Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Last Call

Well, good to know if things really get bad with Lake Palin we can always take the Russians' advice and nuke the damn thing.
During the Soviet years, Russia's communists had to deal with numerous oil disasters and on five different occasions they employed controlled, underground nuclear blasts to quickly solve the problem.

[The] underground explosion moves the rock, presses on it, and, in essence, squeezes the well’s channel," Pravda reported.

"It’s so simple, in fact, that the Soviet Union, a major oil exporter, used this method five times to deal with petrocalamities," added Moscow reporter Julia Ioffe, writing for True/Slant. "The first happened in Uzbekistan, on September 30, 1966 with a blast 1.5 times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb and at a depth of 1.5 kilometers. KP also notes that subterranean nuclear blasts were used as much as 169 times in the Soviet Union to accomplish fairly mundane tasks like creating underground storage spaces for gas or building canals."
Hey, it's just another tool in the toolbox, right?   Gotta love the Russian mix of practicality and fatalism.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

This goes without saying, but if your plan to save the eastern seaboard from environmental catastrophe can be described best by the layman through references to the movie "Armageddon" then your plan has pretty much already failed.

Greek Fire, Part 15

What, you thought with the bailout announced over the weekend this mess was over?  I keep telling you guys, Greek Fire is unquenchable by mortal means, and the bond market already believes that Greece will be going up in flames sooner rather than later.  Tyler Durden:
Look up the word ludicrous in the dictionary and you may just get a picture of the Greek bond curve. The 2 Year spread has exploded by over 400 bps just today, and is now back to 14% - the market is now convinced that even with €110 of additional money the country is done for in just over one year. The problem, as we pointed out earlier, is that the IMF can not appeal for greater assistance without appearing totally clueless (which it is), while any additional funding requests will may finally provoke the US taxpayers into recognizing they are being fleeced to save a country 5 thousand miles away.
Gosh, yeah.  You know the International Monetary Fund is paid for mostly by us, you know.   Fourteen percent on a 2 year bond is the equivalent of "Yeah, right.  Sure you'll pay us back, Greece."  They're not buying it.  Literally.

Meanwhile the the Dow tanked today (off more than 200) as the news is swirling that Spain is the next of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, for you keeping track at home, sometimes Ireland is thrown in as the second I, making it PIIGS) countries to be served up roasting over an open fire.
Investors and analysts say the lack of progress in tackling the banking issue underscores the Spanish government’s shortcomings in addressing its broader problem: crushing fiscal deficits arising from high unemployment and a persistent recession.

Spain risks falling into the same trap as Greece, these investors say, unless it takes more forceful action. It could find itself unable to raise money on the private markets at acceptable interest rates — even though its government debt burden, as a share of the overall economy, is only half what Greece carries.

“Any further wavering could lead to a much more critical situation,” said Xavier Vives, an economics and finance professor at the IESE business school of the University of Navarra. “A year ago, the government didn’t even want to think about reforms. Now, under pressure from financial markets, they are at least talking about reforms. But the government really needs to get going.”
Hmm, massive delays in banking reforms leading to major economic problems across the board...sound familiar?

The Greek Fire, unquenchable and epic, continues to consume the country and is spreading to its neighbors.  And there's a pretty good chance we're going to get burned here in the states as a result.

Smile, You're On Lower Merion School District Camera! Part 3

Via Atrios, the Lower Merion school district really is in a colossal amount of trouble for turning on school laptop webcams to spy on students.
Inconsistent policies. Shoddy record-keeping. Misstep after misstep. "Overzealous" use of technology "without any apparent regard for privacy considerations."

Those were the conclusions a team of lawyers and computer experts reached after a 10-week investigation into how, when, and why the Lower Merion School District turned on the Web cams and software that secretly snapped thousands of photos and screen shots from student's laptop computers.

The report, released Monday night, found that the software activated by the district in the last two years captured nearly 58,000 images, mostly from lost or stolen laptops.

But because employees frequently failed to turn off the tracking system, more than 50,000 of those images were taken after the computers had been recovered and given back to students.

Many were photos of students, their friends, or families, in their homes or elsewhere, the report said.
A footnote mentioned "a number of photographs of males without shirts," but the report said no images contained "nudity" or otherwise appeared to show students in a compromising situation. Investigators said they found no proof that school staffers intentionally used the technology to spy on students.

But the report repeatedly faulted employees and administrators in one of the region's elite public school districts as enamored of their cutting-edge technology even as they were blind to its risks.
Heads!  Rolling.  I do not believe the school district is going to be the victor in this case.  I do wonder however if it will get appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, and which side the Obama administration would take on such an issue.

I'm betting the Eric Holder DoJ would side with Lower Merion and not the students, which tells you everything you need to know about my opinion of this administration on privacy issues.

General Principles

So the GOP attacks on the horrible, horrible fascism of reading the Times square car bomb suspect his Miranda rights is already well under way.  Luckily, at least one veteran in the Warren Terrah thinks John McCain and Pete King need to zip it.  Greg Sargent:
I just got off the phone with retired General Paul Eaton, who is best known for training Iraqi troops during the Bush years, and he offered scathing criticism of John McCain and Pete King for demanding that the Obama administration refrain from Mirandizing the Times Square bomb suspect.

General Eaton bluntly said McCain and King are potentially putting American lives at risk.

Eaton, a political independent who says he’s voted for both Republicans and Democrats, ripped McCain and King’s comments as “wholly inappropriate,” adding that not Mirandizing the suspect risks making it tougher to win a prosecution of him in court.

“I don’t understand how a Senator or a Congressman can challenge the Mirandizing procedure,” Eaton, who is also a senior adviser at the Dem-leaning National Security Network, told me. “The laws are clear. Rep. King and Senator McCain have advocated a position that could cost us this case.”

Eaton added that there’s no way the suspect will ever be tried in a military tribunal, and said that his trial was certain to take place in the civilian court system.
Civilian case, civilian court procedures.  That means Mirandizing him and following the law.  As usual, the GOP is just playing politics with empty tropes while the FBI nailed this guy (again, a civilian law enforcement agency, the FBI) in less than 48 hours.  This guy's going to a New York courtroom and he's going to face charges in a court of law.

This whole "trials make us less safe" bull is just used by people who don't want justice, but vengeance instead.  The GOP is attacking on this, why?  Oh yes, to distract the people from the Republican party's dismal record on preventing terror in the US.

For frack's sakes, even Glenn Beck says this guy gets his Miranda rights.
It was a packed curvy couch on Fox & Friends this morning, as Glenn Beck and Judge Andrew Napolitano joined the trio of co-hosts for a discussion on Miranda rights for the Times Square bomber.
The Judge naturally went the hardline judicial route, arguing he deserves to be Mirandized because he’s an American citizen, and Beck…agreed 100%.

The Right Scoop caught the exchange this morning, which featured a determined Beck squaring off against Brian Kilmeade, who wanted to make an exception. “He’s a citizen of the United States, so I say we uphold the laws and the Constitution on citizens,” said Beck.

“He’s a threat to the country, that’s different,” countered Kilmeade.

“If you’re a citizen you obey the law and follow the Constitution,” said Beck. “He has all the rights under the Constitution.”

Later, the money quote from Beck: “We don’t shred the Constitution when it’s popular. We do the right thing.”
Ladies and gentlemen, when even Glenn Beck can point out why this guy gets the right to remain silent, you've lost the battle.  Put this clown in front of a jury and lay out the evidence.  We're either a nation of laws, or not.

Give Sandra Bullock Some Credit, Please

Normally I wouldn't post about a celebrity adopting a baby (it's great when it happens, and it's common enough here in 2010.  Lots of kids need loving homes.)  But actress Sandra Bullock is getting a lot of flak for adopting an African-American baby boy.
But when Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock appeared on the cover of People magazine with her newly adopted African-American baby, the image stirred discussion in the black community and on blogs aimed at that readership.

"We have a poll up right now on the site that asks a question about interracial adoption," said Marve Frazier, chief executive officer of Bossip.com and chief creative officer for its parent company, Moguldum. "For the most part people have been saying it's great that she adopted a baby from the United States."

Still, the topic of transracial adoptions is a sensitive one, made even more so when the adopted parent is a celebrity.

In a piece appearing on the site Black Voices, writer Lola Adesioye notes that Bullock joins other stars, including Madonna and Angelina Jolie, who have adopted black children. Madonna and Jolie's children are African and Bullock's new son, Louis, is from New Orleans, Louisiana.

"As Bullock's case shows, a white celebrity adopting a black child raises questions as well as suspicions," Adesioye writes. "Why do they want a black baby as opposed to a white one, when there are also white kids who are up for adoption?"
Lemme tell you guys a story.

About 35 years ago, another African-American baby boy was adopted by a white couple.  In Nebraska, of all places.  He was a happy little baby, and his parents loved him very much, and just to really tempt fate, the couple had a biological child 18 months later and they all moved down to the mountains of western North Carolina.  The other kids there thought this was kinda weird and asked the boy questions (to which the boy answered to the best of his ability) but he had a Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox and a pair of Chuck Taylors and a Rubik's Cube, and a goofy little brother, so they thought he was mostly normal.  (Well, the kid really was too smart for his own damn good, the adults around him pretty quickly figured out. He was handy at fixing the school's digital clocks and reading about 8 years over his grade level.)

Kid turned out okay, although I hear he's one of those dirty f'ckin hippie political blogger people these days.  Point is, his parents loved him very much and fate gave him a second chance right off the bat, and they loved him as their own because he was their own, really.

So when Sandra Bullock adopts an adorable little African-American boy, she's trying to give a kid a home and make things just a little better in the universe, one person at a time.

We should all be that lucky.

Korean Barbecue

Meanwhile, as if things really couldn't get any worse on planet Earth here in the last couple weeks, the South Korean Navy is vowing to pick a fight with their northern neighbors over the sinking of the frigate Cheonan.  Via LGM:
Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said Sunday that retaliation over the sinking of the Cheonan must be carried out. Kim’s remarks came on the heels of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Kim Sung-chan’s reprisal pledge made during last week’s funeral for the 46 dead sailors from the mysterious sinking of the frigate on March 26.
The Navy chief said, “We’ll never forgive whoever inflicted this great pain on us. We will track them down to the end and we will, by all means, make them pay.”
“I agree with Adm. Kim,” the defense chief told a KBS television program aired nationwide. “After finding the cause of the incident, we should pay back those responsible for killing our sailors. That’s my opinion.”
As for concerns about a vicious cycle of retaliation, the minister said, “We’ll take into account such things, but retaliation, in whatever form it takes, must be done.”
Oh, this will end well, I can feel it.  Seriously, if South Korea is talking about "retaliation in whatever form it takes" there's going to be problems here, and soon.  Somebody needs to get Hillary on the horn and get her out there before something involving shooting and blood begins out in the DMZ.  I'm really, really hoping China can be convinced to smack some heads around in Pyongyang too while we handle Seoul, because if we don't, this starts turning into a Tom Clancy novel real fast.

I'm all for holding North Korea responsible, but it's clear South Korea's had enough and that they're serious about payback being a bitch.

You Sure You Want To Go Down That Road, Eric?

Greg Sargent has the day ahead as Republicans already plan to attack Obama today for his "failure on terrorism"(?)
Eric Cantor will give a speech today indicting Obama on terror: He’ll acknowledge some successes but say they’ve been the “exception.” An excerpt:
To be clear, the president deserves credit for not caving to those on the left who called for a withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. And behind the scenes we have made progress eliminating al Qaeda through drone attacks in the Afpak region. But these efforts unfortunately have been the exception rather than the rule.
Obama has pointed out that during his first year in office, far more Al Qaeda operatives were killed than during the last year under Bush.

Also: Cantor will repeatedly attack Obama for being too critical of Israel. I look forward to seeing whether Congressional Dems who are sympathetic to Israel will remain silent in response to Cantor’s broadside or even tacitly agree with it.
To recap, this administration has thwarted a number of attempted terror attacks, especially in the last five months.   Somehow this is the "exception to the rule" because of all the times Obama has allowed Al-Qaeda to kill Americans on US soil (which for the record is zero, unlike that Bush guy.)   So, Obama, who has prevented terror attacks against Americans, has failed miserably.  Bush and the Republicans had 3,000 or so die in 9/11, and he protected our country successfully!

Does Cantor really, really want to go down this road of comparing the terror prevention records of Bush and Obama, especially when Obama is trying to clean up Bush's unfinished messes in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Not a good idea, Sparky.

Casino Jack Rolls Snake Eyes

TPM has a clip of the new documentary on Jack Abramoff, Casino Jack.  Judging from the clip, the movie's worth a look.  Here's Ohio's own Bob "Spare Change" Ney describing how he helped his buddy Jack as a lawmaker.

In the clip, Ney aide-turned-Abramoff associate Neil Volz describes breaking the ban against lobbying one's former boss, in this case Ney, who agreed to do favors for an Abramoff client. The client was the Tigua Indian tribe in Texas, which was trying to get its casino, which had been shut down, reopened.

Ney agreed to slip language that would help the tribe into an election reform bill.

"Any lobbyist knows that a member will say, 'I'll do it as long as it doesn't destroy the bill.' Are riders done? They're done all the time," Ney says. "Are extra pieces of information added to bills that have no bearing to the bill? All the time. Was this that case? Yes.
And this happened all the time, and frankly still does.  Everyone was for sale when Casino Jack was the dealer.  And in his case, the House always won.  That is until he got sloppy enough that the people interested in actually catching him finally did.

Orange Julius Says Drill Baby Drill

Well, with Sarah Palin and El Rushbo coming out for more drilling despite a possible environmental catastrophe that could end up costing us hundreds of billions of dollars, the GOP leadership has no choice but to look like a bunch of insensate morons and follow suit.  Orange Julius is just the man for the job!  True Slant's Sahil Kapur:
Even Roll Call couldn’t help but smirk at this one. “At least they get points for consistency,” quipped Jennifer Bendery.
House Republican leaders are once again sounding the drumbeat for passage of their sidelined pro-drilling energy reform package, even as state and federal officials scramble to stem a massive Gulf oil spill.
“This tragedy should remind us that America needs a real, comprehensive energy plan, like Republicans’ ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Monday in a statement.
The tragedy, if anything, “reminds us” that drilling is dangerous. There’s nothing about (what’s likely to be) the most catastrophic oil spill in history that “reminds us” we need to create the circumstances that make events like this more likely in the future.

One could imagine Republicans remaining silent while the BP disaster occupies the headlines and sticking by their guns — nobody could have realistically expected them to change their stance over this. But to use this is justification for more drilling is one of the more brazen leaps of logic that this increasingly brazen Republican Party has made as of late.

It’s like saying the massive Blue Cross insurance premium hike earlier this year “reminds us” that we need to leave private insurers to their own devices. Well, hardly. Forget it, I’m not going to try and find an analogy that encapsulates the absurdity of this one.

Oh don't worry, I'll handle that one.  Just because fishing, tourism, and wildlife are all going to be dead on the east coast in a couple of months doesn't mean we shouldn't try harder!  As Tom Hanks famously said, "There's no crying in baseball!"  Gotta get out there and feed our energy addiction.  Gotta get out there and wreck the fishing and tourism industry for a decade or so, because it's your God-given right to drive your Escalade to the store and leave it running idle in the parking lot.  It's like being sold a leaky battleship.  It can only sink once, right?

The GOP certainly doesn't give a damn.  After all, the industries in question have already been sentenced to a slow, painful death over the next 90 days or so.  Can't get much worse, so let's drill ten, a hundred times more!  What are we going to do, wreck the oysters?  Can only really do that once, right?

Great guys, those GOP.  When life hands you lemons, exploit lemon future speculation relentlessly.

Things Can Change In A New York Minute, Part 4

We've got a suspect in custody for Saturday's bombing attempt, 30 year old pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad.
A naturalized American citizen from Pakistan arrested overnight in the Times Square bombing investigation will appear in a Manhattan federal courtroom Tuesday morning to face formal charges in the case.

Faisal Shahzad, 30, was on board an Emirates Airlines plane at JFK International Airport when he was taken into custody, law enforcement officials said. A law enforcement official told CNN Shahzad's final destination was Pakistan.

Shahzad was arrested at 11:45 p.m. Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder said early Tuesday from Washington.

A federal law enforcement source said Shahzad nearly made it out of the country.

"They just caught him at the last second," according to the source, who said Shahzad was on board the flight to Dubai and the jetway had been pulled back when the plane was called to return to the gate.
Shazad owned the SUV (he bought it off of Craigslist) and nearly escaped to Dubai.  Good work for the Fibbies, they got their man in less than 48 hours.

Now the questions begin.  There's no doubt that Shahzad's motive was to cause damage and terror, but who were his alleged targets?  Lot of questions, lot of answers that will lead to more questions, but at least there's a suspect in custody.


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