Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Last Call

Long time West Virginia Democrat Alan Mollohan has basically lost his primary bid tonight.  Mollohan was one of the Stupak Bloc Blue Dogs.  Normally I'd be glad to be rid of someone like him.  But he lost his vote to someone even further to the right on the Blue Dog scale, Sen Mike Oliveiro.  Olivero won a Democratic primary in West Virginia by throwing Obama under the bus in a state where John McCain beat Barack Obama in 2008 by 13 points.

They don't much like Obama in these parts.  Even for a blue state, McCain cruised to victory here.  And Olivero won primarily by attacking the pro health care reform vote of Mollohan.

I'm afraid WV isn't going to be a blue state much longer.  You might as well write off Olivero too, he might actually switch parties to the GOP at the rate he's going to rip into Obama.

Oil's Well That Doesn't End Well For This Oil Well, Part 10

The lowballing of the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe continues.  News outlets are still using the sexy "210,000 gallons a day" number, but that's still the same 5,000 barrels a day figure we've seen for a couple weeks now as the "official" figure.  Getting an official figure is suddenly impossible.

As a result, the media is losing interest in the story.  There's just not pictures of dead seagulls and otters on the short yet.

There will be.  And soon.  The outrage is going to be nasty.  But it may not be soon enough to save the people of Louisiana who are going to lose their livelihoods and any chance of compensation from BP.
Just as Louisiana politicians are about to get an up-close-and-personal look at the BP oil spill (it is approaching the shores an hour's drive from Baton Rouge, the state capital), they are considering a bill to "kneecap" all university environmental-law clinics in the state, which have led the way in challenging the historically cozy relationship between state politicians and the petrochemical industry.

Senate Bill 549 would prohibit clinics that receive any government funding from suing state agencies, companies, or individuals for failing to comply with state or federal laws or for damages (unless the legislature granted an exemption). So "while the Gulf churns with oil and the state mourns the deaths of 11 oil rig workers, the Louisiana legislature is being asked to serve up a favor to the state's petrochemical industry," leaders of the Clinical Legal Education Association (the country's largest association of law teachers) warn in a letter obtained by NEWSWEEK and hand-delivered this morning to Sen. Ann Duplessis, chair of the committee that will hold hearings on the bill next week, May 19. A denial of state funding to a university would essentially cripple it, leaving a school no choice but to close or severely curtail its environmental-law clinic.

Although the bill would apply to clinics doing work in civil litigation, domestic violence, and juvenile law, says CLEA president Robert Kuehn of Washington University School of Law, "the target is clearly environmental-law clinics, especially Tulane's." Indeed, the Louisiana Chemical Association, the trade group of chemical (including petrochemical) companies which got a favored senator to introduce the bill, was quoted in The New York Times last month saying that if law clinics "want to play hardball by trying to kneecap industry," then "we should play hardball and kneecap them with their state appropriations."  
BP knows the magnitude of the disaster coming.  They are trying to now convince red state legislatures to protect them and the industry, and they are pulling every oil and blood-soaked string they have to get the lawmakers on their payroll to make good and shut down any effort to sue the companies. Starting with these environmental law clinics, the mission here is to make sure than anyone that tries anything funny gets crushed by the GOP and the Blue Dogs in Big Oil's pocket.

They've got to hurry.  I figure it's not going to be much longer before the shock of Greek Fire and Gordon Brown's resignation/Elena Kagan wears off, and the Lake Palin story starts getting really horrific footage.  Hearings by Congress today did not go well for the companies involved as BP, Halliburton, and Transocean all blamed each other for the accident.

They know they could be on the hook for billions.  On the other hand, the oil companies are counting on Obama Derangement Syndrome to save them.

43% now say the spill made them less inclined to support drilling while 36% say it didn't make a difference to them one way or the other. Perhaps most surprisingly 21% of voters said the spill made them more likely to support offshore drilling. That includes an even split among GOP voters, 28% of whom said the spill made them more likely to support drilling and 28% of whom said the spill made them less likely to support drilling.

Few voters buy into Rush Limbaugh's conspiracy theory that environmentalists may have been responsible for the spill in an effort to build support for their agenda. Just 9% of voters say they think environmentalists caused the spill while 22% are unsure and 69% don't believe they had anything to do with it. Even among GOP voters only 13% are buying into the 'the environmentalists' did it frame of mind.
"Obama's brownshirts sabotaged the oil rig on purpose!" is the new ACORN/birther/reeducation camps nonsense for 2010, just in time for the election.  It will be irresponsible not to speculate if Obama's Kenyan Mer-Ninjas blew up the rig.  One in four Republicans say we should drill more now and Tom Jensen is surprised by this?  He's surprised by 28% of Republicans saying "Good, let's drill more, we own this damn environment, and screw those goddamn hippie liberals!" Then they'll drive off in their GMC Yukons to the nearest Cabela's.

I'm not surprised in the least.  They hate liberals that much and really don't give a good god damn about the planet, only themselves.

GOP Disappointment In Obama's Lack Of Superpowers

Going back to my rant last week, yet another Republican is suddenly really, really concerned about Lake Palin completely destroying his state.  This time it's GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan of Florida.
Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan came away from a flight over the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this week with at least one overriding concern: "We've got to cap it today."

Buchanan, standing in front of a Gulf of Mexico beach at Siesta Key, said Tuesday at a press conference that a U.S. Coast Guard official told him the runaway Deepwater Horizon well, in the worst case scenario, could pump out 210,000 gallons a day for a minimum of four months.

Buchanan called the disaster "unbelievable and devastating," and expressed concern that the spill, even if it doesn't hit local beaches, will scare away enough tourists to hurt the local economy. 
Cap it today?  With what, exactly?  Obama's Green Lantern ring?  His top-secret Navy experimental fusion sub?  Flubber?  Hey, Vern here didn't have any problems with drill baby drill before as long as it wasn't anywhere off the coast of his district.  Well guess what, Vern?  This oil well wasn't anywhere near your district.  It's still going to destroy your coastline and your economy.  Four months of oil at 210,000 gallons a day is oh, 25 million give or take.  That's the absolute minimum scenario.  If the real flow rate is closer to that million gallons a day mark, then you're in real trouble.  The reality is that we're looking at an order of magnitude worse than Exxon Valdez, or even worse.

And now this dipstick wants the federal government to "cap it today."  Now you need those tax dollars.  Now you need that spending.  Now you need that "fascist" Obama government to use its "tyrant" authority to save you.

Not happening, Vern.  You wanted offshore oil rigs?  You got em.  Now get your ass out there with a mop and bucket and start cleaning.

What Can Brown Do For You?

Resign, apparently.
The UK prime minister resigned Tuesday paving the way for his successor after last week's inconclusive general election.

Gordon Brown said: "My resignation as leader of the Labour Party will take effect immediately."

He announced his intention outside 10 Downing Street -- the prime ministerial residence - before being driven to Buckingham Palace where he formally handed in his resignation to the queen.

Brown said he loved the job of prime minister not for pomp and ceremony, but "for its potential to make this country I love fairer, more tolerant, more green, more democratic, more prosperous and more just." 
Apparently the coalition between the Tories and Lib-Dems means Brown's centrist Labour Party is done.  Most likely this means Tory head David Cameron will be your new UK PM.

Or it could mean Gordo is running as fast as he can away from Greek Fire, too.

Kaganology 103

Via the handy Maddowblog, Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law Professor and professional colleague of Elena Kagan, takes to HuffPo to make the case for her confirmation.
To hear the liberals talk about it, it sounds like they think we need a Thomas or Scalia of the Left. A bold, if sometimes bullying, extremist that marks off clearly the difference between the Left and the Right. Someone we could rally around. A new hero for an ideology too often too afraid to assert itself.

But nobody who understands the actual dynamics of the Supreme Court could actually believe that such a strategy would produce 5 votes. No doubt it would produce brilliant dissents. No doubt it would give the Keith Olbermann's of the world great copy. But it would fail to achieve the single thing we ought to be focusing on: How to build "coalitions," as Massachusetts Chief Justice Margaret Marshall put it to NPR yesterday, of five. Not compromises, not triangulations, but opinions that work hard to cobble from this diverse court a rule of principle that our side could be proud of.

The kind of justice who could do this well is not the justice who goes in with guns blazing. The lesson of Scalia's tenure is one of alienating his most likely friends, not forging strong alliances. Souter, Kennedy, and O'Connor all came to avoid following Scalia's lead by default. He set the extreme. They were not interested in extremes.

Instead, the kind of justice who could do this well is one who was practiced in "listening, before disagreeing," as the President put it yesterday. One who could disarm, through trust and respect, so as to get the other side to at least listen. 
The Double G, Glenn Greenwald, weighs in on his Salon blog as the prosecution against.
The White House has created a "war room" to attack Kagan critics. As Politico noted yesterday, the Kagan announcement -- understandably and revealingly so -- prompted "a stronger opposition from the left than the right." Think about that. Miguel Estrada, whom Democrats blocked from an appellate court position on the ground that he was a right-wing radical, endorsed Kagan for the Court today. A separate article details how numerous progressive legal scholars (who have nothing to do with me) have raised very serious concerns about Kagan's glaring lack of a record and what appears to be her support for at least some core right-wing views of executive power (including ones the Obama White House has adopted).

The White House, for obvious reasons, wants to discredit those raising such concerns. Now that Kagan is Obama's choice, she's the Democratic cause. The entire Democratic Party machinery -- the ossified DC progressive establishment, the Obama army, her friends from Harvard -- will be devoted to aggressively defending her and attacking her critics. This whole debate over Kagan has already broken down along clear tribal lines, and any progressive opposing or even questioning Kagan will be seen as a Traitor to the Cause. And Kagan, having spent the last two decades in academia and as a Democratic official in Washington, has a lot of influential friends. As Marc Ambinder put it: "Kagan is part of the club." She certainly is.

That's all well and good. Aggressively attacking critics is a normal and inevitable part of the process. But if the Democratic Party wants to put someone on the Supreme Court for the next 30 to 40 years about whom so little is known -- even ultimate Court sycophant Tom Goldstein said of Kagan: "The last nominee about whose views we knew so little was David Souter. . . . I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade" -- then others have not just the right, but the duty, to raise concerns and demand more information. Trying to discredit those who do that is how party appartchiks function, and that's fine. But making things up and spouting clear falsehoods definitely isn't.
Both gentlemen have a point, and I encourage you to read both articles.  Kagan is not a blank slate, there are concerns about her jurisprudence or lack thereof, but at the same time she's not a sellout to the Alito-Roberts-Scalia-Thomas wing, either.  It's good to see the debate however, it's healthy and useful.

That New Bipartisan Unanimous Amendment Smell

The Senate just voted 96-0 to audit the Fed on Sen. Bernie Sanders' amendment to the financial regulation bill.
Though the measure was always popular, it faced extraordinary opposition from the White House, Wall Street and the Fed itself. Late last week, in a move that defused the opposition, and may have saved Wall Street reform legislation, Sanders agreed to limit the scope of the audit to emergency lending only, exempting other Fed activities. 

That preserved the broad intent of the plan, which was always aimed at bringing the Fed's shadowy activities during the financial crisis into the daylight. Under the terms of the proposal, the Fed will also be required to make public which companies received upwards of $2 trillion in aide from the Fed, and under what terms.
I trust a bi-partisan, unanimous 96-0 Senate vote about as far as I can roller skate up Mount Everest backwards.   That bold section up there means it's going to be Obama taking the brunt of the heat on this.  Fed makes public all these numbers, GOP will attack.

Might as well attach an amendment declaring all puppies are cute.  Nice bit of showboating though.  Important to note that the same Senate voted down Republican David Vitter's amendment 62-37 that would audit all activities of the Fed.

A Taxing Ordeal, Part 2

The idea that Obama is crushing Americans with taxes is a complete and total fabrication.
Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.
Obama.  Cut.  Taxes.  On.  95%.  Of.  Americans.   This is fact, folks.  You're paying the lowest taxes in sixty years, on average.  no wonder we can't afford social programs.  All that money's been freed up to give to the rich, and they promptly went to the Wall Street casino and screwed all of us.  We have room to raise taxes on the folks making the million-dollar bonuses for betting the economy will fail.
"The idea that taxes are high right now is pretty much nuts," says Michael Ettlinger, head of economic policy at the liberal Center for American Progress. The real problem is spending,counters Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks, which organizes Tea Party groups. "The money we borrow is going to be paid back through taxation in the future," he says.

Individual tax rates vary widely based on how much a taxpayer earns, where the person lives and other factors. On average, though, the tax rate paid by all Americans — rich and poor, combined — has fallen 26% since the recession began in 2007. That means a $3,400 annual tax savings for a household paying the average national rate and earning the average national household income of $102,000.

This tax drop has boosted consumer spending and the economy, which grew at a 3.2% annual rate in the first quarter. It also has contributed to the federal debt growing to $8.4 trillion.
So yeah, like it or not, somebody's going to have to cough up more.  Nobody likes paying more taxes.  But fiscal conservatives who say that you can never raise taxes are unserious, and should be dismissed.  Can't balance a budget without tax revenues, folks.

Unleash Joe Biden, Kaganology Edition

Joe, we love you, you are our hero.
Vice President Joe Biden said on Good Morning America today that Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan "was right" to block military recruiters from Harvard Law School.

While serving as the school's dean, Kagan blocked military recruiters from the campus because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- which Biden called "a very bad policy."

Biden was asked, "She's also raised some eyebrows, of course, well documented, when her time there at Harvard, the way that she banned military recruiters there on campus because of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule. I wanna ask you, not to get into that in particular, but I wanna ask you, was she right or wrong in doing that?"

"Well, she was right," Biden said. "Let me put this quickly in perspective. For 20 years before she came there military recruiters were not allowed on the campus in the same way other recruiters were."
Actually, it's pretty well universal opinion on the left and the right that Kagan was wrong in doing this.  Banning a federal government institution like the military from Harvard really is silly.  Having said that, conservatives want to know why Kagan "hates America and the military" and all that other crap that comes up whenever questioning the Pentagon is involved.  But banning all military recruiters on campus because you don't agree with Don't Ask, Don't Tell is also pretty ham-handed too.  Anyone who wants to join the military is still going to go.

And Biden pretty well stomped in this mudhole, assuring that the GOP will see it as fair game to lay into Kagan.  The problem is DADT of course, but that's a different battle.  Or should be.

Thanks Joe.  You're being helpful like a seven-year old helps with painting the house.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Pop quiz, hot shot.  Who said the following on Elena Kagan's nomination yesterday to the Supreme Court?
“I object to appointment somebody that has no track record. Corporate power is a big one because of the Citizens United decision, and also Miranda. There are a lot of things where it would be helpful to be able to examine past writings.”

“If I was in the Senate, I would vote no, because like Harriet Miers she doesn’t have the judicial experience.”

“Accepting Kagan just because people like Obama is wrong. That’s appropriate for American Idol, not the Supreme Court. Nobody knows what she stands for but him. It’s just a cult of personality with Obama. This is the Supreme Court.”
Orange Julius?  Mitchy?  El Rushbo?  Moose Lady?  Glennsanity?  Bachmanniac?

Wrong on all accounts.  Because Jane Hamsher has gotten so bad on the firebagging (talking to Politico to attack Elena Kagan) that even the Power Line guys are calling her out on it.
In sum, conservatives needed to rely more heavily on President Bush to vouch for Miers' soundness than liberals need to rely on President Obama to vouch for Kagan's. Moreover, Obama is himself a lawyer, whereas Bush is not. Thus, his assessment of ideological soundness is worth more than Bush's was.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, conservatives were able to find evidence that Miers had not consistently been a conservative in the past. It turned out that her speeches during the 1990s revealed significant centrist, and even liberal, tendencies. It was only when these speeches came to light that the tide turned decisively against Miers.

If someone unearths comparable departures from orthodoxy by Kagan, her nomination may suffer the same fate as Miers'. Short of that, she's unlikely to face serious opposition from the serious left. 
Paul Mirengoff as the voice of reason on an Obama SCOTUS nominee, and Jane Hamsher spouting PUMA-era Clinton crap about Obama's "cult of personality".  It's 9 AM and I already need a Bloody Mary and a corned beef sandwich.

Bounce Chat Mort

That's French for "dead cat bounce" kids.  Yesterday's 400 point gain in the Dow and 3-4% gains in European markets are already looking like they're going to completely fall apart as the European Trader has finally figured out what this weekend really means:  unlimited moral hazard!

That's right folks.  You know that the EU is going to now throw hundreds of billions of euros at any EU member that faces problems.  The EU has to create those euros out of thin air, the way we're doing here with the Fed and the dollar.  That means the value of the euro compared to other currencies is going to drop, guaranteedAnd that's as close to a sure bet as you're going to get.  Europe is now betting against the euro itself!  Tyler Durden explains as Eurobanks are pulling a Goldman Sachs.
Zero Hedge has received confirmation that several of the largest French banks are now actively shorting the euro to take advantage of globalized moral hazard, which with every ensuing bailout does nothing but make the bonuses of French FX traders surge. In other words, the very banks that Europe is bailing out are betting more and more aggressively with each passing day against Europe's own survival! Even George Soros has shed a tear of pride in how beautifully his initial plan to take on the BOE has mutated for the Bailout Generation.

And overnight, the traders from the imaginary CMC, and other all too real French banks (and now US hedge funds), are succeeding, as the last traces of this weekend's $1 trillion bailout are long forgotten: futures are plunging, Asia is collapsing, the EURUSD is probing a 1.26 handle and we see it easily going back down to 1.25, even as gold surges.

We anticipate another record bailout to be announced by Europe within the month as Europe now has no other choice. And each subsequent bailout will only lead European banks to bet even more aggressively against the survival of Europe, which destroys more and more European taxpayer capital. Welcome to Global Moral Hazard. 
It really is that simple.  Everyone's betting that the value of the euro is going to continue to crash.  So...the value of the euro continues to crash!  And everyone who's along for the ride is making money hand over fist doing it.  It's a self-fufilling prophecy with good old self-interest generated greed thrown in.  Win-win for the trading houses, lose-lose for everybody else.

Dow Futures are down 100+ right now and falling.  Asian stocks are down 1-2%, Euro stocks are down 2%, and things are going to get fugly from here on out.

The near trillion dollar bailout lasted one day, folks.  Buckle up.

Feeling Randy, Part 8

With a week to go before Kentucky's Senate primaries, last night's GOP candidates' debate was heated and contentious between Rand Paul and Trey Grayson.
During the debate, as throughout the campaign, Grayson accused Paul of changing his stances on abortion, Guantanamo Bay and Iran. Paul deflected the accusations, accusing Grayson of taking him out of context and calling the attacks ”absolute gutter trash”.

“That’s why your campaign is sagging and failing, is because you’ve been intellectually dishonest,” Paul told Grayson. “…You desperately need this job so bad you’ll lie to try to get it.”

Grayson reiterated his message that Paul is out of touch with Kentuckians.

“Rand doesn’t want to go to Washington to fight for our priorities,” he said. “He doesn’t know the priorities of our state. He wants to go fight for folks in California and New York, his donors, his supporters, his dad’s supporters.”

Paul and Grayson also illustrated their policy differences: Paul said he would vote against any budget that isn’t balanced, while Grayson said the $1.4 trillion federal deficit will need to be met gradually over a period of years. Paul said he opposes all earmarks, while Grayson said he favors reforming the earmark system and increasing transparency.
It's interesting to note that the argument basically boiled down to "You're the crazy teabagger trying to pander to the wingnuts, not me!  I've been this way the whole time!"

Look, if elected, Paul's going to be much more of a problem for the GOP than the Democrats.  Grayson's point is that Paul won't be a reliable vote for anything the GOP wants to get done, while Paul's point is that he's a populist reformer trying to change the failed policies of the Reagan/Bush GOP.

The thing is, both men are right, and both men are completely wrong at the same time.


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