Thursday, November 20, 2008

Headlines - Thursday


Seems that Texas is unique in that their "Law of Parties" allows giving the death penalty to someone even if they did not themselves pull the trigger. So what does that mean for Chancellor Cheney and his murder indictment in South Texas? Not good, apparently. Assuming that Cheney doesn't get a federal judge to squash it, he's going to be appearing in a Texas court responding to murder charges. And while Texans generally love their Republican politicians, one thing they do *not* love is someone from outside of Texas telling them how to do their bidness...

BTW, Aaron Burr and Spiro Agnew were both indicted while being seated Vice Presidents and there's nothing in the Constitution prohibiting any state from indicting a Vice President, so there's no law prohibiting this. But I don't expect it to have much legs anyhow, because the Constitution is a piece of toilet paper for politicians to wipe their asses on nowdays, rather than being the definitive document as to what is legal and not that they tell you in Civics class.

Bush becomes a leper at the G20
CNN: George Bush snubbed at the G20 Summit. Everyone was greeting each other and shaking hands, but Bush walks with his head down like the dejected most unpopular kid in high school. The one with cooties.

The current official unemployment rate is 6.5%. The unofficial unemployment rate is 11.8%. Some economists estimate that if the Big 3 automakers go under, it will put approximately 15,000,000 Americans out of work once the effects ripple through the economy. The U.S. workforce has about 150,000,000 people in it, meaning that this would make the official unemployment rate be 16.5%, and the unofficial one be 21.8%.

That's Great Depression territory, folks. Sad to say, allowing Chrysler, GM, and Ford to fail is not an option right now. If the current unemployment rate was 2.5% like under the Clinton Administration and there were widespread labor shortages, that'd be one thing -- it'd hurt, but the economy could absorb 15,000,000 newly-unemployed people. But with the economy already hurting, this would be just one more step into the abyss of a deflationary spiral, and I don't think "Helicopter Ben" Bernanke can drop enough $100 bills out of helicopters to make >15% unemployment palatable.

Speaking of the automakers, here's Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) from yesterday's hearing where CEO's were begging for money...
"There's a delicious irony of seeing private luxury jets flying into DC, and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses. It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. Kind makes you a little bit suspicious as to whether or not…we've seen the future. There's a message there. Couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled to get here? It would have at least sent the message that you do get it."

Later in the hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) asked if any of the executives planned to sell their private jets; none raised his hand. Sherman was exasperated: "I don't know how I go back to my constituents and say, 'The auto industry has changed,' if they own private jets which are not only expensive to own but expensive to operate and expensive to fly here rather than to have flown commercial."

They probably have one of these parked outside - h/t Dick:
Andy Borowitz - funny and true:
In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.

Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama's appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday witnessed the president-elect's unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.

But Mr. Obama's decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.

According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it "alienating" to have a president who speaks English as if it were his first language. 


President-elect Barack Obama's incoming White House chief of staff challenged chief executives and other business leaders Tuesday night to join the new administration in a push for universal health care, saying incremental increases in coverage won't be acceptable.

"When it gets rough out there, a lot of business leaders get out of the car and say, 'We're OK with minor reform.' I'm challenging you today, we're going to have to do big, serious things," Rahm Emanuel said, speaking to The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council, a conference convened to elicit corporate opinion on the challenges facing the new president.

Today's announcement that Tom Daschle will be the Health Care Czar and Secretary of Health & Human Services, serves even more notice to the business world. And Rahm had more to say to the CEO's:

Mr. Emanuel promised that a major economic stimulus would be "the first order of business" for Mr. Obama when he takes office Jan. 20. The focus of spending will be on infrastructure, specifically "green infrastructure," which he said would include mass transit, upgraded electricity transmission lines, "smart" electrical meters that allow consumers to save money by using electricity at off-peak hours, and universal broadband Internet access, which he said would encourage telecommuting.

He stressed that the new administration would "throw long and deep," taking advantage of the economic crisis to push wholesale changes in health care, taxes, financial re-regulation and energy. "The American people in two successive elections have voted for change, and change cannot be allowed to die on the doorsteps of Washington," Mr. Emanuel said.

People would do well to heed Emanuel's message, lest they get a fist in the mouth or a dead fish in the mail. What's emerging from Chicago is a clear preference for toughness and people that are forceful and smart enough to ram home Obama's priorities. Obama is tapping experienced people but he's doing it so that he can enact a lot of change very quickly. Obama clearly wants to cut down on the learning curve, avoid rookie mistakes, and send a message that he means business. As Emanuel makes abundantly clear, Obama is not trimming his campaign promises, he's just using some old hands to usher his promises through Congress.


Donating over $600,000 to defeat gay marriage in California continues to take a toll on James Dobson's empire. He's just issued the latest batch of 202 pink slips, sending his employees into the economic wilderness without a prophet to lead them back.

I'm sure Dobson sees this as just a small setback that will heal thyself with the next Republican administration. But, I'm not so sure.

Aside from the next Republican administration being light years away, maybe God is directly behind Dobson's shrinking fortunes. After years of listening to Dobson preach tankers full of hateful hogswallop, perhaps The Big Guy had enough. Maybe he can't stomach the sound of the sanctimonious little shit's voice any more. I can see why. If I had to listen to this asshat - along with all the other Westboro Church, Pat Roberston, Benny Hinn wannabe disciples of Christ - I'd be ready to send a sign that my patience is running thin too. 
Hard times have also hit Oral Roberts University, where ten percent of its workforce will be laid off. The school has been embroiled in a scandal involving the son of its founder, who is accused of using the University as a private fiefdom for himself and his wife.
A dramatic rescue for doomed wild horses

The unwanted horses seemed destined for death. The wheels had been set in motion to put down about 2,000 healthy mustangs, those in a federally maintained herd of wild horses and burros that no one wanted to adopt.

The Bureau of Land Management knew that euthanasia was a legal alternative, but officials were proceeding slowly, afraid of an intense public outcry. The wild horses had become too expensive to maintain, and cattlemen argued that turning them loose would be a drain on the already scarce grazing lands of the West.

Then yesterday, at a public hearing in Reno, Nev., to discuss the issue, a solution arrived on a white horse, so to speak.

Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, made known her intentions to adopt not just the doomed wild horses but most or all of the 30,000 horses and burros kept in federal holding pens. Lifelong animal lovers, the Pickenses just a few years ago led the fight to close the last horse slaughterhouse in the United States.

Madeleine Pickens is looking for land in the West that would be an appropriate home for the horses.

Bi-Partisanship Is What We've Had Nothing Else But Of: What Lieberman Means to FDR Dems
Glenn Greenwald takes a shot at one of Rob's and my personal bugaboos - the cry from Obama and the DLC/BD Caucus of conservative Dems that there's been too much hyperpartisanship in Washington. Glenn wants to know "What partisanship?"
Pro-lifers discover reality
The right has been stringing their voters along for decades with the wedge issue of abortion. Few Republican candidates get their campaigns off the ground without taking a position as close to the right pole of the issue as they can get away with. Even John McCain, who didn't seem comfortable with the issue, described himself as "proudly pro-life" and expressed a desire to overturn Roe v. Wade. In the final presidential debate, McCain treated the question of a woman's health as an excuse to get an abortion. "That's the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, 'health,'" McCain said, making air quotes with his fingers.

But the thing is, Republican candidates have talked a good game on abortion. While Bush claimed to want to foster a "culture of life" in America, he got right to work creating a culture of death. We absolutely needed go to war and kill people and, if you wanted to stop killing people, it would be an insult to those who had died. If we quit after it became clear the Iraq war was pointless, Bush argued, the dead would have "
died in vain." Not only did we have to spread death and misery around the world, but we then had to worship that portion of the dead who were American. The glorious culture of life was only mentioned when throwing a bone to the anti-abortion folks, mostly through actions that wouldn't reduce the number of abortions performed in any way -- a ban on funding embryonic stem cell research, for example. The ban didn't stop a single fetus from being aborted. Not one.

Of course, it was never designed to. It was designed to create another wedge issue between the anti-abortion types and the rest of us, just in time for the 2004 election. Bush had "discovered" one more way that the secular forces of science had come up with to kill babies. In the end, Bush accomplished nothing but getting re-elected. Stem cell research was set back, no abortions were avoided, and the war over abortion was fresh as a daisy and basically unchanged - just the way the Republican party likes it.
Keep reading:
Kathleen Parker has declared (in a Washington Post column) that an excess of religious fervor is hurting the Republican Party.
Funny, she was singing a somewhat different tune shortly after 9/11:

What happened between now and then?

Simple: Republicans lost -- and exit polls and demographic research suggest that Republicans will continue to lose if they continue saying precisely what Parker was saying in the fall of 2001.

That's the reason Parker is bailing on God -- the only reason.
Parker's latest column has sent conservatives into a tizzy, and they demand to know what Parker is referring to. The author of "Liberal Fascism," who has never ascribed bad motives to a political party in his life, has a representative comment.

What aspects of the Christian Right amount to oogedy-boogedyism? I take oogedy-boogedy to be a perjorative reference to absurd superstition and irrational nonsense. So where has the GOP embraced to its detriment oogedy-boogedyism? With the possible exception of some variants of creationism (which is hardly a major issue at the national level in the GOP, as much as some on the left and a few on the right try to make it one), I'm at a loss as to what Kathleen is referring to. Opposition to abortion? Opposition to gay marriage? Euthanasia? Support for prayer in school?
Might I offer a piece of evidence?
The California Supreme Court will take up various legal challenges to the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Already, someone has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Lord.
I mean, if you want to deny that a non-trivial part of your coalition is out in la-la land, go ahead. But ultimately, conservatives are responsible for giving this kind of nonsense talk a presentable forum and a place in their party. They made a devil's bargain and now they're trying to act like the Dominionists in their midst are perfectly normal.

I don't know how right Parker is (the economic royalists and the neocons can shoulder some of the blame), but let's not pretend that the religious right is rational and benign.

In September, China became the largest foreign holder of US treasuries ahead of Japan, the US Treasury Department reported in figures released Tuesday.

China held 585 billion dollars worth of treasuries, while Japan held 573.2 billion dollars, according to Treasury figures.

The third largest foreign holder is Britain, with 338.4 billion dollars.


AFP: An Indian warship destroyed a pirate "mother vessel" in the Gulf of Aden, the navy said Wednesday, as bandits demanded a ransom for a Saudi super-tanker seized in the most daring sea raid yet.
From CNN:
Housing starts and permits, both of them key measurements of home construction, hit record lows in October, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

Housing starts reached an annual rate of 791,000 last month, the lowest level since the department began tracking starts in 1959. The rate tumbled 4.5% from the revised reading of 828,000 in September.

Building permits fell 12% to an annual rate of 708,000 in October, breaking the previous low of 709,000 in March 1975. The annual rate for September was revised to 805,000.
Oklahoma - dead wrong and proud of it
The world wept for joy; Oklahoma spat defiantly. The glory train of history pulled out of the station; Oklahoma waved goodbye and said "good riddance." Dr. King's dream came true; Oklahoma slumbered on, curled up on the hearth of racism and addicted to the mind-numbing power of the word "conservative."

Whatever the rest of the country is up to, it must be wrong. If the American voter wants to send five new Democratic senators and 19 representatives to Washington, Oklahomans will respond by not electing a single Democrat running in a statewide election. If Obama wants to redraw the electoral map, turning red states blue, we will hunker down and become the reddest of all red states — the only state in which not a single county went for Obama.
Don't forget the states that weren't far behind Oklahomans voting for McCain:
Oklahoma 66%
Wyoming 65%
Utah: 63%
Idaho 61%
Alabama: 61%

Everywhere you look, there's stuff about Bill Clinton's donors and all that, often with the implication that there must inherently be something dirty going on, because, well, just because.

But I guess that's just the way things are. After all, do you remember all the grief President Bush got over his family's questionable business ties?

Neither do I.


The Bush economy in action:

The Dow, as Bush takes office: 10,587.59
The Dow, eight years later: 7,997.28

WASHINGTON — Animals and plants in danger of becoming extinct could lose the protection of government experts who make sure that dams, highways and other projects don't pose a threat, under regulations the Bush administration is set to put in place before President-elect Obama can reverse them.

The rules must be published Friday to take effect before Obama is sworn in Jan. 20. Otherwise, he can undo them with the stroke of a pen.

The rules eliminate the input of federal wildlife scientists in some endangered species cases, allowing the federal agency in charge of building, authorizing or funding a project to determine for itself if it is likely to harm endangered wildlife and plants.



Writes Michael Hirsh:

For the last few days, the blogosphere has been ablaze with speculation about the kind of damage Hillary Clinton could do to the Obama presidency if she becomes secretary of state.

Of course, for the last few days there's been comparatively little speculation within the blogosphere about what kind of "damage" Hillary Clinton could to the Obama presidency. It's been the mainstream media that's played up the "damage" angle and been childishly obsessed with pushing the "soap opera" angle of the story.

For the most part, lib bloggers have been treating the story seriously, like adults. We're still waiting for the Beltway pundits to catch up.

Seriously. "Ablaze"? The blogosphere has been ablaze on the idiotic Lieberman decision. The Clinton thing has been a mere afterthought.

P.S. And it's the "traditional media", not the "mainstream media".



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