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Dayen’s News Roundup from Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Seems like the year has just blown by (Photo: genista, flickr)

I’m going to enjoy the slow news week!

• Here’s a tour through European austerity: Greeks are suffering from cutbacks to their health care system; Italians experience the worst Christmas for retail in a decade; French unemployment soars to a 12-year high. And by the way, the economy isn’t just bad overseas: Sears and K-Mart will close stores after a disastrous holiday shopping season.

• Sadrists want new elections in Iraq, and if they bolt from the government, I believe they can force them.

• Not sure how idle or legitimate this threat is, but top Iranian officials are openly discussing blocking the Strait of Hormuz. So we may have a lovely little Christmastime war.

• Michael Thomas pens a superb column in The Daily Beast about Wall Street corruption and the undermining of America.

• The Andrew Kaczynski-ization of American journalism, where “politician said one thing, then said another thing that contradicts it!” is viewed as a great insight, really degrades the fourth estate. This started with Tim Russert, and it’s really just fake political analysis.

• Consumer confidence shot up, probably due to somewhat better job prospects and a reduction in the price of gas. But US home prices dropped again in October, another reminder that housing remains a lead weight on the economy.

• Speaking of housing, the Treasury Department is poised to hire a new “housing czar.” Michael Stegman is a Clinton-era official from HUD, but his track record seems decent, actually acknowledging “the market distortions caused by the government’s disproportionate support of homeownership over renting.” Related: there would actually be nothing wrong with America becoming a nation of renters.

• Some refugees from the Syrian uprising have found refuge in Benghazi, Libya. There’s a support network for revolution in the Arab world that never existed before.

• Oh noes, the federal government wants to actually prosecute international tax evaders! This will destroy job creators in this country!

• I thought the President already nominated these two for the Fed board, but this makes it official. It’s a classic “split the baby” announcement, with one Democrat and one Republican nominated.

• Wow, 150 recall elections this year, with an over 50% success rate? Now that’s an anti-incumbent mood.

• By next week, the vaunted “Gingrich bus tour” will be reduced to one bookstore appearance in Cedar Rapids.

Free digital textbooks for college students in California sounds like a tremendous idea.

• Let’s have someone keep an eye on this major spill of fracking fluid in Pennsylvania, shall we?

• It’s not like people aren’t already gambling on the elections through InTrade, you might as well make it legal.

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David Dayen

David Dayen