Friday, September 24, 2010

Last Call

Another judicial blow struck for national equality and gay rights, this time the salvo lands squarely on Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

A federal judge has ordered the reinstatement of an openly lesbian former Air Force major who was dismissed from the military under the government's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Judge Ronald Leighton of Tacoma, Washington, made his ruling Friday. It is the latest legal and political setback for the Obama administration, which is seeking to end the policy through a legislative and executive solution.

Maj. Margaret Witt, a decorated flight nurse with 20 years of service, had sued to return to the Air Force Reserve. She was honorably discharged in July 2007 on the grounds that she had a six-year relationship with another woman, a civilian.

"Her discharge from the Air Force Reserves violated her substantive due process rights under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. She should be restored to her position as a flight nurse with the 446th AES as soon as is practicable," wrote the judge.

Maj. Witt was on Maddow a little while ago, and her interview with Rachel was excellent. DADT amounts to a travesty of justice.  We can ask Americans to fight and even make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, but not if they love someone of the same sex?  Ridiculous.  Show me the IED in Iraq that kills only gays or lesbians, and I'll show you my money tree in the back yard.

Such stupidity is nonsense.  You're telling me that the toughest, most badass American soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors can't handle basic sexuality?  That's an insult to them and to all of us.

Good for Major Witt.

How You Know Colbert Hit It Out Of The Park

Stephen Colbert's performance was truly brilliant.

As political satire performance art it was brave, bold, and fearless as he bearded the lions again and again.  As a plea for real help for America's migrant workers, it was also touching, heartfelt and real.

I know this because afterward it became a race to see who could show more indignation at his testimony before Congress on migrant workers, the Village pearl-clutchers or the slowly-boiling Republicans.  FOX's Megyn Kelly blew a vacuum tube.  Steve King of Iowa sneered and mocked Colbert.

Megyn Kelly was furious over Colbert’s testimony. “Congressman, do you think Zoe Lofgren owes this country an apology for wasting our taxpayer dollars and your time?” she asked. But King wouldn’t bite. “To make a blanket request like that, I don’t know,” he said. King then proceeded to call Colbert a liar:

(More below the jump...)

Meanwhile, Back In Insaneoville...

Population of Insaneoville: One Christine O'Donnell.

At the time, O'Donnell was with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative group she later sued for gender discrimination. The exchange, on Scarborough Country on November 13, 2003, is an argument between O'Donnell and Eric Nies, then with the Moment of Hope foundation, about whether to counsel kids to have safe sex:

NIES: I tell them to be careful. You have to wear a condom. You have to protect yourself when you're going to have sex, because they're having it anyway.

NIES: There's nothing that you or me can do about it.

O'DONNELL: The sad reality is -- yes, there is something you can do about it. And the sad reality, to tell them slap on a condom is not --

NIES: You're going to stop the whole country from having sex?

O'DONNELL: Yeah. Yeah!

NIES: You're living on a prayer if you think that's going to happen.

O'DONNELL: That's not true. I'm a young woman in my thirties and I remain chaste.

Cue the Looney Tunes music, because this woman is insane.  And now she's the Republican candidate for Senator of Delaware.

But Republicans are mainstream Americans.

The Blue Devil And Daniel Webster

I hear a lot how Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida is the equivalent of GOP Reps. Michele Bachmann or Louie Gohmert or Steve King, proof that "The left is just as crazy as the tea party!" and such.

Well, this is the Republican that's running against Grayson this year, Daniel Webster.

"Our national interest is this: We need a beachhead in the Middle East, that is a democratic beachhead, not a party but a form of government," Webster told voters. "And to me, if we have a democracy in several countries there, it become a beachhead. It also protects us because once that beachhead is established it can move further and further and hopefully free up the people of the middle east."

Webster was asked specifically how long he believed U.S. forces should remain in Afghanistan. He says that's none of voters' business. "However long we stay is a military decision that should not be shared with the public," Webster insisted, to a round of applause.

Endless war until we win against every country that's not a democracy in the Middle East yet. Forever and ever, amen. And our wars are none of the public's business.

But Alan Grayson is the crazy one.

Gold Rush, Part 14

Gold futures crossed the $1,300 mark today and silver has hit 30-year highs as money has bounced from stocks to bonds to commodities.

Gold has risen more than 4 percent so far this month and hit record highs for five consecutive sessions to Wednesday, extending gains after the  Federal Reserve indicated it may consider further quantitative easing, undermining the dollar.

"The U.S. Fed is obviously contemplating, and the market is expecting, some kind of statement on quantitative easing," said Deutsche Bank analyst Daniel Brebner.

"The influx of new money in the system raises longer term expectations for inflationary forces." "If you look at peripheral Europe, you have sovereign risks which have been increasing for both Ireland and Portugal.

There is a likelihood that there will be some kind of move by the European Central Bank to resolve that challenge." These two factors, and the likelihood that the dollar value will continue to erode, mean there is potential for higher prices, he added.

"We could see some significant moves in gold and silver over the next quarter." Gold priced in Japanese yen also rose to its highest since late June at 110,335 yen an ounce after the yen slipped sharply on talk of a second intervention by Japanese authorities to stem the currency's gain.

Keep in mind that gold has to be, well, mined.  There's a finite amount of the stuff available at any given time. People are paying $1,300 an ounce for pieces of paper that say "You'll get gold in the future sometime."  Those are IOU's.

When people (and more importantly governments) start demanding physical stockpiles of the stuff rather than futures, then the price of gold will get really, really interesting.

Same goes with silver.  Silver I think has a long, long way to go upwards as this whole currency squeeze continues.  It's gone from $15 to over $21 an ounce since February.  Any time you see a commodity's price jump 40% like that to a 30 year high, something's not right with the economy, dig?

The stock market is now nothing more than Apple and Amazon. Literally. Check out where those two stocks were when Obama took office.

Amazon has doubled since then.

Apple has tripled since then.

Nothing left in the market but computerized algorithms trading binary digits.

When the bottom falls out of this one it's going to be catastrophic.

Meanwhile, the greenback hit a new record low against the Swiss franc. Peru and Brazil have announced they are buying US dollars as countries with dollar reserves (and that's everybody as you have to buy oil in dollars) are trying to save themselves.

The alarm bells are ringing worldwide now.

Home, Home I'm Deranged Part 12

New home sales posted another dismal month for August, the second worst month on record and the median home price has now dropped to December 2003 levels and falling.

The Commerce Department says last month's new home sales were unchanged from a month earlier at a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 288,000.

Sales were down by 29 percent from the same month a year earlier. 

The only time sales were slower was in May, when the sales pace was 282,000, the worst on records dating back to 1963. July's results had been the worst on record, but were adjusted upward. 

High unemployment, tight credit and uncertainty about home prices have kept people from buying homes. Government tax credits boosted the market earlier in the year, but those expired in April. 

Data this week showed home construction rose last month and sales of previously owned homes crawled off 13-year lows. But activity in the sector, which contributed to the worst recession since the Great Depression, remains subdued amid a 9.6 percent unemployment rate. 
The number of new homes available for sale fell 1.4 percent to 206,000 units, the lowest since August 1968. 

Despite August's unchanged sales pace, the supply of new homes on the market dipped to 8.6 months' worth from 8.7 months' worth in July.

That last part is the sign that the housing market is really disintegrating.   New home building is drying has to.  There's so much supply of housing on the market that there's nowhere for the new homes being built to go.  And there's still nearly 9 months of supply of just new homes on the market.

It's fundamentally broken, and it's in turn breaking down before our eyes.  The next several months are going to be really hideous for the economy I think.

Some New Blood

Hopefully you've noticed on the sidebar over there the new Contributor section.  From time to time my dear friend Bon The Geek will be posting her thoughts on things (at least, that's the plan.)

I'm really looking forward to it.  She's an excellent writer with great insights and I think she'll fit in great around here.

Also, her lemon bars make grown men weep with sheer joy.  She'll be along to introduce herself here in the next day or two.  Play nice.  This is for your safety, not mine.

New tag:  Bon The Geek.

Epic Testify, Brother Win

Stephen Colbert is a master, ladies and gentlemen.  He played Congress like Vanessa Mae on a Stradivarius.

The man is pure, unalloyed, genius. I doff my cap to thee, sirrah.


[UPDATE] More Colbert testimony here.

T.O., Ocho, and Moose-O

Somebody upstairs likes me, because I get to write about Cincinnati Bengals wideouts Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, and their take on Sarah Palin.  Seems the Versus Network is giving these two their own show to talk about...various...things called "The T-Ocho Show" and they have opinions on everything, including Moose Lady.  From Fanhouse:

Whatever, it's out there now and the Bengals' wide receivers give their measured takes on this very serious topic: Sarah Palin: In the White House or in Playboy?

"I'd rather see her in the White House," Ochocinco said. "I really don't want to see her in Playboy."

TO added: "There's nothing really about Sarah Palin that is Playboy-ish."

"She's cute though," Ochocinco interjected. "With those little glasses, she looks good."

When asked whether Palin could do more damage in Playboy than the White House, TO offered this: "Nah, I think she could do more damage in the White House than she can in Playboy."

I don't think these two have any idea of the sheer magnitude of the Arrakis sandworms in the can they just opened yet, but this is going to get really, really good. And yes, it's more than a bit sexist.

TO is right about the "Palin can do more damage in the White House" part, in which case this interview may really cause these two some problems come 2013.

Not to mention the rest of us.

Moose Lady Gives Birth(er)

Sarah Palin has gone full-bore, hard-core birther this week, thus completing the inevitable assimilation of Tea Party, Obama Derangement Syndrome, Christian Dominionist theory, and budget-busting tax cuts for the rich as the GOP of 2010.

Palin (R) managed to suggest Obama has a shady past and use his middle name -- as his critics often did during the 2008 campaign -- all in one quick hit with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren.

"Funny, Greta, we are learning more about Christine O'Donnell and her college years and her teenage years and her financial dealings than anybody ever even bothered to ask about Barack Hussein Obama as a candidate and now as our president," Palin said.

Palin added later that it is "fair to dig in somebody's past." She said that if the "lamestream media" did do that digging voters would "find out their associates and beliefs and what formed their beliefs."

Shocking, I know. Six weeks before the election and Moose Lady is playing the Birther card.  We've come full circle politically with the GOP to September 2008 and they're still playing the same tired old games from two years ago.  They've had that long to come up with their own solutions to the plan, and they've instead come up with "Do we really know anything about Barack Hussein Obama?" and "Tax cuts for the rich!"

Bob Cecsa pegged Sarah Palin months ago:  she's nothing more than a tween girl who speaks in internet memes.

The Kroog Versus The Lemon Pledge

Paul Krugman takes a look at the economic proposals inside the GOP Pledge To America and nearly blows a Snark Capacitor.

On Thursday, House Republicans released their “Pledge to America,” supposedly outlining their policy agenda. In essence, what they say is, “Deficits are a terrible thing. Let’s make them much bigger.” The document repeatedly condemns federal debt — 16 times, by my count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which independent estimates say would add about $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade — about $700 billion more than the Obama administration’s tax proposals. 

True, the document talks about the need to cut spending. But as far as I can see, there’s only one specific cut proposed — canceling the rest of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republicans claim (implausibly) would save $16 billion. That’s less than half of 1 percent of the budget cost of those tax cuts. As for the rest, everything must be cut, in ways not specified — “except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops.” In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits.

So what’s left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.” 

Kroog's right.  Republicans are hoping that you'll fall for their same old crap again, the exact same budget-busting deficits created by tax breaks to the wealthy that created our current economic catastrophe.  No, President Obama has not been able to fix everything in 20 months.  He's laid the groundwork for some serious improvements but getting out of the Bush disaster is going to take years.

Meanwhile the Republicans are trying to sabotage the recovery in every way possible so that voters will get annoyed enough to put them back in charge.  Well, this is what awaits us if they are back in charge, straight from the elephant's own mouth, even more economic catastrophe and higher deficit spending than Obama.

It's spelled out right there in this lemon of a pledge.  "Vote for us.  We think you're stupid enough to put us right back on the Bush economic plan."


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