Month: 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.