Saturday, December 6, 2008

Headlines - Saturday

Unconstitutional Crowding
Three federal judges seem convinced that overcrowding in California prisons is so bad it leads to unconstitutional conditions. Now they must weigh whether ordering the release of nearly a third of the state's inmates would be a public safety nightmare.

The state stuffs its 33 adult prisons with nearly twice as many inmates as they were designed to house. Attorneys representing the inmates asked the judges on Thursday to order the state to trim about 52,000 inmates from the current population of 156,300 over the next two years.
Well at least we know where all the TARP money went

It's parked in 3 month Treasuries, whose interest rate got bid down to, well... zero... in the last auction.

So let me get this straight. The U.S. Treasury gives cash to banks. The U.S. Treasury issues Treasury Bonds to replenish its cash supply. Banks give cash right back to U.S. Treasury in exchange for 3-month Treasuries. And this cash all zooming around in a big circle is all supposed to help the economy... how?


The official unemployment rate sits at 6.7%, but that's because they're not counting anybody who makes a single dollar in part-time employment while looking for a full-time job, i.e., pretty much everybody whose unemployment benefits have run out. Add those people in, and you get a mind-boggling 12.5% unemployment rate.

When that hits 15%, you will start seeing fireworks, folks. And at 20%, expect the food riots to begin...


When will we liberate the Iraqis?

I know, I know, Bush liberated the Iraqis. But when will we liberate them from Bush's liberation? Well, ideally, the American people will rise up tomorrow and force Congress to cease funding the occupation and to vote an immediate and complete withdrawal with a veto-overriding supermajority, not to mention impeaching Bush and Cheney. I raise that possibility not so much because I've been drinking as because long-term movements for systemic reform require awareness of what we're missing. If we ever replace a Congress dominated by money, media, and parties with one loyal to us the people, it will be because we tragically realize what so very easily could have been.


I think the Right Wing's death grip on all media will diminish quite a bit in the coming years. Here's a harbinger.

Bill O'Reilly has formally confirmed he's giving up one of the most successful syndicated radio shows in the country, saying he has just run out of hours in the week.

O'Reilly said the radio show, which he launched in May 2002, will end "in the first quarter of next year." Most of the time he saves, he said, will go into his top-rated Fox News Channel show.

"The media business is getting more and more intense," O'Reilly said Thursday. "We've got to keep the TV show at the level we have it now, and that means more and more time to keep it competitive and fresh. I've been working 60, 65 hours a week and I just can't keep doing that."

Let's squint and read between the lines a bit, shall we?

As with anything O'Reilly says, you have to peel away the disingenuousness to get to whatever kernel of truth there may be. There are a couple of factors (pardon the pun) here that are dictating this decision.

First, BillO is going to have to concentrate on his TV show because Olbermann has been threatening to dethrone him for the past year and may well succeed in doing so in the next year or two. BillO sees the writing on the wall - that his Fox show has run a long time, he's been very successful with it, and when you're at the top there's nowhere to go but down.

Second, O'Reilly's decision to give up the radio gig has a lot to do with the financial status of his syndication company, Westwood One. Once a powerhouse among syndication outfits, WWI was recently
de-listed by the NYSE and may be on its way to a full financial meltdown. Rather than risk cancellation due to his syndie house not keeping their side of the bargain, O'Reilly has decided to jump ship.

At any rate, I'll be glad to see one less mouth-breather taking up valuable time on the public airwaves. We all know that radio in this country is infested with morons, and the day can't come soon enough when they all get their cards punched and are shown the door.

Now. Who's next - Hannity or Savage?


Who knew that states that allow the easiest access to guns would have the highest rate of handgun deaths? Or murdered police officers? Or the most guns used in crimes in other states? I'm sure the NRA has a good explanation for this:

States with lax gun laws had higher rates of handgun killings, fatal shootings of police officers, and sales of weapons that were used in crimes in other states, according to a study underwritten by a group of more than 300 U.S. mayors. [...]

The report, which was obtained by The Washington Post, found that 10 states, including Virginia, supplied 57 percent of the guns that were recovered in crimes in other states in 2007. [...]

Keep reading:

And in a related story....

Today, the Department of Interior overturned a Reagan-era regulation, permitting loaded firearms at 388 of 391 national park sites. The decision allows guns in parks in "any states with concealed carry laws, not just those that allow guns in their state parks as originally proposed." While the Department cited safety concerns as a factor, the National Park Conservation Association notes:

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, there were 1.65 violent crimes per 100,000 national park visitors in 2006—making national parks some of the safest places in the United States. The new regulation could increase the risk for impulse shootings of wildlife, and risk the safety of visitors and rangers. Despite the potential affect on national park wildlife and resources, the Administration did not conduct an environmental review as required by law.

The text of the rule notes that earlier, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) wrote to the Interior Dept. supporting the rule change. 


How bad will the Bush depression be?


Berkeley City Council set to vote on professor John Yoo's alleged crimes and academic courses:


Piggy Noonan's latest delusional column is entitled "At Least Bush Kept Us Safe." Wait, what? Let's just ask the old Internets here and double-check, because it is so hard to remember when the terrorists blew up Manhatten and ruined everything forever.

Yes, it is as I thought - a quick Google shows it happened on September 11, 2001 WHEN GEORGE BUSH WAS PRESIDENT.

Reading Piggy Noonan's column is an exercise in intentional dangerous insanity, like taking Ecstasy before a street fight, or eating a bowl of glass shards. 

Not only did 9/11 happen on Bush's watch, but assessments of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies finds that the invasion of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

In other words, Bush botched the job of keeping us safe, both during his tenure and for the foreseeable future. But if we suffer another terrorist attack as a result of that botch, well, it'll be Obama's fault.

Neat trick. 

George Bush Junior will be remembered for many things, for a very long time, Piggy. But the witless clown who was clearing brush at his pretend ranch in Crawford while freaked-out FBI agents were frantically begging for White House help in stopping an organized plot unveiling itself within the United States for foreign hijackers to crash passenger jets into high-profile American buildings will certainly not be remembered by anyone as the guy who "kept us safe."


According to The New York Times, Indian investigators have uncovered evidence that the Mumbai attacks were stage-managed from at least two Pakistani cities by top leaders from the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. It is believed that the contacts in Pakistan guided the gunmen via cell phone as the attack unfolded and even decided, in some cases, hostages' fates. Yusuf Muzammil, a Lashkar operative, is believed to have been the mastermind of the attacks and to have participated from Lahore. His boss, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, is believed to have participated from Karachi. Western officials believe that the investigation could broaden to include terrorists within India.


Brilliant idea by Scarecrow

Let's accept the standards Congress and the Administration are imposing on Detroit and apply them equally to Congress and the Executive Branch.

Congress is pretending to embrace the principle that those who lead large organizations should be held accountable for the catastophic consequences they produce. Executives and oversight boards should either be replaced or be forced to take massive cuts in compensation, even down to $1 per year. And compensation incentives should be restructured to encourage long-run viability in the public interest, rather than short-term gains.

Labor, of course, should be humbled and forced to give up jobs, wages, collective bargaining, absord large increases in health care costs, forego retirement assurances and so on. After all, America's workers must be responsible for the state of our economy, because they failed to share in its gains.

So what would that mean if we applied these principles to Congress and the Executive Branch? After all, their collective incompetence, corrupt oversight and abysmal management have enriched the financial sector but left it incapable of lending money to an economy and auto industry desperate for credit. In fact, our government's "business model" has failed in about every way possible.

Here's a list of things we should do to restructure the compensation/incentive packages for Congress and senior Executive officials:

1. Reduce everyone's pay to $1 per year until the recession is officially over.

2. Increase the deductible/co-payment requirements on their health plans to 100% and only decrease it in steps as more and more uninsured Americans are provided with full health coverage equivalent to that Congress now receives.

3. Suspend all government contributions to and payments from retirement funds for all current and ex-Congresscritters and senior Executive Branch officials. Restore them only on the passage of comprehensive retirement reform, beginning with broader funding of, and greater benefits from Social Security. Seek repayments from anyone named Bush and all those who supported his privatization of SS.

4. Replace all government provided limos and other transportation perks with bicycles, and do not provide auto transportation for officials until Congress has passed and the President signed a comprehensive energy and global climate change bill.

5. Enact a statute prohibiting any senior government official from being susequently hired in any private sector position unless and until the nation's unemployment rate returns to 5 percent or less.

It's just a start, and more will be needed, but as someone recently advised me, the principle destroying Western civilization is the notion that elites should be exempt from the rules they apply to everyone else.


Bob Geiger's Saturday cartoons.


A record 1.35 million homes were in foreclosure in the third quarter, driving the foreclosure rate up to 2.97%. That's a 76% increase from a year ago.

At the same time, the number of homeowners falling behind on their mortgages rose to a record 6.99%, up from 5.59% a year ago. 

This means that one in 10 borrowers in America are either delinquent or in foreclosure.


Bush finally admits we're in a recession - AP (via HuffPo)

I wonder how long it takes before the rest of the 20%ers come around to the same conclusion. Place your bets.


Five Blackwater Worldwide security guards have been indicted and a sixth was negotiating a plea with prosecutors for a 2007 shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead and became an anti-American rallying cry for insurgents, people close to the case said Friday.


8 years of puppies and unicorns are almost at an end

The worst president ever and his "mastermind," corpulent antichrist Karl Rove, have launched the "Bush legacy project" - No! don't laugh! - a new propaganda campaign that will pretend we all spent the past eight years pooping rainbows of joy.

In related news, here's today's stuff that really never happened, or if it did it was Clinton's fault:

  • U.S. job losses worst since 1974: employers slashed 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years, catapulting the unemployment rate to a 15-year high. (1.2 Million lost in the last three months.)
  • Halliburton, KBR sued for unsafe conditions at Iraq base: Dick Cheney's "former" company Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR exposed thousands of workers to unhealthy and contaminated conditions. Contaminated by body fluids and putrefied remains.
  • More problems for major post-9/11 security program: a program spurred by the September 11th attacks to safeguard seaports is "an abysmal failure."
  • Brain-injured troops face unclear long-term risks: many of the thousands of troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk of long-term health problems including depression, Parkinson's-like symptoms, seizures and Alzheimer's.
  • Bush to exempt toxin from federal regulation: Feds are set to eliminate water regs for perchlorate, a known neurotoxin found at unsafe levels in the drinking water of millions of Americans.
  • Jon Stewart has more, here.

  • ###

    Here's a group of patriotic Americans praying that the Supremes will invalidate Obama's presidency:



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