Sunday, June 27, 2010

Last Call

Awesome. Let's pay for debtors' prisons instead of getting people jobs in an economy with ten percent unemployment.

It keeps getting better.

The Kroog Versus Harvey

Paul Krugman talks G-20, Austerity Hysteria, and the rate of insanity.
But even stranger, in a way, is the power of invisible bond market friends, who will reward you if you just scourge yourself hard enough. Consider this article in Reuters, which tells us that
A market backlash against countries seen to be dragging their feet on cutting debt and deficits has sparked budget cutbacks all over Europe as governments try to rein in spending.
This seems to imply that countries that haven’t dragged their feet have been rewarded, right? And this is often reported as something that has, in fact, happened — because it’s what’s supposed to happen.

But the rewards to austerity remain, well, invisible. Ireland’s risk spreads are worse than Spain’s, even though Ireland wasted no time on self-flagellation while Spain hesitated. Market confidence in Greece has declined since the government accepted the IMF austerity plan.

Strange: it’s as if bond markets don’t believe that short-term pain that doesn’t improve your long-run budget prospects, but does lead to depression and deflation, makes you a safe bet. But I’ve got an invisible 6-foot rabbit over here who says they’re wrong. Hello, Mr. Smith.
Sadly, it seems the G-20 has gone all in on cutting spending across the board.
Leaders of the world's most important economies agreed to ambitious targets for getting deficits under control, pledging to cut them in half by 2013, according to a statement made following the G-20 summit this weekend in Toronto. 
Republicans here of course will demand more, much more...and they will demand those cuts all come from spending.  The results will be another Hoover 1937 style plunge into the economic abyss.  The suffering will be brutal.

But it will come.

World Cupdate

The Round of 16 continued Sunday with Germany at England, two old foes who have tangled many times in the past.  The Three Lions went 4-4-2 back to front with Jermain Dafoe and the so far less than impressive Wayne Rooney up front, while the Germans went with a more defensive 4-2-3-1 formation now that their star man Miroslav Klose was off booking suspension.  The conflict immediately turned into a wrestling match with the Germans playing brutally physical ball and the Brits responding in kind, but Wayne Rooney was trying far too hard to be the hero and started making mistakes...mistakes like forgetting to defend and pick up Miroslav Klose, who belted in one at 20'.  A follow-up score by Podolski shattered the England D, and suddently the Three Lions were looking more like paper tigers.  Klose and company dominated the first half in possession, quality, and shots taken.  England finally got it together long enough to counterattack with Upson getting a goal at 37', and the game was truly on.  The second half was a British assault as they threw everything they had at the German machine to dismantle it, and for at least 20 minutes Britain looked like they would equalize at any time.  All the more shame when Thomas Muller put in not one goal at 67' for the Germans but a second at 70', utterly decimating the Brits and leaving them broken on the pitch.  England's defenders just weren't up to the game that Klose and Muller were playing and they tore the Three Lions to shreds.  Germany's 4-1 decisive win had to weigh heavily on the minds of both Argentina and Mexico playing the late game to see who would get the honor of being fed to Klose and company next.

Meanwhile Argentina and Mexico faced off in the late game with La Albicelestes fronting a 4-4-2 back to front with Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain leading, while Mexico went with an more offensive 4-3-3 plan with Hernandez, Dos Santos and Bastita on the attack.  From the get go it was clear that Mexico came to play, but it was Argentina on top earlywith a Carlos Tevez goal that should have been called offsides at 25'.  No sooner had El Tri stopped grumbling about that gift of a goal then they let in another this time Higuain at 33'.  Mexico was playing better but were getting destroyed.  El Tri tried to rally but Argentina simply closed down the lanes and starved Mexico out for the rest of the half.  The second half found Tevez putting the exclamation point on the game with a ripper at 52'.  Mexico tried to claw back in it and pushed forward, finally getting on the board at 71' with an outstanding touch and blast move that stunned both defender and keeper.  Time more the enemy now than anything else, El Tri drove forward to try to complete the comeback and very nearly scored again at 81', but Argentina simply waited out the clock and took the easy 3-1 victory.  Argentina will face Germany for the second quarterfinal spot.

Last Day Of Term

The Supreme Court's final day of the 2009-2010 term is Monday, and it means Justice Stevens will have his last day on the court then.  Two major rulings are expected Monday as well, one which could end Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules, and the other could mean the end of virtually all local and state handgun control laws, leaving only national ones.
At issue is whether the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) violated the U.S. Constitution's separation of powers principle, because board members are not appointed by the president.

At stake in the case is how corporate America is audited and a key provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform law adopted in 2002 in response to the Enron and WorldCom accounting scandals.

If the Supreme Court strikes down the board, the ruling will put pressure on Congress to revisit the law, opening it up for potential changes in the reporting duties of companies.

Susan Hackett, senior vice president and general counsel of the Association of Corporate Counsel, cited the current anti-corporate sentiment and said the ruling could result in broad changes in the law by Congress.

"It is conceivable that the re-proposed legislation would become a Christmas tree on which every ornament of corporate reform and governance will be hung," she said.

The law's defenders told the Supreme Court the board has led to substantial progress in meeting the goal of Congress of improving the quality of audits and increasing investor confidence.

In the gun rights case, even gun control advocates said they expect the Supreme Court to strike down Chicago's 28-year-old handgun ban.

They said they also expect the court to extend its landmark 2008 ruling that individual Americans have a constitutional right to own guns to all the cities and states.
The rulings, if they come down as expected from the Roberts Court, will be major victories for corporations and the gun lobby, as the courts would enshrine the second amendment as meaning that no law can abridge the constitutional right for anyone to own a firearm...possibly even striking a challenge to federal gun control laws as well.

Tomorrow may make America a considerably different place.

Sunday Funnies: It's The McSame Old Spy Games Edition

Ahh Bobblespeak Translations, how you make sense of the chaos...
Tapper: the USA is the greatest country in the
world - so of course we are threatened in every corner of the globe

Panetta: of course

Tapper: this has been the deadliest month ever
for NATO forces - what the hell is going in Afghanistan Leon?

Panetta: lots of heroin production Tapper

Tapper: but what about our military efforts?

Panetta: we have 150,000 troops to go after
15 guys in Al Qaeda there

Tapper: that seems like overkill

Panetta: well it won’t work anyway - it’s all up
to the people of Afghanistan to embrace
the US empire

Tapper: will they?

Panetta: things are getting less worse

Tapper: is the Taliban stronger than when
Obama took office?

Panetta: well sure - but on the bright side we
killed that fascist weirdo who went around
dressed as a woman

Tapper: Rudy Giuliani?

Panetta: damm right
I laugh because I care.

The Unkindest Cuts

Let's remember that the point of Austerity Hysteria is that the wealth redistribution in this country from 300,000,000 Americans to a handful of a couple of thousand oligarchs cannot be completed as long as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid still exist.  The goal is to cut or eliminate them, along with as many other social programs as possible.  D-Day reports on the latest efforts to convince America to slit it own throat, and how it is meeting resistance.
The America Speaks meetings held in 19 cities across the country today, funded to the tune of $1 billion dollars by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, were a study in how subtle messaging and deficit hyping can mold and shape opinions that move the public toward right-wing solutions about slashing social spending. Despite an insistence of neutrality, organizers of this series of town hall meetings allowed their agenda to show through, particularly in their presentation of options for how to deal with the nation’s fiscal future. But attendees in Los Angeles and around the country weren’t totally buying it in the first half of the meeting.
The Peterson Foundation is dedicated to balancing the budget by eliminating as much spending as possible, and starting with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  And they have a whole hell of a lot of money to try to convince us that if that doesn't happen, America will be destroyed.  They have a plan and they are executing it.
“Everything must be on the table,” said David Walker, and while everything certainly was at the meeting, it was tilted in a particular direction. The meeting was designed to provide an outline of the fiscal challenges of the nation, and offer solutions for how to meet it. But all the solutions were very prescribed and very narrow. An authoritative “Options Workbook” sets out potential budget solutions, on the spending and revenue side. 28 pages cover spending cuts, 15 pages cover revenue solutions. And the very first pages of the workbook talk about cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

While the workbook has pages and pages describing the health care system, the final menu of solutions simply list amounts of percentage cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, without mentioning how to achieve those cuts. The options to “achieve savings” in the program include means-testing, raising deductibles and co-pays, increasing the Medicare eligibility age, limiting Medicaid eligibility and voucher-izing Medicare. There are no progressive solutions nor is there anything close to the potential savings achieved in the Affordable Care Act, things like health IT and bundled payments and increased efficiency.

On Social Security, a more precise menu of options is offered, but so is a drastic description of the solvency of the program, without one mention of the trillions of dollars of surplus in the Social Security trust fund. The options in the workbook include raising the retirement age, cutting benefits through indexing or straight cuts, raising the payroll tax, raising the “limit of taxable earnings” (but not just eliminating the limit) and “creating personal savings accounts within the system,” the language of which has been taken completely from Republican Paul Ryan’s “roadmap” budget.

When the workbook finally gets around to tax increases, the language in the text constantly goes back to how taxing wealthier Americans would “reduce incentives for work and savings.” At one point it says that “Tax increases on upper-income Americans will discourage work and penalize success.” It talks about raising the corporate tax rate but not the effective tax rate, as in reality many corporations pay nothing in taxes. And writing about deductions, little in the workbook talks about the vast amount of subsidies for corporations and, for example, Big Agriculture. Only two specific corporate deductions, for depreciation for equipment and for producing goods in the US, get a mention. That a financial transactions tax makes it into the document (literally as the last option) is surprising, but predictably, the workbook says it could “move stock transactions to other markets.” Growing the economy and the effect of job creation on revenue appears nowhere in the document.
This is GOP economic dogma through and through, and the Peterson Foundation is launching "workshops" like these to scare the hell out of Americans across the country.   We need multi-billion dollar strike fighters and Predator drones and missiles to stop guys with AK-47s, but to pay for it we have to make poor and elderly people suffer because we can never tax the rich to the same extent we tax regular Americans.  Luckily, the folks in Los Angeles weren't drinking the neo-Hoover Kool-Aid.
The propaganda may have wound up being too subtle. Via the America Speaks twitter feed, the top three options at the meetings selected by the participants were: raising the limit on taxable earnings in Social Security, a 5% tax increase on people making over $1 million dollars a year, a carbon tax, and a tax on financial transactions. Whoops!
People would rather increase taxes than lose vital social programs.  Imagine that.

Reprioritizing Gitmo

Since the President discovered the hard way that it's tough to close Gitmo when your own party is too scared to do it, it looks like that little promise is going down the drain for good.
When the White House acknowledged last year that it would miss Mr. Obama’s initial January 2010 deadline for shutting the prison, it also declared that the detainees would eventually be moved to one in Illinois. But impediments to that plan have mounted in Congress, and the administration is doing little to overcome them.
“There is a lot of inertia” against closing the prison, “and the administration is not putting a lot of energy behind their position that I can see,” said Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and supports the Illinois plan. He added that “the odds are that it will still be open” by the next presidential inauguration.
And Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who also supports shutting it, said the effort is “on life support and it’s unlikely to close any time soon.” He attributed the collapse to some fellow Republicans’ “demagoguery” and the administration’s poor planning and decision-making “paralysis.”
The White House insists it is still determined to shutter the prison. The administration argues that Guantánamo is a symbol in the Muslim world of past detainee abuses, citing military views that its continued operation helps terrorists.
“Our commanders have made clear that closing the detention facility at Guantánamo is a national security imperative, and the president remains committed to achieving that goal,” said a White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt.
Still, some senior officials say privately that the administration has done its part, including identifying the Illinois prison — an empty maximum-security center in Thomson, 150 miles west of Chicago — where the detainees could be held. They blame Congress for failing to execute that endgame.
“The president can’t just wave a magic wand to say that Gitmo will be closed,” said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal thinking on a sensitive issue. 
Since Republicans can't help themselves and automatically play the fear card whenever possible and say that terrorists have super powers and will kill everyone you know if Gitmo is ever closed, it's hard to get things like that doen when the Village and Dems in Congress tkae them seriously.  After all, they've been trained to do so over the last seven years and it's hard to break.

Second, let's not forget that the Republicans are sworn to destroy this President and to oppose everything he does for the simple reason that he's a Democrat.  Despite the fact that reality would seem to dictate the Republicans have no credibility on terrorism after 9/11, Democrats still cower in fear every time a Republican says 9/11 and acts like Bush didn't fail to stop it from happening.

The Obama administration's mistake was underestimating the hatred the Republicans have for him, and the cowardice of his own party.
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