Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Last Call

StarCraft II is out.

That is all.

(We need more vespene gas.)

Getting Paid The BP Way

BP has a great plan to come up with the rest of the money to handle the oil spill costs:  Shorting the American taxpayer and making us pick up the tab.
Oil giant BP said it plans to offset the entire cost of its Gulf of Mexico oil spill against its tax bill, reducing future contributions to U.S. tax coffers by almost $10 billion.

BP took a pretax provision of $32.2 billion in its accounts for the period, for the cost of capping the well, cleaning up the spill, compensating victims and paying government fines.

However, the net impact on BP's bottom line will only be $22 billion, with the company recording a $10 billion tax credit, most of which will be borne by the U.S. taxpayer, a spokesman said.
There's a shocker.  BP's writing the whole thing off and daring Obama to do anything about it.  After all, this is what the business community expected all along:  that and a sincere apology for Obama even thinking that BP was going to be responsible in any way for this disaster.

If you actually believed the President's claims that BP was going to "pay every dime" for the cleanup, please log off your web browser now.  You are below the designated naivete level for safe operation of consumption of information in the internet age.

This has been a public service announcement.

Quote Of The Day

"I will reserve judgement, as I haven't read it. But this is the strongest example of consider-the-source I've seen in a while."

--Roy Edroso, on Stanley Kurtz's latest book, which I think is called something like I Really Really Really Hate Obama And He's Dangerous And He'll Eat Your Pets.

And while Edroso's absolutely right about Kurtz's cottage industry involving harvesting naturally aged Obama Derangement Syndrome (the post is excellent) I have to say the above quote was a bit jarring because of the fact that the first thing that pops into my mind when I hear the words "consider-the-source" these days is "Andrew Breitbart."

Just sayin'.

Obama's "Engine, Engine? Number, Nine" Problem

Hey President Obama?  America wants jobs, please.  Obama wants an economic engine but all he's got is that 9% plus unemployment number.
A majority of Americans believes President Barack Obama has neglected job creation and economic fears are weighing heavily on Democrats ahead of November 2 elections, a Reuters-Ipsos poll found on Tuesday.

Sixty-seven percent of voters said Obama has not focused enough on creating jobs, with the economy seen as the country's main problem.

Almost half those polled said they were unhappy with Obama's handling of the economy as unemployment is stuck at 9.5 percent. Satisfaction with Obama's performance on the economy dropped steadily from earlier Ipsos polls.

Forty-six percent of registered voters said they would vote Republican at the November congressional elections, as opposed to 44 percent who said they would back Democrats.
Count me along with that 67%.  With the White House predicting 9%+ unemployment into 2012, there's a hell of a lot Obama could be doing right now with the power of the Executive and the Labor Department right now, but he's not.  Moreover, the White House seems resigned to that 9%+ number for another two years easy.

Even worse, he's listening to the anti-stimulus people that the best way out of this mess is to basically have ten million more unemployed than jobs available for another 24 months because...it'll be good for us or something.  After all there are ten million invisible jobs out there, but people are too lazy to get them.  Yeah, that's it.

And yet, the White House is wondering why the President and the Democrats are getting pummeled in the polls.

In Which Zandar Makes A Local Political Endorsement

Well, I'd like to thank Orange Julius for the impetus behind my endorsement here in my local House race in Kentucky's Fourth District, because he's finally gone and given me a reason to make a call here.

OJ has this plan where he wants a moratorium on federal regulations because apparently he feels Obama is trying to do too much to solve America's problems while Boehner here is too busy blaming Obama for not having done enough to fix things.  Odd, I know.

The always excellent Brian Beutler today has more on Orange Julius's more specific plans to stop Obama from regulating things.
House Minority Leader John Boehner has finally gotten specific about his recent call for a moratorium on new federal regulations, and TPM's gotten a look at just what kinds of regulations -- other than the obvious ones implementing health care and Wall Street reforms -- that Boehner's plan would block.
Boehner last week endorsed the REINS Act, sponsored by Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY), which states that "any rulemaking where the estimated cost to Americans would exceed $100 million," could not go into effect "without Congress voting on it first." That's short of the full moratorium for which Boehner initially called, but could nonetheless be a recipe for gridlock and ugly politics. That standard in the act would ensnare scores of new regulations every year, including both broadly popular, time-sensitive ones, and others over which remain substantial partisan disagreement. 
Now, attentive readers know where I'm going here, because the Republican elected here from KY-4 is none other than my own Congressman, Geoff Davis.  Here in Northern Kentucky the unemployment rate is 10.3% or so and it seems my Congressman's major contribution to legislation that would help the people here is to waste time with the REINS Act.
The REINS (Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny) Act, while it imposes burdensome congressional oversight of regulations costing more than $100 million, does contain exemptions for emergency situations, enforcement of criminal laws, national security regulations, monetary policy rules proposed by the Fed Board of Governors, and the implementation of international trade agreements. Congress would have to explicitly sign off on everything else before it could take effect

Two things here.  Congressional oversight of executive regulations sure as hell didn't matter to these same Republicans when Bush was in charge, and all this is doing is preventing Obama from doing much of anything fiscally.

But most of all, it's Geoff Davis being a douchebag at the command of John Boehner when he should be a hell of a lot more concerned with why and how he deserves to be re-elected when he keeps voting against all the economic relief measures and unemployment benefits, not to mention voting against the stimulus package last year and then going around taking credit for projects here in the NKY that the stimulus funded.

That's more than enough for me to throw my support behind Democrat and Navy veteran John Waltz here in KY-4.

Palin, By Comparison

Public Policy Polling's numbers out of New Hampshire's Senate race show an interesting effect building, one where Republicans should think twice about accepting certain endorsements.
Kelly Ayotte's seen her appeal to moderate voters crumble in the wake of her endorsement by Sarah Palin and her lead over Paul Hodes has shrunk to its lowest level of any public polling in 2010- she has a 45-42 advantage over him, down from 47-40 in an April PPP poll.

There's not much doubt that the shift in the race is all about Ayotte. Hodes' favorability numbers have seen little change over the last three months. Where 32% of voters saw him positively and 39% negatively in April, now 35% have a favorable opinion of him to 40% with an unfavorable one. But Ayotte's seen a dramatic decline. Her favorability spread of 34/24 in April was the best we've measured for any Republican Senate candidate so far this year but her negatives have risen 15 points since that time while her positives have increased only 2 and she now stands at 36/39.

Most of the movement both in feelings about Ayotte and in the horse race has come with moderate voters. Moderates make up the largest bloc of the New Hampshire electorate at 47%, and Hodes' lead with them has expanded from just 8 points at 47-39 in April to now 21 points at 51-30. Ayotte's favorability with them has gone from +5 at 32/27 to -19 at 27/46.
And what, pray tell, is the cause of Ayotte's troubles?  Tom Jensen's theory is Moose Lady's recent endorsement.
The Palin endorsement may well be playing a role in this. 51% of voters in the state say they're less likely to back a Palin endorsed candidate to only 26% who say that support would make them more inclined to vote for someone. Among moderates that widens to 65% who say a Palin endorsement would turn them off to 14% who it would make more supportive.

What's most striking about the change in the Ayotte/Hodes numbers is that Hodes' standing has not improved against any of the other Republicans running. Bill Binnie is now actually the strongest Republican for the general election, leading Hodes 46-41. That's identical to the margin he led by on the previous poll. Jim Bender is now doing slightly better against Hodes, trailing just 43-42 after being down 43-40 in April. And Ovide Lamontagne's 43-38 deficit against Hodes is exactly the same as we found before.
In other words, Sarah Palin has just dropped a Hoffman Effect bomb on the race:  Kelly Ayotte is increasingly becoming the clear favorite in the Republican primary in New Hampshire in seven weeks, but at the same time she's rapidly becoming the candidate with the least ability to win the general election in November, and that's exactly what Democrat Paul Hodes wants to see.

I think a lot of these crazed calls from Tea Party types who are raving on about how the Republicans are going to pick up 100 seats in the house in November are going to run into the reality that the country is increasingly sick and tired of Sarah Palin.

Brave Newt World

Steve Benen has the GOP's national security schtick down cold.
As potential GOP presidential candidates eye 2012, the leading Republican voices on national security are Gingrich, Palin, and Romney? Isn't that rather humiliating for a party that used to lead on these issues?

Gingrich has exactly zero experience on foreign policy, military affairs, and national security. Romney recently tried to pretend to understand these issues, and was utterly humiliated. Palin has said publicly she thinks she understands foreign policy because Vladimir Putin flew over her house.

The Republican Party likes to maintain the pretense that these issues "belong" to them -- all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding -- but the fact that their most noteworthy national luminaries on the subject are utterly clueless, and bring all the sophistication of a child to the debate, is pretty striking.

This isn't to say the entire Republican Party is devoid of credible voices on national security and foreign policy; that would be an overstatement. Current and former officials like Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), Brent Scowcroft, George Schultz, Colin Powell, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Reagan Chief of Staff Howard Baker, former Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.) all approach these issues with at least some seriousness and stature.

Of course, since this same group also happens to agree with President Obama on national security and foreign policy, that's probably not much help when it comes to GOP politics.
Of course you can (and should) expand this know-nothing celebration of nihilism to cover pretty much all facets of the GOP 2012 "strategery".  Watching Republicans scramble to stomp all over their own positions from the Bush years just to disagree with Obama is rather breathtaking, and in doing so they reveal just how little they care and how they know even less about any given subject.

I'd love to see some sort of Palin/Gingrich ticket in 2012 too.  It would flame out in such spectacular fashion that it would guarantee a reformation of the Republican party along the lines of Actual Reality, so that America could actually get around to doing the things that need to be done, and letting the people who need to do those things be in charge.

Right now, deep thought in national security from the likes of these leading lights of GOP 2012 hope are "Mitt's a poseur, Newt's insane, and Sarah wants to dictate Lower Manhattan zoning laws."

They Hate Us For Our Freedoms And Junk

With a big h/t to Oliver Willis, we have the story of why the most radical and dangerous elements of those who choose to pervert Islam into a creed of hatred despise us so much:  because of our country founded upon religious freedoms and social tolerance.
Yes, it appears to have come to this: A religious institution protesting the allegedly retrograde outlook of a rival faith has adopted the medieval practice of book-burning — which has also been revived among Iran's militant Islamic mullahs.
The Dove World Outreach Center, based in Gainesville, Fla. — led by Terry Jones, author of the book "Islam Is of the Devil" — is planning to mark the upcoming anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks by staging a Koran burning. Church leaders are calling it the "International Burn a Koran Day" — a curious approach to promoting the idea of world outreach.

Maggie Hyde of the Religion News Service reported that the self-described "New Testament, Charismatic, Non-Denominational Church" has taken to Facebook to spread the word of its anti-Islam protest. According to Hyde, Jones and his colleagues drew inspiration for the event from the Facebook page encouraging people to draw pictures of Mohammed.  Jones said that supporters of the idea have already started mailing in copies of the Koran for the church to burn.
The church is also crusading against Gainesville's openly gay mayor. It plans to hold a "No Homo Mayor" protest outside Gainesville City Hall on Aug. 2.
...Oh wait.  My bad, they hate us because we also have fundamentalist assholes that pervert religion into a message of hatred and intolerance and we direct that message at Muslims just as their nutjobs direct their message of hate against us.

Now, I understand we were attacked on 9/11, but in turn we declared war on Iran and Afghanistan and killed a whole crapload of civilian innocents too, just not all on one idle Tuesday morning in September.  Commemorating 9/11 by burning things in general is in poor taste to begin with, but religious texts?  Really?  We're going to show them how we're better, more enlightened, and more advanced by torching a pile of books?

A whole ginormous collection of wrongs doesn't make anyone right.  Not even remotely.

Warren The Trenches

Felix Salmon called it back on Friday that Elizabeth Warren would be named as the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and indeed, she appears to be a growing consensus choice for the position.  The problem is as David Dayen argues is that the CFPB could get cut to ribbons before Warren even gets a bureau to be in charge of.  The agency will start out as part of Treasury where a transitional group to get the ball rolling will be started, and the person Timmy is putting in charge of that process basically opposed the entire CFPB concept from the beginning.
However, a source tells FDL News that Geithner is working on this process with Elizabeth Duke, a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Duke is a former community banker and the past head of the American Bankers Association, a trade lobby group. She served on the ABA’s board of directors from 1999 to 2006. The ABA opposed the Dodd-Frank bill almost entirely because of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

What’s more, Duke herself specifically opposed an independent agency in July 2009 testimony, and endorsed keeping the responsibility for consumer protection in the Federal Reserve. In fact, she went further, promoting the Fed’s consumer protection prowess despite the agency having missed the housing bubble and the predatory lending that enabled it.
In other words the person creating the agency's rank and file could very well be someone who sees no reason for it to even exist.   "Conflict of interest" doesn't begin to describe it.
This is crucially important. There’s a lot someone in power can do to mess with a federal agency at the outset. You can hire some staffers not committed to the agency’s goals, or give them poor working conditions, or any number of things. Then the new director comes in and is immediately faced with a turf war. If a community banker dismissive of consumer protections ends up setting the vision for the consumer protection bureau, it could slow its progress out of the gate. If the Department where the agency originates is more concerned with “extend and pretend” – letting the banks get out of trouble by earning their way past the bad loans on their books, in part through inundating consumers with higher fees on their products – then that worldview of the banks being more important than the people can get embedded into the agency.
I’ve heard conflicting reports on this – including that the lead staffer setting up CFPB worked previously at the Center for Responsible Lending. And given how the President and the Treasury saved the CFPB from peril over and over again during the FinReg debate, they may be plenty committed to its successful operation. So this could be nothing. But if the mission of the CFPB conflicts with the goals of letting the banks earn their way out of insolvency, that could present problems. Especially if those involved are more concerned with saving the banks.
The easy way out of this is to not only nominate Elizabeth Warren, but to without delay name her to the position of interim director by hiring her at Treasury. This requires no Senate confirmation for an indefinite period.
Seems like a winning plan to me.  Not much the Republicans can do on Presidential interim appointment.  But Obama's going to need to move fast before the Republicans regain their footing on this.  Just because the bill got passed doesn't mean it's all smooth sailing from here.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Mistermix at Balloon Juice has an important observation about the Village and Wikileaks:
What really scares a lot of establishment types is not Wikileaks itself, but that a group of soldiers or civilians with access to information have started to work against the war from the inside, and that they have a secure conduit to get that information to the outside world.
And that's certainly the truth.  Wikileaks is taking the romantic notion of the hard-boiled Washington journalist, the Woodward and Bernstein affairs that motivated our own Villagers when they were younger, and putting it inside a bunch of servers.  It's gotten them rather depressed, especially when it reminds them of just how tight they've been with their "adversaries" over the last 15 years or so.

The Village is scrambling then to become the gatekeepers of this affair.  That's why they are slinging around the references to the Pentagon Papers every five minutes.  Only the great Village Oracles can be trusted to interpret all this information.  They will tell you what it means and what you should think about it!  Hence, that's why with one hand they are blasting Wikileaks as irresponsible and crude, while the other is eager to offer "what their sources are telling them" about the 92,000 documents.

The fun part is that those in the media that have been doing their jobs have already covered most of what these documents are revealing.  It's not new information if you've been paying attention to the actual acts of journalism perpetrated by the few who have been motivated to do so.  The war has been going badly since 2003 or so, and that's not news.

The Village getting their hackles up when yet another new media outfit shows them up on the responsibility that they've abdicated?  That's not news either.

Wrangling Charlie Rangel, Part 4

The Harlem Dem is in serious ethics trouble according to TPM's Brian Beutler, so much so that observers are openly questioning if Rangel will take a deal or not to prevent his expulsion from the House.
In the coming days, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) has a choice to make. He can listen to his Democratic colleagues and cut a deal, or he can face a full trial before a House panel over several allegations of misconduct.
It's extremely rare for congressional ethics proceedings to reach this stage. Members more commonly acknowledge some wrongdoing, or resign, well before they're forced to defend themselves before an official body. But the gravity of the Rangel allegations, combined with his intransigence to this point, leave him poised, potentially, to be the first House member to be tried, and even expelled, by his own colleagues since James Traficant, in 2002.
"We're kind of astonished it's gone this far," says Peter Flaherty, President of the National Legal and Policy Center, whose work led to one investigation of Rangel and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus. "We always believed the allegations against Rangel were serious, but we never thought the Ethics Committee would do anything."

House Ethics officials remain mum about exactly what violations they'll charge Rangel with, but they're likely to include, among others: wrongfully accepting four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem; failure to report, or pay taxes on, income earned from renting a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic; and trading favors with an oil executive who may have sought Rangel's support for preserving a tax loophole in exchange for a donation to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York.
The latter allegation -- the one about which there's the least public knowledge -- is potentially the most damning.
"That's the thing that comes closes to bribery, so to my mind that's the most serious thing," says Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
With midterm elections coming and the Dems already in trouble there,  Rangel will find little to no help among his colleagues in the House:  they're all up for re-election.  The fact that Rangel hasn't said much of anything on this and walked away with a slap on the wrist and an apology is the big giveaway that he's going to be facing some significant charges here before the end of the month.

While I appreciate the Dems taking this seriously enough to not  treat Rangel with kid gloves here, this nasty mess he's apparently in never should have gotten this far either.  If anything, Nancy Pelosi now has to step in as Speaker and make Rangel take a deal...a deal that will almost certainly have to end his career in the House.


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