Monday, April 18, 2011

Last Call

Now this is going to be interesting for Arizona Republicans.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday vetoed a bill that would have required President Barack Obama and other presidential candidates to prove their U.S. citizenship before their names could appear on the state's ballot.

The bill would have made Arizona the first state to pass such a requirement. Opponents had warned the bill would give another black eye to Arizona after last year's controversy over the state's illegal immigration enforcement law.

Brewer said in her veto letter that she was troubled that the bill empowered Arizona's secretary of state to judge the qualifications of all candidates when they file to run for office.

"I do not support designating one person as the gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate, which could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions," said Brewer, who was secretary of state until she became governor in 2009.

"In addition, I never imagined being presented with a bill that could require candidates for president of the greatest and most powerful nation on Earth to submit their 'early baptismal circumcision certificates' among other records to the Arizona secretary of state," she said. "This is a bridge too far."

Arizona Republicans have finally put up a bill that even Jan Brewer won't sign into law.  Never thought I'd see that one happen.

How long do you suppose it will take for the recall/primary effort to get under way?  If I recall, Arizona Republican Gov. Evan "I canceled Martin Luther King Day in Arizona" Mecham was almost recalled, but he was impeached and removed before the recall vote could happen.  He tried to run on the recall ballot, but Arizona stopped him.  So yes, a recall of Brewer?  Certainly could happen, although recall petitioners would need 25% of the total votes cast in Brewer's election to do it.

I seriously doubt it would happen.  Of course, I seriously doubted Trump would run as a birther stalking horse, either.

Birthers Get A Trump Card, Part 8

Didn't take the rest of the 2012 GOP field's opposition research guys long to Google The Donald's past political positions over the weekend and discover that's he's been all over the map, including deep into "Socialist Redistributionist" territory.

The Club For Growth wants The Donald's hairpiece on a pike, and organization president Chris Chocola came out with all weapons set on "swiftboat".

And for those who would rather he stay more sideshow than serious contender, Trump's past is providing plenty of ammunition with which to take on his maybe-maybe-not-campaign. As Dave Weigel first pointed out last week, Trump's previous flirtations with presidential politics have left him with a political history that's full of single-payer health care advocacy and massive tax increases on the rich to pay off the national debt.

Other issues include his past support for prominent Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY), to whom Trump's donated cash. That along with what appears to be some concern over Trump's birtherism and you've got a recipe for some blowback.

But don't worry, conservatives, Trump told TPM over the weekend: he's not the man he used to be.

Chocola's concerns stem from Trump's 2000 campaign tome, The America We Deserve. In it, Trump calls for a Canadian-style health care system and a one-time 14.25% tax on the wealthiest to pay down that era's $5.7 trillion national debt.

"Donald Trump has advocated for massive tax increases that display a stunning lack of knowledge of how to create jobs," Chocola said in the statement. "His love for a socialist-style universal health care system and his alarming obsession with protectionist policies are automatic disqualifiers among free-market conservatives."

Get that?  Donald Trump, mega-millionaire businessman, isn't enough of a free-market conservative.  I love it.  That's how you know the right is taking the threat of Trump very, very seriously.  They want him gone they can run some other clown with no chance against Obama, I guess.  Trump is not that clown, apparently.

Who knew?  I thought he was plenty clown enough for the GOP.  And like I've said, he's giving the rabid anti-Obama dog whistle birthers who make up a majority of the GOP primary vote precisely what they want to hear.

No wonder the rest of the party is scrambling to destroy him.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 4

I can't help but believe that this is motivated partly by vengeance upon the Obama administration for daring to impose new regulations on the financial ratings agencies.

Standard & Poor's on Monday downgraded its credit outlook for the United States, citing a risk that policymakers may not reach agreement on a plan to slash the huge federal budget deficit.

While the credit rating agency maintained the country's top AAA credit rating, it said authorities have not made clear how they will tackle long-term fiscal pressures.

S&P said the move signals at least a one-in-three chance that it could cut its long-term rating on the United States within two years.

"Because the U.S. has, relative to its AAA peers, what we consider to be very large budget deficits and rising government indebtedness, and the path to addressing these is not clear to us, we have revised our outlook on the long-term rating to negative from stable," S&P said in a release.

Asariel has the Treasury response here.  Dow was off 200 points as a result of that little torpedo and gold is knocking at the door of $1,500 an ounce now.  Ahh, but note I said "partly" above.  The other half of the equation involves the debt ceiling:

Industry officials said they have been warning lawmakers that a failure to act would reverberate not only through the bond markets, but across America. The government would no longer be able to pay for its commitments, such as Medicare and Social Security.

The officials said they try to make clear to lawmakers that raising the debt limit does not spur new spending. Instead, it enables the government to pay off maturing debt, or spending obligations already made.

And, they point out, if the nation goes into default, its borrowing costs would spike.

“We say: ‘Guys, if we breach it, if we default on our debt, it would make it even harder to pay it back because of the interest costs. And we know that’s not your goal, so just FYI,’ ” said one financial industry executive who, like some others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to recall private conversations with lawmakers.

Members of the Financial Services Forum — which represents the chief executives of 20 of the nation’s largest financial institutions — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups have fanned out across Capitol Hill to press lawmakers.

In some cases, lawmakers have been visited by community bankers and local business leaders from their districts — to put a friendly face on the lobbying effort and to underscore the point that it’s not just Wall Street, but also Main Street that would take the hit.

And when they see lawmakers at trade gatherings or dinner parties, Wall Street chief executives seek them out: “Hey, Congressman, I know you have to do what you need to do, but this debt ceiling vote is coming up, and I just want to take 10 seconds and talk about the economic consequences,” one executive said, describing conversations he and others have had.

This is the corporate arm of Washington DC making it abundantly clear that refusal to raise the debt ceiling will not be tolerated by the Powers That Be.  I've been saying this would happen the moment the GOP took control of the House.

Here's the problem with this particular game of chicken:  The people that stand to lose the most here, especially from the threat of a sovereign debt default, are the investor class.  They are the ones who spent billions to get the GOP into power, and the threat of default will annihilate the bond market.  The big players, especially the hedge fund giants, stand to lose hundreds of billions from a treasury meltdown as interest rates on long bonds skyrocket and yields drop like lead elephants on gravity steroids.

They will not allow the Republicans to toss satchel charges into their cathedral of cash. 

Behold now Washington being told to find an agreement on the debt ceiling or else.  It will be raised.  It will be raised with another face-saving deal like the FY 2010 budget mess.  But it will be raised.  The corporate interests in the US will not allow the Tea Party to blow a hole in the bottom of the economy.  They will be split.  The howls will cause the Tea Party arm of the GOP to go into full revolt.

But the debt ceiling will be raised.

That is as certain as things get.

Something Nasty Is Brewing At The Playboy Mansion

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County health officials say the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease was found in a hot tub at the Playboy Mansion where scores of people became ill after attending a fundraiser in February.
The Los Angeles Times says health officials presented their findings Friday at an annual conference at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
I'm both amused and a little grossed out.  What I'm not is surprised.   

StupidiNews! On A Sad Note

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- [As Zandar reported yesterday] the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, long considered one of the best in the nation, will be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection - an apparent first in recent history for a major U.S. orchestra.

Board chairman Richard Worley said members made a nearly unanimous vote Saturday to file for reorganization in a federal bankruptcy court in Philadelphia after a "long meeting, thoughtful meeting, emotional meeting."

One of the Big Five, the Philadelphia Orchestra has been famous for a century.  Their history includes some of the most played performances of all time, and soundtracks for movies such as Disney's Fantasia.  Musicians have agreed to pay cuts in the past, and are being asked to take yet another while the board tries to gather the funds necessary to keep the doors open.

Practically speaking, the arts don't hold up to food and shelter in the hierarchy of needs.  However, that isn't to say they aren't important.  We are at the beginning of a long, slow recovery.  Over the next decade or two, our priorities are going to be reorganized.  While it is inevitable that these cuts must take place, it is equally important that we do so in a way that allows us to preserve what was so important in the first place.  Museums, small attractions, nonprofit historical landmarks, all of these must be remembered and not abandoned completely during lean times.  Think of the losses we have mourned from history, the documents and artifacts that have been lost.  We have an opportunity here to avoid the mistakes of our ancestors.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter Part 69

The battle over Foreclosuregate continues.  I've mentioned before that the banks are looking for a settlement agreement that gets them off the hook for defrauding millions of homeowners on their mortgages, and while the federal settlement looks to be very much in the banks' favor, the 50 state collective lawsuit is running afoul of the states very, very badly needing the cash and wanting very much to rightfully collect.

Attorneys general negotiating a settlement of a 50-state investigation of foreclosure practices have reached agreements with lenders on some terms while failing so far to reach an accord on potential monetary payments by the banks, said a person familiar with the talks.

The probe was triggered by claims of faulty foreclosure practices following the housing collapse which law enforcement officials said may violate state law. Significant progress has been made on a deal with lenders, which include Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), with agreements in principle reached on several issues, said the person, who didn’t specify the areas of accord as they may change as talks proceed.

It may take at least two months to reach a final agreement, said the person, who declined to be identified because the talks are private. An accord remains out of reach because states want principal reductions for borrowers, which is more than banks agreed to in deals reached with U.S. regulators last week, said Allison Schoenthal, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells in New York.

“Principal reductions I don’t think are going to be agreed to by banks, and I don’t think the banks see a need for a penalty when, in their view, they haven’t done anything wrong,” said Schoenthal, who represents lenders and servicers and isn’t involved in the talks. 

Nothing wrong except, you know, destroy the economy in a blizzard of fraud and hang the multi-trillion dollar bill for it around the necks of the US taxpayer.  The state AGs aren't stupid, either.  They know that without principal reductions, the banks are going to get the money and the property and actually end up in far better financial shape than they were in 2007...and the states are going to get stuck with the clean up and lost tax base as property values continue to drop.  They want the banks to eat the pile of crap they made so that housing prices can start to recover again.

Little chance of that happening, of course.

An Anniversary We'd Like To Forget

Wednesday marks one year after the deadly Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that sank the rig and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the ocean.  From Texas to Florida, the Gulf Coast is still flooded with uncertainty about the safety of the waters.

About 40 surfers paddled off St. Pete beach Sunday with a dozen roses in hand to mark the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It's sad to see that we're naïve to think that because it happened, we have all the answers," said Thomas Paterek, chairman of the Surfrider Foundation's Suncoast chapter. "Truth be told: We don't have any of the answers yet."

The nonprofit environmental group organized the event, during which surfers paddled out about 100 yards and tossed 11 roses into the water, remembering the 11 members of the Deepwater Horizon crew who died when the oil rig exploded off the Louisiana coast on April 20, 2010. The final rose represented wildlife impacted by the spill.

"This disaster is enormous, and there's still oil out there," said Dave Rauschkolb, founder of Hands Across the Sand, which opposes offshore oil drilling along Florida's coastline. "No one can be sure the sand and the Gulf (are safe). We're hearing that it is, but those of us who live up there who've been affected by this ... it's still scary for us."

Rauschkolb lives in Seaside, a coastal community east of Pensacola, and owns three restaurants, one of which serves seafood.

"We're buying our seafood from the eastern Gulf because I don't feel comfortable with the seafood that's coming towards the west coast further west from us."

And very few Americans do.   Do you blame the guy?  I don't.  Maybe because as Mac McClelland reports, the oil's still washing up on shore.

At the entrance to Grand Isle State Park, we're issued the same warning DW was, that the beach is closed to the press and everyone else because there are workers on it. That doesn't seem like that good of a reason to keep a reporter off a beach, and in any case it is a lie. Last August, when I walked out of sight of the park staffer at the entrance and onto the beach, two private guards escorted me away. This time, the beach is deserted of rent-a-cops and cleanup workers alike. It's covered in tarballs, little and sometimes not-so-little brown blemishes all over the sand. They're shiny and smell like gas when you break them open.

After a while, some workers arrive. Five of them. One shows me how they get the tarballs. He's holding a broken-off rake handle; he's taped a lens from a pair of sunglasses to the end of it, which he uses to scoop up the tar. He was originally issued a shovel, but the workers, finding this wildly inefficient, now make their own tools. In his other hand he's got a rake with too much space between the tines to pick up smaller pieces of tar. He affixed mesh to the inside of it. "I've had this job since May," he says. There's a laminated "Ten Ways To Be A Successful Husband" card in the pocket of his denim shirt. "We're just grateful for the work."

Asked if any of this oil is from the new, non-BP spill that started washing up on Grand Isle last week, he says no, that's already all been cleaned up, anything that's left over is still Deepwater Horizon oil. A group of Coast Guard guys I ran into earlier said the same thing. BP spokesperson Blake Scott also confirms this after I make it through security at central command.

We still have a major problem in the Gulf of Mexico, and it's one I'll be highlighting this week.

Mean Old Scary Black President Guy Is Back

Via Alan Colmes this morning, we learn whenever President Obama holds the line to defend Democratic party and American values, we always get back to the GOP default position that he is mean, belligerent, disrespectful, intemperate and most of all angry black guy

Odds are we will see more of this meaner side of the Obama persona in the months ahead because, as columnist and former GOP presidential aide Pete Wehner notes, "now that he finds himself intellectually outmatched by Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and in a precarious situation when it comes to his re-election, Obama is dropping his past civility sermons down the memory hole. Decency and respect for others has suddenly become passe. Talking about our disagreements without being disagreeable has been overtaken by events. Not impugning the character of the opposition is fine as long as it's convenient, but it's to be ignored whenever necessary." In other words, we're now seeing the real Obama in what promises to be an ugly campaign.

If there were any more projection from the right here, you could read that Moonie Times editorial clearly on the side of the moon at night.  Please observe how the editorial hits all the low notes:  Obama is rage-filled, disrespectful towards "real America" and "intellectually outmatched" by the GOP (instead of their usual attacks on Obama claiming he's too detached, too politically correct and too much of an egghead, while the Tea Party is celebrated as passionate, authentic, and common sense, see how all this works?)

The barely unspoken message here is that Obama is a stupid, angry black guy, along with all the connotative baggage that goes along with that image over the decades.  This attack doesn't get pulled out by the right unless they are extraordinarily desperate to try to make everything about Obama, rather than about whatever con the Republicans are trying to pull on the American people, so blowing that dog whistle of "Paul Ryan is clearly smarter, but what did you expect" is the way forward.

And as I noted above, the Republicans have spent the last several years reveling in ignorance, saying that doubting things the elitist science guys tell you about climate or evolution or anything for that matter is really the intellectual superiority of the "open mind".  Now they are projecting that same state onto Obama after years of saying he's basically Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager by now saying Obama clearly hasn't done his homework, got "outsmarted" by the GOP, and is now resorting to being angry and mean.

The whiplash alone on that 180 should have flipped the GOP clown car, but apparently it rolled over enough times to land on those little wheels.  Whenever the Republicans go after Obama personally like this, you know they've admitted that they've lost the argument on the merits of fact and are now scrambling to drag things as deep into the mud as possible.

All while Obama remains as cool as a spring breeze over an iceberg.  He drives them nuts, you know.


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