31 May 2011

This is Called Coopting a Threat

It appears that the Democratic party is trying to encourage Elizabeth Warren to run for Senate in Massachusetts:
Officials in the Democratic Party are wooing Elizabeth Warren to run for the Senate against the Massachusetts Republican Scott P. Brown rather than have her continue to set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Ms. Warren has become a lightning rod for controversy over the new agency, which she conceived and is helping create. Consumer groups and some Democrats have demanded her appointment as its first director. A group of 44 Senate Republicans, with applause from the financial industry, has promised to block any nominee.

In seeking to enlist Ms. Warren for a different campaign, Democrats are taking aim at two birds. They can lay the groundwork for a potential compromise over a different candidate to lead the new agency and, they hope, they can increase their chances of reclaiming Mr. Brown’s seat by sending against him a woman who has won considerable acclaim and popularity among liberals for taking on the financial industry.
This is not about having a viable Senate candidate, though she would probably be a credible challenge to Scott Brown, but about removing here from any position of influence in financial regulation.

Warren is not the choice of either the Democratic Party or the Obama administration, are about as interested in her having real authority over the excesses of  Wall Street and the big banks as they are over investigating torture and abuse of power by Bush and His Evil Minions.

If she wins, she won't have any influence in the boys club that is the Senate, and my money would be on her not even getting a seat on the banking committee.

They want to give her a shiny hat to shut her up.

Well, At Least It's Not My Employer

Lockheed had to locked down its network after it was massively hacked:
By all accounts, Lockheed Martin's swift detection of the attack helped avert potential disaster. "The good news here is that the contractor was able to detect an intrusion then did the right things to deal with it," Cringely said. "A breach like this is very subtle and not easy to spot." Furthermore, he said, the same day that Lockheed Martin detected the attack, all remote access for employees was disabled, and the company told all telecommuters to work from company offices for at least a week. Then on Wednesday, the company informed all remote workers that they'd receive new RSA SecurID tokens and told all 133,000 employees to reset their network passwords.

In a statement released Sunday, EMC said it was "premature to speculate" on the details of the attack. But if attackers did use information stolen from RSA to hack into the SecurID system used by Lockheed Martin, then EMC could be forced to finally reveal, publicly, any risks that the use of its system might now pose to the 40 million users of SecurID hardware token customers and 250 million users of its SecurID software.
I'm a contractor, so even if my employer were hacked in this manner, it would not effect me, since that don't give mercenaries like me remote access to their networks.

Of course, they should have locked down their system months ago, when RSA, the company that supplies the keys for their VPN systems, and a lot of other companies out there, was hacked.

29 May 2011

The DoJ Has Been Thoroughly Politicized by Republicans Since 1980

Investigative reporter Murray Waas, has a rundown of John Ensign's law breaking, and the fact that the Department of Justice decided not to prosecute him, or Tom Coburn, who is hip deep in the web of back door payoffs, coverups, and a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

But, as Nicole Belle observes, they have still found time to indict John Edwards for paying off a mistress.

What we need to understand here is that since Ronald Reagan, successive Republican administrations have done their level best to politicize the DoJ, and it's worked.

The professional staff of the Justice Department is no longer professional.

I do not know what the fix is, but Obama's decision to allow 2nd rate political hacks from the Bush administration to remain on staff, even though civil service regulations were flouted, was exactly the wrong thing to do.

It's a Memorial Day Tradition

Cookout time.

Pretty standard fare, I did steaks for Sharon, Natalie, and Me, and knockwurst for Charlie.

A twist on all this was that I grilled some fruit, mangoes, pineapple, cantaloupe, and bananas, which turned out nicely.

Next time though, I'll not bring the fire down as much before grilling the fruit. I think that the higher temperatures will help caramelize the sugars.

28 May 2011

I Had Fun....

We went to Annapolis today.

It was fun, but I am completely wiped.

27 May 2011

The Cute!!!! It Burns Us!!!! It Burns Us!!!

Not my cat, but anyone who does any Friday cat blogging needs to post this:

It Appears that My Prescription for Europe is Not Completely Nuts

Because Roosevelt Institute fellow Marshall Auerback thinks that the solution is to get Germany out of the Euro zone as well:

Perhaps we’re looking at this the wrong way around: Given the continued German aversion to more broadly-based pan European style fiscal programs, which its populace continues to see as nothing but bailouts for lazy Mediterranean free-loaders, there is another way to solve the euro crisis.

Let Germany leave the euro zone.

Let’s leave aside the politics for a moment as there are many who believe that a German exit from the euro zone in effect means the end of the euro because a number of other countries would leave.

So consider this exercise solely from an economic context: The likely result of a German exit would be a huge surge in the value of the newly reconstituted DM. In effect, then, everybody devalues against the economic powerhouse which is Germany and the onus for fiscal reflation is now placed on the most recalcitrant member of the European Union. Germany will likely have to bail out its banks, but this is more politically palatable than, say, bailing out the Greek banks (at least from the perspective of the German populace).
I'm not sure if it is reassuring or terrifying that some people who actually know about this sh%$ are agreeing with me.

Fundamentally, the Euro, at Germany's insistence, was constructed as a bankster's paradise, and their actions since the meltdown have only made this worse.

Read the full article, and the comment thread, it's good stuff.

26 May 2011

Good News Out of the Balkans

Ratko Mladic has been arrested.  It is expected that he will be extradited to the Hague Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.

Not a Good Economic News Day

First, initial jobless claims jumped unexpectedly,with initial claims unexpectedly rising to 424,000, though the less noisy 4-week moving average fell slightly, as did continuing and extended claims.

Additionally, the revised 1st quarter GDP numbers missed expectations, with weak consumer spending being much of the shortfall.

With no one in Washington talking about anything besides austerity and cuts, this is going to get ugly.

I think that Krugman is right when he worries that this might be shaping up to be a 3 depression, one more in the vein of the Long Depression of 1873-1890 than the shorter, but more intense Great Depression of the 1930s.

Supreme Court Rules that State Can Impose Sanctions for Violating Immigration Law

The Supreme Court ruled that the Arizona law penalizing employers who knowingly employ illegal aliens is constitutional.

Note that this law is a distinct entity from Arizona's "Papers Please" law, this law simply applies penalties on employers who are found to have deliberately hired illegals, which is a pretty high bar in the real world:
The 2007 law in question, known as the Legal Arizona Workers Act, or LAWA, allows state authorities to suspend, and if necessary, to revoke the business licences of employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. Even more striking, the law also mandates that employers adopt a workplace verification system known as "E-Verify" to screen prospective employees based on their legal status.

Two lower courts ruled in 2008 that LAWA was constitutional, despite furious challenges from a coalition of civil rights and immigration rights organisations, and business groups, which saw the sanctions law as likely to interfere with their ability to hire cheap foreign labour. The two lower courts, and now the US supreme court, cited a critical but little-known 1976 supreme court decision upholding a state employer sanctions law in California, as well as the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, or IRCA, which established a new federal employer sanctions regime, but explicitly excluded issues relating to "business licencing" from the scope of the law.
I have mixed emotions on this.

On the whole, an aggressive program of sanctions against employers who flout immigration laws to save money is a good thing, but I also believe that this action should be done at the federal, not the state level.

Vermont Governor Signs Single Payer Law

Of course implementing the law over the next 3-5 years is problematic, since it requires a waiver from HHS, and I don't think that Obama will stop sucking up to the insurance and finance industries and allow that to happen:
In order to actually enact the system, the state needs a waiver from the Affordable Care Act health reform law. Currently, the federal government will start handing out state waivers in 2017 — three years after Vermont wants to implement its system. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) has introduced an amendment that would move the waiver date up to 2014, an idea that President Obama has endorsed.
While I am sure that Obama would love to have the ability grant a waiver moved up, he is as insistent of the prerogatives of the executive as Dick Cheney ever was, there is no way that he would allow Vermont to set in motion a series of events that would transform healthcare delivery nationwide.

Basically, if Vermont is allowed to implement single payer,  businesses will start to move there, because healthcare is such a huge part of their personnel costs, and other states will start to feel pressure to follow suit, which should, eventually, lead to something like single payer being implemented nation wide.

25 May 2011

Yep, He's F%$#ing Nuts

Federal Judge Larry Burns has ruled that Arizona gunman Jared Lee Loughner is not mentally competent to stand trial:
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Jared Lee Loughner was incompetent to stand trial, all but ending, for now, legal proceedings in the January shooting spree that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

After studying reports from two mental-health experts who examined the 22-year-old defendant, Judge Larry A. Burns stopped federal death-penalty proceedings against Loughner and sent him back to the federal medical center for prisoners in Springfield, Mo., for treatment and further evaluation.

Burns scheduled another hearing for Sept. 21 to see if Loughner's condition had improved enough for him to assist in his own defense.
It's clear to me, and I understand that I am not a psychological professional, but it's clear that this guy is a couple of fries short of a happy meal.

The question here is whether or not getting him well enough to stand trial means just trying him, or if it means meaningful treatment options, along with a reasonable assessment of what should be done if he is ever well enough to be a part of general society again.

I favor the latter myself, and it should be noted that the way that we address serious mental issues in the US is clearly deficient.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Harry Reid put the Paul Ryan budget up for a vote in the Senate, and it lost, with all the Democrats voting against it, but 40 Republicans voted to kill Medicare, 41 if you count Rand Paul, who voted no because he thought that it was not radical enough:
The Senate on Wednesday resoundingly rejected a budget sponsored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that calls for significant cuts to future Medicare benefits.

The 40-57 vote came one day after Republicans suffered an upset defeat in a special election in upstate New York where Democrats made Medicare cuts the primary issue.

Five Republican senators voted against a motion to take up the ambitious House budget plan, which suffered only four Republican defections when it passed the lower chamber earlier this year.

Four centrists voted no: Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who favored larger budget cuts than what was proposed in Ryan’s budget, was the fifth no vote.

Every Democrat voted no except for Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who did not vote.
By forcing a vote on this, Harry Reid did the right thing, and by forcing the Senate Republicans to choose between normal voter in the general election, and teabagger in the primary, he put the 'Phants between a rock and a hard place, which is a very good thing.

BTW, my guess as to why Murkowski voted no, she has 5 years until her next election, and she knows that the teabaggers in Alaska will hate her no matter what she does, so this was the safer course for her.

How Clueless Is He?

So, after the Republican party's attempt to demolish Medicare results in one of the most Republican districts in the nation flipping Democratic in a special election, Barack Obama completely misses the point:
I want to extend my congratulations to Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul for her victory in New York’s 26th Congressional District,” the president said in a statement. “Kathy and I both believe that we need to create jobs, grow our economy, and reduce the deficit in order to outcompete other nations and win the future. Kathy has shown, through her victory and throughout her career, that she will fight for the families and businesses in western New York, and I look forward to working with her when she gets to Washington.
So, what's here? We have:
  • Cutting the deficit (shafting the poor and middle class)
  • Outcompeting other nations (no support for labor or worker rights)
  • Winning the future (Tripe so meaningless that Newt Gingrich came up with the term over a decade ago).
What we don't have:
  • Any meaningful mention of ordinary Americans.
  • Any mention of the social safety net.
  • Any mention of Medicare.
  • Any mention of Medicare.
  • Any mention of Medicare.
And did I mention that he neglected to mention protecting the elderly or Medicare?

Note that while this is going on, Joe Biden, negotiating for the Democrats, has not taken Medicare off the table:
Vice President Joe Biden set a goal of at least $1 trillion in budget cuts from negotiations with congressional leaders on the federal debt as talks turned to Medicare, a contentious issue that risks replicating a partisan divide on Capitol Hill.

Democrats in the meeting yesterday ruled out concessions on Medicare without Republican agreement to raise tax revenue, a step the party’s leaders so far have rejected, according to someone familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity. Biden underscored the issue in remarks to reporters afterward.
(emphasis mine)

So the deal is, so long as they can get some token tax increases from Republicans, probably directed at labor unions and single mothers, they can agree to cut Medicare.

This does not bode well for 2012.


Your Moment of Schadenfreude

One of the conditions of James O'Keefe's probation for attempting to but Senator Mary Landrieu's office is that he needs permission to leave the state of New Jersey.

His latest request was denied:
A federal judge has denied a request by James O’Keefe, the conservative auteur-provocateur, to make a series of trips outside New Jersey.

Since O’Keefe is on probation for his conviction last year for his role in a harebrained undercover operation inside Senator Mary Landrieu’s New Orleans district office, he has to get judicial approval to travel outside New Jersey, where he resides with his family. As part of the scheme targeting the Louisiana Democrat, two O’Keefe cronies dressed up as telephone repairmen and sought access to the politician’s telephone system (O’Keefe--himself a noted master of disguise--was secretly recording the goings-on with his cell phone).

Knowles’s order does not detail his reasons for vetoing the 26-year-old O’Keefe’s motion. The judge has routinely approved prior O’Keefe travel requests.
My guess here is that the judge realized that O'Keefe's travel was an attempt by him to get paid for his admitted (he pled guilty) wrongdoing, and decided that this was an inappropriate way for him to spend his probation.

Maybe he can get a job washing dishes, or counseling poor people.


Whiny Beoches

The Republicans, yet again, complaining that their attempts to dismantle and privatize Medicare are bging called an attempt to dismantle and privatize Medicare:
House GOP budget star Paul Ryan is keeping up his offensive against Democrats who claim their victory in a New York special election Tuesday night was a rebuke of his budget plan that overhauls Medicare.

Democrats “are shamelessly demagoguing and distorting” Medicare, “trying to scare seniors and using this as a political weapon,” Ryan said Tuesday morning at the Peterson Foundation Summit in Washington.

Ryan appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier Tuesday where he blamed Democratic attack ads for the Republican loss, not the substance of his plan.
I understand you are a little objectivist Ayn Rand groupie, and so you believe that everyone thinks that government is pernicious and evil, even when it produces programs that outperform the private sector and benefit society, but the problem here is not that people are lying about your plan, it is that they are telling the truth.

Suck it up, bitch.

When You Elect a Contemptible Greedhead Criminal As Your Leader…

At least when it's clear that he is a crook and a liar, you clearly deserve to reap the whirlwind

Case in point, Florida Governor Rick Scott, who presided over Columbia/HCA while it was defrauding Medicare, and proceeded to take the 5th amendment around 75 times during the investigation.

And now it apopears that the dumb-ass voters of Florida are having a bit of buyers remorse:
Gov. Rick Scott is one of the least popular governors in America, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll that shows 57 percent of voters disapprove of his job performance.

Only 29 percent favor the job Scott is doing, the poll of 1,196 registered voters shows.

Scott's job-performance numbers mirror public sentiment about the $69.7 billion state budget, which cuts schools, healthcare and programs for the environment. The poll finds that 54 percent of voters say the budget is "unfair" to someone like them, while 29 percent favor it.

Scott has praised what he calls the “jobs budget” as a way to get Florida’s economy moving. But despite the nickname, the budget will lead to more layoffs in the short-term because it eliminates nearly 4,500 state worker positions.
Tough titties, Floridians, you elected him, and you don't have a recall law for state wide official, so for the next few years, it will suck to be you.

24 May 2011

And It Will End With "Settled Without Any Admission of Wrongdoing"

Because, notwithstanding the recent move by the CFTC to sue oil speculators for market manipulation, I do not believe that there will be a vigorous investigation of criminal wrongdoing by any arm of the Obama administration.

Still, when I read this:
After oil prices surged past $100 a barrel in 2008, suspicions that traders had manipulated the market led to Congressional hearings and regulatory investigations. But they produced no solid cases in the record run-up in gasoline prices.

But on Tuesday, federal commodities regulators filed a civil lawsuit against two obscure traders in Australia and California and three American and international firms.

The suit says that in early 2008 they tried to hoard nearly two-thirds of the available supply of a crucial American market for crude oil, then abruptly dumped it and improperly pocketed $50 million.

The regulators from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would not say whether the agency was conducting any other investigations into oil speculation. With oil prices climbing again this year, President Obama has asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to set up a working group to look into fraud in oil and gas markets and “safeguard against unlawful consumer harm.”

In the case filed Tuesday, the defendants — James T. Dyer of Australia, Nicholas J. Wildgoose of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and three related companies, Parnon Energy of California, Arcadia Petroleum of Britain and Arcadia Energy, a Swiss company — have told regulators they deny they manipulated the market.

If the United States proves the claims, the defendants may give up $50 million in profits that were believed to be made as a result of the manipulation and also pay a penalty of up to $150 million.

The commodities agency says the case involves a complex scheme that relied on the close relationship between physical oil prices and the prices of financial futures, which move in parallel.

In a matter of a few weeks in January 2008, the defendants built up large positions in the oil futures market on exchanges in New York and London, according to the suit, filed in the Federal Court in the Southern District of New York.

At the same time, they bought millions of barrels of physical crude oil at Cushing, Okla., one of the main delivery sites for West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark for American oil, the suit says. They bought the oil even though they had no commercial need for it, giving the market the impression of a shortage, the complaint says. 
It made me smile.

The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant!!!!*

Democrat Kathy Hochul, has won the special election in New York's 26th Congressional district, largely because people do not want the Republicans to f%$# with Medicare.

Note here that she also won with some solid numbers, she got 48% of the vote, as versus Republican Jane Corwin's 42% of the vote, and teabagger nutjob Jack Davis's 8%.

You have to figure that even if Davis were not in the race, she would have won.

Note that this is not only one of the most firmly republican districts in New York, but one of the more heavily 'Phant districts in the country, and it wasn't even close.

*If you are American, and have not heard of the Shot Heard 'Round the World, shame on you. If you are not American, click the link.

I Am Not Missing the Donald At All

Blah, blah, blah!
Because Newt's campaign co-chair is Zell Miller, who was last seen challenging Chris Matthews to a duel. (No, really, watch the Vid)

I think that Newt confused the words bipartisan and bipolar.

Pass the popcorn.

Nope, No Escalation Here

It looks like the Frogs and the Limeys will be deploying attack helicopters to Libya:
Britain and France are to deploy attack helicopters against Libya in an attempt to break the military stalemate, particularly in the important coastal city of Misrata, security sources have told the Guardian.

In a significant escalation of the conflict, the Apaches – based on HMS Ocean – will join French helicopters in risky operations which reflect deepening frustration among British and French defence chiefs about their continuing inability to protect civilians in Libya.
If I were a cynic, I would think that the goal is to get one of these choppers shot down, so that they have an excuse for an invasion when the captured crew are treated as unlawful enemy combatants.

It's On Bitches

At least three of the six Republican state senators targeted for recall in Wisconsin will happen:
State election officials ordered July 12 recall elections on Monday for three Republican state senators, setting the stage for what could be an unprecedented summer of recall elections.

The Government Accountability Board, which runs state elections, voted unanimously to schedule the recall elections against Sens. Dan Kapanke of LaCrosse, Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Luther Olsen of Ripon.


On Monday, the Republicans successfully struck some of the signatures from the recall petitions against them as invalid, but not enough to prevent the elections. About 15,000 signatures for each senator were needed to hold recall elections, and in each case more than 21,000 valid signatures were gathered.
(emphasis mine)

So they got about 50% more signatures than were required, and unlike the Republican efforts, they did not have to bring in paid signature gatherers, nor did they have to lie about what was being signed or buy the signers drinks.

There are 3 Republican, and 3 Democratic state senators yet to be ruled on, but my guess is that all of them will go through, though I do not expect the Dems, unless the national Democratic Party does something mind-bogglingly stupid, like signal approval to some sort of Medicare cuts. (Yes, Steny Hoyer, have a nice glass of Shut the F%$# Up!)

Another Shanda Before the Goyim

This time, it's House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who is insisting that any aid that any aid going to the tornado ravaged town of Joplin Missouri be offset by budget cuts:
Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Monday that if Congress passes an emergency spending bill to help Missouri’s tornado victims, the extra money will have to be cut from somewhere else.

“If there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental,” Mr. Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters at the Capitol. The term “pay-fors” is used by lawmakers to signal cuts or tax increases used to pay for new spending.
Note that this sort of callous disregard for this sort of disaster not only puts him on the wrong side of all decent people, it puts him on the wrong side of Tom "The Hammer" Delay, who supported borrowing to fund hurricane Katrina relief.

23 May 2011

The Pod People Have Replaced Natalie with a Doppelgänger

I love my daughter, but she could lose a bright orange bowling ball on a golf green.

It's just the way she is.

Well, it's not been a good week for my children in the losing things arena.

She lost her beloved cell phone (really, she loves it), and Charlie lost his eyeglasses , and so we have been turning the house upside down for the past week trying to find them.

We set up an appointment with Charlie's Ophthalmologist to get a new pair of glasses, and I was about to start looking on eBay to find the oft-threatened crappy cheap replacement phone.

And then, tonight, in the space of 90 seconds, she found both of them.

Either the pod people have replaced her with a simulacrum, or there was a meteor strike nearby that released some heretofore unknown type of radiation, and she has developed mutant powers.

Wisconsin Election Board Certifies Prosser Winner of Supreme Court Race

So the right winger who threatened another judge has been declared the winner.

It is unclear at this point whether his challenger, JoAnne Kloppenburg, will be taking this to court.

She probably should, if just to turn over the rocks that is the Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus (probably deliberate) exercise in incompetence in counting votes, but my guess is that she won't, because Democrats are wimps.

If it were turned around, we would already have James Baker showing up and saying that it's not fair.

In any case, she has to make her decision by May 31.

Who Says Irony Is Dead?

The composer of the song You Light Up My Life has committed suicide after being accused of 11 counts of rape.

Big Labor Getting a Clue

After getting nothing but feeble lip service from national Democrats on labor issues, and even less on the Republican state-level jihad against unions from the national Dems, labor unions are pulling back on donations to national democrats:
Some of the nation’s largest labor unions are cutting back dramatically on their financial support to the Democratic Party, saying they are highly frustrated with the failure of Democrats to put up stronger resistance to Republican proposals opposed by labor.

The unions have cited what they see as Democrats’ tepid response to Republican efforts to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public sector workers, cut Medicare funding and require voters to show identification at the polls.

“It doesn’t matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, in a speech Friday. “The outcome is the same either way. If leaders aren’t blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families’ interests, working people will not support them.”


Labor’s threats to Democrats follow a major push in last year’s midterm election, when unions spent $8 million backing a liberal challenger to former senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.). The challenger, then-lieutenant governor Bill Halter, lost to Lincoln in a runoff, and a weakened Lincoln went on to lose the general election to Republican John Boozman.

Trumka trumpeted the outcome of that race in a question-and-answer period after his speech Friday. A moderator asked what was different about his latest rhetoric given that unions have threatened to withdraw support for Democrats in the past.

“Ask Blanche Lincoln,” he replied.
This is really the point that should be made, that there are a lot of Democrats who have little or no interest in protecting the average American worker, or of supporting organized labor, the distinguished gentlewoman from WalMart being one of the more prominent examples, and making an example of them is a good thing.

I would also note that Lincoln was down by double digits to any Republican before the primary challenge.

22 May 2011

Remember, It's Only Censorship if It's a Government

So Murdoch owned Sky Italia dropping Current TV because it hired Keith Olbermann:
Former Vice President Al Gore's Current TV cable network has claimed Rupert Murdoch's Italian satellite TV company dropped the network in Italy because it hired liberal politics news anchor Keith Olbermann.
Imagine that.

If there is a lesson to the travails of Silvio Berlusconi, it is that private unregulated mass media outlets are a cancer on democracy, and Rupert Murdoch is just another example of this.

21 May 2011

Keith is Back

Keith Olbermann has a special comment about the reactions to Michael Moore's comments about the killing of Osama bin Laden.

While he disagrees with Moore, in that he [Olbermann] is OK with the idea that the US sent out a kill team with no real plans to capture of al-Qaeda's founder, he finds the unrelenting attacks of Michael Moore's character and patriotism by the Obama fanboi to be completely contemptible, and he notes the parallels to the attacks against people who questioned George W. Bush's campaign of lies to get us to invade Iraq:
Some of us – not enough — questioned the official story in 2002 and 2003. But few of us who did so, had as much to lose as did Michael Moore. We were accused of “intellectual liberal hand-wringing” – even by supposedly liberal commentators on supposedly liberal television networks. We were dismissed, and demonized.

And to this day, even though Michael Moore was right, and George Bush was wrong, and even though Michael Moore was right, and Newt Gingrich was wrong, and even though Michael Moore was right, and John Boehner was wrong – to this day it is Moore who is demonized by the Republican Cult in ways that Bush and Gingrich and Boehner are not demonized by the American Left.

Instead, Moore, himself, now gets demonized in part, by the American left.

I want Michael Moore to question everything. I want him even to repeat the ten tweets he had in the aftermath of the killing of Bin Laden, in which he picked up on his theme from three years ago, when he told Larry King that the story that Bin Laden was living in caves, moving from one to the other, was palpable nonsense, that the only millionaire who willingly lived in a cave was Batman, and he only went there to change costumes.

I want Michael Moore, and every other Michael Moore, to remind us that, indeed, “Pakistan just couldn’t be seen as participating with us” and that, indeed, “the story has changed four times now in four days” and that, indeed, “As long as he wasn’t conducting terror, Osama Bin Laden alive served a purpose. Someone should just fess up: the war industry needs fear to make (money).”
Towards the end of his tenure at MSNBC, I thought that he had kind of lost his edge, but it appears that he's back, and he's right.

FYI, he is specifically calling out MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz, who has been an Obama fanboi for as long as I've followed who said, "The fact of the matter is, the intellectual liberal hand-wringing needs to stop in this country. People who voted for President Obama had to know he was willing to go anywhere at anytime to take out the world’s number one terrorist," which is a truly contemptible attempt to squelch debate.

Between Schultz's Obama man crush, and the unbearable inside-the-beltway conventional thinking wankfest of Lawrence O'Donnell, all I watch these days on MSNBC is Rachael Maddow.

I cannot wait for his new show on Current TV on June 20.

A Gaffe is When Someone Tells the Truth

Case in point, the unfortunate schmuck tasked by the Secret Service to monitor a Fox News broadcast.

He tweeted about the experience, but mistakenly posted the tweet from the official Secret Service account, as opposed to his personal account.

I feel his pain.

Sometimes Bill Maher Gets it Right

I'm not a big fan of some of his tendencies to draw by crayon Libertarianism, but when he suggests that the most viable Republican candidate for the primaries, where one appeals to the the base, is that chimpanzee that tore his keeper's face off, he effectively uses humor to express a very deep truth.

God Bless The Onion

I really cannot add anything to the article, but it needs to be shared:
Budget Mix-Up Provides Nation's Schools With Enough Money To Properly Educate Students

WASHINGTON—According to bewildered and contrite legislators, a major budgetary mix-up this week inadvertently provided the nation's public schools with enough funding and resources to properly educate students.

Sources in the Congressional Budget Office reported that as a result of a clerical error, $80 billion earmarked for national defense was accidentally sent to the Department of Education, furnishing schools with the necessary funds to buy new textbooks, offer more academic resources, hire better teachers, promote student achievement, and foster educational excellence—an oversight that apologetic officials called a "huge mistake."

Read the rest.

20 May 2011

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

  1. Atlantic Southern Bank, Macon, GA
  2. First Georgia Banking Company, Macon, GA
  3. Summit Bank, Burlington, WA
Full FDIC list

And here are the credit union closings:
  1. Hmong American Federal Credit Union, St. Paul, MN
Full NCUA list

So, here is the graph pr0n with last years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

I really can't find a pattern here, but it seems to be better than 2010, and worse than 2009.

It's Been a While Since I've Done a Cat on Friday

So, here you go:

It Ain't Just Babies that Wall Street F%$#s

H/t WallStreetJackass

OK, I'm Feeling Better About Donald Trump Leaving the Race…

Because I hadn't realized just how entertainingly insane Newt Gingrich can be.

In response to the sh%$storm that he unleashed for telling the truth about the Paul Ryan plan  to kill Medicare, he has been engaged in a series of obfuscations that are as delusional as they are epic.

His campaign's latest press release is a true work of art, to such a level that Stephen Colbert felt the need to bring in John Lithgow to make a dramatic reading of it on his show.

I had forgotten what a complete pratt he was.

Press release after the break.

Matt Taibbi is Wrong

This Ain't a "Pass the Popcorn" moment
Matt Taibbi notes that Eric Schneiderman, the New York State Attorney General is investigating irregularities in securitization of mortgage loans, and he is doing a happy dance at what looks like slam dunk at a real investigation, and prosecution, of the malefactors at the center of the financial crisis:
This investigation has the potential to be a Mother of All Nightmares situation for the banks for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the decision to go after the securitization process is a total prosecutorial bullseye. This is the ugly heart of the wide-scale fraud scheme of the bubble era. Again, the business model during this time was a giant bait-and-switch scam. Sleazy lenders like Countrywide and New Century first created huge masses of bad loans, committing every conceivable kind of fraud to get people into loans (from doctoring income statements with white-out to phonying FICO scores to engineering fake appraisals). They then moved the bad loans quickly to the big banks, which pooled them and chopped them up (this is the “securitization” process), sprinkled hocus-pocus math on them, and them sold them to suckers around the world as AAA-rated securities.

The questions Schneiderman will seek to answer are these: did the banks securitize loans they knew were fraudulent, throwing the rotten mortgages into the stew before serving them to customers? Did they also commit insurance fraud by duping the bond insurers (known as “monoline” insurers) into thinking the mortgages were not as risky as they really were? And did they participate in the fraud scheme on a more basic level by lending huge amounts of money to the Countrywides of the world, knowing that they in turn would immediately use that money to create the bad loans? In other words, did the banks finance the fraud in addition to brokering it?
(emphasis original)

He's right on the basic facts, but he's wrong on what happens next.

There very well may be a settlement, with no admission of wrongdoing, but in terms for real consequences towards the Vampire Squid and the rest of the universe on Wall Street, nothing meaningful is going to happen.

Either the Feds get involved, and block Schneiderman, or he gets destroyed like Eliot Spitzer was, or he, or the state of New York, gets bought off, but we are not going to see the laws applied to people like this, despite pervasive criminality involved, because we live in their world, and they just rent it back to us.

You Say It Because It's True

Noted African American studies professor Cornell West recently characterized Barack Obama as, "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats," in addition to declaring that he the President has bought wholeheartedly into "the American Killing Machine."

While there are a number of reasons why a man who was once one of Barack Obama's staunchest supporters might have become disillusioned, and in the interview linked above, there does appear to be a sense of wronged entitlement, West complains about not getting phone calls answered and issues with the inauguration tickets.

Having relatives who have worked, or are working in academe, some at fairly rarefied levels, I can state with some level of authority that a sense of entitlement is rather endemic in this environment, particularly amongst those who ply their trade in the Ivys.

So, I do not find Dr. West's opinion particularly surprising or worthy of note, but I do find the positively kraptastic response to this criticism amongst the intelligentsia and much of the liberal blogosphere to be interesting.

Karoli has a good survey of those responses, in addition to being a prime example of this idiocy:
I don't understand what the goal is when it comes to Cornel West's opinion. He says in that same interview that if the only backstop against fascism is Barack Obama, he'll go with that. If the goings-on in Republican states and the United States Congress doesn't convince you of that, then look to the Supreme Court's future to understand what's at stake. So why come out and call President Obama a tool of the oligarchs? It makes no sense, and is suppressive in nature and intent.
How about this: because it is the truth.

Whether it is Geithner and Summers and the banks, the quashing of even the most casual investigation of torture, the expansion of the surveillance state, the war on whistle blowers, etc., Cornell West's statement is objectively true.

He is better than the current crop of Republican candidates, but so was Terri Schiavo when she was on a ventilator.

19 May 2011

Here Is a Shocker

The Registrar of Deeds for Guilford County, North Carolina, Greensboro and environs, after hearing horror stories about fraudulent loans, decided to go through his own deeds, and went through all the deeds transferred from 2006 to 2010.

The results? That in a cursory examination, well over half of the deeds were in some manner fraudulent:
But Jeff Thigpen, the register of deeds in Guilford County, North Carolina, a county of about 465,000 in the center of the state (the largest city is Greensboro), decided to survey all the mortgage documents submitted to his office by DocX, a notorious "mortgage mill" that processes documents on behalf of lenders, between August 2006 and April 2010. He was inspired by a 60 Minutes investigation revealing numerous forgeries, backdating, and other false information on mortgage documents. "When I saw that [story], I was basically on fire," Thigpen says. "'I know this material is in my office, I've got to find it, I've got to get it out.'"

Out of the 6,100 documents Thigpen examined, 4,500 showed signature irregularities. The name of one DocX employee, Linda Green, who was acting as a vice president for several major banks, was forged 15 different ways on the Guilford County documents, rendering them invalid. Thigpen's investigation was one of the first systematic assessments of mortgage document fraud in the entire country, certainly more robust than anything conducted by state and federal regulators.
Thigpen, as well as his Essex County equivalent John O'Brien, have been making as much of a stink as they can about this, they have asked the Iowa Attorney General, Tom Miller, to hold off on his proposed national settlement pending a real investigation. (some older posts here)

That would be the right thing to do, of course, but considering the fact that Miller is angling for some sort of position in the Obama administration, and the Obama administration is as interested in pursuing the banks for wrong doing as they are in pursuing Dick Cheney for outing a CIA agent, I don't expect that there will ever be a meaningful investigation of Bankster wrongdoing.

It's Jobless Thursday

Initial claims are out and they are better, but still not enough to constitute a recovery in the job market.

Initial claims were at 403,000, still above the roughly 375K required for a meager recovery, while the less volatile 4 week moving average climbed to a 7 month high.

In the longer time views, while continuing claims fell, extended and emergency claims rose.

These are awful numbers, and Barack Obama has to be thanking his lucky stars about what a clown show the Republican Presidential campaign has become, because there were also a whole passel of truly anemic economic metrics released today, with the Philadephia Fed survey, the Conference Board's Index of Leading Economic Indicators, and existing home sales disappointing.

18 May 2011

2 Years???? 2 F%$#ing Years?!?!?!?

Yep, it's that misbegotten bastard child of Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, and Barack Obama*, the Home Affordable Mortgage Program, HAMP, where the Treasury has finally decided to require a single point of contact for homeowners participating in the program:
Mortgage servicers must provide a single relationship manager to borrowers being evaluated for a Home Affordable Modification Program trial by Sept. 1, according to guidance released by the Treasury Department Wednesday.

The guideline is required of the 20 largest servicers participating in HAMP, and it is one of the largest adjustments to the program since its inception in March 2009. Since then, more than 670,000 borrowers received a permanent loan modification, and more than 1.8 million trials have been extended.

"Over the past two years, two of the biggest complaints we received from borrowers were servicers are losing documents and they can't connect with anybody who can actually track them down. Every time they call they can't get a hold of someone with access to their case," Laurie Maggiano, director of policy at the Treasury's homeownership preservation office, said in an interview with HousingWire Wednesday.

The relationship manager must be an employee of the bank and cannot be a contractor. This manager will be assigned when the servicer makes successful contact with the delinquent borrower. The borrower must meet the initial criteria of the program, such as owner-occupancy and a 31% debt-to-income ratio.
The program has been in place for about 2 years, and since day 1, the complaints have been about no one being a point of contact, meaning that you had repeatedly lost paperwork, changing conditions, dual tracking, where when you were talking with one bankster, another was in the process of foreclosing, etc.

People have been screaming about this.

The press has been screaming about this.

Congress has been screaming about this.

But nothing was done until the 2012 election loomed, because, after all, this was not a program to help people, it was a program to cheat people, and help the banks.

*Who knew that bad programs were conceived by three beings?  For the rest of nature, it's either parthenogenesis (Amoeba, lobbyists) or some sort of sexual reproduction involving only two participants. There are echos here of the Asimov novel The Gods Themselves.

17 May 2011

The New York Times is Called Out On What it Calls Torture

By its own Ombudsman:
The Times should use the term “torture” more directly, using it on first reference when the discussion is about — and there’s no other word for it — torture. The debate was never whether Bin Laden was found because of brutal interrogations: it was whether he was found because of torture. More narrowly, the word is appropriate when describing techniques traditionally considered torture, waterboarding being the obvious example. Reasonable fairness can be achieved by adding caveats that acknowledge the Bush camp’s view of its narrow legal definition.

This approach avoids the appearance of mincing words and is well grounded in Americans’ understanding of torture in the historical and moral sense.
The fact that our media still consider people who think that it's OK to crush a child's testicles to pressure their parent (John Yoo) to be acceptable as regular editorial contributors (to be fair, in the Philly Inky, not the Gray Lady) indicates that the idea of telling the truth has left the lexicon of so-called journalism.

Deep Thought

Is Angela Merkel the George W. Bush of the Eu?

It appears that Ms. Merkel doesn't realize that she's not bailing out the Greeks, she's bailing out the German banks who are owed the money, but she's still being a hard-ass and virtually assuring that we will see defaults, as well as worsening social unrest:
Also at issue was the technical operation of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the permanent euro zone bailout fund due to come into force in mid-2013.

As ministers prepared to tackle the increasingly precarious financial situation in Greece, Dr Merkel made clear her resistance to any debt restructuring by the country.

Addressing students in Berlin, Dr Merkel said private sovereign creditors should not bear losses until the ESM starts its work.

“It would raise incredible doubts of our credibility if we simply were to change the rules in the middle of the first programme,” Dr Merkel said.
The rise in dissatisfaction with the EU, and the rise on nationalistic, and frequently xenophobic, parties in the EU is a direct result of the fact that it is being run as a support group for the banks, who, after all, were the ones who f%$#ed up everything in the first place.

I stick with my original statement on the Euro Zone: the country that needs to leave is not any of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain), but Germany, which has increasingly seen the Euro as a way to artificially deflate its currency for export purposes, both within and outside of the EU.

They are a predatory exporter, only marginally better than China.

Medical Myths Exploded In a Picture

Click for full size

They've been blaming you and laughing all the way to the bank
You know what they all say, we drink too much (not), smoke too much (not, really really not, have you seen how much Frenchmen smoke), obesity (not), malpractice (one of the great lies in history).

What does it come down too?
  • We pay more for the same services.
  • Our overhead costs dwarf those of socialized medicine.
  • Doctors get paid a lot more here.
At its core, what we are seeing is a situation where the perfect "immaculate market" that the free market mousketeers seem so enamored of simply does not work.

It doesn't work because healthcare is not an area where you have the option of just not buying the service, and frequently, shopping is not an option.

Besides, even if it were an option to shop for the best deal, the pricing schemes are deliberately obfuscatory, because opacity suits the players in this little pseudo-market dance.

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS for the graphic.

Links to part 1 and part 2 of the series.

16 May 2011

John ensign

First, his former best friend, and the husband of the woman that John Ensign f%$#ed, Doug Hampton, has been indicted for violating lobbying laws and conflict of interest laws.

The could get interesting if he decides to drop a dime on Ensign and the rest of his co-conspirators.

It does appear though that John Ensign is incredibly busted, since the normally toothless Senate Ethics committee voted to make a criminal referral to the DoJ, and the special prosecutor they appointed to investigated recommended that he be expelled from the Senate.

BTW, speaking of co-conspirators, it appears that Senator Coburn was hip deep in negotiating the specifics of the payoffs to Hampton and his wife.

Assuming that the Department of Justice has the stomach for it pulling on this string* will unravel a lot more than just a Senator boinking a staffer.

Pass the popcorn.

*I think that they don't because of their mishandling of the Ted Stevens prosecution and because of a general Obama administration policy to let things slide when they involve Republican law breaking.

What Krugman Says

He says what needs to be said on the debt ceiling negotiations:
According to Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, Mr. Obama has told Democrats not to draw any “line in the sand” in debt negotiations. Well, count me among those who find this strategy completely baffling. At some point — and sooner rather than later — the president has to draw a line. Otherwise, he might as well move out of the White House, and hand the keys over to the Tea Party.
Of course, since Barack Obama seems incapable of drawing such lines, I'm thinking that the only question will be whether or not the 'Phants use lube before having their way with the American people.

Actually, the 'Phants won't use lube.

Indiana Winger Judges Repeal Magna Carta

Yes, the foundation of British civil rights, and by extension of the United States, has been ruled invalid by the Indiana state Supreme Court, who have upended the 900 year old precedent, and ruled that police have the right to Illegally enter your home:
Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer's entry.
Why? Because the cop is always right:
"We believe ... a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence," David said. "We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest."
It appears that these wankers never read the part of the Constitution that says, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

So, a medieval peasant, living under King Edward I (Longshanks) in Coventry in 1300 has more civil rights than an American living in Indiannapolis.

I'm thinking that these guys got their law degree from either a Cracker Jack box, or from the Christian Broadcast Network University (now called Regency University).

15 May 2011

Wrapping NHS Up In a Bow, and Giving It to Non-Profits

Here's a big surprise, the Tories intend to dismantle the National Health Service in the UK, and give it to for profit entities:
A senior adviser to David Cameron says the NHS could be improved by charging patients and will be transformed into a "state insurance provider, not a state deliverer" of care.

Mark Britnell, who was appointed to a "kitchen cabinet" advising the prime minister on reforming the NHS, told a conference of executives from the private sector that future reforms would show "no mercy" to the NHS and offer a "big opportunity" to the for-profit sector.

The revelations come on the eve of an important speech by the prime minister on the future of the NHS, during which he is expected to try to allay widespread fears that the reforms proposed in health secretary Andrew Lansley's health and social care bill would lead to privatisation.
So not a shocker.

Conservatives realize that when government works, it becomes popular, and they don't, so they spend most of their times trying to throw a monkey wrench (spanner in UK-speak) into the works.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?!?

Newt Gingrich is slamming Paul Ryan's plan to eliminate Medicare:
Presidential contender Newt Gingrich took a potshot Sunday at Republican House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan’s proposal to reform Medicare, becoming the most prominent Republican to distance himself from the plan.

Ryan's proposal, which was passed by the GOP-controlled House in April, would have people 54 and younger choose from a list of coverage options and have Medicare make “premium-support payments” to the plan they chose.

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich scoffed in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."

House Republicans, including Speaker John A. Boehner, have stood behind Ryan's plan, which was the subject of fierce debate at town-hall meetings nationwide. Other Republican presidential contenders have praised Ryan's political courage without going so far as to endorse the budget blueprint.
Let's be clear here: We know just what Newt is, an opportunist, so his condemnation is not a mark of any real problem with the idea of selling seniors to insurance companies to be ground up into Soylent Green, after all, he pretty much proposed that in the 1990s.

Instead, it is an acknowledgment by Gingrich that the proposal is a complete political loser, and so he thinks that by joining its condemnation, he will be able derive political advantage.

What the IMF Has Been Doing to 3rd World Nations For Years…

Click for full size

At least there is symmetry
So it should come as no surprise, that IMF President Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been arrested for raping a hotel housekeeper:
The arrest of International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sexual-assault charges threatened to upend French politics and weaken the IMF's central role in resolving Europe's deepening debt crisis.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62 years old, was expected to be arraigned Sunday night on charges of attempted rape, criminal sexual assault and unlawful imprisonment of a maid in the New York City hotel where he was staying, police said. Mr. Strauss-Kahn retained prominent defense attorney Benjamin Brafman, whose clients have included singer Michael Jackson and rapper Sean Combs. Mr. Brafman said Mr. Strauss-Kahn would plead not guilty.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn's arraignment was delayed late Sunday when police sought a search warrant to examine the IMF chief's body for scratches or the accuser's DNA, a law-enforcement official said.
We are living in weird times.

Obviously, rape is not something to be made light of, but the similarities in predatory nature of the IMF and the alleged crimes are striking.

14 May 2011

Yep, The Revolving Door is Shut down

4 Months after approving the Comcast-NBC merger, outgoing Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker will go to work for them as a lobbyist:
Washington's revolving door is spinning again this week, with Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker's announcement that she is resigning to become a lobbyist for Comcast.

Baker's last day on the commission will be June 3, a few weeks before the end of her term, and just over four months after she voted to approve the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal.
Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, shown at a hearing on Capitol Hill in March, is resigning to become a lobbyist for Comcast.
Enlarge Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, shown at a hearing on Capitol Hill in March, is resigning to become a lobbyist for Comcast.
Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, shown at a hearing on Capitol Hill in March, is resigning to become a lobbyist for Comcast.

Back in 2009, when the merger was proposed, Baker said on C-SPAN that the commission shouldn't try to regulate too much.

"You shouldn't attach conditions that are extraneous to the actual deal in front of you," she said at the time.

And when the vote came last January, Baker complained that some extraneous conditions were there. She said that FCC rulings were too regulatory and could discourage job-creating investment. Still, she voted with the 4-1 majority for the merger.
An important point to make here is that she is not a Bush retread finishing out a term.  She was appointed by Barack Obama.

She pretty much had to be a 'Phant, the law requires that no more than 3 members of the 5 member commission belong to the same party, but she was hip deep in Bush policy and deregulation, and she is the daughter of the smarmiest bastard ever to hit Washington, DC, James Baker.

In a sane Washington, DC, Comcast would let her go now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, but I think that sane Washington, DC is an oxymoron.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!! (8 Days Late)

My bad, I completely missed last week, so that is this update, because there were no closures this week

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

  1. Coastal Bank, Cocoa Beach, Fl
Full FDIC list

It does appear that this year is shaping up to be a bit less catastrophic than last year.

So, here is the graph pr0n with last years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

13 May 2011

It Isn't Real Until They Start Convicting White Billionaires

Yes, hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam was found guilty all 14 charges of which he was accused, primarily insider trading and conspiracy, and there is a lot of talk about how this presages a new era of enforcement.

It isn't, for a couple of reasons.

First, notwithstanding his wealth and power, Rajaratnam was still very much an outsider in the rather lily white halls of high finance.  Simply put:  He was never a member of the club, he was just a guest, and so it was an easy shot for prosecutors to get.

Second, is the likelihood that this investigation, and his wiretap, likely had something to do with his extensive ties, and extensive philanthropy toward, his native Tamil community in Sri Lanka, which likely investigators to suggest that there were potential material support issues regarding the Tamil Tigers, the now defunct terrorist group.  (A caveat here, I've heard nothing but rumblings on this, but if I were dealing with a judge dubious about a wire tap warrant, I'd let "Tamil Tigers" slip out).

It may be the start of something bigger, but I will not believe it until we start seeing big fish with pale complexions being frog marched in handcuffs.

Republicans in Florida Bans Sex

You see, in the process of banning bestiality, they banned any person having any sort of sexual contact with an animal outside of the norms of animal husbandry and veterinary science:
An act relating to sexual activities involving animals; creating s. 828.126, F.S.; providing definitions; prohibiting knowing sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal; prohibiting specified related activities; providing penalties; providing that the act does not apply to certain husbandry, conformation judging, and veterinary practices; providing an effective date.
Unfortunately, it appears that none of these folks took high school biology.

To quote Mel Brooks, "Ooh, baby, you are so talented! ……… And they are so *dumb*!"

I Have No Blog, Yet I Must Scream*

I didn't post yesterday, for the first time in what must be months, if not years, because Blogger was offline for 20+ hours.

It kind of sucked, but I'm sure that the rest of the internet did fine without me.

*Apoligies to Harlan Ellison.
Who probably does not care one whit about my taking his line or my apology.

11 May 2011

Newt or Spay Your Presidential Candidate*

Yes, the "disgraced former Speaker of the House" Newt Gingrich is officially running for President:
Newt Gingrich is entering the 2012 presidential race as a familiar face — a 20-year veteran of Congress who served a polarizing turn as House speaker before assuming a career as a prolific political commentator and author.

But Gingrich, who officially announced his White House bid Wednesday, is bringing a decidedly different approach to this contest than he did to his previous stint in public office.

In his speeches and campaign appearances, Gingrich is expected to lay out a political vision that intertwines fiscal and social conservatism, drawing from a newfound interest in religion he has infused into his work in recent years.

It's a message he's expected to make Friday at the Georgia Republican Party convention in what advisors are billing as his formal announcement speech, an address that will marry the concept of American exceptionalism with an emphasis on God-endowed rights.
"American exceptionalism with an emphasis on God-endowed rights" appears to mean sleeping around on your wife and dumping her when she gets cancer, or MS, while attempting to impeach Bill Clinton for getting a blow job in the white house.

I'm beginning to think that I need to add a tag, Clown Show to my list of standard tags to descripe the 'Phant Presidential field this year.

 *Credit goes to JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS for coming up with this bon mot.

Do You Want Some Cheese With That Whine?

So, after voting to abolish Medicare, the Republican freshmen have sent a letter to Obama demanding that the Democrats not beat them up over this:
Politicians usually don’t begin press conferences with an admission of guilt.

But that’s exactly what happened Wednesday, when freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) called on the president to condemn the scare tactics Democrats have used against Republicans on Medicare — the same type of attacks Republicans used against Democrats throughout the 2010 campaign that helped put many of the GOP freshmen in office.

“We’ve all been guilty at one time or another of playing partisan politics with key issues facing our country, but now is the time to hit the reset button,” Kinzinger said, as if to pre-empt accusations of hypocrisy coming from Democrats. “As a freshman class, we have the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and … not continue the petty politics we’ve seen in the past.”

Last year, as a candidate, Kinzinger sang a different tune: He criticized the Democratic health care overhaul, saying it would amount to $500 billion in cuts over 10 years, removing 4 million patients from Medicare and putting 15 million on Medicaid, according to local news reports.
I'm sorry, but if these guys are not strong enough to defend themselves from a 72 year old constituent with blue hair, how can they be expected to protect us from bin Laden Saddam Hussein Fidel Castro anyone more threatening than the Easter Bunny?

You know the attacks against the rat f%$#s are different from the death panels, because they are true, which has counted for something in the United States since the days of John Peter Zenger.

Why do House Republicans hate America?

Schadenfraude Alert

It looks like a lot of big anonymous donors to political advcocy groups are facing a tough choice, pay a 35% gift tax, or contest the rules in open court, where your anonymous donations to Karl Rove will become a matter of public record:
The Internal Revenue Service appears to have begun to enforce a tax on gifts to the non-profit organizations that were a key vehicle for anonymous politics in the last five years and had promised to play a large role in the presidential cycle, a move which could reshape the place of money in politics in 2012.

"It appears that the IRS Estate and Gift Tax team has also started paying attention to 501(c)(4) organizations," a Los Angeles tax lawyer who has followed the issue closely, Ofer Lion, wrote in a memo to clients today.

Gifts to other political organizations are not taxable under federal law, and lawyers informally say many donors do not typically pay the gift tax -- which may run as high as 35%, mirroring income tax rates -- for contributions to 501(c)4s.

The IRS focus would only apply to quite large donors: the first $13,000 annually are exempt. The rest of the contributions, however, reduce a donor's lifetime tax exemption, which stands currently at $5 million but stands to drop to $1 million in 2013, a fact which would mean a donor's heirs lose substantially more to estate taxes, including potentially a "clawback" of money that's already been given away back into the taxable estate.


"[C]ontributors wishing to remain anonymous may feel the need to pay sizable gift tax assessments rather than challenge the tax in open court, and on the public record," Lion wrote.
My heart bleeds borscht for the Koch suckers who now face Morton's Fork.

10 May 2011

Can Someone Please Primary Steny Hoyer

The moron is talking about means testing Medicare:
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) offered cautious support Tuesday for the idea of adopting further means-testing of Medicare and Social Security to help shore up the finances of both programs. But the devil, he said, will be in the details.

"I don't want to get into means testing until we look at specific proposals," Hoyer said at his weekly Capitol briefing in response to a question from TPM. "Generally speaking, we do, as you know, have certain means testing in both Medicare and SS at this point in time. ... I think clearly we're going to have to make both of those programs sustainable over the long run, and I think to some degree it would be clearly appropriate to look at -- without endorsing any specific proposal -- the insuring that the least well off are protected and to do that look at the best off ... in terms of what level of support they get."
First, if you cut off the top ½%, you don't save any money, and if you cut off any more than that, and you destroy the program, which makes it bad policy.

Then you have to follow that up with the fact that the Republicans are killing themselves with this, but good old Steny feels the need to give them an opportunity to point at the Dems and say, "See, they are trying to cut your Medicare!"

Is he trying to lose?

Actually, considering him, he might be.  I think that he figures that he becomes the Dem leader in the House if Pelosi does not get back the House in 2012, so he wins by the country losing.

09 May 2011

Another Shanda Before the Goyim

Click for full size

The original

Der Tzitung

De Voch
Not one but two Heredim (black hat ultra Orthodox) publications, Der Tzitung and De Voch photoshopped Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and and White House aide Audrey Tomason out of the iconic picture of staff watching the progress of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound.

It appears that they consider even a photograph of a woman to be too sexually salacious.

It just proves that medieval hyper-religious nut-jobs are not limited to al Qaeda, or the talibaptist whack jobs, but includes fellow Jews.

As my brother is wont to say, "Schwer zu Sein a Yid."  (It ain't easy being a Jew.)

H/t Failed Messiah.

At Least This Wasn't the Obama Administration's Coverup

In this case, it's big Ag (We're Beatrice), who have been leaning on their running dog lackeys in state legislators to pass laws to make the taking of photographs, videos, and recordings of farms illegal:
So, proposed legislation in three states – Iowa, Minnesota and Florida – that would criminalize the filming, photography or audio recording of farms (the general assumption seems to be that the bills are meant to protect CAFOs – concentrated animal feeding operations, also referred to as factory farms – but could apply to any farm of any nature) raised a major red flag to me, and to others who follow and write about such issues. People you’d expect to raise a protest, like Humane Society’s Wayne Pacelle and Animal Welfare Approved director Andrew Guenther have done so, but mainstream media, especially the New York Times, has also done a great job, with this pointed op-ed and Mark Bittman’s excellent “Who Protects the Animals?” (in which he coins the phrase “ag-gag”).
I guess that I shouldn't be surprised, considering the popularity of veggie libel laws, but the pure venality and hypocrisy here just boggles my mind.

I would hope that the courts declare this unconstitutional before the ink is dry, because it is banning the practice of journalism.

Making the Teabaggers Look Good

It turns out that there is a group of people who are less well suited to running government than the Teabaggers, it is the current government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Case in point, some of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's aides have been charged with sorcery:
Close allies of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been accused of using supernatural powers to further his policies amid an increasingly bitter power struggle between him and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Several people said to be close to the president and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been arrested in recent days and charged with being "magicians" and invoking djinns (spirits).

Ayandeh, an Iranian news website, described one of the arrested men, Abbas Ghaffari, as "a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds".
This is a level of political dysfunction that just boggles my mind, particularly in the 21st century.

This is why the Neocons are wrong about us taking down Iran.  The only thing that preserve this clown show is an external military threat.

08 May 2011

A New Firefox (and Chrome) Add On That I Highly Recommend…

It's called MAFIAA Fire (note: it is listed as Experimental on Mozilla.org.)

MAFIAA stands for the Music and Film Industry Association of America, and it redirects from sites that have been seized under conditions of dubious legality by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

I probably never would never have heard of it, except for the fact that the Department of Homeland Security demanded that Mozilla.org pull the plug in:
The Department of Homeland Security has requested that Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, remove an add-on that allows web surfers to access websites whose domain names were seized by the government for copyright infringement, Mozilla’s lawyer said Thursday.

But Mozilla did not remove the MafiaaFire add-on, and instead has demanded the government explain why it should. Two weeks have passed, and the government has not responded to Mozilla’s questions, including whether the government considers the add-on unlawful and whether Mozilla is “legally obligated” to remove it. The DHS has also not provided the organization with a court order requiring its removal, the lawyer said.

“One of the fundamental issues here is under what conditions do intermediaries accede to government requests that have a censorship effect and which may threaten the open internet,” Harvey Anderson, Mozilla’s lawyer, wrote Thursday on his blog.
The net result of this is that the total number of downloads has gone from 6433 when Wired wrote the article to 38,560 as I am writing this.

As JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS observes, this is a classic example of the Streisand effect.

I'm adding this to my Firefox Extension links (below blogroll on right hand column).

I don't really have a need to install it, I've yet to run into one of the redirected sites, but it's worth whatever small amount of attention that I can give them.

I've listed their developers' reasons for this software after the break:

07 May 2011

F-22 Fleet Grounded

There is a problem with the onboard oxygen generation system, which might have contributed to a crash in November.

Considering that the aircraft is designed to spends a lot of its time at or above 20,000 meters, and the pilots do not wear a pressure suit, this is a non-trivial issue.

06 May 2011

People With Way Too Much Free Time…

Perusing what Uncle Ted called "a series of tubes," I came across Think Tank: The Economics of Death Star Planet Destruction:

What’s the economic calculus behind the Empire’s tactic of A) building a Death Star, B) intimidating planets into submission with the threat of destruction, and C) actually carrying through with said destruction if the planet doesn’t comply?

Doesn’t the Empire take a huge economic loss from the lost productivity of an entire planet? They were presumably paying taxes and providing resources to the rest of the Empire. Presumably the loss of that planet’s output would have to be made up by increased output from other planets that were either slacking in productivity due to rebellion or threatening to rebel and withdraw from the Empire altogether. It doesn’t seem to make good economic sense.

This is a pretty standard imperial tactic for dealing with rebellion. The Romans would do this in the eastern empire every once in a while. A city would become a hotbed of rebellion, threatening to pull other cities into the action. The Romans would wipe out that one city, no matter how wealthy (Palmyra comes to mind) to put any other potential rebels on notice. Kind of like a mastectomy. You lose one productive part of the body in order to keep cancer from spreading.

Lee and Mcneil, along with Perich, Fenzel and Stokes (read the whole thing provide an interesting dialogue on economics and governance that is (I think) unintentionally a rather trenchant analysis of the current American imperial hubris.

Just read it.

Vermont Passes Conference Committee Version of Single Payer

So it now goes to the governor, who has promised to sign the bill.

My take on this is very straightforward: It won't get the waivers needed to be implemented, because employers in the region would leave skid marks to open up offices in Vermont if it did, which would have a cascading "race to the top" which would render much of the US health insurance irrelevant, and Barack Obama aggressively lobbied to prevent such an option for the states for his healthcare bill.

I'm not sure whether it is philosophy (Obama honestly believes that the solution has to be private because of his philosophy), or if it is expediency (Obama needs to raise a billion dollars for the 2012 campaign, and the FIRE sector is the source of much of that money), but the effect is the same:  He will not allow this plan to proceed to fruition.

Still Not Enough

The monthly jobs report is out, and 244,000 non-farm payroll jobs were added last month, which is better than recent history, but still means that we would be over 8½ years away from the already anemic job market that existed in 2008. (8 million jobs lost, natural growth of the labor force is about q75K, so we have about 70k in job "claw back" this month.

Conversely, the unemployment rate actually rose to 9.0%, but this was not because of more entering the workforce, but fewer jobs reported in that study:
Some readers have asked whether the unemployment rate can rise even as employment is growing because more people start looking for work — and thus count as officially unemployed. Theoretically, the answer is yes. This does happen sometimes. But it didn’t happen in April. The unemployment rate rose last month because the household survey showed a decline of 190,000 jobs, not because of a surge in job seekers. That’s why there is no way to reconcile last month’s results of the household survey and employer survey. They make sense only in the context of previous months.
So, your mileage may vary on all of this.

Today's results are either better than expected but still crappy, or somewhat worse than that.

Jon Stewart Convinced Me………

Release the f%$#ing photos
All the arguments about the bin Laden death photo are a part of the bigger picture, which is that essentially nothing resembling accurate and impartial photojournalism is ever allowed in our "war on terror", and this is intentional.

A more accurate picture of the forever war we are involved in would inevitably result in a substantial erosion in the support for it, which would mean that Blackwater Xe would not be able to support John Ashcroft in the manner to which he is accustomed.

05 May 2011

Great Googly Moogly!

Click for full size

H/t Wall Street Pit for the graph Pr0n
It's jobless Thursday, and the numbers are brutal.

It's back in the 450-485K sweet spot that it hung about for most of last year.

They expected it to fall by about 30K to around 400K, but it rose by 43,000 to 473,000, and the less volatile 4-week moving average rose by 22,250 to 431,250.

Continuing claims rose by 74,000 to 3.73 million, though emergency and extended claims fell by 42,900 to 4.12 million, though in the case of the latter, I do not know how much of this is just the "99ers" exhausting their benefits.

Obama should be running around like his hair is on fire over this report, but he should have been doing that over much of the past year with real unemployment (U-6) staying well over 15%, but because the Banksters are back to paying themselves big bonuses, no one in DC seems to give a damn.

Much more of this, and Sarah Palin will be sworn in as president the day that I make aliyah to Israel.