Thursday, April 2, 2009

Yet Another Reason You Should Be Watching Rachel Maddow

Because she's the first person to actually ask Colin Powell anything on torture.

And as dday points out, Colin Powell knew a thing or two about torture during his career. People seem to forget that the good General is basically a war criminal, as are the rest of the Bush torture regime.

Rachel is the first person to actually ask Powell about his role in this mess, and she needs to not be the last.

Brobdingnagian Saecular Automatons And Other Things That Live In Newtie's Head

When Newt Gingrich closes his eyes at night, the voices come for him.
In a new appeal to the Christian right, Newt Gingrich told OneNewsNow that President Obama's proposed changes to the charitable deduction for top earners amounts to a "war against churches and charities," deliberately designed to discourage the successful from donating money to churches and make us all dependent on the government.

"I think there's a clear to desire to replace the church with a bureaucracy, and to replace people's right to worship together with a government-dominated system," said Gingrich.

The proposal itself is to lower the deduction that people making over $250,000 receive for itemized charitable contributions, from its current 33% or 35% down to 28%. Obama has defended the proposal by saying: "I'm assuming that that shouldn't be the determining factor as to whether you're giving that $100 to the homeless shelter down the street."

Lowering the tax breaks on charitable contributions only for the wealthiest Americans is somehow a war on God, Jesus, Buddha, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. His delusions are fascinating.

Half-Baked Alaska

This might actually be the funniest thing I've seen all week.
Here's the logical (read: nuts) conclusion to the fast-growing Poor-Ted-Stevens movement:

Via Think Progress, a press release from the Alaska GOP:

The Alaska Republican Party further believes that current Senator Mark Begich should resign his position to allow for a new, special election, so Alaskans may have the chance to vote for a Senator without the improper influence of the corrupt Department of Justice.

The only reason Mark Begich won the election in November is because a few thousand Alaskans thought that Senator Ted Stevens was guilty of seven felonies. Senator Stevens has maintained his innocence and now, even the Department of Justice acknowedges it's [sic] wrong doing.

Let's see what Begich's response is...

Late Update: Here's the full statement.

My full statement is as follows: Alaskan Republicans are clinically insane.

In The End, It's Always Three-Card Monte

A big, huge, doorstop of an expose' of AIG at Big Picture by Chris Whalen, but it details the fact that AIG was a massive fraud of a company even before it got into the credit default swap business. The bottom line is this (emphasis mine):
One of the first things we learned about the insurance world is that the concept of “shifting risk” for a variety of business and regulatory reasons has been ongoing in the insurance world for decades. Finite insurance and other scams have been at least visible to the investment community for years and have been documented in the media, but what is less understood is that firms like AIG took the risk shifting shell game to a whole new level long before the firm’s entry into the CDS market.

In fact, our investigation suggests that by the time AIG had entered the CDS fray in a serious way more than five years ago, the firm was already doomed. No longer able to prop up its earnings using reinsurance because of growing scrutiny from state insurance regulators and federal law enforcement agencies, AIG’s foray into CDS was really the grand finale. AIG was a Ponzi scheme plain and simple, yet the Obama Administration still thinks of AIG as a real company that simply took excessive risks. No, to us what the fraud Bernard Madoff is to individual investors, AIG is to the global financial community.

As with the phony reinsurance contracts that AIG and other insurers wrote for decades, when AIG wrote hundreds of billions of dollars in CDS contracts, neither AIG nor the counterparties believed that the CDS would ever be paid. Indeed, one source with personal knowledge of the matter suggests that there may be emails and actual side letters between AIG and its counterparties that could prove conclusively that AIG never intended to pay out on any of its CDS contracts.

The significance of this for the US bailout of AIG is profound. If our surmise is correct, the position of Feb Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner that the AIG credit default contracts are “valid legal contracts” is ridiculous and reveals a level of ignorance by the Fed and Treasury about the true goings on inside AIG and the reinsurance industry that is truly staggering.

And I don't believe for a microsecond that Helicopter Ben and Timmy didn't know exactly what was going on. They knew full well that the largest insurance company on Earth was running the largest insurance fraud on Earth, and the cost of taking these guys down still remains the fact that if AIG's counterparty obligations collapse, the entire global financial system collapses with it.

It's extortion. Instead, Helicopter Ben has to print trillions up and destroy the dollar in order to pay off all the bullshit that AIG owed. It owed more than the GDP of several countries, folks. It got Too Big To Fail, and if it fails, we all fall with it.

As it is, fixing the problem will almost certainly lead to massive hyper-inflation in the coming months as we have no choice but to print our way out of the hole we're in. They have no options left. Much like those scary sci-fi films where an asteroid is heading towards Earth, we're pretending that the financial system is still solvent. It's not. It's built on air and rot on a foundation of quicksand and mirrors.

In the end, we were killed by greed.

The Other Shoe Drops On Blago's Face

So, he lost his job as Governor of Illinois because of all the corrupt, icky things he did. The funny thing is the case against Blago for facing criminal charges is still out there, and like an anvil in a Road Runner cartoon, the corruption case against him is about to crush him flat.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said this morning it plans to make an announcement about a “significant criminal matter’’ later today, which sources said is the indictment of ex-governor Rod Blagojevich. The indictment will likely be handed down within the next several hours.

Blagojevich and his then chief of staff John Harris were arrested Dec. 9 on corruption charges. Blagojevich was accused in a criminal complaint of trying to sell President Obama’s open Senate seat. He was also accused of trying to shakedown firms seeking state business for campaign cash before a Jan. 1 law went into effect banning the practice. Charges also included an alleged plot to have Chicago Tribune editorial board members fired in exchange for helping Tribune Co. structure a state-backed deal to sell Wrigley Field.

This should be fun. Wonder how many people he'll take down with him, Chicago style.

[UPDATE] Sixteen additional felony charges leveled against Blago.

Free Advice For The GOP

Stop having press events on Wednesday nights.
Once in a great while, there are key turning points in a policy debate. This might be one of them.

GOP Whip Eric Cantor ... accused Democrats of "overreacting" to the economic crisis by embarking on a federal spending spree.

The Virginia Republican, speaking to reporters at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast Thursday morning, praised Rush Limbaugh for his "ideas" and for avoiding the Democratic error of "overreacting, as they often will, to crisis."

He went on to criticize Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's recent statement that the biggest danger was "doing too little" to deal with the meltdown.

"Doing too much has huge, huge pitfalls as well," he said.

This explains quite a bit. Why have Republicans refused to take the economic crisis seriously? Why have they offered the same tired, failed economic ideas they've been spouting for decades?

They don't know any better, and the next morning at 8:30 AM Eastern, they get the crap kicked out of any credibility they've gained in the week with the weekly unemployment numbers showing that the Republican plan of "let the economy fix itself" is a sick joke.

Don't Believe The Hype

So much happy face talk about "we've hit the bottom" and "Q3 2009 recovery"...don't buy it. Merrill's David Rosenberg has a sobering assessment of the next year.
Would take over three years to achieve price stability
The problem is that prices do not begin to stabilize until we break below eight months’ supply – and they tend to deflate 3% per quarter until that happens. So as impressive as it is that the builders have taken single-family starts below underlying sales, their efforts are just not sufficient to prevent real estate prices from falling further. In fact, even if the builders were to declare a moratorium immediately – that is taking starts to ZERO – demand is so weak and the unsold inventory so intractable that it would now take over three years to achieve the holy grail of price stability in the residential real estate market.

A lethal deflationary combination
The combination of a 10% savings rate and 10% unemployment rate is a lethal deflationary combination that the Obama dream team of economists seems prepared to fight hard against, and we wish them good luck, but we think we are in for another year of very weak economic growth that warrants a focus on safe income wherever you can get it, and a focus on high-quality assets and defensive sectors in the equity market.

S&P 500 will hit new lows, in our view
We remain of the view that the risk of earnings disappointments will take the S&P 500 to new lows before the bear market runs its course. Based on the outlook for corporate profits and the typical trough P/E multiple that characterized recession bear markets, it would not surprise us to see the S&P 500 gravitate in a 475-650 range for an extended period of time.
There will not be any recovery in the economy until the housing collapse abates. There will be no housing market recovery until the massive number of homes on the market lowers. There will be no stabilization of home inventories until the economy recovers.

We're trapped in a spiral. This is just the eye of the hurricane.

If It's Thursday...

Man, this weekly post writes itself at this point. You guys know the drill. This week, a brand new 26-year record in jobless claims (669,000) and of course, another all-time record for continuing unemployment claims, now at 5.73 million. The number of people on continuing unemployment has jumped by about 1.25 million in just 4 months.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

A new survey from job site shows that a quarter of American workers expect to be laid off in the next six months. If you're wondering why people aren't buying substantially more houses at these record low rates and more big ticket items at deep discounts, you have your answer. If you're still wondering why I believe the economy won't stabilize until well into 2010, you have your answer as well.

Lies, Damn Lies, And Republican Lies

With their plan to simply obstruct the Obama agenda and then to allow the economy to collapse not working out so well with the public and their plans to" fix" the economy laughed out of the halls of Washington, the GOP has gone back to basics: flat out making up lies to scare people.
Yesterday, the Wonk Room’s Ben Furnas noted that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have been attacking a cap-and-trade proposal before Congress, falsely claiming that the measure would cost American families over $3,000 per year in extra taxes.

They base their claim on a 2007 MIT study. However, after interviewing one of the study’s researchers, MIT professor John Reilly, PolitiFact reported on Monday that the GOP claim is false, giving it a “pants on fire” rating on the website’s “Truth-O-Meter.” According to Reilly, the report actually finds that any tax burden resulting from the bill’s enactment wouldn’t be felt until 2015 — at $31 per person and $79 per family per year, not $3,100.

In other words, Republicans are flat-out lying again and again to the American people in an effort to scare them on climate change legislation, making up complete fabrications so that Americans rally against the bill.

It's the worst sort of irresponsible propaganda from a group of professional liars. The study they are using to promote the lies has now been proven to have been misused and misinterpreted according to the author of the study itself.

But what do you expect from the GOP in 2009? Accuracy? Integrity? Fairness? Hey Dems, let's get on this one before the Village picks it up as fact, shall we?

FOX News In The Obama Age

So what's FOX News's new role in the age of Obama (h/t BooMan)?

Loyal opposition? Responsible investigative reporting? Watchdog of freedom?

Try "Fomenting revolution LIVE FROM THE DOOM BUNKER."


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