latino borrowers. Banks and lenders often pushed minority borrowers into subprime loans even when they qualified for prime loans, adding as much as $100,000 in interest payments over the life of the loan.

Housing prices remain depressed and are likely to drop another 10%:

Sales of repossessed properties probably will rise 25 percent this year from 1 million in 2011, according to Moody’s Analytics Inc. Prices for the homes could drop as much as 10 percent because they deteriorated as they were held in reserve during investigations by state officials resolved in February, according to RealtyTrac Inc. That month, 43 percent of foreclosures were delinquent for two or more years, from a 21 percent share in 2010, according to Lender Processing Services Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida.

Prices for repossessed properties could drop as much as 10 percent because they deteriorated as they were held in reserve during investigations by state officials resolved in February, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

As Yves Smith at naked capitalism notes, this isn’t just a few thousands foreclosed homes but millions that are sitting empty:

Note this view is based simply on the notion that foreclosures were attenuated on 1.25 million houses, allegedly due to banks keeping them off the market due to the robosiging crisis. By contrast, top housing analyst Laurie Goodman estimates the amount of shadow inventory at between 8 and 10 million homes, and our Michael Olenick, using a different methodology, comes in at just under 9 million homes.

Moreover, evidence on the ground suggests that the banks had reasons other than the robosigning scandal for drawing out foreclosures. While NEW foreclosure actions slowed down markedly, and have ramped up again in the wake of the settlement, it looked far more likely that banks were attenuating foreclosures to maximize income . The longer a house in delinquent and then in the foreclosure process, the more the bank can collect in late fees and servicing fees. And there is considerable evidence that banks pile junk fees on top of that, for instance, double charging the borrower and the trust for fees like broker price opinions.

To get a better idea of what this crisis looks like o a map, Ben Geddes of the Florida Coastal School of Law, working with April Charney, has been putting together Google Maps of vacant properties in Jacksonville, Fl.. If you go to the article you can zoom in on neighborhoods. It’s really very depressing and this is just one medium sized city.

Until this crisis is truly addressed in a way that helps the homeowner stay in the home the housing market will continue to haunt any recovery from the recession.