Monday, July 31, 2006

How The Housing Bubble Bursts (One Location! Location! Location! At A Time)

I found this series of posts by a real estate power couple in Atlanta at Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis:

What a change of attitude 6 months!:

Many of you know by now that my wife and I are both Realtors and associate brokers. We live and work north of Atlanta in the suburbs of Alpharetta and Roswell. I made the point in a post last month that I have always thought that our business gives us some unique insights into the economy, not just here in Atlanta, but across the country.

We are seeing an extremely high level of relocation activity. Our business last year was very solid, we closed twenty six transactions. So far this year, days into the year, we have two transactions pending, booked in the fourth quarter, plus twenty five prospects. If only two thirds of those prospects close, then we already have eighteen or so deals. They are evenly split, buyers and sellers, but much more importantly, nineteen involve relocations. This is a very high level of relocation activity, the highest we have seen in years.

More relocation prospects than any January in memory. The economy remains very strong.

Mish and I would seem to have very different points of view on what 2006 holds in store. I am basing my forecast on what I am seeing, and what I am seeing is a strong economy.

There will be no recession in 2006.


Last week my wife and I met our out of town buyers at the home that we had put under contract earlier in the month. It was time to meet a home inspector at the home for the inspection. The inspection took most of the day, so we had plenty of time to talk about anything and everything. The mortgage lender and I were both amused by all the chatter in the popular press about the "real estate bubble". He told me that his business is up about 20% over last January. I told him that we were having the strongest January we have ever had. It is truly remarkable. About then his sister, the buyer wife, walked into the room where we were talking. I asked them both, what would this home be worth back in northern Virginia? We were under contract here in Alpharetta at $1.1 million. The buyer wife paused for just a second, then said she thought about $2 million. Her brother, the mortgage lender, thought a second longer, then said he thought perhaps closer to $2.5 million.

Where's your housing recession, Mish? In actuality, if our economy is growing, the nations' total wealth is growing, then real estate as a whole, nationwide, continues to appreciate.

Our business here on Atlanta's north side is very strong. We have four contracts year to date, we will get number five this week. This compares with twenty six closings in 2005, so we are clearly off to a strong start. The unemployment rate here is 3.2 %, below the national average. Business is booming. I know of no one complaining of slow business, or worried about losing their job. Everyone is too busy making money to have time to worry. As for us and our business, our average transaction continues to move up in dollar size. If 2000 was our biggest year with forty four transactions, we could easily make more dollars this year with as few as perhaps thirty deals. We are seeing lots of money out there, it's full speed ahead. A very bright year lies ahead.

All of which leaves me free to make my biggest and strongest Sonnypage prediction ever. This time next year, I will still be making money hand over fist, and Mish and Gary Shilling and the rest of the doomsday crowd will still be pumping the next depression. And as always, it will still be just over the horizon, not quite here yet, but surely coming, right?



If I am reading Mish correctly, he still is calling for a sharp pullback in residential housing in the U.S. that will lead us into a recession. Mish, if I am misstating you please correct me, and I am still taking the other side of your bet. It's not going to happen.

Real estate is local. I have no doubt that Florida, southern California and other hot spots are having contractions. The speculative money has bailed out and that's what happens. But here in Atlanta, where my wife and I have our residential real estate business, it's a very different story. We never had a speculative run up in prices here and so far, this year, it's shaping up as a normal year. We have nine transactions closed or pending year to date, which is exactly where we were this time last year. We currently have six listings, two of which are pending, and those pending listings, plus two others that have already closed, are going at about 97% of list price. Obviously, that does not translate as a distressed market. We have the same situation on the buy side. Our buyers under contract are paying about 97% of list. We have not been able to find distressed sellers for our buyers in upscale neighborhoods willing to sell at major discounts to list price. The only other part of the country that I can offer direct evidence of is Houston. My brother in law is a builder while my sister and one of her daughters are a mother-daughter realtor team. Here is an email from my sister from last week about the Houston real estate market.

We put a $ 1.5 mil house under contract today and met with someone yesterday about our $2.7 mil spec. (*Daughter*) showed a house to a couple her age that was priced at $469,000- a 3/2 one story bungalow in West U. They were one of five competing bids and did not get it with their offer of $475,000. It was not under priced. We are having the best market we have ever had city wide.

A collapsing real estate market, Mish? I don't think so.

Most of you know by now that my “day job” is real estate. My wife and I practice real estate north of Atlanta up in Roswell and Alpharetta. As Mish continues to pound away trying to make the point that residential real estate is doomed or worse, I feel honor bound to jump in every now and then and remind everyone that real estate is local, local, local. That means that even if real estate is in trouble in say, Florida, it's still, according to my sister, doing extremely well in Houston, and very well, I would say, in Atlanta. We have twelve deals closed or pending through April which is about where we were this time last year. It's looking like a twenty five deal year which is fine.



This year is quickly becoming what might euphemistically be called a character building experience. We are off to the slowest start in the twelve years we have been in business. Here's a taste of what we are up against. Two months ago we took a great listing in Alpharetta just to the north of us. It's a beautiful three sides brick, full finished basement, in a cul de sac. They listed at $550,000, which was actually a little below what we recommended. They are definitely motivated to sell. When we had lots of looks but no offers, they agreed to drop the price to $535,000. I emailed all agents who had previously shown the house to advise of the price drop, and sure enough, one agent brought his buyers back for a second, then third, look. They offered $495,000. We countered at $530,000. Our sellers said they really did not want to go that much lower. I was not too concerned. I expected a counter from the buyers, then another counter from my sellers and we would eventually get there. The next morning, when I did not hear back from the buyer's agent, I gave him a call. Did I get a shock, they were done, that was it, no higher offer. So what we have are buyers who just don't want to pay too much, who are really skittish, and sellers who are having trouble accepting that things are slowing down. Two years ago, or even last summer, we would have that house under contract. But not this year. We now have a total of six listings, five of which have reduced, the other is brand new. Only one really active buyer, plus two of the listings who will buy locally if they can first sell. If things don't pick up fairly quickly, this will be our slowest year ever. We have closed or have pending a total of only twelve transactions year to date. We have booked only one contract since May 1st which is really slow. Our business plan was thirty transactions, I would have been o.k. with twenty six, but at this rate we will not reach twenty. This is normally our peak season. If Atlanta, which has been a solid market with no speculative price run ups, is faltering, then I suspect that this slow down has become national at last, no longer just local.

The economy is slowing and is doing so rather quickly. In my opinion, at least, the chances of a recession starting no later than the first quarter have increased significantly.



Most of the regulars here know that my wife and I are a Realtor team associated with one of the major national firms here on Atlanta's north side, out in Roswell and Alpharetta. It's been a “character building year” as another agent in our office put it the other day. What makes it more stunning, at least to me, is that it started out so well. We ended the first quarter with nine deals pending or closed, which is a very solid start. Then we hit a brick wall with only three deals in the second quarter and that would make it our worst second quarter ever in our twelve years.

Then it got worse. Normally, over the years, about one in fifteen deals fall out, that is, they fail to close. Usually it's over the inspection contingency amendment but not always. At any rate, two of our three second quarter contracts failed to close. Unbelievably we booked and closed only one contract in the second quarter. So here we are, July 20th, with only ten deals for the year. What a mess.

How those two contracts failed just might tell a story about this years' market and the economy in general. First, one of them was indeed over the inspection amendment. Most of you understand that after going under contract, the buyer is entitled to have a qualified home inspector do an inspection. The buyer then presents a copy of the inspection to the seller along with an amendment to the contract asking for the repair of defects affecting safety or the structural integrity of the home. In this instance, the buyer went far beyond that, asking for, at least in my opinion, cosmetic items and home improvements. Our sellers' response, I thought, was more than fair, but the buyer would not yield. Normally we can work these differences out but not this time. Looking back, it is clear that the buyer was determined to wring additional concessions out of the seller or not close. We had a failed agreement and both parties signed a termination and release as required. That listing is back on the market.

Then the other failed contract was even more unusual. We had been working with relocation buyers from Cincinnati for several months. We found them a great house and went under contract. Ten days before closing they called to say they had decided they did not want to move. [Instead] he is leaving the company [that was] trying to move him to Atlanta. My take on this is he was afraid they would move him down here and then let him go. His company is facing a management reshuffle. But, who knows? At any rate, it cost him $5500, his forfeited earnest money.

So here we are with ten deals and needing a total of about twenty to meet our cash flow needs; personal and business plus taxes. The last year we failed to “make a living” so to speak in real estate was about 1994. Without a strong finish we just may be looking at that again. What are our chances of pulling it out? It's still possible. We have several buyer prospects plus we have ten listings and listings are the life blood of any real estate business. We will, with certainty, get one more listing by month's end. On the other hand, we have a listing that expires at midnight Monday and we don't expect them to renew. They have had two lowball offers and have refused both. My take is that they can't reduce without going under water.

What do you do if you owe more on your home than you can sell it for? Apparently, you just decide to sit on it and hope for a better market, at least for now.


So much for that "It can't happen here" song & dance.

Truly heavy sigh.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Katherine Harris Wants Howard Dean To Apologize... For NOT Calling Her Stalin

Ya gotta love it. It would have to go something like this:

"Uh, sorry, Katherine... for...
uh, not calling you Stalin."

Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent, is "going to beat the pants off Katherine Harris, who didn't understand that it is ethically improper to be the chairman of a campaign and count the votes at the same time. This is not Russia and she is not Stalin," said Dean, according to the Associated Press.

On Thursday, Harris demanded an apology from Dean for equating her with the former Soviet dictator. More...

Did the Dean machine blink?

Not hardly.

Dean is not backing off. "Given that Katherine Harris was identified as 'Representative B' in the Duke Cunningham case, she should be apologizing to the people of Florida for being a crook," DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney said. "When she does, then I'll take their request seriously."

I'm waiting for Katherine Harris' next move, which should come in the this type of statement:

"I am not a crook."

Hey, it could happen. After all, it's happened before...

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I just Made A Pro-Bush Bumper Sticker!

On my way home from walking my dogs this morning, I saw a micro-ultramini-lepton-sized Japanese car sporting a BUSH! bumper sticker.

I was inspired to make this one, and if I gin up the nerve, I'll use Post-It Note glue (easily removable) to apply it to the Bush-lover's rear bumper during the night:

I'll probably get caught. Wish me luck.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

George W. Bush: More Like Jim Jones, David Koresh, or Jesus?

Today's Snarky Sermon on the Blog...

Guest Minister: François Leduc

Is George Bush more like David Koresh or Jim Jones, than Jesus?

by François Leduc

When U.S. President George W. Bush -- along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Canada -- refused to support a ceasefire in Israel's attack against Lebanon, the substance of his U.S. administration further revealed itself. Mr. Bush has portrayed himself as America's chief disciple of Jesus. However, it is apparent that the Mr. Bush led neo-conservative "Globalisationists" may have more in common with David Koresh or Jim Jones, than with Jesus. --snip--

Consistent with cults led by Jim Jones and David Koresh's, Mr. Bush, along with the elite owners of mass-media organizations which also support Mr. Harper in Canada, seek to BLIND the masses to ignorance of their jointly sponsored destructive agendas. Indeed, David Koresh, like Mr. Bush, was a personally charming and charismatic leader, which used his ability to persuade, for an agenda of control and oppression.

Does Bush follow G-d or Mammon?

... the apparent religious fanaticism of Mr. Bush does not express the apparent teachings of Jesus, expressed by the Bible, as Mr. Bush and his associates claim. Instead, the religious fanaticism of Mr. Bush appears to have been inspired by the "anti-god", Mammon.

Mammon in the Middle Ages and also in diverse civilizations, was viewed to be personified as the "demon of covetousness, richness and injustice". The worshippers of the "anti-god" Mammon, also follow "anti-gospels". These systems of anti-gospels share a vision of society in which "rich" are destined to rule over the poor. Within the mentality of worship for the anti-god Mammon, "right" is defined not by ethics as expressed by Jesus, but by the elite group that has the power to "control its own destiny" throughout military, and other force. Mammon is the same "anti-god" which inspired the 'mysticism' and racial mythologies that are associated with Adolf Hilter's Nazism.
Truly heavy sigh.

If people actually read the Bible, instead of believing their local (poorly educated) ministers, the G-d v Mammon question could be easily answered.

Thus Endeth Today's Sermon.

Go forth today and celebrate the peacemaker, not the warmonger. And stop voting for oil men if you're primary concern is low gasoline prices.

I mean it, damn it!

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Condi Tickles The Ivories
While The Middle East Burns

How many times do I have to say it?

It's not a beauty pageant!

It's a scholarship program!

Have you seen the video? Condi plays like a high schooler.


Meanwhile, the carnage continues.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

The Backside Of The Bell Curve Strikes Again

Someone at Calvary Temple Church in Kerrville, Texas, had to request the checks.

Someone at Calvary Temple Church in Kerrville, Texas, had to approved the payments.

Since the Kerr County Republican Party reported the checks (totaling $1500), as per campaign finance law dictates, Calvary Temple Church can't claim they didn't know that donations to the Republican Party weren't tax deductible.

But, as night must surely follow day, that's what they're claiming. And they want their money back. That way, they hope their little accounting problem will just go away.

Someone is lying.

Kerrville church asks political gift refund

San Antonio Express-News

Hoping to head off potential problems with the Internal Revenue Service, Calvary Temple Church in Kerrville has requested the Kerr County Republican Party to refund $1,500 in contributions the church made between 2003 and 2005 in the form of entry fees at the party's annual golf tournaments.

"It was all innocent and unintentional, and we're trying everything we can to make it right," said Pastor Del Way

He said he never considered the golf entry fees to be political contributions.

People United for the Separation of Church and State, a watchdog group, complained to the IRS last week that federal law was violated by the payments it learned of from political contribution reports filed with the state ethics commission.

Ed Nemec, chairman of the Republican Party in Kerr County, said the group's executive committee will vote on the refund issue Aug. 7.

So... I say to the good people of Calvary Temple Church, whose Sunday plate passing and annual tithing coins were spent on Republican Party golf fee donations, congratulations!

You're this week's Backside Of The Bell Curve winners!

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Friday, July 28, 2006

Cheyenne Mountain To Become Bush's Personal Hidey-Hole?

BushCo has spent $250 million on the complex deep inside Colorado's Cheyenne Mountain since 9/11, but now they're moving NORAD to Peterson AFB and the Air Force Space Command to Vandenberg.

Hm. The Washington Post has the sugar-coated story, But The Denver Post has the money quote:
One possibility: using the mountain as a second seat for the U.S. government in a crisis. Keating said he knew of no discussions on this, but he characterized that option as reasonable.

Makes sense, y'all.

Nothing but the best for our quivering coward president.

Hitler had a nice bunker, too.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Who Doesn't Want A Cease Fire?

Bush and Rice aren't doing this shit in my name.

Are they doing it in yours?

And just how many Pet Goat Moments does it take before Bush-loving Americans figure out that Bush failures are extremely profitable for a select few? For example, how much $$ is being made while this is going on...?

Follow the money, y'all.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Washington Times' Smilie Face Housing Bubble News

The head shaking will now commence. The "good" news in DC is that housing sales are ONLY down by 20%?

Heavy sigh and a smile face.

The (housing) market continues to drag more in Virginia than in Maryland. Sales in Maryland were off 26 percent last month, with the largest drop in Montgomery County. Sales there were down by 34 percent.
However, sales were down 43 percent in Virginia last month. The largest drop there was in 49 percent in Prince William County. The best a Virginia county could muster last month was a decline of 31 percent in Spotsylvania.
By comparison, the District is doing quite well, with sales only down 20 percent in June.


FYI: There are almost 600 new (or desperate, reposted) Washington DC Craigslist house/condo listings in the past 24 hours.

More "Good News" from The Washington Times...

In June, another 19,300 homes received for sale signs in their front yards. With less than 9,000 homes selling last month, you can see what sellers are up against.
However, the pace of new listings is slowing. During the first quarter of 2006, the number of homes listed in our area was 19,000 higher than in the first quarter of 2005.
In the second quarter of 2006, the number of home listings was up by just 9,000. So, we still have too many homes coming on the market -- from a seller's perspective -- but at least the number isn't growing quite as fast.

Is everybody happy?

No matter how you try to spin it, that's a whole hell of a lot of unsold properties.

How many stretched homeowners will lose their houses because Mother Nature made an unexpected house call? Totally ignored in local news coverage is how many basements flooded during the recent record storms, thereby canceling homeowners' dreams of raising English Garden basement apartment rents in order to cover their rising mortgage costs. No one I know (looking at apartments) will even consider renting a basement apartment now. Mold, mildew, respiratory problems and property damage trump cheap every time.


What will happen to DC metro area house/condo owners if either the US House or the US Senate changes parties this November? The Bush administration increased the living allowance significantly for staffers in 2001, thereby making it possible to buy instead of rent, and BushCo also increased the number of administration hires significantly. (So much for the small government talking point.)

Translation: Thousands more houses/condos could flood (no pun intended) the already saturated (OK, that was snarky) market.

How much higher will inventories rise and prices plummet if Dems take control of either the house or the senate this November? Remember, in addition to normal staff numbers, each committee chair and member has a separate staff, too.

That's a lot more possible For Sale signs no one is talking about.

The people I trust say:

Don't buy until January or February, 2007 unless you absolutely have to;

Lock in a fixed-rate mortgage (you can always refi to a lower rate in the future), and only buy what you can afford-- Stay away from those "$300 per month for each $100K borrowed!" promises;

Try to buy a house or condo with a solid pre-2001 sales history in a neighborhood that is extremely stable or has improved drastically-- with bona fide stats to back up the claim, or buy a house with historical (or other selling point, such as location) importance, which will keep it marketable in the event you have to sell it;

Insist on a thorough inspection by a reputable company;

And don't be seduced by what looks, on the surface, to be a deal you just can't pass up.

By the way, the house next door is still for sale.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

It's Never Bush's Fault, Damn it!
(Neocons Eat Rice)

Looks like Rice is on the Neocon menu this week.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gesture during a joint press conference after their meeting at the Palestinian President headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah on July 25. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

From Globalcrashes:
In his column, Tom Friedman makes an important point, “One wonders what planet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice landed from, thinking she can build an international force to take charge in south Lebanon without going to Damascus and trying to bring the Syrians on board.” The United States believes pigheadedly that it can find a solution to the present Middle East Crisis without talking to the country, Syria, which President Bush argued, last week, could restrain the Hezbollah.

From Insight:
Dump Condi: Foreign policy conservatives charge State Dept. has hijacked Bush agenda

Conservative national security allies of President Bush are in revolt against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying that she is incompetent and has reversed the administration’s national security and foreign policy agenda.

The conservatives, who include Newt Gingrich, Richard Perle and leading current and former members of the Pentagon and National Security Council, have urged the president to transfer Miss Rice out of the State Department and to an advisory role. …”

Yes, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is incompetent. She was, after all, Bush's chosen one (his UNSTICKER) in charge of post-war Iraq... But Neocons gnawing on her this week isn't nearly as much fun to watch as I thought it would be.

"Blame Condi" is so much easier for Neocons to digest than "Blame Bush."

But not for me.

I'd rather blame the incompetent fool who put US diplomacy in Heckuvajob Rice's incompetent hands.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Specter Goes To Runnymede

Why does Senator Arlen Specter plan to sue President George W. Bush?

He believes in the rights of all citizens to due process and habeas corpus.

Translated: George W. Bush is not above the law, damn it.

Specter prepping bill to sue Bush

WASHINGTON - A powerful Republican committee chairman who has led the fight against President Bush's signing statements said Monday he would have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue him in federal court.

"We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor. --snip--

Bush has issued at least 750 signing statements during his presidency, reserving the right to revise, interpret or disregard laws on national security and constitutional grounds. --snip--

Signing statements have been used by presidents, typically for such purposes as instructing agencies how to execute new laws.

But many of Bush's signing statements serve notice that he believes parts of bills he is signing are unconstitutional or might violate national security.
The truly hilarious part: Senator Box Turtle Sex Guy is on Bush's side, but he claims the 750 signing statements a group of White House lawyers labored to research, write, and present to Bush are just opinions ...

Bush is not without congressional allies on the matter. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a former judge, has said that signing statements are nothing more than expressions of presidential opinion that carry no legal weight because federal courts are unlikely to consider them when deciding cases that challenge the same laws.
Which brings us to Runnymede.

From 1215 until the 18th century CE, British monarchs tried their damndest to amend and/or outright nullify The Magna Carta, which during its evolution, gave us...

No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.


That no freeman ought to be taken, or imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner destroyed, or deprived of his life, liberty, or property, but by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.

So which is it, Bush?

Are your presidential signing statements "just your opinions," or are they designed to limit the power of congress to enact laws, thereby exalting you above all other citizens?

Choose wisely, you self-proclaimed history major. Monarchs have lost their heads for much less, you know.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Monday, July 24, 2006

Is The Presidential Pig Farm Up For Sale?

Rumor has it in McClennan and Bosque counties that the George W. Bush's pig farm Prairie Chapel Ranch is headed for the market.

Of course, this rumor has been out there since the 2004 election; after all, it was never more than a campaign Potemkin prop anyway. That being said, rumors of George (with or without Laura) leaving Crawford for the gated safety of Dallas' Highland Park after he leaves office simply refused to die.

If this rumor is ever proved to be true, which BushCo minor biz minion will ante up the inflated price and pretend to live happily ever after... until he and the little missus can pass the pig farm to its next sucker eager buyer?

According to one of my well-placed sources, here's the current 411 on the pig farm:

If you go to McLennan County and type "Bush" into the search function, it won't work. You have to know the secret trust name. Clue, Texas is the _______ Star State.

For the year 2006, the 1577.22 acres of dryland cropland, improved and native pasture has a Land/Market value of $1,815,404. That works out to $1151.02 per acre. In my neighborhood of a more rural Texas, that would be cheap cheap. Some comps from McLennan County would be nice.

Strangely the "ranch" has an ag valuation of $108,116. That would be the number that the taxes on the land are based on. Native pasture is supposed to mean cows and hay balers. Where's the beef?

The improvements (house) are valued at $810,922 and the 3 acre yard is $3446 for a total of $814,368. All the support stuff looks like a freebie.

Market Value: Land, $1,815,404 plus house and yard, $814,368 = $2,629,772.

Taxable Value: Land, $108,116 plus house and yard, $814,368 = $922,484.

What we know: George W. is always bailed out by his daddy's cronies, and he always walks away with pockets full of profit. If and/or when W. walks away from the pig farm, you can bet that he'll leave with a seriously inflated sale price... And that means that the Crawford folks will see their property taxes climb even higher than they climbed when W. moved in.

Nice parting shot.

Such a deal! Won't last at this price! Hurry!

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The White House Switchboard

Have you seen this yet?

The White House Switchboard

"Thank you for calling the White House switchboard. Our new voice activated system will help direct you to the proper office."

"If you are calling to complain about the mishandling of the war in Iraq, press one."

"If you are calling to complain about the abuse of prisoners and the White House's endorsement of torture, press two, and then say the name of the torture site that you wish to complain about (and please note for the sake of the voice mail system that it is pronounced Abu GRABE, not Abu grahb)."

"If you are calling to complain about illegal spying on American citizens and the abuse of FISA laws, press 3, but do know that these calls will be recorded."

"If you are calling to complain about the disastrous mismanagement of the hurricane Katrina recovery, please press 4, and your call will be directed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If you wait for more than 48 hours without anyone picking up the phone, hang-up and send a letter. We have been assured that all letters will receive a prompt reply within one year."

"If you are calling regarding the administration's unwillingness to enforce immigration law, press cinco, por favor, or direct any thanks to your local chamber of commerce office, which can explain why we like cheap labor that can't vote and where you may be able to find willing illegal day laborers in your local area."

"If you are calling about the Medicare prescription debacle, please press 6. If you are having a medical emergency, you should proceed directly to your local emergency room, although please understand that your health coverage may not pay for the visit and you can no longer get out from under the bill by declaring bankruptcy."

"If you are calling about the ballooning federal deficit or the recent hike in the debt ceiling to $3 trillion, please press 7, unless you are Bill Clinton calling to brag about the surpluses under your administration, in which case we don't want to hear about it."

"If you are calling to complain about the White House's efforts to block stem cell research, please press 8, and then say the disease that you are most concerned about that may ultimately be cured through scientific research. If you are a scientist calling with new research findings or important clinical data, please hang up, we don't want to hear from you."

"If you are calling to express concern about global warming and our efforts to roll back environmental laws, please press 9, unless you are a government scientist, in which case you are forbidden to talk without first clearing it with the oil lobbyist we hired to screen and edit your research. He can be reached at Exxon 4-2611."

"If you are calling to complain about the President's efforts to "privatize" social security, please press 1 and then the pound key, and your call will be redirected to representatives at Merrill Lynch, who will explain the virtues of putting all your savings in the stock market."

"If you are calling about the need for more prayer in public schools or any other faith-based initiatives, please press 10 and Reverend Falwell will be with you shortly."

"If you are calling to lobby for more Supreme Court Justices who will block a woman's right to choose, please stay on the line and the President will be with you immediately."

"If you are calling about all the tax breaks for the wealthy, press *1 if you have ideas for more loopholes and are making more than a million dollars per year; if you are earning less than a million per year but have ideas for how you may help the wealthy, press *2; if you are earning less than a million per year and just want to complain that all the burden is now falling on you, please call back in a couple of years."

"If you are Jack Abramoff or any Saudi prince, please call the private line, it is always open."

"Press zero at any time if you would like to hear these options again. Thank you for calling the White House. It is our pleasure to serve you."

Truly heavy sigh.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Q: Why Go After Valerie Plame?
A: Republicans Have Done It Before

They tried to ruin Maureen Dean, wife of Nixon's White House Counsel, in order to discredit her husband, John Dean.

And they tried every trick in the book. In fact, they got St. Martin's Press to publish a book of total lies about Watergate called Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, by Leonard Colodny and Robert Gettlin, and cast poor Richard Nixon as the victim of... as Fargo's Sheriff Marge Gunderson would say, "An inside coup-type deal"... to unseat the president.

(Personal Note: The Richard III Society's motto is "More sinned against than sinning." Sound familiar?)

Oh, yeah. Silent Coup also accused Maureen Dean of being a high-priced Watergate hooker.

And who was ultimately found to be behind this POS from St. Martin's?

Yep, you guessed it:
Infamous Born-Again Christian,
G. Gordon Liddy

Today's Snarky Sermon on the Blog Reading:

The Authoritarian Streak in the Conservative Movement

By John Dean

The despotic personality types we see in the Bush White House have their origins in the amoral politics practiced by the low-lifes of the Nixon administration. --snip--

When the phone rang that Monday morning, I assumed it was my wife, Maureen -- "Mo" to family and friends -- calling from Pennsylvania, where she had gone to care for my mother, who had recently suffered a stroke. I was instead greeted by Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, and his producer Brian Ellis. --snip--

"According to Silent Coup, sir, you, John Dean, are the real mastermind of the Watergate break-ins, and you ordered these break-ins because you were apparently seeking sexual dirt on the Democrats, which you learned about from your then girlfriend, now wife, Maureen." When I failed to respond, because I was dumbfounded, Wallace asked, "Does this make sense to you?"

"No, no sense at all. It's pure bullshit. How could I have ordered the Watergate break-ins and kept it secret for the last twenty years?"

"Fair question," Wallace responded. He explained that the book claimed I arranged the break-ins through my secret relationship with former White House consultant E. Howard Hunt -- Hunt, who along with Gordon Liddy, had been convicted two decades earlier of plotting the Watergate break-ins.

"I recall meeting Hunt once in Chuck Colson's office. Hunt worked for Colson. I don't think I ever said anything more than 'hello' to Howard Hunt in all my years at the White House. The only other time I have spoken to him was long after Watergate, when we gave a few college lectures together. Anyone who says I directed Hunt to do anything is crazy." Still trying to sort out the various claims of Silent Coup, I asked, "Did you say this book has me ordering the break-ins because of a call-girl ring?"

Read the rest. It's an eye-opener, to say the least.

Thus Endeth Today's Sermon.

Go forth today and question every Republican associated with both Nixon and George W. Bush.

Oh, and follow the money, y'all.

I mean it, damn it!

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Saturday, July 22, 2006

When The Going Gets Tough, Bush Goes... On Vacation, Of Course!

No, I'm not kidding.

President Bush waves as he exits Air Force One at the TSTC Airfield Friday July 21, 2006 in Waco, Texas. Bush will spend the weekend on a "mini vacation" at his nearby Crawford, Texas ranch. (AP Photo/Duane A. Laverty)

Committing multiple felonies, groping women, and pretending to care about the NAACP for 33 minutes is really hard work.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Friday, July 21, 2006

My Anti-Bush Column Today Was Called A "Masterpiece Of Righteous Cynicism"

Here's the link.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Snowflake Baby Gives Bush The Finger

Picture. 1000 words. Et cetera.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Eyewitness Report From Bush's NAACP Appearance

From Anita Garcia:

That Dog Don’t Hunt:
Bush Addresses the NAACP

July 20, 2006

The last person we expected to see at this year’s NAACP National Convention was George W. Bush. Last summer, we spent a month in the ditches of Crawford, Texas hoping to hear from the President to no avail. Little did we know that, less than a year later, he would travel across town to see, as Reverend Nelson B. Rivers, III says, the “big dog”, the NAACP.

As he stood at the podium in the shadow of great civil rights leaders like Julian Bond and Reverend Rivers, we came to realize why the President has, in the past, carefully screened and scripted his slack jaw audiences. He would be well served to return to the days of loyalty oaths and Republican thugs guarding the doors whenever he speaks.

The mainstream media, thus far, has painted a rosy picture of Bush’s foray into the heart of the oldest and largest civil rights organization, in the world. It wasn’t that pretty at all. The big dog was in the house and the big dog was unimpressed.

Before Bush reached the podium, a significant number of NAACP delegates rose from their seats and left the meeting hall in protest. The remaining audience responded to the President in what might be charitably described as a cool reception. From our vantage point in the Louisiana delegation, it appeared that perhaps one out of three actually applauded when Bush was introduced.

The President’s speech writers are apparently on vacation this week. Repeatedly, Bush would deliver what he believed to be a zinger, pause for a favorable reaction, and then, receiving none, stagger on to his next lame and insincere comment.

Behind us sat the Texas delegation, a group who knows this speaker all to well. The delegates from his “home state” grumbled and snickered throughout the address while cheerfully making digs at the lone Bush supporter in their delegation.

The only significant rounds of applause came when the President so magnanimously announced that he would sign the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and when he acknowledged that black people just flat out don’t trust Republicans.

Much has been made in the MSM about the two hecklers who were removed from the meeting hall. Please know that these two young men engaged in their verbal dissent in a dignified and non-violent manner. As they were led away, only inches away from our seats, their heads were held high and their protestations continued. One of these young men, as he passed us yelled, “How long will you be his house Negro?”

Speaking of which, Bush, lacking the courage to appear alone, had Secretary Rice on his arm. Although we’ll never know for sure, we choose to interpret the young man’s query to have been directed towards Condi.

Why Condi was there defies any other explanation because the President failed to mention any foreign issues whatsoever during his address to this worldwide organization. He did not warn us about terrorism or acknowledge that we are currently prosecuting a war in Iraq. Possibly the most striking feature of this address was his failure to excuse all of his misdeeds on 9-11.

But, of course, we knew that there would be no discussion of preemptive war, torture, detainees, or domestic spying. We raised the issue by raising the peace sign silently from our chairs throughout the address. From our seats in the Louisiana delegation we quietly represented, as best we could, the peace movement with that simple gesture.

In a perfect world, Bush would have spoken to an empty hall this morning. However, the crowd response to the President’s address was so weak that it just as well could have been empty. Yes, the big dog was in the house this morning. And the big dog was not George Bush.

The big dog was the NAACP and the Freedom Fighters who came to Washington to renew the struggle, not to endure a lame sales pitch from a failed president.

Thanks, Anita!

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Bush's "Playful" NAACP Slap (Look Closer At The Photo)

Yes, George W. got a rousing round of applause yesterday while addressing the NAACP...

When he said, "Many African-Americans distrust my political party."

Applause! Applause!

He might as well have said, "You hate me! You really hate me!"

No shit, Sherlock.

But that spontaneous yes, we hate you applause didn't stop the boy prez from schmoozing the crowd after the speech. Nor did it stop him from his signature insulting personal space violation policy.

But look closer at the photo...

The earpiece is back.

Yes, the presidential equivalent of the training wheels was in plain sight yesterday, just in case Bush lost control of a group of socially polite people who've been screwed by the Bush administration six ways to Sunday.

Truly heavy sigh.

You know what the return of the earpiece means, don't you?

It means that George W. Public Embarrassment is this week's Backside of the Bell Curve winner!

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Snakes In A Car! (20 of them)


Woman finds 20 snakes in her car

By Associated Press

ASTORIA, Ore. (-- It was either a prank or the work of Mother Nature — either way, Sherry Hart got a slithery surprise in her car.

Sherry Hart found a pair of garter snakes in the back seat of her car on a recent shopping trip to the grocery store, then found more under a floor mat. --snip--

When Warrenton police Officer Jim Gaebel arrived he guessed that one snake must have gotten into the car and had babies. Gaebel later told Hart that in all his years in police work, this was his first snake call.

But Hart believes it was a prank.

"Who did it? We don't know," she said. But she believes her car was chosen because a window stuck in the open position made it an easy target in the big parking lot.
Keep your car windows closed.

I mean it, damn it!

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Killing 1191 Embryos To Make 118 Frankenbabies

Do the damned math, Bush-loving fascist fundies, and choke on your own hypocrisy!


How many embryos may be transferred per cycle?

We require that our families limit the number of embryos transferred to the number that they are willing to carry to term in the event that all the embryos attach. Generally, we encourage families to transfer no more than 3 embryos.

If we become pregnant with multiples, may we selectively reduce the pregnancy?

We specifically require that our adopting families agree not to selectively reduce the number of fetuses that have begun developing. For this reason we recommend not transferring more than three embryos at a time. If our prohibition against selective reduction at any stage, for any reason, makes you uncomfortable, Snowflakes may not be right for you.

What is the success rate for thawing and viability of embryos?

1191 embryos have been thawed for transfer of which 635 were viable, therefore the overall thawing success rate of Snowflakes is 53.3%. However, the success rate for frozen embryo transfer varies by each clinic. The national average overall thaw success rate is 51%.

What is the likelihood of a multiple pregnancy with frozen embryo transfer?

Our understanding is that multiple births are much rarer with frozen embryo cycles than with "fresh" embryo transfers. But this is in no way a guarantee that you will not have multiples. About 1/4 of the Snowflakes moms who have achieved a pregnancy have carried multiples. Please consult ASRM and your fertility clinic for statistics.

What is the success rate of pregnancies among Snowflakes families who have had embryo transfers?

To date, 146 families had completed 222 transfers resulting in 104 pregnancies.

99 children have been born (71 families: 22 sets of twins, 3 sets of triplets and 5 siblings), and 15 more moms are due with 19 babies (4 sets of twins). Several recent transfers are awaiting pregnancy test results and more transfers are scheduled in the next few months.

Facts: Pesky little devils, aren't they?

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Americans Stranded In Lebanon: Day 7

Did you think I was exaggerating in my earlier post today?

From CNN:

The Esseilys are among tens of thousands of Westerners stranded in Lebanon Tuesday waiting for help to arrive. Monika Esseily said she's in contact with many other Americans in Lebanon and that all of them want to get out.

"They're pulling out their hair, they're crying, they're saying 'What's going on?' They're being rejected from the American Embassy," she said. "The American Embassy is still saying, 'We will call you.' That's all that they will say."

I just heard that "hundreds" are being helped.

This is unacceptable. Period.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

There Must Be A Shoe Sale: Rice Intends To Travel To The ME "At Sometime In The Future"

What's she waiting for? Six days have passed since the beginning of this most recent "Presidential Pet Goat Moment."

What could possibly keep the US Secretary of State at home in DC?

A sale on Jimmy Choos?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice intends to travel to the Middle East to seek to calm the region where Israel has bombarded Lebanon for days and the militant group Hizbollah has fired rockets into the Jewish state.

"At some point in the future, the secretary intends to travel to the region," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

There was no word yet on timing of the visit by Rice, who has just returned from a trip to Russia.

How utterly pathetic. Once again, the Bush administration has left thousands of Americans stranded, hungering for some semblance of decisive leadership and compassion.

And Rice readily kowtows to the wishes of both Lebanon and Israel instead of using her power to expedite the safe passage of American citizens out of harm's way?

Hope you're happy, Bush Butt Suckers!

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bush gives an unwanted "backrub" to German Chancellor Merkel

No way to treat a lady, Biff!

And definitely no way to treat the Chancellor of Germany, Idiot!

DC Housing Bubble Blues:
The House Next Door

The house next door is for sale.



Boo Freakin' Hoo, y'all.

$5,671 Mortgage (with perfect credit, of course)
Status: ACTIVE Listing
Type: Townhouse
Style: Federal
Year Built: 1908
Subdivision: CAPITOL HILL
Number of Bedrooms: 3
Baths: 3
Halfbaths: 1
Lot Size: 0.03 acres

Renovators worked day and night from December ('05) until February ('06), when the owners hosted the first of many open houses to come.

If you inspected the property or if you could see the photo clearly, here's what you'd know:

The white paint on the garden-shop variety concrete stepping stones cum capstones has blistered, peeled off, and looks really bad.

The wooden porch railing is interior grade, not exterior grade, and the wood wasn't primed before painting. On my side, you can see lots of raw, unpainted wooden spindles.

The front doors are actually patio doors (Note the expanse of glass) and extremely vulnerable (Scroll down for the house's break-in episode).

The basement entrance is strewn with trash bags, more peeling paint, and it boasts a what looks like a water spout, which not only doesn't work, it's just a spigot stuck onto a inoperative piece of pipe sticking out of the wall.

Under the eaves (Look up) is the telltale evidence of the house's complete destruction by a devastating fire. Smoke damage could've been cleaned, but the owners decided not to bother.

Broken window panes have been replaced twice since February, but a close inspection reveals no putty.

Long & Foster has the listing today, but the sign (See the bush in the lower left corner? The sign is stuck in the ground there... which makes people think my house is the one for sale) reads HELP-U-SELL, which was the second real estate company to list the property.

History: the house next door was originally listed by Coldwell Banker (I think) for $849,900 in February. Hundreds of people toured it, but it didn't sell. In late May (I think), the price was lowered to $749,something, but it still didn't inspire buyers. Meanwhile, several houses in the neighborhood sold in a matter of days for higher amounts.

The house was taken off the market, and it sat there in limbo for over a month.

Now it's back on the market at its original asking price. Besides being the joke of the neighborhood, the house next door has caused me to keep my front door locked at all times: realtors and prospective buyers have actually walked into my living room and insisted that my house is the one for sale. They're really disappointed to learn that it's actually the house next door.

But I divert.

What you can't see in the photo:

The house has been broken into, and the owners wondered why I didn't hear anything. Hm. Could it be that it's so easy to break into that any criminal with half a brain and a crow bar can do it without making any noise?

The backyard is about 14' X 8', with the air conditioning unit taking up almost a full ¼th, and that particularly noisy A/C unit would drown out any conversation you ever tried to have out there.

Inside, the bathrooms have those trendy bowl-partially inset-in-the-countertop deals. When you turn on the water, it splashes up into your face. Every freakin' time.

The third bedroom is the size of a small closet, and it has no windows. Child Services just might frown on that. Another added "plus,": by deciding to offer this third bedroom, the other two have been significantly, um... downsized.

The scariest part: Someone (or multiple someones) had to inspect this property and deem it acceptable for sale and habitation.

Heavy sigh.

Thus endeth the tale of the house next door.

Note to buyers: this house is in one of the best locations in DC. 3½ blocks from both Eastern Market Metro and Franklin Park, 11 blocks from the US Capitol, and an easy walk to Pet Boutique/ Cappuccino/ Panini heaven. Former Speaker of the House Foley lives around the corner, Supreme Court Justice Breyer jogs down the street, and I ran into Sen. Jeffords walking through the park a few weeks ago. Oh, yeah. Donna Brazile shops at the local hardware store, Fragers on Pennsylvania Ave.

There are currently 173 houses for sale in my zip code (not even including hundreds and hundreds of condos). The house next door is still for sale. And the owners have no idea why.


A final note: This is just my layman's opinion of this house, based on my observation and a comparison of other houses I've visited in the neighborhood. The timeline is based on my recollection alone, and could be off by a week or two in either direction.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Checking Out A Library Book? That'll be $1.00, Please.

What's wrong with this quote?

"Even though there would be a private company running it, it would still be a public library," said Peggy O'Lea, Shasta Library Foundation executive director.

There must be something nasty in the Redding, CA, water.

Otherwise, the city council's town motto must be "Fascism Friendly!"

Privatizing the public library
is like privatizing any public institution: Instead of funding a public concern (like a public library) with a sufficient operating budget, a publicly allotted amount of cash is handed over to a private company, whose "executive director" and staff draw salaries and "fund" the public concern with what's left over. For example:

LSSI (the private company) would realize the bulk of these savings by offering employees less expensive benefits and 401(k) retirement plans rather than the far more costly and generous public pensions library employees currently receive.

The firm picks up "very little" medical, dental and vision insurance for new and part-time workers, Bachman said. But employees with the firm 10 years or more get 100 percent medical coverage.

Librarians are among our nation's best trained and lowest paid workers. Naturally, they're easy targets for fascists pretending to save money while wearing the fiscal responsibility mask. Oh, and this private company PLANS TO CHARGE CITIZENS FOR CHECKING OUT BOOKS.

To recap: As a citizen, you pay taxes to fund your public library system. Your taxes pay highly trained librarians (most have advanced degrees these days) a pittance. When a library is privatized, your tax dollars also fund the overhead of and line the pockets of the private company staff and management. Plus, you get to pay for the books you check out.

Does paying twice for a public service sound like a good deal to you? What if you're poor?

Too bad, poor people! You're SOL.

And I haven't even mentioned the obvious opportunity for censorship. Who's going to decide which books and periodicals the library will ultimately purchase? You think this private company won't use the fiscal responsibility mask to object to librarians' choices?

and Carnegie are nothing more than dust in the Redding wind.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Monday, July 17, 2006

The French Government Just Humiliated George W. Bush Six Ways To Sunday

No plastic turkey.

No dead-of-night, lights out secret arrival.

No hiding inside an airplane hanger.

Mon Jul 17, 11:17 AM ET
French PM arrives to express support for Lebanon

BEIRUT (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has arrived in Lebanon to express France's support for the Lebanese people in the face of a massive Israeli onslaught on the country. --snip--

French President Jacques Chirac dispatched Villepin to meet Siniora and "convey to him the support of France and the solidarity of the French people with the Lebanese people in their ordeal," the president's office said.

Truly heavy sigh and an earnest longing for a president who isn't a quivering coward.

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--

Bush Talks With Mouth Full, Wants "Syria To Get Hezbollah To Stop Doing This Shit"

Update #2: The Transcript

Bush to Putin: I gotta leave by 2:15. They want me out of town so they can free up your security forces.

No, just going to make it up. I'm not going to talk too long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.

Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight. How about you? Where are you going home? This is your neighborhood doesn't take you long to get home.

You eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you'’re a big country. Takes him eight hours to fly home. Not Coke, diet Coke. Russia'’s big and so is China.

Yo, Blair. What are you doing? Are you leaving?

Blair: No, not yet. On this trade thing…

Bush: Yeah, I told that to (inaudible). If you want me to. I just want some movement. Yesterday I didn't see much movement. The desire to move.

Blair: It may be that it'’s impossible.

Bush: I'll be glad to say. Who's introducing me?

Blair: Angela

Bush: Well tell her to call on it. Well, tell her to put me on the spot.

Thanks for the sweater; it was awfully thoughtful of you. I know you picked it out yourself.

Blair: Oh, absolutely!

What about Kofi Annan? I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically cease-fire and everything else happens.

I think the thing that is really difficult is you can't stop this unless you get this international presence agreed.

Bush: She's going. I think Condi's going to go pretty soon.

Blair: Well that's all that matters. If you see, it will take some time to get out of there. But at least it gives people…

Bush: It's a process I agree. I told her your offer too.

Blair: Well it's only or if she's gonna or if she needs the ground prepared as it were. See if she goes out, she's got to succeed as it were, where as I can just go out and talk.

Bush: See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s--- and it's over.

Blair: Because I think this is all part of the same thing. What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if he gets a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he's done it. That's what this whole things about. It's the same with Iran.

Bush: I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. We're not blaming Israel and we're not blaming the Lebanese government.

Still wondering who "they" are, and now wondering who "he" is.

The saddest part: Bush remarking that G8 leaders "talk too long."

Update: Bush's generic "They" reference evidently includes The United Nations and Kofi Annan:

"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (expletive) and it's over," Bush told Blair in a discussion before the Group of Eight leaders began their lunch.

Bush also suggested that Annan call Syrian President Bashar Assad to "make something happen."

Who the holy hell are "they" and why are "they" in charge of US Middle East foreign policy?

Next question: "What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over" is a humiliating example of how not to lead the free world, isn't it?

Last question: Get Syria to control Hezbollah? That's our official position on the current ME crisis?

Truly heavy sigh.

Bush caught on open microphone

Agence France-Presse
Last updated 05:28pm (Mla time) 07/17/2006

SAINT PETERSBURG -- US President George W. Bush, caught on an open microphone at a summit here, said Monday that a key to defusing the Middle East crisis was for "Hezbollah to stop doing this shit."

"What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over," Bush told British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a leaders' lunch at the Group of Eight industrial countries gathering here.

The president was on camera but apparently unaware that his words were being captured by a microphone. It was unclear who 'they' were.

They? Funny, I thought the Bush administration was "they," didn't you?

Best bar bet in the world: Delilah didn't do it.
Judges 16:19--