Poor multimillionaire CEO


If they hadn’t insisted on lying to themselves for so long, they could have seen that cutting back on dirty coal was inevitable no matter what. But you know how the 1% is:

For the chairman and chief executive of Murray Energy, an Ohio-based coal company, the reelection of President Obama was no cause for celebration. It was a time for prayer – and layoffs.


Robert E. Murray read a prayer to a group of company staff members on the day after the election, lamenting the direction of the country and asking: “Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build.”


On Wednesday, Murray also laid off 54 people at American Coal, one of his subsidiary companies, and 102 at Utah American Energy, blaming a “war on coal” by the administration of President Barack Obama.”


Murray Energy is the country’s largest privately owned coal mining company, with about 3,000 employees producing about 30 million tons of bituminous coal a year, according to its Web site.


The company was the subject of an article in the New Republic that said the company had forced miners to attend a Romney campaign speech in southeastern Ohio in August. Murray denied the account. The New Republic also reported that Murray Energy employees have given more than $1.4 million to Republican candidates for federal office since 2007.


Murray has also been a target of environmentalists. Notably, the company has spilled coal slurry into a creek on seven different occasions.

The big liberal victory

I wish I could say Glenn Greenwald was wrong, but…

Indeed, Obama already sought in his first term to implement sizable cuts to those programs, but liberals were saved only by GOP recalcitrance to compromise on taxes. In light of their drubbing last night, they are likely to be marginally if not substantially more flexible, which means that such a deal is more possible than ever.


In other words, the political leader in whose triumph liberals are today ecstatically basking is likely to target their most cherished government policies within a matter of weeks, even days. With their newly minted power, will they have any ability, or even will, to stop him? If history is any indication, this is how this “fight” will proceed:

STEP ONE: Liberals will declare that cutting social security and Medicare benefits – including raising the eligibility age or introducing “means-testing” – are absolutely unacceptable, that they will never support any bill that does so no matter what other provisions it contains, that they will wage war on Democrats if they try.


STEP TWO: As the deal gets negotiated and takes shape, progressive pundits in Washington, with Obama officials persuasively whispering in their ear, will begin to argue that the proposed cuts are really not that bad, that they are modest and acceptable, that they are even necessary to save the programs from greater cuts or even dismantlement.


STEP THREE: Many progressives – ones who are not persuaded that these cuts are less than draconian or defensible on the merits – will nonetheless begin to view them with resignation and acquiescence on pragmatic grounds. Obama has no real choice, they will insist, because he must reach a deal with the crazy, evil GOP to save the economy from crippling harm, and the only way he can do so is by agreeing to entitlement cuts. It is a pragmatic necessity, they will insist, and anyone who refuses to support it is being a purist, unreasonably blind to political realities, recklessly willing to blow up Obama’s second term before it even begins.


STEP FOUR: The few liberal holdouts, who continue to vehemently oppose any bill that cuts social security and Medicare, will be isolated and marginalized, excluded from the key meetings where these matters are being negotiated, confined to a few MSNBC appearances where they explain their inconsequential opposition.


STEP FIVE: Once a deal is announced, and everyone from Obama to Harry Reid and the DNC are behind it, any progressives still vocally angry about it and insisting on its defeat will be castigated as ideologues and purists, compared to the Tea Party for their refusal to compromise, and scorned (by compliant progressives) as fringe Far Left malcontents.


STEP SIX: Once the deal is enacted with bipartisan support and Obama signs it in a ceremony, standing in front of his new Treasury Secretary, the supreme corporatist Erskine Bowles, where he touts the virtues of bipartisanship and making “tough choices”, any progressives still complaining will be told that it is time to move on. Any who do not will be constantly reminded that there is an Extremely Important Election coming – the 2014 midterm – where it will be Absolutely Vital that Democrats hold onto the Senate and that they take over the House. Any progressive, still infuriated by cuts to social security and Medicare, who still refuses to get meekly in line behind the Party will be told that they are jeopardizing the Party’s chances for winning that Vital Election and – as a result of their opposition – are helping Mitch McConnell take over control of the Senate and John Boehner retain control of the House.


And so it goes. That is the standard pattern of self-disempowerment used by American liberals to render themselves impotent and powerless in Washington, not just on economic issues but the full panoply of political disputes, from ongoing militarism, military spending and war policies to civil liberties assaults, new cabinet appointments, immigration policy, and virtually everything else likely to arise in the second term.

Deficit hawks down

Krugman:

Yet despite what should have been a major discrediting of the whole deficit-hawk establishment, the word is that Wall Street is pushing for Obama to appoint Erskine Bowles as Treasury Secretary.


Erskine Bowles? The man who, charged with producing a deficit-reduction plan, decided that a key feature of this plan should be … cuts in marginal tax rates on high incomes? The man who warned, in dire terms, of a looming fiscal crisis, with soaring US borrowing costs, within two years — almost two years ago?

My life and welcome to it

So I’m trying to figure out where the dead mouse smell is coming from in my kitchen. It’s so bad that it even makes me sick while I’m sitting in the living room. Between the mold in my bedroom and the smell of rot in the kitchen, the only place I’m not under aerosol attack is in the bathroom. Which is relative, of course.

My friend helped me move the refrigerator and the stove yesterday, and while there was plenty of mouse shit, I couldn’t find a dead body. (I did find that mice have made themselves a nest in the stove insulation, and it’s simply inundated with their urine and droppings. Yay, nature!) My landlord is going to take the lid off the stove tomorrow, and I’m hoping that’s where the smell emanates, because it’ll be easier to clean up.

I am not looking forward to cooking a Thanksgiving meal in this stench.

Oopsie

So the drilling industry insisted there was no link at all between fracking and earthquakes, but finally had to admit that injecting fracking wastewater can trigger earthquakes. Now it looks like the actual fracking can trigger earthquakes, after all. Maybe we should put the onus on businesses to prove the safety of what they’re doing first? Nah, that would be un-American!

Drawing on scientific research and reports by government agencies, Smart News and Smithsonian‘sSurprising Science blog have written that, as the National Research Council puts it, “there is no evidence to suggest that hydraulic fracturing itself is the cause of the increased rate of earthquake.” The known link between fracking and earthquakes has been to do with the waste disposal process, not the fracking itself: Inappropriate disposal of waste water used during the fracking process has triggered induced earthquakes.

A recent report by the British Columbia Oil & Gas Commission, however, finds that fracking actually can cause earthquakes.

Earthquake monitoring equipment in northern British Columbia, Canada, says the report, recorded 216 small earthquakes clustered in a small area around an ongoing fracking project in the northern end of the province. Of those earthquakes, 19 of them were rated between 2 and 3 on the Richter magnitude scale. Only one of them was strong enough to be felt at the surface. By comparison, in the past week alone, Southern California experienced 333 earthquakes, with 29 of those having magnitudes from 2.0 to 3.9.

Focusing in on a subset of the earthquakes, the report says,

Eighteen [local] magnitude 1.9 to 3.0 events were selected from dense array microseismic plots. These events were selected because they were located adjacent to hydraulic fracturing stages and could be connected to a single stage fluid injection with some confidence. Evidence strongly suggests that all events were triggered by fluid injection at adjacent stages.

They found that eight of those earthquakes happened while the fracking was ongoing and that all eighteen happened within 24 hours of the fracking injections. The fracking-induced earthquakes happened when the fluid injection caused pre-existing faults within the Earth to slip. The strength of the earthquakes got bigger or smaller the closer or further the fracking was from the fault.

This isn’t the first time a link has been seen between fracking and earthquakes, but the pool of observations remains extremely limited—the report cites other known instances in England and inOklahoma.

The ‘fiscal cliff’ hoax

Economist Dean Baker, Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Priorities, on deficit confusion and why “fiscal cliff” is a misleading description of the economic forecast:

1. The budget deficit is not “out of control”.

There is enormous confusion about the nature of the country’s deficit problem. There is a widespread belief that there has been a longstanding problem with large budget deficits.This is simply not true. It is easy to show that the large deficits of recent years are a result of the downturn in the economy following the collapse of the housing bubble.

  • The budget deficit in 2007 was just 1.2 percent of GDP.
  • In January of 2008, before it recognized the impact of the collapse of the housing bubble on the economy, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the deficit would remain near 1.0 percent of GDP through 2011.
  • The deficit was projected to turn to a surplus in 2012 after the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.
  • The country could run deficits of this size literally forever. The debt to GDP ratio was actually declining.

This situation changed in 2008 because of the downturn caused by the collapse of the housing bubble.

  • This led to a sharp fall in revenue as taxes fell in response to the fall in output and employment.
  • It also led to an increase in expenditures for items like unemployment insurance and food stamps.
  • In addition, there were tax cuts and spending measures taken to directly counteract the downturn, such as the payroll tax cut and the stimulus package.

The combination of automatic stabilizers and deliberate stimulus measures fully explain the large deficits of the last four years.

  • There were few permanent changes to spending or the tax code that would add to the deficit on an ongoing basis.
  • If the unemployment rate were to return to the pre-recession level of 4.5 percent and we eliminated the tax and spending measures designed to sustain the economy through the downturn, we would again have modest deficits of a size that could be sustained indefinitely.

2. The “fiscal cliff” is not a cliff at all.

The term “fiscal cliff” and the discussion around this impasse have fundamentally misrepresented the problem facing the budget and the economy. While there have been projections from the Congressional Budget Office and others showing that the tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2013 can push the economy back into recession, these projections are showing the impact of failing to reach an agreement by the end of 2013.

  • The projections assume not only that no deal is reached by January 1, but also that no deal is reached over the course of the year. In other words, we would not be subject to a higher tax rate for a few weeks or a month, these models examined what would happen if we paid taxes at higher rate for a full year and also saw spending cut for the whole year.
  • As a practical matter, if the end of the year deadline is not met it only means that people will be subject to higher withholding beginning on January 1, 2103. No one would feel anything until they saw their first paycheck of 2013.
  • Furthermore, if Congress and the president seemed about to reach a deal, which would eliminate much of the tax increase, then most people would be able to anticipate getting back the extra taxes in their next paycheck. In this case, the impact on spending and the economy would be minimal.

There is even less cause to be concerned about the spending side of the cliff.

  • The sequester applies to appropriations, not actual outlays. Some of the money appropriated in 2013 may not be spent for years into the future.
  • As a practical matter, there is no reason for the government to do anything to curb spending in January if it appears that a deal is likely to be reached that would lead to levels of spending that are higher than provided for in the sequester.
  • This means that if Congress and the president take a month or two to work through an alternative to the sequester, the pace of spending need not be affected.

As a practical matter, it is always desirable to reduce unnecessary uncertainty and the resolution of the tax and spending debate creates certainty. But there is no reality to the idea that the end of the year presents a deadline of any consequence. It really doesn’t matter whether a deal is reached on December 28th or January 8th, the impact on the economy will be almost exactly the same.

No criminal charges

Of course!

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday charged a hedge fund manager with allegedly defrauding investors by hiding millions of dollars in losses from mortgage securities. Specifically, the SEC alleges that Walter Morales and hedge fund Commonwealth Advisors, based in Baton Rouge, La., tried to hide $32 million in losses by lying to investors about the amount and value of mortgage-backed assets held by the hedge funds, and purportedly creating phony internal documents to justify their false valuations. The SEC said that Morales also instructed employees to conduct a series of allegedly manipulative trades to conceal the losses.

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