Monday, December 27, 2010

Last Call

I really do wonder why wingers believe "DADT repeal means military personnel exposed to communal showers will immediately sexually molest each other!" is somehow a winning argument.  Take Elaine Donnelly of the Concern Troll Bigot Foundation Center For Military Readiness.

Showers are "huge issue," Donnelly said. "To pretend that throwing up a few shower curtains solves the problem is tantamount, again, to saying, well women should share close quarters with men, we'll throw up a few shower curtains and that will take care of it."

"I don't know about the gyms where you go or most people go, but the gyms that I've seen have a sign inside the door, and the door says inside the women's locker room 'no boys of any age are allowed.' Now there's a reason for that," Donnelley said. "It in no way is a negative reflection on anybody, it is just a sign of respect for modesty in sexual manners."

"Knowingly, you don't expose yourself to somebody who might be sexually attracted to you. Does it happen unknowingly? Sure," Donnelly said. "It's something that again, when you introduce an element of sexuality in an environment that previously did not have that, that is problematic. There will be consequences from that, because people are normal, they're humans, they're sensitive to that."

"It's time to start talking about where we're going now. It's not just a matter of repealing a policy that should have been eliminated a long time ago, it's a matter of where are we going from here," Donnelly said.

Donnelly said her group has seen a jump in support for her organization this year in the lead up to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"We were able to raise money to do things we haven't done before. We had a full page ad in Roll Call just before the vote in September." They were far outspent by the opposition, Donnelley said. 

One wonders what military personnel have been doing in communal showers before DADT was repealed.  Clearly we'll need some sort of system of inflatable shower protective gear, like swim floats or inner tubes to protect our soliders, sailors, and airmen from showers.  Perhaps we could station armed predator drones inside the showers to pursue overly "friendly" personnel and subdue them, or use sonic crowd control technology in showers to deter violators.

Maybe the Pentagon should invest in some sort of cootie-repelling soap.  I'm sure we can create thousands of jobs in many congressional districts to manufacture that to exacting mil spec standards.

Glad to know that when we send our military into the field, what they really need to worry about is not the guys playing "hide the IED" but the guys playing "drop the soap".

The thing that kills me is people give idiots like this money of their own free will, people who think our troops are going to disintegrate at the mere thought of somebody looking at their ass in the shower.  Oy.

Justice - The Good, The Bad and The Stupid

The Good:

At a time when privacy and Constitutional rights have been hit hard, a small victory has been won.
GREELEY, Colo. – A Weld County judge has ordered the destruction of tax documents in an investigation the state Supreme Court said illegally probed suspected identity theft by illegal immigrants.
Regardless of what we may think the best way to deal with the issues of identity theft and illegal immigration, obtaining evidence illegally simply cannot lead to victory.  It is cashing in a one-time win for a loss that would haunt our judicial system forever.  Once you cross a line like this, there's no going back, and for now we are safe.

The Bad:

Dan Balsam, owner of, quit his job and went to law school, where he has spent his every waking moment since fighting spam.  He has over 40 victories in small claims court, and will never run out of targets.

Why is this bad?  Because this is the downside of what happens when you have freedom.  Some jerk just has to go mess it up, and some people have to be stupid enough to fall for promises of free money and bank account transfers.  Saddest of all, one man has dedicated his life to fighting a good fight and he's never even going to make a dent in the uncountable Viagra and breast enlargement ads.

The Stupid:

And then sometimes, while looking over the daily happenings, you stumble across something that takes you back a good 200 points on the Common Sense-o-meter:

DECEMBER 22--A 13-year-old boy was arrested Friday for using a permanent marker while in class at his Oklahoma City middle school, a violation of an obscure city ordinance.
In what must be a global WTF moment, a math teacher filed a citation against a boy who was using his marker in class.  The boy was transported to a juvenile detention center, and the marker was properly booked as evidence.

No Taxation Without Repre...You Know What, Just No Taxation

How is it possible that it's far easier for a municipality to declare bankruptcy than it is to raise taxes, to the point where Chapter 9 bankruptcy isn't just the first choice, but the only choice?  Everywhere in this article I see people saying how the city of Hamtramck, Michigan can't possibly cut any more, that bankruptcy is the only option, and that bankruptcy will be used to cut as much out of city workers' contracts as possible, according to William Cooper, City Manager.

Although Mr. Cooper says he believes bankruptcy, which could allow the city to “start over” with its labor contracts, is the only solution, the authorities in the state of Michigan have so far rejected the city’s request that the governor issue an executive order allowing Hamtramck to file for bankruptcy. An official from the state’s Treasury Department said that no city in Michigan has gone through bankruptcy, and that the governor has no such authority; the state has specific provisions for authorizing a bankruptcy filing, including intervention from an emergency financial manager and an emergency loan board. The current administration, which will be departing later this week, has urged Hamtramck to seek state assistance, including a possible emergency loan. 

But nowhere in the entire article is the concept of raising taxes even brought up.  Property tax revenue forecasts are simply "anemic" like they are a victim of a permanently fixed rate.

It's like raising taxes simply doesn't exist anymore.  Hamtramck would rather be the first city in Michigan history to declare bankruptcy and use it as an excuse to arbitrarily take money away from its employees than kick up the mill rate on property taxes in the city.  This is broken economics.  You can never, ever, ever raise taxes?  Seriously?

We live in an era where the people who get shot at, the people who run into burning buildings, the people who teach our kids and the people who fix our roads are not actual human beings with families and who pay taxes too mind you, but are seen as some sort of public blight on the landscape that must be eliminated, like they are society's punishment for having a civilization.  We tolerate them at best and at worst, rise against them and say "you will pay for this.  Not all of us.  Just you."  Exactly who provides these services if we refuse to pay for them?

Except in the end we all indeed pay for it, one way or another.

An Admirable Effort

For all the "haters gonna hate" rhetoric about how Barack Obama is universally despised by most Americans, the reality is outside the right-wng echo chamber he continues to be the most admired man in America by a massive margin in Gallup's yearly poll.

Most Admired Man -- 2010 Top 10

Obama's numbers equal 2-10 combined.  Most sitting Presidents do well in this category, but Obama certainly has done better than most.  And among Republicans, Obama still came in second behind Dubya.

On the women's side, Hillary Clinton continues to dominate.

Most Admired Woman -- 2010 Top 10

A total of 15 #1 rankings on this list since 1992 for her.  Palin placed third among independents and first among Republicans, while Clinton came in number one with Dems and independents, and third with Republicans (!)

For all the flack that Obama takes from the beltway set, he's still pretty well respected and admired by average Americans.

(But really, the entire country?  Beck over the Dalai Lama?  Really?)

The $100 Billion Question

What will Orange Julius slice from the budget to keep his $100 billion spending reduction promise?  Here's a hint:  it's not going to be from defense.

Republicans view their midterm electoral victory as a mandate to cut spending, and cutting $100 billion from a $3 trillion federal budget sounds like a reasonable goal.

But GOP leaders say they will focus only on non-security discretionary spending, and won't slash funding for defense, Social Security or Medicare.

That makes their task a lot harder.

Cutting non-security discretionary funds by $100 billion means a 21% annual reduction in the part of the budget that includes funding for education, health and human services and housing and urban development, among other things, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank.

In other words, the sacred cows of domestic Democratic policy.

Asked which programs will be cut to get to the $100 billion target, Boehner did not offer specifics.

"But I will tell you," he told reporters earlier this month. "We are going to cut spending."

No specifics of course.  That whole 20% across the board axed from social spending isn't going to make the GOP real popular, either. Especially in this economy.  Back in July, Republicans said that cutting Pentagon spending was no longer off the table, or at least Ron Paul thought it was necessary.  Of course, that was never going to happen.

So, in this economy, Republicans see their first order of business as piling on the pain on the American people (and more tax cuts!)  Let's see those specifics, guys.  Who's getting the axe?

My guess is going to be those spending cuts are going to be a lot less than $100 billion, especially for anybody with 2012 aspirations.  Of course, that would explain why most of your 2012 GOP prospective candidates are out of office right now, but all the GOP House will be facing voters again in two years as well.  Somehow I don't think those specifics are ever going to materialize.

Well About This Time, Boss Hogg Realized He Was In A Heap Of Trouble

Josh Marshall weighs Mississippi GOP Gov. Haley Barbour's Presidential chances in 2012, and wants to know why anyone inside DC thinks anyone outside DC is even remotely considering the guy for anything other than Fastest 2012 Campaign To Crash And Burn.

In the wake of Haley Barbour's Jim Crow face plant last week various commentators are weighing in to take stock of whether it's a bump in the road or the end of his hopes of running for president in 2012.

Back on Planet Earth, though, a different story can be told.

Let's state it flat out. You have to be deeply, securely, and no doubt permanently encased in the DC cocoon ever to have thought that Haley Barbour was a serious presidential candidate. Really, people. Any number of things would have to change to make Barbour a remotely credible presidential candidate -- starting with erasing the image of Boss Hogg from the cultural memory of every American over the age of 30. And that would probably be one of the easier tasks on the list.

On first blush you might say, how is the Governor of Mississippi a creation of the DC cocoon? But the governor gig is just a recent flourish. Barbour made his career -- and a very impressive one on its own terms -- as an establishment Republican political operative and high-powered DC lobbyist. He co-founded one of the most powerful lobbying firms in the city -- now BGR Group, formerly Barbour Griffith & Rogers. And he's brought that high-flying lifestyle -- sometimes literally -- to the governor's mansion in Mississippi, one of the poorest state's in the union. Every elite journalist in DC knows Barbour -- many of them socially and over a long period of time because as you can see from his demeanor glad-handing is a big part of the guy's charm. And the same applies to pretty much everyone else from the city's power grid.

With everyone in Washington knowing him, why shouldn't he run for president? Everybody likes him. He's had a successful career. He's the governor of a state. So why not? What could go wrong?

Personally, Sarah Palin has a better shot than Haley Barbour.  And that's really, really saying something.  Barbour still has a lot of lobbyist/insider cred among the Village, so much so that people are still asking the "does he have a shot?" question seriously.

The answer is an unqualified "No way in hell."  This is Village Fail 101 that anyone is even remotely taking this clown seriously. 

Playing High Stakes 1 Vs. 100

Barry Ritholtz flags this story down about smaller TARP banks now on the edge of survival.

The WSJ reports today that nearly 100 U.S. banks that got TARP funds from the federal government in Q4 2008 are in danger of going bankrupt.

So far, 7 bailout recipients have failed, resulting in more than $2.7 billion in lost TARP funds. The balance of the remaining potential failures relatively small banks — the median size was $439 million in assets, and the median TARP infusion was $10 million apiece.

People forget that TARP helped a lot of smaller regional and community banks too.  While the big banks that got the most largess turned it around, the smaller banks got only what they needed to survive at the time.  The problem is the commercial real estate market (the bread and butter of smaller community banks) is still in deep crap.

The total, based on an analysis of third-quarter financial results by The Wall Street Journal, is up from 86 in the second quarter, reflecting eroding capital levels, a pileup of bad loans and warnings from regulators. The 98 banks in shaky condition got more than $4.2 billion in infusions from the Treasury Department under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

When TARP was created in the heat of the financial crisis, government officials said it would help only healthy banks. The depth of today’s problems for some of the institutions, however, suggests that a number of them were in parlous shape from the beginning.

Nobody could have guessed, etc.  You know, except for anyone who was paying attention to this mess, and the fact that it would lead to bank consolidation by attrition, as I've been saying for 18 months now.  Commercial vacancy rates are expected to peak this spring, but that's cold comfort to the smaller banks right now.

2011 is going to be an ugly year for smaller banks.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

So yes, we've just seen the most productive Congress in nearly 50 years draw to a close:

There is no debate, however, that the 111th Congress passed a historic volume of substantial legislation, whatever one might think about the merits of these achievements. Historian Alan Brinkley told Bloomberg yesterday that “[t]his is probably the most productive session of Congress since at least the ’60s,” for an article outlining the historic achievements of this session:
For the first time since President Theodore Roosevelt began the quest for a national health-care system more than 100 years ago, the Democrat-led House and Senate took the biggest step toward achieving that goal by giving 32 million Americans access to insurance. Congress rewrote the rules for Wall Street in the most comprehensive way since the Great Depression. It spent more than $1.67 trillion to revive an economy on the verge of a depression, including tax cuts for most Americans, jobs for more than 3 million, construction of roads and bridges and investment in alternative energy; ended an almost two-decade ban against openly gay men and women serving in the military, and today ratified a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.
In addition to these headline achievements, the 111th Congress also:
– Passed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier for women and other minorities to file equal-pay discrimination lawsuits.
Overhauled the federal student loan system, eliminating billions of dollars of waste being paid to for-profit loan companies while expanding access to loans, especially for low-income students.
Confirmed two Supreme Court nominees.
Passed legislation to help Sept. 11 first responders deal with ongoing health problems.
– Expanded the Children’s Health Insurance Program to include an additional 4 million children and pregnant women, after the Bush administration denied funding increases for years.
– Passed child nutrition legislation, which expands the federal school lunch program and improves the quality of the meals.
– Enacted food safety legislation, which intends to improve safety measures and prevent food-borne illnesses.
– Approved a settlement for black and Native American farmers that were subject to discrimination by the USDA.
Passed legislation strengthening the prosecution of hate crimes.
– Passed pro-consumer legislation further regulating abusive practices of credit card companies.
Brinkley also noted these achievements are “all the more impressive given how polarized the Congress has been.”

And yes, this Congress made a huge dent in the decades-long backlog of progressive legislation in this country.

The downside of that is the 111th Congress showed just how tremendously large that backlog has been allowed to become since the 60's.  Getting all that corrected in just two years was always going to be impossible.  Obama did over-promise, in some cases substantially (Gitmo, Iraq, Afghanistan, the stimulus).  He also came through on a number of things that were left for dead.

All of this will seem like the good times compared to the 112th Congress, however.

The New Definition Of Miller Time

Joe Miller, that is.  And that new definition:  taking time to build a windmill to tilt at.

Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller said late Sunday he is dropping his opposition to incumbent Lisa Murkowski being certified as winner in the Alaska Senate race, but will continue with a federal lawsuit.

"After careful consideration and seeking the counsel of people whose opinion I respect and trust, I have decided that the federal case must go forward. The integrity of the election is vital and ultimately the rule of law must be our standard," Miller said in a statement. "Nevertheless, I have also decided to withdraw our opposition to the certification of the election, ensuring that Alaska will have its full delegation seated when the 112th Congress convenes next month."

Last week, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled against Miller in his appeal, denying his claim that state law was not followed on counting write-in votes.

In the ruling, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the superior court, saying, "There are no remaining issues raised by Miller that prevent this election from being certified." At the time, a spokesman for Miller's campaign said they were "disappointed" with the decision.

"We are disappointed the Alaska Supreme Court has ignored the plain text of Alaska law and allowed the Division of Elections to effectively amend the state election code without even giving the public an opportunity for notice and comment," Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto said in a statement Wednesday.

I have no idea what Miller intends to accomplish with his federal case unless he's trying for Democrat Mark Begich's Senate seat in 2014 (quite possible).

There's also my half tongue-in-cheek proposal that Miller's goal here is to somehow make direct statewide elections of a Senator so ridiculous that it will somehow spark a backlash against the 17th Amendment's direct election of Senators.  I think it's much more likely that it will spark a backlash against Joe Miller, but there's got to be some method to the madness here, especially if he's giving up.

Most likely he is indeed trying to get Alaska voting laws changed, and has no problems with getting an appellate court or even SCOTUS involved in some national precedent designed to make voting more difficult.  Keep an eye on Joey Bag of Crazy here.

Zandar's 2010 Scorecard

Time to take a look at my 2010 predictions to see how I did.  Here's what I said would happen in 2010:

  1. Democrats maintain control of the House and Senate.  The teabaggery is just too much for the middle to take and Republicans filibustering the jobs bill is just too much. Harry Reid and Chris Dodd lose however.
  2. Thompson Prison in Illinois gets some Gitmo inmates.  The plan to close Gitmo proceeds...slowly.
  3. Health care reform passes, but gets tied up in court immediately by Republicans and threatened by state efforts to nullify the law.
  4. Cap and Trade dies.  It will however be the major fight in 2011.
  5. Unemployment in 2010 will hit 11% at some point.  It won't be pretty.
  6. Apple releases the iTablet...and nobody cares.  Also, the iPhone will be released on other networks besides AT&T.
  7. Tim Geithner gets fired.  Yeah I know, I said this last year, but c'mon.
  8. The stock market will turn back down again and the Dow will close under 10k on Dec 31, 2011.
  9. Obama will sign another stimulus for states facing massive budget holes.
  10. This blog will roll on for another year.
By my count, that's half a point, miss, called it!, called that too, not quite, major miss, nope, odds are damn good I'm wrong, he sure did, and yes.

Four and a half out of ten is still not great, but better than my two for ten performance last year.  Going into 2011 and a GOP House, I'm going to take a little more care this week to work up more realistic predictions for the 31st.

We'll see.

Having A Job To Tell Them To Take And Shove

Many of us are grateful to have jobs...but it doesn't mean we like them, either.  Five out of six American workers say they will be looking for a better job in 2011, a major increase from last year's three out of five.

Most employees have sat tight through the recession, not even considering other jobs because so few firms were hiring. For the past few years, the Labor Department's quits rate, which serves as a barometer of workers' ability to change jobs, has hovered near an all-time low.

But after years of increased work and frozen compensation, "a lot of people will be looking because they're disappointed with their current jobs," said Paul Bernard, a veteran executive coach and career management advisor who runs his own firm.

Douglas Matthews, president and chief operating officer for Right Management, a division of Manpower, called the results "a wake-up call to management. ... This finding is more about employee dissatisfaction and discontent than projected turnover," he said.

Despite a disappointing jobs report last month, experts agree that the employment picture will likely improve going forward, although hiring will be slow. 

That's both good and bad news, depending on if employers are looking to add jobs in 2011.  If, as I expect, jobs remain relatively flat and more people are joining the job-seeking market, that will mean a solid bump up in the unemployment rate, most likely above the 10% mark.

I'm still going with housing prices continuing their fall through 2011 as the Foreclosuregate mess continues.  That's going to put a big squeeze on consumers this year, and it's not going to help growth or demand as we could be in for another round of belt-tightening.


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