April 04, 2009

Global warming denialists need better arguments

Andrew Revkin explains why, especially in the face of denialists who spout of about bits of cooling here and there.

Obama’s Taliban tar baby pops up again

Pakistani Taliban militant leader Baituallah Mehsud, apparently determined to ride the wave of publicity from Obama’s AfPak “surge,” has claimed responsibilty for the New York immigration center shooting, when it’s clear he had nothing to do with it.

You know, if we worked on getting out of Afghanistan, we’d suck al the PR air out of the balloon from this guy.

Tim Geithner – fraudster, part 2 – with Obama & Summers

The Geithner-Summers-Obama troika is wanting to let its TARP buddies off a big financial hook. Here’s the nutgraf, right up top
The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials.

How is the troika trying to do this? By setting up Enron-type “special purpose vehicles” to avoid giving money directly to in-danger financial institutions.

Ahh, we’ve reached the nadir of financial neoliberalism in the Democratic party when the President of the United States and his top financial advisors are taking pages from Enron’s playbook.

Of course, we have a second, pull quote nutgraf on page 2:
“They are basically trying to launder the money to avoid complying with the plain language of the law,” said David Zaring, a former Justice Department attorney who defended the government from lawsuits involving related legal issues. “They are trying to create a loophole to ignore Congress, and I think the courts will think that it’s ridiculous.”

We can only hope somebody sues to see if the courts agree, failure of Congress to pass a veto-proof forbidding of this, and that the courts do indeed rule it’s ridiculous.

Read the full story.



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Tim Geithner – fraudster

Last night, on Bill Moyers Journal, William Black said, quite bluntly, that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is committing fraud, with TARP 2.0 and TALF. It all started when Moyers asked him why GM CEO Rick Wagoner gets canned and not Bank of America CEO Kim Lewis or somebody like that. Black responded:
If we put honest people in, who didn't cause the problem, their first job would be to find the scope of the problem. And that would destroy the cover up. …

Geithner is charging, is covering up. Just like Paulson did before him. Geithner is publicly saying that it's going to take $2 trillion — a trillion is a thousand billion — $2 trillion taxpayer dollars to deal with this problem. But they're allowing all the banks to report that they're not only solvent, but fully capitalized. Both statements can't be true. It can't be that they need $2 trillion, because they have masses losses, and that they're fine.

These are all people who have failed. Paulson failed, Geithner failed. They were all promoted because they failed, not because...

Finally, someone “mainstream” in the economics world who will go beyond even Krugman and call a spade a spade.

Read the whole interview transcript or watch the video to see the details of Black’s charge.


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Krispy Kreme going broke?

Say it ain’t so! But, Moody’s has it on a list of “bottom-rung” companies that are most likely to default on debt payments. It’s all part of what may be the biggest troubled industry after cars, houses and newspapers in the current recession — restaurants. “Casual dine” chains, especially, overbuilt as much as cars and autos during the semi-good times earlier this decade and are now facing the financial piper.

NY decision may save desert from power lines

A decision by a New York energy consortium, dropping plans for a massive expansion in electric power line construction, may have good news for the Desert Southwest, too.
The consortium, New York Regional Interconnect, cited a ruling made on Tuesday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington upholding a review process that demands that each such project be subject to a cost-benefit analysis and receive the support of 80 percent of the beneficiaries.

The parallels to massive lines crossing the Deert Southwest from solar projects so8nd strong. More on the court ruling behind this all is here.

Pots and kettles in Palin’s Deception whack-job land

When Palin’s Deception started, I thought “Audrey” would actually make her best shot at figuring out if Sarah Palin was lying about her pregnancy, and, if unable to come to a conclusion, but having enough of a cybercommunity behind her, hire a PI to nose around further to the degree he or she could.

Ahh, not so, not at all.

First, the place has become a cult.

Second, “Audrey” appears to be enjoying being the Queen of Sheba (first pot vs. kettle — Audrey and SP) with stringing out bits of information, pseudo-information and speculation here and there, without actually doing anything constructive about this.

In fact, regarding the PI idea, I suggested it, as part of my last long post about her and her website and blog. She e-mailed me with three or four excuses about why she couldn’t do that, all of which I shot down in an updated version of that post.

Soon after that, as “Audrey” (I put her name in scare quotes deliberately) continued to dally around the edges with her obsession with SP pregnancy photos, I realized she never would do anything besides dally around the edges.

Her claims to any expertise in midwivery, pregnancy care, or related issues aside, if she were serious about this being single reason for getting involved with Sarah Palin’s pregnancy with Trig (assuming it’s her kid, and now that Bristol’s been shot down as a candidate) she would have finished up her looking at various photos of SP’s actual/alleged pregnancy and been done with that..

Nope, nope and nope. As if the entire Palin family has become her tar baby or something, she moved on to playing around the edges of MySpace blog postings by Bristol Palin and some of her friends.

But, playing around the edges, unlike with questions of whether SP pregnancy photos were Photoshopped or not, isn’t enough. Now, she’s ready to go whole hog, including specific posts, and possibly even names, of juvenile friends of Bristol’s.

And along with that? We have white trash calling the Palins white trash in comment threads, trash-talking while “Audrey’s” increasing censorious groupies refuse to run any contrary opinions.

Speaking of that, and since “Audrey” and her Sieg Heil groupies see fit not to print how they’re wrong in her latest post, the one in which she attempts to justify rummaging through juveniles’ MySpace detritus, I’ll have to do that myself.

Only thing is, “Audrey” is wrong, as I commented there (without getting past Morgan the Nazi moderator).

As for the post itself? “Audrey” attempts to justify her gutter-rummaging by pointing to three criminal cases where MySpace was reportedly important in solving crimes, just in the past week.

In the second of the three cases, MySpace “solved” nothing. Rather, in the case of a juvenile posting nude pix of herself there, it was the scene of the crime. In the third case, it was the cause of the crime, not a clue in its solving. And, even the first case she cites, is just under investigation; nothing’s been solved yet, because no criminal charge has been filed yet.

But, beyond that, WHY, “Audrey,” are you rummaging in MySpace pages? Unless you believe that Sarah Palin either borrowed or kidnapped some other woman’s baby to pass off as Bristol’s in the past three months, it’s HUGELY clear Bristol had a son named Tripp at the end of last year, and, barring a miracle of post-pregnancy recovery, therefore CANNOT be the mother of Trig.

It would be less nutbar to postulate somebody else, even if not a family member, as Trig’s mother than it would be Bristol. And, if THAT isn’t the point of rummaging through MySpace trash, but rather, just rummaging through MySpace trash, you really have fallen low. As low as the woman you claim to abhor, or nearly so.

Short of Martians, or Elvis after a sex change, the most logical line is, after all, that Sarah Palin is the mother of Trig, horribly bad mother that she was during the pregnancy.

Of course, this is the same “Audrey” who claimed last fall that Team Obama had “inside knowledge” about the “truth” of the Sarah/Trig pregnancy. Scary as the risks are, I’d like to see SP run for the GOP nomination, whether she actually gets it or not, just to expose another wrongitude of “Audrey’s.”

That said, if Sarah is indeed Trig’s and gave birth last April, a commenter at Celtic Diva has a VERY interesting insight. (The comment is in response to a guest post by nurse Lee Thompkins, who likens birth doubters to conspiracy theorists.

Sweet Lucy 47 says:
Palin had become a Pro-abortion Pro-Lifer.

She really didn't want this baby, she had the amnio, found out then the baby was “damaged” and really realized she didn't want it...then denied she was even pregnant for months, until she could deny it no longer, so had to own up to it. Then, in Texas realizing she had a serious problem, made a fateful decision to travel as she did, in the hopes that God would take over and she wouldn't have the baby. Cynical?? Yes, maybe I am...but it all fits in with your explanation, and it all fits in with what happened and it explains the reasoning behind her actions.

Fits to me. It does accept Palin at her word (which ain't worth much) about the legal facts of the birth — and nothing else.

In other words, Sarah Palin has brought a lot of this on herself. (But, not all of it.)

I will admit that I, early on, noted that Mat-Su Regional Hospital did not post a Trig birth announcement. Well, there WAS one in the Anchorage Daily News.

But, there again, Team Palin could have done a better job of shooting stuff like this down. And did not. Because, she's an idiot.

Palin’s Deception gets down and dirty

“Audrey,” the proprietor of the Palin’s Deception blog, apparently frustrated that her picture-sleuthing can’t prove Sarah Palin wasn’t Trig Palin’s mom, and smacked in the face by pics of Bristol Palin holding Tripp, has decided to get down and dirty with MySpace snooping on Bristol’s friends.

And along with that? We have white trash calling the Palins white trash in comment threads, trash-talking while “Audrey’s” increasing censorious groupies refuse to run any contrary opinions.

Speaking of that, and since “Audrey” and her Sieg Heil groupies see fit not to print how she’s wrong in her latest post, the one in which she attempts to justify rummaging through juveniles’ MySpace detritus, I’ll have to do that myself.

The post itself? “Audrey” attempts to justify her gutter-rummaging by pointing to three cases where MySpace was reportedly important in solving crimes, just in the past week.

In the second of the three cases, MySpace “solved” nothing. Rather, in the case of a juvenile posting nude pix of herself there, it was the scene of the crime. In the third case, it was the cause of the crime, not a clue in its solving. And, even the first case she cites, is just under investigation; nothing’s been solved yet, because no criminal charge has been filed yet in what is a minor incident if it’s an incident at all.

“Audrey,” surely Morgan can rally the PD cult to dig up better trash than that?

A more complete post on this hypocrisy is coming later. And not in the cult-like “later when the Mass bell is rung” on her blog.

April 03, 2009

WSJ: FOR supply-side economics except when it’s against it

Michael Boskin claims President Barack Obama is lying about his pledge not to raise taxes on anybody making less than $250,000, because every dollar of additional debt today means a dollar of additional taxes tomorrow.

Well, the definition of “stimulus” is, stimulating the economy so people and companies make more and therefore eat back into that debt without tax increases.

Sure, there’s no guarantee a government-fueled stimulus will work the way its proponents claim.

But, given that we never heard any Boskin outcry about Reaganomics, he’s in a pretty weak place to be firing deficit spitballs.

Whack Job John Cornyn has the trifecta this week

It's a big week for Whack Job John Cornyn.

After previously announcing he would oppose President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, Dawn Johnson, because she lacks “requisite seriousness,” WJJ has now hit trifecta in one week.

First, Whack Job John was amongst GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who boycotted the start of committee hearings for the nomination of David Hamilton to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Then, on his website, WJJ came out against the federal district court ruling that Bagram detainees have rights

A simple red-light camera solution for Duncanville

As I noted in my day job this week, Duncanville, Texas, a Best Southwest suburb of Dallas, has just a bit of red-light cam zealousness on low-tolerance enforcement.

Only Arlington, with 10 times the population, and Dallas, with 35 times, made more money on red-light cams than Duncanville last year. Or, to look at it another way, Plano, a city with almost eight times the population, made only two-thirds as much money on its more numerous cameras.

As for citations, neighboring city Cedar Hill, with a somewhat larger population, had only about one-eighth as many tickets.

In Duncanville, the vast majority of red-light camera citations come from just two intersections: southbound U.S. 67 service road at Cockrell Hill and Danieldale roads.

And, it also seems apparent that, if not a no-tolerance policy, Duncanville has a small-tolerance policy on stop-line issues.

Solution? Simple, camera-enforceable, and black and white.

But, it would probably cost the City of Red-Light Cams about $600,000.

Ban right-on-red turns at those two sites.

So, what say you, City Manager Kent Cagle? Mayor David Green? Police Chief Brown?

Steve Pearlstein gives G20 two thumbs up

His hit all corners take on the summit?

1. Sarko got at least the appearance of IMF reform;
2. Brown got to rail against the “old system” while still standing apart from Sarko;
3. Obama gets Western Europe to actually do more stimulus work, albeit via the mechanism of IMF loans, and at the same time can use Sarko’s reform call as a cudgel at home.

At the next G20, in September in New York, we’ll see how this has played out.

Scatblogging is CATblogging, big cat style

If you live in or love the Southwest, and are a nature lover, you’re probably familiar with the story of Macho B. If not, I’ll give you the nickel tour.

Macho B was first captured on trip-wired wildlife camera in 1996. He was captured in late February, then released before being recaptured 12 days later, on March 2, because he showed signs of poor health. He was euthanized that afternoon.

The recently euthanized Macho B was allegedly baited with female jaguar scat for his first capture.

That’s per Janay Brun, who worked for the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project and says she baited the trap in the presence of a Detection Project biologist and a state Fish and Game employee.

Of course, everybody else is either saying nothing or in deep denial.

At the same time, jaguars may get Endangered Species Act protection; at the least, U.S. Fish and Wildlife has to come up with better reasons NOT to do so, a federal judge has ruled.

Iowa: 3 down, 47 to go on gay marriage

Iowa, by unanimous state Supreme Court ruling, is to legalize gay marriage.

Sidebar note to California gay activists who did the wrong thing last year in “doubling down” to try to get a ballot-box win over Prop. 8 rather than forcing it to go through California Assembly approval for ballot access is now in order.

NONE of the early black civil-rights wins came by vote at all, rather than court action. And, any later ones came from inside Congress, not via public referendums. Take notes.

Obama can’t hide people in ‘Gitmo East’

In a far-reaching ruling that has gotten little MSM airplay in the U.S. so far, District Judge John Bates has ruled detainees at Bagram Air Base have the right to challenge their detentions in U.S. civilian courts.

At the very moment Team Obama is expanding Bagram (little noted in either the MSM or MSLBs), and less than six weeks after the Obama, not Bush, Justice Department claimed Bagram detainees had no such rights, this victory is HUGE, as Daphne Eviatar further explains.

Arctic ice gone in 30 years?

Some of the latest global warming models show a much faster melt-down on Arctic icepack than before.

Geithner fiddled at NY Fed while Citigroup burned

The New York Times has a long, in-depth article on just what Tim Geithner did, and didn’t, do as chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

My takeaways?

1. If you want real financial regulation, make at least the NY Fed, if not all 12 regional Feds, government institutions, not private banks. To that degree, it’s not totally fair to blame Geithner for everything that happened on his watch in New York. It IS fair to blame him if this isn’t part of his financial reregulation proposal.

2. Geithner, like his boss, doesn’t like confrontations.

3. As a result of No. 2, and his previous non-banking background, he may be too trusting of financial institutions.

4. By selecting Geithner as his Secretary of the Treasury, in light of Nos. 2-3, President Barack Obama may have been sending a “don’t stroke out” message to Wall Street.

5. Geithner has a lot of personal blame for Citigroup’s catastrophe continuing on its not so merry way.

But, take a look for yourself.

Obama doubles down on $3 trillion with blank check in AfPak

That’s Ted Rall’s take on Obama’s Afghanistan “surge.”

Actually, that’s not quite right. Rall says Obama doubled down on $10 trillion, which he says is more like the real cost of Iraq and Afghanistan wars with compound interest.

Rall, who was against the invasion of Afghanistan when it was first proposed, a VERY lonely voice then, explains why:
President Obama and the Democrats always asserted that Afghanistan was the “good war” — the one thing George W. Bush did right before he "”ook his eye off the ball” by invading Iraq. Not me. I realized that the invasion and subsequent occupation were doomed from the start. My Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment came while watching Afghan villagers sobbing outside a house being searched by U.S. troops. “The Russians never violated our homes,” an old man told me. As in many societies descended from nomads, Afghan culture dictates that a man’s home is truly his castle. “Even when they came to kill you, the Taliban knocked on the door and waited for you come out. They didn't touch your wife or daughter. They never came inside. Never.”

I stared at the house’s front door, smashed and splintered after having been kicked in, and thought: They’ll never forgive us. Women were shrieking inside the house. The soldiers yelled at them: “Shut the f--- up!” At least they did it in English, so they couldn’t understand. Hearts and minds.

When you’re worse than the Russians or the Taliban, you’re pretty bad.

And, that’s why I have less and less truck with “war hawk light” Dems-only quasi-progressives who still support this war, especially with someone like, say Blue Girl, who’s gung-ho pro-military.

Frankly, even aside from recruiting standards being lowered, I think that’s another bit of detritus from an professional Army, explosively mixed with the “American exceptionalism” held by about 98 percent of people to the right of Rall and 99 percent of people to the right of me.

Or, to put it another way, and to see a significant portion of today’s armed forces in light of today’s celebrity culture, I have this feeling that many an American soldier door-kicker has the attitude of, “Don’t you know who I am?”

Is everyone in the military like that? Of course not.

Is a majority? I honestly don’t know.

Is a fairly large plurality, say 20 percent or more, like that to some degree or another?

I’m pretty damned sure that answer is yes.

April 02, 2009

Jaguars to get ESA protection?

A federal district court has ruled the lethargic U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has zero excuse for not drafting a recovery program for jaguars, unless it can come up with much better evidence than it has so far to justify inaction.

A little more attitude adjustment is in order with post-ruling comments like this:
The court’s decision does not mean a recovery plan and habitat designation are a foregone conclusion, said Fish & Wildlife spokesman Jeff Humphrey.

Sounds like pre-emptive foot dragging.

Meanwhile, the state of Arizona has something to answer for on jaguars, too.

The recently euthanized Macho B was allegedly baited with female jaguar scat for his first capture.

An ‘anti-theft drug’? Is it ‘Brave New World’?

I’ve often said that the 20th century produced two truly prescient social novels.

One, of course, is “1984.” The other? “Brave New World.”

And, it what sounds like a bit of “Brave New World” mashed up with Wal-Mart, researchers at the University of Minnesota claim an already-extant anti-addiction drug can reduce the urge to steal.

Naltrexone, already known to limit urges in the case of addiction to some drugs, alcohol and compulsive gambling, was given to 25 reportedly habitual thieves.

Seriously, though, what if naltrexone has this effect, and aerial application of it does?

A reply to 'Invictus'

Am I indeed the captain of my soul?
I find it hard to believe that is so.
Translating the individual “I”
To the global core of humanity
I think that it’s well-nigh impossible.
The individual human psyche,
Convoluted and self-referential,
Means the “I” is not quite that simple.
As for that “master” subroutine inside,
The one that supposedly masters “I”?
The king always faces peasant revolts.
If not that, a master can go haywire.
And, when that happens, then who masters it?
– April 2, 2009

INVICTUS, by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

Tit-for-tat social strategy doesn’t work in workplace

The tit-for-tat strategy of social interaction, a refined version of “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” which is a base-level way to cut down on “cheaters” within evolutionarily developed social altruism doesn’t work on the job.

Well, this makes sense. In modern socialized societies, the workplace is a particular construct without the full range of social operation options that society in general has.

If you tit-for-tat a shitty boss, especially in an at-will hiring and firing state like Texas, you know what happens.

If you “accentuate the positive,” though, the researchers say you feel better about yourself, do better on the job, etc.

DMN gives employees a haircut

Similar to what the Fort Worth Star-Telegram announced last month, A.H. Belo, parent of THE Dallas Morning News, is trimming the salaries of anybody making more than $25K, on a sliding percentage scale.

House OKs FDA tobacco regulation

The bill to give the Food and Drug Administration regulatory power over tobacco passed with more than 70 percent House support. Although North Carolina Republican Richard Burr promises a Senate filibuster, I find it doubtful he can scrape up 40 other Senators. In other words, if he wants to filibuster, he will have to do an actual filibuster

Goodbye, Lieberman?

Not Joe Lieberman, but Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman the focus of a bribery investigation. How long before he calls the investigators “Arabs”?

Sarko: We’re moving beyond ‘the Anglo-Saxon model’

He’s of course talking about the Anglo-Saxon financial model, which a combination of old-school business conservatives and neolibs getting yet another Democratic presidential administration home still try to foist on the rest of the world.

“He” is French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said, “a page has been turned” on financial regulation and related issues at the G20 summit.

Now, some neolibs, and with better standing, a few non-neo liberals, will say Sarko is “just posturing.”

Is there some degree of posturing in his statement? Sure.

But, “just” posturing? Wrong.

That said, Sarko said the deal wasn’t perfect. He wanted tighter regulation on securitization issues.

THAT said, with something on the books, and the Eurozone still the world’s largest economy (see poll at right on homepage), an opening wedge on this issue can now be further developed in one segment, at least, of the global economy.

More on Sarko’s take on the G20 from the Wall Street Journal.
“Controlling hedge funds doesn't create a job in the French textile industry...but this turns the page of the madness of all those years of deregulation,” he said. “This is without precedent.”

And, pushed by Sarko, the G20 has asked the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to publish a list of tax havens; Sarko said he expects that list to be released at any time. And, with help from President Obama, he apparently got China, not an OECD member, to go along, at least for public consumption.

Euros double down on increased IMF support

European and other members of the G20, in a move that will hopefully shut the collective yap of American neolibs have doubled their original proposal for additional financial support for the International Monetary Fund, from $250 billion to $500 billion in new funds. The G20 agreed on other special measures as well.

Josh Marshall’s neolib flaks still attack ‘old Europe’

Simon Johnson has some good things to say about the current crisis and how we got here, but his continued simplistic browbeating of the EU over its refusal to adopt a US-UK “solution” to the problem is getting irritating.

Now, Johnson says, if “old Europe” is going to be obstructionist on International Monetary Fund issues, we need to force its hand:
The masterstroke is simple and also brilliant. The US is pushing for - and likely to get - the Managing Director (known as the MD) of the IMF to be selected through an open, competitive and merit-based selection process.

To which I replied, both to him and some of the TPM commenters who swallowed his line:
So, Mr. Johnson, are we going to open the World Bank chairmanship to an open election process as well?

Call me back, or write another essay, when you're down with that.

Some commenters to his post were buying his line that EU member states’ much stronger safety net already counts as a stimulus. (Note: It does; look at how much The One had on expanded unemployment benefits in his package.)

To those folks, I added this:
Germany, at least, doesn't calculate doesn't calculate unemployment the same way we do. Stop falling for an American right-wing argument. (For example, if you work for a temp agency, in Germany, you're considered unemployed, not employed, like here. Armed forces don't count in employment. And, they don't lock up 1 million or so marginally employable drug users.)

In other words, comparing European and American unemployment rates is comparing apples and baklava.

With just those issues above, if you either add 2 points to US unemployment rates or knock 2 percentage points off the German side, you’re much more accurate.

Needed: more independent thinkers from center to further left on the political spectrum.

And, “less American exceptionalism” from both halves of the two-party duopoly.

April 01, 2009

GM, trying to get out of hole, still using shovel

Ahh, brilliance, thy name is General Motors. In an attempt to get more people to buy cars, GMAC will start again making loans to subprime buyers.

So, you’re going to try to sell cars to people who may already be upside down on home loans, or else are upside down on the loans for cars they want to trade in and which will be worth nothing?

Obama’s federal-level version of what Texas does, and Europe, the clunker buy-up, I’m OK with. But, GMAC trying to do it on a private dime without such a program?

More insanity.

Whack Job John Cornyn wouldn’t know international law …


If it swam across the Rio Grande and bit him in the tuchis. So, his claim that President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, Dawn Johnson, lacks “requisite seriousness,” is simply laughable.

No, what lacks “requisite seriousness,” John, is YOU. You oppose Johnson because of her acerbic tone in writing about the illegalities espoused by the John Yoo-David Addington torture memos when you never did a thing about them yourself.

A-stan bottomless hole gets deeper

Gen. David Petraeus wants another 10,000 troops moved to Afghanistan.

And, how many more troops will you want after that, Gen. Westmoreland? And more KBR-types for the additional quartermaster functions?

Texas House passes journalism shield law

And, with only two dissenting votes. Most states already have similar laws.

David Horowitz – Obama was born in Hawaii

When a winger as wingnutty as David Horowitz actually talks sense about the Barack Obama birth certificate non-controversy, maybe other wingnuts will listen up.

Or, maybe they’ll point to Horowitz’s long-ago left-wing past and claim he’s a cyborg now being “awakened.”

Some reader comments on Jammie Wearing Fool and Little Green Footballs indicate the latter is about as likely. In fairness, though, the majority of LGF folks claim they never believed it.

Dallas PD officer Robert Powell quits

Powell is quitting over his cop-nazi harassment of Ryan and Tamishia on their way to see her dying mother at Baylor-Plano hospital last week.

Real questions about Obama’s Iraq withdrawal

Jeremy Scahill asks the questions the mainstream media hasn’t, like:

· What will be done with the 163,000 “contractors,” err, mercenaries?
· Will all the U.S.bases be closed?
· Will the Pentagon find a way to rip off taxpayers for “withdrawal” costs? (To which I add my own sidebar, “Will KBR do the same”?)
· Will Obama classify even more combat troops as non-combatants? (A number of brigade combat teams will be relabeled as parts of a “transition force headquarters” in August 2010.)
· After the last three coalition partners – Australia, Britain and Romania – withdraw in July, what will the U.S. do differently? Will public perceptions change?

Scahill, the author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” has plenty more questions where those came from.

The Guardian is spot-on for April Fool’s Day

Its top story has to do with Twitter. Read it.

Is Medvedev ready to give Putin the boot?

Foreign Policy says Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is indeed becoming more his own man vis-à-vis his predecessor and mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Why now?

The economic meltdown, fueled in Russia by collapsing oil prices.

I wouldn’t expect Pismo Beach out of Medvedev, but he may actually be wanting to be a reformer, at least in Russian terms.

And, as the story notes, they have strongly different backgrounds — Medvedev the lawyer vs. Putin the KGB apparatchik.

If nothing else, as the authors note, if Russia’s economy goes further in the tank, Medvedev may have no choice but to lean harder on Putin.

‘Controlled’ GM bankruptcy could be uncontrolled disaster

Word is that the Obama Administration is looking at driving GM into a controlled bankruptcy to then split the company into two parts, with the more desirable parts being sold to a government-financed company.

Sounds good at first, no?

But…

Who decides what is “more desirable”? Who prices this stuff?

If you’re thinking this sounds like Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s TALF idea, well, you might not be alone.

Theoretically, it should be easier to choose winners and losers within a traditional manufacturing industry, but who knows?

IMF caveat 2 – what would stop China from leaving?

Michael Hudson has some great talking points about the International Monetary Fund, its potential funding and staffing increases and related items.

He starts with looking at the massive U.S. deficit. He claims the global “dollar glut” helps finance American military expansionism.
Keeping international reserves in “dollars” means recycling their dollar inflows to buy U.S. Treasury bills – U.S. government debt issued largely to finance the military.

Hmm… Beijing and/or Moscow wouldn’t be at all upset about that now, would they?

Hudson points out that when sovreign wealth funds, whether from China or elsewhere, look at making major investments in things besides various aspects of the financial market, “national security” or other red flags get waved. (Sidebar: That ought to tell you just how important the “financial sector” actually is.)

So, if all this is the case, why wouldn’t China (and also, in all likelihood, Shanghai Cooperation Organization co-founder Russia) just up and leave?

Well, Hudson says it could just happen. He says for the first time in half a century (i.e., right after the founding), this is a real possibility.

The SCO could probably use what China wants, an electronic transfer currency, as the reserve currency, and maybe make the dollar and euro equal backup reserve currencies. With India having observer status, the threat is real.

Supremes give Philip Morris a short, swift kick

Without comment, in a one-sentence ruling, the Supreme Court has let stand, finally, a nine-year old lawsuit verdict against tobacco giant Altria, formerly known as Philip Morris. Essentially, though actually making a statement, albeit terse in extremis, SCOTUS declined to hear the case.

With interest, between actual damages, punitive damages to smoking widow Mayola Williams, and an override/cap on that, which will go to the state of Oregon’s crime victims fund, Philip Morris needs to dig in its wallet for about $150 mil, with the clock having been ticking on nine years of interest, though it says it will still appeal the amount due to the state.

Sidebar: The Oregon idea should be adopted by ALL states. It would be much more productive to society than either capping punitive damages OR letting them stand, but all punitive damages actually going to the plaintiff. Damages above 3x or 5x of actual, send them to the state crime victim fund, in part….

And, in part, to state legal aid.

March 31, 2009

Will Obama intervention let GM off hook?

That’s the worry of David Brooks
The most likely outcome, sad to say, is some semiserious restructuring plan, with or without court involvement, to be followed by long-term government intervention and backdoor subsidies forever. That will amount to the world’s most expensive jobs program. It will preserve the overcapacity in the market, create zombie companies and thus hurt Ford.

I’m not as alarmist as Brooks, but, let’s just say this opera isn’t 100 percent over yet.

Right now, I’d put the odds of any GM bankruptcy at even. Within in that, I’ll give 1-2 on a “very quick rinse” of no more than 30 days, even on a “quick rinse” of 30-60 days, and 1-6 on a real, actual bankruptcy.

A BIG caveat on more IMF funding

If the European Union, and the U.S., is on board for more funding for the International Monetary Fund, the old “cui bono” must have its head brought up to see the shadows of Big Finance.

An IMF with more money sounds good, but…

More money to do what?

If the IMF of 1990s austerity budgets is simply revived, and trained on Iceland, Hungary (again), maybe Malaysia, etc., well, then we haven’t made any progress after all, have we?

You think the IMF has changed its spots? Think again. And again. And again.
Recent details of IMF loans suggest they haven’t learnt their lesson – Pakistan was recently told to raise interest rates and electricity tariffs, Hungary to devalue its currency and increase interest rates, Latvia to reduce its local government wage bill, Serbia to cut public sector pay and El Salvador not to increase its fiscal deficit.

So, everybody in favor of giving, not the G20, but the old G7, ultimately, more financial bully power, sure, raise your right hands.

Oh, and that scary “Chinese” idea for a new world reserve currency?

Unless Joe Stiglitz just moved to Beijing and renounced his U.S. citizenship, I don’t think he’s Chinese. And, as Nicholas Dearden observes, neither is the UN Commission of Experts established by the President of the General Assembly on the financial crisis.

Michael Hudson offers one more talking point. He claims the global “dollar glut” helps finance American military expansionism.
Keeping international reserves in “dollars” means recycling their dollar inflows to buy U.S. Treasury bills – U.S. government debt issued largely to finance the military.

Hmm… Beijing and/or Moscow wouldn’t be at all upset about that now, would they?

Hudson points out that when sovreign wealth funds, whether from China or elsewhere, look at making major investments in things besides various aspects of the financial market, “national security” or other red flags get waved. (Sidebar: That ought to tell you just how important the “financial sector” actually is.)

When you read stuff like this, you realize just how much a Krugman (along with more neolib types) is missing the boat on European debt concerns.

And, folks, stuff like this is why I read Counterpunch. Where I read stuff like this.

Waxman-Markey go beyond Obama on climate bill – about time

The bill proposed by Rep. Henry Waxman, chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, appears to have some teeth. It would lower emissions faster, and a have a higher renewable energy standard, than what President Barack Obama has proposed.

Even if this isn’t the final answer, Waxman and Rep. Ed Markey, chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, are pushing Obama from the left, just as is needed.

Unfortunately, Rep. Rick Boucher, chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, has inserted some clean coal provisions in the Waxman bill.

But the three are in unison for public consumption; in their letter to the White House laying out the case for their bill, they even got dinosaur John Dingell to sign off with them.

And, with folks like Greenpeace ready to push further from the left, maybe something will get passed.

On the other hand, it doesn’t look like this can get through the Senate via budget reconciliation. Even if it had a chance, I think Team Obama wants to reserve a slot for that for healthcare.

My guess is that, on alt energy and carbon, we end up with something about halfway between where we’re at now and the Obama bill, with more Christmas trees of the Boucher type for clean somewhat less dirty coal.

Government bailout approaching annual GDP total?

Maybe, maybe not.

When the federal government has loaned, given or guaranteed nearly $13 billion or, in other terms, nearly one year’s Gross Domestic Product for the entire country, it might be easy to say you blame other industrialized and developing countries for saying, “We’ll give it a second thought” rather than immediately signing up for something similar?

On the other hand, the Bloomberg total includes a lot, a lot, in stuff that’s “guaranteed” but hasn’t been disbursed. If you only include what’s been disbursed, whether through loans, payments or guarantees invoked, we’re still below $2 trillion.

That said, who knows how much of the remaining $11 trillion will be needed or not? Since Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke like being opaque, they’re not going to say.

Further checklists for Ken Salazar’s environmentalism

In light of U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s decision not to Endangered Species Act-list the yellow-bellied loon, three upcoming decisions Interior Secretary Ken Salazar faces – three decisions whether or not to overrule old BushCo decisions – will complete the picture as to just how much of a squish, or worse, he is on environmental affairs.

The loon? No surprise. Salazar isn’t totally in the pocket of Big Oil, but he’s on better-than-casual speaking terms.

The biggie, anyway, is whether or not environmental groups will be allowed to use the ESA to force action on global warming. While the polar bear is one of the “trophy” type species for Gang Green-type environmental groups, an animal like the pika is just as threatened if not more so.

Anyway, stay tuned on Salazar.

March 30, 2009

EU, US agree on IMF – China?

Behind the alphabet soup? Both the United States and the European Union agree that the International Monetary Fund, believed to be a relic just a few years ago, needs substantial beefing up. Getting something right, U.S. Treasury Secretary and former IMF employee Tim Geithner says about $500 billion in actual funding is needed. The U.S., Japan, and the E.U. have all ponied up fair amounts of money.

What about China? And, what preconditions will it attach?

If Beijing wants to say it will pay based on its GDP per person, rather than reserve funds, unless it gets more of a say, will the IMF then in turn demand more currency flexibility and openness? Since the EU isn’t indebted to China the way the US is, the possibilities are open.

Simon Johnson says this could be the last hurrah for the U.S. and Europe. Well, maybe more so for the U.S., based on some of the things I just said, or have blogged about before. The EU has a better debt structure, a currency that is on the rise in terms of interest, not just evaluation, and more.

And, although Russia is being quiet right now, remember, oil prices are starting to climb again.

At the same time, Johnson says that if the EU and G20 are going to push financial regulation ahead of more stimulus spending, they need to get serious.

Congressional Democrats shooting selves in foot

Especially Senate Democrats Jon Chait says. Their individualism makes them resist any sort of party discipline, and makes them susceptible to GOP-type talking points. Or just greedy.

Take “Mr. Constitution,” Robert Byrd. He doesn’t oppose the Senate reconciliation process on a carbon/climate bill because he’s worried about Senate prerogatives. No, he’s worried about West Virginia coal. Ditto for Kent Conrad and North Dakota’s segment of Big Ag.

Of course, the bottom line is – campaign finance. Of course, to take on to Chait, that’s why Geithner/Summers/Obama aren’t getting tougher with bankers.

Chait ends with a somber warning, that 2010 could be like 1978, or 1994, for Congressional Democrats at the polls.

Dallas mall owner in deep debt doo-doo

Hugh shopping mall owner General Growth is teetering near bankruptcy.

Dallas-Fort Worth properties of General Growth include the Galleria, Collin Creek, Stonebriar, Hulen, Vista Ridge, Town East and Parks at Arlington.

My guess would be that, to save money, GG could dump Town East and Vista Ridge, as the two oldest sites.

Obama beats up GM for faux populism

That's the argument the Detroit News strenuously makes about Obama forcing out Rick Wagoner as GM CEO, and putting the company on the clock, so to speak. And, the paper has some good points, above all, wondering if Obama is not creating a deliberate distraction from Wall Street issues.
He can portray himself as being tough on the corporate executives who are ruining America, without having to draw blood from the bankers.

That is at least possible, Obama killing two birds with one stone.

More Euro pushback against stimulus

This McClatchy article brings up points I hadn’t considered.

Namely, with stronger unemployment benefits than the U.S., most EU countries already have more stimulus-type money in the system. (So, Obama should jawbone GOP governors, not EU prime ministers.)

Second, especially with Germany, many EU countries don’t buy into Keynesian ideas as much as the US or UK. And, they’ve doubled that skepticism in the 21st century.

Details of the Obama ‘nyet’ to GM emerge

Besides dinging GM, and Chrysler, for being too reliant on trucks and SUVs, Obama Administration documents to the two automakers fault their vehicle quality, among other things.

It’s also clear that, with publicly-traded GM, the administration is making clear this is a wake-up call to bondholders to give more in negotiations with GM.

Also, more people besides CEO Rick Wagoner will be leaving GM, too.

As for the UAW, though not specifically mentioned, it’s going to have to wake up on both car quality and vehicle size mix, too.

That said, the Detroit News unloads with both op-ed barrels on this issue. And, they have some good points, above all, wondering if Obama is not creating a deliberate distraction from Wall Street issues.
He can portray himself as being tough on the corporate executives who are ruining America, without having to draw blood from the bankers.

That is at least possible, Obama killing two birds with one stone.

Health insurers find two ways to screw you over

First, they use their own rules to tell you what “normal costs” are if you go out of network for health care.

Second, when severe acne is considered a “pre-existing condition” for denial of coverage, we’re getting ridiculous.

I’ve wavered back and forth between national healthcare through private vendors in some way, or a single-payer system. I’ve leaned toward the first option, thinking single-payer was less realistic politically.

Well, maybe insurers are changing that for us.

As for “rationing” nonsense that wingers raise? That’s exactly what these private insurers are doing right now.

March 29, 2009

Obama cracks whip on GM, boots Waggoner

First, in exchange for more bailout money, GM has just 60 days to get its shit together. Chrysler gets 30 days to finish creating an alliance with Fiat in exchange for $6 mil. And, Bill Ford II probably is wiping his brow right now.

Plus, the Obama Administrastion asked GM CEO Rick Waggoner to step down and he did. Politico suggests that it’s because of Waggoner’s long tenure at GM, and his role in making the company so truck and SUV dependant.

The New York Times goes along, noting that Obama has (rightfully) criticized GM management before.

And, although this original story wasn't clear, GM gets no more money over these next 60 days; it has to "prove up" first.

As for Chrysler, the Fiat deal is the ONLY chance of it making a decent small car any time in the next decade.

OK, now that I’ve given Obama a deserved kudo.

Why the hell won’t he do the same under TARP with banks? Kick some ass and boot some CEOs?

The Detroit News unloads with both op-ed barrels on this issue.

Gates in no hurry to end DADT; neither is Obama

In fact, on Fox News Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he and President Barack Obama had “a lot on our plates right now,” so he’ll need to “push (don’t ask, don’t tell military policy on gays) down the road a bit.”

Several things to note.

First, Gates says he’s speaking for Obama, not just himself.

Second, the two comments, about lack of time and pushing things down the road, on something that isn’t hard to do, make clear that Obama’s breaking another campaign promise.

Third, Fox vs. a more mainstream network? Is Obama pandering to social conservatives? Indicating how unimportant this issue is to him? Not sure of the message here.

Another Obamiac gets his hagiography and history wrong

Writing into Eric Alterman’s Slacker Friday column, Victor Archer claims Obama is the second-youngest president in history.

Victor, you’re not even close, and you don’t need to know ancient history to prove it.

Without having to do one bit of Googling, I knew the Slickster was younger to take office. And, since Jack Kennedy was the youngest man ever elected president and Teddy Roosevelt the youngest ever to become president, I knew Obama was — at best — only the fourth-youngest.

And, he’s not even that. Grant beats him by half a year. Also, Grover Cleveland is with half a year, Franklin Pierce within eight months and James A. Garfield and James K. Polk were less than two years older when taking office.

In all, you had nine presidents take office before turning 50. So, The One isn’t. (And, neither was Jack Kennedy, per TR being younger.)

If you don’t believe me, read for yourself.

That said, Wiki also has an error. It notes that, due to Britain’s change from Julian to Gregorian calendars, Washington’s, Adams’ and Jefferson’s birthdates are adjusted to New Style. However, James Madison, in 1751, was also born before the calendar change, in 1752, and Wiki blows it.

Bible study – Jesus was anti-capitalist

OK, in a previous Bible study, I said Jesus was clearly a socialist, not a capitalist.

But, Luke 16 takes it further; middle management gets the green light to cheat the “owners of the means of production.” Verses 1-9 have the details:
1Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.'

3"The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg— 4I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.'

5"So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'

6" 'Eight hundred gallons[a] of olive oil,' he replied.
"The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.'

7"Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?'
" 'A thousand bushels[b] of wheat,' he replied.
"He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.'

8"The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

But then (assuming there was an actual Jesus and these were, approximately, his actual words, some “law and order” editor, now called “Luke,” has to go spoil the whole parable, in verses 10-15:
10"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?

13"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."

14The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.

Sorry, but Jesus the anti-capitalist didn’t say that at all.

Instead, let’s say you’re working for EDS as a middle manager. You electronically pencil-whip a bunch of doctors’ and clinics’ Medicare billings. In exchange, you get free plastic surgery for life, including a new boob job for that blonde bimbo you’re cheating on your wife with.

Note to Alberto Gonzales – don’t plan a Spanish vacation

You may be indicted for trial there -- trial on war crimes related to Gitmo.

You, Doug Feith, John Yoo, David Addington, John Bybee, David Haynes.

Judge Baltasar Garzon, the same judge who nailed Pinochet, has agreed to open a case.