Thursday, January 6, 2011

Last Call

And as conservatives like FOX News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. here call for a "second class of citizenship" for children born to undocumented workers, you have to wonder how long it will take before they call for minorities, gays, women and non-Christians to be given the same second-class status as well, because "that's what the Founders were really saying".

The main difference between conservatives and liberals on the Constitution is that liberals ask "How can the Constitution expand rights to the many?", and conservatives ask "How can the Constitution restrict rights to the few?"

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Paul Volcker's out at the White House.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker plans to leave his role as head of a panel of experts advising President Barack Obama on the economy, sources familiar with the decision said on Wednesday.

The departure of Volcker, 83, from the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board is among a series of changes Obama is planning to announce soon.

The decision to leave the board was Volcker's. A source close to him said he was ready to continue to advise Obama on an informal basis as often as the president would like.

The one guy who knew what he was doing as far as the economy is leaving.  Meanwhile Helicopter Ben and Timmy get to stay, and Obama has just picked up JP Morgan Chase exec Bill Daley as his new Chief of Staff, because apparently Rahmbo didn't have enough corporate ties.

This is one of those times where I think Obama is doing the wrong thing to the point of outright stupidity.  All you need to know about Bill Daley?  Larry Kudlow loves the guy.

President Obama marks another milestone in his post-election move to the center by appointing pro-business Democrat William E. Daley to the powerful post of White House chief of staff. If there are any doubts that Obama wants to repair his business-bashing image, this should dispel them.

It’s an excellent appointment. 

Which means here in reality, it's as lousy as they come.

Secession Depression

Via JM Ashby over at Bob Cesca's place comes yet another example of Democratic madness here in Kentucky.  Remember, a Kentucky Democrat in any other state is a Republican.

There’s some states rights talk floating around Frankfort, aimed at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Secession is an option," Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, who has long been the Democrat’s top guy on the environment in the Kentucky House of Representatives, told me recently as I interviewed him for a story previewing what the Kentucky General Assembly might do on the environment this winter.

Now he wasn’t predicting that the General Assembly was going to vote to leave the Union. But the committee chairman of many years who expects to be returned to his natural resources committee post this week, was making the case for a strongly worded resolution against the EPA. Such a resolution would not have any force of law but it could perhaps embolden federal legislators to trim the sails of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Gooch wanted me to know how frustrated some of his constituents are with the EPA, which has mounted a crackdown on pollution from mining across Appalachia and has tried to shrink the footprint of mountaintop removal mining.

Lawsuits like the ones filed last year against the EPA by the pro-coal Beshear administration and the Kentucky Coal Association are a first step, he told me. They object to tighter permit conditions to protect water quality in a region where many stretches of rivers and streams fail to meet federal water quality standards for fishing and swimming. The science, says environmental lawyer Tom FitzGerald, has now linked mining with polluted waterways, and the EPA, he says, is doing its job enforcing the Clean Water Act.

Gooch, who is a vice president of a western Kentucky steel company that does business with coal companies, and has taken provocative positions on the environment before, said he wanted Kentucky residents to know that secession was "an option," even as he described that as sounding "radical."

"If you keep pushing us, we are not going to let you totally destroy us," Gooch said of the federal government.

Right.  But maybe we should take up an armed insurrection against the federal government for the tyranny of...making energy companies regulate their carbon emissions.  Secede.  Really.

If you're willing to take up arms and die for a coal company to pollute your air, then there's no hope for you.  Of course Rep. Gooch here doesn't mean it, he's just trying to pull the normal Tea Party bull.  It doesn't mean it's in any way responsible.

My state is full of buffoons.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 56

The possible settlement by all 50 state AGs with the banks on Foreclosuregate may have just run into a concrete barrier in the Bay State.

Massachusetts’s highest court is poised to rule on whether foreclosures in the state should be undone because securitization-industry practices violate real- estate law governing how mortgages may be transferred.

The fight between homeowners and banks before the Supreme Judicial Court in Boston turns on whether a mortgage can be transferred without naming the recipient, a common securitization practice. Also at issue is whether the right to a mortgage follows the promissory note it secures when the note is sold, as the industry argues.

A victory for the homeowners may invalidate some foreclosures and force loan originators to buy back mortgages wrongly transferred into loan pools. Such a ruling may also be cited in other state courts handling litigation related to the foreclosure crisis. 

“This is the first time the securitization paradigm is squarely before a high court,” said Marie McDonnell, a mortgage-fraud analyst in Orleans, Massachusetts, who wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of borrowers. The state court, under its practices, is likely to rule by next month. 

It's that third paragraph that has mortgage execs awake and sweating at nights.  We're talking a precedent here that could turn into a tidal wave of buybacks...potentially hundreds of billions of dollars worth.  It will rip the banks apart, considering they're still leveraged to the hilt.  It'll also throw the value of the mortgage loan holdings of all MERS banks into chaos.

No wonder the banks are so eager to settle now and make MERS the final word on mortgage paperwork legitimacy.  They're running out of time.

Tidal Forces, How Do They Work? It's A $^@*#* Miracle

Bill-O fails at science again.

"I'll tell you why [religion is] not a scam," he said. "In my opinion -- alright? Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can't explain that. You can't explain why the tide goes in." 

It makes my head hurt sometimes.  You know Bill, I know astrophysicists.  They're pretty normal guys.  One I know is a very spiritual dude (and a hell of a guitar player.)  It is possible to combine science and faith without looking an idiot on national television.

Try it sometime.

StupidiNews: Bon Is Worried

Straight from the headlines and into my list of things to stew on at night when I can't sleep. 

(CNN) -- A large number of dead birds were found in the city of Falk√∂ping, Sweden, on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, according to the Swedish National Veterinary Institute.
That has me worried.  That some are trying to dismiss this as firework trauma or similar has me even more worried.

(CNN) -- Authorities in Maryland are investigating the deaths of about 2 million fish in Chesapeake Bay.
Okay, something is going on here.  This is more than a weird coincidence.  Right now, we don't even know if it is natural or done by man.  Fish and birds are related in the food chain, but right now we don't even know if the food chain is related to this.  

(AP) LONDON – The first study to link a childhood vaccine to autism was based on doctored information about the children involved, according to a new report on the widely discredited research.

This will impact the globe if these diseases are ever introduced into the population, starting with us.  Concerned parents took steps to protect their children, but it has put a community of children at risk of exposure.  The article says immunization rates have never recovered.  The study itself was called "an elaborate fraud" by colleagues.

Searching Phones And Computers Not Warranted

In California, it was ruled that a suspect's phone could be inspected and searched without a warrant.  This is dangerous ground, as it opens up the possibility of laptops and other devices for search, and without giving police the requirement of giving cause, or following procedure associated with searching private property.

Jonathan Turley, a Constitutional law expert at George Washington University, took to his blog to raise his concerns about the ruling.
"The Court has left the Fourth Amendment in tatters and this ruling is the natural extension of that trend," he wrote. "While the Framers wanted to require warrants for searches and seizures, the Court now allows the vast majority of searches and seizures to occur without warrants. As a result, the California Supreme Court would allow police to open cell phone files — the modern equivalent of letter and personal messages.”
Enough is enough.  We need people in office who will protect our civil liberties.  Frankly, I'm not as afraid of terrorists as I am the government and the people under its protection. The war on terror is starting to look more and more like an excuse to circumvent those pesky protections our forefathers put into place.  I never in a million years thought a few years would crumble centuries of due process and accountability.

He's Gotta Be Good And He's Gotta Be Strong

...and he's gotta be fresh from the fight.

A Seattle man who calls himself "Phoenix Jones" appears to have taken 2010's comic book film "Kick-Ass" to heart.

Like the main character in the independently produced hero fantasy, Jones has taken it upon himself to dress in a colorful outfit and roam the streets looking for crime.

And on Sunday night, while trolling the streets of the Seattle suburb Lynnwood, he found one.

A man, who asked local reporters to identify him only as Dan, said his car was almost broken into by an unknown criminal when out of nowhere a masked man in a "skin-tight rubber, black and gold suit" rushed in and chased the crook away.

His heroics caught the attention of KIRO Eyewitness News, which went up-close with Jones, the self-named "Guardian of Seattle."

He carries mace and tear gas, and a stun prod for fighting off criminals. Jones's outfit was also equipped with stab plates and bullet-proof material, he said.

Jones is just one of a team that calls itself the "Rain City Superhero Movement," which calls to arms regular citizens who are sick of waiting for others to take direct action against criminals. They base their principles on the "Real Life Superhero Movement," a website formed after comic book icon Stan Lee's television show "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" caught on in 2006.

"Officially, a Real Life Superhero is whoever chooses to embody the values presented in superheroic comic books, not only by donning a mask/costume, but also performing good deeds for the communitarian place whom he inhabits," the "movement" declared on its website. "You don't necessarily need to engage in a violent fight to be a crime fighter - you might patrol and report whatever crime you see. So basically, terms like 'good deed' or 'crime fighting' are open to various interpretations."

Hey, worked for Blackwater and Sam and Max.

Hope he has health insurance.

If It's Thursday...

Adjusted claims are in-line at 409K new jobless claims, but the unadjusted number is pretty brutal, some 577K new jobless claims last week.  Tyler Durden:

The seasonal adjustment in the last week's sub 400k initial claims is starting to water out, and the resulting jump in initial claims from 388K to 409K was to be expected. Of course, last week's 388K was revised as always to a worse reading of 391K. More importantly, as we have been noticing for the past 3-4 weeks, the Unadjusted claims  continue to surge, and in the last week jumped by 52k to 577,279, nearly 170k more than the Seasonally Adjusted number. Those on continuing claims declined from 4,150,000 to 4,103,000 even as the NSA number again surged from 4,116,779 to 4,390,661. Lastly, those on extended claims were a wash as those on EUCs dropped by 134K while those on extended claims jumped by 110K.

Still an ugly number across the board.  ADP's private sector job estimate for December is well over 200k new jobs, but massive public sector layoffs may actually eat up most if not all of that job growth.  We'll see the official job numbers tomorrow.

More numbers from Asariel this morning, too.

A First Rate Problem

Ahead of health care regulations going into effect in 2014, Blue Shield of California says it will have to jack up rates on individual health care plans by as much as 59% in 2011.

Another big California health insurer has stunned individual policyholders with huge rate increases — this time it's Blue Shield of California seeking cumulative hikes of as much as 59% for tens of thousands of customers March 1.

Blue Shield's action comes less than a year after Anthem Blue Cross tried and failed to raise rates as much as 39% for about 700,000 California customers.

San Francisco-based Blue Shield said the increases were the result of fast-rising healthcare costs and other expenses resulting from new healthcare laws.

"We raise rates only when absolutely necessary to pay the accelerating cost of medical care for our members," the nonprofit insurer told customers last month.

In all, Blue Shield said, 193,000 policyholders would see increases averaging 30% to 35%, the result of three separate rate hikes since October.

Nearly 1 in 4 of the affected customers will see cumulative increases of more than 50% over five months.

While most policyholders received separate notices for the successive rate hikes, others were given the news all at once because they had contracts guaranteeing their rate for a year, Blue Shield spokesman Tom Epstein said.

Michael Fraser, a Blue Shield policyholder from San Diego, learned recently that his monthly bill would climb 59%, to $431 from $271.

"When I tell people, their jaws drop and their eyes bug out," said Fraser, 53, a freelance advertising writer. "The amount is stunning."

It's a lot more than stunning, it's ridiculous.  Considering the recession slowed the rate of health care spending to the slowest increase in 50 years in 2009,  jacking up premiums is just an excuse for insurance companies to fleece customers while they try to recover from their own bad investments (Remember AIG?  It was far from the only insurance company that made bad investments in the last four years.)

This is insurance companies trying to lock in as high rates as possible before state insurance exchanges kick in and provide competition.

Pretty repugnant.


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