Month: January 2011

Good for Joe Biden

It seems that the vice President thinks that the parodies of him from The Onion are a hoot:

A mock photo of Vice President Joe Biden washing a Trans-Am shirtless. Strange? Distasteful? Crossing the line?

Not so, Biden says.

“I think it’s hilarious,” Biden told Yahoo! in a wide-ranging interview Thursday.

Satirical publication The Onion has repeatedly made the Vice President a target for particularly randy news stories and online cartoon spoofs — and the jokes have been a viral sensation.

Good for him.

What Digby Calls, “Another Isolated Incident”

Nothing to see here, move along:

Roger Stockham, a 63-year-old Army veteran from California who was reportedly angry at the U.S. government, was arrested by police in Michigan and charged with allegedly threatening to blow up a Mosque in Dearborn.

Dearborn police allegedly found Stockham inside his vehicle outside the Islamic Center of America with a load of M-80s in his trunk and other explosives, the Detroit News reported.

If you read the rest of the article, it’s pretty clear that this guy is a head case, but even a head case has his actions shaped to a degree by external influences.


Evan Bayh, after saying that he would not run for reelection, because it’s all gotten too partisan, has joined a K-Street lobbying firm.

Just so you know, he didn’t leave because he did not like the partisan atmosphere, it’s because he wanted to be President, and realized that the whole party saw him as a smarmy corporatist opportunist.

Well, at least I’m not disappointed by this.

Reagan Appointed Judge Rules Entire Healthcare Law Unconstitutional

It was such a good idea for some moron to leave out a severability clause from the bill, huh?

A second federal judge ruled on Monday that it was unconstitutional for Congress to enact a health care law that required Americans to obtain commercial insurance, evening the score at 2 to 2 in the lower courts as conflicting opinions begin their path to the Supreme Court.

But unlike a Virginia judge in December, Judge Roger Vinson of Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., concluded that the insurance requirement was so “inextricably bound” to other provisions of the Affordable Care Act that its unconstitutionality required the invalidation of the entire law.

“The act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker,” Judge Vinson wrote.

The judge declined to immediately enjoin, or suspend, the law pending appeals, a process that could last two years. But he wrote that the federal government should adhere to his declaratory judgment as the functional equivalent of an injunction. That left confusion about how the ruling might be interpreted in the 26 states that are parties to the legal challenge.

And here is the money quote, which has since been removed from the online article:

The Florida plaintiffs ensured they would draw a Republican-appointed judge by filing the lawsuit in Pensacola.

I believe that the operative phrase here is, “Forum shopping for an activist judge.”

It’s all going to be down to Anthony Kennedy, because the other 4 reactionaries on the court are hyper-politicized assholes who have already made their mind based on partisan considerations.

And in the Annals of Hypocrisy…

We have Ayn “Atlas Shrugged” Rand, who took medicare to pay for her lung cancer surgeries, and Congressman Paul “We will transform our social safety net into a hammock” Ryan, who freely collected social security benefits after his father died.

I don’t generally begrudge people accessing social programs, but when you call people who need them “moochers” and the like, you are a hypocrite and a wanker.

Because We Want to Be Just Like Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt

Susan Collins and Joseph “The Human Stain” Lieberman, want there to be kill switch for the Internet in the United States that can be invoked at will without judicial review:

A controversial bill handing President Obama power over privately owned computer systems during a “national cyberemergency,” and prohibiting any review by the court system, will return this year.

Internet companies should not be alarmed by the legislation, first introduced last summer by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), a Senate aide said last week. Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“We’re not trying to mandate any requirements for the entire Internet, the entire Internet backbone,” said Brandon Milhorn, Republican staff director and counsel for the committee.


The revised version includes new language saying that the federal government’s designation of vital Internet or other computer systems “shall not be subject to judicial review.” Another addition expanded the definition of critical infrastructure to include “provider of information technology,” and a third authorized the submission of “classified” reports on security vulnerabilities.

The idea of creating what some critics have called an Internet “kill switch” that the president could flip in an emergency is not exactly new.

Just imagine Dick Cheney’s finger on the button.

“Not subject to judicial review,” that’s a wet dream for the former VP.

Egypt Is Heading ……… Somewhere

The protests have gotten big enough that the professional, and pampered, state security forces, have run out of resources, and the military has been sent in, but the military is taking a remarkably hands off stance regarding the protesters.

What is going on is that the police, and other civilian state security forces are volunteer, and favored by the current regime, and are invested in it, while the military is largely conscript, all Egyptian males serve, and so they aren’t invested in their position in the current regime.

It’s a pretty good reason to support a return to the draft in the good old USA, if you ask me.

In any case, the opposition has started to become more organized, and has decided on Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei will head whatever negotiations with the Mubarak government.

Note that this has occurred despite the fact that the regime managed to almost completely shut off Internet access for the country, or maybe it was because the Egyptians are upset about being unable to watch Justin Beiber videos on Youtube, but somehow I think that the Egyptians taking to the street are a bit less shallow than that.

Big Surprise, the New Black Panther “Voter Intimidation” Was a Manufactured News Event

Listen to GOP Lawyers Manipulating the Video at the Time

What a surprise. One of the things that had the right wing echo chamber, and George W. Bush’s corrupted Civil Rights Commission, the allegation that the New Black Panthers were somehow a part of of a Democratic voter intimidation scheme (in the blackest part of Philadelphia?).

Well it’s all a fraud, and it has been literally since day 1:

In the extended version of the footage, posted by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights this month, a police officer tells Morse to back off. That’s when the commotion begins.

The video shows someone off-screen to Morse’s left, telling the officer “I got him, I got him.” A man who appears to be Chris Hill, a Republican poll watcher who was accused of intimidating voters at the polls by another woman at the location, says “Put it down. You’ve got enough.”

Then Bartle Bull chimes in. “Don’t you threaten him with your hands. You’re threatening him. Don’t you use your hands!”


The video shows that the white Republican poll watchers who showed up to the majority African-American precinct knew exactly what kind of media sensation they had on their hands.

“We’re on the same team,” says another Republican poll watcher off screen.

“You’re f%$#ing up the story. Don’t f%$# up the story,” one unidentified poll watcher tells Morse.

“You guys are lawyers, I’m a videographer,” Morse says.

Morse told TPM in an e-mail that he doesn’t think it was Hill who was intimidating him, but says someone was.

“A couple of guys wearing SUITS were were actually intimidating ME at this point,” Morse told TPM in an e-mail. “It was certainly not Mr. Hill who told me to put the camera down. It was one or two GOP lawyers, whose names I never got and I never saw again.”

“I remember a crowd of maybe 10 lawyers (or seemingly lawyers, suits I should say, since Bull isn’t a lawyer) standing around — in the original (more famous) video — one lawyer makes it into one of the shots, but im pretty sure it was another guy — not the bald guy in the shot — who was being a dick to me,” Morse told TPM in an e-mail. “At least one person was being a dick, and I was quite angry at this point when they were telling me to shut the camera — hence the expletive (which i make no apologies for using!).”

(%$# mine)

They didn’t just edit the tape, they manipulated the taping on site at time.

The ‘Phant lawyers were attempting to edit the event in real time. 

It makes reality difficult to determine, but I always fall back on what work when the USSR was at its zenith: If they accuse you of some sort of skulduggery, it is safe to assume that this is what they are doing themselves.

How Politics Are Supposed to Work

Here’s something that I didn’t know, that Palm Springs, California, is the gayest city per capita in the United States.

So, when the homophobic police chief and DA decided to run entrap run a sting operation to harass gays, they both get forced out:

The June 2009 gay sex sting netted 19 public indecent exposure arrests, and disbelief and outrage have festered in this desert haven ever since.
This is Palm Springs, “the gayest city in America,” a gay tourist destination governed by an openly gay mayor and home to the sexually charged White Party, a dance and music festival that attracts tens of thousands of gay men every year.
The controversy reached a boil last June with the revelation that an officer involved in the sting was taped uttering a gay slur. It grew venomous in December when Police Chief David Dominguez, who had disciplined the officer, acknowledged that he too had made an “inappropriate comment” — also caught on tape.
It wasn’t enough. Dominguez abruptly announced his retirement last week.
Former Riverside County Dist. Atty. Rod Pacheco’s hard-line prosecution of the Warm Sands cases, which have yet to go to trial, rallied many in the Palm Springs gay community to pour money into his challenger’s campaign in the June election. Pacheco lost to Superior Court Judge Paul Zellerbach by 8,400 votes.

“I was told that on election night he was cursing my name,” [counsel of many of defendants, Robert] Tansey said.

It should noted that the police and DA claimed that there were extensive complaints, but they have been unable or unwilling to turn over that information to defense attorneys.

Palm Springs has been in decline for decades, with its recent status as a gay vacation destination being the only thing that is not turning it into Inland Empire, but the police, and the Republican (I Wikied it) DA decided that it was time for some gay bashing, and they discovered that the LGBT community has learned to vote.

A Belated Bank Failure Friday!!!!

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

  1. The First State Bank, Camargo, OK
  2. Evergreen State Bank, Stoughton, WI
  3. FirsTier Bank, Lousiville, CO
  4. First Community Bank, Taos, NM

Full FDIC List.

As you can see, after a slow start, things seem to be ramping up, and, allowing for the fact that the first Friday of last year was January 1, when they would not be closing banks, the new year looks a lot like the old year.

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

And since it’s early in the year, here is a detail of the first few weeks:

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) Report is Out

The FCIC ain’t the Pecora Commission, it lacked the authority, budget, and time to do so, so it is at best a half measure, but it is better than I had anticipated.

I am rather surprised that the they did not fall back on the “Hoocoodanode” explanation in the majority report, and actually assigned blame.

They actually assigned blame, with much of that going to Alan “Bubbles” Greenspan and “Helicopter” Ben Bernanke.

The commission also cites compromised federal regulators, particularly the OCC and the OTS, who went out of their way to hamstring state regulators who were far more aware, and more proactive, as well as the SEC’s unwillingness to regulate.

I am unsurprised that they determined that Timothy Geithner’s tenure as President of the New York Fed, “missed signs of trouble at Citigroup and Lehman,” though I am pleased that they stated so explicitly, and it is nice that they called out Larry Summers for his dogged attempts to completely deregulate derivatives.

The ratings agencies get a mention as “cogs in the wheel of financial destruction,” but it seems to soft pedal the degree that these folks were both corrupt, incompetent, and essential to both the financial system and the meltdown.

Some of the insiders have leaked that they think that all the reports ignore the fact that the system failed, and instead focus on fitting the events into the philosophical worldview, and I tend to agree:  This is much less of a description of the forest than it is of the trees.

One big surprise is the fact that the FCIC has referred some of its information to the DoJ because it believes that laws have been violated:

The claim of allegedly widespread securities law violations is among the more explosive findings in a sweeping report released Thursday by the Congressionally-appointed Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Those details help explain why the panel opted to refer several financial industry figures to state or federal law enforcement agencies for potential prosecution, as The Huffington Post reported Monday.

I don’t expect any action from Barack Obama or Eric “Place” Holder on this, after all, when it comes to law breaking by powerful elites, they want to “look forward”, rule of law be damned.

As to surprising revelations, the fact that they caught Goldman Sachs in a $2.9 billion lie regarding the Vampire Squid’s claim that they got no money for their own investments from the AIG bailout is surprising.

Not the Goldman lying part, that’s pretty normal, but the fact that they caught Goldman and then released it, is a surprise for me.

On the depressing side, it appears that the FCIC’s pledge to release all the raw documents is not as sweeping as they are claiming:

The FCIC’s commissioners, for their part, believe that they’ve done their best to be transparent. But Phil Angelides, the FCIC’s chairman, told Mother Jones in a Thursday conference call that the commission simply couldn’t release everything. “In the course of doing this kind of inquiry, you look at many documents that are completely irrelevant,” Angelides says. In addition, he says, “there are trade secret laws, other laws, federal law that controls the ability of the commission to release documents… It wouldn’t be responsible to do a document dump of documents that weren’t relevant to the crisis.”

Angelides promised that the “predisposition of the commissioners” would be to have a “fairly short period” before the National Archives and Records Administration releases the FCIC documents that won’t be released immediately. In the conference call, Angelides and fellow commissioner Brooksley Born refused to quantify what percentage of the commission’s documents will be released at what times, but Born claimed that the commissioners “erred on the side of openness.”

Even so, the National Chamber of Commerce is the absurd claim that any release of documents is a job-killing action akin to Wikileaks document dumps:

“The commission’s final report and its pledge to post raw materials — apparently including information obtained from companies as well as other government agencies — is an astounding abuse of process that would effectively create a government-sanctioned Wikileaks,” said Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform.

Considering the fact that these documents will reveal things like the big Wall Street firms knowing selling “a sack of s%$#” to investors, I tend to think that a full and complete release is a good thing, because the tighter the regulations, the more confidence that investors have, and so the more willing that they are to invest.

As to the slightly less absurd, there are the two minority reports from the Republicans.

The first, issued by 3 of the 4 Republicans on the committee, seems to primarily blame, “failures, near-failures, and restructurings of 10 firms triggered a global financial panic,” which is kind of silly, because panic is what happens when you realize that your 401K is all smoke and mirrors, because the banksters have been lying to you.

It’s really pretty similar to what the majority report says, only they say that it cannot be regulation, because the crisis was worldwide, ignoring the fact that the US and UK have been leading a regulatory race to the bottom for the past 30 years.

The remaining dissent, by Peter J. Wallison, who is co director of the American Enterprise Institute’s financial markets deregulation project, basically says that it was attempts by the government to make sure that banks did not discriminate against minorities, or, to put it more bluntly, he said, “this is what happens when you lend money to n*****s.”

Yes, What is Going On in Egypt is a Big Deal

Received via email

This could just kind of fizzle out, like 1848 did in Europe, but this is a rather graphic illustration of the breadth and scope of the protests.

Note that there are a number of factors that make this much more significant than Tunisia:

  • Unlike Tunisia, the population is almost exclusively, and strongly Arab (Tunisia has significant Berber influences).
  • Egypt has the largest population of any Arab nation in the world, having almost 30% of the world’s Arab population.
  • It has been a center of Arab nationalism and Islamic thought for hundreds of years.

Even in the best case, I don’t imagine that this will result  in the spontaneous creation of a modern democracy with civil rights, but I do think that any changes would be an improvement over the current corrupt and brutal status quo.