Thursday, June 10, 2010

Last Call

There's no doubt in my mind that if John McCain were President right now, we'd be at war with Iran.
My friends: I believe that when we consider the many threats and crimes of Iran’s government, we are led to one inescapable conclusion:  It is the character of this Iranian regime – not just its behavior – that is the deeper threat to peace and freedom in our world, and in Iran. Furthermore, I believe that it will only be a change in the Iranian regime itself – a peaceful change, chosen by and led by the people of Iran – that could finally produce the changes we seek in Iran’s policies.
Even now, though, we hear it said again that Iran’s democratic opposition has been beaten into submission.  And I would not deny that a regime like this one, which knows no limits to its ruthlessness, will achieve many of its goals – for now.  But when Iran’s rulers are too afraid of their own people to tolerate even routine public demonstrations on regime holidays, as they recently have been, that is not a government that is succeeding.  It is the action of criminals who understand that their morally bankrupt regime is now on the wrong side of Iranian history.
To reiterate,  this would have been McCain's Cairo speech last year, and this year with a crumbling economy, the BP oil spill, unemployment near 10% (actually it would be higher as McCain would have vetoed the stimulus) and all our problems, the drumbeat for war would have been daily for the last six months easily.  We would be at war with Iran by now. "Want a job, join the army!" would be his employment program.  Three shooting wars.

That's what we avoided in November 2008.

Oiled Up, Bend Over

Turns out the oil flow estimates are still rather low.  Surprise!
As much as 40,000-plus barrels of oil per day were pouring from BP's ruptured well into the Gulf of Mexico before the latest containment device was fitted, a US official said Thursday, more than doubling the previous government estimate.

"The lowest estimate that we're seeing that the scientists think is credible is probably about 20,000 barrels, and the highest that we're seeing is probably a little over 40,000," Marcia NcNutt, director of the US Geological Survey and chair of a US-government-led flow rate assessment team, told reporters.

The figures -- which estimate the flow rate prior to BP cutting a busted riser pipe June 3 in order to attach a containment device -- are more than double the previous estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day.
"Our scientific analysis is still a work in progress," McNutt said.
Just so you know, 40k barrels of oil a day is 1.68 million gallons.  Multiply that by 52 days, and we're talking 87 million gallons of oil, plus or minus what BP is collecting and what they added to that flow by sawing off the riser pipe to put the cap on.

So, ballpark, we're looking at another 11 million gallon Exxon Valdez level disaster every week until this thing is shut down.  Nobody seems to know how long that will take, either.


Bubble And Squeak

Seems our friends across the pond are a bit cross with us as all the BP bashing is starting to get on their nerves, and the Brits are starting to push back.
The chairman of RSA Insurance Group Plchas written an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama describing his comments towards BP  and its chief executive as "prejudicial and personal.''

In the letter, published on the Sky News website, John Napier said some balance needed to be put back in to the situation and raised the question of double standards in the way it had been dealt with compared with the banking crisis.

"Your comments towards BP and its CEO as reported here are coming across as somewhat prejudicial and personal,'' Napier wrote. "There is a sense here that these attacks are being made because BP is British.''
My good man, we're not angry with BP because it's a British company.  We're mad at BP because it's destroying thousands of miles of coastline, ruining an entire ecosystem, wrecking the economy of multiple Gulf states, and Tony Hayward is a complete jagoff about it.

Granted, you may have a mild point about the whole BP stock being cut in half thing and its effects on British investors...
Investors in Britain were particularly furious about the suggestions that BP should not pay a dividend until it cleaned up the oil spill. BP’s dividend payment accounted for about £1 of every £8 handed out by British companies last year, according to FairPensions, a London-based charity.

Most shareholders rejected concerns that the costs of a cleanup and possible damages could force BP into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and said the drop in the share price is not justified by the value of BP’s assets.

“BP has many problems in the U.S.,” Justin Urquhart Stewart, co-founder of Seven Investment Management in London, said. “One of them is that it has the word British in its title.”
...but shouldn't you be talking to, you know, Tony Hayward and not Barack Obama?

Besides, if this was Iranian Petroleum or Venezualan Petroleum or Mexican Petroleum that caused this mess, you'd have the GOP and more than a few Democrats saying we should invade somebody's friggin country over this.

Really, the Brits are getting off lightly.  Imagine what we'd do to somebody we didn't like.

The Great Wall Of Geithner

The Helicopter Ben and Timmy Show isn't exactly what you would call "accountable" to the American people.  That apparently includes the United States Senate as well.  Throw in the subject of the Senate's ire being China's currency policy and the Fed's refusal to pull China's chain on this -- because they can't, China has all the leverage here -- and you have a recipe for a good old fashioned Beltway turf war.

Democratic and Republican senators alike pilloried Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday for refusing to label China a currency manipulator and for ignoring a congressional mandate to issue a report on China's exchange-rate practices.

Few issues spark bipartisan agreement in Congress like criticism of administrations for refusing to get tough with China over its fixed exchange rate. Critics charge that China sets the yuan at an unfairly low rate against the U.S. dollar, making American products more expensive in China and Chinese products cheaper here, exacerbating the U.S. trade deficit and holding down U.S. export-driven jobs.

"I'm not sure what this administration's policy is ... and I don't see a China economic framework," complained Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., adding that federal agencies lack a cohesive strategy for dealing with China.

The top Republican on the panel, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, needled Geithner about earlier remarks from President Barack Obama — made during Geithner's confirmation hearings — that he thought that China manipulated its currency to get a home field advantage. The Treasury chief repeatedly dodged questions about whether Obama still thinks that.

"So what does President Obama believe? You've had discussions with him," an exasperated Grassley asked, failing to get a firm answer.

Geithner repeatedly responded that the Obama administration is pressing China to level the playing field by opening its markets to international trade. He said that pressure from the U.S. government and others had helped China agree to modify its "indigenous innovation" policy, which protected some of its domestic manufacturers from competition but harmed U.S. exports and American firms that operate in China.
The reality is that the Senate can huff and puff all it wants to, but if the US decides to push the currency war with China right now, it's going to be a disaster.  China can afford to call in our markers if they so choose.  We can't.  That's the bottom line, and both Helicopter Ben and Timmy damn well know it.  For once, I'm backing the Glimmer Twins here over the Senate.  Pissing China off right now would assure we end up in that double-dip recession and it would happen overnight.

Long term we need to get out of China's back pocket, but it's going to be a long crawl to get there.

Will Orange Julius Bail Out BP?

It certainly looks like John Boehner wants the American taxpayer to subsidize the clean-up effort in the Gulf.  Brian Beutler reports:
"I think the people responsible in the oil spill--BP and the federal government--should take full responsibility for what's happening there," Boehner said at his weekly press conference this morning.

Boehner's statement followed comments last Friday by US Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue who said he opposes efforts to stick BP, a member of the Chamber, with the bill. "It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game," he said. "Everybody is going to contribute to this clean up. We are all going to have to do it. We are going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies and we will figure out a way to do that."

So today I asked Boehner, "Do you agree with Tom Donohue of the Chamber that the government and taxpayers should pitch in to clean up the oil spill?" The shorter answer is yes.
Really?  I wonder how the Tea Party candidates are going to view sticking the American taxpayer with the clean up bill.  I'd like to ask them if they agree with their party's House leader.

And hey look, Orange Julius is already walking this one back as far as he can now that somebody in his press office figured out what he said.
John Boehner spokesman Michael Steel emails to say Boehner does not believe that the government should be on the hook for the cost of the oil spill.
"Boehner made a general statement about who is responsible for the spill, and the federal government oversight was clearly lacking, but he has said repeatedly that BP is responsible for the cost of the cleanup," Steele writes, pointing me to a Boehner statement from May 3, several days after the spill began.
"The White House must ensure that BP bears the entire financial burden to clean up this disaster. Not a dime of taxpayer money should be used to clean up their mess."
And yet Orange Julius's first instinct is to saddle the American taxpayer with another bailout for their corporate buddies.  That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to them for the last several decades.  He also doesn't believe that BP's liability post-cleanup for everyone that this spill has affected should be more than $75 million...which is what BP's worldwide operations take in in about an hour or so considering the grossed over $200 billion last year in revenues.

Keep going there, OJ.

Meanwhile, Ben Smith Is Laughing His Ass Off

Greg Sargent reports on the aftermath of the whole "Labor threw $10 million down the drain"crack on Bill Halter's campaign from the anonymous White House official this week.
Representing the White House at the meeting, which is currently underway at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, are top advisers Patrick Gaspard and Jen O'Malley. On the labor side are AFL-CIO's political directors.

Here's what's going down as we speak, according to a source who is present. Labor officials pointedly told the White House reps that they stood by their effort in Arkansas and were proud of it, and that they would continue making endorsement decisions not according to the letter next to the incumbent's name, but solely on who was better for their members.

In response, Gaspard, the White House official with perhaps the deepest roots in labor, assured those present that he understood that unions should remain independent. He asked the labor officials not to let one comment foul up relations between labor and the White House.

Gaspard also assured those assembled that he understood that labor's first responsibility is to their members.

So it looks like the White House does regret dumping on labor after all, and does understand that the judicious move here is to walk back the criticism and insults, if only in private. More as I learn it.
First of all, whoever said this in the first place probably deserves to be the ass that Obama needs to kick.  I understand he's looking for one.  It was a stupid thing to say and whoever did crap it out needs to own up to it, real simple.  But that's not the real issue.

Political bedfellows make-up sex aside, the bigger problem of course is Politico's Ben Smith is rapidly becoming the Matt Drudge of 2010 (and that's not a good thing, as currently we have at least 75 gazillion Matt Drudges too many).  He's the one that dropped this story and he's got to be thrilled sitting in his big chair in his volcano lair while plotting what other world domination he can try this week as the Village and the White House chase his laser pointer around like a Jack Russell Terrier on crystal meth.

Basically an anonymous, unsourced quote has driven the entire post-primary media narrative this week.  That's a problem, folks.  But then again, what do you expect from the Super Soaker Squad?

The Day In Hoffmania

We go to Florida, where today's example of a Teapublican loony smacking around the hand-picked GOP primary candidate is a particularly good one.
The new Quinnipiac poll in Florida shows that former healthcare executive Rick Scott's right-wing campaign for governor is having a serious impact -- he now leads the establishment GOP candidate state Attorney General Bill McCollum, in the Republican primary.

The numbers: Scott 44%, McCollum 31%. The survey of likely GOP primary voters has a ±3.4% margin of error. At the same time, 59% of primary votes who expressed a choice also said that their minds could potentially change, with that number spread evenly across both candidates' supporters.

Scott has been spending heavily on the race, focusing on illegal immigration and opposition to President Obama's health care reform law. From the pollster's analysis: "In addition to being a testament to the power of television, Scott's ability to take the lead so quickly is also a reflection on McCollum's lack of strong support within his own party despite his two decades in Florida politics."
Scott is about the worst guy possible to run for the GOP, a former health insurance exec who got busted for Medicare fraud running on "let the insurance companies control the market, you can trust us."  He's been trying to buy off the public ever since.

It's working for the primary at least.  Scott has a pretty solid lead.  For the general?  If he wins the primary, he's going to get to test the "Americans favor repeal" theory once and for all.

If It's Thursday...

Jobless claims down 3k to 456k, continuing claims however down big, over 250k to 4.46 million.  That last number there is bad, because it means fewer and fewer people are eligible for unemployment.

Not a good sign.

The Real Deal Appeal Of Repeal, Part 5

Tim Kaine and the DNC are pretty confident that health care reform legislation is growing on the American people.  While the Tea Party crowd is screaming for repeal and defunding, the GOP leadership has been skating around the point.

Now the Dems are taunting the Republicans and daring them to play the repeal card.  TPM's Christina Bellantoni:
Democrats on Thursday will launch a new 60-second ad on national cable television accusing repeal-happy Republicans of wanting to get rid of health care reform and all its benefits. The ad, obtained by TPMDC, is timed to coincide with the government mailing to seniors the first $250 Medicare rebate checks fixing the so-called prescription drug "donut hole."

The ad is titled "We Can't Afford To Go Back." It outlines the positive parts of the health care law signed by President Obama this spring and charges, "Republicans want to take it all away."
I've learned that DNC Chairman Tim Kaine on Thursday will dare Republicans to make repeal the focus of their fall campaign to try and win back control of Congress, challenging the GOP to tell senior citizens and others benefiting from health care exactly which parts of the reform law they'd scrap.
Yeah, defunding the donut hole checks and allowing insurance companies to drop your coverage based on pre-existing conditions.  I bet millions of people are lining up to see that happen.  Repeal's a loser and the GOP knows is, and it's exactly because of ads like this.  The Dems are opening up with both barrels on this and that's smart politics.

So go ahead, Republicans.  Run on taking all that away.

She Won't Even Blanche At The Thought

So the theory is that progressives can take heart from Bill Halter's narrow loss to Blanche Lincoln in this week's primary because it forced Lincoln to move to the left and to introduce legislation to strengthen financial reform by regulating derivatives in order to capture the base, who saw her as too close to big corporations (because that of course is true).  We made her more progressive, goes the line.  That's good.

Which is the funniest damn thing I've heard in weeks.  First of all, even the Democratic pollsters are saying Lincoln has no friggin chance in the general, and second and more importantly, the banksters are happily checking their smartphones regularly waiting for the good news that Lincoln's derivatives deal is dead.  CNBC's John Carney is quite pleased.
Lincoln took up a hard line on Wall Street to fend off a challenge from the left. Unions and other liberal groups were backing Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in his primary challenge. The crack down on derivatives was an attempt by Lincoln to show that she could get tough on Wall Street.

Now that the primary challenge is behind her, she may be willing to compromise on the language, according to several senior executives at banks that have been attempting to gauge the direction of the financial reform negotiations. All asked that I not name them or their companies, for fear of political backlash.

“This was all about the primary. Now that that’s done, she doesn’t need to fight for it. And without her fighting, that provision will die,” said one banker who has been in close contact with Capitol Hill and Obama administration. 

The banks have several strong allies on Capitol Hill when it comes to diluting the Lincoln provision. House Financial Services Committee chair Barney Frank is not in favor of the provision. Nor is Senate Banking Committee chair Chris Dodd. FDIC head Shelia Bair and Fed chief Ben Bernanke are also reportedly opposed.
It could be the banks are gloating again because they always do.  But the fact that Frank, Dodd, Bair and Helicopter Ben all hate this idea is a pretty good indication the White House isn't going to mind letting this die...and neither is Lincoln.  If Lincoln's derivatives regulation really was the difference that kept her in the game in the primary and gave her the win (and it might very well be) then Arkansas got played like an Ozark Mountain Fiddle Jamboree.

But I fully expect this derivatives thing to die quietly, unremarked and not mourned a bit by those that created it.  It's something progressives might want to keep in mind next time.


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