Saturday, July 31, 2010

Last Call

Just a reminder what's at stake in November.  It's not just the House.  Nate Silver's latest Senate Rankings:

If Nate's right, the Republicans picking up 9 Senate seats is conceivable and that would leave Charlie Crist as the the man who decides who's in control of the Senate. Or hey, Ben Nelson. Or Joe Lieberman.

Just saying. A lot of noise has been made about the GOP retaking the House, but the Senate is in play at this point. It's not likely, but it's in play.

Upping The Ante By Calling Anti-Semitism

David Cameron and his UK government are learning what American lawmakers have known for decades:  anything less than full-throated support for Israel's policies will eventually lead to Israeli charges of anti-Semitism.  What, you thought Cameron was going to be allowed to point out the ridiculousness of the collective punishment in Gaza?
Shimon Peres said England was "deeply pro-Arab ... and anti-Israeli", adding: "They always worked against us."
He added: "There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary."

His remarks, made in an interview on a Jewish website, provoked anger from senior MPs and Jewish leaders who said the 87-year-old president had "got it wrong".

But other groups backed the former Israeli prime minister and said the number of anti-semitic incidents had risen dramatically in the UK in recent years.

The controversy follows the furore last week over David Cameron's remark that Gaza was a "prison camp", as he urged Israel to allow aid and people to move freely in and out of the Palestinian territory.

Mr Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is three years into his seven-year term as president and was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen in 2008, said that England's attitude towards Jews was Israel's "next big problem".

"There are several million Muslim voters, and for many members of parliament, that's the difference between getting elected and not getting elected," he said. 
I really cannot think of another country on Earth that would say to a democratically elected ally "Your people hate us, your leaders hate us, and you have always hated us."

The real problem of course is that Israel feels Europe is embracing Muslims too much, and as a result they are now openly accusing Britain of being anti-Semitic.  And this guy won a Nobel peace prize?

Not that we don't have our own idiotic zero-sum flag wavers here in America.  Peres stopped just short of calling the UK an enemy of Israel, but not by much.  Here in America, we openly call our own citizens enemies of the state for not fully supporting another country.

I'd wonder what the Winger reaction to this will be, but I can already surmise that the calls for Britain to "purge" their Muslim population or else will soon be coming, and that some may even go so far as to say we should downgrade relations with the UK.  Even worse, more xenophobic and more inane suggestions will undoubtedly be made.

I wonder how many of our own politicians will fall all over themselves condemning our closest European ally?

What Digby Said

One of the reasons I started blogging is that some small part of me wants to someday write as well as the folks who have been doing this for years.  One of those exemplars -- and I mean that word in both the literal and connotative senses -- is Digby.  Today she continues to put our Washington media to shame with such a well-written and evocative observation on the cruel belittling of Shirley Sherrod's life experiences by the Noise Machine on the right that it actually gives me hope.

Forgetting about the implications for the administration, I've been struck for some time about the apparent need among a fairly large number of Americans to pretend that racism is ancient history with which we no longer need to be concerned (at least as it pertains to racial minorities.) The fact is that Shirley Sherrod lived during the great cataclysm of the civil rights movement and paid a huge personal price for standing up against the forces that killed her father. But that wasn't the end of it. She has spent the rest of her life trying to fight other insidious forms of racism like these discriminatory loan practices that continue to this day. I suspect that somebody forgot to send her the memo that the whole thing is over and that she just needs to move on. Indeed, it's been made crystal clear that the fight isn't over. (The fact that she was targeted for statements about racial reconciliation is even more galling.)

Do yourself a massive favor and go read the whole thing.   "She's one of the good ones" fails criminally to describe her impact, and as much as that pertains to Digby, it pertains doubly so to one Shirley Sherrod.

Liquid Courage

Gallup reports more Americans are tossing a cold one back.  And as always, it's not the lowbrow among us knocking back the Lowenbrau, it's the upper crust having more nightcaps.
Sixty-seven percent of American adults say they have an alcoholic beverage on occasion, the highest level in 15 years, with beer the preferred drink, followed by wine and liquor, a Gallup poll said Friday.

Drinking was most prevalent in 1976-1978, when 71 percent of Americans said they drank alcohol, and least popular in 1958, when only 55 percent admitted doing so, said Gallup, which began its drinking surveys in 1939.
By age, alcoholic beverages were most favored by 18-54-year-olds (72 percent), followed by the 55 and older crowd (59 percent), Gallup found in its July 8-18 survey of 1,020 adults.

There was also a marked difference in drinking habits by education, with college graduates topping people with a high school degree or less by 79 to 58 percent respectively.

Income also mirrored drinking levels, with 81 percent of people making 75,000+ dollars per year saying they drank, followed in descending order by lower incomes until only 46 percent of those making less than 20,000 dollars said they drank.
Beer costs money, you know.  No dinero, no drinky.  And if you look at the history of alcoholic beverages over the years, it's always been a moneyed thing traditionally.  It's college grads making six-figures who are having a tipple of ripple, and the rest of us are cutting back on the six packs.

But, it does look like everyone's having more of a stiff drink these days.  I guess we need it.

Auto-magic For The People

More needs to be made about the fact that President Obama's choice to save the auto companies when Republicans wanted them to die was a serious success.  Both Chrysler and GM are back into profitability now, and GM is planning to make a common stock offering soon in order to raise the rest of the money to pay back the American taxpayer.  The Village is finally paying attention.
But a year and a half later, many of the critics have retreated from their sharpest attacks as they watch the auto industry once again turn a profit and begin adding jobs in communities such as Detroit, which desperately need them.
Obama's visit to a Chrysler plant in Detroit on Friday was designed as a victory rally -- complete with campaign-style trappings -- an "I told you so" event aimed squarely at his Republican critics who had attacked the auto bailouts as government takeovers.
A feisty Obama was welcomed with loud applause by about 1,500 auto workers inside the plant that makes the Jeep Grand Cherokee, a vehicle the president said was the first new car he ever owned. If his critics had won, he said, the plant would have been shuttered and dark. 
There's no satisfying some, like radio host Rush Limbaugh, who this week referred to GM as Obama Motors. And the auto turnaround is not enough to fix places like Detroit, where 30 percent unemployment has ravaged the city like few others in the United States.  
But as Obama arrived here Friday to trumpet the industry's progress, Corker refrained from saying that the bailouts were bad for the country. He says the administration's methods were "heavy-handed" but also takes credit for helping to shape the bailout. He prodded the Obama administration to force the companies to lessen their debt and achieve a more favorable union agreement.
"The ideas we laid out there were followed through," Corker said in an interview. "I take some pleasure out of helping make that contribution. . . . I think what we did is we forced a debate and we forced a hard look at these companies." 
And now of course Republicans like Corker are trying to take credit for something that Republicans bitterly opposed, while the rest of the GOP is still bitterly complaining that Obama is a socialist.  At least the press is finally paying attention to the fact that if the Republicans were in charge right now, America wouldn't have an auto industry outside of Ford.

Sobering thought, indeed.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Jenna Bush's wedding two years ago?  A nice tasteful little exclusive affair that showed how down-to-earth she was and how her parents are good, American people and isn't she sweet?

Chelsea Clinton's wedding? A vulgar multi-million dollar display of the privileged in this economy where the Clintons are making sure that no Real Americans are invited and really this is all about how we all wanted to see Hillary as President anyway and  is Chelsea going to convert to Judaism or what and no wonder they didn't invite that Obama guy, I mean would you?

Charles No Longer In Charge

Politico is reporting that President Obama's remarks on the Charlie Rangel ethics situation are basically that Rangel needs to go.
"I think Charlie Rangel served a very long time and served-- his constituents very well. But these-- allegations are very troubling," Obama told Harry Smith in an interview to be aired on the "Early Show." and first broadcast on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.

"And he'll-- he's somebody who's at the end of his career. Eighty years old. I'm sure that-- what he wants is to be able to-- end his career with dignity. And my hope is that-- it happens. "
That's not just Obama throwing him under the bus, that's throwing him under the bus at near relativistic velocities, having top people then retrieve Rangel from under the bus, cleaned up nicely and then having Charlie given a tasteful little gilded sign to put on neck that reads "Enjoy your retirement there Chuck, Your pal, Barack."   CSI people should be walking around leaving little folded number cards and a chalk outline.

Rangel?  He's done.  President goes on network TV like that and "hopes" that you will "end your career with dignity", well folks, the "career ending" part is no longer in doubt, it's the "with dignity" that you have left to determine.  I'm not sure if Rangel will do it, he's so far into the Beltway Bubble parts of it are literally named after him, but if anyone can pop that thing it's the President.

The ending of the story has all but been written, it's just how the last act plays out.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Last Call

Steven D's piece tonight on the Village war drums for attacking Iran is a sobering read.  former Bush CIA man Gen. Mike Hayden calls it "inexorable" that we will attack them, and the response from Iran will not be fun, and with Israel in the mix, who knows what the total picture will be.

Yet the worse our economy gets, the more I think the people advising the President will start seriously saying that the only way Obama gets re-elected will be to pull the country behind him on hitting Iran.  Personally, I hope that any Obama advisers pitching that line need to be shown the door, but that's a thin support to hang that particular hope on.  What could go wrong?  How's this for starters:

Spheres of action could include any or all of the following.
• Missile attacks on Israel using conventionally-armed systems might be carried out primarily to demonstrate the survival of a capability after an initial Israeli attack. These would be intended principally to undermine Israeli morale rather than have any serious military effect.
• Closure of the Straits of Hormuz, however brief, would cause a sharp rise in oil prices and be a reminder of Iran’s leverage over Gulf shipping routes. Any sustained price rise would have a potentially catastrophic impact on the global economy.
• Paramilitary and/or missile attacks on western Gulf oil production, processing and transportation facilities would be of very deep concern to the producer states, especially Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. While such facilities have much more intense security than a decade ago, they remain essentially soft targets.
• Action in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of those groups opposing western involvement could be tailored to discourage further attacks on Iran. [...]

Unlike Iraq or Afghanistan, Iran could really make our lives miserable if we attacked them.

Let's Push The Shiny Red Button, Dad

I keep hearing all this stuff about how GOP Rep. Paul Ryan is a rising star in the party because he's so smart on economic issues.  So far he's been the point man for the GOP on the budget.  That hasn't gone really well for the guy, frankly ever since people figured out his "fiscally responsible budget plan" would actually make the budget deficit worse.  Yet, here he is again dispensing econ advice to Ezra Klein like these dense nuggets of fail:
I really do believe that locking in budget reforms and spending control will help us in the short run by taking pressure off interest rates and monetary policy. Spending control is pro-growth in this age of sovereign debt crises.
Oy.  Yes, in an economy where demand is drying up, the key is taking more money out of the economy!  Less spending is pro-growth, the way that not ever watering your plants teaches them to be tougher.
I think a mistake Keynesians are making is they think this is demand-side and consumption-led. I think we need to focus on investment and jobs. There’s lots of money sitting on the sidelines.
There's money sitting on the sidelines because there's no demand, Sparky.  Unless somebody plans on buying the goods and services produced by the jobs you create, they're not going to last too long.  We got in way over our heads on equity bubbles and cheap credit, and that's gone.  People are cutting back on everything.  If the government will not step in to stimulate demand, and the money's on the sidelines, who will buy it?
These short-term stimuli, which Bush and Obama did, don’t change aggregate demand. And that’s why I think we need more of an investment-led recovery. At this point, given the borrowing costs, stimulus is counterproductive.
To recap, borrowing costs right now are the lowest in several decades.  Why we're choosing not to take advantage of it is insanity bordering on economic negligence.   But here's my favorite part:
We need to do things to free up credit. We need regulatory forbearance there. Right now, the policymakers and regulators are doing opposite things. So you’re right that there’s a lot of capital parked out there, and we need to coax it out into the markets. I think literally that if we raised the federal funds rate by a point, it would help push money into the economy, as right now, the safest play is to stay with the federal money and federal paper.
Raise.  Interest.  Rates.  That will get people out of bonds and into stocks, where people will still be suffering from demand problems and...then what?  Oh, and raising interest rates would also retard investment because...borrowing costs would increase!  Ta-da!  How does that help with aggregate demand?  If raising interest rates would really motivate people to invest MORE, why did we bother lowering them in the first place?

It doesn't.  Ryan doesn't know a damn thing about economics.  Why do people continue to treat him like he does?

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Steve Benen documents the Republican obstruction:
It's been pretty unpleasant watching the Senate lately. The DISCLOSE Act came up, and every single Senate Republican joined together to block the bill from even getting a vote. A package of incentives and tax breaks for small businesses looked to be in good shape, but every single Senate Republican joined together to knock that down, too. Twenty obviously qualified judicial nominees were brought forward, and the GOP blocked votes on all of them. Medical care for 9/11 victims came up, and Republicans prevented it from passing, too.

And these are just developments since Tuesday.
The Senate has one more week before the Labor Day recess and campaign season, so anything that doesn't pass now is dead and buried for...well, who knows how long, most likely the rest of the year minimum.  Things don't look good for Harry Reid to try to get money to the states before August 6 or for anything to be done about oil spill legislation either.

There is no appetite for Congress to do anything right now.  Period.  Republicans block everything, Dems say "Oh well, they are blocking everything."

And they wonder why they have an approval rating of 11%.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Someone might want to mention to Hot Air's Ed Morrissey that a pretty sure sign that as a blogger that you have jumped the shark into the World Net Daily section of the Obama Derangement Syndrome tank is any effort to try  to connect the Six Degrees of Separation of Obama destroying the Gulf.
The generally accepted view of the Deepwater Horizon disaster has focused on the blowout preventer and the non-standard procedures BP conducted just before the explosion and fire.  However, most of the damage and the main source of the spill came from the collapse and sinking of the DH platform rather than the initial explosion.  A new report by the Center for Public Integrity, based on testimony from people on scene and Coast Guard logs, contains evidence that the platform sunk because of a botched response from the Coast Guard, which failed to coordinate firefighting efforts and to get the proper resources to fight the fire.

Right, so the Coast Guard failed to get the proper firefighting team out there 50 miles off the coast and that's all Obama's fault.   Never mind all the safety protocols BP and Transocean were actively ignoring that led to the explosion and fire in the first place, we have to find some way to affix blame to that Obama guy because there's a chance that if the Coast Guard had Bruce Willis's crew from Armageddon on 24/7/365 standby, they could have saved the rig and the oil wouldn't have spilled and did I mention it's all Obama's fault because he's eeeeeeeeevil and in charge of the Coast Guard?

And from there Ed builds a little ramp out of that report, revs up the Wingnutoboat and gracefully vaults over the Carcharodon carcharias to arrive at "The White House needs to come clean on this point" even though nobody has any idea what that point is, other than "Hey we found a way to pin this on B. Hussein, high fives for everyone!"

Which, come to think of it, really is Ed's point, isn't it?  Nice to know that any time a building burns down or a crime happens in America, Obama's "inadequate government response" means I know who I can send the blame to.

Eddie my man, your complimentary Glenn Beck University Chalkboard is in the mail.  Enjoy.

If This Means Shrimpfest Is Off, Somebody Will Pay

And Dan Froomkin reminds me why I haven't used my Red Lobster gift card I got for my birthday from the Zandarparents yet.
Scientists have found signs of an oil-and-dispersant mix under the shells of tiny blue crab larvae in the Gulf of Mexico, the first clear indication that the unprecedented use of dispersants in the BP oil spill has broken up the oil into toxic droplets so tiny that they can easily enter the foodchain.
Marine biologists started finding orange blobs under the translucent shells of crab larvae in May, and have continued to find them "in almost all" of the larvae they collect, all the way from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Pensacola, Fla. -- more than 300 miles of coastline -- said Harriet Perry, a biologist with the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.
And now, a team of researchers from Tulane University using infrared spectrometry to determine the chemical makeup of the blobs has detected the signature for Corexit, the dispersant BP used so widely in the Deepwater Horizon
"It does appear that there is a Corexit sort of fingerprint in the blob samples that we ran," Erin Gray, a Tulane biologist, told the Huffington Post Thursday. Two independent tests are being run to confirm those findings, "so don't say that we're 100 percent sure yet," Gray said.
"The chemistry test is still not completely conclusive," said Tulane biology professor Caz Taylor, the team's leader. "But that seems the most likely thing."
Yay.  The Corexit worked great!  The oil is now in super tiny toxic bits that will wreck the Gulf's ecosystem from the bottom up and kill all kinds of species out there, plus it's toxic.  Did I mention it's toxic?

Just because you can't see the oil doesn't mean it's not hurting things.

Here Comes The Judge

Via Memeorandum, this AP story should shock a grand total percentage of zero people.
Authorities say a federal judge in Phoenix has been getting some threats since her ruling on Arizona's controversial immigration law.

David Gonzales, the U.S. Marshal for Arizona, says U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton has received thousands of phone calls and e-mails since her preliminary injunction Wednesday that put key provisions of the state's immigration law on hold.

Gonzales says some of the messages sent to Bolton are positive, but others are "from people venting and who have expressed their displeasure in a perverted way."

Gonzales says his agents are taking some of the threats to Bolton seriously. He refused to discuss any extra security measures, which U.S. marshals routinely provide federal judges. 
But remember, the Tea Party folks aren't angry, and this is all about people peacefully simply wanting a law enforced, and the folks behind SB1070 are not an unruly anti-immigrant mob whipped up into a blood frenzy that might be in any way dangerous or anything like that.

They're normal law-abiding folks who are, you know, just making threats against a federal judge.  Totally law-abiding and not a bunch of scapegoating fanatics.

Right, and I've got some nice oceanfront property in Flagstaff to sell you.

A. Weiner Is You, Once Again

Oliver Willis, TPM, and Steve Benen all flag down this impressive video of NY Dem Anthony Weiner unleashing 2 minutes of hell upon the House GOP for blocking medical funding for 9/11 victims.

Benen details the story behind this awesome display.
So, as Republicans see it, we can afford tax breaks for billionaires. But care for 9/11 victims, not so much.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), perhaps best known for his apology to BP after the company's oil spill, "said the rest of the country should not bear the brunt of helping New Yorkers cope with the aftermath of the terror attacks." [Update: To clarify, this is a paraphrase from the New York Daily News, not a direct quote of Barton.]

How could House Republicans kill the bill in a majority-rule chamber? As it turns out, Dems brought the measure to the floor as a "suspension bill," because they didn't want the GOP to try to gut the legislation with poison-pill amendments. But this strategy meant the bill needed a two-thirds majority to pass. The final vote was 255 to 159 -- far short of the two-thirds threshold -- with 155 Republicans in opposition, many of them saying they would consider supporting the bill, but only if the GOP were allowed to push unrelated amendments intended to embarrass the majority.
And so the GOP scuttled it.  $687 billion for tax cuts for the wealthy, Republicans are behind that 100%.  $7.4 billion for 9/11 victims' health care concerns?  "Why should my tax dollars help those damn New York liberals?"

Weiner destroys them for it.  "You vote yes if you believe yes. You vote in favor because it's the right thing."

Naturally the response from some on the Left is that Weiner should have kept his mouth shut.
Weiner repeatedly yelled about the GOP's "shame," but this misses the point. Republicans are not going to be shamed into doing what Dems want them to do. Republicans are pursuing a concerted game plan here that Dems need to reckon with more directly.

Indeed, Dems would be far better served if they kept calmly repeating that Republicans want government to fail, in order to breed cynicism and to get voters to give up on the idea that government works for them.

By the way, there's precedent for this. Remember when former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle erupted on the Senate floor in 2002 in response to Bush's rank politicization of national security in the runup to the midterm elections? That didn't work, either.

To be clear, I'm all for the kind of passion Weiner is showing here, but let's direct it properly. Don't get into a shouting match about procedure. As emotionally satisfying as it may be to watch, raging against the GOP opposition machine's successful efforts to tie Dems in knots just makes Dems look whiny, weak and impotent.
Right, and Dems saying  "The Dems are wrecking the economy!" won't be called whiny, weak, and impotent either.  The point is Greg that anything passionate Dems say about what the GOP is doing will be dismissed as whining, so dismissing what Weiner is saying as whining only feeds that narrative.

How about a little credit here?  Weiner's right, after all.

Damn, and people wonder why Dems fold like lawn chairs.  When we got somebody that actually stands up and says what needs to be said, we nitpick on procedure and complain they're coming across as whiny.

In the end, A. Weiner is still you.

Epic Weiner.

Also The Fed May Try To Annex The Sudetenland

Rand Paul continues to bravely stake out the territory that includes Kentucky voters who respond well to complete insanity.
“People say, ‘Oh those Tea Party people, they’re angry.’ I say: ‘No, they’re concerned and they’re worried.’ They’re worried that we could destroy the currency by adding such a massive debt. In Germany it led to Hitler.”
You know who invented paper money?  The Chinese.  They had a Great Wall.  That Great Wall?  That led to Communism.  We should add a plank to the Tea Party to stop the border fence or else the pinkos win.  See?  This is easy.

Can I has Senate seat now please?

The Domestic Product Is Indeed Gross

The 2nd quarter GDP numbers are out:  2.4% growth in the last three months, down from a revised 3.7% in the 1st quarter.  That's not good, but the real story is the quiet downward revision of the 2007-2009 numbers.
The Commerce Department, in revisions issued Friday, estimates the economy shrank 2.6 percent last year — the steepest drop since 1946. That's worse than the 2.4 percent decline originally estimated.

The economy's plunge underscores why the unemployment rate surged to 10.1 percent in October, a 26-year high.

The revisions in gross domestic product, or GDP, now show zero growth in 2008. That compares with a 0.4 percent gain previously estimated.The economy also grew less in 2007 (1.9 percent) than earlier thought (2.1 percent).

For all three years, consumers spent less and home builders cut more deeply than had been thought. Those factors help explain the downward revisions on the economy.
I'm betting we'll see even more downward future revisions.   Meanwhile, here in the present, the recovery is dying, and I just don't see the numbers getting any better anytime soon.

In fact, I expect them to get much worse.  Keep an eye on the ECRI index today:  I'm betting we break that -10% barrier, and that's all but assured.

The Kroog Versus The Fire Sale

Paul Krugman notes the supply siders are waving the white flag and are shifting into "semi-permanent capacity reduction mode"...the notion that with many of the 8 million jobs lost never coming back, it's time to sell off the excess capacity and get what you can for it.  Growth?  What growth?  The depression is coming.

I’ve been surprised by a lot of things since the financial crisis broke, few of them good. One of the truly amazing things, however, is the return of full, 1930s-type liquidationism — the idea that a slump serves a useful purpose, and that stimulating the economy, even through monetary policy, is a mistake. And so we have Raghuram Rajan in today’s FT arguing that with 9.5 percent unemployment, long-term unemployment at record levels, and falling inflation, we need to … raise interest rates:
This crisis followed a period, from 2002-2004, when monetary policy had done too much heavy lifting. The US had far too much productive capacity devoted to houses and cars, because consumers could obtain financing for them easily. With households now struggling with this remaining debt, should we expect them to spend beyond their means again, or ask them to do so?
Moreover, if consumers are now going to want fewer houses and cars, a significant number of jobs will disappear permanently. Workers who know how to build houses, or to sell or finance them, will have to learn new skills. This means resources have to be reallocated into other sectors to ensure a robust recovery, not simply a resumption of the old binge. But this will not necessarily be facilitated by ultra-low interest rates.
Well, I have to agree with the Kroog here.  Rajan's theory is once again supply creates demand...only that we have over-supply so by moving people to other industries and investing in them demand for those other industries will be created by...Magical Demand...Gnomes...or something, I guess.  I don't get it, Rajan admits right there that the problem is lack of demand, and his solution is to shuffle supply around.

We call that "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."  Quite literally, that's what his plan is.  I guess what he doesn't get is the fact that lack of demand is a symptom of an even greater problem, and that's the fact that wages have stagnated for so long and wealth has been transferred out of the vanishing middle class for so long that there's nobody left to buy crap.

Krugman notes too that we've seen this all before.
If high unemployment were largely about shifting workers out of an overblown construction sector, wouldn’t you expect job losses to be concentrated in that sector? Wouldn’t you expect employment elsewhere to be, if anything, rising? In fact, however, the vast majority of job losses have occurred in parts of the economy with little direct connection to the housing bubble. Yes, as a percentage job losses have been much larger in construction; but nothing in Rajan’s argument explains why we shouldn’t be using policy in an attempt to prevent vast job losses in parts of the economy that aren’t overblown.

I’d add that even if you think structural unemployment has gone up, it clearly hasn’t risen enough to stop a slide toward deflation — and if it has risen, the slump is arguably a cause, not an effect, of that rise.
Ding ding ding!  Kroog in one, ladies and gents. And yet all the plans I'm seeing are "Hey, let's transfer more wealth away from the middle class and destabilize our consumer based economy."  The point here isn't to save the economy, the point here is to raid the treasury to build fat, load-bearing piles of cash that the guys at the top can use to ride out the floods high and dry while the rest of us drown.

So many people seem to be employed these days in convincing us to go along with this plan, too.

Of course, there's the concept of a complete over-correction on the demand thing and accomplishing the same thing as the supply shuffling only in a much more messy style...

Check The Plates, Stock The Ink And Paper, Oil The Gears

Because Helicopter Ben's Magic Printing Press is very, very close to being dragooned into service.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said the central bank should resume purchases of Treasury securities if the economy slows and prices fall rather than maintain a pledge to keep rates near zero.

“The U.S. is closer to a Japanese-style outcome today than at any time in recent history,” Bullard said, warning in a research paper released yesterday about the possibility of deflation. “A better policy response to a negative shock is to expand the quantitative easing program through the purchase of Treasury securities.”

Bullard’s stance increases the odds the Fed will make such a move and reject other options should the economy weaken further, former Fed Governor Lyle Gramley said. Other alternatives to aid growth include using communication to plot the path of interest rates or cutting payments to banks on reserve deposits, Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said last week.

“It’s going to be very important in shifting the mix of thinking at the Fed,” said Gramley, now senior economic adviser with Potomac Research Group in Washington. “Having Jim Bullard on the side of doing that could, I think, be the straw that broke the camel’s back.” 
For some time now, readers will note I've been talking about the three stage roller coaster scenario in the economy:  bubble-based commodity inflation, recessionary real estate deflation, and then depressionary economic hyper-inflation.   The first happened in 2008 ($4 gas anyone?) as the flight to commodities out of the stock market created yet another bubble (which of course was a response to the housing bubble detonating in 2007.)  That bubble burst in early 2009 as oil crashed and the deflationary spiral kicked in.  Some 18 months later, we're nearing the end of stage two and Bullard's statement here is clearly setting the table for the beginning of stage three.

Bullard's statement is also a tacit admission that the Obama economic plan so far has failed:  failed to put in regulations early enough to stop us at stage two, failed to grow the economy as the stimulus 18 months ago was too small, failed to plan for any sort of backup in case the first options didn't work.  That leaves us of course with the last card in the deck:  Helicopter Ben's Printing Press used to buy up investments by the billions.

The problem is that billions will have to turn into trillions with a T.   And the only way to sell a plan like that, as Zero Hedge points out, is to do something crazy like, I dunno, have the Fed automatically refinance everybody's existing mortgage to the new record lows that we're swimming in this month.  Everybody gets to keep their home, everybody gets to lower their payments, and the problem's solved, right?

This isn't my brilliant idea, it's Jim Bullard's plan.  Looks like Uncle Sam is about to get into the refi business, and then things are going to get really ugly...


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Last Call

Hey, good to see the Dems finally notice Tuesday's BP announcement that they were writing off the costs of the oil spill and sticking all of us with the bill.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee Thursday, requesting a series of hearings on the matter and calling BP's plans to take a tax write-off "unacceptable."

On Tuesday, BP said it took a $32 billion charge in the second quarter for clean-up costs, resulting in tax savings of about $10 billion.

That's half the value of the $20 billion fund that BP set up to aid Gulf coast victims, Nelson pointed out.

BP announced the charge along with its second quarter earnings, saying the cleanup costs were the main reason for its $17 billion loss during the quarter.

BP spokesman Daren Beaudo, in an email to CNN, said the company is following U.S. tax code in taking the charge. 
But gosh, corporate taxes are so terrible and horrible.   You know, unless you can can dump a couple hundred tons of Corexit in the Gulf, call it a day, and then write it all off as an expense courtesy of the US taxpayer.  Glad to see the Democrats might be willing to do something about it.

Shout It From The Mountaintop (Removal)

If any of my fellow Kentuckians are still confused over this whole "Whaddya mean Rand Paul is just another big business Republican?" thing as the Randy One stands to reap quite a bit of campaign money from Kentucky Big Coal interests this year then maybe this will help clear the polluted air.
Paul believes mountaintop removal just needs a little rebranding. "I think they should name it something better," he says. "The top ends up flatter, but we're not talking about Mount Everest. We're talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here. And I've seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres, with a sports complex on it, elk roaming, covered in grass." Most people, he continues, "would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it."
Yep.  Rand Paul.  Enhancing the Bluegrass State, one big, toxic environmental disaster at a time. I'm sure people are lining up to build on that "enhanced" land.  The Details magazine article concludes with this:
"Is there a certain amount of accidents and unfortunate things that do happen, no matter what the regulations are?" Paul says at the Harlan Center, in response to a question about the Big Branch disaster. "The bottom line is I'm not an expert, so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules. You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You'd try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don't, I'm thinking that no one will apply for those jobs. I know that doesn't sound..." Here he stumbles, trying to parse his words properly but only presaging his campaign misstep. "I want to be compassionate," he concludes, "and I'm sorry for what happened, but I wonder: Was it just an accident?"
Clearly ol' Rand here has never been in a situation where the entire town is beholden to one industry or one company.  When the only people in the county hiring at a living wage is a coal mining outfit, when the only way to feed your family is to put on a helmet and brave the blackness, and put your life at risk, don't have much of a choice.  You play by their rules or you don't play at all.

I grew up in a plant town in western NC.  Furniture and textiles country mostly, back in the dot-com era it was fiber optics.  It wasn't anywhere near the danger of working in a coal mine, those people are hardcore heroes.  But the big plants and the big factories, they made the rules, and you played by them, because you needed a job. I worked at one of the plants for a while and was grateful for the job, I had bills to pay.  No unions where I grew up, either.  Union was a dirty word and still is.  The folks at the big GE plant found that out the hard way in the 90's when the transformer plant was shut down and the jobs moved to Mexico.

People still got hurt on occasion at the furniture or fiber optics plants.  People still showed up to apply for jobs because that's where the money was.  Still is.  You play by their rules or you don't play at all.

But Rand Paul is  fine going to Washington and telling the rest of America that accidents are "acceptable" because the free market will punish companies that fail safety protocols, and that it's great to level mountaintops because it makes Kentucky "enhanced".  I'll tell you what, exactly what punishment has the free market leveled against Massey Energy for the Big Branch Mine disaster?  Last I checked today, Massey wants to go back into the mine and work the sections where those miners died because time (and coal) is money, despite the fact the investigation isn't over yet as to the causes of the explosion.

And Rand Paul is perfectly okay with that.  He wants to be compassionate, after all...but accidents happen, and there's money to be made.  Somehow, I just don't imagine him to be losing very much sleep over something like that.

After all, he's just another big business Republican.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

If you only get your news from FOX...
A Fox News poll released Thursday finds that if Americans were heading to the voting booth today, they would back the Republican candidate in their district over the Democrat by 47-36 percent. Two weeks ago the Republicans had a slimmer 4-point advantage (41-37 percent).
...then yes, Orange Julius's claim that the Republicans will pick up 100 seats in the House is not only reasonable but factual, and when it doesn't happen (because the reality is that the generic ballot is much, much closer) then "Democrats rigged the election to keep Congress" will be the latest way to de-legitimize Obama and the Dems.

Everything the network does paves the way for Yet Another Poutrage.  And yet Obama, Democrats, and liberals for that matter continue to treat them as a legitimate, unbiased, factual news organization.

Conway Plays For The "Middle"

Greg Sargent is apparently surprised that Jack Conway won't commit to Harry Reid as Majority Leader.
Wow. Do Dems really think Harry Reid is this radioactive all the way over in Kentucky?
Jack Conway, the Dems' Senate candidate in that state, pointedly refused to say he'd vote for Reid as majority leader, and also cast doubt on whether Reid will win reelection, according to a local news report:
Conway stopped far short of endorsing Reid as leader, and suggested that Reid may well lose his reelection bid for Senate.
"I don't know. We don't know the outcome of that race in Nevada. I don't know the outcome of a lot of these races and that kind of falls in the category of 'measuring the drapes.'"
"What I will do is I will go up there and cast my ballot for someone that I respect, someone that I think will be a good leader, and someone who will always listen to me when it comes to representing the interests of Kentucky."
Conway's opponent, Rand Paul, has been baiting Conway on this issue, trying to get him to say whether he would vote for Reid, apparently on the theory that this is a liability, because Reid has done more than any other Dem to advance the Obama agenda.
OK Greg, first of all this race is basically between two people here, a moderate Republican...and the other guy is Rand Paul, who is mostly insane. Jack Conway is playing the middle of the road right of center position because Rand Paul has ceded that entire ground to him on account he's basically Andrew Ryan from Bioshock and Conway's very comfortable hedging his bets here.

Second, since Conway's brilliant plan is to tell Kentucky Democrats they can go screw themselves or get Rand Paul as a Senator, Conway sees no reason to try to do anything for the base here in the Bluegrass State and feels like he safely play to the swing voters who may have second thoughts about John Galt Mark II over there.

Harry Reid isn't toxic, Greg.  It's completely a matter of Rand Paul being that crazy, and the fact that Jack Conway knows that he can go as far right as he wants and KY Dems will still vote for him just to avoid the horrors of six years of the Son of Ron.

Long story short, the very realistic threat of Rand Paul winning means Jack Conway can play as far down the right hand path as he wants.

Once Again The GOP Plan Is To Destroy The Economy

And they are hoping you will reward them with control of Congress this fall as a direct result.  I've been talking about the nihilistic Republican agenda for quite some time now, but Bob Cesca does an excellent job of recapping the plan over at HuffPo.
According to Republicans and their conservadem enablers, we have to cut the deficit and pay for every program Congress passes or else we're all doomed. We're stealing from our children, they say. This has manifested itself in Republican filibusters of both unemployment benefits ($34 billion) and a new jobs bill ($33 billion over ten years). A Republican filibuster killed the jobs bill, and, after many failed cloture votes, the filibuster of the unemployment benefits was finally defeated and the Senate Democrats passed the extensions.
Throughout the past year and a half, it's been the same story. Any effort made by the Democrats to stimulate the economy has been filibustered by the Republicans. They say it's because of the deficit and debt.

And yet they want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which would add $678 billion dollars to the deficit -- and that's just the cost of the tax cuts going to the top two percent of earners. In other words, the Republicans want to spend $678 billion in further giveaways for the wealthiest two percent, and they don't care whether it increases the deficit.

By the way, the Republicans also recently voted against and defeated an amendment to strip Big Oil of its $35 billion in subsidies. Just thought I'd pass that along. Put another way, $678 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy? No problem. Deficit-shmeficit! But $34 billion in unemployment benefits for an out-of-work middle class at a time when companies aren't hiring (say nothing of the aforementioned bullet-points)? Evil! Instead, the Republicans want to give $35 billion to Big Oil in the form of corporate welfare during the worst oil spill in American history while telling unemployed middle class families to piss off.

Do we have a clear picture in terms of who and what the Republicans care about? 
But what about the Republican party's favorite group to champion, the small business owner?  Certainly the GOP loves those guys.  Well if you thought Republicans cared about small businesses, they don't give a damn either.
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a $30-billion plan to help community banks boost lending to small businesses, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama's election-year battle to reduce unemployment.

Tempers ran high as Democratic leaders failed to muster the 60 votes needed to advance the measure to passage. Republicans were upset that Democrats shut them out from offering a number of amendments to the package, that also includes about $12 billion in tax breaks for small businesses.
Yep.  Republicans are so intent now on destroying the economy and blocking any attempts to help regular Americans that they are now totally committed to ripping the economy apart in order to give tax cuts to the wealthy and to see the rest of us burn and blame Obama for it.  Mustering $12 billion in tax breaks for small businesses, TOO MUCH DEFICIT.  $637 billion in tax cuts for the rich?  Those don't count!

Do we finally understand the concept of Republican nihilism?  Do we finally get that the Republicans don't give a damn about anything other than winning and distributing wealth upwards?

Do we finally get that the GOP is dedicated to destroying the middle class for political power?

Hypocrisy Is Bigger In Texas, Too

Kay at Balloon Juice flags up this NY Times story on Texas politicians vowing to stop health care reform on one hand and repeal the additional money because of deficit and supremacy concerns...and taking that additional money now with the other hand while the legal battle drags out.
There are more uninsured residents of Texas — 6.1 million and counting — than there are people in 33 states. The state’s elected officials might be expected, therefore, to cheer a federal health care law that is likely to deliver billions of dollars from Washington to Austin and cover millions of low-income Texans.

Instead, the Republican political leadership has greeted the law and its anticipated costs with open hostility, leaving policy makers to move forward with a complex set of changes even as the governor, attorney general and ranking legislators rage against it. The same awkward dichotomy exists in many of the 21 states that are challenging the health reform act’s constitutionality, but are nonetheless required to follow it while their lawsuits meander through the courts.

In Austin, legislative hearings and agency planning sessions proceed despite Gov. Rick Perry’s vow to fight “on every front available” against a law that he characterizes as “socialism on American soil.” Bureaucrats apply for federal grants and collaborate with the Obama administration at the same time that Attorney General Greg Abbott strategizes to eviscerate the law in court. 
So Texas is busy reaping the benefits of being a large red state under the horrors of socialism.  Funny how that works out.  As Kay points out:
Health care reform going to the states is a good opportunity for Democrats to start countering Republican’s abstract theories on state’s rights by telling the truth: that this relationship is long-standing and mutually beneficial, every politician at the state level knows it, and that’s the real reason it isn’t going away. 
Especially benefiting from all this are southern and western red states.  "Obama's Socialism" here means that ten states are currently getting $1.50 or more in tax dollars from the feds for each dollar residents pay in taxes, and 2, Mississippi and New Mexico, get more than $2 from the feds for ever buck they put in the pot.  Texas was getting 94 cents on the dollar, and under health care reform they're getting even more now, enough to put them into positive territory.

If Texans understood that under Obama their state gets more money now than they would pay in those horrible federal taxes, some of them might stop complaining about Obama so of course Texas Republicans are trying to hide the fact that Obama's being good to the Lone Star State.  As a matter of fact, a whole hell of a lot of red states are getting sweetheart deals.

It's the blue states getting screwed on taxes.  New Jersey?  They get 61 cents back for every dollar they put in.  Chris Christie actually has something to complain about, as does Arnold and California's 78 cents on the dollar.  You'd better believe those states are taking the federal money.

Texas?  They're actually doing pretty well.

And Lo, A Column Of Fire Appeared Over Wingnuttia

And the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments began in earnest.
Ousted Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod said Thursday that she will sue a conservative blogger who posted a partial video clip of a speech she gave, saying the clip distorted the context of her remarks.

A furor erupted over the blogger's posting of portions of a speech Sherrod gave in which she told of giving short shrift attention 24 years ago to the pleas for financial aid by a poor white farmer.

Sherrod is black, and the operator of the website posted a portion of her speech. The blogger, Andrew Breitbart, said he did so to illustrate racism within the NAACP, which earlier accused the tea party of having racist elements.

Sherrod made the announcement in San Diego at the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention.
Actions?  Meet consequences.  When I find out where to donate a couple of bucks to Shirley's legal cause, I'll let you know.  Smile, Andy. 

(Via Oliver Willis.)

 Also, more at HuffPo.
"She said she doesn't want an apology from Breitbart for posting the video that took her comments out of context, but told a crowd at the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention that she would "definitely sue."
She's going to need help and support, because she just became Public Enemy #1 to Wingnuttia, and this is going to get absolutely brutal very, very soon.

The Return Of President Odubya

Obama's real, lasting failing has been on civil liberties post-Bush, and the administration is at it again, this time on eliminating probable cause on email and electronic communication in the name of "stopping terrorism".   WaPo's Ellen Nakishima:
The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the "content" of e-mail or other Internet communication.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

Stewart A. Baker, a former senior Bush administration Homeland Security official, said the proposed change would broaden the bureau's authority. "It'll be faster and easier to get the data," said Baker, who practices national security and surveillance law. "And for some Internet providers, it'll mean giving a lot more information to the FBI in response to an NSL." 
Right, so the FBI may not be able to read your email or your web pages, but they can at any time declare you a "person of interest" and find our who you are sending emails to and which web pages you've been to, and force your ISP to give them that info, if the Obama administration has their way, all with the added benefit of bypassing any judicial oversight.

That seems like a great idea that will never, ever be abused at all, right?

Obama has repeatedly dropped the ball on civil liberties in a post-9/11 world, at every opportunity expanding on Bush's many power grabs and overreaches.  it's not like Hillary Clinton or John McCain would have been any better, either...but it's depressing as hell to see Obama go down this same path without blinking.

Immigration Nation Peturbation Compilation

Or "this CNN poll on immigrants makes a lot of sense and none at all at the same time" as Dibgy points out.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national survey, the vast majority believe that most immigrants are basically good, honest people who are hard-working. However, nearly seven in ten say that immigrants are a burden on the taxpayer, 62 percent think they add to the crime problem, and 59 percent believe they take jobs away from Americans.
The poll, released Wednesday, asks about all people who have immigrated from other countries in the past ten years, and not just about illegal immigrants in the U.S.
"The results may explain why most Americans think that the policies that made the U.S. a 'melting pot' strengthened the country a century ago but do not make the country stronger today," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Apparently immigrants are like members of Congress:  the ones you know personally are great, hardworking people who are very friendly.  It's the ones you don't know personally who are all criminal, job-swiping parasites.  Digby explains the dissonance:
I don't know exactly why CNN thought this was worth doing, but if their polling is correct, it's apparent that "most Americans" are a bunch of nativist jerks. Perhaps that's true. It's certainly always been the case that Americans have always tried to pull the ladder up behind them, whether it was the English settlers to the Germans, then the Germans to the Italians and the Slavs or everybody to the Chinese and other Asians. As for Latinos, well, they have always been here and we just use them as scapegoats whenever we feel like kicking somebody. Apparently, that would be now. 
When all the Republicans have in 2010 is a deck of scary race cards, every hand looks like El Tri over a pair of welfare queens.

If It's Thursday...

New jobless claims down 11k to 457k, continuing claims up 81k to 4.57 million.

The July numbers out at the end of next week aren't going to be good.

And The Walkback Begins

Let it be recorded that the Village walk-back of the Deepwater Horizon disaster being anything but a disaster, just a mild inconvenience, after the capping of the well earlier this month began with Time's Michael Grunwald (complete with Rush was right nonsense).
President Obama has called the BP oil spill "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced," and so has just about everyone else. Green groups are sounding alarms about the "Catastrophe Along the Gulf Coast," while CBS, Fox and MSNBC slap "Disaster in the Gulf" chryons on all their spill-related news. Even BP fall guy Tony Hayward, after some early happy talk, admitted the spill was an "environmental catastrophe." The obnoxious anti-environmentalist Rush Limbaugh has been a rare voice arguing that the spill — he calls it "the leak" — is anything less than an ecological calamity, scoffing at the avalanche of end-is-nigh eco-hype.

Well, Rush has a point. The Deepwater explosion was an awful tragedy for the 11 workers who died on the rig, and it's no leak; it's the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. It's also inflicting serious economic and psychological damage on coastal communities that depend on tourism, fishing and drilling. But so far — while it's important to acknowledge that the long-term potential danger is simply unknowable for an underwater event that took place just three months ago — it does not seem to be inflicting severe environmental damage. "The impacts have been much, much less than everyone feared," says geochemist Jacqueline Michel, a federal contractor who is coordinating shoreline assessments in Louisiana. 
We don't know the extent of the long-term there's no long term-damage.   Same sentence, even.  Also Rush has a point!

And so it begins, folks.  The new avenue for attacking Barack Obama just mere weeks after yelling "OBAMA'S KATRINA FAILURE" and "INCOMPETENT DO-NOTHING FEDS" will now "Obama overdid it!  Environmental fearmongering!  Drill more now!"

That's right:  Expect Obama to now be attacked all over again for doing too much to save the Gulf.

In a way, I expect this story to follow the general arc of Obama's presidency:  we have a massive problem on our hands, Obama coordinates a response and shows leadership, he gets attacked early for not doing enough anyway, the problem is dismissed and then he gets pilloried in the press for spending too much to fix the problem when doing nothing of course would have led to disaster.

I got a ten spot today on Rush saying we shouldn't have lifted a finger or a single taxpayer dollar to do anything in the Gulf, and that nature anf BP would have solved the problem anyway.  I'm sure Eric Boehlert's crew will have that story up when it happens.

But mark the occasion:  the Village pushback on those Dirty F'ckin' Hippies for "overplaying the fear card" on the Deepwater Horizon disaster begins now.

[UPDATE]  As Bob Cesca reminds us, the millions of gallons of oil is still there.

The Iowa GOP Is Being Helpful

In the heartland, Iowa Republicans know what middle-class Americans are going through and have a detailed plan to help them recover from these trying social, military, and economic issues that we're all going through together.

Just kidding.  The Iowa GOP is just as batshit crazy with the Obama Derangement Syndrome as the rest of them and their new freebase crazy drug of choice is ratifying the so-called "original 13th Amendment" from 1810.
Adopted in December 1865, the current 13th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” in the United States or any place under its jurisdiction. The Iowa GOP is not trying to overturn this amendment to reinstate slavery. Instead, it wants to reintroduce the “original 13th Amendmentfirst offered by senator Phillip Reed of Maryland in 1810. The amendment states that “if any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honor” from a “foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen” and “shall be incapable of holding any office of trust.” In receiving only 12 out of the 13 votes needed for ratification, the amendment was never adopted.

Traditional supporters of the idea are known as “Thirteenthers,” who seek to prevent those with the title of “esquire,” such as lawyers and bankers, from participating in government. But according to its spokeswoman, Danielle Plogmann, the Iowa GOP supports it as an attack on President Obama’s Nobel Prize win:
There are, of course, other implications of Thirteenthism, such as ensuring that the United States never again suffers the humiliation of having a president win the Nobel Peace Prize. That was just what the Iowa Republicans had in mind, according to Plogmann, who wrote in an e-mail that the plank “was meant to make a statement about the delegates’ opinion about Mr. Obama receiving the prize.” (Presumably they didn’t mind if, in the process, they were also making a statement about any American scientist or writer unlucky enough to win a Nobel.) Unfortunately for them, the Department of Justice looked into whether Obama needed Congressional approval to accept the Nobel under the existing emoluments clause, and based on the meaning of “foreign state” (which would not cover the Nobel Prize Committee) concluded that he did not.

That legal distinction doesn't matter, the whole point of the movement is to try to find any excuse to pile on Obama and attack him as the Foreign Other Usurper who must be expelled by Real Americans from the White House by waving the word "constitution" around and trying to justify their irrational and undying hatred for President Obama.

Seriously, Iowa GOP?  This is what you think the people of Iowa need to be spending their time and energy on as Republicans?  Not jobs, not the economy, not the environment, not have to go push some idiotic historical asterisk to try to de-legitimize and demonize the President?

Gotta love those Republican solutions to America's problems.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Last Call

If it's summer, it must be time for the Governator to declare a state fiscal emergency and take it out on California state employees.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency over the state's finances on Wednesday, raising pressure on lawmakers to negotiate a state budget that is more than a month overdue and will need to close a $19 billion shortfall.

The deficit is 22 percent of the $85 billion general fund budget the governor signed last July for the fiscal year that ended in June, highlighting how the steep drop in California's revenue due to recession, the housing slump, financial market turmoil and high unemployment have slashed its all-important personal income tax collection.

In the declaration, Schwarzenegger ordered three days off without pay per month beginning in August for tens of thousands of state employees to preserve the state's cash to pay its debt, and for essential services.
Yeah, because it's all the employees' fault, not Arnold's or the Assembly's.  Let's make them take three days off without pay.  That'll improve the situation, right?  And hey, the next stop on this road should be familiar to long-time readers:  the IOUs are back.
Schwarzenegger's declaration noted State Controller John Chiang has said he could be forced to issue IOUs as early as next month because of the budget impasse.
The only thing I'm surprised by at this point is that more states aren't turning to California's slash and burn style to punish those evil, evil government employees who all get paid in your taxpayer money, the bastards.  Oh, but remember, Arnold is a GOP moderate.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Not sure which is more fun, StarCraft II or #Wookieleaks.

Admittedly, the latter is somewhat less expensive, giving it something of an advantage.

Location, Location, Location

The NY Times.  Bringing you hard hitting headlines like this:
If It Causes Stress, Is It Really a Vacation Home?
The dynamics of second homeownership often conspire against this, said Milton F. Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, an organization that does research on wealthy consumers. “People become slaves to their homes. They buy into the headlines and that makes them pretty miserable with their vacation homes.” 
 With the residential housing market collapsing and jumbo mortgages (you know, the kind you find on over-priced vacation homes) defaulting at a far greater rate than standard middle-class mortgages, it's nice to know that the Times is sensitive enough to cover the unbearable lightness of being that must accompany the dilemma faced by what must be trillions of Americans over the agonizing decision to purchase that second vacation home (or in John McCain's case, number 8.)

Integrity you can taste!

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Via BlueGirl at They Gave Us A Republic, the AJC's Jay Bookman asks:
Let me see if I’ve got this straight:

Here we are in the smoldering ruins of an economy recently wrecked by Wall Street greed, in a country where for 30 years almost all income growth has been concentrated among the richest 1 percent of Americans (See graph to right). Rising populist anger, massive long-term unemployment and record home foreclosures serve as counterpoints to soaring corporate profits, while the Supreme Court rules that corporations are people and can spend limitless amounts of money trying to elect candidates willing to serve their interests.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party defends massive tax breaks for the wealthy while blocking aid to the unemployed, fights bitterly against regulations designed to prevent a repeat of the Wall Street meltdown, blocks legislation that would at least require corporate and special interests to identify themselves when they invest in elections and does all that while proclaiming itself to be the party of the little people.

Do I have that right?
Not only do you have that right, but the Republicans believe they are going to pick up a 100 seats in the House and take over the Senate because the American voter will reward them for the last thirty years of this.

So yes, if this comes true then we absolutely deserve nothing more than serfdom in fealty to our corporate lords and masters.  We have seen the enemy and they are us.

As BlueGirl points out:
"Then you're more stupid for voting for Republicans than you are for using your houses as credit cards, and I'm gonna keep believing it. You've been so played for so long by god, guns, abortion and gays that you don't even realize you're being reamed without lube. There was a class war, and we lost, because you and people like you were coopted by the enemy."   
Amen, sister.  And now comes the shock and awe, sans lube.

Senate Rule Changes Fili-Busted

The Senate is full of Vitamin Awesome.
Senate Democrats do not have the votes to lower the 60-vote threshold to cut off filibusters.
The lack of support among a handful of Senate Democratic incumbents is a major blow to the effort to change the upper chamber’s rules. 

Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate are pushing for filibuster reform at the start of the new Congress next year. 
 Five Senate Democrats have said they will not support a lowering of the 60-vote bar necessary to pass legislation. 
 Another four lawmakers say they are wary about such a change and would be hesitant to support it.

 A 10th Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said he would support changing the rule on filibusters of motions to begin debate on legislation, but not necessarily the 60-vote threshold needed to bring up a final vote on bills. 
Well of course not.  People forget that in all this "The problem is the filibuster" talk that the real problem is the Senators who have come to rely on it as the ultimate escape hatch for Senate Dems.  "Hey, we all tried voting for your progressive legislation X but, well, the filibuster stopped us."

If that goes away, if things can pass with 51 votes, or 50 + the Vice President, then all of a sudden whichever party is in charge of the Senate will actually have to produce legislation or be the bad guys.  Right now as far as the Senate Dems are concerned, the bad guys are the Republicans.  If that 51 majority vote thing kicked in well, the bad guys when these progressive laws mysteriously fail to pass will become the Dems who will now HAVE to vote against those Dirty F'ckin Hippies.  And no, they're not even pretending anymore.
Senior Democrats say Reid will not have the votes to change the rule at the beginning of next year.

“It won’t happen,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who said she would “probably not” support an effort to lower the number of votes needed to cut off filibusters from 60 to 55 or lower.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) echoed Feinstein: “I think we should retain the same policies that we have instead of lowering it.

“I think it has been working,” he said.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said he recognizes his colleagues are frustrated over the failure to pass measures such as the Disclose Act, campaign legislation that fell three votes short of overcoming a Republican filibuster Tuesday.

 “I think as torturous as this place can be, the cloture rule and the filibuster is important to protect the rights of the minority,” he said. “My inclination is no.”
You see?  As far as our Senators are concerned the filibuster is working as intended.   But then again, as far as a lot of "progressive" Dems in the Senate are concerned, it always has been.

BREAKING: Judge Issues Injunction Against Arizona Immigration Law

Breaking at this hour:  Federal Judge Susan Benton has blocked two key provisions in Arizona's "Papers, please" law, SB1070, before the law is scheduled to go into effect tomorrow.  Benton's injunction covers both the part of the law that requires police to ask for citizenship information whenever stopping anyone and the part that deems failure to have such information on hand at the time of a stop as a state crime.

PDF of the ruling is here.

More as it comes in.

[UPDATE]  As Bob Cesca points out:
Meanwhile, the section of the law that allows citizens to sue law enforcement wasn't blocked. This is one of the weirdest and most ridiculous provisions of the legislation. Not just the Arizona legislation -- all legislation. Ever.
Expect those lawsuits to be filed very very soon.   How the hell does that crazy-ass provision work?  "I saw me one of them illegals today, therefore you're not enforcing the law, therefore I'm going to sue the pants off you!"

Really?  I bet that's going to help.

[UPDATE 2]  More on Judge Benton's decision from the NY Times:
“Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,” she said.

“There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens,” she wrote. “By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose a ‘distinct, unusual and extraordinary’ burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose.” 
My favorite right-wing reaction?  Col.  Mustard.
The decision was a surprise to me in that it struck the provision -- which was most controversial -- as to checking immigration status of persons already arrested or stopped for some other offense if there were a reasonable suspicion that the person was in the country illegally.
The most controversial and unconstitutional part of the law gets struck down because of the patently ridiculous and unenforceable burden on Arizona's cops as to what constitutes a "reasonable suspicion" of a person being in the country illegally, without that suspicion being able to be applied in any sane or reasonably consistent way short of A) racial profiling, B) asking everybody for documentation, also stuck down, or C) the person wearing a t-shirt that reads "Undocumented and proud of it" while dragging an unconscious Border Patrol agent around behind them, and the law professor finds it a "surprise".

This guy?  Awesome.

Giving Conway And Chandler The Coaled Shoulder

Via Memeorandum, here in Kentucky the practical upshot of the DISCLOSE Act getting killed yesterday is simple:  Big Coal is going to throw as much money as they can now to buy Rand Paul a Senate seat.
Several major coal companies hope to use newly loosened campaign-finance laws to pool their money and defeat Democratic congressional candidates they consider "anti-coal," including U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway and U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler in Kentucky.

The companies hope to create a politically active nonprofit under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, so they won't have to publicly disclose their activities — such as advertising — until they file a tax return next year, long after the Nov. 2 election.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last winter that corporations and labor unions may pour unlimited funds into such efforts to influence elections.
"With the recent Supreme Court ruling, we are in a position to be able to take corporate positions that were not previously available in allowing our voices to be heard," wrote Roger Nicholson, senior vice president and general counsel at International Coal Group of Scott Depot, W.Va., in an undated letter he sent to other coal companies.

Nicholson declined to comment on his letter Tuesday, after the Herald-Leader obtained it.

"A number of coal industry representatives recently have been considering developing a 527 entity with the purpose of attempting to defeat anti-coal incumbents in select races, as well as elect pro-coal candidates running for certain open seats," Nicholson wrote. "We're requesting your consideration as to whether your company would be willing to meet to discuss a significant commitment to such an effort."
Yeah, who will speak for our poor, downtrodden, energy companies in states like kentucky?  Who will represent their interests as they continue to be downtrodden until the Supreme Court wisely allowed them to spend unlimited money on elections and our Senate concurred...

To be honest, a Ben Chandler win wouldn't be so bad for the coal companies either, but Rand there and his wonderful attitudes on government regulation in worker safety are exactly what the Big Coal guys are looking for in a bought and paid for Senator: effectively zero regulation of the industry and no responsibility or liability for accidents that may kill dozens or more at a time.

Hell, Sen. Rand Paul would be a dream come true for these guys and they know it.  They're going to bury this state under ads to try to annihilate Conway, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

One Person, One Vote

Unless you're poor, in which case that whole "you're a citizen and you get a vote thing" is apparently variable if you ask Steve Doocy of FOX.

The whole "47% of people don't pay income taxes" thing was put to bed months agobut that doesn't stop Doocy from lying about it, and now here he is intimating that people who don't pay income taxes because they're too poor shouldn't be allowed to vote.

I bet a whole lot of Republicans would be thrilled to take the vote away from those who couldn't "afford" it.

Play those class cards, Steve.  Make sure you spread them out so you can hide the race card underneath.

The Heart Of The City

Local city and county governments across the country are starving for cash, and many tough choices are going to have to be made on employment.  With falling home prices and commercial real estate floundering, draining property tax revenues and requiring local governments to pay to clean up the mess from foreclosures, the easy cuts have been long ago been made.

Now the bloody ones are coming.
Local government revenue has dwindled so severely that U.S. cities and counties will have to cut hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming months, leaving communities without basic services and pressuring jobless rates, according to a new survey.

The survey, released on Tuesday by three government associations, aims to press Congress on pending legislation that would give them $75 billion over two years to preserve jobs.

Local and state government employment accounts for more jobs in the United States than construction and manufacturing combined. The survey by the National League of Cities, National Association of Counties and U.S. Conference of Mayors found that they are the primary employer in many communities. 

Those surveyed—214 cities with populations of more than 25,000 and 56 counties of more than 100,000 people—reported they will cut 8.6 percent of their full-time positions from 2009 through 2011. 

"If applied to total local government employment nationwide, an 8.6 percent cut in the workforce would mean that 481,000 local government workers were, or will be, laid off over the two-year period," the report said.
Some of those cuts have been made.  Thousands more are coming.  That means more cops, teachers, firefighters, city workers, hell entire departments are on the block.  The cuts will not make our country safer or more efficient, after all these employees spent money in their communities too and in a real sense it was stimulus spending by local governments and always has been.

Now that's being lost.  Most likely these jobs aren't ever coming back either...especially if anti-government Republicans have their way.

Hey, all those laid off cops should join private security firms protecting rich clients, right?
Related Posts with Thumbnails