Sunday, December 07, 2008

Bush's new digs

Abandoning any pretense of being a brush-clearing "rancher" in Crawford, George Bush will be moving into the posh Dallas suburb of Preston Hollow after his term ends in January. The town, possibly the wealthiest in Texas, has a racial history that's apparently of no concern to the Bush family.

A racially-restrictive covenent in Preston Hollow prohibited nonwhites from using and occupying specified properties until 2000, when it was invalidated. The covenant, adopted in 1956, provided a useful exception:
"Said property shall be used and occupied by white persons except these covenants shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of different race or nationality in the employ of a tenant."
Though freestanding "servants quarters" were generously permitted, they had to be placed "to the rear of the lot."

Racial covenents have been legally unenforceable since the Supreme Court's decision in Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), but Preston Hollow's was still on the books just eight years ago. Preston Hollow remains exclusive, however:
one local realtor boasts that the community has an "average household income of about $1.5 million a year."

Preston Hollow's elementary school was also in the news in 2006 after a federal judge found that the school district had attempted to undermine the desegregation decision in
Brown v. Topeka Board of Education (1954) by using discredited "separate but equal" arguments. Not surprisingly, most non-Hispanic white residents of Preston Hollow send their children to private schools.

With little brush to clear, what will ex-president Bush do with all his spare time in Preston Hollow? One clue: the wealthy investor who lives next door has just installed a pond stocked with trout on his 14-acre estate. Much of his time, no doubt, will also be devoted to making speeches for exorbitant fees and raising a half-billion dollars for a presidential "library" at Southern Methodist University. The library's principal function will be to put a positive spin on the worst presidency in modern U.S. history. Meanwhile, good luck with that Bush legacy project, Karl Rove...

PHOTOS: Preston Hollow non-servant housing (top); Bush hosting Angela Merkel at the "Western White House" in Crawford (bottom). (Wikimedia)

[H/T to The Raw Story]

Friday, December 05, 2008

Searching for acorns

Stock intended to eventually earn taxpayers a profit as part of the Bush administration's massive bank bailout has lost a third of its value — about $9 billion — in barely one month, according to an Associated Press analysis. Shares in virtually every bank that received federal money have remained below the prices the government negotiated.
Associated Press, December 5
This unsurprising report arrived, coincidentally, with similar news (on a somewhat smaller scale) from our latest 401K statement. The reality seems clear enough: markets for exotic financial instruments — especially bundled derivatives traded with minimal disclosure and even less regulation — have become so complex that they're beyond the understanding of those who are trying to set policy and salvage the economy.

The Bush administration is reduced to throwing hundreds of billions of dollars into a black hole in the hope that something will miraculously stimulate a positive response. When the meltdown of mortgage-backed securities began in September, you could easily detect the fear on the faces of congressional leaders, as much as they struggled to project calm to avoid provoking a panic.

Two months later, no one yet seems to have a minimal grasp of what's happening, much less a glimpse of the steps needed to avoid further collapse. The hope seems to be, as an old friend from Nebraska might say: Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in awhile. So far, the hogs are coming up empty.