Double Dippin’ with MERLE HAZARD

Merle Hazard is the one and only country-music singer writing songs about the Financial Crisis. He’s been on PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer; he’s been the subject of articles by The Economist, London’s Financial Times, The New York Times, and Der Spiegel. And by gum, the man can carry a tune! Here’s Merle Hazard performing “Double Dippin'”!

You Will Be Eaten By a Bear

If yer one of them huntin’ folks up there in Wyoming or Montana – y’know, Republican, an’ thinkin’ climate change is a myth – best listen up.

You will be eaten by a bear.
A grizzly bear.
A six-foot-tall, 600-pound grizzly bear.

The bears are hungry.

See, grizzlies up in Yellowstone eat the nuts of whitebark pine cones. Trouble is, there aren’t as many whitebark pines. That’s because of the beetles. There’s been a huge beetle infestation of the Yellowstone whitebark pine – 70% of the trees have been decimated. And that’s because the ground’s not freezing as much to keep the beetles at bay. And that’s because of global warming.

“Every year is now a bad year for whitebark pine,” said Louisa Wilcox with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We can expect more conflicts and we are getting it.”

The bears are comin’ down the mountain an’ eatin’ livestock.

“Right now every god-dang dead cow down in this country’s got grizzlies on them,” said Mark Bruscino, a bear specialist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Cody. “We’ve already had a couple of reports of bears on the gut piles of hunter-killed elk. Road-killed deer have bears on them.” (Quotes via the Associated Press.)

An’ when they ain’t got no roadkill to eat, they’ll go with human carpaccio. Two people done gone an’ been killed by grizzlies so far this year, the most in a century. But those ain’t related to no whitebark pines. Ain’t the time of year yet. But it will be soon, as autumn arrives. So watch out, folks. Global warming could kill you sooner than you think.

Read more at the AP [H/T John Emerson]

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill IS NOT OVER

According to this exclusive report on CNN, the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico about 40 miles west of Panama City, FL is a toxic sludge composed of speckled droplets of dispersed oil… moving east.


[H/T Ryan Bartek]

While the right-wing media machine diverts our attention to the “Ground Zero Mosque” and “anchor babies,” our magpie brains are forgetting about the Deep Horizon disaster. More importantly, we’re forgetting about the genesis of this disaster – the rampant deregulatory culture, the lax safety procedures – which, we might say, are features of the contemporary media culture as well, which chases sham political controversies instead of concentrating on matters of true importance.

Hacks and Flacks on Capitol Hill: You Have Been Warned

Meet Congressman Crowley, Democrat for the 7th District of New York

According to The New York Times today ––

On Dec. 10, one of the lawmakers under investigation, Representative Joseph Crowley, a New York Democrat who sits on the Ways and Means Committee, left the Capitol during the House debate to attend a fund-raising event for him hosted by a lobbyist at her nearby Capitol Hill town house that featured financial firms, along with other donors. After collecting thousands of dollars in checks, Mr. Crowley returned to the floor of the House just in time to vote against a series of amendments that would have imposed tougher restrictions on Wall Street.

He’s just one of our national legislators under investigation by Congress to determine exactly how money flows in Washington, and how it directly influences inhibits reform. Here’s another:

Meet Rep. Tom Price, Republican from the 6th District of Georgia, member of the Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives

The right honorable Tom Price just happened to schedule a “Financial Services Luncheon” on December 10, the same day as Rep. Crowley’s fundraising event and the exact same day that the first full House vote on the financial reform bill was held. During a two-month period around the vote, he scored $23,000.

Now, old hands around D.C. like Tom DeLay might call this “business as usual in Washington.” Any sane person, however, would rather be inclined to call this bribery. No, I’m not suggesting that you members of the governmental elite will ever actually be convicted of such a crime. Just know that we know exactly what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. You are colluding with business interests to keep yourselves employed, to the detriment of the future of the United States of America. You are the epitome of the fault Tocqueville foresaw in the American system –– to wit, that people would be more inclined to vote their immediate self-interest than have the education and wisdom to consider long-term ramifications. Crowley and Price, and all others –– we’ll be seeing you.

Read to your heart’s content at The New York Times.

Why the BP Oil Spill is Like the Mortgage Crisis

Okay, it’s like this. The main reason we’re in a Great Recession is that, back in 1999, the U.S. government compromised itself to death. Bill Clinton wanted to increase lending to minorities. The Republican-controlled Congress (swept into office by Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America”) said, “Only if you decrease regulation at the same time,” and so Phil Gramm (appointed senior economic adviser to McCain’s presidential campaign) drew up a bill that gutted Glass-Steagall, the 1933 act that prevented the Depression from happening again. President Clinton, weakened by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, didn’t have much wiggle-room in the Oval Office any more, and signed the legislation.

So, naturally, you get a huge housing boom totally based upon dodgy accounting and ludicrous credit standards which blows up in the world’s face.

You can’t make this stuff up, right?

Guess what. The BP oil spill is a result of exactly the same legislative deathmatch. The New York Times has a superb piece this morning by David S. Abraham declaring, this is a disaster that Congress voted for. In a highly balanced and nuanced argument, Abraham details how Congress really and truly has been addicted to providing the oil industry with economic incentives beyond all reason:

In a 1995 attempt to encourage more exploration, Congress agreed to reduce the cut of the proceeds the government could collect on oil and gas drilling in deep waters. Ten years later, despite higher oil prices and declarations from President George W. Bush that more incentives were not needed, a Republican-led Congress reduced royalties yet again.

It’s madness, of course – especially when

at the same time that Congress called for new drilling incentives, it also gutted oversight. From 2002 to 2008, legislators approved budgets reducing regulatory staffing levels by more than 15 percent… A 2004 Coast Guard study found that its “oil spill response personnel did not appear to have even a basic knowledge of the equipment required to support salvage or spill clean-up operations.”

When Bobby Jindal calls for more offshore drilling in order to help pay for coastal damage inflicted by offshore oil-and-gas operations (yeah, you read that right), then we have truly entered a land of the comedic insane, where the Mad Hatter starts writing Catch-22 contracts. The astounding thing is that, at base, it’s an exquisitely simple recipe for disaster: radically lower the barriers to enter the market, while radically de-regulating (by which we mean: knocking down the laws and rules that govern participation in this country’s economy) and what you get are toxic assets. That’s what we call a house, these days: a toxic asset, destroying the person who possesses it (for D&D fans, that’s kind of like a poisoned amulet, except with lots of bricks and mortar and wiring and plumbing).

But we should  be calling the oil spill a toxic asset too. The definition’s more apt; no metaphors needed here. It’s a natural resource that’s killing our economy and destroying the ecosystems of our oceans. It’s a substance that, for decades now, has powered our economy; now it’s bringing the Gulf to a standstill. It’s the toxic asset, our home mortgage that’s underwater. The rich will probably walk away from it, their dirty souls skimming the tops of the oily waves in that Gulf between them and us.