Friday, May 7, 2010

Last Call

Been a hell of a week, folks.  People are so crazy that lunch coolers are now potentially deadly.
New York police evacuated part of Times Square on Friday to investigate a suspicious package a week almost after a car bomb was discovered in the area.

"We're responding to a suspicious package," a spokesman for the New York Police Department (NYPD) told AFP. "We will be taking all necessary precautions."

On May 1 police found a large, but malfunctioning car bomb in Times Square, sparking a 53-hour manhunt that ended with the arrest of Pakistani-born US citizen Faisal Shahzad.

Gothamist notes that another "suspicious package shut down a block of Eighth Avenue by 44th Street earlier today," adding "We turn once again to the Office of Emergency Management Twitter page, which states: 'Due to police activity in the vicinity of 46th Street and Broadway(MN) expect street closures in the Times Square area.' Honestly this is getting kind of repetitive..."
And what was in the package?
Books and water bottles were found in the cooler after it was x-rayed, and the police called off the evacuation. MSNBC reporters spent five minutes congratulating the NYPD for "taking no chances" after the package fear turned out to be a false alarm.
Not making me feel safer, guys.

God, but I am glad this week is over.

It's Always A Bad Time For Civil Rights, Apparently

At least if you're in Congress...
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership are pushing legislation, written by Rep. Barney Frank, that would made it illegal for employers to discriminate against transgendered people.

The bill scares centrist Democrats, who don't want to be forced to vote on a hot-button issue popular on the left as they approach November congressional elections in which heavy Democratic losses are expected.

Gay rights groups are pushing for a House vote this month, and the legislation from Frank, who is gay and hired the first openly transgendered aide on Capitol Hill, would broaden the reach of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The 2007 version, which won support from some centrists, prohibited hiring on the grounds of sexual orientation but not gender identity; it passed the House easily, 235-184, with 35 Republican votes. 

Backers of the transgender provision are hoping that larger Democratic majorities in Congress and the public support from the Obama administration will lead to passage of the bill, but the sensitivity of the issue threatens to exacerbate an already challenging election year environment for Democrats. Bringing it to the floor in the next several weeks could also buck Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) pledge to save vulnerable members from tough votes following the bruising healthcare debate.
To recap, America apparently hates the transgendered even more than illegal immigrants, and the people who are already mad at the Dems for voting for health care (they're called conservatives, from what I hear) might not vote for anyone who extends rights to Americans who are regularly discriminated against.  The horror.

Doing the right thing apparently doesn't enter into the equation.  Congress:  we care more about our jobs than a couple million Americans being able to keep theirs.

Political Cartoon Of The Moment

From Daryl Cagle:

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

When even Orange Julius is backing away from your anti-terrorism legislation, you've lost the battle.
"If they are a U.S. citizen, until they are convicted of some crime, I don't see how you would attempt to take their citizenship away," Boehner said. "That would be pretty difficult under the U.S. Constitution."
Nice try, Joe.   Bigger loser in this:  Sen. Scott Brown (aka Cosmo McTruckNutz) who backed Lieberman's play on this only to get his ass handed to him by everybody involved.

Not even the wingers want to give the government the power to strip your citizenship over who you associate with.

Fat Fingered It

Yves Smith doesn't buy the fat-fingered excuse either for yesterday's mini market meltdown.
We’ll know in due course, now that an investigation is underway, why the equity markets in the US went into complete freefall for about twenty minutes, with the Dow dropping 998 points. Per Bloomberg:
Larry Leibowitz, chief operating officer of NYSE Euronext, said trades sent to electronic networks fueled the drop. While the first half of the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 998.5-point plunge probably reflected normal trading, the decline snowballed as orders went to venues lacking liquidity to match them, he said
Yves here. Um, he seems to be saying there were more sellers than buyers, which we already knew. The idea that a fat-fingered trade out of Citi was the cause has been denied by the bank. The downdraft did have the look of a monster sell order, but the more credible explanation is that it was either a sudden rise in yen or the euro hitting the magic number 1.225 to the dollar that set off algorithmic traders. And enough of them look to similar indicators and technical levels that it isn’t hard to see this as the son of program trading, mindless computer-driven selling when the right triggers are hit.

But another side effect of today’s equity market gyrations is further distrust in the markets, particularly by retail buyers. I am told that various retail trading platforms were simply not operating during the acute downdraft and rebound. I couldn’t access hoi polloi Bloomberg news or data pages then either. The idea that the pros could trade (even if a lot of those trades are cancelled) while the little guy was shut out reinforces the perception that the markets are treacherous and the odds are stacked in favor of the big players (even though we all understand that, it isn’t supposed to be this blatant).

But the bigger issue, despite the stomach-knot-inducing drop in equities, is the wild gyrations across pretty much all markets. The credit markets were is disarray BEFORE equities took their cliff dive. Japan has pumped $21 billion of emergency liquidity into the market overnight, its biggest operation since 2008.
Not only is the emperor not wearing clothes, he's not not wearing skin, either.  Obligatory sports analogy time:  It's late in the second half, your fav college basketball team is running out of time and is forced to foul, and the other guys are working the clock and the refs.  It's the point where the announcers start talking about things other than the game, because the game's basically over.  There's nothing you can do but to watch your team grind their way to a painful loss.

We're at that point again now.  Dow was down 250 this morning, down 100 plus now.  The fundamentals were always this bad, they've been this bad since 2008.  People have deluded themselves.  Yesterday showed a peek behind the curtain into the abyss.

And now everyone's properly scared again.

They should be.  I am.  The entire Obama Boom has in fact been a Dead Cat Bounce of epic proportions.  And we're on the way back down.  Way way back down.

Oil's Well That Doesn't End Well For This Oil Well, Part 7

As BP tries to save the universe from its own stupidity with the power of GIANT SLOW-MOVING CONCRETE BOX THING, HuffPo's Dan Froomkin talks to marine professor Rick Steiner and notes that the "I told you so" factor of this catastrophe may finally break the mesmerism of the environmental legislation deniers.
At moments like this, it's hard to see any silver lining here at all. But it's possible there is one. Many environmentalists say that the wrenching and omnipresent images of filth and death are at last providing Americans with visible, visceral and possibly mobilizing evidence of the effects that fossil fuels are having on our environment every day.

Rick Steiner is horrified at the damage. A University of Alaska marine specialist, he's watched cleanup efforts ever since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, and has learned some bitter lessons.

"Government and industry will habitually understate the volume of the spill and the impact, and they will overstate the effectiveness of the cleanup and their response," he said. "There's never been an effective response -- ever -- where more than 10 or 20 percent of the oil is ever recovered from the water. Once the oil is in the water, the damage is done."

And most of the damage remains invisible deep below the surface, including the wide-scale destruction of essential plankton in the area and the wiping out of an entire generation of fish larvae. "This is real toxic stuff," Steiner said.

But the damage that is visible -- the vast and foul oil slick, the dolphins swimming through sludge, the birds coated in oil, the dead fish and sharks and turtles -- is enough to thoroughly disgust anyone paying attention.

And that, Steiner said, makes it a "teachable moment" that "will hopefully serve as a wake-up call that we need to turn to sustainable energy."
I'm hoping Steiner is correct, and that this becomes the impetus that finally banishes the Know-Nothings of the climate deniers and the climate cost whiners.  If this disaster proves it's too expensive NOT to reduce our carbon footprint, that may be something that saves us from a much larger disaster in the end.

I fear however that it's going to take a massive, sustained parade of environmental, economic, and social damage to the Atlantic shores to get rid of Drill Baby Drill for good.  After a decade of warnings that were ignored by Bush (and by Obama too) maybe now people will listen.  I doubt it.  There's too much money at stake.

There's a small sliver of hope, however.

The Kroog Versus Greek Fire

Paul Krugman gets a little confusing today.  He says yesterday's major malfunction in the stock market had nothing to do with Greece, but at the same time he admits the euro is done as a currency.  Seems to me if Krugman's got the Euro pegged, if you'll excuse the macroeconomics pun there, the bond traders do too.  And while the stock market recovered two-thirds of that blowout, the bond market most certainly did not.
So, is Greece the next Lehman? No. It isn’t either big enough or interconnected enough to cause global financial markets to freeze up the way they did in 2008. Whatever caused that brief 1,000-point swoon in the Dow, it wasn’t justified by actual events in Europe.

Nor should you take seriously analysts claiming that we’re seeing the start of a run on all government debt. U.S. borrowing costs actually plunged on Thursday to their lowest level in months. And while worriers warned that Britain could be the next Greece, British rates also fell slightly.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Greece’s problems are deeper than Europe’s leaders are willing to acknowledge, even now — and they’re shared, to a lesser degree, by other European countries. Many observers now expect the Greek tragedy to end in default; I’m increasingly convinced that they’re too optimistic, that default will be accompanied or followed by departure from the euro.

In some ways, this is a chronicle of a crisis foretold. I remember quipping, back when the Maastricht Treaty setting Europe on the path to the euro was signed, that they chose the wrong Dutch city for the ceremony. It should have taken place in Arnhem, the site of World War II’s infamous “bridge too far,” where an overly ambitious Allied battle plan ended in disaster.
Kroog is right about one thing:  It's that bond market you need to watch, not the stock market.  And the bond market has been screaming that Greece and the euro are dead and gone.  Yesterday the stock market screamed too.

And I mean that literally.

Instant Karma's Gonna Get Ya, Bobby

Seems the subject of my slightly infamous rant on NMMNB (anti-government Tenther Republicans like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal now begging for federal help) is a sore point among congressional Dems too.  TPM's Christina Bellantoni:
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) took a swipe at Jindal when I asked during a brief interview this week if Congress was considering any funding to add to what BP will do. "Well you know, here we go. You know, the governor of Louisiana says the federal government should stay out of the state's business," Menendez told me Tuesday night. Jindal's office said they would respond but haven't yet gotten back to me. We'll update if they do.
Oh and the best part?  There's just not the desire there to spend money for a supplemental aid package for these Gulf Coast red states.
But several other Hill sources I talked to said they think that's doubtful. "There is not the appetite for that right now," a House Democratic leadership aide told me bluntly in an interview. What's more, lawmakers don't view this as anything like the Katrina fallout since so much of the region's infrastructure had been wiped out and so many people were displaced. The aide said the oil spill is much more isolated and that arguing the tourism industry would be hurt is unlikely to win over many votes on the House side.

Jindal, a potential presidential contender, has tussled with the administration over health care reform and accepting economic stimulus funds. He earned intense mocking for criticizing federal volcano monitoring funding. He's boasted about what the stimulus has done for Louisiana as well.

But sure enough following the oil spill, Jindal's office filed a request for federal funds, saying that "in an abundance of caution, we are seeking this preliminary approval should [the responsible party BP's] plans fall short of meeting the needs of our people." That contingency note was as Jindal asked for federal employment benefit services funding from the Department of Labor to help pay for "disaster related workforce training and job placement services and unemployment benefit services for workers displaced as a result of the oil spill."
Remember, Jindal, along with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, SC Gov. Mark Sanford, and Moose Lady, made a big stink about how accepting federal unemployment money from the stimulus was unacceptable.  All of them relented, of course.  But not until they played politics with the measure.

Now of course Jindal is pleading for federal dollars.  And Congress?  Well gosh, there's not the "appetite" for a new aid package from either side of the aisle.  Dems are pissed off, and Republicans figure Jindal's on his own, especially if the resulting disaster takes him out of the 2012 picture.

The people of Louisiana deserve better, from BP, from Congress, and from all of us.  This disaster may end up being 3,000 miles of Katrina across a dozen states on the eastern seaboard.   But they also deserve better politicians than Jindal, too.  And it also proves that eventually everyone needs some help.


Holy crap.
Employers added 290,000 jobs in April, the Labor Department said on Friday. It revised figures for February and March to show 121,000 more jobs were added than previously thought. The unemployment rate, however, rose to 9.9 percent as the size of the labor force increased.

Payrolls have now risen for four straight months.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected nonfarm payrolls to rise 200,000 last month and the jobless rate to remain unchanged at 9.7 percent. The median forecast from the 20 most accurate forecasters was for a payrolls increase of 188,000.
Maybe Biden wasn't smoking something after all.   But we need to keep this level up for a year or more to make a dent.  It's that 9.9% that's bugging me.  It means a whole hell of a lot more people than 290,000 entered the job market last month, hopeful that there's going to be jobs again, or forced to look for them.  That means there's a pretty hefty chunk of people who have been sitting out on the job market altogether.

Now they are looking again.  This is why I said 250K new jobs a month simply isn't going to be enough.

[UPDATE]  Tyler Durden calls bullshit on the 290K anyway, saying it's much closer to 36K.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

BooMan catches a National Review interview with GOP Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina...
“It’s important that Republicans talk about the importance of addressing illegal immigration,” DeMint tells [National Review Online]. “This is a long-term problem that impacts our economy and the heritage of our country. At the same time, [Republicans] need to be clear about the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants — heralding the importance of addressing the latter.”

The White House and Hill Democrats “don’t want a solution here,” DeMint laments. “They want continued trouble so we can be cast as demagogues — so they can say Republicans are against immigrants. Let’s realize that these big demonstrations against Arizona’s law are union organized and focus on the addressing how to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants in this country. It’s about our survival and safety as a nation.”
...and asks:
Is it a dog whistle if humans can hear it too? 
It's not a dog whistle if you use a bullhorn.

Whenever a sitting United States Senator says that illegal immigrants are a threat to the "heritage of our country" what he means is "I'm white and people darker than me scare the crap out of me."  Nice of him to finally admit openly that he's a racist asshole, using the same argument the Klan has used for a good century plus.  Immigrants as a threat to heritage in a country comprised of immigrants who took over by force and imported slaves?  That's some funny stuff right there.

News flash:  Republicans are increasingly becoming the party of Pale Riders.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

As Digby notes, Politico has so far done eighty-four stories on this year's White House Correspondents Dinner Village Nerdprom '10.
This year for some reason was the giddiest I've ever seen the press act publicly about this thing. (For all I know they always behave like fools in private over the stupid thing.) The fans of teen dream Justin Bieber --- who attended by the way --- actually behaved in a much more restrained manner.

The DC press should be embarrassed to be seen by the whole world as giggling school girls but they aren't. They actually think people like this stuff --- they covered it like it was the Oscars and they were the stars. But what Michael Getler says is correct; it's just another way in which they are eroding people's trust in journalism. But then sometimes I think that's the Politico's real mission.
Gotta love that high school echo chamber action.  The Most Important People On Earth get to tell you that they are the Most Important People On Earth.  Even the President has to come and sing and dance for the Gong Show judges that, after all, get to judge the President of the United States on everything he does.  They create the reality of Washington that you read daily.

Our White House press corps have officially been reduced to the gods of high school.  The world literally revolves around them.  And they'll never let  you ever forget it.

Outside that bubble or course the rest of us are either laughing or moaning in disgust.  But they're not even pretending anymore.


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