Friday, June 11, 2010

Last Call

At some point, the people of Minnesota are going to have to admit to themselves that Michele Bachmann is just too damn embarrassing to represent them in Congress.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said that she could take out President Obama if she were ever caught in the mind-boggling and improbable scenario of engaging the nation's leader in a physical fight.
Bachmann touted her toughness in an interview Thursday with Ben Shapiro of
SHAPIRO: I want to ask you, speaking of his violent language, and he's been brutal on BP, talking about putting his boot on the throat of BP, talking about how he wants to go down there and kick someone's ass -- frankly, Michele, I think you could take President Obama, off the record. 
BACHMANN: Hey, I took karate when I was 17 years old, I am dangerous.
Oh, it gets worse.
"The only thing is people wish Barack Obama was up for re-election right now, because they'd honestly love to have a chance to throw him out of office," Bachmann said. "Everywhere I go, people ask me, "Michele, can we impeach the president? They want a referendum on him."
The woman is a joke.  She casually talks about impeaching the President for no good reason other than she disagrees with him.  That's the kind of "democracy" she wants.

Luckily, the people of Minnesota get to have a referendum on Michele Bachmann first.

To Leak Or Not To Leak

The story of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is getting pretty Tom Clancy-like here.  Wikileaks is the site that broke the story of a military video from a US Apache helicopter showing two Reuters journalists killed back in April.  The Defense Department tracked down the military source of that video, an Army intel analyst named Bradley Manning, who was arrested at his base in Iraq earlier this week.

Here, the story gets really, really weird.  The Pentagon believes Manning leaked a hell of a lot more than just that video, and they want to stop Wikileaks before they potentially compromise US national security.  That means the DoD wants to have a little chat with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast.

The officials acknowledge that even if they found the website founder, Julian Assange, it is not clear what they could do to block publication of the cables on Wikileaks, which is nominally based on a server in Sweden and bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers.
The cables themselves, as you can guess from Manning being in Iraq, are of the very sensitive "involving our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan" kind of thing.
As The Daily Beast reported June 8, Manning, while posted in Iraq, apparently had special access to cables prepared by diplomats and State Department officials throughout the Middle East, regarding the workings of Arab governments and their leaders, according to an American diplomat.

The cables, which date back over several years, went out over interagency computer networks available to the Army and contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the diplomat said.

American officials would not discuss the methods being used to find Assange, nor would they say if they had information to suggest where he is now. "We'd like to know where he is; we'd like his cooperation in this," one U.S. official said of Assange.
In other words, these cables date back to the Bush years, and if wikileaks does drop this little nuke, it could seriously harm our ongoing relations with, oh, let's say everybody.

I've seen arguments on both sides of this.  On one side, if Bush and Cheney (and yes, even Obama and Hillary) cut some sort of really horrible deal with Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. then the American people need to know about it.

On the other hand, we kinda do have a couple hundred thousand US troops in the way right now, and if these cables are as bad as people are saying they are, then our troops could be in real trouble.  (I mean more than they already are, being in what amounts to a permanent war zone.)

As much as I despise the wars, pragmatic reality is that should these cables be really, really damning to the point of destabilizing what remains of the governments of Iraq, Afghanistan and especially nuclear-armed Pakistan, we could be in a hell of a lot of trouble.

The ends do not justify the means.  The didn't when Bush was President, they don't now.

World Cupdate

South Africa opened play as the host country in Group A action in the 2010 FIFA World Cup with a surprising 1-1 tie with Mexico, and that was only because a late equalizer saved Mexico.  Meanwhile, France's Les Bleus Les Blew it and just couldn't get anything done in the second Group A match, drawing 0-0 with Uruguay in an ugly game.

Host team has got to be feeling good after today, drawing up Mexico like that.

Tomorrow:  Group B, S. Korea vs Greece and the Gauchos take on Nigeria, and the Big Match for us in Group C in the late game, England vs the U.S.

If You Walk Down The Middle Of The Road...

...eventually you'll get flattened by a semi truck.  The voters in Arkansas are driving that truck in 2010, and Blanche Lincoln is skipping down the center line, seemingly oblivious.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) may have hoped she'd put the primary behind her, but it will continue to haunt her for weeks to come. Now that she's running full-time in the general election against Rep. John Boozman, Lincoln is once again shoring up her right flank, tiptoeing away from the rhetoric she used to defeat Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. The results are...awkward.

For instance, in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Lincoln tried to dispel the notion that she cast the deciding vote for health care reform, which remains unpopular in Arkansas.

"I wasn't the deciding vote," Lincoln said. "I was among a handful of five Democrats that worked on getting consensus."

There's some truth to that. But where did the Democrat-Gazette get the notion that Lincoln tipped health care into the Democrats' win column? From Blanche Lincoln, who in the below ad said, " I grew up in an Arkansas family where we were taught to solve problems, not through hate and anger, but by coming together and getting something done. That's why I cast the deciding vote to pass health care reform."
No really, that's exactly what her "I'm a good Democrat!" primary ad says.

And less than 4 days after the primary, Blanche Lincoln is already running away as far as possible from her health care reform vote after claiming she was the person that cast the deciding vote. Democrat or not, that's pretty scuzzy.

Not going to be particularly sorry to see her lose in November either. 

Play It Again, Orange Julius

Stop the presses!  John "Orange Julius" Boehner has solved the country's financial problems with a seemingly brilliant plan:  more tax cuts like the ones that ruined our economy and added trillions to our debt in the first place.  Brian Beutler calls shenanigans:
"You equate the idea of lowering marginal tax rates with less revenue for the federal government," Boehner cautioned. "We've seen over the last 30 years that lower marginal tax rates have led to a growing economy, more employment, and more people paying taxes. And if you look at the revenue growth over those 30 years, you've got a prime example of what we've been talking about."

This is practically the reverse of the truth. In the years after the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush tax cuts, economic growth and employment were significantly lower than they were after Bill Clinton's 1993 tax increases. According to Michael Ettlinger and John Irons of the Center for American Progress, "Over the seven-year periods after each legislative action, average annual growth was 3.9 percent following [Clinton's 1993 tax increase], 3.5 percent following [Reagan's 1981 tax cut], and 2.5 percent following [Bush's 2001 tax cut]."

But beyond the factual contradiction, Boehner appeared to be in denial about the real impact of the Bush tax cuts. Another reporter followed up: "Are you saying that the Bush tax cuts didn't effect the deficits that we're in now?"

Boehner halted for a moment, then shrugged: "The reductions in '01 and '03 were to respond to an economic problem. '01 was done before 9/11. '03 was done in response to what happened to the economy. But that's not what led to the budget deficit. It's not the marginal tax rates. If you look at the problem that we've got here, it's a spending problem, that has grown over the last five or six years. A real spending problem. "
I've got news for you there OJ, the "spending problem" is your "Bush Tax Cuts" problem.

The Bush tax cuts got us into this mess. MORE tax cuts will not get us out. Besides, listening to the economic theories that created this mess and then repeating those same mistakes seems like a pretty stupid idea if you think about it. What kind of shape would our economy be in if we weren't still bogged down in two wars and dealing with Bush's multi-trillion dollar gift to his buddies?

Only now, the Serious Washington Centrist have decided that somebody needs to pay for it through massive spending cuts.

PS, the massive spending cuts aren't going to affect the people who can afford to live without them.

That Deflated Feeling

Hey look, after folks like myself and the Kroog and Roubini and anyone who's been paying attention to the economic situation at hand here, even the Wall Street Journal's cementheads have figured out that the problem is not inflation, it's deflation and it always has been.
Deflation makes it harder for consumers, businesses and governments to pay off debts. Principal repayments on debt are fixed but deflation is marked by falling incomes, so as deflation sets in the burden of paying off old debts gets greater.

Officials fret about deflation because it is hard to stop. Interest rates are already near zero in the U.S. and elsewhere, so policy makers can't use the traditional tool of rate cuts to spur growth and stop deflation.

That's an acute worry today. In addition to government debt, U.S. households are still trying to work off large debt burdens built up in the last two decades. A Federal Reserve report Thursday showed households cut their borrowings in the first quarter to $13.5 trillion, down from a peak of $13.9 trillion in 2008.

One leading indicator, Ireland, which has already experienced deflation amid severe fiscal austerity, reported Thursday that consumer prices were down 1.1% from a year earlier in May, though the declines have moderated in the past few months.

In the U.S. the threat looks more remote, but economists are beginning to warn that if the recovery falters, the risk of a deflation bout will increase.

In one sign of rising alertness to the threat, yields on 10-year Treasury bonds—which fall when inflation worries recede and rise when inflation worries increase—have dropped from nearly 4% in early April to about 3.3%.
We can't cut interest rates to stimulate the economy because we're already at zero.  Demand is dropping due to increasing unemployment.  Increasing unemployment is making people nervous and they are buying less stuff...hence a decrease in demand, prices have to be pushed down, and deflation rears its ugly head.

We're at the point where government spending to defibrillate the economy is the last resort.  Yes, this will mean raising short-term deficits.  We have to put money back into the economy because so much wealth has been removed by falling real estate prices and the banks losing trillions more playing the Big Casino.  This is going to mean more spending is necessary, or we're going to lock up like an engine without any oil.

If even the WSJ is talking about deflation, then you know it's a concern to the big players in the financial world.  The pushback against the deficit hawks is beginning, and not a moment too soon.  Let's hope that the Democrats are listening.

Every Little Bit Helps

The good news: a California company says it can manufacture a powder that will soak up oil and wants to know why BP and the government hasn't tapped it for help.
The company, Mobius Technologies, grinds foam from desk chairs and car seats into a powder. Applied to oil, the powder — called micronized polyurethane powder — quickly absorbs the oil and forms a cake that floats on water indefinitely.

"We're just the best sorbent solution that hasn't been applied," said Mobius manager Brian Hennessy.

The company submitted its idea to BP online several weeks ago but hasn't received a response. BP spokesman Mark Proegler said it received 80,000 such suggestions from the public. He said he hadn't heard of Mobius.

Now the company has enlisted the help of Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, who is backing its push to get its powder tested by BP for possible use in the gulf. Matsui wrote a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson on Monday urging Jackson to look into BP's lack of response.
The bad news: given the 80 million plus gallons out there in the Gulf now, it's going to take 160 million pounds of this power to sop up all the oil.  They don't have nearly that much.
Mobius said it has 2 million pounds of the powder in warehouses that could reach the gulf within five days. That amount would soak up about 1 million gallons of oil – or roughly 25,000 barrels, Hennessy said.

The company can produce 1 million pounds every 10 days after that, said its media director Michael Cudahy.
This thing is blasting out at least that much oil per day.  Slurping up the oil into floating bricks of yellow sytrofoam would be a great idea if we had, oh, another 80,000 tons of the stuff.

Still, every bit has to help and it has to be better than allowing this stuff to hit the coast.

I hope.  The really obnoxious part is that we're down to plan Z here on the cleanup, which is "throw everything we have at this crap and pray".  Doesn't the fact we have to rely on this type of technology mean we have to invest far more in safely drilling, and even more than that in getting off oil period?

Dumber Than A Bag Of Hammers

Via the Rumpies, meet Darren Wesley Huff, America's newest example of yet another right-wing birther-obsessed gun-toting moron trying to take his armed Obama Derangement Syndrome revenge out on an entire Georgia town.
Armed to the gills, this Georgia militiaman declared himself ready to die for the cause - vowing to seize control of the tiny town of Sweetwater and round up the traitors blocking the indictment of President Barack Obama for his treasonous turn as commander-in-chief.

It was a plan Darren Wesley Huff revealed over and over again to a slew of people, from a bank manager in his hometown to the FBI to Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers to a talk-radio audience.

Thanks in large part to his public confessions, Huff faces his own indictment on federal charges of ferrying guns and ammunition across state lines with the purpose of inciting riotous violence.

The man who Huff said inspired him to act - Monroe County resident and "sworn Obama enemy" Walter Fitzpatrick - also faces indictment in state court.
Yeah, this joker went around telling everyone he could find that he was plotting to take over the town and die for his cause doing so.  It gets worse:
It all started last year when Fitzpatrick, a retired military man whose beef with the government goes back two decades when he faced a court-martial, tried to get a Monroe County grand jury to indict Obama for treason. The grounds? Obama, Fitzpatrick contended, was not really born in the U.S.

When the grand jury refused to consider the case, Fitzpatrick began issuing a series of "complaints," naming some two dozen federal, state and local officials, all of whom he accused of misconduct for failing to arrest, charge or remove the president from office.

He and fellow "birthers" showed up in early April at the Monroe County Courthouse to begin effecting his own "citizen's arrests" when, according to the FBI complaint, he wound up arrested instead on charges that include inciting a riot.

The FBI alleges Huff, a Dalton, Ga., man who claims membership in a militia, decided to join Fitzpatrick's cause and told anyone who would listen - including FBI agents - that he and fellow militiamen intended to show up at Fitzpatrick's April 20 preliminary hearing to seize the town if necessary to free Fitzpatrick and help him carry out his citizen's arrests.
And there's plenty more idiots out there like Huff that have become so deranged that they are now a danger to themselves and others, people that had no problem with Bush's illegal wiretapping of Americans or his two wars or torturing people are willing to now martyr themselves to get Barack Obama out of the White House.

You know, there's a word we have for people who try to incite changes in government policy through campaigns of armed resistance and martyrdom to show loyalty to their cause.  We just refuse to apply the word "terrorist" to Americans who want to do it.

When I say America has a serious domestic terrorism problem, this is exactly what I mean.

Running The Numbers

Via BooMan, the LA Times has some preliminary 2009 numbers ahead of the 2010 Census and they show the Republicans are in real electoral trouble over the next decade or so.
Minorities now make up about 35% of the population in the United States, an increase of 5% from 2000, reflecting demographic changes seen most powerfully in the Golden State.

"More of the country is going to be like California," said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. Minorities make up 57% of the population in California.
If you don't believe that's got the Republicans scared out of their minds, look at the Oval Office right now.  The strategy of demonizing minorities as not being "real Americans" is going to backfire in an incredible way against the GOP, and sooner than people think:
In 42 states, numbers show a loss of non-Hispanic whites under age 45. Nationally, this group declined by 8.4 million.

In contrast, the number of states in which the majority of children under 15 are minorities has increased, with Florida, Maryland, Georgia and Nevada bringing the number of such states to 10.

Much of the nation's demographic change is seen among children. In California, minorities make up 72% of those under age 15. In 2000, they made up 65%.

Nationally, 46% of children under 15 are minorities, compared with 40% in 2000.

In 2000, the District of Columbia and three states — Hawaii, New Mexico and California — had minority populations which exceeded 50%. In 2009, Texas joined that group.
We're already seeing that Georgia, Nevada, Florida and Maryland are starting to get very competitive in national elections, along with states like North Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado.  But the fact that Texas is now a majority minority state has got to knock the blocks out from under the national GOP.  Arizona's "papers, please" law couldn't have come at a worse time for the Republicans.  Yes, it's going to help them in 2010 and probably 2012.  After that?  The downhill slope into the dustbin of history gets really steep, really fast.
Among Latinos, there are nine births for every one death, according to census data. For whites, the ratio is 1-1. "That's a huge difference," Stoll said.
There's a reason why Republicans are trying to blow a hole in the 14th Amendment's Citizenship clause, people.  It's because without eliminating the citizenship (and therefore right to vote) of the next generation of Latinos, the GOP becomes a Southern and Rocky Mountain regional party at best.  They've gone all in on this one and there's no other way out.

The Republicans damn well know it, too.

StupidiNews Focus: Message Pitch Edition

Indeed, the Senate defeated GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski's bid to strip the EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases.  It would have been vetoed if it passed anyway be President Obama.  Why do it?  Digby reminds us the point was a message pitch:  the 53 votes that defeated this bill is far, far short of the 60 needed to stop a GOP filibuster on climate change legislation and they are letting Obama know there are more than enough Democratic senators who will backstab the President on this should they even try to pass it...and let's not forget the energy industry is still very powerful in this country.
There seems to be some confusion as to why the Republicans would introduce this clean air bill they know can't pass a presidential veto, but it isn't really all that hard to figure out. Republicans often do this when there's a Democrat in the White House to highlight the differences with the administration and draw contrasts with the Democrats, even though they know they will lose. It also shows fealty to their Big Money donors and tells their base that they are "principled."

They see value in waging battles for their own sake (something that the Village only criticizes when it's Democrats doing it.) They are, essentially, fighters who appeal to other fighters.

In this case, they may be overplaying their hand, but I think what's really happening is that we are beginning to see the oil industry really pushing back hard.
The message is clear:  the President going after BP for this oil spill means the energy companies are done with this whole green legislation thing for good.  They see the President's assault on Tony Hayward as Obama's breach of negotiating faith, because frankly they really don't give a damn about the oil spill.  Accidents happen, why is Obama making a big deal about it?

So now the energy companies are hitting back.  No climate legislation for you.  Not now, not ever...and we've got enough money to make sure you never have the 60 votes.  It's not tilting at windmills, it's an ultimatum from the people really in charge.

Indeed, the Kerry-Lieberman bill is most likely dead in the water...along with millions of Gulf Cost fish.

The people responsible for giving the energy companies all this money and the power that goes with it?  You and me.  Think about that.


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