Friday, February 29, 2008

Politix Makes Strange Bedfellows, Part the Bazillion

Poor John McCain ~ not only has Bush declared him heir presumptive of some messy, perpetual, mind-bogglingly botched Wars on Terra in Any Place That Has Oil, he's also saddled himself, inadvertently, we're sure (he's the straight talker, the morality man, what?) with lobbyists for special interests running his "maverick" anti-special interest campaign for the presidency.
(While protesting repeatedly there was not anything improper in his relationship with a pretty little young blonde lobbyist on whose company's behalf he wrote letters urging Congressional action!) ~ but never mind, the weak NYT story about it convinced people who are inclined to believe such things anyway that there's a vast librul conspiracy in the MSM to destroy the GOP and McCain turned it all to his advantage in the form of a giant, very successful fundraiser! Hip, hip, hooray!
Apparently emboldened, McCain goes on to embrace a second group that's so far been a boon to and willing fodder for exploitation for the GOP: right-wing Christians ~ er, ultra right, uber right wing, so far out there it is with great trepidation that we should even be calling them "Christians."
I know all this because I read blogs ~ Glenn Greenwald:
"The McCain/Hagee story is growing, though still not as much as it ought to. My new friends from the Catholic League emailed earlier to advise that Bill Donohue was being interviewed for tonight's program of The Situation Room on CNN. Blogs at The Washington Post and ABC News today covered the growing scandal from the anti-Catholic bigotry perspective, with the latter actually featuring the unbelievably inflammatory You Clip -- found by Ann Althouse, which I posted yesterday and which is now being distributed by the Catholic League -- of a shirt-sleeved Pastor Hagee spewing the creepiest, most hateful bile imaginable about Catholicism ('This is the Great Whore of Revelation 17').
"As The Post noted, Catholics United, a less reactionary group than the Catholic League, has now also denounced McCain's warm embrace of Hagee and demanded that he repudiate his endorsement. Thus far, it is Hagee's anti-Catholicism which is being featured -- largely because when Bill Donohue issues press releases, the media jumps to cover it. While that angle has substantial political ramifications -- Karl Rove identified the Catholic vote in 2004 as the most vital to the GOP's electoral successes -- the reality is that Hagee's hateful and twisted extremism extends far beyond that realm.
"In sum, John McCain has aligned himself with one of America's purest -- and most powerful -- haters, and that ought to be the story here. [...]
"As has been noted many times, most recently today by Matt Yglesias, Hagee's so-called 'commitment to Israel' actually means that he wants Israel united so that the Rapture can happen and all Jews, including Israelis, will be slaughtered and sent to hell. And the 'spiritual leadership' which McCain heralds consists of calling the Catholic Church the 'Mother Whore' and a 'cult' and arguing that Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in the devastation of tens of thousands of lives, was God's punishment against New Orleans because it scheduled a gay pride parade that week. "
Yet, despite it all, your Demon is not feeling particularly concerned about any of this. Why? Because after 8 years of Bush-Cheney and a lock-step GOP Congress, the results speak for themselves, and I (scientifically) prophesy that any GOP candidate has less than .0000001-1/2 chance of a snowball's in hell of getting elected. The somnambulent American public seems to have woken up.

So McCain may have to ally himself with a darker power than radical right wing Hagee to pull this one off ~ though by some lights Hagee is indeed doing the Dark One's work by calling the Catholic church a "cult," and praying for Armageddon so the Christ-hating Jews will all be destroyed ~ my vote for the most powerful personification of evil incarnate here right now would be some Beast with the head of Karl Rove, the deranged and evil mind of Dick Cheney and the bombastic rhetorical wiliness of Antonin Scalia.

Oops! McCain already has that Beast's support. Maybe Hagee is the better bet.
What a shame! I once liked McCain, believe it or not.
Bonus funny for those who've made it this far: Number 40 on Stanley Bing's List of 50 Bullshit Jobs: Political Reverend. Also making the top 50: Talking head/pundit (exemplified by Robert Novak) comes in a number 46, just before velvet-rope Nazi.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bank Nationalization in Two Countries; Economic Newsbits

The Ultimate Cadillac-Driving Welfare Queens

Your Demon observes that the UK has recently nationalized Northern Rock Bank due to the worldwide subprime mortgage debacle; but here at home in the US we call it by a different name ~ corporate welfare. Both amount to use of taxpayer funds to bail out private entities. So whose method gives greater control and better returns to the "investors?"

Just askin' because I don't know. Does the US retain any say in how/where the taxpayers' bailout funds go, or is it just, in effect, a giveaway with very little required from the beneficiary in terms of "behavior adjustment" and/or invasion of privacy?
A welfare queen is a welfare queen, hey ~ ?
"Banks in the United States have been quietly borrowing 'massive amounts' from the U.S. Federal Reserve in recent weeks, using a new measure the Fed introduced two months ago to help ease the credit crunch, according to a report on the web site of The Financial Times.
"The newspaper said the use of the Fed's Term Auction Facility (TAF), which allows banks to borrow at relatively attractive rates against a wide range of their assets, saw borrowing of nearly $50 billion of one-month funds from the Fed by mid-February.

"The Financial Times said the move has sparked unease among some analysts about the stress developing in opaque corners of the U.S. banking system and the banks' growing reliance on indirect forms of government support."
US: Banks Quietly Borrow $50 Billion from the Fed:

Unemployment figures:
In other recent financial news, a report by McClatchy News questions Bushco's silly bromide that unemployment isn't really as bad as all that.
No, it's worse, because the long-term unemployed, the underemployed, and people holding more than one job aren't counted appropriately.

"The Bush administration acknowledged the contraction, but pointed to the national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent to say that the labor market wasn't a harbinger of recession.

"A closer look at unemployment data by McClatchy, however, found that jobless Americans are spending more time looking for work and that those who can't find work now make up a greater share of the unemployed.

"Several measures of unemployment, in fact, show that the workforce is under the kind of stress not seen since March 2001, when the U.S. economy entered a nine-month recession, followed by a so-called jobless recovery.[...]

[W]hen Americans unemployed for 27 weeks or longer are measured as a share of the total number of unemployed, the story is very different.

"The long-term unemployed amounted to 18.3 percent of all the unemployed in January. That means that while overall unemployment is low, almost one in five unemployed workers has been jobless for six months or more."
A spokesman for the Conservative Heritage Foundation poo-poos the notion that Bushco is jiggering figures to make things look better than they really are, saying that including lost manufacturing jobs is unfairly skewering the picture. "It's kind of hard to point at that to say that this is a tremendously serious problem here," he said, suggesting that the long-term unemployment picture is skewed by unemployment in troubled states that have lost manufacturing jobs."

However, "If there's disagreement over what measure of chronic unemployment tells the real story, other gauges developed by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics show a strain on the quality of employment.

"The gauges came into use in 1994 to measure things such as part-time workers who are unable to get full-time jobs, and Americans who aren't employed or aren't looking but said they'd take jobs if they became available.

"Those groups of workers together accounted for 9 percent of the labor force in January. In March 2001, at the start of the last recession, they were 7.6 percent of the workforce.
In addition, in January, 4.7 million people were working part time in the United States, up sharply from about 3.3 million in March 2001.

"During the last slowdown, the number passed 4 million in the final months of that recession and fell below that only once since, in April 2006.
"'If you did a survey of people just walking up the street (they'd say they could find work) ... it may not be what they want, but they probably could get a job,' said Sharon Morgan, an area director of a state workforce center in Liberty, S.C., a region hit hard by the closure of textile mills.
"The number of multiple jobholders nationwide exceeded 7.6 million in 2007, the highest number since 1999. As a percentage of the employed, they made up 5.2 percent of workforce, down from 5.8 percent in 1999."

Health Insurers Rigging the Game? For those of you fortunate enough to have a job with somewhat decent health insurance benefits, this news is for you:
New York State is investigating the possibility that health insurance "consumers" have been getting systematically ripped off when it comes to compensation for services outside "preferred provider networks," and that at least one company responsible for collecting data by which those determinations are made has a conflict of self-interest.
For those of you who don't, this won't tell you anything you don't already know ~ the stress hormones generated by poverty are poisonous to developing minds (I'd argue that they don't have any salutary effects on adult ones, either).

Your Demon invites you to read it anyway. There's an election on. Vote your conscience. And your outrage.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Trust Us ~ It Was Just A "Glitch"

Ill: Micah Wright/Propaganda Remix

Your Demon has completely lost her capacity to be surprised, even when what was unthinkable not so long ago when she was an idealistic little Demonette in law school is now, apparently, par for the course.

Exhibit A: Not only does our own government spy on us, they do it so sloppily and badly that who-knows-what gets caught in their fishing nets. An "episode" that occurred in 2006 comes to light only now, as a result of that heretic liberal organization Electronic Frontier Foundation's work.

In the NYT today:

"F.B.I. officials blamed an 'apparent miscommunication' with the unnamed Internet provider, which mistakenly turned over all the e-mail from a small e-mail domain for which it served as host. The records were ultimately destroyed, officials said.
"The episode is an unusual example of what has become a regular if little-noticed occurrence, as American officials have expanded their technological tools: government officials, or the private companies they rely on for surveillance operations, sometimes foul up their instructions about what they can and cannot collect.

"The problem has received no discussion as part of the fierce debate in Congress about whether to expand the government’s wiretapping authorities and give legal immunity to private telecommunications companies that have helped in those operations.

"But an intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because surveillance operations are classified, said: 'It’s inevitable that these things will happen. It’s not weekly, but it’s common.'

"A report in 2006 by the Justice Department inspector general found more than 100 violations of federal wiretap law in the two prior years by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, many of them considered technical and inadvertent.

"Bureau officials said they did not have updated public figures but were preparing them as part of a wider-ranging review by the inspector general into misuses of the bureau’s authority to use so-called national security letters in gathering phone records and financial documents in intelligence investigations.

"In the warrantless wiretapping program approved by President Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, technical errors led officials at the National Security Agency on some occasions to monitor communications entirely within the United States — in apparent violation of the program’s protocols — because communications problems made it difficult to tell initially whether the targets were in the country or not.

"Past violations by the government have also included continuing a wiretap for days or weeks beyond what was authorized by a court, or seeking records beyond what were authorized. The 2006 case appears to be a particularly egregious example of what intelligence officials refer to as 'overproduction' — in which a telecommunications provider gives the government more data than it was ordered to provide.

"The problem of overproduction is particularly common, F.B.I. officials said. In testimony before Congress in March 2007 regarding abuses of national security letters, Valerie E. Caproni, the bureau’s general counsel, said that in one small sample, 10 out of 20 violations were a result of 'third-party error'” in which a private company 'provided the F.B.I. information we did not seek.'
"The 2006 episode was disclosed as part of a new batch of internal documents that the F.B.I. turned over to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group in San Francisco that advocates for greater digital privacy protections, as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the group has brought. The group provided the documents on the 2006 episode to The New York Times.

"Marcia Hofmann, a lawyer for the privacy foundation, said the episode raised troubling questions about the technical and policy controls that the F.B.I. had in place to guard against civil liberties abuses.

'“How do we know what the F.B.I. does with all these documents when a problem like this comes up?' Ms. Hofmann asked.

"In the cyber era, the incident is the equivalent of law enforcement officials getting a subpoena to search a single apartment, but instead having the landlord give them the keys to every apartment in the building. In February 2006, an F.B.I. technical unit noticed 'a surge in data being collected' as part of a national security investigation, according to an internal bureau report.

"An Internet provider was supposed to be providing access to the e-mail of a single target of that investigation, but the F.B.I. soon realized that the filtering controls used by the company 'were improperly set and appeared to be collecting data on the entire e-mail domain' used by the individual, according to the report.

"The bureau had first gotten authorization from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor the e-mail of the individual target 10 months earlier, in April 2005, according to the internal F.B.I. document. But Michael Kortan, an F.B.I. spokesman, said in an interview that the problem with the unfiltered e-mail went on for just a few days before it was discovered and fixed. 'It was unintentional on their part,' he said.

Well, your Demon should be relieved to know that the FBI actually deigned to recognize the FISA Court's authority, even if she has lingering doubts whether the FBI's characterization of the little mess as "unintentional" makes her feel any better.

Not really.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Pre-Election Malaise Edition

Things and people your Demon is unspeakably sick of, in no particular order:

Democratic party superdelegates who can ignore popular votes if they wanna.

"Superdelegates Get Campaign Cash:"
Caucus results unverifiable in any event:

Complete and total inattention to the fact that the entire election system is still broken:
Diebold machines still crash erratically:
GOP-backed election laws may hinder student and minority voters:

Presidential candidates who refuse to disclose campaign financing ~ McCain and Clinton.

Whiners on Wall Street arguing against desperately needed regulation in economic markets even as members of their breed hold extravagant 1929-style parties in Vegas. "Creators of Credit Crisis Revel in Vegas":

Credit card companies who benefit by fed interest rate cuts turn around and raise interest rates on consumers, preferably seniors on fixed incomes.
Oh, come on now! You didn't really think the rate cuts were meant to "trickle down" to benefit YOU, didja? Funny, your credit card issuer thinks otherwise.

Antonin Scalia, bombastic blowhard from hell, cares not that he reveals himself (again) to be the most unprofessional and perhaps unethical person to sit on the Supreme Court in recent memory. He continues to opine inappropriately on matters he'll soon have to decide on the bench, in open defiance of the basic legal supposition that judges who have already made up their minds before a case is argued before them should step aside and not pretend they're neutral.
Can you say "Banana Republic," kittens? Don't look for a sudden seizure of conscience from Scalia ~ he's proved over and over again that he doesn't have one. What, deprive posterity of his prejudged opinions? Never!

Karl Rove has resurfaced as contributor to John McCain, who's taken to lauding Roves's "brilliance" and proclaims he'd be happy to get the great one's advice. Karl Rove is a two bit hustler, a chiseller, and master of nothing but dumpster-diving dirty trix in politix. Dressing him up this way is the proverbial putting lipstick on an ugly pig. Stay in retirement, Karl ~ we want to hear no more of your nastiness.

Republicans who remain in deep denial about Bush's miserable failures as Preznit, and particularly the bone-headed memes that super-secret lying, spying and torture have somehow made us safer. They are so numerous I can't name just one. They're interchangeable, ubiquitious, and uniformly make me want to retch.

Presidential candidates selling their souls for power, especially John McCain gratefully assuming the mantle of Preznit Bush's Botched War on Terra.
Thus we see absolute proof of the old adage that politix makes strange bedfellows indeed ~ a man who was tortured himself in Vietnam and who has always stood against it now appears to be ready to take up where Bush leaves off, and gets the shameful amateurish mess Georgie AWOL-boy has made of everything dumped in his lap.
We especially like Bushco's new nonsensical argument that sending in a team of interrogators to feed shots of Starbuck's to and make nice with detainees can sanitize testimony previously extracted by torture.
Oh, and never mind that it's taken 8 years to finally bring them to trial. We had to set up the kangaroo courts first, and to ensure Justice Scalia has had ample time to reach prejudgment before we can bring them to "justice."