Friday, July 2, 2010

Last Call

Good news, Miami and Florida's southern Gulf Coast!  There's only a 60-80% chance you'll get covered in oil!
Miami and the Florida Keys face a 61 percent to 80 percent chance of being hit with tar balls from BP Plc’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to U.S. projections.

Shorelines with the greatest chance of being soiled by oil, 81 percent to 100 percent, stretch from the Mississippi River Delta to the western Panhandle of Florida, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today in a statement on its projection for the next four months.

Much of Florida’s west coast has a “low probability” of “oiling” from the leak that began with an explosion on a BP- leased drilling rig on April 20, the agency said.

The Florida Keys, Miami and Fort Lauderdale face a greater risk because oil may be caught up in the Loop Current, a flow of warm water that snakes into the Gulf and then moves east, NOAA said. Scientists say the current could carry the oil at a speed of about 100 miles (161 kilometers) a day around the tip of Florida, potentially fouling the Keys and Miami Beach.

Any oil reaching South Florida would already be in an advanced stage of degradation and would be in the form of “scattered tar balls and not a large surface slick of oil,” NOAA said.

The chance of oil reaching east-central Florida and the Eastern Seaboard are 20 percent to less than 1 percent, according to NOAA. The likelihood that areas north of North Carolina are hit becomes “increasingly unlikely,” the agency said. 
Only a 61-80% chance.  You know, just like there's only 5,000 barrels of oil coming out of the leak.

Going, Going, Gohmert

At the rate he's going, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert is giving Iowa's Steve King and Minnesota's Michele Bachmann a real run for "Most Batshit Insane Member Of Congress" (at least that is until Rand Paul gets sworn in.)  Louie here is doubling down on his theory that undocumented mothers are having babies in America so they can grow up and play Nintendo and eat apple pie and KILL US IN OUR SLEEP.  When actually asked about that babbling insanity, Gohmert went for the home run.
In an interview on Fox Business News last night, Gohmert wanted to be clear that it's not just a theory.

"Your theory is that we're not only home growing terrorists," said the host, Eric Bolling, "we're actually experiencing situations where dangerous countries al Qaeda will send a pregnant woman over here, have a baby, and then start to train these babies to be terrorists, is that right?"

"Well, Eric, it's not just a theory. It first came to my attention [when] some of us were traveling to the Middle East last August, a year ago. And a lady on the plane was telling one of our group that they were about to have their second granddaughter," Gohmert said. "Her son-in-law was with Hamas. And [she said] that they were going to do with the second as they did with the first grandchild. Daughter is going to come to America right before it's born on a tourist visa. Have the baby. They just like the option of having American citizens in the family."

He went on:

"She added ... 'You know what the best part of it is, we don't have to pay anything for the baby to be born!'" 
Yeah, because Hamas grandmothers all are wearing t-shirts that read "Ask me about my secret deep cover jihadi grandkids!" in the world Louie's frontal lobe inhabits.  Too bad that pocket dimension isn't reality.  But it sure is a great way to scare Real America into repealing the 14th Amendment, isn't it?  Jihadi babies growing up in your neighborhood, with your kids, in your parks, coming over and eating your kid's Fruit Roll-Ups and then they disembowel you with kukris at sleepover parties or wait until everybody's at the high school football pep rally and then KABLOOIE and stuff, right?

And this guy is a Member Of Congress In Good Standing.  You're kidding me.

Of course, Louie's not the only person who is trying to scare Real Americans into supporting the GOP plan to revoke the citizenship clause in the 14th Amendment.  Can't forget Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, either.
When defending her highly criticized immigration law, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) often lists the myriad problems she says undocumented immigrants bring to her state. In an interview on Fox News last week, for example, she claimed: "We cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings ..."
And you thought I was kidding with the disemboweling with the kukris stuff.

Mind Like A Steele, Trapped...Again

Yeah, I know.  I make a lot of these "Michael Steele just got his ass fired this time for sure" posts, mainly because the man makes Joe Biden look like a world-class motivational speaker with his repeated idiocy, but this time he did the the unforgivable and trashed the war like...a liberal (lightning, scary organ music, dramatic prairie dog).
Republicans are furious with RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who was caught on camera saying that the war in Afghanistan is a doomed effort launched by President Obama. Steele has no shortage of enemies in the GOP and many of them sense an opportunity here. In fact, several, both privately and publicly, are saying this is the last straw: Steele should resign.

"Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not 'a war of Obama's choosing,'" reads an open letter to Steele from Weekly Standard editor and influential GOP voice Bill Kristol.
It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement "puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party." 
....There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they're certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn't be the chairman of the Republican party.
In an interview this afternoon, a livid, top GOP operative put it more bluntly. "This is the height of stupidity and epitomizes the problem that is Michael Steele." 
Here's the really stupid part.  Steele's basically done at this point, but the Democratic response was actually far, far worse in my opinion.  Greg Sargent:
By all means, Dems should go on the attack against Michael Steele for his wild comments about Afghanistan. But do they really think it's a good idea to say he's for cutting and running, is "rooting for failure" and is "betting against our troops"?

The statement from DNC spox Brad Woodhouse, just out:
"Here goes Michael Steele setting policy for the GOP again. The likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham will be interested to hear that the Republican Party position is that we should walk away from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban without finishing the job. They'd also be interested to hear that the Chairman of the Republican Party thinks we have no business in Afghanistan notwithstanding the fact that we are there because we were attacked by terrorists on 9-11.
"And, the American people will be interested to hear that the leader of the Republican Party thinks recent events related to the war are 'comical' and that he is betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan. It's simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement. Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences."

Now there's no excuse for that as the official response.  Just because Steele is an idiot doesn't mean he was wrong about Afghanistan being unwinnable.  I don't know why he said it, I don't know who on Steele's team though it would be a good idea to attack Obama by blaming the Afghanistan war on him when the public kinda sorta recalls that particular conflict was started by that feller from Texas and all.  But this is the same crap Republican attacked Democrats with for years.  It's just as stupid now when Dems say it as when Republicans do.

Foul on both sides, big time.  I'm pretty sure some folks in the DNC deserve to be shown the door along with Steele.

World Cupdate

And we're back with Quarterfinals action today and tomorrow.  Eight comes come in, four will advance, four will go home.  Our first matchup today was arguably the most anticipated of the Quarterfinals, Netherlands at Brazil, two teams defined by their uniform colors.  The Oranje fronted a 4-2-3-1 formation led by the famed Robin Van Persie, while the Canarinhos (wearing blue today) mirrored that attack with Luis Fabiano at point.  In the early minutes, Brazil rocketed out of the gate to go straight on the attack, as injured Holland defender Mathjisen wasn't in the game.  The effect was immediate as one goal was waved off due to offisides in the first ten minutes...but the second Brazil shot at 10' counted, and Robinho had the Samba Kings up early.  Holland counterattacked forcing Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar into action, but he held his ground and the first half belonged to Brazil.  Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenberg was under total siege as the Canarinhos had their way with the cracks in Holland's dikes, but Holland's offense kept Brazil honest for the 35 minutes after Brazil's goal. However, that's all they could do as Brazil's midfield control drained the Dutch.  The second half amazingly had no subs over halftime, how would the Dutch adjust?  Sometimes all you need is a little luck, and that happened off a Dutch free kick at 53' that should have been easy only keeper Julio Cesar got blocked out by his own man Felipe Melo who knocked the ball back...into the net.  Holland's Wesley Sneijder suddenly became the hero of the hour with the equalizer.  Now both sides were playing hard as the happy, even cocky Brazilians got a quick and painful lesson in hubris.  Canarihnos manager Dunga moved to make some changes after that to power his squad home swapping Gilberto for Michel Bastos, but all that did was deflate the Samba Kings as Wesley Sneijder headed one in (without Melo's help) at 68'...and then Felipe Melo was tagged with a red card at 73', completing the Canarinho collapse.  Brazil threw bodies at the Dutch goal but all that did was allow the Oranje to counterattack and run out the clock, which they did perfectly.  Holland took the match 2-1, all but shocking the World Cup.

Needless to say, the entire continent of Africa was looking for a similar shocker as Uruguay and Ghana squared off in the late match.  Uruguay opted for a 4-4-2 strike with the  now-familiar combo of Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan up top, while the Black Stars went with their all-star Asamoah Gyan leading a 4-5-1 attack...not to mention thousands of vuvuzelas in the stands and all of Africa's hopes on their shoulders.  Uruguay controlled the half and looked well on their way towards winning this game with several near-misses that made Ghana look shaky, but the Black Stars found their footing and more importantly started playing their game, going on the attack late in the half.  The fastest team in the tournament absolutely stunned La Celeste as out of nowhere Ghana's Sully Muntari bangs out a 40-yarder only to curl it past keeper Nestor Muslera and it somehow ended up in the corner, seemingly willed into the net by the vuvuzelas.  Ghana led 1-0 at halftime and all of a sudden destiny looked like it was wearing red, gold and green.  The funny thing about destiny is that it can always change.  In the second half Diego Forlan blasted in his third goal of the cup at 55' off a free kick and Uruguay began to take command and control of the pitch as Ghana's confidence started to wear thin, but both teams started to wind it down and you had to wonder if Ghana's 120 minute match against the US was going to hurt them as we headed into extra time.  Uruguay had the confidence here but Ghana didn't let up their attack, swarming the ball and drawing strength from the African crowd.  They kept banging the ball in and both sides started to look more even as Uruguay wound down...but in the stoppage in the 2nd OT period, Ghana got what they needed with a golden penalty kick as Luis Suarez blocked Gyan shot with his hand in the box and got rightfully red carded for it. Asamoah Gyan stepped up with all of a continent on his back...and clanked it off the bar.  Off to penalty kicks we went, and while Gyan nailed his, two of his mates did not...and Uruguay won 4-2 in the shootout.  An absolute soul-breaker for the Ghanaian crew, but now Uruguay must face the Dutch without Diego Forlan...and that red card at the end may mean that Uruguay won this match but face near impossible odds in the Semifinals.

By The Time I Get To Arizona, Part 9

Arizona's GOP Gov. Jan Brewer doubles down on her accusation that undocumented immigrants crossing the border are all "drug mules" with the scare tactic that they are responsible for decapitating people in her state.
When defending her highly criticized immigration law, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) often lists the myriad problems she says undocumented immigrants bring to her state. In an interview on Fox News last week, for example, she claimed: "We cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings ..."

There's no better way, it seems, to make the case for strict anti-immigration laws than to claim that undocumented immigrants are pouring into the country to decapitate innocent Americans.

Brewer nonetheless stuck by the claim that undocumented immigrants are murdering Arizonans when asked about it last weekend on a local Arizona political show.

"Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert, either buried or just lying out there, that have been beheaded," she said.

The anchor notes that he couldn't find "any beheadings in any kind of news search."

The Arizona Guardian followed up, asking the state's county coroners -- who would examine any body connected with a crime -- if they'd seen the headless bodies from the desert .

They hadn't. 
They hadn't because Jan Brewer is a lying racist bigot trying to scare her constituents into supporting a clearly unconstitutional law designed to prey on Latinos.

Pre-emptive shot at the peanut gallery:  If the law is such a good law and there's no danger in harming the civil rights of anyone who's not undocumented, why is Brewer resorting to lies like this?

Austerity Hysteria, California Style Edition

Austerity isn't "on the way" folks, for hundreds of thousands of state employees in the most populous state in the nation, austerity is now a fact of life.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered the state controller to cut the pay for most state workers to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour due to the lack of a budget being in place by the start of the fiscal year, which began Thursday.

The governor was expected to make that order, which affects about 200,000 state workers, though the timing was uncertain.

State workers who experience pay cuts would be reimbursed once a state budget is in place. Most state employees are paid monthly at the end of the month, so if a budget is in place before the end of July, they would not receive a reduced paycheck.

Administration officials maintain they are required by law to reduce worker pay in the absence of a budget.

In a letter to Controller John Chiang, Debbie Endsley, the director of the Department of Personnel Administration wrote, "Today is July 1, 2010, and there is no state budget. Regrettably, we must take the steps ... to adjust wages and salaries during this budget impasse."

The administration made a similar order in 2008, but Schwarzenegger waited until the end of July to do so.

Chiang defied that order and was sued by Schwarzenegger, but the budget impasse was resolved before a judge made a ruling in favor of the governor.
And before we go cheering on  how great and wonderful Ahnold is and how fitting it is for these state employee parasites to be reduced to minimum wage, let me ask a couple of questions.

1) Is $7.25/hour a living wage in California?  That's $15k a year, folks.  In California.

2) How does this stimulate the California economy and businesses in any way?

This is pure cruelty.  Retroactive or not, if the state doesn't come up with a budget, then California is paying its bills on the backs of its employees.  How would you like if your boss came to you and said "You're now making minimum wage until further notice.  Sorry."

How would you get by?

Chasing Waterfalls, Tilting At Windmills

Virginia GOP AG Ken Cuccinelli's case against health care reform went before a judge yesterday, and a decision to let the case proceed or not will happen by the end of the month.
Arguing the case for Virginia, Solicitor General E. Duncan Getchell Jr. told a judge that it would be "unprecedented," "ahistorical" and "radical" for the federal government to require an individual to buy a private product -- in this case, health insurance.

In front of a packed courtroom -- with spectators overflowing into a second room and supporters of the federal law demonstrating outside -- attorneys for the Obama administration responded that the Virginia suit has no merit and should be tossed out of court. They said the law's mandate that Americans buy health insurance was well within Congress's constitutional power.

District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson said he will decide within 30 days whether to allow the case to proceed.
The hearing was the first skirmish in a legal war over the federal health-care overhaul that is not likely to be settled until it makes its way to the Supreme Court. 
So, we'll see how it goes and where, and that's yet another reason to pay careful attention to the Kagan hearings:  odds are extremely good that if confirmed she will be part of the decision the Supreme Court ultimately brings down on health care reform, perhaps as early as next year.

I Spy A Treaty Delay

When the Russian spy ring story broke earlier this week, I asked what the political motive was in order to burn this ring right now. Who benefited from the timing of this and what was the motive?

Looks like we have our answer.
A U.S.-Russia arms treaty is teetering in the Senate, lacking support from Republicans and set back by an alleged spy ring.

The White House was hoping that the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed three months ago by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, would move quickly through the Senate. But now it may not get a vote on the floor until after the November elections.
The pact to reduce warheads, missiles and launchers in both countries could be cleared by the Foreign Relations Committee this month, but that timetable could also be pushed back.

While a simple majority is enough to pass it through the panel, 67 votes will be needed for ratification by the full Senate. The House does not vote on treaties.
Given the partisanship of the upper chamber and the midterm elections four months away, there is little chance of securing the vote of every Senate Democrat and the backing of least eight Republicans anytime soon.
Dingdingdingdingding!  Looks like some folks in the beltway wanted an excuse to scuttle Obama's START treaty.  Now, very conveniently they have just the perfect excuse to consider the Russians to be untrustworthy bastards.  Despite this spy ring being under surveillance by the feds for seven years, they were dragged out into the open now and done so for a reason.  I wondered what that reason was.

I'm not wondering anymore.  It's as plain as sunshine on your face.  Republicans couldn't scuttle the START treaty (and deny Obama a victory) without a bipartisan, centrist reason to do so.  If you think ratifying this will be any easier in January, I've got an old Russian spy manual to sell you too.

In hindsight, this was an obvious play and a well done one at that.

FDR And You

Steven D gives us a little lesson on the history of labor in America, Hoover, FDR and the Gilded Age, and modern Germany.
People forget what that world was like. I honestly believe that some of them think we'd all be rich and jobs would be sprouting like mushrooms in a rain forest if only that Bad Old Government would just die a well deserved death. The truth is, we have the lowest taxes in a generation, the highest unemployment in a generation and (this will really surprise you I'm sure) the highest corporate cash on hand since 1952.
You see, corporations being awash in money does not mean they will go out and suddenly start massive hiring and solve all our economic woes. Why? Demand, that other part of the phrase "supply and demand." A generation or more of Americans have been told that supply side economics will bring us all prosperity, but it isn't true. Over the last three decades we have seen little if any real growth in wages among anyone who is not in the top 5% of earnings.

The rich got obscenely rich until the discrepancy between the wealth held by the upper 1% of Americans and everyone else has grown to its greatest level since -- well since Hoover was alive. That's what "supply side" economics (tax cuts, deregulation, relaxation or eradication of labor and worker safety laws) has brought us.

Why? Because feeding the supply side of the economic engine is not sustainable unless you also feed the demand side of the equation. Under republican policies we rejected any efforts to increase demand and promote jobs. We relied solely on the "free market" just like our ancestors back in the Gilded Age of Financial panics and depressions. What do you know. The free market doesn't always magically create demand.
Because you know what you need to create demand?  The wages to buy things. Corporations are sitting on their money.  They're not investing in new employees and expanding production because there's not the demand to justify it.  What the corporations don't get is that the reason there's not the demand is because your average American homeowner was buying stuff off his equity line on his house, and that's gone for good.  Credit from the banks is gone for good.  Wages have sucked for decades.  There's no extra money to go buy new stuff.

All supply-side Reganomics got us was a deflationary death spiral, folks.  All supply:  no demand.

This Is A Bad Joke, Right?

This story in yesterday's Hill is a bad dream.
House Democrats passed a budget document Thursday that sets discretionary spending at levels below those proposed by President Barack Obama but doesn’t address how Congress should cut deficits.

The “budget enforcement resolution” Democrats are substituting for a traditional budget resolution sets discretionary spending for 2011 at $1.12 trillion, about $7 billion less than Obama’s proposal and $3 billion less than a Senate Democratic plan. It also sets a goal of cutting deficits to the point where revenues equal all spending except for interest payments on the debt.

But unlike traditional budget resolutions, this year’s version doesn’t detail how Congress should reach that goal, leaving those tough decisions to Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission.
Wait, what?  Bipartisan fiscal commission?  Are you serious?  These guys are now in charge of the budget?
“While this resolution does not project the budget out over five years, it does look to the future by assuring that the House will have an opportunity to vote this year on longer-term budget proposals made by the president’s Fiscal Commission and approved by the Senate,” said House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.).

The budget measure passed on a 215-210 vote as part of a rule setting debate on a supplemental spending bill for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. All Republicans plus 38 Democrats from both ends of their caucus voted against the bill. Liberals had concerns about the war while centrist Democrats raised concerns about domestic and disaster aid spending that House leaders plan to attach to the bill.

The enforcement resolution is being used instead of a full-fledged budget resolution because rank-and-file Democrats did not want to vote for a budget resolution that would show large deficits, particularly in an election year marked by worries about the nation’s fiscal solvency.
The measure calls for a budget by 2015 that would be balanced except for debt interest payments. This mirrors a goal already set out by Obama.

The budget document, however, doesn’t say what policies Congress should enact to reach that out-year goal, something past budget resolutions have done. Instead, it relies on the White House fiscal commission, a bipartisan panel looking at tax, spending and entitlement policies, to come up with a plan to reach their target by 2015.

This is a bad joke, right?  Balance our deficit in five years?  My god.  The tax increases and spending cuts to achieve that would be phenomenal.  And they will annihilate our recovery.  We're talking cutting trillions of dollars per year out of the budget for the next five years.

So much for stimulus.  Yeah, we're headed straight into the can.


We lost 125k jobs in June.  225k of that was due to census layoffs, only 83,000 private jobs created this month, far under the number expected.

We're hurting pretty badly here folks, and it only gets worse from here.  Best part of the Reuters article:
With voters in an anti-Washington, anti-incumbent mood, failure to put back to work the more than 8 million Americans who lost jobs during the recession could cost the Democratic Party dearly in the November mid-term elections.
Gosh, that explains why Republicans have voted down job bills three times, hasn't it? 

Worst part is that the unemployment rate went down to 9.5% because so many people have simply given up on getting a job.

Cleaning Up The Oil, Cleaning Out The Treasury

Finally, a US lawmaker has used the T word when discussing the oil spill:  trillion.

As in "the amount of dollars needed to take care of all the damage from this mess."
The cost of helping the US Gulf Coast rebound from the ruinous Gulf of Mexico oil spill could run into the trillions of dollars, a US lawmaker said Thursday after a briefing from top government officials.

"It will take billions of dollars -- even trillions," Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee told reporters, citing "a presentation by the president's team on the BP oil spill" early in the day.

"We will have an ongoing and unending commitment to fixing this disaster," the Texas lawmaker said at a press conference with other representatives calling for blocking an Afghan war spending bill.
Now there's a concept.  We can't afford to worry about Afghanistan right now because we have much bigger problems here.  We can't afford to extend unemployment benefits to our own citizens because that would be fiscally irresponsible, but there's plenty of support to ignore paygo on both sides of the aisle to bomb Kandahar again, or to pay off Afghan warlords, or to develop mineral mines, or to torch poppy crops.

Congress is full of idiots.  We're paying for it, too...and we can no longer afford it.  We need out of there, now.

Ding Dong Ditch The Dollar

Yet another UN report is suggesting the world needs to dump the greenback as de facto reserve currency and move on to something else, this time the suggestion is the International Monetary Fund.
"The dollar has proved not to be a stable store of value, which is a requisite for a stable reserve currency," the U.N. World Economic and Social Survey 2010 said.

The report says that developing countries have been hit by the U.S. dollar's loss of value in recent years.

"Motivated in part by needs for self-insurance against volatility in commodity markets and capital flows, many developing countries accumulated vast amounts of such (U.S. dollar) reserves during the 2000s," it said.

The report supports replacing the dollar with the International Monetary Fund's special drawing rights (SDRs), an international reserve asset that is used as a unit of payment on IMF loans and is made up of a basket of currencies.

"A new global reserve system could be created, one that no longer relies on the United States dollar as the single major reserve currency," the U.N. report said.

The report said a new reserve system "must not be based on a single currency or even multiple national currencies but instead, should permit the emission of international liquidity -- such as SDRs -- to create a more stable global financial system."

"Such emissions of international liquidity could also underpin the financing of investment in long-term sustainable development," it said.
 Similar pronouncements were made in March 2009 and again in September 2009, so it's not like this is anything new out of the UN.  I'll say now what I said then:  if the US dollar loses its status as default world reserve currency, then we're done economically.  It's over.  I do believe we're in terrible trouble of deflation right now, but having said that another major economic event will force the Fed to print money like it's going out of style, and enough of that could break the bank down the road.

Having said that, enough US currency reserves are being held out there to the point where ditching the dollar now ruins everyone.  But that's why you're seeing countries slowly unwind their dollar positions.  They know what's coming.


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