Monday, May 4, 2009

The Party Of No Huffs And Puffs

Knowing that the best way to kill climate change legislation is to swamp it in "emissions", the Party of No gears up to prove if you can't dazzle them with logic, bury them in bovine excrement.
Former President George W. Bush, urged on by some industry groups, opposed U.S. participation in global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Many House Republicans are carrying on that fight, saying the Democrats' climate-change bill will hurt consumers at a time when the United States is struggling with an economic recession.

"American families are struggling to make ends meet, yet Democrat leaders in Washington want to tax them for using the only energy sources available to them," said Representative Tom Price of Georgia, who heads a group of House conservatives.

Democrats have countered that they will try to reimburse consumers for higher energy costs associated with reducing carbon emissions. Those higher costs could hit Midwestern and Southeastern states, which rely heavily on coal to drive electricity production, particularly hard.

According to lobbyists and congressional aides, House Republicans have prepared well over 100 amendments to the bill, which likely would slow committee work on it.

Still unknown was whether Waxman and Markey had successfully negotiated demands by some fellow Democrats that all or a portion of pollution permits be given to U.S. industries, instead of sold to them.

Giving away the credits would save polluters money at first. But some opponents fear firms might raise energy rates on consumers anyway while at the same time holding permits that will gain value for them in the future if they want to trade them away.

The carbon tax argument is baloney. By and large the cost of carbon emissions can be neutralized by switching to greener energy sources: solar, wind, and biomass. But the Republicans are trying to kill this bill with the same false arguments that killed universal health care 16 years ago: "It'll double your bill every month!" No, it won't. We've already been through the lies on this, but the media repeats them as fact anyway. It's beginning to take its toll at the latest Gallup poll on global warming found.
Although a majority of Americans believe the seriousness of global warming is either correctly portrayed in the news or underestimated, a record-high 41% now say it is exaggerated. This represents the highest level of public skepticism about mainstream reporting on global warming seen in more than a decade of Gallup polling on the subject.
The younger you are, the more you believe something needs to be done about global warming, the Gallup poll also found. But of course, the GOP wants to block all that. After all, this is a country where a third of us still believes Saddam caused 9/11 and had WMDs (including the woman who would have been our Vice-President), and less than half of us believe in evolution.

Can't account for the crazy factor.

More Ammunition For The CNN Irresponsible Journalism Argument

CNN has another breathless "OBAMA WILL TAKE YOUR GUNS BUY NOW!" story.
Gun shops across the country are reporting a run on ammunition, a phenomenon apparently driven by fear that the Obama administration will increase taxes on bullets or enact new gun-control measures.

"In the last two months it's gotten very, very difficult to find ammunition," says Richard Taylor, manager of The Firing Line, a gun shop and shooting range in the Denver, Colorado, suburbs.

"There are a lot of rumors floating around that the present government would like to increase taxes on ammunition. I think [there is] just a lot of panicked buying going on."

Now, that's twice in three paragraphs we get the "increased taxes on bullets" rumor. CNN does nothing to quash this. Then they go on feeding the beast.
While campaigning for the White House, Obama supported re-enacting the now-expired ban on assault weapons. But there is no indication that the administration will take up that measure -- or any other gun-control initiative --anytime soon.
It was nice of CNN to be responsible and mention that the unsubstantiated and patently false rumor in the lead paragraph was actually unsubstantiated and false...three paragraphs later.

If you think that's bad, check out CNN's report on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defending the report that right-wing domestic terrorists may pose a threat to the country. You get no mention that Obama has no plans for gun control legislation at all, only that the report "warned that the groups may use proposed restrictions on firearms" as "recruiting tools" without mentioning that there basically ARE no proposed additional gun control laws at this time. Then you get several paragraphs of verbatim Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage spouting lies, plus some pretty brutal attacks on Napolitano by the American Legion. Only at the very end of the article do you get the truth:

The Obama administration in January issued a warning about left-wing extremists. Both reports were initiated during the administration of President George W. Bush.
But CNN seems dumbfounded about why people are buy ammo by the caseload. 1,700+ news articles about the "Obama gun ban" in Google News search, over a 100 articles on the "Obama ammo tax", like this doozy from, of all places, KHON in Honolulu.

Across the nation, ammunition has been selling like emergency supplies before a hurricane.

"All the national stores are being cleared out," said Art Ong, Magnum Firearms Owner.

Ong saw it coming.

"Fortunately I've been able to locate supplies from the west coast and east coast and have been shipping in large quantities," said Ong.

But once these are gone, there could be a long wait.

Suppliers have said there's a six month to a year and a half long backorder for ammunition.

Ever since President Obama was elected, ammo sales have skyrocketed, fueled by fears of higher taxes.

"We have a lot of people purchasing ammunition in large quantities in anticipation of a large excise tax of 500-1000%. Kind of like the cigarette buyers, before the big tax stamp was put on the cigarettes probably were hoarding cigarettes the same way," said Ong.

It of course hasn't occurred to any of the crack journalists in our country that gun store owners, gun makers, and ammo makers are making a killing (literally) on this stuff, and have every reason to perpetuate these rumors for as long as they continue to profit madly on them, flooding the country with new guns and more and more ammo.

But that of course would never raise the danger of anyone getting hurt or using this stuff in anger, and I'm 100% sure the NRA will personally make sure all these new gun owners are properly trained on firearm storage, safety, and usage. So there's no problem here!

[UPDATE] Bonus FOX News subliminal messaging!

The New Bubble

The new stock market bubble is in full effect.
Wall Street rose Monday, pushing the major gauges to multi-month highs, as a better-than-expected housing market report intensified hopes that the economy is closer to stabilizing.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) gained 214 points, or 2.6%, according to early tallies, ending at the highest point since Jan. 13. The S&P 500 (SPX) index added nearly 30 points or 3.4%, ending above 900 for the first time since Jan. 8 and turning higher for the year.

The Nasdaq composite (COMP) rose 44 points, or 2.6% and ended at the highest point since Nov. 4.

Stocks have been surging over the last two months on bets that the worst for the economy is over. Those bets were furthered Monday by the day's economic reports.

But that's just it...the worst isn't over. We still have 14 million homeowners underwater and that's going to get worse. Unemployment continues to rise with 600,000 jobs a month being lost, and that will continue. Home prices still are falling, and there's a load of ARM that are primed to reset in 2009. The cramdown provision failed in the Senate, meaning it will be harder for Americans to keep their homes. The commercial real estate tsunami is just beginning...and all of it will only make any hope of recovery much dimmer, not much more likely. You can't have a recovering consumer-driven economy when wages are falling, inflation is on the way up and unemployment is rising. That's a recipe for another Japanese-style Lost Decade.

Yet the stock market has roared into a 30% gain in the last 2 months. The markets are betting hard on everything being over and America recovering like nothing bad happened. But the reality is nothing could be further from the truth. This is all a massive speculatory bubble. The slightest bit of news that shows that the economy isn't plummeting into freefall means BUY BUY BUY.

We're looking at one of the great Dead Cat Bounces in history here. The S&P 500 has gone from 670 to 900 in less than 60days. At this rate we'll indeed be back in Bush Boom territory by the end of the year. At 225 points in 60 days, we'd be close to 1,700 by 2010. That's impossible.

This one's going to pop, folks. It's not a correction. It's not a new bull market. It's a bubble, plain and simple. When this one goes, it'll flatten the economy.

Ignore The Parts You Don't Like

As Digby points out, Southern Republicans are all for America being the greatest Republic on Earth unless America is dumb enough to put a mulatto Kenyan Muslim in charge, in which case it's time to party like it's 1859.
Having picked fights with nearly every other GOP candidate for [Georgia] governor, John Oxendine has decided to poach on the territory of states’ rightist Ray McBerry.

Oxendine today endorsed not just the sentiments of Texas Gov. Rick “Secessionist” Perry, but a advocated a fundamental rollback of federal power.

Said Oxendine:
If governor, I would support legislation which puts Georgia on record as affirming our sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States and which would serve as notice and demand the federal government, as our agent, cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.

Additionally, I would support legislation which states all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or that requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed.
State sovereignty has previously been an issue copyrighted by McBerry, who ran against Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2006, drawing on the support of flaggers and other Confederate enthusiasts.
See, I don't get this "cease and desist notice" and "direct the Feds to prohibit or repeal" crap. Exactly what do these idiots think they are going to do, ignore the government? Does this mean that when the federal government doesn't repeal these laws that Georgia will do...what then? Fail to enforce the laws? Join Texas somehow? Secede from the union? What exactly is this going to accomplish other than to annoy the government?

Are these pieces of legislation actually going to be used to force a Supreme Court hearing? Will the states sue the federal government? Will they close the borders?

What's the play here? Honestly? Withdraw the state delegation to Washington? Border skirmishes with the National Guard and Coast Guard?

This seems to me that it's a useless measure that serves no real purpose other than providing a sense of male enhancement to a bunch of redneck morons, and yet this piece of work here is basically making this his entire platform for running as Governor.

You boys really want to open that door again?

More Pakistan Problems

More dire warning about Af-Pak, this time from Joint Chiefs chair Adm. Michael Mullen.
The U.S. military's primary focus needs to shift immediately from Iraq to Afghanistan, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday.

"We remain committed to the mission we've been given in Iraq -- make no mistake. ... But Afghanistan has been an economy of force operation for far too long," he said at a Pentagon news conference.

Mullen said he is "gravely concerned" about recent Taliban and al-Qaeda gains across much of southern Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

"This isn't about 'can do' anymore. This is about 'must do,' " Mullen said. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are "recruiting through intimidation, controlling through fear, and advancing an unwelcome ideology through thuggery. ... The consequences of their success directly threaten our national interests in the region and our safety here at home."

It's getting worse in the Af-Pak area, too. The WaPo sums it up best:
But despite the threat the intelligence conveyed, Obama has only limited options for dealing with it. Anti-American feeling in Pakistan is high, and a U.S. combat presence is prohibited. The United States is fighting Pakistan-based extremists by proxy, through an army over which it has little control, in alliance with a government in which it has little confidence.
And despite the inane calls to go and take Pakistan's nukes, the reality is we don't know where all of them are, exactly.
The United States does not know where all of Pakistan’s nuclear sites are located, and its concerns have intensified in the last two weeks since the Taliban entered Buner, a district 60 miles from the capital. The spread of the insurgency has left American officials less willing to accept blanket assurances from Pakistan that the weapons are safe.

Pakistani officials have continued to deflect American requests for more details about the location and security of the country’s nuclear sites, the officials said.

Some of the Pakistani reluctance, they said, stemmed from longstanding concern that the United States might be tempted to seize or destroy Pakistan’s arsenal if the insurgency appeared about to engulf areas near Pakistan’s nuclear sites. But they said the most senior American and Pakistani officials had not yet engaged on the issue, a process that may begin this week, with President Asif Ali Zardari scheduled to visit Mr. Obama in Washington on Wednesday.

“We are largely relying on assurances, the same assurances we have been hearing for years,” said one senior official who was involved in the dialogue with Pakistan during the Bush years, and remains involved today. “The worse things get, the more strongly they hew to the line, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got it under control.’ ”
And this problem will continue to get worse before it gets better. We need real solutions to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and we need them now before the situation explodes...literally.

Jeb Bush, Uber Socialist

Turns out Jeb Bush's great idea for fixing the Republican party? Good old fashioned Soviet Five-Year Plan Socialism.
The National Council for a New America, the Republicans' "rebranding" initiative, got to work over the weekend, hosting an event in a D.C. suburb to talk a bit about GOP policy ideas. Not surprisingly, there wasn't much in the way of new and/or creative thinking.

But Slate's Christopher Beam noted that there was at least one vaguely new idea.

The most original ideas came from perhaps the most establishment person in the room: Jeb Bush. When someone asked about how to make college affordable, Bush proposed incentivizing tuition by charging different amounts for different degrees. "We need nurses, scientists, engineers, qualified teachers.... If the government is going to subsidize at the fed level, there needs to be strategic nature to it," he said.

As Republican ideas go, this is at least a little different. As the former Florida governor sees it, America needs more nurses and engineers, so it's not unreasonable to think universities should charge lower tuition rates to those who major in those fields. Why should philosophy and poli sci majors pay the same tuition rates as nursing students, Jeb asks, if the country needs more of the latter than the prior?

The problem is it hasn't occured to Jeb Bush that the way to get more nurses and engineers is in fact PAY THEM MORE MONEY FOR BEING NURSES AND ENGINEERS. In fact, every effort has been made to cut nurses and engineers especially. We have overwhelming demand for them, but we don't want to pay them more money. Then we complain about not having enough nurses and engineers at the wages hospitals and companies want to pay, and say there's a shortage.

But of course, increasing wages to attract workers is bad. And unionizing nurses and engineers to negotiate for higher wages is the worst thing imaginable.

But making it cheaper to learn how to be a nurse or engineer? That's fine. Seems to me there's a lot easier of a solution, and it's even a free market one. But then again, it's the GOP.

The Next Thurgood Marshall Or The Next Harriet Miers?

New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen takes a look at Obama's SCOTUS picks, starting with Sonia Sotomayor, and doesn't like what he finds at all.

The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was "not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench," as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. "She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren't penetrating and don't get to the heart of the issue." (During one argument, an elderly judicial colleague is said to have leaned over and said, "Will you please stop talking and let them talk?") Second Circuit judge Jose Cabranes, who would later become her colleague, put this point more charitably in a 1995 interview with The New York Times: "She is not intimidated or overwhelmed by the eminence or power or prestige of any party, or indeed of the media."

Her opinions, although competent, are viewed by former prosecutors as not especially clean or tight, and sometimes miss the forest for the trees. It's customary, for examples, for Second Circuit judges to circulate their draft opinions to invite a robust exchange of views. Sotomayor, several former clerks complained, rankled her colleagues by sending long memos that didn't distinguish between substantive and trivial points, with petty editing suggestions--fixing typos and the like--rather than focusing on the core analytical issues.

Some former clerks and prosecutors expressed concerns about her command of technical legal details: In 2001, for example, a conservative colleague, Ralph Winter, included an unusual footnote in a case suggesting that an earlier opinion by Sotomayor might have inadvertently misstated the law in a way that misled litigants. The most controversial case in which Sotomayor participated is Ricci v. DeStefano, the explosive case involving affirmative action in the New Haven fire department, which is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court. A panel including Sotomayor ruled against the firefighters in a perfunctory unpublished opinion. This provoked Judge Cabranes, a fellow Clinton appointee, to object to the panel's opinion that contained "no reference whatsoever to the constitutional issues at the core of this case." (The extent of Sotomayor's involvement in the opinion itself is not publicly known.)

Not all the former clerks for other judges I talked to were skeptical about Sotomayor. "I know the word on the street is that she's not the brainiest of people, but I didn't have that experience," said one former clerk for another judge. "She's an incredibly impressive person, she's not shy or apologetic about who she is, and that's great." This supporter praised Sotomayor for not being a wilting violet. "She commands attention, she's clearly in charge, she speaks her mind, she's funny, she's voluble, and she has ownership over the role in a very positive way," she said. "She's a fine Second Circuit judge--maybe not the smartest ever, but how often are Supreme Court nominees the smartest ever?"

But it's the last paragraph that really, really bothers me...not about Sotomayor, but about Rosen.
I haven't read enough of Sotomayor's opinions to have a confident sense of them, nor have I talked to enough of Sotomayor's detractors and supporters, to get a fully balanced picture of her strengths. It's possible that the former clerks and former prosecutors I talked to have an incomplete picture of her abilities. But they're not motivated by sour grapes or by ideological disagreement--they'd like the most intellectually powerful and politically effective liberal justice possible. And they think that Sotomayor, although personally and professionally impressive, may not meet that demanding standard. Given the stakes, the president should obviously satisfy himself that he has a complete picture before taking a gamble.
In other words, "Well, I haven't read any of her opinions but gosh people say she's just not that bright. Obama should pick somebody smarter."

That doesn't seem particularly fair or objective, and it fact it seems outright insulting, if not borderline misogynistic or racist. Maybe I'm too sensitive, but again, the stakes are way, way too high to be playing "he said she said" about Obama's Supreme Court picks.

And let's not forget that there's a grand total of one minority, one woman, and seven white guys on the bench. That has to be corrected. Obama should still find the most qualified, but he's a trained law professor, he should be able to do it.

Epic Entire Washington Journalistic Establishment Fail

Hey Village Idiots:

When fourth-graders are asking tougher questions from the Bush Torture Regime Experience Featuring Condi than your entire industry, you have failed in your most important duty as the watchdog of the powerful. Seriously. A fourth-grader who was asked to pull his punches.
Misha's mother, Inna Lerner, said the question her son had initially come up with was even tougher: "If you would work for Obama's administration, would you push for torture?"

"They wanted him to soften it and take out the word 'torture.' But the essence of it was the same," Lerner said.

Smart kid, and one who not only clearly understands that we tortured people, but isn't fooled by the argument "Well, the President said it was okay." If the argument's not even fooling a fourth-grader, then why is the rest of America accepting it?

You deserve to go out of business, Village Idiots. Let the bloggers and the kids take over, for crissakes.


Test Anxiety

Everything you need to know about the bank stress tests this week is buried in the NY Times happy-face story this morning.
One outstanding question is how tough Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, and other officials will be on the banks they judge to be weak. The government has delayed the release of the results from Monday, and bank executives are arguing for a more lenient approach.

The Obama administration has angered Wall Street with some of its early steps, but it has also proven unable to be as tough as it initially suggested on several occasions. Last week, at the urging of Wall Street, the Senate defeated a bill that would have made it easier for homeowners to avoid foreclosure.

The administration’s critics worry that the stress tests will follow this pattern. They say that Mr. Obama and his advisers either have too rosy a view, or are stalling — and pretending to be somewhat optimistic, even as the banks’ problems fester — until they think Congress is willing to approve more bailout money.

One of the critics’ concerns is that the stress tests — originally meant to show investors whether banks could survive an unexpectedly bad next two years — no longer seem to have an extremely dark forecast. As job losses have mounted, some economists’ forecasts for unemployment and growth have come to resemble the stress test’s assumptions.
Regulation is negotiation, and the American public is losing the battle. As Yves at Naked Capitalism says on the subject:
I am coming to realize there might be method in the seeming madness of changing dates and shifting sneak previews via favored members of the press as to what the stress tests might entail.

Tire out the critics, numb the casual followers, and leave the boosters in firm control of share of mind.

Let's face it, the fact that the authorities are allowing banks to negotiate the findings is a very very bad sign. It says either they don't trust the results themselves, or they lack the guts to act like they are in charge. But regulators are always in charge (well until fifteen plus years of criticism in the media and Congressional budget cuts left them undernourished and fearful). And now they also have the power of the purse on their side too.
But of course I've been saying that for months now. The stress tests were never anything more than a public relations exercise that got too big to control, but the confusion and the size of the beast actually makes it easier to spin. All this terribly complex stuff really means everything is fine! All the banks are solvent, they just need more money!

Since the number one priority of Treasury is not to objectively determine if banks are solvent and not to defuse the derivative nukes that are ticking on each banks' balance sheet, but to convince investors that everything is fine and buy enough time for the banks to somehow fix the problems themselves, Treasury has now become an adversary to the truth. Timmy, Helicopter Ben, and especially President Obama have a vested interest in pretending the banks have weathered all their problems, have magically come up with record-setting first quarter numbers due to a suddenly vibrant economy rather than under-the-table counterparty payments through AIG, and are well on the road to recovery rather than just in the eye of the hurricane with the storm wall fast approaching.

It's a ludicrous plan. But rather than take action, the administration is stalling, counting on the markets to fix a multi-trillion dollar problem. The banks know they can continue to extort taxpayer money forever now. And they will continue to do so until somebody stops them.

But who? Plan N is dead. There will be no bank receivership, no real regulation, no change in the system. Only the funelling of money to Obama's corporate masters. If you were under any illusion that government regulated finance even after a near collapse of the global economy, you're sadly mistaken.

Everything will remain the same for the next stage of the collapse, including the most intransient fact: The fact that you'll pay.


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