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Just hold your breath

Of course, that might be hard for asthmatics, but hey, survival of the fittest!

President Obama abruptly pulled back proposed new national smog standards Friday morning, overruling the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to compel states and communities nationwide to reduce local air pollution in the coming years or face federal penalties.

The move represented a win for the business community, which had lobbied to postpone new restrictions on ground-level ozone—known as smog—until 2013 in light of the current economic downturn.

In a statement, Obama praised EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s effort to improve the nation’s air quality, but said he had asked her to withdraw the draft standards since they were scheduled to be reconsidered two years from now anyway.

I guess I should note here that it’s utter bullshit, and driven by the apparent decision of Obama’s campaign advisors not to allow anything to happen that might even theoretically be used against them by the Republicans. As if, you know, we won’t notice how many people don’t have jobs.

I missed this story

In Salon on Howard Dean, but I can’t say I’m surprised. That’s how it works, once you’re in advocacy politics. It’s really the only thing you can do, because no one else wants to hire a political figure.

And all of this goes back to a culture where voters always choose to financially support candidates over activists and organizers. I guarantee you that you’d have a whole different ball game if progressives donated in significant enough numbers to progressive bloggers and activists, thus funding the real left wing of the party. But they don’t.

While I admire Howard and think he’s got a certain amount of hard-core integrity, he’s not a leftist and he’s never been.

Anyway, here’s Howard’s rebuttal.

Times: Feds to file suit against banks

In order for me to feel truly optimistic, I’d have to believe that these lawsuits are intended to break up the banks and bankrupt them, and of course that’s not going to happen. (Plus, I can’t help but notice this isn’t the Justice Department and we’re not seeing criminal charges.) So is this a real come-to-Jesus moment for the bankers — or kabuki? Are the feds really going to recover enough of the money they stole? Of course it would be good if they did, but nothing but some high-profile perp walks will really make up for the devastation these bastards have left behind:

The federal agency that oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is set to file suits against more than a dozen big banks, accusing them of misrepresenting the quality of mortgage securities they assembled and sold at the height of the housing bubble, and seeking billions of dollars in compensation.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency suits, which are expected to be filed in the coming days in federal court, are aimed at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, among others, according to three individuals briefed on the matter.

The suits stem from subpoenas the finance agency issued to banks a year ago. If the case is not filed Friday, they said, it will come Tuesday, shortly before a deadline expires for the housing agency to file claims.

The suits will argue the banks, which assembled the mortgages and marketed them as securities to investors, failed to perform the due diligence required under securities law and missed evidence that borrowers’ incomes were inflated or falsified. When many borrowers were unable to pay their mortgages, the securities backed by the mortgages quickly lost value.

Fannie and Freddie lost more than $30 billion, in part as a result of the deals, losses that were borne mostly by taxpayers.

In July, the agency filed suit against UBS, another major mortgage securitizer, seeking to recover at least $900 million, and the individuals with knowledge of the case said the new litigation would be similar in scope.

Private holders of mortgage securities are already trying to force the big banks to buy back tens of billions in soured mortgage-backed bonds, but this federal effort is a new chapter in a huge legal fight that has alarmed investors in bank shares. In this case, rather than demanding that the banks buy back the original loans, the finance agency is seeking reimbursement for losses on the securities held by Fannie and Freddie.

And my contention that the only suitable response is jail time is validated by this:

But privately, financial service industry executives argue that the losses on the mortgage-backed securities were caused by a broader downturn in the economy and the housing market, not by how the mortgages were originated or packaged into securities. In addition, they contend that investors like A.I.G. as well as Fannie and Freddie were sophisticated and knew the securities were not without risk.

If there is no punishment, there is no reason to think they won’t do this, or something just as bad, all over again. Because obviously, they have no reason to think they can’t B.S. their way out of it. After all, it’s worked so far!

All in the family

I’ve updated this story, because it’s even more interesting than I first thought.

It’s all in the Republican family! Corruption, I mean:

WASHINGTON — Six years after Hurricane Katrina, a relative of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was found by a federal court to have masterminded a massive fraud against the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the inspection of the legendary trailers that housed storm refugees along the Gulf Coast.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims found last week that Rosemary Barbour’s company, Jackson, Miss.,-based Alcatec LLC, had engaged in a fraudulent billing scheme as part of a $100 million, five-year maintenance contract with FEMA.

She was ordered to pay more than $350,000 in penalties and damages. In often colorful language, the judge described the testimony of Rosemary Barbour during an eight-day trial in May in Jackson as “exasperating” and “bumble-headed.”

Rosemary Barbour, the company’s sole owner, is the wife of the governor’s nephew, Charles Barbour, a former Hinds County supervisor who last week lost a Mississippi Senate GOP primary.

But of course, politically-connected wrongdoers never serve jail time, as we’ve all learned. This 2005 New York Times story’s pretty interesting:

“PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss., Dec. 6 – Rosemary Barbour happens to be married to a nephew of Mississippi’s governor, Haley Barbour. Since the Reagan administration, when Mrs. Barbour worked as a White House volunteer as a college student, she has been active in the Republican Party.

She also happens to be one of the biggest Mississippi-based winners of federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

To some contract watchdogs, this could be an example of how the federal government responsibly reached out to give a piece of the billions of dollars in federal hurricane-recovery work to a small Mississippi-based company owned by a Latina. Mrs. Barbour, 39, who was born in Guatemala but now lives in Jackson, Miss., is certified by the United States Small Business Administration as a disadvantaged small-business owner.”

This is interesting, don’t you think?

Alcatec qualified as a minority-owned firm during the bid process. Barbour, an American citizen and active in Republican politics, was born in Guatemala. She said she used her maiden name, Ramirez, when she made the bids, so that federal officials would not know of her family ties.”

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What Jill said.

Drive south

I always think of my friend Aaron when I hear this song, because he did a killer cover. John Hiatt:

Don’t get me wrong

The Pretenders:


Earth Wind & Fire:

Better things

The Kinks:

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