Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, May 30, 2010 10:04 am

Things really were simpler in the old days

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:04 am
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It’s a true fact.

Friday, May 28, 2010 8:59 pm

Lock ‘em up

What laws have been broken in the Deepwater Horizon disaster? Bloomberg’s Ann Woolner has what may be only a partial list.

Toxic mud, toxic politicians

Two Republicans, Louisana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser are trying to fast-track a two-decade-old proposal to dig up mud from Louisiana’s coastal areas to create artificial reefs offshore, ostensibly to protect the shore from hurricanes. This scheme is so eye-poppingly bad from both an environmental standpoint and a practical standpoint that it will make your eyes bleed just to read about it:

The shallows of the Gulf Coast are the anterooms of the Coast’s aquatic nurseries. Just under the surface, the shallows are lined with decades of toxic goo. Digging them up to protect against BP’s oil volcano makes as much sense as pulverizing neonatal ICU entrances to protect against asbestos in the hospital walls.

You see, the sediment that Nungesser and Jindal want to dig up has one other small problem. That sediment that washes down the Lower Mississippi? It’s thoroughly mixed with long-lasting and deadly persistent organic pollutants.

Not “organic” as in your local farmers’ market. “Organic” as in your local college’s chemistry lab. Sadly for southern Louisiana, the Mississippi carries the toxic pesticide runoff from the entire Corn Belt. Much of that waste travels right down to the Gulf. Worse still, for decades, the oil, gas and chemical industries clustered around the lower Mississippi’s “cancer alley” dumped many of the most deadly toxic wastes we’ve has ever created right into the water. The poor river, in turn, carries them downstream, and the uncounted tons of deadly goo irretrievably mix in with the sediments that make up the “shallows” off of Louisiana’s coast.

Those are the very same “shallows” Nungesser and Jindal want to heap up in piles off Louisiana’s already poisoned coast. It’s the perfect mechanism to ensure winds, tides and hurricanes carry the once-buried toxins inland to the marshes and wetlands. Yes, the ones these crackpots purport to be saving.

The piece claims the Coast Guard and the EPA are on board, although it doesn’t elaborate on exactly what the EPA’s role is. Although any role short of standing up and shouting, “Not just ‘no,’ but, ‘Hell, no!’” is probably inadequate.

My favorite part is that the “unidentified experts from the Netherlands” who are consulting on the plan turn out to be officials of the world’s third-largest dredging company.

Warren Buffett, come on down

I noted that billionaire Warren Buffett dumped a bunch of Moody’s stock (as did company CEO Raymond McDaniel) the same day Moody’s received a Wells notice, which is formal notification from the government that it intends to get a legal order to stop Moody’s from rating securities. Which is, you know, pretty much the bulk of what Moody’s does.

Well, as a result of that, Buffett was invited to testify before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. He declined. What happened next?

FCIC:* Uh, dude? When we said “invite,” well, we were just being polite.

Buffett:* Screw you.

FCIC:* I will ask you once more. Nicely.

Buffett:* SCREW. YOU.

FCIC: (issues subpoena).

Which is interesting, but this gets better as Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge notes that this investigation “obviously revolve[s] around Buffett … Moody’s is merely a smokescreen.”

Fascinating.

*possibly not a direct quote

Two cheers for Tom Coburn

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:38 pm
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The frequently jackassish senator from Oklahoma actually has a decent suggestion: auditing the Pentagon:

Without an accurate grasp at the start of a spending program as to its most likely cost, schedule, and performance, how can decision makers understand the future consequences of their actions? Today, an ethic continues to predominate in the Pentagon that consistently paints an inaccurate picture – one that is biased in the same, unrealistic and ultimately unaffordable direction. The errors are not random: actual costs always turn out to be much higher than, sometimes even multiples of, early estimates. The reason is simple; the Pentagon doesn’t know how it spends its money. In a strict financial accountability sense, it doesn’t even know if the money is spent. This incomprehensible condition has been documented in hundreds of reports over three decades from both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department’s own Inspector General (DOD IG).

He’s right. We should audit the Pentagon, we should ensure we’re spending only what we need to and not losing money to waste, fraud or abuse.

But even if we did all that, we’d still have a military budget we can’t afford. Even bigger steps are needed, starting with getting us out of Iraq and Afghanistan and continuing with a sober, complex, rational analysis of our legitimate defense needs and an understanding of our role and limits as a world power. Every great world power in history has succumbed to imperial overstretch, and we’re doing it right now. Continuing to spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined is not sustainable. We’ve got to cut. A lot. Soon.

It’s all fraud … and no one is paying

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:26 pm
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Gordon T. Long lays it all out.

RACKETEER INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATIONS (RICO) ACT

Under RICO, a person who is a member of an enterprise that has committed any two of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering.   Racketeering activity includes:

In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of “racketeering activity.” RICO also permits a private individual harmed by the actions of such an enterprise to file a civil suit; if successful, the individual can collect treble damages.

Our government is broken. Corporations broke it. And corporations are NOT going to fix it.

I am prepared to wager the princely sum of $1 that any already-quasi-well-known Democratic politician who 1) promised to “send CEOs to prison, and not Club Fed, either,” and 2) didn’t claim to have seen flying saucers could get at least 30% of the Democratic primary vote in 2012, irrespective of whether President Obama seeks re-election.

Goldman Sachs skates

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 8:23 pm

Goldman Sachs may pay a 9-digit settlement to the SEC, but it avoids copping to a felony. Two convictions on any of 27 specific federal and/or 8 specific state felonies brings the RICO ACT into play, and I suspect that avoiding RICO ramifications was all that really mattered … to either side, unfortunately. A company whose quarterly profits are in 12 digits won’t miss a 9-digit settlement.

UPDATE: I realize the SEC doesn’t do criminal investigations. But there’s no indication that the SEC ever even considered referring this matter to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation, so my point stands.

Wall Street CEOs: Crazier ‘n a sh*thouse loon

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:15 pm
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But don’t take my word for it. Take James Kwak‘s:

Wall Street CEOs like to think they are the adults, the big men in the room, the ones who know how the world works. Well, you know what? They screwed up their own banks, the financial system, and the economy like a bunch of two-year-olds. Every single major bank would have failed in late 2008 without massive government intervention — because of wounds that were entirely self-inflicted. (Citigroup: holding onto hundreds of billions of dollars of its own toxic waste. Bank of America: paying $50 billion for an investment bank that would have failed within three days. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs: levering up without a stable source of funding. Etc.) The financial crisis should have put to rest for a generation the idea that the big boys on Wall Street know what they’re doing and the politicians in Washington are a bunch of amateurs. Yet somehow the bankers came out of it with the same unshakable belief in their own perfection that they had in 2005. The only plausible explanation is some kind of powerful personality disorder.

Having stolen all it can from the living …

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:08 pm
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… Citi apparently has now resorted to stealing from the dead.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 11:51 pm

2011: All impeachment, all the time …

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 11:51 pm
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… if the GOP takes over the House, Jonathan Bernstein says:

The incentives all run to impeachment, as far as I can tell. The leaders of such an effort would find it easy to cash in (literally, I mean) with books and appearances on the conservative lecture circuit. It’s hard to believe that Rush, Beck and the rest of the gang wouldn’t be tripping over each other to wear the crown of the Host Who Brought Down the socialist gangster president. And we’ve seen the ability, or I should say the lack thereof, of rank-and-file GOP pols to stand up to the talk show yakkers. Besides, it’s not as if a new Republican majority would have a full agenda of legislative items to pass, and what they did have would face an Obama veto (and most likely death in the Senate at any rate). Against all that is the collective preference of the Republican Party not to have a reputation as a pack of loons, but that doesn’t seem to be much of a constraint in practice.

Fact is, Republicans almost certainly are NOT going to regain control of the House. (I like their chances better in the Senate.) But even if they did, my concern would not be that they were impeaching him, but that they almost certainly would be impeaching him for the wrong things.

Where to go for info

Filed under: Journalism — Lex @ 11:47 pm
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I earlier praised the Times-Picayune of New Orleans and its Web site, NOLA.com, for coverage of Deepwater Horizon. I would be remiss if I did not also mention the outstanding coverage of the Houston Chronicle, including a blog by the paper’s energy writer. Very good, informative stuff. Both papers are doing what good papers are supposed to do: owning an international story in their back yard.

Soft on crime

Filed under: Deport these treason monkeys! — Lex @ 11:09 pm
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The Republican operatives who loudly insisted they were innocent of breaking into Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in Louisiana have pleaded guilty and will not get jail time.

John Cole, FTW:

… is it entirely too much to ask that [James] O’Keefe be required to serve his community service under the watchful eyes of the New Orleans branch of ACORN? Pretty please?

Bonus points if he serves it dressed as a pimp.

Yet another reason to hate Republicans

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:58 pm
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Every time the economy goes to hell, the maxiskirt comes back.

Well, of COURSE he was

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 9:41 pm
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Would it be irresponsible to speculate as to whether Jesse Helms and J. Edgar Hoover were lovers (not that there’s anything wrong with that)? It would be irresponsible not to:

Newly released FBI files say Jesse Helms was a “contact” for the FBI, willing to offer to the law enforcement agency the facilities of TV station WRAL, where he was a broadcast executive until the early 1970s.

Helms “is most cooperative and has offered the facilities of his station to assist the FBI at any time,” according to an FBI memo from 1971. “He is a great admirer of the Director (J. Edgar Hoover) and the FBI and for a long period of time has been a staunch defender of the Director and his policies.”

Helms, a five-term U.S. senator and one of the iconic figures of American conservatism, died on July 4, 2008. His death triggered the release of the FBI files …

Jesse Helms was a paranoid sociopath who spent a lifetime fostering divisions between blacks and poor whites who otherwise might well have made common cause against the wealthy and powerful who controlled the society in which he came of age. Once he got elected to the Senate, he exported his own brand of oppression to other countries. He died with a lot of innocent people’s blood on his hands and the singular distinction of having done more to hamper good race relations in this state than anyone else in the second half of the 20th century. Among those who have done the most over the years to give the GOP a bad name, he’s up there with Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon.

Yo, Texas: Put that in your damn textbooks.

Put it on BP’s tab

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 9:35 pm
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Mix toxic oil with toxic dispersants, agitate gently, and what do you get? A boatload of sick people:

Fishermen hired by BP to help with the oil spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico are coming down sick with “severe headaches, dizziness, nausea and difficulty breathing [1]” after working long hours in oil- and dispersant-contaminated waters, according to the Los Angeles Times.

This follows a report we flagged on Tuesday about fishermen coming down sick [2]. This one, done by a New Orleans TV station, told a similar story — fishermen reported feeling “drugged and disoriented,” “coughing up stuff,” and feeling “weak.”

Cleanup workers told the Times that they were not given protective equipment — no gloves, no respirators.

Cuz that’s just how we roll here in the greatest nation on Earth.

Feed the starving executives

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 9:30 pm

This also is what a “free market” looks like:

Tribune Co. has unveiled plans for a third round of top executive bonuses, nearly $15 million, bringing to more than $72 million the amount of pay enhancements the media company handed out while operating under bankruptcy protection. …

The new bonuses, which cover 42 top executives, include nine of Tribune’s 10 top-ranking corporate leaders, according to papers filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

They are in addition to $57.4 million worth of bonuses already approved by a bankruptcy judge over the protests of unions whose members lost jobs due to the company’s financial struggles. The earlier bonuses were paid out between May 2009 and February 2010.

Sam Zell’s takeover of Tribune Co. was doomed from Day 1, but the inevitable suffering could have been far more evenly shared. And in a great country, it would have been.

And while we’re on defense issues …

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 9:07 pm
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Spencer Ackerman quotes John O. Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism:

… no nation, no matter how powerful, can prevent every attack from coming to fruition. …

This is the challenge we face. Even more than the attacks that al-Qaeda and its violent affiliates unleash or the blood they spill, they seek to strike at the very essence of who we are as Americans. By replacing our hard-won confidence with fear and by replacing our tolerance with suspicion. By turning our great diversity from a source of strength into a source of division. By causing us to undermine the laws and values that have been a source of our strength and our influence throughout the world. By turning a nation whose global leadership has meant greater security and prosperity for people in every corner of the globe into a nation that retreats from the world stage and abandons allies and partners.

That is what al-Qaeda and its allies want. To achieve their goals by turning us into something that we are not. But that is something they can never achieve. Because only the people of America can change who we are as a nation. al-Qaeda can sow explosives into their clothes or park an SUV filled with explosives on a busy street. But it is our choice to react with panic or resolve. They can seek to recruit people already living among us. But it is our choice to subject entire communities to suspicion or to support those communities in reaching the disaffected before they turn to violence. Terrorists may try to bring death to our cities. But it is our choice to either uphold the rule of law or chip away at it.

Spencer, who covers these issues for a living, notes that even as Brennan is saying these things, the administration for which he works is arguing in court for the right to hold detainees indefinitely without charge. So he asked Brennan how he reconciled what he was saying with that policy. Brennan’s response in its entirety:

When this administration came in, in January of last year, we dealt with a number of legacy situations that we wanted to make sure we were able to deal with appropriately without compromising the security of the American people. I think as everybody recognizes, on both sides of the political spectrum, the situation at Guantanamo is a very, very difficult and challenging one. I think that even as the president said he was determined to close Guantanamo within one year, it still remains open because the president is determined not to do anything that would compromise America’s security. It is something that we are working very closely with the Congress on. We are trying to do things in a very thoughtful manner. We have transfered about 50 of those detainees over the past year and a half, and we’re continuing to look at their situations there. But this is a challenge that we need to look at from a policy perspective, from a legal perspective as well as from a security perspective.

That’s not good enough for me because it sounds as if the administration is continuing to try to defend the very things Brennan has just said will hurt us and help al-Qaeda. Spencer took the same tack:

I go back to the quote that Marc Lynch gave me for my morning piece: “What I’m afraid of is that as soon as you get turbulence — like an actual terrorist attack — there’s going to be a big backlash and you can’t hold the overall structure in place. Right now, Obama’s got the rhetoric, but they’ve done precious little to institutionalize it and put on durable legal foundations.” I think it might be worse than that. The institutionalization that the administration is pursuing will codify indefinite detention without charge. Brennan today vowed fairness and checks and balances in such a system, and careful discretion in when it will apply. But opt-out clauses from the rule of law create an incentive to expand their applicability. And if Brennan’s critique really applies, then that’s an unalloyed strategic asset for al-Qaeda.

Lynch’s fear may not be hypothetical for very long. The attempted-attack level in the U.S. is high by historic standards, even if the sophistication of the attempts are low. Brennan deserves credit for not saying the administration requires more surveillance authorities to handle the domestic threat when he was asked. But how prepared is the Obama administration, really, to withstand the enormous political pressures that will exist for ever-more-draconian measures when another attack finally succeeds?

That, unfortunately, is a very good question. We lost our minds on 9/11, for perfectly understandable reasons. But I hope we also have learned some things, from our own experience and from the experience of other frequent targets of terrorism, such as Britain (dealing with the IRA), Spain (Basques) and Israel (name it).

First, although there are many things we can do to make ourselves safer, the fact is that sometime, somewhere, someone will succeed in a terrorist attack that takes lives, possibly many lives. That is inevitable.

Second, throwing fundamental rights out the window when terrorism happens always ends up being seen in the long run as the wrong thing to do. Not only does it not make us safer, it can alienate some people so much that they become terrorists themselves, and it plays right into the propaganda of our tormentors. It is both a tactical mistake and a strategic mistake.

Risk management is not a total mystery, even with respect to terrorism, so we need to manage our risk as effectively and efficiently as possible. That boils down to prioritizing on the basis of what scenarios would cause the most damage, irrespective of likelihood, and what scenarios are most likely, irrespective of damage, and finding the balance point. From what I’ve read and heard, the biggest risk by these standards is a small nuclear weapon hidden in a vessel in a U.S. port. Having a couple of hundred blood kin living within a couple of miles of Charleston’s harbor does not make me feel especially good about this, but it is what it is.

But risk elimination is a pipe dream, no matter how totalitarian a state we might become. Let’s be grownups, accept that, work systematically and logically to manage and reduce our risk, and remember who we are: a free people.

Missed opportunity

I got to hear Lawrence Korb speak last night at the O. Henry. Korb was the Defense Department official during the first Reagan term who was responsible for manpower and other key issues — basically, 70% of the defense budget. To hear him tell it, Republican politicians have kind of left him standing on the Curb of Responsibility as they dashed out to play in the Six-Lane Boulevard of Madness. As a result, he advised the Obama campaign in ’08 and is now with the Center for American Progress, the moderate-to-slightly-liberal think tank run by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta.

He was an affable, entertaining speaker. He talks kind of fast, and his extemporaneous presentation involves a lot of self-interruptions and sidelong dashes down various interesting rabbit holes, so that you need to bring a fair bit of context with you to be able to follow him completely. As it happens, during his time at the Pentagon, the PR agency I worked with in New York did some work on defense issues (albeit from a different policy direction: our client was the Union of Concerned Scientists, which — aided by such luminaries as George Kennan, the pseudonymous “X” who created the policy of containment after World War II — was pushing the government to adopt a No First Use policy), so I had enough context to follow him OK.

He was talking primarily about America’s nuclear policy and why he thinks the recently signed START treaty and nonproliferation efforts are a Good Thing. But he invited questions on a wider range of defense-related issues than that. Because I am an idiot and/or my children have eaten my brain, I totally forgot to ask him what he thought about the Obama administration’s use of drones, particularly the potential targeting of U.S. citizens without due legal process.

What can I say? I suck. I admit it.

So I e-mailed him. If he responds, and if he permits his response to be published, I’ll publish it here.

What a government drowned in a bathtub (full of oil) looks like

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:44 pm
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Dave Johnson at HuffPo:

People want to know why the government can’t do more to help unemployed people, help with health care, help provide good educations, help with college, maintain the infrastructure, and all the other things that government does.

The answer, these days, is always, “Government doesn’t have the resources.” And that, in a nutshell, was exactly the plan.

See, here’s the thing. Our politicians have talked a lot over the years about taxes this and spending that and deficit the other, but we’ve never had an intelligent national conversation about what we want government to be able to do, in what order or priority, and how much each of these things would cost to do correctly and how we’re going to raise that money fairly and effectively.

This is not our only problem. Thirty years of “free market” this and “deregulation” that have left us with a governmental regulatory structure so dessicated that apparently lots of people thought it was fine to accept gifts from the people they’re supposed to be regulating. Rather than have the stones to say, “We don’t believe government should regulate offshore oil drilling at all!” (for example), most of our politicians — of both parties — have been content to take corporate money and look the other way, if not actually cheer, when corporations captured those in the executive branch who were supposed to be regulating them.

Well, why is that bad? Because we’re supposed to be a self-governing country, and self-government requires, well, government. And events of recent years have made abundantly clear that the government we have is inadequate to the tasks it faces.

We, the People no longer have the resources to solve our problems. We now must depend on and defer to the corporations and the wealthy few to make the important decisions and get things done instead of being able to decide and do on our own.

And if you think that was an accident, you’re even crazier than the birthers. Because we’ve known otherwise for almost 30 years.

UPDATE: E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, 2nd verse same as the first:

“Deregulation” is wonderful until we discover what happens when regulations aren’t issued or enforced. Everyone is a capitalist until a private company blunders. Then everyone starts talking like a socialist, presuming that the government can put things right because they see it as being just as big and powerful as its Tea Party critics claim it is.

But the truth is that we have disempowered government and handed vast responsibilities over to a private sector that will never see protecting the public interest as its primary task. The sludge in the gulf is, finally, the product of our own contradictions.

And having sacked the executive and legislative branches, McClatchy (bless ‘em) reports, BP and other corporations are going for the trifecta:

Facing more than 100 lawsuits after its Gulf of Mexico oil spill killed 11 workers and threatened four coastal states, oil giant BP is asking the courts to place every pre-trial issue in the hands of a single federal judge in Houston.

That judge, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, has traveled the world giving lectures on ethics for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, a professional association and research group that works with BP and other oil companies. The organization pays his travel expenses.

Hughes has also collected royalties from several energy companies, including ConocoPhillips and Devon Energy, from investments in mineral rights, his financial disclosure forms show.

Most guys have no feelings

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:16 pm

Cord would be an exception.

Two reasons I’m not going to grad school before I absolutely have to

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:39 am
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Nino Ricci, author of the novel The Origin of Species:

Then I entered graduate school, and was asked to check all my worldviews at the door. The Big Narratives were history, we were told—not only the hoary ones like Christianity and Beowulf, but also socialism, the Enlightenment, the self-help movement—and worse, everything we had imagined we knew about the world was a stinking lie, trapped in a binary logic that kept whatever it was that was really out there at some unfathomable remove. Or at least I think that was what we were told—much of it was put to us in a language that purported to be English but didn’t resemble any form I’d ever seen before.

That and the fact that a friend got her master’s last week by writing a 90-page autoethnography. The fact that neither dictionary.com nor urbandictionary.com defines this word tells me all I need to know.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 10:45 pm

Slap!

via Emptywheel:

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo.: We all want to get to the bottom of this tragedy. And I think we all agree that finger-pointing will not get us there. I don’t understand–I have to be real honest here–why you and others keep harping on what MMS did or didn’t do in the previous Administration, when you did know about these problems when you came into office and you have been in charge of them for more than a year now. Why aren’t we talking about the here and now?

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar: Well we are talking, Congressman Lamborn, about the here and now, and that’s why people have been terminated, people have been referred over to prosecution, and we’ve done a lot to clean house at MMS. Unlike the prior Administration, this is not the candy store of the oil and gas kingdom which you and others were a part of. And so we have moved forward in a manner that is thoughtful, that is responsible, that holds those accountable. And those who violate the law, Congressman Lamborn, will be terminated and whatever other sanctions of law are appropriate, those sanctions of law will be applied.

OK, at least until tomorrow morning (when I will wake up and find out if BP’s top kill worked), Ken Salazar is my new hero.

Scary

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 10:05 pm
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Spain’s central bank is doing to that country’s banks what the U.S. government should have done long ago to U.S. banks: making them write down the value of bad loans on their books:

The staggered loss provision schedule will call for a 10% loss assumption for real estate acquired in foreclosures, 20% for real estate held for more than a year, and 30% for anything held for more than 2 years.

Any future acquisitions have to be appropriately accounted for within 12 months; previously, banks had up to 6 years to make stuff down. Also, foreclosed raw land gets marked down even more — 50%.
Paul Farrell, who accurately predicted the 2009 market boom, says it’s “game over,” that Great Depression II is coming, possibly by year’s end:

Earlier economist Gary Shilling said price-to-earnings ratios are at a “nosebleed 22.5 level.” The Dow was around 11,000. Money manager Jeremy Grantham recently said the market’s overvalued 40%. That could mean a collapse to 6,600. Last week in Reuters’ “Markets Could Be Derailed Again,” George Soros echoed a “game over” warning with a “stark warning … that the financial world is on the wrong track and that we may be hurtling towards an even bigger boom and bust than in the credit crisis.”

Now Dow Theory’s Richard Russell is warning the public of an imminent crash: “Sell … get liquid … by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country.” … This may not be a correction. Not even a bear. What’s coming could be worse than the 2000 dot-com crash and the 2008 meltdown combined, a “Super-Bubble” says [George] Soros. And the biggest reason, Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm tell Newsweek, is that “the president’s half-measures won’t fix our failed financial system” because he refuses to “bust up the too-big-to-fail banks.”

OK, well, you can rock me to sleep tonight.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:11 pm

Question of the day …

… from Eli at Firedoglake: “Do we really want an economy based entirely on questionable deterrence rather than actual prevention?”

Why do almost 80% of Americans hate America?

A day after Rep. Mike Pence, R-INnumerate, claims a majority of Americans oppose repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a CNN poll finds that almost eight out of 10 Americans, including a majority of Republicans, favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military. Someone please let Jim Webb know.

Junk shot; or, What a really free market might look like

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:35 pm
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How ’bout we plug the Deepwater Horizon with U.S. Sen. James Inhofe? He seems fond enough of oil that I think he’d actually enjoy the experience:

Republican Senator James Inhofe has stepped up to the plate yet again for big oil, pledging a Republican filibuster against legislation offered by New Jersey’s Robert Menendez that would completely lift the $75 million liability cap currently protecting big oil companies from claims of economic damage from oil spills.

That’s right, ladies and germs: A Republican Senator is calling for a taxpayer bailout of BP. Because that, in effect, is what blocking Menendez’s measure would do.

You know, Republicans are all for “free markets” when the markets in question are actually crony capitalism and they get to be cronies. But when they might actually have to face economic consequences for their actions, they’re all, like, “Oh, help, Uncle Sugar, SAVE us!”

Why is there a liability cap at all? Why shouldn’t BP have to pay every last dime it takes to clean up the mess and restore, or compensate for, the lives and livelihoods ruined by this disaster?

It might cost BP’s stock- and bondholders their investment? Well, yeah, that’s what’s supposed to happen when a corporation makes a mistake of world-historical proportions.

It might make other companies reluctant to invest in deepwater drilling? So? Maybe that might lead companies to take a second look at fields that, while more expensive, would also be safer.

So the price of oil would go up? So? Maybe people would use less of it, which would benefit the economy and the environment. Maybe competing, cleaner energy sources that aren’t cost-efficient now would become more so.

I don’t want to have to pay more for oil. But it’s pretty clear that we’re going to pay for it one way or the other, and everything else being equal I’m inclined toward anything that does not involve my paying for a private corporation’s mistakes.

Look back in anger

Filed under: Deport these treason monkeys!,Evil — Lex @ 8:09 pm
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President Obama has said he doesn’t want to focus on the past when it comes to prosecuting torturers. But focusing on the past when it comes to Bush-era whistleblowers? Oh, man, he’ll do that all day. Jackass.

Impersonating an officer

Fred was kind enough to send me a post from this site (no permalinks; the post is marked 1509 PST [?] 24 May 2010). The site appears primarily to allow for anonymous venting by DEA agents (Fred used to be one), and I have no idea how good a site it is in that regard. But in this particular post, the following appeared, and when I read it, my BS meter went all kinds of crazy:

As a former Navy submarine officer and consultant on several Navy films (Das Boot, Below, Crimson Tide, etc) now assigned to the Pentagon I can assure you that if one of our subs had become disabled and lay at the exact place and depth where the BP oil scam is occurring that sub would have been rescued in a matter of hours… that is, if we had a Commander in Chief in the WH who either had military experience or had the sense to direct the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) to pull his and BP’s chestnuts out of the fire.

It is very unfortunate that just as during the Katrina disaster which the military could have quickly and easily supported under Humanitarian Service Medal authority, a second disaster occuring under a second, non-military president and CINC was incompetently botched.

Is it not questionable that if a major flood or other devastating natural emergency occurred in any South American country — and many have — we instantly dispatched US military forces under Naval command to not only save lives and property but also to rebuild (using Seabees) the damaged country… yet we have now had two weakling, non-military CINC’s (Bush and Obama) who refused to exert their military authority to save American lives and property??? I could list well over three dozen Humanitarian flood relief operations solved by our military in South America and others in Southeast Asia. In fact, our entry into the Vietnam War was masked under Vietnam’s annual flood seasons as “relief and humanitarian operations” overseen by the Navy.

I, and others here in the Pentagon, believe that this oil disaster was the perfect opportunity for Mr. Obama to be CINC. Unfortunately, just like the Desert One Operation (to free our hostages in our embassy in Iran under the incompetent James Earl Carter) Obama prefers to send young men and women to their needless deaths and dismemberments in Iraq and Afghanistan to satisfy his personal cowardliness in avoiding military service… just as CINC Bush and his co-draft dodger VP, Cheney, cowardly avoided service in Vietnam.

The oil problem now occurring, if treated as a military urgency rather than a corporate urgency, could have been arrested days, if not hours, after it occurred. Again, it is unfortunate that these disasters — Katrina, British Petroleum — occurred when we had/have non-military, cowardly and corporate toady CINC’s in the WH… and their non-military, punk advisors being far worse.

The Navy could stop the leak. the Navy could assign its tankers to suck the oil from the water. The Navy could and would bill BP for the cost… and BP would have to pay the Navy… fast.

Obama is a dunce and a moron. He prefers to act as CINC who causes men’s deaths. He will not perform as a CINC that preserves American property.

I voted for Obama because I knew that McCain and Palin would be worse. I will not make that mistake in 2012. If Obama finds himself running against Mickey Mouse I will vote for the mouse. Our Nation would be better served by a mouse named Mickey than by a moron named Obama.

Within 10 minutes, I concluded that pretty much every factual statement in this piece was fabricated.

Complete cast and drew for Das Boot.
Complete cast and crew for Below.
Complete cast and crew for Crimson Tide.

No matches. And if the yo-yo instructor got credited in “Below,” I’m pretty sure anyone providing technical expertise based on his experience as a submarine officer would be getting credited.

But then, it’s pretty unlikely that one person would have consulted on all three of these movies, given that they were made more than 20 years apart on two different continents. It’s also unlikely that a German production about a German U-boat crew would need to go to America for technical expertise with respect to submarines. Right?

Does that mean what he’s saying about the BP spill is false? Not necessarily. But it does call into question some of his claims. For example, although few civilians know for sure, Russian subs, whose titanium hulls are thought stronger than the steel hulls of U.S. subs, probably have a maximum operating depth of between 3,000 and 4,000 feet. Submersibles have been to the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Pacific (35,000 feet), but those are specialized research vessels not equipped for rescue work.

If the Navy had the capability to perform that kind of operation at that kind of depth successfully and “within hours,” do you not think it likely that the Chief of Naval Operations would have made that information available to the Commander in Chief?

if a major flood or other devastating natural emergency occurred in any South American country — and many have — we instantly dispatched US military forces under Naval command to not only save lives and property but also to rebuild (using Seabees) the damaged country

I can’t find any record of any such operation in South America in the past 25 years. Our military does humanitarian rescue/relief, but it does not rebuild except for U.S. military facilities.

In fact, our entry into the Vietnam War was masked under Vietnam’s annual flood seasons as “relief and humanitarian operations” overseen by the Navy.

If there’s a historical basis for this claim, I haven’t found it. U.S. involvement in Vietnam dates to the 1950s and was of a military advisory capacity from the start.

… I, and others here in the Pentagon

HIGHLY unlikely. No way would an active-duty officer with a lick of sense risk his career by publicly criticizing the commander in chief through a Pacbell.net personal Web site whose ownership would be so easily traceable. A civilian Pentagon employee would be running a risk almost as great, although the law on civilian employees is less clear and the case probably would have to be decided by a court.

Unfortunately, just like the Desert One Operation (to free our hostages in our embassy in Iran under the incompetent James Earl Carter) Obama prefers to send young men and women to their needless deaths and dismemberments in Iraq and Afghanistan to satisfy his personal cowardliness in avoiding military service … just as CINC Bush and his co-draft dodger VP, Cheney, cowardly avoided service in Vietnam.

James Earl Carter, whatever his incompetence, did not act out of “personal cowardliness in avoiding military service.” He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a submarine officer, for crying out loud.

The oil problem now occurring, if treated as a military urgency rather than a corporate urgency, could have been arrested days, if not hours, after it occurred.

While I agree that Obama is not treating Deepwater Horizon as the national emergency that it is, I question whether the military has the capabilities the writer claims. I certainly think that whatever Obama’s motivations, he’s not acting out of “cowardice,” unless it’s the cowardice of being afraid to upset political contributors by taking the operation out of BP’s manifestly incompetent hands. I think the only way this accident could have been handled well was to have required up front that equipment needed to prevent it be in place and functional before drilling began. It has become clear that no one — not BP, not civilian government agencies, not the military — has the means to stop this thing other than with a relief well.

The Navy could stop the leak. The Navy could assign its tankers to suck the oil from the water. The Navy could and would bill BP for the cost … and BP would have to pay the Navy … fast.

There’s no evidence to document any of these claims, particularly that last one. You and I both know that BP is going to litigate that issue, and all others related to Deepwater Horizon, within an inch of their lives and drag them out for years.

Obama is a dunce and a moron. He prefers to act as CINC who causes men’s deaths. He will not perform as a CINC that preserves American property.

That’s a personal opinion … one I share to a significant extent, though not for the reasons stated.

How the game is played

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 2:45 pm
Tags: , ,

I mentioned over the weekend that the EPA had demanded that BP use a less toxic dispersant and BP told the EPA to get bent. BP continued to maintain that position today.

John Cole comments:

BP is just acting rationally, if you ask me. They’ve looked at the landscape, realize that even if they get sued for a [lot], the courts will strike it down as unfair, and they know they have nothing to fear from the government because both parties are littered with politicians they’ve completely paid off, and they know damned well that one major party wants to get rid of the EPA and the blue dogs in the Democratic caucus would join them, so they have no reason whatsoever to listen to that agency. Basically, the rational decision for any corporation in this country is to do whatever the [expletive] you want, because there simply won’t be any consequences. They have a lot of shareholders who will look the other way, a country desperate for oil, politicians completely in their pocket, and they can afford better attorneys than the poor bastards who used to catch shrimp in the Gulf.

That is just how it is in an oligarchy. And I honestly don’t know what can be done about it.

This is what a free market looks like. Remind me again why government regulation is such a bad idea.

We’re losing, but the Times-Picayune is full of WIN

Great American journalism has tended to be born from crises, and nowhere in this country in the past half-decade has there been more of a crisis than Louisiana. New Orleans’ Times-Picayune, in an era in which print journalism supposedly is dying, has risen magnificently to the challenge:

BP hired a top oilfield service company to test the strength of cement linings on the Deepwater Horizon’s well, but sent the firm’s workers home 11 hours before the rig exploded April 20 without performing a final check that a top cementing company executive called “the only test that can really determine the actual effectiveness” of the well’s seal.

A spokesman for the testing firm, Schlumberger, said BP had a Schlumberger team and equipment for sending acoustic testing lines down the well “on standby” from April 18 to April 20. But BP never asked the Schlumberger crew to perform the acoustic test and sent its members back to Louisiana on a regularly scheduled helicopter flight at 11 a.m., Schlumberger spokesman Stephen T. Harris said. …

According to [Halliburton official Tim] Probert, government regulators at the Minerals Management Service don’t require a well owner like BP to order a cement bond log unless it feels uncertain about any of the earlier tests. It’s not clear what the results of the positive and negative pressure tests were.

(h/t: Ritholtz)

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