Friday, December 26, 2008

12 Days of Christmas

Happy Boxing Day, you hosers!

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to everyone.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Little Drummer Boy

Bing and Bowie.

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Fiscal conservatism

What that sober, serious minded, responsible and utter failure fiscal conservatism has wrought: Nearly 600,000 new claims for unemployment benefits last week. And that number hasn't even been "upwardly revised" yet.

New claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, the government said Wednesday, as layoffs spread throughout the economy, more evidence the labor market is weakening as the recession deepens.

The Labor Department reported that initial requests for jobless benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 586,000 in the week ending Dec. 20, from an upwardly revised figure of 556,000 the previous week. That's much more than the 560,000 economists had expected.

That's also the highest level of claims since November 1982, though the work force has grown by about half since then.
Meanwhile, in that other wellspring of good economic news, the housing market:

The housing market weakened dramatically in November, with prices taking their deepest dive in at least 40 years as buyers refused to wade back in during a growing recession, according to data released yesterday.

The declines cited in government and industry reports were worse than analysts expected and deepened concerns that the housing downturn has entered a new phase, fired by a recession it helped create, economists said.


Sales of existing homes fell 8.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted 4.49 million units in November compared with October and were down 10.6 percent compared with the same period a year ago, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. The Commerce Department reported sales of new, single-family homes fell 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 407,000 in November. It was the slowest sales rate in 18 years and down 35 percent compared with a year earlier.


Home prices also tumbled. Median new-home sales prices fell to $220,400 in November, down 11.5 percent from $249,100 a year earlier. The slump in the resale market was even more pronounced: Existing-home prices fell 13.2 percent, to $181,300 from $208,800, the largest drop since the Realtors group began collecting data in 1968 and likely the largest decline since the Great Depression.
Do you think we'll get to the point that we stop calling the Depression of the 1930s the "Great Depression" like we stopped calling World War I the "Great War" and start referring to Depression I and Depression II?

I certainly hope not. Unfortunately, given the state of the economy, it's not an unreasonable question to ask.

Put that in your Legacy file, George.

UPDATE: With regard to my question about Depression I and Depression II, it appears that Paul Krugman thinks we could get to that point. But what does he know about economics? He's just a professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University and a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Gospel Christmas

Ray Charles.

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Silent Night

Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty.

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I am Santa Claus

"Iron Man" parody.

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Doug Glanville

Penn grad, former Phillie and New York Times scribe.

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End of cheap gas

Natural gas, not gasoline, which also is due for a price increase now that the election is over.

The era of cheap gas is coming to an end, Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has told ministers from the world's major gas-exporting countries.

Mr Putin said the cost of extracting gas was rising sharply, therefore "the era of cheap energy resources, of cheap gas, is of course coming to an end".
H/T Susie.

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Michael Connell plane crash

Surprisingly, there may be more to this story than meets the eye.

Relatively short version: Michael Connell was a key witness in King-Lincoln v. Blackwell, a lawsuit alleging fraud in the presidential election in Ohio in 2004. Lawyers in that case have described him as "a high-IQ Forrest Gump" for his knack of being on the scene at every suspicious election since 2000.

On July 24, Cliff Arnebeck, an attorney in the case, informed U.S. Attorney General Micheal Mukasey in an e-mail that:

We have been confidentially informed by a source we believe to be credible that Karl Rove has threatened Michael Connell, a principal witness we have identified in our King Lincoln case in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, that if he does not agree to "take the fall" for election fraud in Ohio, his wife Heather will be prosecuted for supposed lobby law violations. This appears to be in response to our designation of Rove as the principal perpetrator in the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act/RICO claim with respect to which we issued document hold notices last Thursday to you and to the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform.

I have informed court chambers and am in the process of informing the Ohio Attorney General's and US Attorney's offices in Columbus for the purpose, among other things, of seeking protection for Mr. Connell and his family from this reported attempt to intimidate a witness.

Concurrently herewith, I am informing Mr. Conyers and Mr. Kucinich in connection with their Congressional oversight responsibilities related to these matters.
Arnebeck subsequently asked Ohio's interim Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers to provide immunity protection services to Connell.

Now, reports are surfacing that the threats extended beyond prosecutions for lobby law violations:

In addition:

WMR has learned from our Ohio sources that five threats against Connell were conveyed to the election fraud plaintiff attorneys with the last tip being “Connell is in danger.” One of the threats reportedly made by Rove to Connell was that Connell could forget about a pardon from President George W. Bush if he did not “take the fall” in the event criminal charges were brought and that his wife Heather, who was used as a majority stockholder for one of Connell’s web design companies, GovTech Solutions, would be prosecuted for illegal lobbying. Connell’s other company is New Media Communications, Inc.

We have also learned that one additional tip was relayed to Connell’s wife and it was to the effect that Connell “was in danger and he should not fly his plane.”
Connell, accompanied by Bush-Cheney lawyers, was deposed on Nov. 3, the day before election day, "about his actions during the 2004 vote count and his access to Karl Rove’s e-mail files and how they went missing," and stonewalled. Since then, "Connell has indicated very clearly a desire to talk further."

I'm not saying that there was definitely foul play in this tragic case, but I think the circumstances -- and the convenient timing for certain parties -- merit an investigation.

Is Pat Fitzgerald finished with Blago yet?


Saturday, December 20, 2008

30 years

Yeah, just like Nixon Mania is sweeping the nation today.

It's amazing how badly they seem to need to believe that they will be popular ... someday. Well, whatever helps you sleep at night.

Too bad their legacy didn't bother them while they were writing it. Unfortunately, lining the pockets of their already wealthy friends at the expense of everyone else and shitting on the Constitution were more important at the time.


Schwetty balls

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Friday, December 19, 2008

9/11 survivor sues

Cheney, Rummy and Richard Myers.

A career Army specialist who survived the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, claims that no evacuation was ordered inside the Pentagon, despite flight controllers calling in warnings of approaching hijacked aircraft nearly 20 minutes before the building was struck.

According to a time-line of the attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration notified NORAD that American Airlines Flight 77 had been hijacked at 9:24 a.m. The Pentagon was not struck until 9:43 a.m.

On behalf of Spc. April Gallop, who served in the Network Infrastructure Services Agency as an administrative specialist, California attorney William Veale has filed a civil suit against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and former US Air Force General Richard Myers, who was acting chairman of the joint chiefs on 9/11. It alleges they engaged in conspiracy to facilitate the terrorist attacks and purposefully failed to warn those inside the Pentagon, contributing to injuries she and her two-month-old son incurred.

"The ex-G.I. plaintiff alleges she has been denied government support since then, because she raised 'painful questions' about the inexplicable failure of military defenses at the Pentagon that day, and especially the failure of officials to warn and evacuate the occupants of the building when they knew the attack was imminent" said Veale in a media advisory.

Spc. Gallop also says she heard two loud explosions, and does not believe that a Boeing 757 hit the building. Her son sustained a serious brain injury, and Gallop herself was knocked unconscious after the roof collapsed onto her office.
A friend of mine worked across the street from Independence Hall in Philadelphia on 9/11, and was sent home as they thought the landmark might be a target. And the National Park Service agreed, urging the city to close the 500block of Chestnut Street, which runs in front of Independence Hall. The street was closed to traffic for a year and a half.

If businesses near a historic site thought to send their employees home, it kind of makes you wonder why an evacuation of the Pentagon was never ordered.

Just sayin'.

As for Spc. Gallop's claim that she heard two explosions and doesn't believe that a 757 hit the Pentagon, if you're satisfied that this video shows a 757, then I guess you don't give much credence to that claim.



W. Mark "Deep Throat" Felt, 95.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

One percenters

Goldman Sachs. The bailed-out company's tax rate, that is.

"With the right hand out begging for bailout money, the left is hiding it offshore."
Boy, the taxpayers sure are going to benefit handsomely from bailing out that company. But I guess being angry at the company, Henry Paulson and the Bush administration for this is sort of like being angry at pigs for acting like pigs.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2000 Miles

The Pretenders.

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Wizards in Winter

Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

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Jingle Bells

Frank Sinatra.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008


What's a few more fruitless trips by a lame duck on the taxpayers' nickel? Heck, they can afford it.
President Bush arrived in Baghdad Sunday in an unannounced visit to Iraq, where he will meet with Iraqi leaders and address U.S. troops.
The AP has more:
Bush's visit came after Defense Secretary Robert Gates' unannounced stop in Iraq on Saturday, at a sprawling military base in the central part of the country. Gates will be the lone Republican holdover from the Bush Cabinet in the Obama administration.
For those of you keeping track, that makes exactly zero pre-announced visits to Iraq by a Bush administration official since Bush started the war. These are the same people who for years have told us how much the security situation in Iraq has improved.

It's just not improved to the point that officials can announce their plans to enter the country. And it appears that, under Bush, it never will be.

Of course, that's no surprise.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Afternoon Music Club

Alice in Chains.

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I love the ’80s

Remember the end of October? The air was crisp, the landscape awash in the colors of autumn, and only 3.84 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits.

It was 1983 all over again. The Gipper. Morning in America.

Sure, some Negative Nellys focused on the fact that the 3.84 million people on unemployment in October was the largest number in 25 years, and that nearly half a million new claims for unemployment benefits were filed on the heels of those 3.84 million existing claims. But we liked 1983 well enough to re-elect Ronnie by a landslide just one year later.

So revisiting the conditions of 1982 should be even better. Right?

New claims for unemployment benefits reached their highest level in 26 years last week, as companies cut workers at a rapid pace.

The Labor Department said Thursday that initial applications for jobless benefits in the week ended Dec. 6 rose to a seasonally adjusted 573,000 from an upwardly revised figure of 515,000 the previous week. That was far more than the 525,000 claims economists expected.

It is also the most since November 1982, although the labor force has grown by about half since then.


The number of people continuing to claim jobless benefits also jumped much more than expected, increasing 338,000 to 4.4 million. Economists expected a small increase to 4.1 million. The figure for continuing claims lags the initial claims figure by one week.
More than half a million people added to unemployment rolls in six weeks. Given the speed at which the economy is shedding jobs, does anyone doubt that, by the time Bush finally Just Goes Away, more than 5 million people will be collecting unemployment benefits?

It's downright depressing to compare the wretched mess that Bush is leaving in his foul wake to the economy he inherited from Bill Clinton.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wealth gap

Showing up in the brains of children.

The brains of children from low-income families process information differently to those of their wealthier counterparts, US research suggests.

Normal nine and 10-year-olds from rich and poor backgrounds had differing electrical activity in a part of the brain linked to problem solving.


The 26 children in the study, conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, were measured using an electroencephalograph (EEG), which measured activity in the "prefrontal cortex" of the brain.

Half were from low income homes, and half from high income families.

During the test, an image the children had not been briefed to expect was flashed onto a screen, and their brain responses were measured.

Those from lower income families showed a lower prefrontal cortex response to it than those from wealthier households.

Dr Mark Kishiyama, one of the researchers, said: "The low socioeconomic kids were not detecting or processing the visual stimuli as well - they were not getting that extra boost from the prefrontal cortex."

Since the children were, in health terms, normal in every way, the researchers suspected that "stressful environments" created by low socioeconomic status might be to blame.

Previous studies have suggested that children in low-income families are spoken to far less - on average hearing 30 million fewer words by the age of four.

Professor Thomas Boyce, another of the researchers, said that talking more to children could boost prefrontal cortex development.

"We are certainly not blaming lower socioeconomic families for not talking to their kids - there are probably a zillion reasons why that happens."

His colleague, Professor Robert Knight, added: "This is a wake-up call - it's not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment associated with low socioeconomic status."
Advantage has its advantages.

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National Football Layoffs.

The NFL pays its players billions of dollars a year and fans pack its stadiums every week. But even the deep-pocketed league is shedding jobs.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the league is cutting more than 10 percent of its staff in response to the downturn in the nation's economy that could put a dent in ticket sales for next season.

Goodell announced the cuts in a memo to league employees. The NFL is eliminating about 150 of its staff of 1,100 in New York, NFL Films in New Jersey, and television and Internet production facilities in Los Angeles.
How soon before teams start asking if they really need two guards and tackles on the offensive line? And do defenses really need both a free safety AND a strong safety? And why can't the punter kick field goals?

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

‘Clean’ coal

with an “effective” holiday PR presentation.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Clean Coal Carolers.

My two-year-old daughter watched it and said, "That doesn't look right eee-dur (either)."

From the site:

I just discovered the Clean Coal Carolers. These jolly ol' souls give new meaning to getting a lump of coal in your stocking. In fact, coal is the stocking stuffer of choice this year. It's abundant, affordable and cleaner than ever. The Clean Coal Carolers are the holiday season's hottest singing sensations [they've been burning up Centralia, Pa., since 1962 -- Dr. S] - and they're coming live to your computer. Happy clean coal caroling!
The lyrics that the filthy lumps of carbon sing are hilarious, though I presume that's unintentional.



Sunday, December 07, 2008

Five misconceptions

about health care.

1. America has the best health care in the world.
Let's bury this one once and for all. The United States is No. 1 in only one sense: the amount we shell out for health care. We have the most expensive system in the world per capita, but we lag behind many developed countries on virtually every health statistic you can name.


2. Somebody else is paying for your health insurance.
Nope. Even when your employer offers coverage, he isn't reaching into his own pocket to cover you and your fellow employees; he's reaching into your pocket, paying you lower wages than he would if he didn't have to pay for your health insurance.

Go read the rest.


Grand opening

The Toyota manufacturing plant that Paul Krugman discussed in this column is up and running in Woodstock, Ontario.

Sure, our economy could have used the 1,200 jobs that plant created. But on the plus side, at least America's rich aren't subsidizing the education and healthcare of the nonrich. Because it would just burn their asses to have to contribute money they can easily afford to provide something for someone else. Why spend money when you yourself aren't getting something directly for doing so?

Becuase, you greedy assholes, otherwise we end up right where we are, with half a million jobs evaporating a month, the stock market spiraling downward and more than 45 million Americans without health insurance. That doesn't mean they don't get sick and seek care. That care isn't free, and who do you suppose pays for it?

As Krugman wrote in the aforementioned column, "treating people decently is sometimes a competitive advantage."

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Afternoon Music Club

Let's do the time warp.

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How's that working out?

Stock intended to eventually earn taxpayers a profit as part of the Bush administration's massive bank bailout has lost a third of its value — about $9 billion — in barely one month, according to an Associated Press analysis. Shares in virtually every bank that received federal money have remained below the prices the government negotiated.


The Treasury Department said it did not expect these common stock options to be profitable immediately and negotiated them so taxpayers could share in the wealth if the bank stocks recover.

Now, however, the value of that common stock is worth less than $18 billion. If the government exercised all its warrants to purchase the stock today, it would lose money on 51 of its 53 agreements. Taxpayers would be out $9.3 billion.
These are the same financial geniuses who thought that putting Social Security funds into the market was a good idea.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that profit we are being promised.


Friday news dump

From the Dept. of Labor:

Skittish employers slashed 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years, catapulting the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, dramatic proof the country is careening deeper into recession.

The new figures, released by the Labor Department Friday, showed the crucial employment market deteriorating at an alarmingly rapid clip, and handed Americans some more grim news right before the holidays.

As companies throttled back hiring, the unemployment rate bolted from 6.5 percent in October to 6.7 percent last month, a 15-year high.

The loss of 533,000 payroll jobs was much deeper than the 320,000 job cuts economists were forecasting. The rise in the unemployment rate, however, wasn't as steep as the 6.8 percent rate they were expecting. Taken together, though, the employment picture was dismal.
As for the figures from September and October ...

Job losses in September and October also turned out to be much worse. Employers cut 403,000 jobs in September, versus 284,000 previously estimated. Another 320,000 were chopped in October, compared with an initial estimate of 240,000.
But that's life under conservative rule.

UPDATE: Given all that, I suppose this isn't too surprising.

More Americans are collecting jobless benefits than at any time in the last 26 years as companies rush to cut costs in a sinking economy.

The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls rose to 4.09 million in the week ended Nov. 22, the most since December 1982, the Labor Department said today in Washington. A separate report showed orders at U.S. factories tumbled in October by the most in eight years as demand collapsed at home and abroad.
And with another half a million jobs gone, we soon will be looking back fondly at these heady days, when ONLY 4.09 million people were collecting unemployment benefits.


Supporting the troops

Privatization and cronyism in action.

A Georgia man has filed a lawsuit against contractor KBR and its former parent company, Halliburton, saying the companies exposed everyone at Joint Base Balad in Iraq to unsafe water, food and hazardous fumes from the burn pit there.


“Plaintiff witnessed the open air burn pit in operation at Balad Air Force Base,” the lawsuit states. “On one occasion, he witnessed a wild dog running around base with a human arm in its mouth. The human arm had been dumped on the open air burn pit by KBR.”


The lawsuit states that KBR was required to comply with military standards for clean water, and monitor it. Eller accused KBR of not performing water quality tests and of not properly treating or chlorinating water, and said an audit by the Defense Department backs up his claim.

A report from Wil Granger, KBR’s water quality manager for Iraq, states that non-potable water used for showering was not disinfected. “This caused an unknown population to be exposed to potentially harmful water for an undetermined amount of time,” according to the report. The report also stated the problems occurred all across Iraq and were not confined to Balad.

The lawsuit states there was no formalized training for KBR employees in proper water operations, and the company maintained insufficient documentation about water safety. The suit notes that former KBR employees Ben Carter and Ken May testified at a congressional hearing in January 2006 that KBR used contaminated water from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Carter testified that he found the water polluted with sewage and that KBR did not chlorinate it.

The lawsuit states the swimming pools at Balad were also filled with unsafe water.

Eller also accused KBR of serving spoiled, expired and rotten food to the troops, as well as dishes that may have been contaminated with shrapnel.

“Defendants knowingly and intentionally supplied and served food that was well past its expiration date, in some cases over a year past its expiration date,” the lawsuit states. “Even when it was called to the attention of the KBR food service managers that the food was expired, KBR still served the food to U.S. forces.”

The food included chicken, beef, fish, eggs and dairy products, which caused cases of salmonella poisoning, according to the lawsuit.

“KBR prevented their employees from speaking with government auditors and hid employees from auditors by moving them from bases when an audit was scheduled,” the lawsuit states. “Any employees that spoke with auditors were sent to more dangerous locations in Iraq as punishment.”

The lawsuit also accuses KBR of shipping ice in mortuary trucks that “still had traces of body fluids and putrefied remains in them when they were loaded with ice. This ice was served to U.S. forces.”

Eller also accuses KBR of failing to maintain a medical incinerator at Joint Base Balad, which has been confirmed by two surgeons in interviews with Military Times about the Balad burn pit. Instead, according to the lawsuit and the physicians, medical waste, such as needles, amputated body parts and bloody bandages were burned in the open-air pit.

“Wild dogs in the area raided the burn pit and carried off human remains,” the lawsuit states. “The wild dogs could be seen roaming the base with body parts in their mouths, to the great distress of the U.S. forces.”

According to military regulations, medical waste must be burned in an incinerator to prevent anyone from breathing hazardous fumes.

“On at least one occasion, defendants were attempting to improperly dispose of medical waste at an open-air burn pit by backing a truck full of medical waste up to the pit and emptying the contents onto the fire,” the lawsuit states. “The truck caught fire. Defendants’ fraudulent actions were thereby discovered by the military.”

The lawsuit also states that the contractors burned old lithium batteries in the pits, “causing noxious and unsafe blue smoke to drift over the base.”

Military Times has received more than 100 letters from troops saying they were sickened by fumes from the burn pits, which burned plastics, petroleum products, rubber, dining-facility waste and batteries.
This is just more of the same from the administration that sent troops into combat with inadequate body armor and inadequately armored vehicles, and opposed Sen. Jim Webb's 21st Century GI Bill -- that is, before recognizing that opposition was politically damaging and a lost cause, and then took credit for passing the bill.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Remember this epsiode?

White House officials yesterday released a list of damage they say was done by outgoing staffers of President Bill Clinton, including obscene graffiti in six offices, a 20-inch-wide presidential seal ripped off a wall, 10 sliced telephone lines and 100 inoperable computer keyboards.

For months, Democrats had questioned the administration's credibility because officials refused to document allegations of vandalism they made in the week after President Bush's inauguration. In April, the General Accounting Office said it was unable to confirm damage, in part because of what it called a "lack of records" from the White House.
I expect that soon after Jan. 20, we will be hearing reports from the White House along the lines of: "a Roman toga party was held, from which we have received more than two dozen reports of individual acts of perversion so profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here."

Of course, the compliant media will report that this is reminiscent of charges made by the Bush adinistration against outgoing Clinton staffers, but not all of the reports will point out that those charges were bullshit. And, of course, Faux News will run with the "sour grapes" story for weeks (at least), without once mentioning that the Bushies' charges were false but that the Obama administration's charges are true.

Just sayin'. We'll see if I'm right, but I have a feeling about the Bushies.


Sprinting to the finish

More legacy polishing for BushCo.

The White House on Tuesday approved a final rule that will make it easier for coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys.

The rule is one of the most contentious of all the regulations emerging from the White House in President Bush’s last weeks in office.


Edward C. Hopkins, a policy analyst at the Sierra Club, said: “The E.P.A.’s own scientists have concluded that dumping mining waste into streams devastates downstream water quality. By signing off on this rule, the agency has abdicated its responsibility.”

Mr. Bush has boasted of his efforts to cooperate with President-elect Barack Obama to ensure a smooth transition, but the administration is rushing to complete work on regulations to which Mr. Obama and his advisers object. The rules deal with air pollution, auto safety, abortion and workers’ exposure to toxic chemicals, among other issues.

The National Mining Association, a trade group, welcomed the rule, saying it could end years of uncertainty that had put jobs and coal production in jeopardy.

The coal industry could be the largest beneficiary of last-minute environmental rules.

“This is unmistakably a fire sale of epic size for coal and the entire fossil fuel industry, with flagrant disregard for human health, the environment or the rule of law,” said Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund.

The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to finish work on a rule that would make it easier for utilities to put coal-fired generating stations near national parks. It is working on another rule that would allow utility companies to modify coal-fired power plants and increase their emissions without installing new pollution-control equipment.

Joan M. Mulhern, a lawyer at Earthjustice, an environmental group, denounced the mining regulation.

“With less than two months left in power,” Ms. Mulhern said, “the Bush administration is determined to cement its legacy as having the worst environmental record in history.”
Get ready for the “through the looking glass” part. Drumroll please:

“This rule strengthens protections for streams,” said Peter L. Mali, a spokesman for the Interior Department office that wrote the regulation. “Federal law
allows coal mine waste to be placed in streams, and the rule tightens
restrictions as to when, where and how those discharges can occur.”
Yes, dumping coal mine waste into streams makes the streams cleaner. And shitting in your corn flakes makes them healthy and delicious.

In reality, here's what this rule does.

The rule gives coal companies a legal right to do what, in the past, they could do only in exceptional circumstances, with special permission from the government.
Jan. 20 can't get here fast enough.



Hitting some harder than others.

The chief executive officer of U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp was awarded a $4 million bonus in 2008 and will receive a 10 percent increase in his annual salary in 2009, according to a regulatory filing.

Rex Tillerson, the chief of the world's largest publicly traded company, was also granted 225,000 shares of restricted stock, a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission showed.

As of January 1, the executive's salary will be $2.06 million.

Last year, Tillerson received a bonus of $3.4 million and his salary was $1.87 million. At that time, Tillerson was granted 185,000 shares of restricted stock.
How did you do this year?

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Monday, December 01, 2008

How's that free market working for you?

There are still those who cling blindly to their belief that deregulation works.

The Bush administration backed off proposed crackdowns on no-money-down, interest-only mortgages years before the economy collapsed, buckling to pressure from some of the same banks that have now failed. It ignored remarkably prescient warnings that foretold the financial meltdown, according to an Associated Press review of regulatory documents.

"Expect fallout, expect foreclosures, expect horror stories," California mortgage lender Paris Welch wrote to U.S. regulators in January 2006, about one year before the housing implosion cost her a job.

Bowing to aggressive lobbying — along with assurances from banks that the troubled mortgages were OK — regulators delayed action for nearly one year. By the time new rules were released late in 2006, the toughest of the proposed provisions were gone and the meltdown was under way.

"These mortgages have been considered more safe and sound for portfolio lenders than many fixed rate mortgages," David Schneider, home loan president of Washington Mutual, told federal regulators in early 2006. Two years later, WaMu became the largest bank failure in U.S. history.

The administration’s blind eye to the impending crisis is emblematic of its governing philosophy, which trusted market forces and discounted the value of government intervention in the economy. Its belief ironically has ushered in the most massive government intervention since the 1930s.


Federal regulators were especially concerned about mortgages known as "option ARMs," which allow borrowers to make payments so low that mortgage debt actually increases every month. But banking executives accused the government of overreacting.

Bankers said such loans might be risky when approved with no money down or without ensuring buyers have jobs but such risk could be managed without government intervention.

"An open market will mean that different institutions will develop different methodologies for achieving this goal," Joseph Polizzotto, counsel to now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers, told U.S. regulators in a March 2006.
There’s a lot of good stuff here, click through and read.

UPDATE: The failure of conservatism is something that I mentioned in previous posts, here and here (but let’s face it, 90 percent of the posts on this site document the failure of conservatism). Crooks and Liars has a post today that discusses that failure and echoes my sentiment: It wasn’t Bush’s poor execution of conservative principles that destroyed conservatism, it was his successful execution of conservative principles.

There’s no better way to lose a war than to have your on-the-ground decisions be forced through an ideological prism. And it was obvious even to outsiders that this was how Bush was conducting the Iraq war -- indeed, it was the decisive factor behind the very decision to invade in the first place. It’s even more telling that the military minds involved saw that this was occurring too.

But in truth, this constitutes not merely the entire Bush approach to governance, but conservative governance as well. Thus -- to use one example out of many -- during Bush’s tenure there was not a single economic problem that could not be solved by anything other than tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of the financial sector.

Of course, we now realize that this was simply a prescription for gobbling PCBs after a diagnosis of cancer.

So when we hear conservatives tell themselves that the reason they lost this last election was their failure to adhere to "conservative principles," we know they’re continuing to cling to the very reason they lost. Because such adherence inherently means that these "principles" -- that is, conservative dogma about how they believe the world ought to be, particularly the insistence that government itself is the problem, when the reality is that bad governance is the problem -- trump their ability to face realities on the ground.
Indeed, as Paul Krugman wrote in May:

Republicans have become the party of denial. If a problem can’t be solved with deregulation and tax cuts, they pretend it doesn’t exist.
In Bush, conservatives had a page just as blank as Sarah Palin. He was coached on the conservative position on every issue and he could be relied on to take that position. And he did, at nearly every turn.

Conservatives’ favorite example of Bush abandoning conservative principles is the Dept. of Homeland Security, the biggest expansion of government since the Stamp Act, blah, blah, blah. Of course, they fail to mention that Bush originally parroted the conservative view and opposed making the department a Cabinet-level position. But in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, that position was politically indefensible.

What destroyed conservatism is that it Just. Doesn’t. Work. Any governing philosophy that considers government a problem to be controlled rather than a force for improving people’s lives is designed to fail.

Blind adherence to ideology, no matter how often it’s proven wrong, is not a virtue. It’s stupidity.


The last word on torture (hopefully)

What will it take to get proponents of torture to turn off "24" and face reality? Perhaps the leader of an interrogations team assigned to a Special Operations task force in Iraq?

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.
But torture makes us feel tough and not afraid. We're supposed to give all that up just because some experienced Special Operations and counterintelligence guy says it violates American principles, doesn't work, inspires fighters to join the enemy and costs lives?

Did I mention that it makes us feel tough and not afraid?

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