Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

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16 May 2009

Are Black Catholics More Conservative?

Alan Keyes's arrest today while protesting Notre Dame's selection of Obama as commencement speaker got me thinking of black Catholics and how the only other who comes to mind is Clarence Thomas. [I just learned the Michael Steele is Catholic, as well - 5/17/09.] Since both these men are quite conservative politically, I quickly surmised that surely black Catholics generally are more conservative. To put a stamp of authority on the supposition, I clicked over to the General Social Survey (GSS) for some pro-forma validation. Damn.

The cumulative GSS surveys from 1972 thru 2008 have 475 catholics among a total 5,672 black respondents in total. Here's the results for whites and blacks by the 3 major religions by how conservative the respondents think they are. The higher the number, the more the respondent self-reported as conservative.

As you can see, blacks generally identify themselves less as conservatives than do whites, but both black and white Catholics rate themselves slightly less conservative than do protestants. (Jews are shown as a control, showing up more liberal than any of the above - the black/Jewish cohort can be ignored obviously with n=10). But surely, then, black catholics will be less favorable towards abortion then blacks at large. Surely, you'd be mistaken:

This is all very confusing. Are black Catholics significantly different from other blacks in other respects? For years of shooling, somewhat, but not dramatically:

So while Keyes and Thomas are among the most conservative public figures around (particularly among black public figures), and while their Catholicism seems to inform their stances, there does not appear to be any connection that can be made generally about this combination of race and religion.

(Notes: GSS variables used - chart 1 - POLVIEWS, RACE(1-2), RELIG(1-3); chart 2 - ABANY, RACE(2); chart 3 - EDUC(1-20), RACE(2))

15 May 2009

Will the Torture Never Cease?

The endless talking about torture, that is. Now the big talk is over what Madame Speaker knew and when she knew it. Republicans are of course charging her with hypocrisy since she was apparently aware 7 years ago about a practice that she now contends was heinous and said nothing about it then. She claims, not very convincingly, that the CIA didn't tell her they actually did waterboard anyone. But to be fair, imagine the howls if she had said anything back then - those calling her a hypocrite now would have called her a traitor. Still, wouldn't it have been incumbent on her to have spoken out about it then even if it risked her career? Her argument, that she thought about revealing it then, but decided to win back the congress instead as a more effective approach, is too silly to consider.

But far more important, and therefore generally ignored in the press, is the question of what the point of the torture was. Former Powell aide Lawrence Wilkerson is charging that the point of the torture was not to "protect American lives" but to elicit evidence to justify the Iraq war. I sadly admit that this is all too believable - and if true would surely justify prosecution of the former Vice President and anyone else behind it. Torturing a few jihadi thugs in the wake of 9/11 is nothing to lose sleep over, but torturing them because they're not telling you what you want to hear about a conspiracy that didn't exist - well that's another whole ballgame.

And this would be a good opportunity for Republicans to start weaning themselves from the poisonous Bush foreign-policy teat. The Bush administration was one big mistake, and the Republican party will continue to whither away unless it takes steps to disconnect itself from those sorry years. So they need to take these opportunities when they can. There's much else they need to do, of course, but that's a subject for a different post.

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14 May 2009

When did 'Pilot' become such a shitty job?

$16k a year?! That's what Rebecca Shaw, co-pilot of that plane that crashed in Buffalo, was making. Hell, I'd a crashed the plane out of spite. I'm not surprised regional airlines aren't exactly the glamor center of aviation, but that's downright obscene. With this insulting pay and having to sleep on couches in airport lounges, it sounds more like a job "Americans just won't do." And the poor girl apparently, though married, lived (with her husband) in her parents house in Seattle, and had to commute to Newark via jumper seats on other flights. As the Fox article indicates, she was paid less than NYC cabbies (and they've got a lot easier commute).

13 May 2009

The Correction Has Begun

Well, I think, anyway. It was quite a run we had there in the market - and of course I missed it, so I'm all for the correction. But where will it correct to, and how will we know it's over and the bull market has begun? Don't ask me, I haven't a clue. But the sudden reversal is rather interesting.

As you'll recall, back in early March, Armageddon was but days away, and the economy was in a freefall. Hysterical bloggers were overwrought with apocalyptic visions. But then suddenly it all turned around. Do you remember what it was that did it? Vikram Pandit, Citi's CEO, boasted of strong profits in the first two months of the year, and quickly the other big-bank CEO's chimed in with "us too!".

What's that? everyone thought, these supposedly zombie banks are making money? So everything's A-OK after all. The S&P 500 shot up 6% that day, and it's been one unending string of things-aren't-so-bad-after-all news since then. Hey, retail sales inched up in February! Whoa, only 600,000 jobs lost last month! GM only lost $6 billion last quarter - things are looking up! Then finally last Thursday the official "stress test" results were announced, and whadda ya know, the banks hardly need to raise any capital at all - what crisis?! Indeed, many of the banks managed to fill their capital shortfalls just on Friday alone. Green shoots abound - the Times just couldn't wait to stop all this recession talk and get focused on promoting Obama's healthcare program.

But then suddenly on Monday the financial world was shocked - Shocked! - to find that the banks had negotiated down their capital requirements out of the stress tests' original projections (who knew the world worked this way - surely not anyone involved in buying and selling financial stocks). And now the news everywhere seems unrelievedly bleak. Retail sales in April plummeted - so much for those green shoots. While a few weeks ago we cheered a supposed bottoming in the housing crisis, today we learn that April's foreclosures were at a record pace.
A total of 342,038 properties received a default or auction notice or were seized last month, RealtyTrac Inc. of Irvine, California, said today in a statement. One in 374 households got a filing, the highest monthly rate since the property data service began issuing such reports in 2005.
Could it be that those positive stress test results could have been boosted by par valuations on mortgage portfolios while banks held off on foreclosures? It's like hiding from the bad guys by staying underwater - works great, but sooner or later you have to come up for air. A "foreclosure moratorium" sounds nice for home occupants, but it's also nice for the balance sheets. But it will also start killing your cash flows. So my suspicion is that once the books were closed last quarter, the banks started to dump some of these properties and get some cash out of those assets. And finally, word is starting to filter in that that other "shoe" is about to drop - the commercial mortgage market.

Let the meltdown recommence.

02 May 2009

Obama's Constitution

We the Powerless of the United States, in Order to form a more empathic Union, establish economic Justice, insure domestic partnerships, provide for the democratic process, promote the Welfare State, and secure peoples's hopes and dreams for themselves and their anchor babies, do ordain and establish this Broader Vision for the United States of America.

Obama Pushes for 'Empathetic' Supreme Court Justices
I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation. I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.

See also: Context of Obama's 'empathy' remark.

People say - with some justification, certainly - that Bush and Cheney had a distorted view of the constitution. But this is truly bizarre - the constitution is about teenage mothers?