Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 12:00 am

Odds and ends for 2/2

Punxsutawney Phil weighs in on this whole Groundhog Day thing. Spoiler: He is, profanely, obscenely, NSFW-ly not a fan.

Bestest snow in a decade: The night we moved into our current house in January 2000, we got what likely will be a strong contender for snowstorm of the century. This past weekend’s storm, which dumped better than 6″ on us and close to a foot not far north of here, was almost as good. Got to go sledding and have a snowball fight with the kids — they killed me. Enjoyed Cajun crab-corn chowder and other good eats with good friends. Settled into a warm armchair Sunday night with a great novel and some Nattie Greene’s Red Nose winter ale. Ahhhhh.

Bad news, worse news for banking: The current commercial real-estate bubble could take down the banking system when it pops. And CRE ain’t the only potentially lethal problem out there. I’ll say one good thing about the free-marketeers: They can certainly f\/(% up a banking system.

Goldman Sachs to tell THE president to get bent, pay ITS president a $100 million bonus: Someone explain to me again why we don’t want to punish the banksters.

More insider trading that the SEC somehow manages to overlook.

While Jim Bunning does the taxpayers a few favors on his way out the door, Chris Dodd is throwing Molotov cocktails: Dodd, along with Richard Shelby and Paul Kanjorski, has pretty much killed the proposed ban on proprietary trading by banks. Because the one thing we desperately needed was even more taxpayer money at risk. Or has he? Goldman Sachs’ stock price seems to think Dodd hasn’t killed it after all.

Has prop trading really killed even one bank? Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker asked that question today. The answer is yes: Merrill Lynch, which the Fed bribed Bank of America to take over. (That transaction itself has raised all manner of, for BAC officers/directors, ugly questions about what stockholders were and weren’t told about the ML takeover.)

The Fed: One big counterfeiter, basically. Which, honestly, is sort of what I had thought, except that I figured there were important distinctions that were eluding me on account of I’ve got the economic skillz of a cinder block. Turns out I was more right than I knew, which does NOT make me feel as good as you’d think.

Not that what people want actually matters, but health-care reform with a public option is more popular even among Republicans in swing districts than the current Senate bill, which lacks one. And to no one’s surprise, although at least 51 Democratic Senators are on record as supporting a public option, now that reconciliation (i.e., simple majority vote) could make it happen, some of those “backers” are backpedaling, lest they upset their corporate overlords.

As is often the case, The New York Times’ David Brooks is guilty of slopping thinking. Matt Taibbi dopeslaps him back in the direction of reality and, in the process, puts in a shout-out for factual journalism over the false equivalence of “objective” journalism.

If you believe this, 26 states, including North Carolina, are insolvent. I don’t know whether to believe it or not, but, lord, it wouldn’t surprise me at this point.

I suppose it’s possible that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” will disrupt some military units … which is what desegregation opponents in the military warned Harry Truman 60 years ago. And as the fictitious Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on “The West Wing” observed, “You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it.” More to the point, so, basically, did all the senior witnesses who testified before Congress on the matter today.

Why the hell isn’t someone under indictment for this?: The CIA is allowing some of its personnel to moonlight for private, for-profit corporations. This isn’t bad only because it divides CIA staffers’ focus/attention, although that division is, indeed, a bad thing; it’s bad because it gives certain corporations access to government secrets they’re not entitled to have.

Why, it’s almost as if someone’s looking out for the taxpayers’ interests: Defense Secretary Robert Gates has fired the head of the $350 billion F-35 program because of cost overruns and performance issues. He also has withheld hundreds of millions in payments to Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the fighter jet. There’s gotta be a catch; I just haven’t figured out yet what it is.

I personally think Khalid Sheikh Muhammad should be tried in New York City, and I think people who think otherwise for any reason other than the cost of security are incontinent. And here’s what I would call a conservative argument in favor of trying KSM in, if not in New York City proper, at least in a civilian federal court elsewhere within the Southern Judicial District of New York. And here are some other reasons why letting the White House, Congress and local officials butt into this is a bad idea.

Colorado Springs tries an interesting social experiment: Rather than raise taxes, the city is letting a third of its streetlights go dark, letting dozens of police and firefighter positions go unfilled, not paving any streets and cutting all kinds of other services. I am sincerely interested in seeing what happens with this.

The NFL may well be the most popular sports operation in America, but they still desperately need competent public-relations counsel.

As do Senate Democrats, who spent the weekend schmoozing with bank lobbyists in Miami. No way that could go wrong for the taxpayer.

Supposedly we now have a study that says abstinence-only sex education works: Except for the part where the program studied — which might, in fact, work, although I’d say more study is needed — was not, in several important ways, abstinence-only. More details here. This isn’t just apples to oranges, it’s apples to mountain oysters.

As does Sarah Palin, whose PAC spent more money in the last half of 2009 on copies of her book than it did in contributions to other political candidates, ostensibly the PAC’s primary purpose. For those of you following along at home, this is a way of funneling political contributions to her PAC straight into her own pockets.

Question of the day, from Eli: “… if only one political party’s base gets to be taken seriously, does it really have to be the one that parades around with pictures of the President Of The United States dressed as a witch doctor?”

What could possibly go wrong? A Michigan man with a sled tried to fashion a rocket pack out of an old car muffler, gasoline and gunpowder. Police say he had been … wait for it … drinking. (h/t: Nance)

Friday, January 22, 2010 1:44 am

Odds and ends for 1/21

Does Rielle Hunter know?: Former presidential candidate John Edwards finally admits that he is the father of a former campaign staffer’s daughter. I would say “Stop the presses!” except that the presses stopped on this one a long time ago.

One last party before the walls come down: Morgan Stanley has earmarked 62% of revenues for employee compensation. Not earnings, revenues. Which is good if you’re an employee, because there were no earnings; the company posted an annual loss for the first time in its 74-year history. Goldman Sachs will be paying its employees a comparatively modest 36% of annual revenue, although that amounts to 121% of earnings. Question: What do the (non-employee) stockholders think of this?

What part of “all” did you not understand?: Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is asking committee chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., to hold Federal Reserve Bank of New York officials in contempt for turning over only some, but not all, subpoenaed documents relating to the AIG bailout. Zero Hedge, which has been on this subject for close to a year, helpfully offers some other questions Issa could raise.

Why do teabagger leaders hate America?: Tea Party leader arrested on first-degree rape charge; search turns up stolen Army grenade launcher; YouTube video features him planning to be a “domestic terrorist.”

Remind me again who’s not being bipartisan enough?: I happen to think the proposed commission is a horrible idea, if not unconstitutional, but still: Congressional Republicans have demonstrated repeatedly that they cannot take “yes” for an answer. Jackasses.

So. Um. Troops to Haiti — why, exactly?: Two possibilities, neither flattering.

OK, maybe the Mayans were right: Quoth DougJ at Balloon Juice, “With unlimited corporate money fueling crazed Nixon-style anger, things are going to get very, very ugly.”

I sort of want to know what exactly Spencer is talking about and I sort of don’t.

Finally, the people who know what they’re talking about get a turn: Obama pushes a Paul Volcker-backed plan to limit the size of banks, so as to eliminate the possibility of “too big to fail.” The idea here is to reduce the taxpayer’s exposure to any privately incurred risk in the financial industry. And that’s a good idea. (Know who else thinks so? Mark Zandi, the guy who advised McCain’s presidential campaign on economics.)

Purse v. policy-making: The pants-wetters want the Khalid Sheikh Muhammad trial not to be held in civilian court. Congressional Republicans are plotting to get some moron Dems to go along with them on barring funding for it. Now, why is it that the existing appropriation is in such a condition that that approach is even possible? And who would know enough about the appropriations process to have made this possible to begin with? Hint: it ain’t anyone with an R after his name.

As Alannis said, this could get messy: Sen.-elect Scott Brown got a lot of support from teabaggers, and he very quickly and publicly blew them off. We know how Rush reacts to that treatment. Let’s see how the teabaggers do.

And people wonder why I think Christianists and Islamists are essentially the same species.

Ethnic profiling won’t help: “An additional concern, [a Senate Intelligence Committee report] says, ‘is a group of nearly 10 non-Yemeni Americans who traveled to Yemen, converted to Islam, became fundamentalists, and married Yemeni women so they could remain in the country.’ One U.S. official, it reports, described them as ‘blond-haired, blue-eyed types’ who ‘fit a profile of Americans whom al-Qaeda has sought to recruit over the past several years.'”

Related: More pants-wetting. C’mon, America, man/woman up, will ya?

And even more pants-wetting, called out by Digby: “Everyone seems to forget that a year ago, Obama only had 58 votes in the Senate and everyone was in a state of near hysteria over his massive institutional power and soaring mandate. Now he has 59 and he’s suddenly impotent.”

As we turn more security operations in Afghanistan over to that country, we need to beware of residual problems.

AWOL pirate: Well, skull of pirate. Skull of total butt-kicking 14th century German pirate Klaus Störtebeker, who — and I must admit this even though I’m from North Carolina — makes Blackbeard look like Richard Simmons. Reward.

Awwww: Shiba Inu puppycam!

Sunday, January 3, 2010 9:44 pm

Odds and ends for 1/3

Cliff May really wishes his penis were bigger.

Why it’s important to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court in New York City, by Cynthia Kouril: “Treat him like what he is, a common criminal. Not a great boogeyman, not an arch criminal, not a martyr, just a guy who could not make a success in life living within the social contract and resorted to life on the wrong side of the law. Or in other terms, a failure.”

“People who suck … at analyzing events in real time really, really shouldn’t try to do it a year in advance”: John Derbyshire, Katherine Jean Lopez, Mark Hemingway and especially Jonah Goldberg, call your office. It’s called “reporting,” guys. Learn it. Love it. Live it. Hell, just try it once.

We’re the land of Joyce, but we don’t like to talk about that much.: In the Republic of Ireland it is now punishable by a 25,000-Euro fine (about $40KUSD) to commit blasphemy, defined as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion.” This is just a power grab by some “religious” earthly authorities. Memo to, just for starters, the Roman Catholic Church: Given all your pedophile priests and abusive nuns in Ireland alone, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. Memo to Muslims: I know you want to try to pull this same crap at the global level, but don’t hold your breath.

“Danger, Will Robinson!”: The aforementioned Cynthia Kouril also goes through the string of AIG e-mails recently released and finds that some of those e-mailers are facing, shall we say, significant legal exposure. Interesting how one blogger attorney is laying more prosecutorial groundwork than the SEC.

A moment in time, not a long-term shift: Micah Sifry examines how and why Obama has let down his base. Digby thinks he’ll pay a political price. I think she’s right … and that Congressional Dems will, too, first.

And about those Congressional Dems: They need to listen carefully to what White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual says and then do the exact opposite.

The good news: New unemployment claims came in at 432,000 for the week ending 12/26, down 22,000 from the week before and lower than expected.

The bad, and more significant, news: The number of people receiving emergency unemployment compensation — money for people whose regular unemployment benefits have been exhausted — hit an all-time record of 4.2 million in November. For the week ended Dec. 12, the number of new EUC claims came in just under 192,000, bringing the overall total to 4.5 million. With numbers like those, consumers won’t be driving any recovery for a long, long time to come.

Follow the money: The Labor Department claims that X number of Americans are unemployed and receiving unemployment or EUC payments. However, cash-flow reports from the Treasury Department suggest that the amount of money going out for such payments would mean that either check amounts have gone up — which hasn’t happened — or the number of people receiving such payments is actually 32% higher than Labor says. That means that if the “official unemployment rate” is roughly 10%, the actual unemployment rate may be more like 13%.

Privacy is so 1984: In case you didn’t know already, police can obtain info from your cell-phone carrier on where you are (or, to be precise, where your phone is) whether or not you have the GPS function enabled, and they don’t need a warrant to do it. The only way you can hide your phone’s location effectively is to remove the battery.

The Bush White House expected congressional Republicans to obstruct justice: So says Alberto Gonzalez in this Esquire interview (how did I miss this earlier?): “We should have abandoned the idea of removing the U. S. attorneys once the Democrats took the Senate. Because at that point we could really not count on Republicans to cut off investigations or help us at all with investigations. We didn’t see that at the Department of Justice. Nor did the White House see that. Karl [Rove] didn’t see it. If we could do something over again, that would be it.”

Fannie and Freddie really are to blame, Marla Singer says, but not in the giving-mortgages-to-poor-black-people-who-shouldn’t-have-gotten-them way that some conservative pundits are arguing. No, it’s worse than that.

What do you call one investment banker out the door? A good first step: A senior AIG officer quits rather than accept a federally imposed salary limit of $500,000 a year. Door. Ass. Of course, for some unfathomable reason the federal “pay czar” let her keep the $2.8 million in severance she claimed she was entitled to, but, hey, at least we’ve called one bankster’s bluff. Sort of.

Speaking of bankers, if you have a money-market fund, you might want to put that money someplace safer because the government may be ending instant redeemability.

Monday, November 16, 2009 12:15 am

Why America shouldn’t worry about Khalid Sheikh Muhammad being tried in civilian court in New York

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 12:15 am
Tags: ,

Spencer Ackerman, FTW:

What’s an actual insult to the victims of 9/11 is the idea that America is not strong enough to withstand the blatherings of a mass murderer. For me, the prospect of KSM grandstanding at his trial falls into I-wish-a-[expletive]-would territory. I want to hear how KSM builds a case against America, because everyone will hear how laughably conspiratorial and clownish it is. Think of what a cathartic moment it will be when America sees the face of the man considered to be [bin Laden's] most efficient henchman and he delivers a pitiful harangue to a bank of cameras. No one will be emboldened to do anything but laugh. The only downside will be his inevitable discussion of how CIA operatives tortured him.

My hope for the KSM trial is that it does more than all this. It should forever shatter the pernicious myth that al-Qaeda is composed of supermen — supermen against whom America has no choice but to alter its character and most precious laws in order to confront. I suspect we’ll have an Eichmann-in-Jerusalem moment — and sorry for the unfortunate Nazi/al-Qaeda analogy; al-Qaeda are not the Nazis but I couldn’t really think of any other parallel — except instead of the banality of evil, we’ll see the lunacy and vanity and self-absorption of it. That’s because al-Qaeda’s weltanshauung depends on a myth that holds America to be implacably determined to snuff out the glory of Islam. In reality, most Americans couldn’t give a [expletive] about Islam and only started to know the first thing about it because of 9/11.

Pretty much. Some people with whom I’ve differed on this issue, here and on Facebook, have wondered why I have suggested that they’re soiling their drawers when they call for KSM to stay in Gitmo. Well, this is why. KSM is far closer to clown than to Bond villain. And whatever you might shred the Constitution for, you don’t shred it for a clown.

 

 

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