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Hi. The housing market continues to slide, and with Merill Lynch's $8 billion dollar writedown announcment and a new guesstimate on what real estate price declines will add up to, we're starting to talk real money. Plus: is the stock trading game rigged? The first shoe to drop on Iran, and the NYC press opens up a can of whoop-ass on the former mayor for joining Sawx nation.

CalculatedRisk posts about the NYT article this morning that started putting some new numbers of expected declines in real estate values country-wide (no pun intended). $4 trillion is the new upper-end estimate, and when you look at CR's chart, you can see how this doesn't seem the least bit far-fetched. CR also parses the new homes sales numbers reported today, which are getting headlines that say "rebound." CR patiently explains why this is ridiculous (the August #s were revised downward at a "shocking" rate, June and July's #s also revised downward, the year-over-year decline is a sickening 23.3%, and initial reports don't include cancellations which are running at record levels now.)  Bearish economist Nouriel Roubini takes some shots at critics who mocked his predicitions about fallout from the housing decline. And an lolcat shows just how far into the public consciousness the housing market mess has seeped.

A senior SEC official says insider trading is rampant on Wall St. and they've formed a working group to deal with it. Must be satisfying to trader/blogger Genesis who outdid himself last night with a trademark rant (on steroids). (Warning: contains mature language.) Jeffrey Cooper at Minyanville takes a different tone but comes to the same conclusions. And  here's a reminder: people always think the stock market is rigged, other people say you can't rig the invisible hand (or the collective social mood) for long. For some compelling arguments for the latter thesis, here's some highly recommended reading.

Here's the NYT's take on the U.S. sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps announced today. Chris Floyd writes up a scenario of the second shoe dropping. The Boston Globe editorializes about the state of diplomacy. Oh and ThinkProgress picked up on an interesting Congressional Quarterly find in the President's new war supplemental budget request: $88 million to retrofit B-2s so they can drop the mother of all (conventional) bombs (actually, M-O-P: Massive Ordnance Penetrator) and as my colleague Bob Windrem points out, there's nothing under the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan but more dirt. Tristero provides a helpful map.

Juan Cole writes that recent developments in Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan show that the President's "wing it" foreign policy isn't working too well.

Meanwhile, the site in Syria that the Israelis attacked in September seems to be coming into focus.. with even skeptics like Joe Cirincione saying the satellite photos look suspicious. But something that "looks suspicious" isn't always what people think it is, right?

Digby on the art of the political hissy fit.

Daily Pundit on President Bush's new designation: biggest spender ever.

Sidney Blumenthal's afterword for the reissue of Walter Lippman's "Liberty and the News" should be required reading for every journalist in America. Or more importantly, their bosses.

And a follow-up on my observation Tuesday that Giuliani's freak-out-inducing announcement that he's rooting for the Sawx was perhaps, genuine. I was wrong. At least I wasn't the only one who thought it was possible though! (Hat tip: Domenico Montanaro at Next Read)