Thursday, January 27, 2011

Last Call

He's back, you $%#@*& bunch of %#$*&^!

Rahm Emanuel can run for mayor of Chicago. The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled today that Emanuel is eligible, overturning an appellate court decision, and ending months of legal back-and-forth.

In the decision, the higher court offered this criticism: "the novel standard adopted by the appellate court majority is without any foundation in Illinois law."

Cannot wait for the acceptance speech, where he thanks every last %#*&$% one of us.

That's My Junior Senator, Folks!

Via Memeorandum I see my junior Senator Rand Paul is making friends all over the world...

Rand Paul (Ky.) and David Vitter (La.) are introducing a resolution this week that would amend the Constitution so that a person born in the United States could only become an American citizen if one or more of his or her parents is a legal citizen, legal immigrant or member of the armed forces, according to a joint press release Thursday.

Good luck amending that, boys.

"Citizenship is a privilege, and only those who respect our immigration laws should be allowed to enjoy its benefits," Paul said. "This legislation makes it necessary that everyone follow the rules, and goes through same process to become a U.S. citizen."

Which is funny, because right now the process is the same for everyone:  if you're born here, you're a US citizen.  When he says citizenship is a privilege, it's one he only wants to extend to certain people.  Meanwhile, there's a whole other demographic Rand's making friends with.

"Well, I think what you have to do is you have to look," Paul said. "When you send foreign aid, you actually [send] quite a bit to Israel's enemies. Islamic nations around Israel get quite a bit of foreign aid, too.

"You have to ask yourself, are we funding an arms race on both sides? I have a lot of sympathy and respect for Israel as a democratic nation, as a, you know, a fountain of peace and a fountain of democracy within the Middle East."

Blitzer pressed, "End all foreign aid including the foreign aid to Israel as well. Is that right?" he asked.

Paul answered, "Yes."

So really at this point Rand Paul's foreign and immigration policy is isolationism wherever possible, for both our enemies and allies.  Apparently he didn't get the standard "America is a leading force for good in the world" memo from the Bush years.  Rand here want us to pick up our ball and go home.

I wonder what Kentucky's other senator has to say about that.

Ground Control To Major Moose

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on.

Sarah Palin thinks President Barack Obama needs a history lesson on the space race between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union.

"He needs to remember that, uh, what happened back then with the communist U.S.S.R. and their victory in that race to space," the Fox News contributor said Wednesday night, reacting to Obama's reference to Sputnik in his State of the Union speech. Palin called the Sputnik name drop one of the "W.T.F." moments in the speech, a play of the President's call for "winning the future."

"Yeah, they won but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union," Palin said.

The Russians won the space race?  And that caused the demise of the Soviet Union some 25 years later?  And people think she'd make a good President?

Not me.

Well Yes, If You Don't Pay For The Bush Tax Cuts, The Deficit Goes Up

Steve Benen discovers Republicans are surprised by math.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office warned lawmakers that the budget picture was poised to get worse again, projecting a $1.5 trillion deficit this year.

Summarizing the thoughts of many, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told Roll Call, "I think everyone is in a collective state of shock right now over the CBO numbers."

Really? Why is Congress so surprised? Frankly, I'm a little shocked by their collective state of shock.

This really isn't complicated. The deficit picture was starting to improve, but congressional Republicans insisted that Bush-era tax breaks get extended for another two years. How did Republicans propose paying for these tax cuts? They didn't -- the GOP said the price tag should just be added to the deficit.

And wouldn't you know it, that means ... I hope you're sitting down ... the deficit will go up, just as lawmakers were told it would if they cut taxes without paying for them.

Indeed, the CBO's estimate of the deficit with all the tax deals President Obama cut with Republicans added another $414 billion to the deficit for 2011, bringing the estimate now to over $1.5 trillion in the hole.  You give the wealthy tax cuts, you don't cut spending or raise taxes elsewhere to pay for them, the deficit goes up.

It's not rocket science.  It's exactly what both the Republicans and President Obama meant to happen.  No use acting all surprised, GOP.

SHAC Up With Mini-Moose

Bristol Palin has been selected as keynote speaker for this year’s Sexual Responsibility Week at Washington University. Student Union Treasury on Tuesday approved a $20,000 appeal by the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) to sponsor a four-person panel featuring Palin. The appeal was initially set at $25,000 and renegotiated.

Bristol is going to speak regarding abstinence.  Not since Madonna sang Like A Virgin have they missed the mark by so far.

Privacy, Who Needs Privacy? Part V

The House Republicans' first major technology initiative is about to be unveiled: a push to force Internet companies to keep track of what their users are doing.  A House panel chaired by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss forcing Internet providers, and perhaps Web companies as well, to store records of their users' activities for later review by police.
This, brought to you by the same guys who started snooping on your calls without a warrant.  There is no longer a need for the police to show evidence to snoop calling records, this will go much the same way.  You don't even have to be tied directly to a crime or suspect to be a person of interest, as long as you really are a person of interest. 

Yes, child porn and other scams are frustrating.  They are not, however, a reason to abandon our rights.  In the history of this country, when has government ever given back to the people or willing reduced its power?  Any ground we lose is gone for good.

Too Crazy (Like A Fox) To Stand Trial

Sir Allen Stanford, the Texas multi-billionaire who supposedly bilked a healthy chunk of that in a massive offshore Ponzi investment scheme, has been deemed incompetent to stand trial.

"In light of the testimony presented and the reports submitted by the three psychiatrists - including the Government's own expert, Dr. Rosenblatt - the Court has no viable alternative but to find that Stanford does not have the present mental capacity to effectively assist his attorneys in preparing his defense," writes Hittner.

Stanford wouldn't be released to a mental facility, as his lawyers had requested. Instead, U.S. District Judge David Hittner recommended that the Attorney General have Stanford moved to a federal facility with suitable medical capabilities to deal with his reported traumatic brain injury, addiction to an anti-anxiety medication and major depressive disorder.

"It is not lost on the court that Stanford's motion to be released to a local mental facility for treatment may be yet another attempt by Stanford to be released on bond," Hittner writes. "The Court's finding that Stanford is incompetent, however, does not alter the Court's finding that Stanford is a flight risk and that no combination of conditions of pretrial release can reasonably assure his appearance at trial."

Hittner recommends that "the Attorney General send Stanford to a medical facility within the Bureau of Prisons, such as the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina or to another suitable facility."

The judge also admonished both federal prosecutors and Stanford's lawyers "to diligently prepare this case to proceed to trial notwithstanding Stanford's absence."

A guy accused of a massive international con job is too depressed to face a trial?  A bravura performance, for sure.  Pay your defense team extra, my good man.  Both they, and you, Sir Allen, have earned it.

Home, Home I'm Deranged, Part 15

New home sales for 2010 hit the lowest level in almost five decades.

Sales for all of 2010 totaled 321,000, a drop of 14.4 percent from the 375,000 homes sold in 2009, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It was the fifth consecutive year that sales have declined after hitting record highs for the five previous years when the housing market was booming.

The year ended on a stronger note. Buyers purchased new homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 329,000 units in December, a 17.5 percent increase from the November pace.

Still, economists say it could be years before sales rise to a healthy rate of 600,000 units a year.

"The percentage rise in sales looks impressive but 10 percent of next-to-nothing is still next-to-nothing," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, referencing the December increase. "New home sales are bouncing around the bottom and we see no clear upward trend in the data yet."

Builders of new homes are struggling to compete in markets saturated foreclosures. High unemployment and uncertainty over home prices have kept many potential buyers from making purchases.

Home prices fell in November in 19 of 20 major cities measured by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index, and nine of those cities fell to their lowest point since the housing bust.

Economists expect prices will keep falling through the first six months of this year.

Gosh, of course I was saying that 2010 was going to be a dismal year for home sales back in 2009, just like I said home sales in 2011 would continue to be dismal back in 2010.  I stick by that now.   There's a pretty good chance 2011's new home sales will come in under 2010's 321k, because 321,000 new homes is about 320,000 too many new homes being built with millions of existing homes clogging the market.

And more homes will be adding to that glut as the housing depression continues and layoffs and Foreclosuregate rolls on.  Home prices fall, homeowners end up underwater and they cut back on spending, the economy sputters, people lose their jobs, people lose their homes and add to the supply, and home prices fall.

We're approaching the fourth iteration of this cycle now, which appears to take about 9-12 months.  It's now self-sustaining and attempts to break the cycle by the Obama administration have failed.  Foreclosure activity has now spread into markets at all levels, places like Houston and Atlanta that didn't see big bubble gains in 2006-2007 are now seeing double digit decreases in housing prices.  As the fourth wave of foreclosures begins, we're seeing now evidence that housing prices will remain depressed in places like Las Vegas and California's San Fernando Valley for a generation or more.

In other words, housing prices in several areas of the country are effectively permanently broken for decades.  There will be no economic recovery for these areas.  They've become the ghost towns of the 21st century.

And each new cycle will drop more areas into this semi-permanent limbo state.  Some places in the country are now beyond any help.  More will be written off as the housing depression continues well into 2012.  And as housing prices and property tax revenues fall, more and more cuts will be made to local services, more city and county workers will be laid off, and more damage will be done to the economy.

With the stimulus now used up, the real long march begins for America.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Do Have A Plan

The Pentagon is expected to roll out its formal plan for integrating gay servicemembers into the armed forces on Friday.

Officials say Pentagon leaders will roll out a plan Friday that is expected to give the military services about three months to train their forces on the new law allowing gays to serve openly.

The plan will outline the swath of personnel, recruiting and other regulations that must be changed, And it will describe three levels of training for the troops, their commanders and the key administrators, recruiters and other leaders who will have to help implement the changes.

Officials familiar with the plan described it on condition of anonymity because it has not been finalized or made public. 

That's good news, that means hopefully by the end of April/early May we'll have openly serving gay and lesbian service members like gosh, all our major democratic military allies do.  Their militaries haven't exploded, and if the Brits, Israelis, and Canadians can survive it, so will we.

I look forward to seeing what the Pentagon has planned, and I keep shaking my head, wondering why it took so long.  "The Americans will always do the right thing," Winston Churchill once said, "after they've exhausted all the alternatives."


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