Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Last Call

Via The Kroog, Martin Wolf at the Financial Times sees the Greek Fire burning through the eurozone and quickly on the failure of Greece to meet its targets.  Austerity has failed, and the only choices left are a permanent bailout system at the expense of the EU countries like Germany that will eventually collapse the Euro, or massive sovereign debt restructuring that will most likely lead to the same result.

Debt restructuring looks inevitable. Yet it is also easy to see why it would be a nightmare, particularly if, as Mr Bini Smaghi insists, the ECB would refuse to lend against the debt of defaulting states. In the absence of ECB support, banks would collapse. Governments would surely have to freeze bank accounts and redenominate debt in a new currency. A run from the public and private debts of every other fragile country would ensue. That would drive these countries towards a similar catastrophe. The eurozone would then unravel. The alternative would be a politically explosive operation to recycle fleeing outflows via public sector inflows.
Events have, in short, thoroughly falsified the premises of the original design. If that is the design the dominant members still want, they must remove some of the existing members. Managing that process is, however, nigh on impossible. If, however, they want the eurozone to work as it is, at least three changes are inescapable. First, banking systems cannot be allowed to remain national. Banks must be backed by a common treasury or by the treasury of unimpeachably solvent member states. Second, cross-border crisis finance must be shifted from the ESCB to a sufficiently large public fund. Third, if the perils of sovereign defaults are to be avoided, as the ECB insists, finance of weak countries must be taken out of the market for years, perhaps even a decade. Such finance must be offered on manageable conditions in terms of the cost but stiff requirements in terms of the reforms. Whether the resulting system should be called a “transfer union” is uncertain: that depends on whether borrowers pay everything back (which I doubt). But it would surely be a “support union”.

The eurozone confronts a choice between two intolerable options: either default and partial dissolution or open-ended official support. The existence of this choice proves that an enduring union will at the very least need deeper financial integration and greater fiscal support than was originally envisaged. How will the politics of these choices now play out? I truly have no idea. I wonder whether anybody does.

And as I have been warning in the Greek Fire series for over a year now,  the end result will be the end of the Euro as a currency.   The larger effects will almost certainly include another serious hit to the global financial system as well.  The individual banks in countries like Ireland, Greece, and Spain owe German banks serious money, and if they default, the whole thing is going to come apart...either that or Germany's going to have to eat billions of euros in debt restructuring, causing basically the same thing.

The Greek Fire situation just got a whole lot worse, folks.  Count on it.

Being Civil In The Land Of Lincoln

Illinois becomes the sixth state in the nation to have a civil union law go into effect as of today, June 1.

Starting Wednesday, same-sex couples in Illinois can enter into civil unions and enjoy many of the legal protections granted to married couples.

In January, Illinois joined five other states in legalizing civil unions. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law in front of a crowd of cheering residents during a ceremony in a Chicago auditorium.

"We are showing the world that the people of Illinois believe in equality for all," Quinn said January 31. "We look forward to individuals and businesses from across the country choosing to move to Illinois where we believe that everyone is entitled to the same rights."

The provision, which goes into effect Wednesday, is called Senate Bill 1716 and creates the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.

The new law will allow same-sex and heterosexual couples to enter into civil unions granting them many rights given to married couples.

These rights include automatic hospital visitation rights, the ability to make emergency medical decisions for partners, the ability to share a room in a nursing home, adoption and parental rights, pension benefits, inheritance rights and the right to dispose of a partner's remains, the governor's office said.

"In addition to Illinois, five other states and the District of Columbia have civil unions or similar laws on the books. Those states include California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington," the governor's office said.

It's good to know that equality is slowly coming to the US, state by state.  Very slowly, but it's making forward progress.  Any serious student of civil rights in this country should recognize the long struggle here, but it's one that will eventually be won in all 50 states.

Indeed Returns Ralph Reed

Our liberal media has declared former Christian Coalition front man Ralph Reed absolved of his ties to convicted lobbyist fraudster Jack Abramoff, and back in the political god-botherer business. His new outfit, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, is ready to become a major force in the 2012 GOP primary.

Mr. Reed is pursuing these grand, some say grandiose, plans with a nonprofit group that he has described as “a 21st-century version of the Christian Coalition on steroids.” As the name implies, the Faith and Freedom Coalition hopes to rope in a broader constituency. His “sweet spot,” he says, is the millions of people who were fired up by the fiscal concerns of the Tea Party and share the cultural values of evangelicals.

“That’s our market,” he added.

The coalition’s red, white and blue logo is reminiscent of the Christian Coalition’s. The new group is holding its second annual conference in Washington on Friday and Saturday, conjuring memories of the “Road to Victory” events that the Christian Coalition held in the capital every year.

As with the Christian Coalition, this group’s conference roster includes nearly all the likely contenders for the presidential nomination, including former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Herman Cain, a retired businessman, and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, as well as a famous almost-candidate, Donald Trump. There will also be evangelical leaders like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and establishment Republicans like Speaker John A. Boehner and Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman.

“Ralph is rebuilding his image,” said Matt Towery, a columnist and pollster in Atlanta who formerly managed Newt Gingrich’s Congressional campaigns. “How powerful will he be? We have no way of knowing, but he’s very clever and has the talent and connections to reinvent himself.”

Many of the retirees gathered here could not even recall who Ralph Reed was, let alone ponder his past. But they loved his message. Weaving together themes of the Tea Party and evangelical Christians, he called the debt crisis a sign that the country has lost sight of its founding moral principles. He said that by working together, fiscal and cultural conservatives can “begin the process of turning the country around.”

“Our goal for 2012 is to build a file of 29 million conservative voters,” he said, describing to cheers the political “ground game” he is best known for, now souped-up with Internet technologies. “We’ll e-mail them, we’ll call them, we’ll knock on their doors and, if necessary, we’ll drive them to the polls.”

No matter if his goals are realistic, Mr. Reed’s return is welcomed by many Republicans, said Phil Cox, executive director of the Republican Governors Association, because “Ralph has a great track record.” The Abramoff ties are “largely in the rear-view mirror,” Mr. Cox said. 

Any wonder then that the last time Ralph Reed had any political pull was in the mid 90's, as Newt and the Contract With America swept to power and the Christian Evagelicals flocked to stop the horrors on a Clinton second term?

Who says Republicans don't believe in recycling?  Those of you too young to remember what Reed and friends did to Clinton 16 years ago, you're about to get a front row seat.

A Weiner Is Not Andrew Breitbart Or The Village

Old Weinergate theory:  It's a hoax.  Shut it.

New Weinergate Theory:  Weiner told the press to go frak themselves yesterday, so we're now saying he's guilty of something.

Weiner’s actions raise questions: At first glance, it was easy to dismiss the story that a lewd photo to a young woman had come from Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY) Twitter account. The explanation: Weiner’s account was hacked, and that seems like a common thing these days. But the congressman’s actions over the past 24 hours have raised more questions than answered them. For one thing, he hired an attorney. Second, and more importantly, he refused to answer reporters’ simple question on whether or not he sent the photo. Question: Was it from you or not? Weiner’s non-answer: “If I were giving a speech to 45,000 people and someone in the back threw a pie or yelled out an insult, I would not spend the next two hours of my speech responding to that pie or insult.” Third, he refused to answer why he was following the young woman on Twitter. Here’s this truism about Washington scandals: If someone is guilty, it’s never an isolated incident. Weiner has now put himself in a position of having to prove innocence -- which is never a good place to be for a politician, especially one who resides in the media capital of the world.

So sayeth Chuck Todd's crew at MSNBC, so shall it now be the "truth".  Andrew Breitbart?  Totally believable.  Anthony Weiner?  Dirty liar.  Also he's following someone on Twitter, which is illegal when a Democrat does it.

You guys should have stuck with the first assumption, because one of Joe Cannon's readers over at Cannonfire has figured out how the hoax was pulled off and has reproduced the method.  The vulnerability was in the picture service and not Twitter.

Not only that. Believe it or not, when an outsider sends a pic to someone else's Yfrog account in this fashion, the action creates a message in the "twitterstream." The message seems to originate with the Twitter account holder -- but it doesn't. It comes from somewhere else -- from someone mailing a picture to the account holder.

This is a serious security flaw in the design of Yfrog and Twitter. It allows a malicious outsider to "spoof" a tweet that seems to come from someone else.

Click on the image below (to enlarge it) and examine the "twitterstream." You'll see what I mean.

Please understand that I have never sent a single tweet in my entire life.

The first two instances were created automatically, when I uploaded those first two test pictures to Yfrog (as outlined in previous posts). The third instance was created when milowent sent a pic to my Yfrog address.

Both the tweet and the image seem to originate with me, but they did not.

This was the perfect frame. We know it was a frame because of the URL address beneath the header -- or rather, the lack thereof in the Weiner "crotch shot" screen cap.

Oops.  A little detective work seems to indicate that using the vulnerability is a much, much more likely explanation as to what really happened.  So yes, that could explain why Weiner lawyered up, too.  So would I, I'd want to know what my rights and legal recourse options were if I were a public figure like Rep. Weiner is.

So, somebody want to explain to me how this isn't a hit job on one of the most outspoken liberals in Congress?

Ahh, but I have to keep the Democrat Stupidity tag because Weiner keeps refusing to say that the picture isn't of him.  Sigh.

If this is something as stupid as an old girlfriend getting revenge, or someone hacking the guy's hard drive because hey, he kept a picture of his junk on it, admitting to that would actually be better in the long run than the long, slow death of his career by Breitbart and News Corp.

[UPDATE]  Looks like A. Weiner will set the record straight on The Rachel Maddow Show tonight.

Minty Fresh: Look And Feel

The software manager works just like Ubuntu, handling dependencies intuitively and letting you search and add as you please. I was able to get it to connect to the router and after a run of updates I was completely at home.

One subject of debate with Minty is the difference in menu styles.  However, with a few clicks I had reset my Ubuntu drawers and customized menus. I actually like the menu, but those who do not can go back to the Ubuntu look and feel with a little tweaking.

As you can see above, the top left corner has the traditional main menu that is instantly recognizable. You can pin favorites on the new menu, or browse all your applications.

The desktop and window graphics are superior to Ubuntu.  The green tones are actually subdued and attractive (you can change them if you like) and the little pretty things are even prettier.  The graphics don't seem to burden my laptop, unlike the last couple of Ubuntu updates.  The workspace manager lets you stay organized and productive.

Look and feel gets a five out of five.  It's the best of Ubuntu with significant improvement.  It is efficient and clean, and geared towards productivity.  What a newbie wouldn't know, they could find with some modest effort on their part.  The support and help files are friendly and easy to follow.  The menu allows you to make as many taskbars as you like, and line them with drawers that are 100% customizable as well.  If you have a certain way of doing things, it would be hard to find a setting that can't be easily altered to suit you.  This is completely newbie friendly and ready to run.  When compared to Ubuntu 11.04, Mint 11 wins by miles.  When compared to Windows it wins by an even wider margin, because it allows you to set up with ease and is even more attractive than what I've seen of Windows 7.  I have no Mac comparison, but if any of you are Mac people please let me know what you think.

I'll Give You A Quarter For That

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Photographer Anton Fury's hobby of searching weekend garage sales for collectible toys led him to dozens of apparently unpublished photos of a young Marilyn Monroe.
Fury has allowed CNN to publish the images just days before what would have been Monroe's 85th birthday. They apparently were taken during a photo session before she was well known.
"I found an envelope of negatives, didn't know what they were, but I realized they were old," Fury said. He paid $2 for the folder, which contained two envelopes of black-and-white negatives.

Also found were 70 negatives of Jayne Mansfield.  In a hilarious understatement, Fury says this is "probably his best garage sale discovery ever."   He shared them shortly before what would have been Marilyn's 85th birthday.

I've always had a fascination with Marilyn Monroe, and who she really was.  These pictures still show her with glimpses of her childlike innocence and wide open smile, before reality made her eyes guarded and her smile a defensive reflex.  She was one of the first of her kind, and she died the death that many celebrities that followed.  That one of the most popular and beloved people in the world died alone and feeling isolated is one of the saddest things I've ever heard.  I'm glad we have a chance to enjoy her image with new and exciting pictures.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 12

As expected yesterday the GOP dangled a clean debt ceiling raise in front of the House, then every single one of them voted against it...and so did half the Democrats

"This was designed to fail," Welch (D-VT) told TPM before voting for the measure. "This is exhibit A in how we come up with political maneuvers that avoid addressing the issue in a serious way. The sponsors of this legislation introduced it with a speech about how they were going to oppose it."

In floor speeches, Democrats accused the majority of threatening the nation's credit and risking an economic catastrophe by refusing to pay for past debt carried over from the Bush administration.

"This vote is about one and one thing only: paying your bills," Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) said in a speech. "They ran up the debt and now they don't want to pay their bills."

"I'm certainly concerned about the last eight years, but I'm more concerned about the last two," Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), the sponsor of the debt limit bill, said before voting against his own legislation.

Democrats' motives in supporting or opposing Tuesdays' bill differed broadly, as some voted against it from the left to protest Republican political tacitcs while others explicitly sided with Republicans against passing a bill without making additional cuts.

"I intend to vote against raising the debt limit today because this legislation fails to make the real and immediate spending cuts needed to get our fiscal house in order," Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA), a conservative Democrat, said in a statement before voting.

If you still think the Dems aren't going to cave on the debt ceiling and give the Republicans trillions in cuts in spending, you haven't been paying attention.   Republican voted seven times during the eight years of the Bush administration to raise the debt ceiling without spending cuts.  Seven times.  But put Obama in the White House and it's trillions of cuts or default the country and ruin America's credit rating for good.

Dems are looking like they are about to pitch the big El Foldo here, and if they do, it's going to be a long, long recession, folks.

The Badger Awakens, Part 7

Democrat JoAnne Kloppenburg has conceded defeat in the recount of the hotly contested Wisconsin Supreme Court race that involved a mysterious recount surprise for her opponent that put him over the top.

Democrat JoAnne Kloppenburg conceded defeat in the dramatic Wisconsin judiciary race that has stretched on since the April 5 election, saying that she would not ask for another recount, but that there was evidence of "significant and widespread errors and anomalies." Republican David Prosser, who has held the seat on the state's Supreme Court for 12 years, will begin a new 10-year term August 1.

However, The BRAD BLOG Monday night published an article claiming that Wisconsin election officials had not followed the proper procedures for the controversial vote recount before certifying the results.

Ballot bags from Waukesha County were photographed wide open instead of sealed shut, in violation of election rules. Waukesha County is the same region where the 14,000 missing votes that prompted calls for a recount were cast. 

Kloppenburg has thrown in the towel anyway.  Let's recall the story of how she had a 200 vote lead until a heavily Republican county said "whoops we forgot to count the votes" and came up with a 7,500 vote lead for her opponent some 24 hours after the election, one that just happened to push the margin of victory out of the realm of being close enough to trigger an automatic recall.  The same conservatives on April 6 who were screaming for a recount immediately said that no recount was necessary a day later.  Kloppenburg raised money for the recount, but the results have stuck.

Brad Blog has more on the massive irregularities in the recount procedure, but either way the Republicans have taken another one, giving them a 4-3 edge on the State Supreme Court that will decide the fate of the state's union-busting bills designed to choke Democratic Party power in the state.  And thus, Wisconsin becomes a red state where Republicans control the vote count process.

Mean Testing Makes Money

As expected, Florida Republicans have sent a bill requiring drug testing for all welfare recipients to Gov. Rick Scott, and yesterday Scott signed the measure into law.  There's two angles here to the story:  One, a similar measure was found unconstitutional in 2003 as well as wasteful:

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the drug testing of welfare recipients is likely unconstitutional and fiscally irresponsible. A Michigan law that required welfare recipients to receive random drug testing was struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 2003. The average cost of a drug test is about $42 per person tested, not including other costs associated with administering the tests.

Additionally, a 1996 study conducted by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that welfare recipients were no more likely to use illegal drugs than the rest of the U.S. population.

“Once again, this governor has demonstrated his dismissal of both the law and the right of Floridians to personal privacy by signing into law a bill that treats those who have lost their jobs like suspected criminals," Howard Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said in a statement.

“The wasteful program created by this law subjects Floridians who are impacted by the economic downturn, as well as their families, to a humiliating search of their urine and body fluids without cause or even suspicion of drug abuse."

Second, Rick Scott owns millions of shares of a chain of medical facilities in Florida that among other services provides drug testing.  In March Scott signed a law forcing all state and local government employees to submit to quarterly random drug tests, something that will drive nearly $4 million a year to the clinic chain that his wife now owns $62 million in stock in.  The new welfare drug testing will drive millions more.  Naturally with millions of additional drug tests to perform each year, more of these drug testing clinics will need to be built in Florida to handle the demand.

That's how Republicans roll.  Scott could give a damn about public safety or privacy, but it sure is going to make him a lot of money personally.


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