Friday, May 30, 2008

The Final Number One?

Interesting headline story:

The Washington Post leads with an interview with CIA Director Michael Hayden, who provided a "strikingly upbeat assessment" on the fight against al-Qaida. Even though the CIA had previously warned that the Iraq war had provided an opportunity for al-Qaida to grow, Hayden now says great progress has been made, and al-Qaida is struggling to survive in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
How is it possible that a decentralized group of people, driven by ideology, fueled by the social, political and economic unrest that is the Middle East be "struggling to survive"? These people can't seem to get out of the cold war era when it was nation against nation. Al-Qaida on it's best day is barely and "organization" much less one that's on the run.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nirvana

Did you know that we live in Nirvana? We have solved so many of our problems in the U.S. that only the most minor infractions require our attention. That's the only explanation I can come up with for this little gem:

The LAT reports that a small brewery in Weed, Calif., has come under the sights of the federal government because it decided to print the words Try Legal Weed on the bottle caps of Weed Ales. The U.S. Treasury Department says the marketing ploy can't be used because it alludes to using marijuana, and it's "false and misleading" because a buyer could be confused about what's inside the bottle. "They sell Bud. We sell Weed," the brewery's owner said. "What's the difference?"

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Who To Believe?

This was an interesting announcement yesterday:

Dow Chemicals said it is being forced to carry out an across-the-board price hike due to increasing energy costs. The move is particularly significant because Dow Chemicals is one of the world's largest chemical manufacturers, and its products are used to make a wide variety of consumer goods. Dow's CEO issued a statement where he squarely put the blame on Washington for failing to deal with "rising energy costs and, as a result, the country now faces a true energy crisis, one that is causing serious harm."
Let's add it up. Govument says inflation is at a 4% rate. Dow says they need to raise prices 20%. Who do you believe? Unfortunately (and as I wrote about the other day), the bond market continues to think that Dow is right. Interest rates are rising, which will be very bad news for the housing bidness.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ah huh

File this under the "I'll believe it when I see it" file.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said that the House Judiciary Committee would be willing to arrest Karl Rove if the former White House official doesn't testify about his role in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.

Wasserman Schultz, in an interview on MSNBC Tuesday, echoed the demand of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) that Rove would not be allowed to invoke executive privilege to avoid testifying. Rove could not invoke the privilege since he said he did not have conversations with the president about the attorneys' firing, Wasserman Schultz said.

Asked by MSNBC host Dan Abrams if the committee would go far as having Rove arrested, Wasserman said it would.
Debbie? I promise you that it will be necessary.

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Interest-ing

I keep reading in various obscure places stories about the bond market being "flooded" with new government bonds. It seems that U.S. government debt is not slowing down at all.

Why does this matter?

Over the past 8 years or so, there has been a whole lot of cash sloshing around in the world that gladly bought U.S. debt. But what happens if that stops? It's simple supply and demand. If you have too much debt/too many bonds and not enough buyers, bond "prices" go down until someone will buy them.

Why do you care?

Because when bond prices fall to encourage people to buy them, yields (read: interest rates) go up inversely. No matter what the Fed does. And recently that has been happening. So far the increase has been slight, not enough to get the media's attention. But if it keeps up, it may be the beginning of inflation fears showing up as significantly higher interest rates.

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Why High?

Oil prices are sure all over the media.

This is the best explanation for why oil prices are skyrocketing. It's very technical, but it's all there. Here is the conclusion:

We are now in the early stages of a full blown energy crisis that was predictable if not wholly avoidable. Politicians are awaking to the crisis now that escalating energy costs make its existence plain to see. It is highly unlikely that politicians will now grasp the gravity of the situation that the OECD and rest of the world faces and the responses will likely be ineffectual and too little too late.

The principal reason for current high oil price is the proximity of a peak in global oil production. Politicians must understand this and then grasp that natural gas and coal supplies will follow oil down by mid century. Reducing taxes on energy consumption right now is the wrong thing to do. Taxation structure needs to be adjusted to oblige energy producing companies to re-invest wind fall profits in alternative energy sources on a truly massive scale.

Energy efficiency should be the guiding beacon of all policy decisions and this must apply equally to energy production and energy consumption.

I completely agree. Well, not completely. I think the fundamentals on oil are going to dictate continuing higher prices until alternative energies reduce demand.

But.

Nothing goes straight up (weekly oil prices):


And that's what oil is doing right now. A portion of the recent run-up is speculation imo. This mini-bubble will eventually burst and oil will come "down". I put that in quotes because I don't think we'll ever see sub-$3.00 per gallon gasoline again. What we will see is continuing higher highs, and higher lows in prices until everyone gets it through their thick skulls (it's taken over 30 years so far) that cheap oil is over.

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SCOTUS With A Conscience?

So, everyone's all abuzz with the Supreme Court decisions yesterday:

The New York Times and Washington Post lead with the Supreme Court ruling that federal civil rights laws that protect workers against discrimination also cover those who faced retaliation for complaining about bias in the workplace. The Los Angeles Times devotes its top nonlocal spot to the twin decisions that said workers, including federal employees, are protected from retaliation, even if the federal laws don't explicitly say so. The majority in the 7-2 and 6-3 decisions emphasized that the justices relied on Supreme Court precedent that had previously found an implied right to sue for retaliation. The decisions don't really change the broad outlines of employment law, but they were somewhat surprising coming from a Supreme Court that had been keeping itself busy by issuing a series of pro-business rulings and limiting the rights of workers.
Aside from the decision itself, which appears to be blatant common sense on the face, the buzz is that it wasn't a 5-4 decision or worse. Gee, I wonder who the dissenters were?

Roberts sided with the majority to protect workers. Yes, this is decidedly different from his past opinions. But folks, don't bet the farm on this being any kind of harbinger of future decisions. Like a stopped watch that is right twice a day, even a pro-business conservative will throw the poor working schmucks a bone once in awhile.

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Rats

There have been any number of rats that have served a full stint in the Bush administration and then written a "tell all" book blasting said administration. Scotty boy McClelland is the latest. I'm not going to honor the SOB with any "revelations" that are hot in the news media and blogosphere just now. From what I've seen, it's nothing that anyone who pays any attention doesn't already know.

To be honest, I'm sick of these guys. They are even a bit lower than Rove or Bush. They've served as loyal servants in the most corrupt and illegally driven administration evah, and then they write the book. At least someone like Rove, as nutso as he may be, has the courage of his convictions and is consistently nutso. It's like these book is meant as a cleansing exercise to show the village that they really do have a conscience .... or something like that (think $$$$$). So Scotty, I hope you don't sell any books and you just disappear into obscurity where you and your backbone belong.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Village Idiots

Go read Digby.

I normally really like Rich Hertzberg. But I gotta agree with digby on this one.

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Uncork It

video

But what if there's wine in it?

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Roll Em' Johnny

Has John McCain pulled a Bob Bennett?

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Yeah. Real Funny

What do you expect from Faux?

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QOTD

"This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks."

- Thomas Friedman

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