Thursday, April 29, 2010

Last Call

Colonel Mustard argues that liberals think all immigration laws are racist.

Laws aren't racist.  The people who selectively choose to enforce them, or to attempt to enforce them, only on specific groups of people based on prejudicial criteria or personal bias on the other hand...

That's kind of a problem.  I've actually got a question for the guy since he's a law professor and all:  what's the legal definition of "reasonable suspicion that somebody is in the country illegally", and how do you consistently enforce that?  Should Arizona, say, put up random citizenship checkpoints the way police check license and registration at sobriety checkpoints?  I don't think the law is racist.  I think the law fails the void for vagueness test based on the lack of definition of "reasonable suspicion that somebody is in the country illegally", is therefore functionally unenforceable, and therefore a really craptastic law that's a minefield for police in Arizona.

I do think the law is mean-spirited, invasive, and unconstitutional.  Laws aren't racist.  People who write them and enforce them selectively sometimes can be.

A 3-Way With Extra Cheese

Cincinnati chili dish jokes aside, CNN's Ed Rollins thinks that Charlie Crist should have just rolled over and lost, because Marco Rubio and the Teapublican Party have passed him by.  Now that there's a three way race in Florida, let the games begin:
He was already viewed as traitor by many conservatives for his physical embrace of President Obama on a visit to Florida last year and his endorsement of the Democratic passed stimulus bill. He damaged his credibility during the 2008 presidential primary when, after committing his support to Rudy Giuliani, he switched to John McCain in the closing days before the Florida primary, giving McCain an important victory there.

That was after he switched from McCain earlier in the race when McCain's campaign faltered. In politics, a man's word is his bond, but not to Crist. As his closest aides are quoted as saying, "Charlie's all about Charlie."
Charlie so wanted to be the vice presidential candidate in 2008 it's reported he bargained with Giuliani's team for the slot and pushed the eventual nominee McCain likewise, but to no avail.

The final act of treason to Republicans, before the announcement he is making today to run as an independent, was his veto last week of a teacher pay and tenure reform bill supported by the Florida Republican legislative leadership and former Gov. Jeb Bush.

In typical fashion Gov. Crist was for the bill and then as teacher union protests mounted he was against it.
The irony of all this is that the damage to Charlie Crist is self-inflicted. He is a man of enormous ambition, but not much courage, who wants to be president. He could have easily been re-elected governor but didn't want to deal with the multibillion dollar deficits facing Florida now and in the coming years.

So he decided, to quote country singer Johnny Paycheck's lyrics, "You can take this job and shove it," and gave up the governor's mansion to move with his new bride to Washington, where he could hide behind the other 99 senators who spending taxpayers' dollars at record rates.
Now, if you believe Ed Rollins, you also believe that Charlie Crist is a traitor, that he is responsible for Florida's housing depression personally, that he should have rejected federal stimulus dollars, and that he should have cut or eliminated as many social programs as it took to eliminate the state's deficit.

That fact that he did not do any of that means he's a bad choice for national office, if you're Ed Rollins.

This tells me far, far more about how really awful Ed Rollins is (and Marco Rubio for that matter) than it does Charlie Crist.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Keith Olbermann is all of the following four things:
  1. A really smart guy.
  2. Extraordinarily knowledgeable about baseball.
  3. A powerful political commentator.
  4. Remarkably easily trolled on Twitter.
That last one he needs to work on.

Oil's Well That Doesn't End Well For This Oil Well

So, President Obama, about that whole offshore drilling expansion idea...
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Thursday in preparation for the arrival of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that was expected to reach land Friday.

The U.S. military may be called on to assist authorities scrambling to mitigate the potential environmental disaster posed by the spill that's expanding toward the Louisiana coastline, officials said Thursday.

At a White House briefing, federal authorities, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, pledged a robust response. Napolitano said she has designated the leak a "spill of national significance," meaning officials can draw down assets from other areas to combat it.

A command center already is open in Robert, Louisiana. A second will be opened in Mobile, Alabama, Napolitano said. She said she will travel Friday to the Gulf Coast, along with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson.

"Everything's on the table," as far as options under consideration, said David Hayes, deputy interior secretary.
I'm thinking that maybe you should have waited a few months to announce that  "Drill baby drill" policy.  No offense, but this is exactly what environmentalists (you know them as Dirty Effin Hippie Bloggers, the ones that Rahm is always complaining about) have been warning of.  Now you've got this huge national emergency sized oil spill that's more than likely going to cause massive damage to Louisiana's coast and may even be a larger disaster than Katrina, cutting through wildlife and coastal communities like a scythe.

It may take weeks or longer to cap this thing off, and meanwhile it's spreading 200,000 gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.  And our best idea right now is to set it on fire?  Look, any process that includes anywhere on the flowchart the words "Use Controlled Burn" and "Find Four Hundred Metric Tons Of Concrete To Plug Hole" is not a viable process.  Until we come up with a better and safer way to do this, expanding offshore drilling is ludicrous.

Oh wait, those safeguards exist, but BP just wasn't using them
The oil well spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico didn't have a remote-control shut-off switch used in two other major oil-producing nations as last-resort protection against underwater spills.
And why aren't those remote cut-off switches used here?  Too expensive for the energy companies, of course...not like the cost of cleaning up after a catastrophe like this...because the real problem is that we're almost out of time.  This oil slick will be hitting land as early as tomorrow and when that happens, fire's just not an option anymore.

Oh, and this gets worse, guess who's involved in the operations of this particular oil rig?
The widow of a crew member killed in last week's oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico has filed a lawsuit accusing the companies that operated the rig with negligence, court documents showed Tuesday.

The suit was filed by Natalie Roshto against Transocean Ltd, British Petroleum and Halliburton after the blast that killed her husband Shane, a seaman on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig.
Why, it's our old Bush/Cheney friends at Halliburton!  Gee, suddenly how we got into this mess starts making a whole lot of sense, doesn't it? 

The good news is that the Obama administration is now "reevaluating" the offshore policy.  I don't see how they exactly have a choice, and the time to implement strict new safety measures before any more drilling happens is now.  Until the energy companies can prove that another disaster like this won't happen again, expanding offshore drilling needs to be off the table.

And as far as I'm concerned, that means off the table for good.

Greek Fire, Part 13

At this point the question goes from "Will Greece be bailed out?" to "Can the Euro survive this mess?" Everyone I've been looking as had their doubts.  First, Roubini:
Europe's current bailout plan for Greece "is not going to work" because "Greece is nearly insolvent," well-known economist Nouriel Roubini told CNBC Wednesday.

"A restructuring of its debt is going to be necessary," said Roubini, chairman and NYU professor. 

A collapse of the Greek economy could have domino effect among other weak eurozone countries—including Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland, he said. 

“Suppose you have a disorderly collapse of Greece, two things will happen," he added. "Financial institutions holding Greek debt—mostly European—will have massive losses. Secondly, a contagion from Greece to Portugal to Spain to Italy to Ireland will have a domino effect." 

Eventually, debt increases and risk aversion is going to drive down the asset prices globally, as it happened yesterday and today.”
Then Krugman:
Think of it this way: the Greek government cannot announce a policy of leaving the euro — and I’m sure it has no intention of doing that. But at this point it’s all too easy to imagine a default on debt, triggering a crisis of confidence, which forces the government to impose a banking holiday — and at that point the logic of hanging on to the common currency come hell or high water becomes a lot less compelling.

And if Greece is in effect forced out of the euro, what happens to other shaky members?
(More ops after the jump...)

New From LuntzCo!

Greg Sargent spots the next mendacious Frank Luntz GOP Talking Point(tm):  Making banks pay for financial reform will be passed on to consumers as the "Checkbook Tax".  Sargent says you can count on hearing it this fall:
If Luntz says lots of candidates will be using the phrase “checkbook tax” to describe the alleged fees that will be passed on to consumers, we should take him at his word.

In a sense, this represents an evolution in Luntz’s thinking, and even possibly a concession on his part. In his much-discussed original memo intructing opponents of finanial reform on how to talk about it, he urged them to use the phrase “taxpayer-funded bailouts,” ignoring the argument altogether that banks, not taxpayers, are funding the bank liquidation fund. Now Luntz is at least acknowledging this argument — but he’s replaced it with the new claim that taxpayers will still pick up the tab when big institutions pass on costs in the form of a “checkbook tax.”

It’ll be interesting to track the evolution of this talking point and to see if candidates start using it on the trail.
I'm sure some will.  The real key is if the Village uses it over and over again, reducing it to a worthless sound bite that becomes short hand for "Obama made taxes go up again!"  That's of course Luntz's point, rather than "Banks are greedy and will raise fees even if we don't do this."

The "permanent bailout" Luntz point failed because even the Village wasn't buying it.  Democrats were clearly making the banks pay for the fund, not the taxpayer.  Luntz is now trying to say the taxpayer will be picking up the tab for it by saying the banks will pass along every penny...but isn't that the banks being greedy again?

I don't see this talking point going far, frankly.  "What my opponent is saying is that the banks are going to raise fees on you because they think you should pay for their mistakes.  Well, we're already tried that.  They admit the banks are greedy, and my opponent is on their side, not yours."

Back to the drawing board, Frank.  There's just no way out of this other than the GOP is on the side of the banks that wrecked out economy.

Primary Impetus

The May 4th primaries are next Tuesday for Ohio and Indiana, and there's a lot at stake for both states as the Senate races to replace the retiring Evan Bayh in Indiana and George Voinovich in Ohio may become pickup opportunities for both parties that could cancel each other out.  Evan-McMorris-Santoro handicaps both states, starting with Indiana:
Probably the most closely-watched race on May 4 will be the GOP Senate primary. When Sen. Evan Bayh (D) announced his retirement in February, it suddenly got much easier for Republicans to pickup his seat. Most expect the national party choice, former Sen. Dan Coats, to win the GOP nomination handily -- though state Sen. Marlin Stutzman has been making waves of late with an endorsement from tea party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). Former Rep. John Hostettler is also a factor, having earned the endorsement of another fringe Republican favorite, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

The Democrats already have their man in the race: Rep. Brad Ellsworth. He's got Bayh's support and has been running hard for the seat for months. But polls show he's in trouble in a general election matchup so far.

The TPM Poll Average for a race against Coats shows the Republican ahead by a margin of 46.5-33.8.

Race ratings (general election):
CQ: Leans Republican, Washington Post: Toss up, Cook Report: Leans Republican
Meanwhile in Ohio:

It's another open seat in Ohio, where incumbent Sen. George Voinovich (R) is retiring. This time, the Democratic primary is the one to watch: Progressives are fired up about Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, though most predict the winner of the primary will be Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.

Brunner's supporters are loud, vocal and promise an upset win, but Brunner has struggled with fundraising and trails Fisher in the polls. The TPM Poll Average for the Democratic primary shows Fisher ahead by a margin of 31.8-23.0.

Meanwhile, Republicans feel good about their nominee. Former Rep. Rob Portman has built a considerable campaign war chest and has had the advantage of running alone while Fisher and Brunner duke things out on the Democratic side. But the general election matchup is very much up for grabs. The TPM Poll Average of a Portman-Fisher race shows a dead heat, with Fisher just slightly ahead by a margin of 40.5-39.2. It's the same story with Brunner. The TPM Poll Average of that potential mathchup shows Portman ahead by a margin of just 39.6-39.3.

Race ratings (general election):
CQ: Tossup, Washington Post: Tossup, Cook Report: Tossup
So there's actually a pretty good chance a Dem pickup in Ohio will be offset by a Republican taking Indiana.  However, I wouldn't count either side out.  It's going to be close, and these races (along with Kentucky) will help determine which party will prevail in 2010 when it comes to picking up open seats, and the overwhelming anti-incumbent sentiment is not a factor.  My gut says that out of Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky's open Senate seats that the GOP will take 2 of 3, and that one of those two will unfortunately be Rand Paul.

I could be wrong.  I hope I am.

By The Time I Get To Arizona, Part 2

The Justice Department is considering taking legal action against Arizona's immigration law on civil rights grounds.
The Arizona law criminalizes illegal immigration by defining it as trespassing and empowers police to question anyone they have a "reasonable suspicion" is an illegal immigrant. President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. have blasted the legislation, with Obama saying that it "threatened to undermine basic notions of fairness."

"The president had strong words to say and the attorney general had strong words to say," said one law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no decision has been made. "Considering that it's signed into law, and Arizona is doing a lot of pomp and circumstance, do you see a friendly way out of this?"

A key legal ground being considered, officials said, is the doctrine of "preemption" -- arguing that the state's law illegally intrudes on immigration enforcement, which is a federal responsibility.

The White House probably will make the final call, given that the issue is fraught with legal and political implications. Senior administration officials indicated Wednesday that Holder's remarks about the legislation -- he said he is "very concerned" that it could drive a "wedge" between law enforcement and immigrant communities -- should be taken very seriously.

The law will not take effect until summer, 90 days after the Arizona legislature adjourns. But the Justice Department could be in court by early to mid-May, the officials said.

The prospect of federal lawyers marching into court to challenge a state law would be most unusual, legal specialists said. Typically, the government files briefs or seeks to intervene in lawsuits filed by others against state statutes; federal officials said that could still happen in the Arizona case.

"It's relatively rare for the federal government to directly challenge a state law," said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University Law School, who could not cite a comparable example. "It's even more rare when there is no shortage of people challenging the law." A coalition of civil rights groups announced Wednesday that it is preparing its own suit against Arizona, and officials in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff said they are considering suing the state. 
So even if the White House does not go forward, there are plenty of groups willing to do so.  And unlike the legal challenge to health care reform, this one actually has a chance of getting parts of the law overturned on constitutional grounds.  I understand the need for immigration laws, but both Democrats and Republicans have balked at the idea of a comprehensive national law, and a national law is what's needed, otherwise you get a NIMBY effect that simply moves people from one state to another.

It is very good to see the Holder DoJ want to take action.  But as always with Eric Holder, talk is cheap.  Action is needed...and even more so, action is needed from Congress.

If It's Thursday...

Weekly claims down 11k to 448k, continuing claims down 18k to 1.65 million.

Still kind of treading water at best, and while it'll keep you afloat, it's not going to get you any closer to the shore.

The Real Deal Appeal Of Repeal, Part 3

Looks like insurance companies (pilloried by bad press and the threat of Democrats doing something else to them) are waving the white flag and moving to implement health care reforms months ahead of their scheduled implementation.  Steve Benen:
In recent weeks, we've seen many major insurers begin implementing a provision of the law that allows young adults to stay on their family health care plan through their 26th birthday. What's more, the industry agreed to stop denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions (after initially intending to exploit an alleged loophole in the law).

And this week, consumers and families received more good news -- the industry will scrap its "rescission" practices, four months before the new federal ban was scheduled to go into effect.
The health insurance industry has decided to end its practice of cancelling claims once a patient gets sick next month, well before the new health care law would have required it, the industry's chief spokesman said Wednesday.
"While many health plans already abide by the standards outlined in the new law, our community is committed to implementing the new standards in May 2010 to ensure that individuals and families will have greater peace of mind when purchasing coverage on their own," AHIP president and chief executive Karen Ignagni said in a letter to top House Democrats.
The decision to end rescission, as the practice is known, was made during a Tuesday afternoon conference call of chief executives organized by their trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, and represents the industry's latest attempt to build political good will after the bruising health care fight.
The heartening announcement on rescissions came on the heels of a Reuters report on WellPoint routinely dropping coverage for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Yesterday, the company said it would end the practice by this weekend.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer described all of this as "a clear sign of momentum for changing the health care status quo."

Go ahead, Republicans. Promise to undo all of this progress, turn back the clock, and eliminate these needed, popular advances. I dare you.
He's got a salient point there, and every time a major GOP figure goes on TV saying "Obamacare must be repealed!" the Democrats need to counter with "The Republicans want to take away your consumer rights."  Line up Newt and Mitchy and Moose Lady and Orange Julius on the screen and say "You want to have insurance companies cancel your policy because you get sick?  They do."  The commercials write themselves.

Health care reform is a winning issue for the Dems if they play off the losing issue of repeal for the Republicans.  You've noticed they've shifted away from health care to immigration too.  They keep flopping around from the economy (most people still blame Bush and the Republicans) to health care (most people still hate insurance companies) to financial reform (most people still hate Wall Street) and have gone on to immigration (which is splitting the GOP down the middle).  They don't have a winning issue for the same reason they didn't have one in 2006 or 2008.  They're on the wrong side of history again and again.

Standing around yelling NO at everything is not a way to solve the country's problems.

Arizona Erects A Somebody Else's Problem Field

The usual suspects over in the wingerverse are having a good laugh at this piece showing that illegal immigrants in Arizona are planning to leave the state.
"Nobody wants to pick us up," Julio Loyola Diaz says in Spanish as he and dozens of other men wait under the shade of palo verde trees and lean against a low brick wall outside the east Phoenix home improvement store.

Many day laborers like Diaz say they will leave Arizona because of the law, which also makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally and directs police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal immigrants.

Supporters of the law hope it creates jobs for thousands of Americans.

"We want to drive day labor away," says Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, one of the law's sponsors.
Our shortsighted friends on the right figure "Mission accomplished, don't let the door hit you on the way out!"   It's not that simple, but then again it never was.
A study of immigrants in Arizona published in 2008 found that non-citizens, mostly in the country illegally, held an estimated 280,000 full-time jobs. The study by researcher Judith Gans at the University of Arizona examined 2004 data, finding that they contributed about 8 percent of the state's economic output, or $29 billion.

Losing hundreds of thousands of unskilled laborers wouldn't hurt the state's economy in the short term, but it could limit the economy's ability to grow once it recovers, says Marshall Vest, director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management.

Legal workers who are willing to take any available job now will become more choosy if the unemployment rate falls back to low levels seen before the recession hit.

"That's really the question, as to whether the existing population is willing to work those (low-level) jobs," Vest says. "I think economics provides the answer. If job openings have no applicants, then businesses need to address that by raising the offered wage."
And there's the crux of the argument.  When you have day laborers off the books you can pay in cash, and they have every incentive to keep their mouths shut, a readily available underclass that will do jobs for a fraction of the cost of hiring "REAL AMERICANS!!!" for the same work, you have a problem.  As an employer, you get to pocket the difference.  When 8 percent of the state's economy is powered by illegal immigrants, it's not the immigrants who are the problem, it's the economy that makes employing them under the table so desirable that is the issue.

(More after the jump...)

The Man From SIGTARP

Via Barry Ritholz, it looks like the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Neil Barofsky, may have the AIG coverup in his sights for a criminal investigation.  That means he's coming into direct conflict with Timmy Geithner and Treasury, and the battle between the two is getting...interesting.
That tense relationship has grown out of Barofsky’s mandate to monitor and root out fraud and waste in the management of TARP, the $700 billion program passed in October 2008 to remove toxic debt from the banks. The special inspector general, in a series of reports, interviews and congressional hearings, has heaped criticism on the Treasury Department’s operation of the program.

Barofsky’s most recent broadside came on April 20, when a SIGTARP report labeled a housing-loan modification program funded with $50 billion of TARP money as ineffectual.

Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams counters that the program has resulted in modifications for more than 230,000 homeowners.

The TARP watchdog has also criticized Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner in reports and in congressional testimony for his handling of the process by which insurance giant American International Group Inc. was saved from insolvency in 2008, when Geithner was head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The secrecy that enveloped the deal was unwarranted, Barofsky says, adding that his probe of an alleged New York Fed coverup in the AIG case could result in criminal or civil charges.
(More after the jump...)


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