Why Do Territories Get a Say in the GOP Primary Process?: Byron York notes that in recent weeks it has been Mitt Romney's wins "in the island territories -- Marianas, Guam, Samoa, Virgin Islands -- that gave Romney the edge in delegates. And on Sunday comes the primary in Puerto Rico. It's possible that if Romney finally reaches the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination, his delegate margin of victory will have come from the islands."
"Which leads to the question: Why are places that are not states, whose residents cannot vote for president, and which have no electoral votes allowed to play a potentially critical role in selecting the party's nominee?"
Dave Weigel notes a Republican's vote in Samoa was actually worth 4,182 times more than a Republican's vote in Florida.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Natural Born Drillers: Krugman Explains Why Fossil Fuel Boom Doesn’t Lower Prices Or Create Many Jobs
Natural Born Drillers: Krugman Explains Why Fossil Fuel Boom Doesn’t Lower Prices Or Create Many Jobs:
Here’s more from Krugman:
To be a modern Republican in good standing, you have to believe — or pretend to believe — in two miracle cures for whatever ails the economy: more tax cuts for the rich and more drilling for oil. And with prices at the pump on the rise, so is the chant of “Drill, baby, drill.” More and more, Republicans are telling us that gasoline would be cheap and jobs plentiful if only we would stop protecting the environment and let energy companies do whatever they want.In place of the news round up today, I’m excerpting Paul Krugman excellent op-ed, “Natural Born Drillers.” The Nobel-prize winning economist debunks popular but fact-free right-wing myths:
Thus Mitt Romney claims that gasoline prices are high not because of saber-rattling over Iran, but because President Obama won’t allow unrestricted drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal tells readers that America as a whole could have a jobs boom, just like North Dakota, if only the environmentalists would get out of the way.Outside of the WSJ editorial page, though, even the newspaper itself doesn’t buy this nonsense (see Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal and Koch-Fueled Cato Agree: “It’s Not Obama’s Fault That Crude Oil Prices Have Increased”). Nor does the public (see Poll: 66% Blame Big Oil and MidEast Countries For High Gas Prices, 23% Blame Obama).
The irony here is that these claims come just as events are confirming what everyone who did the math already knew, namely, that U.S. energy policy has very little effect either on oil prices or on overall U.S. employment. For the truth is that we’re already having a hydrocarbon boom, with U.S. oil and gas production rising and U.S. fuel imports dropping. If there were any truth to drill-here-drill-now, this boom should have yielded substantially lower gasoline prices and lots of new jobs. Predictably, however, it has done neither.
Here’s more from Krugman:
U.S. oil production has risen significantly over the past three years, reversing a decline over decades, while natural gas production has exploded.Krugman also dismantles the jobs argument.
Given this expansion, it’s hard to claim that excessive regulation has crippled energy production. Indeed, reporting in The Times makes it clear that U.S. policy has been seriously negligent — that the environmental costs of fracking have been underplayed and ignored. But, in a way, that’s the point. The reality is that far from being hobbled by eco-freaks, the energy industry has been given a largely free hand to expand domestic oil and gas production, never mind the environment.
Strange to say, however, while natural gas prices have dropped, rising oil production and a sharp fall in import dependence haven’t stopped gasoline prices from rising toward $4 a gallon. Nor has the oil and gas boom given a noticeable boost to an economic recovery that, despite better news lately, has been very disappointing on the jobs front.
As I said, this was totally predictable.
First up, oil prices. Unlike natural gas, which is expensive to ship across oceans, oil is traded on a world market — and the big developments moving prices in that market usually have little to do with events in the United States. Oil prices are up because of rising demand from China and other emerging economies, and more recently because of war scares in the Middle East; these forces easily outweigh any downward pressure on prices from rising U.S. production. And the same thing would happen if Republicans got their way and oil companies were set free to drill freely in the Gulf of Mexico and punch holes in the tundra: the effect on prices at the pump would be negligible.
Meanwhile, what about jobs? I have to admit that I started laughing when I saw The Wall Street Journal offering North Dakota as a role model. Yes, the oil boom there has pushed unemployment down to 3.2 percent, but that’s only possible because the whole state has fewer residents than metropolitan Albany — so few residents that adding a few thousand jobs in the state’s extractive sector is a really big deal. The comparable-sized fracking boom in Pennsylvania has had hardly any effect on the state’s overall employment picture, because, in the end, not that many jobs are involved.Precisely.
And this tells us that giving the oil companies carte blanche isn’t a serious jobs program. Put it this way: Employment in oil and gas extraction has risen more than 50 percent since the middle of the last decade, but that amounts to only 70,000 jobs, around one-twentieth of 1 percent of total U.S. employment. So the idea that drill, baby, drill can cure our jobs deficit is basically a joke.
Why, then, are Republicans pretending otherwise? Part of the answer is that the party is rewarding its benefactors: the oil and gas industry doesn’t create many jobs, but it does spend a lot of money on lobbying and campaign contributions. The rest of the answer is simply the fact that conservatives have no other job-creation ideas to offer.
And intellectual bankruptcy, I’m sorry to say, is a problem that no amount of drilling and fracking can solve.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Taibbi: Bank of America is "too crooked to fail": This really is a must-read, and it really speaks for itself. The subject is Bank of America, and it stands proxy for the entire U.S. banking system.This "institution" needs to be put down, and hard. It needs to be set as an example of unacceptable corporate behavior. It needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the existing law, and new laws need to be enacted to address the grievances that are not yet prohibited by the letter of the law.
Kudos to Rolling Stone for actually turning a good researcher (Taibbi) loose on this stuff — and for publishing it during election season. A sitting president is a very persuasive man when his job is up for renewal (just ask MSNBC, Dylan Ratigan excepted).
The link is here. In the subtitle, Taibbi asks:
The bank has defrauded everyone from investors and insurers to homeowners and the unemployed. So why does the government keep bailing it out?That covers it, right?
A taste (my emphasis and reparagraphing):
At least Bank of America got its name right. The ultimate Too Big to Fail bank really is America, a hypergluttonous ward of the state whose limitless fraud and criminal conspiracies we'll all be paying for until the end of time.That was my asterisk; no kittens or hookers were harmed in the pasting of this quote. (That was one paragraph of the source, by the way; I get two more.)
Did you hear about the plot to rig global interest rates? The $137 million fine for bilking needy schools and cities? The ingenious plan to suck multiple fees out of the unemployment checks of jobless workers?
Take your eyes off them for 10 seconds and guaranteed, they'll be into some sh*t again: This bank is like the world's worst-behaved teenager, taking your car and running over kittens and fire hydrants on the way to Vegas for the weekend, maxing out your credit cards in the three days you spend at your aunt's funeral. They're out of control, yet they'll never do time or go out of business, because the government remains creepily committed to their survival, like overindulgent parents who refuse to believe their 40-year-old live-at-home son could possibly be responsible for those dead hookers in the backyard.
How about this:
It's been four years since the government, in the name of preventing a depression, saved this megabank from ruin by pumping $45 billion of taxpayer money into its arm. Since then, the Obama administration has looked the other way as the bank committed an astonishing variety of crimes – some elaborate and brilliant in their conception, some so crude that they'd be beneath your average street thug.And:
Bank of America has systematically ripped off almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, depositors, homeowners, shareholders, pensioners and taxpayers. It brought tens of thousands of Americans to foreclosure court using bogus, "robo-signed" evidence – a type of mass perjury that it helped pioneer.
It hawked worthless mortgages to dozens of unions and state pension funds, draining them of hundreds of millions in value. And when it wasn't ripping off workers and pensioners, it was helping to push insurance giants like AMBAC into bankruptcy by fraudulently inducing them to spend hundreds of millions insuring those same worthless mortgages.
But despite being the very definition of an unaccountable corporate villain, Bank of America is now bigger and more dangerous than ever. It controls more than 12 percent of America's bank deposits (skirting a federal law designed to prohibit any firm from controlling more than 10 percent), as well as 17 percent of all American home mortgages.
By looking the other way and rewarding the bank's bad behavior with a massive government bailout, we actually allowed a huge financial company to not just grow so big that its collapse would imperil the whole economy, but to get away with any and all crimes it might commit. Too Big to Fail is one thing; it's also far too corrupt to survive.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Goldman Sachs director quits 'morally bankrupt' Wall Street bank:Conscience and Wall Street banking don't mix, apparently. I'm not sure how this person got as far as they did if they had a conscience all this time, but, hey, better late than never.
Greg Smith resigns as executive director of Goldman's European equity derivatives business after devastating attack
A Goldman Sachs director in London has resigned after publishing a devastating open letter accusing senior staff of being "morally bankrupt" and bent on extracting maximum fees from clients by offloading unsuitable investment products.
Greg Smith, who has left his post as executive director of the firm's equity derivatives business in Europe, claimed that chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and president Gary Cohn have "lost hold of the firm's culture on their watch". He added that "this decline in the firm's moral fibre represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival"..
Smith's charges, which were swiftly denied by the bank, were published in Wednesday's New York Times and raised questions about the firm's relationship with existing clients, whom Smith claimed were referred to as "muppets".
Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat peer and his party's former Treasury spokesman in the Lords, said the matter raised questions about any relationship between the UK government and Goldman.
Smith, who joined Goldman as a summer intern and worked at the firm for 12 years, first in New York and then in London, claimed managing directors made their remarks about "muppets" in internal email.
"I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It's purely about how we can make the most possible money off them."
Selected as one of 10 people, out of a firm of 30,000, to appear in a Goldman recruiting video which is played on college campuses around the world, Smith has hired and mentored new recruits and managed a summer intern programme for the bank.
"I knew it was time to leave when I realised I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work," he wrote.
He said junior analysts are absorbing a culture in which the most important question is "how much money did we make off the client?", and that hearing talk of "muppets," "ripping eyeballs out" and "getting paid" will not turn them into "model citizens".
"Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an axe murderer) you will be promoted to a position of influence."
In response, Goldman Sachs denied that Smith was giving an accurate view of life at the company.
"We disagree with the views expressed, which we don't think reflect the way we run our business. In our view, we will only be successful if our clients are successful. This fundamental truth lies at the heart of how we conduct ourselves," the bank said.
Monday, March 12, 2012
About That Pension: We'll get rid of those and your Social Security. It'll be paradise!
Big employers want Congress to give them a break on pension funding. Business lobbies such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have managed to get a pension sweetener attached to a Senate highway bill that, potentially, would reduce required contributions by billions of dollars.
Soylent White is made of old people!
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