Saturday, November 29, 2008

Headlines - Saturday

The firestorm of opposition, including that of the incoming Obama administration, has caused the BLM to back down in Utah, in part. 

Before anybody gets too excited, the majority of the leases in the auction are on the block. Just 22 of more than 90 leases have been pulled, and 130,000 acres are still at risk.

One leading contender for the Secretary of Interior position in the Obama administration is on the case.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., sent a letter to Kempthorne saying, "this ill-advised fire sale of leases, which could irreparably harm the air, water and wildlife of three beloved national parks, should be halted."

Grijalva, chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Interior secretary in the Obama administration.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., also sent a letter Tuesday to Kempthorne to urge Interior to postpone the oil- and gas-lease sale the BLM has scheduled for the Friday before Christmas. Seven other senators signed the letter.

Hopefully Grijalva's initiative and proactive watchdogging on the issue will push his name further up that list of potential contenders for the Interior position.


BushCo's last Christmas gift to us: toxic toys 

Here's a fitting parting shot.

Congress in August passed a landmark consumer safety law that raises standards for toys and virtually bans several hormone-like chemicals called phthalates in products for children under 12.

Lawmakers wanted toys with the controversial chemicals to be off the market when the law takes effect Feb. 10, according to a statement from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., co-author of the ban.

Last week, however, a staff attorney at the agency responsible for carrying out the new regulations — the Consumer Product Safety Commission — released a legal opinion stating that stores may continue to sell toys with phthalates, as long as those items were made before Feb. 10. That could allow toys with phthalates to remain on the shelves for years, with no way for parents to know which toys contain the chemicals, Feinstein says.

Merry Christmas everyone! Don't touch that toy!


The next crisis cometh

Like the second eruption of a volcano, retail commercial mortgages are the coming second wave of the meltdown, my friends. So say a fond farewell to your favorite malls and hotels this Christmas, as we may have only their empty husks to look at in the near future.

Of course, this is all good news for bankruptcy lawyers, but not many other folks. It means laid off retail workers, more supposedly solid bank assets and collateralized debt securities turning into part of the big shitpile, and an extended real estate slump that could last for a decade or more. It also means more banks and institutional investors are in need of bailout cash. At this point it sort of makes you wonder if the only solution that will be left to us in the end will be the complete (or nearly complete) nationalization of our financial sector. From banks, Wall Street investment firms, Insurance companies and pension funds the rot runs so deep, and the downward spiral appears so unstoppable that I don't know what can be done to salvage the situation absent the Government taking over the mess which our grand free marketeers (from the DLC to the RNC to Greenspan to Paulson) have created. It's a collapse so complete that I'm sure that right wing conspiracy theorists will be imagining secret Jewish Islamic Marxist deep cover terrorist cells embedded within the Federal Reserve System for a good part of the next century as the primary cause for the collapse of global capitalism.

When really, however, it was simply ideological hubris and the stupidity of greedy assholes on Wall Street and K Street to blame. They made their fortunes, enjoyed their high stakes poker games and high class hookers, shot partridge and quail by the bucket load at private resorts while downing pallet loads of $1000 bottles of wine and champagne and eating the most expensive meals expense accounts would allow. And, of course, now that the bill has come due they've left repayment for all their destruction to the rest of us. Greed isn't good, but I guess it can be fun while it lasts.


Thanksgiving is the day Americans very briefly pretend to be civilized family people as they gather around a table covered in once-a-year homemade food. The day after Thanksgiving - Black Friday - is when Americans return to their real selves. At 5 a.m. yesterday, outside a Long Island Wal-Mart, a crazed mob busted through the doors and crushed a 34-year-old temporary employee. He died. Four others were injured. Reuters

And this: two people were shot and killed at a Toys R Us store in Palm Desert, California.

There really is a war on Christmas. This is what our country has come to. A bargain price on cheap crap made in china is more important then a life of a fellow human being. Just whose birthday is Christmas supposed to be celebrating anyway? Would he approve?


For a Library of Congress project, George and Laura were interviewed by Bush's sister, Doro Bush Koch. His answers scream of a lack of self-awareness that's beyond narcissism. Take a look: 

"I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process. I came to Washington with a set of values, and I'm leaving with the same set of values. And I darn sure wasn't going to sacrifice those values."

"I'd like to be a president known as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace." r the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

And here's what the Lauratron 3000 had to say about her legacy:


Larry Summers, who Obama has chosen as an economic advisor, has been on a repentance journey of sorts, admitting that vast economic inequalities in a society is bad for the economy.  This NY Times article by David Leonhardt is a good overview, and summarizes the situation as thus:

To undo the rise in income inequality since the late '70s, every household in the top 1 percent of the distribution, which makes $1.7 million on average, would need to write a check for $800,000. This money could then be pooled and used to send out a $10,000 check to every household in the bottom 80 percent of the distribution, those making less than $120,000. Only then would the country be as economically equal as it was three decades ago.

The lack of middle-class income growth during that span is "the defining issue of our time," Mr. Summers has said, in a tacit admission that liberals were ahead of him on this issue. He is likely to be front and center in Mr. Obama's push to reduce taxes on the middle class and create good jobs. Mr. Summers may also push the administration to work with foreign governments to crack down on tax shelters.


Rick Wagoner:

Corporate greed didn't take a holiday

1. GM asks FAA to block public from viewing movements of corporate jet:

2. AIG is giving away taxpayer money as "retention" pay (i.e., stay with us some more to drain the life out of this company bonuses.)

American International Group Inc., the insurer that said yesterday it scrapped bonuses for top executives after a U.S. bailout, will still pay 130 managers "cash awards" to stay with the firm, including $3 million to retirement services chief Jay Wintrob.

..Wintrob was one of six top-paid aig executives in 2007, with total compensation valued at $7.63 million. He earned a salary of $775,000 and a $1.74 million bonus in addition to stock and options, according to an April regulatory filing.-

Soldiers go without body armor....armed forces families have to rely on food stamps...our nation's bridges and highways are collapsing...and these worthless, spineless pieces o' you know what are taking taxpayer money so they can sit on their overbloated behinds to drive the company even further in the ground....

It's your tax money feeding these pigs.
call your congresscritters. Tell them to turn off the money draining spigot. Now.


Senior military leaders took the exceptional step of briefing President Bush this week on a severe and widespread electronic attack on Defense Department computers that may have originated in Russia - an incursion that posed unusual concern among commanders and raised potential implications for national security.,0,6441140.story

It's interesting that briefing the president about such a cyberattack is regarded as "an exceptional step." It further underscores George W. Bush's growing irrelevance, and the entire episode underscores the fact that this country's Captain Smith has abandoned ship in the first lifeboat with his buddies the Saudi royal family and top corporate executives from the financial industry, leaving the hundreds of millions of passengers on Titanic America to drown on their own.

But the larger picture is just how unprepared the military is to deal with such cyberattacks. Whether the military reflects the Administration's willful ignorance about technology, or if it is a recruiting problem remains to be seen. But after seeing jobs requiring a computer science degree outsourced by the millions to low-wage countries, after watching
law firms teach companies how to post fake ads for jobs for which no one person could possibly be qualified so that they can justify outsourcing, after watching their forebears pushed out of the IT job market starting at age 35, it's easy to understand why computer science undergraduate enrollment has dropped by half since 2000.

Some of this is attributable to the dot-com crash, but that doesn't explain an entire generation of millennials saying "No thanks" to the industry that brought them their laptops and computer games. It's hard to justify spending four years and six figures getting an education for a career in which whatever programming languages you know, they aren't the one the employer wants (and he doesn't realize that you can learn the syntax in a matter of weeks), where you are regarded as replaceable by someone in the Phillippines who can be paid 1/10 of what you're being paid, and where you are pushed out as being too old by the time you're 35.

Perhaps this flight away from computer science will change now that we will have a president whose very election was aided by the geeks who ran his internet operation. But until then, the computing infrastructure is vulnerable, because the so-called leaders who rely on it don't even know how to turn the damn things on.


Karl Rove - who should be in prison - is still being paid to write opinion pieces 

"We don't need a change in our health care system":


Scientists have identified new rifts on an Antarctic ice shelf that could lead to it breaking away from the Antarctic Peninsula, the European Space Agency said.

And in other environmental news

Amazon deforestation accelerates - h/t Dick



Bob Geiger has the Saturday toons up. 



No comments: