Daily Archive: 08/30/2010

Aug 30 2010

US Economy Grinds To Halt… Again

Bernanke

Calling it “basically no more than five rectangular strips of paper,” Fed chairman Ben Bernanke illustrates how much “$200”

is actually worth.
Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

WASHINGTON-The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct.

What began as a routine report before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday ended with Bernanke passionately disavowing the entire concept of currency, and negating in an instant the very foundation of the world’s largest economy.

“Though raising interest rates is unlikely at the moment, the Fed will of course act appropriately if we…if we…” said Bernanke, who then paused for a moment, looked down at his prepared statement, and shook his head in utter disbelief. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. None of this-this so-called ‘money’-really matters at all.”

“It’s just an illusion,” a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. “Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless.”

Aug 30 2010

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Anne Applebaum: ‘It’s too soon to tell’ how the Iraq war went

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will make a speech about Iraq. With 50,000 troops still in the country in an “advisory capacity” he can’t declare victory, so he will instead celebrate “the end of combat operations.” If he follows others who have already marked this occasion, his comments will focus on Iraq: the state of Iraqi democracy, the level of violence, the impact seven years of war has had on Iraqi society.

All of which is fair enough. But I hope he spares a few minutes to assess the impact that seven years of war has had on American society — and American foreign policy. I supported the invasion of Iraq, I think the surge was a success and I believe that an Iraqi democracy could be a revolutionary force for good in the Middle East. Yet even if violence abates, even if all American troops go home, we have still paid a very high price for our victory — much higher than we usually admit.

Aside from the very real blood and the very real money spent in Iraq, there were other casualties, some of them hard to count and classify.

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Obama needs to relearn the art of politicking

President Obama’s address to the nation on Iraq this week underscores the agony of his presidency and its core political problem.

Seen from the inside, the administration is an astonishing success. Obama has kept his principal promises and can take credit for achievements that eluded his Democratic predecessors.

He pledged to have all combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this month and, as Obama will remind us on Tuesday, he’s accomplished just that. Congress enacted a comprehensive health-care bill and a sweeping reform of how the financial system is regulated. His rescue of the American auto industry worked, foiling predictions that he’d run GM and Chrysler as if they were arms of Chicago’s Democratic machine. There are many other legislative and administrative actions that, in normal circumstances, would loom larger if these were not such exceptional — and difficult — times.

Yet the challenging nature of the moment does not explain all of the president’s struggles. It’s true that his accomplishments will have important long-term effects, even if they have not resolved the country’s central concern: the continuing sluggishness of the economy.

Aug 30 2010

Sam and I

Apparently I’m not the only one.

Beck Blasts Obama’s ‘Perversion Of The Gospel,’ While Evangelicals Blast Beck’s ‘False Gospel’

“Jesus Christ’s Church has universally rejected Mormonism’s Anti-Trinitarian theology and its claim that mortals may become God,” David Shedlock, an evangelical blogger, wrote on a FreedomWorks forum earlier this month. “Beck asks Christian leaders to ‘put differences aside,’ but Beck himself daily peppers his broadcasts with Mormon distinctives because he cannot keep his beliefs to himself.”

Aug 30 2010

Liars

Report: Warnings about e-mails went unheeded in Bush White House

By Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, August 29, 2010; 8:06 PM

Top aides to President George W. Bush  seemed unconcerned amid multiple warnings as early as 2002 that the White House risked losing millions of e-mails that federal law required them to preserve, according to an extensive review of records set for release Monday.

The review, conducted by the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, follows a settlement reached last December between President Obama’s administration, CREW and the National Security Archive, a George Washington University research institute. The groups sued the Bush White House in 2007, alleging it violated federal law by not preserving millions of e-mails sent between 2003 and 2005.

The settlement resulted in the restoration of 94 days worth of e-mail and the release of documents detailing when the Bush White House learned of the missing e-mails and how it responded. The restored e-mails are part of the National Archives and Records Administration’s historic record of the Bush administration, but presidential historians and others seeking information in the coming decades about the major decisions of Bush’s presidency likely will be starved of key details, including messages sent between White House officials and drafts of final policy decisions, according to CREW.

(h/t Corrente)

Aug 30 2010

The Big Fail

Monday Business Edition

It’s slowly starting to dawn on Institutional Democrats that they’re going to lose big in November.  The consequences are very real.  Racist Radical Reagan Republicanism is a proven failure.  And Institutional Democrats?  They’re a failure too because they knew what to do and didn’t do it.

I’ll put my policy prescription right up front, the only thing that will save Democrats at this point is massive downsizing- Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Gibbs, Geithner and Summers, Salazar and Duncan.  Do I want heads on pikes?  Figuratively, yes.  These highly paid strikeout kings and clubhouse malcontents have to go for the good of the team.

And if not I hope you’re happy with the crappy offices that come with minority status and one term Presidencies you corporatist whores.  Anyone who claims to care about “electoral victory” is a liar.

It’s Witch-Hunt Season

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: August 29, 2010

So what will happen if, as expected, Republicans win control of the House? We already know part of the answer: Politico reports that they’re gearing up for a repeat performance of the 1990s, with a “wave of committee investigations” – several of them over supposed scandals that we already know are completely phony. We can expect the G.O.P. to play chicken over the federal budget, too; I’d put even odds on a 1995-type government shutdown sometime over the next couple of years.

It will be an ugly scene, and it will be dangerous, too. The 1990s were a time of peace and prosperity; this is a time of neither. In particular, we’re still suffering the after-effects of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and we can’t afford to have a federal government paralyzed by an opposition with no interest in helping the president govern. But that’s what we’re likely to get.

If I were President Obama, I’d be doing all I could to head off this prospect, offering some major new initiatives on the economic front in particular, if only to shake up the political dynamic. But my guess is that the president will continue to play it safe, all the way into catastrophe.

Opposition Pay-offs

by Dave Anderson, 2010 August 29

The stimulus as passed in ARRA was necessary but insufficient.  It was too small at the topline number for the size of the output gap we actually faced (as the recession was deeper than the earlier data showed) and poorly designed with too much money going to AMT fixes and ineffective lump-sum tax-cuts.  The effective parts were pared back to please Sens. Collins, Snowe and Nelson.  And this was because the Republican Party realized they were the opposition and the job of the opposition is to oppose.  It also was because the Obama Administration likes to punch dirty fucking hippies, especially when they are right on the math and the political outcomes.

What Can Obama Really Do?

by Ian Welsh, 2010 August 29

The idea that Obama, or any President, is a powerless shrinking violet, helpless in the face of Congress is just an excuse.  Presidents have immense amounts of power: the question is whether or not they use that power, and if they do, what they use it for.

If Obama is not using that money and authority, the bottom line is it’s because he doesn’t want to.

Putting aside the question of what Obama could have accomplished already, if he wants to help everyday Americans, turn around Democratic approval ratings in time for the midterm elections, and leave behind him a legacy of achievement, he can still do it. If he wants to.

The Two Stories of This Terrible Economy, Yet Obama and the Dems Won’t Tell Theirs

Robert Reich, Friday, August 27, 2010

If Obama and the Democrats would connect these dots they’d have a story that would make Americans’ hair stand on end. We’re in this mess because of big business and Wall Street. Government is needed to get us out of it.

So why haven’t Obama and the Dems succeeded yet? Big business and Wall Street have used their money and political clout to stop government from doing as much as needs to be done.

The story is clear, and it has the virtue of being the truth. Why won’t Obama and the Democrats tell it? Is it because big business and Wall Street have the money and political clout even to prevent the story from being told?

Policy Options Dwindle as Economic Fears Grow

By PETER S. GOODMAN, The New York Times

Published: August 28, 2010

“There are many ways in which you can see us almost surely being in a Japan-style malaise,” said the Nobel-laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, who has accused the Obama administration of underestimating the dangers weighing on the economy. “It’s just really hard to see what will bring us out.”

Japan’s years of pain were made worse by deflation – falling prices – an affliction that assailed the United States during the Great Depression and may be gathering force again. While falling prices can be good news for people in need of cars, housing and other wares, a sustained, broad drop discourages businesses from investing and hiring. Less work and lower wages translates into less spending power, which reinforces a predilection against hiring and investing – a downward spiral.

Deflation is both symptom and cause of an economy whose basic functioning has stalled. It reflects too many goods and services in the marketplace with not enough people able to buy them.

Banks’ Self-Dealing Super-Charged Financial Crisis

by Jake Bernstein  and Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica

Aug. 26, 10:09 p.m.

Over the last two years of the housing bubble, Wall Street bankers perpetrated one of the greatest episodes of self-dealing in financial history.

Faced with increasing difficulty in selling the mortgage-backed securities that had been among their most lucrative products, the banks hit on a solution that preserved their quarterly earnings and huge bonuses:

They created fake demand.

More Business News below.

Aug 30 2010

On This Day in History: August 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

August 30 is the 242nd day of the year (243rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 123 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1967, Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. He would remain on the Supreme Court for 24 years before retiring for health reasons, leaving a legacy of upholding the rights of the individual as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an American jurist and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Before becoming a judge, he was a lawyer who was best remembered for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education. He was nominated to the court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967.

Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908, the great-grandson of a slave who was born in modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo.His original name was Thoroughgood, but he shortened it to Thurgood  in second grade because he disliked spelling it. His father, William Marshall, who was a railroad porter, instilled in him an appreciation for the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law.

Marshall graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore in 1925 and from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1930. Afterward, Marshall wanted to apply to his hometown law school, the University of Maryland School of Law, but the dean told him that he would not be accepted because of the school’s segregation policy. Later, as a civil rights litigator, he successfully sued the school for this policy in the case of Murray v. Pearson. As he could not attend the University of Maryland, Marshall sought admission and was accepted at Howard University School of Law.

Marshall received his law degree from the Howard University School of Law in 1933 where he graduated first in his class.

Marshall won his very first U.S. Supreme Court case, Chambers v. Florida, 309 U.S. 227 (1940), at the age of 32. That same year, he was appointed Chief Counsel for the NAACP. He argued many other cases before the Supreme Court, most of them successfully, including Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944); Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948); Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950); and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 (1950). His most famous case as a lawyer was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” public education, as established by Plessy v. Ferguson, was not applicable to public education because it could never be truly equal. In total, Marshall won 29 out of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.

Marshall served on the Court for the next twenty-four years, compiling a liberal record that included strong support for Constitutional protection of individual rights, especially the rights of criminal suspects against the government. His most frequent ally on the Court (indeed, the pair rarely voted at odds) was Justice William Brennan, who consistently joined him in supporting abortion rights and opposing the death penalty. Brennan and Marshall concluded in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was, in all circumstances, unconstitutional, and never accepted the legitimacy of Gregg v. Georgia, which ruled four years later that the death penalty was constitutional in some circumstances. Thereafter, Brennan or Marshall dissented from every denial of certiorari in a capital case and from every decision upholding a sentence of death.[citation needed] In 1987, Marshall gave a controversial speech on the occasion of the bicentennial celebrations of the Constitution of the United States. Marshall stated,

   

“the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today.”

In conclusion Marshall stated

   

“Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice that has triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not realized and promises not fulfilled. I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution as a living document, including the Bill of Rights and the other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights.”

He retired from the Supreme Court in 1991, and was reportedly unhappy that it would fall to President George H. W. Bush to name his replacement. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Marshall.

Marshall died of heart failure at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, at 2:58 p.m. on January 24, 1993 at the age of 84. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His second wife and their two sons survived him

On November 30, 1993, Justice Marshall was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

Aug 30 2010

Morning Shinbun Monday August 30




Monday’s Headlines:

Hurricane Katrina after five years: a symbolic funeral but anger lives on

USA

Environmental groups face their future in climate-change debate

Small businesses win bigger share of federal contracts

Europe

Many migrant workers in UK are modern-day slaves, say investigators

The workers united: The strike that shook the Kremlin

Middle East

Israeli actors refuse to take the stage in settlement theatre

Abbas puts onus for talks on Israel

Asia

Muslim states vow $1bn Pakistan aid

Bank of Japan takes stimulus steps

Africa

How moderate Muslims in Africa view NYC mosque debate

In Egypt, more people call for civil instead of religious marriage

Latin America

Chile miners speak to loved ones for first time

The Misinformants

What ‘stealth jihad’ doesn’t mean.

Newsweek

Here is the latest semantic assault from the party that brought you “Islamo-facism” (circa 2005) and “Axis of Evil” (2002). The term “stealth jihad” is suddenly voguish among politically ambitious right wingers who see President Obama’s approach to terrorism as insufficient. If it sounds like a phrase from a military-fantasy summer blockbuster, that’s on purpose: in its cartoonish bad-guy foreignness, “stealth jihad” attempts to make the terrorist threat broader and thus more nefarious than it already is. The only thing scarier than an invisible, homicidal, suicidal enemy with a taste for world domination is one who’s sneaking up on you. In the words of former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at a July speech at the American Enterprise Institute, “stealth jihad” is an effort “to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Sharia.”

Aug 30 2010

Pique the Geek 20100829: Automobiles, Part III. How to Keep Everything Going at Once

We have talked about how engines work in the past couple of installments of this series, and now need to bring together some important engineering factors.  We have talked about intake strokes, compression strokes, and others, but only very superficially touched on how everything comes together.

For an engine to work properly, everything has to be coordinated.  For simplicity, we will consider a conventional four stroke, gasoline powered automobile engine.  Diesel engines are in some aspects simpler, and will be covered concomitantly.

Remember, an engine has to do all of the things about which we have discussed, completely synchronized, and EVERY time.  For an engine rotating at, say, 4000 times per minute, this can be a daunting task.

Aug 30 2010

Prime Time

TV Guide Network is broadcasting Weeds?!  “A pot-dealing suburban widow (Mary-Louise Parker) deals with her 15-year-old son and his girlfriend, who want to have sex, and a competing pusher”?

Curb Your Enthusiasm, it still doesn’t make up for your suck at being A TV GUIDE!  Assholes.

Oh, and there are Emmys and Throwball (Steelers @ Broncos) if you care about such things.

Marty, the future isn’t written. It can be changed, you know that. Anyone can make their future whatever they want it to be. I can’t let this one little photograph determine my entire destiny. I have to live my life according to what I believe is right in my heart.

Later-

Later.