Friday, April 24, 2009

Last Call

One of the clear criteria for sentience is that sentient beings possess self-awareness and an understanding of causality, that is specific actions performed by the aware self have specific consequences.

Michelle Bachmann is having some trouble with that concept, it seems...not to mention a complete inability to recognize shame or irony for that matter.


Global No-Confidence Vote: Eternal Zombie Banks

Back when the bank stress tests were first announced, I figured they would give Obama the political cover to implement Plan N and take over failing banks. Obama could say "Well, we investigated the bank, we did our due diligence work, Banks X, Y, and Z don't have the ability to survive without complete restructuring, so we're going to put them in receivership and do just that. They will emerge as better banks." Nobody could really complain then, and the problem would go a long way towards being solved.

Unfortunately, it's looking like I was not only wrong (happens often) but it looks like the complete opposite has happened.
The Federal Reserve on Friday said the government is prepared to rescue any of the banks that underwent "stress tests" and were deemed vulnerable if the recession worsened sharply. The Fed, in outlining the tests' methodology, said the 19 companies that hold one-half of the loans in the U.S. banking system won't be allowed to fail — even if they fared poorly on the stress tests.

The Fed reinforced its view that major financial firms are "too big to fail," and the government must do whatever is necessary to save them, said former Fed examiner Mark Williams.

"It appears 'too big to fail' is a fundamental philosophy — it's a philosophical principle," said Williams, a finance professor at Boston University.

This here? This is a problem. This is in fact bad enough to make me almost give up in despair. This is proof positive that Obama will in fact continue to throw trillions at the banks until the problem is solved. The banksters know this, so they will continue to take insane risks with money they can't possibly lose, or get in trouble with. If they do lose it, we simply give them more. That is the plan.

Then the banks will want to complain about the nasty rules and strings having this money entails, but we all know that the rules are meant to be broken.

It took nearly 100 days, but the Obama administration has finally enshrined Too Big To Fail as the fundamental heart of the economic crisis. No major bank can be allowed to fail on Obama's watch. The Fed will print money and give it to the banks for zero interest. The banks will then sit on it, pretend they are solvent, and laugh at the rest of the suckers out there losing their jobs. They'll use the money to buy smaller banks that aren't too big to fail, and just get bigger and more powerful.

It'll be that way until somebody notices we don't have the money as a country to pay for our financial system. Then the real fun begins.

I'm honestly terribly disappointed in the President and his financial braintrust. They have decided that preserving the status quo of our banking system is more important than saving the country's economy.

Despite all the honest good this administration has accomplished, it will soon turn to ash. Trillions will continue to be thrown at banks and nobody of course will have to be fired, nor will anyone have to take responsibility. Automakers on the other hand will have to get rid of maybe hundreds of thousands of employees because they simply aren't viable and made such terrible mistakes and took such lousy gambles.

Unlike the banks. They never make mistakes. They just fail their way to trillions in free money. Think about it. There's a reason why GM and Chrysler are on their deathbeds and Ford is whistling past the graveyard. Manufacturing is expendable. Union jobs and pensions are expendable too. Obama can't spare another $30 billion to save the automakers. It gave that $30 billion to AIG this week. Nobody noticed.

If this is the official Obama plan now, Too Big To Fail Now And Forever, then America is now in critical trouble. Nobody will hold the banks accountable for their mistakes, their losses, or their greed. Why should they do anything to improve the situation if they know they can't lose? Moral hazard doesn't begin to describe the situation. Banks are now free and clear to do whatever they want with our trillions. They have unlimited credit from the US Gubment. Undercapitalized? Revenues dropping like a stone while profits are rising? Long-term calamity ahead? No problem!

Ahh, but you and me? We can lose. And we will. Big time. Zombie banks for all eternity. Forever and ever, amen. Zombies eating our jobs, draining our economy, and all the while kept fat and happy by Helicopter Ben's magic printing press. The banks are holding Obama hostage. Obama's not only giving into the bank's every demand, but in fact he is holding the world hostage. "Support our debt or your economy gets it! Don't make me collapse the financial system! Pay up or else!"

Obama will not save the economy. He will save the banksters. The rest of us are now on our own. Don't count on a recovery. Don't count on anything. America's tombstone will read "Too Big To Fail."

Be prepared.

John, Sarah, And Joe

McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt on the issue of John Sidney's veep:
What Schmidt was, mostly, was resigned: He recounted the frustrations and desperation of the campaign, culminating with the decision that insiders continue to debate: To nominate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, rather than McCain’s first choice, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, for vice president.

After taking soundings on Lieberman, Schmidt said, “It was communicated back to us very clearly from within the party that not only was Senator Lieberman not acceptable, but any pro-choice nominee was not acceptable, [and] it would lead to a floor fight at the convention with an alternate nominee for Vice President put into play.”

“Blowing up the party wasn’t one of the menu items of things that were going to improve our situation,” he said.

He also explained his decision to deny Palin an election night speech as a nod to the fact that the concession is a “singular moment” in American public life.

“It begins the process by which power is transferred peacefully,” he said.
So it really would have been Joe F'ckin Liebrman, only McCain's own party stabbed his ass in the back.

I still say McCain would have lost, his "fundamentals of our economy are strong" gaffe still would have killed him, and Lieberman would have driven the wingers insane. What independent support he would of had would instead have been more than canceled out by the Winger core whou would have walked out on him at the polls. It's therefore entirely possible that McCain would have lost by a significantly larger margin, and he would have most likely been stuck with Sarah Palin anyway, only the GOP Pretty Hate Machine would have been on display much earlier in the race, and instead of exciting the base Palin would have been the symbol of the massive schism in the party. For McCain's personal political fortunes, he made the right choice by going with Palin.

On the other hand, the defeat of the GOP would have been total, the moderates in the party would have been ejected totally, and the party could finally have begun its long climb back to relevance as a meaningless rump...but a dangerous meaningless rump with a mission. By avoiding the Lieberman as VP floor fight however, the GOP instead is still in slow decline. And the civil war floor fight remains ahead of this party for another two years, if not four. Right now the party is still too torn apart to do much of anything, and that future bloodletting means the Dems can continue to make gains.

Hey Norm, Pay Attention

Republican Jim Tedisco has conceded the NY-20 special election to Democrat Scott Murphy. There's a lesson here, but the one person who needs to heed it never will.

Well, two people need to heed the lesson, the other being Michael Steele.
It was, at least on paper, a race Republicans should have won. They didn't.

Which leads us to the next question: just how painful is this defeat for RNC Chairman Michael Steele? He not only poured a lot of money into this race, Steele also pointed to New York's 20th as a race that would help turn things around for the Republican Party.

Back in January, Steele boasted, "That win will send a powerful signal to the rest of the country ... that our game is not up,"

That seemed like safe bravado in January, when Tedisco looked like a sure thing. But "that win" has become "that loss." Does that mean, by Steele's reasoning, that a powerful signal has been sent to the rest of the country that the Republican Party's game is up?

There were some rumors in February that a GOP defeat in this special election would put Michael Steele's job in jeopardy. Something to keep an eye on.

I guess the rumors of the demise of the Democratic Party were indeed a bit exaggerated. Eric Kleefield has reactions from both parties at TPMDC.

Strong Medicine

The White House and Congressional Dems have worked out a deal on health care: Debate on the measure will be open for the next six months roughly, allowing bipartisan input. But if there's no deal by October 15, the Dems will go to reconciliation.
The deal was hatched late afternoon and last night, in a five-hour negotiating session at the office of Senate Majoriy Leader Harry Reid. A trio of White House officials were there: Rahm Emanuel, Peter Orszag, and Phil Schiliro. Also present, along with Reid, were House Budget Chairman John Spratt and Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad.

The reonciliation instruction specifies a date. That date, according to one congressional staffer, is October 15. (The original House reconciliation instruction had a late September deadline.)

In other words, the House and Senate each have until that day to pass health care legislation.

If they haven't, then both houses will consider health care under the reconciliation process, which is relevant primarily for the way it affects the Senate. There will be a limit on the time of debate. Republicans won't be able to filibuster it.

So there's still a chance for bipartisanship, which is what both Obama and Democratic leaders want--or, at least, what they say they want. But if bipartisanship doesn't work, then Dems can pass this on their own. They won't even need Ben Nelson.

Which is outstanding news. Obama and the Dems have sent the message loudly and clearly to the Party of No: if you want in on shaping universal health care, here's your chance...but you will not be able to kill it.

Good for Obama, good for America, and well played all around. It's no longer a question of longer even a question of when now. It's a question of what will be in the health care bill. Either way, the President will sign universal health care into law before Election Day 2009.


We No Longer Build Excitement

Pontiac is out of gas as of Monday.
General Motors is preparing to announce that the Pontiac car brand, once marketed as GM's "Excitement division," will be killed off, according to a source familiar with the decision.

An official announcement is expected Monday. GM spokesman Jim Hopson declined to comment on Pontiac's fate, saying the automaker has no announcements to make at this time.

Not a good day.

Then again, when's the last time you bought a Pontiac outside of high school?

2,000 Posts

Hit 2,000 posts.

Hooray for the internet. It allows me to entertain my 4 fans daily!

Al Versus Norm, Part 744

The Minnesota Supreme Court is moving along at a breathtaking pace to hear Norm Coleman's appeal...starting June 1.
The court adopted the proposed briefing timeline from the Coleman campaign, allowing them more time to formulate their arguments: Coleman's brief is to be submitted by next Thursday, April 30; Team Franken will submit its brief by May 11, and a reply brief from Coleman is to be submitted by May 15.

On top of that, oral arguments have been scheduled for June 1 -- a month and a week from today.

Team Franken had called for a much quicker schedule, on the grounds that greater speed was needed in order to seat a second U.S. Senator from Minnesota, and that Coleman had already had plenty of time to come up with his arguments. But the court didn't go for it.

Indeed, by any normal measure this timeline is itself a quick one for a state Supreme Court to be taking an appeal. But for the political world, this is not a normal case.

Considering the entire point of the exercise is to prevent Al Franken from being seated by whatever means necessary, you have to hand it to Coleman. He may be actually be able to drag this out until 2010, and this leaves the Dems permanently stuck at 58 Senators.

The Village Is Throughly Corrupt

The Double G sums up the Three Rules Of The Village:
(1) Any policy that Beltway elites dislike is demonized as coming from "the Left" or -- in this case (following Karl Rove) -- the "hard Left." Media stars recite that claim regardless of how widely accepted the belief is in American public opinion and regardless of whether there is anything "leftist" about the view in question. For years, withdrawing from Iraq was demonized as the view of the "left" even though large majorities of Americans favored it.

Identically, roughly 40% of Americans favor criminal prosecutions for Bush officials -- even before release of the OLC memos -- and large majorities favor investigations generally. The premise of those who advocate prosecutions is the definitively non-ideological view that political elites should be treated exactly like ordinary Americans when they break the law and commit serious crimes. Individuals such as Gen. Antonio Taguba, Gen. Barry McCaffrey and former CIA officer Robert Baer advocate investigations and/or prosecutions of Bush officials. But no matter: the Beltway opposes the idea, and it is therefore dismissed by media stars as coming from the "Hard Left."

(2) Nobody is more opposed to transparency and disclosure of government secrets than establishment "journalists." Richard Cohen wrote of the Lewis Libby prosecution: "it is often best to keep the lights off." ABC News' Peggy Noonan said this week of torture investigations: "Some things in life need to be mysterious. Sometimes you need to just keep walking." The Washington Post's David Ignatius, condemning Obama for releasing the OLC memos, warned: "the country is fighting a war, and it needs to take care that the sunlight of exposure doesn't blind its shadow warriors." And the favorite mantra of media stars and Beltway mavens everywhere -- Look Forward, Not Backwards -- is nothing but a plea that extreme government crimes remain concealed and unexamined.

This remains the single most notable and revealing fact of American political life: that (with some very important exceptions) those most devoted to maintaining and advocating government secrecy is our journalist class, of all people. It would be as if the leading proponents of cigarette smoking were physicians, or those most vocally touting the virtues of illiteracy were school teachers. Nothing proves the true function of these media stars as government spokespeople more than their eagerness to shield government actions from examination and demand that government criminality not be punished.

(3) The single most sacred Beltway belief is that elites are exempt from the rule of law. Amidst all the talk about how prosecutions would destroy post-partisan harmony and whether torture "works," it is virtually impossible to find any media star discussions about the fact that torture is illegal and that those who order, authorize or engage in torture are committing felonies. That is because -- other than for fun sex scandals and other Blagojevich-like sensationalistic acts -- the overriding belief of the political class is that elites (such as themselves) have the right to break the law and not be held accountable.

Amazingly, when it comes to crimes by ordinary Americans, being "tough on crime" is a virtually nonnegotiable prerequisite to being Serious, but when it comes to political officials who commit crimes in the exercise of their power, absolute leniency is the mandated belief upon pain of being dismissed as "shrill" and extremist. Can anyone find an establishment media pundit anywhere -- just one -- who is advocating that Bush officials who broke the law be held accountable under our laws? That view seems actively excluded from establishment media discussions.

The practical upshot of all that is that the Village exists to further its own influence, and to protect the interests of the conservative political elite. It has been this way since the days of Saint Ronnie. Most recently it has become nothing more than the media arm of the most politically powerful conservatives in the country. It does not challenge power, it embraces it and feeds off it.

It's as corrupt as it comes. Only a few dare to challenge the people in power, and even then that's only part of the time. More abuses and corruption will continue as long as the media's job is to deflect criticism, peddle ignorance, and absolve the elite.

Newt Versus Al

House hearings on global warming conclude today. Steve Benen reports the Democrats are bringing in the Goreacle, and that the Republicans are bringing in...Newt.
A few quick points. First, for GOP officials to keep relying on Newt Gingrich to be a party leader is a dream come true for Democrats. Second, on a related note, that Republicans can't think of anyone better than Gingrich to be a high-profile voice on energy issues points to just how serious the party's mess really is.

And third, there's the inconvenient fact that when it comes to energy and environmental policy, Newt Gingrich doesn't have the foggiest idea what he's talking about.

Should be an interesting day on the Hill.

Could be worse for the GOP. They could have brought in the nation's formost expert on wind energy and natural gas, Rush Limbaugh.

Digging More Holes To Get Dirt To Fill Holes

That's the Treasury/Fed way!
The Federal Reserve took on more than $74 billion in subprime mortgages, depreciating commercial leases and other assets after Bear Stearns Cos. and American International Group Inc. collapsed.

In its biggest disclosure of the securities accepted to stabilize capital markets, the Fed said yesterday it had unrealized losses of $9.6 billion on the assets as of Dec. 31. The bonds, swaps and notes were taken in from Bear Stearns, once the fifth-biggest Wall Street firm by capitalization, and AIG, which had been the world’s largest insurer.

The losses on securities backed by assets such as home loans in Florida and California signal that U.S. taxpayers may be forced to reimburse the central bank through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, according to Christopher Whalen, managing director of Torrance, California-based Institutional Risk Analytics.

“The numbers basically confirm that Treasury is going to have to take some TARP money and reimburse the Fed,” said Whalen, whose financial-services research company analyzes banks for investors. “It is essentially up to the Treasury to get the Fed out of this.”

The central bank lent $2 trillion to financial institutions and hasn’t disclosed information about most of the collateral backing those loans.

Yeah, that's not going to turn into a massive nightmare down the road or anything. But the banks are fine and solvent and the stress tests are moot and the housing market's hit bottom and the Great Bull Run is just around the corner...

Poll-ar Opposites

Gallup has Obama doing even better than Bill Clinton approaching the 100 days mark, with even a majority of Republicans grudgingly admitting he's done at least a "just okay" job in the last 100 days, and much better numbers among Independents and Democrats. Many Americans say he's doing better than expected and he maintains a 65% approval rating.

Rasmussen on the other hand has a majority of Americans saying that Obama has endangered national security and don't want investigations of Bush on torture, and think the government has too much power.

Take that as you will.

[UPDATE] Sadly, No! goes over the recent Rasmussen record, and it's not very good.

Home, Home I'm Deranged

Home sales down in March, inventories down, prices down, but still 10.7 months of homes on the market. That's going to have to go down to 6 months or lower before we hit bottom in the housing market.

Mr. Cramer still stands by his call of a bottom in the housing market in two months. You keep thinking that, and over here in reality, I figure 2010 sometime. Maybe 2011.

Nice Guys Finish Last

CNBC argues that President Obama just isn't nice enough to big business. You know, after giving banks and automakers billions of dollars and trillions in loan guarantees at basically zero interest, he's just too mean.

Brand Name Insanity

The nutbars in the fringe core of the GOP are actually demanding that the Michael Steele and the Republican National Committee take up a resolution to declare Dems as the "Democrat Socialist Party".
In an e-mail sent Wednesday to the 168 voting members of the committee, RNC member James Bopp, Jr. accused President Obama of wanting “to restructure American society along socialist ideals.”

“The proposed resolution acknowledges that and calls upon the Democrats to be truthful and honest with the American people by renaming themselves the Democrat Socialist Party,” wrote Bopp, the Republican committeeman from Indiana. “Just as President Reagan’s identification of the Soviet Union as the ‘evil empire’ galvanized opposition to communism, we hope that the accurate depiction of the Democrats as a Socialist Party will galvanize opposition to their march to socialism.”

The resolution, proposed by a committeeman from Washington state, was agreed upon by 16 RNC members from 16 different states and is part of a petition asking RNC Chairman Michael Steele to set a special committee meeting next month when the state chairs meet in Washington, D.C.

An RNC member said that Bopp, one of the most conservative and outspoken individuals on the committee, had pulled together a group of his fellow conservatives to agree to the resolution.

In an interview, Bopp said he thought Steele would set the special meeting.
Oh please, please, please let them do this. While the Democrats are confronting the crumbling economy and weighing the questions of torture, the environment, our continuing wars, and the general instability of the world, let the Republican Party ignore all that and instead take up the crucial subject of discussing whether or not Republicans should officially have to refer to the Dems as Socialist poopyheads.

Republicans, the party of ideas! Really, really monumentally stupid ideas.

None Dare Call It Torture

Speaking of increased pressure on Obama to allow an investigation into the Bush torture regime, Steven D over at the Frog Pond makes a key observation:
When are we going to stop reading these euphemisms for torture? Just today I've read "interrogation techniques", "aggressive interrogation techniques", "harsh interrogation techniques" and "intelligence techniques" (which has to be the most laughable one yet). If the news media can't bring themselves to call it what it really is "torture techniques" let's at least call them something a little less oxymoronic. How about we start calling them "False Confession Techniques"? At least that one has the benefit of being more truthful regarding the reason torture has historically been employed than the rest do. It certainly explains why Bush and Cheney authorized torture.
In fact the Village seems to be stumbling all over itself inventing grand new phrases to make a despicable act sound clinical enough to be a routine medical procedure...or a routine legal one.

I'm honestly not sure which is worse, the acts themselves, or the verbal gymnastics used to defend the government. Call a spade a spade and move on. After all, when the Defense Department finally releases over the next month the photographs of torture and abuse of prisoners at Iraqi and Afghan prisons by US personnel, we're going to run out of euphemisms.


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