Monthly Archives: December 2009

Should The Last Post Of 2009 Be On Unemployment Numbers? What Subject Would Be More Appropriate?

Atrios:

The CNBC tells me there are 432K new lucky duckies. Getting closer to ‘normal’ territory.

Mark Perry at Seeking Alpha:

1. The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits in the U.S. unexpectedly fell in the latest week to its lowest level in 18 months, a sign the labor market may be turning a corner. Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 432,000 in the week ended Dec. 26, the lowest level since July 19, 2008. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast claims would rise by 3,000.

2. Meantime, the Labor Department said in its weekly report Thursday that the number of people collecting jobless benefits for more than a week also continued to decline.The tally of continuing claims, or those drawn by workers collecting benefits for more than one week, fell by 57,000 to 4,981,000 in the week ended Dec. 19.

3. The four-week average of new claims, which aims to smooth volatility in the data, dropped by 5,500 to 460,250 — marking its 17th consecutive drop. That was the lowest level since Sep. 20, 2008 (see chart above).

Courtney Schlisserman at Business Week:

“What we’ve seen is definite stability and just a hint toward things trying to get better,” Jeffrey Joerres, chief executive officer of Manpower Inc., said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. The world’s second-largest provider of temporary workers, is experiencing “slow but steady increases in people who are out on assignment,” he said. “It’s a little in every office, which is a good sign because it’s broad-based.”

A Labor Department spokesman said last week’s figures were “consistent” with recent trends and were not influenced by any unusual factors. Even so, the week of the Christmas holiday is difficult to adjust for seasonal variations, he said.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, a less volatile measure, dropped to 460,250 last week from 465,750 the prior one. Claims are down from a 26-year high of 674,000 in the week ended March 27.

Continuing claims decreased by 57,000 in the week ended Dec. 19, reaching the lowest level since February. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge:

The fabulous news of the day undoubtedly will be the latest release from the Dept of Labor: Initial Claims for the week ended December 26 came in at 432,000, a 22,000 decline from the prior week, and below consensus. The number was sufficient to prompt Bloomberg’s Courtney Schlisserman to come up with the following observation, “Fewer Americans than anticipated filed claims for unemployment benefits last week, pointing to an improvement in the labor market that will help sustain economic growth next year.” Perhaps Courtney and Steve Liesman should sit down in a corner and finally figure out what this whole EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) business is – trust us, it is not that difficult. And for the week ended Dec. 12 it surged by 191,669 to almost 4.5 million, another all time record. Three weeks ago we were shocked when this number hit the all time high of 4.2 million: in a mere 21 days it has added a whopping 7% to the total. Unfortunately, at this point we have gotten a little desensitized to new EUC records. We ask Ms. Schlisserman what happens to the “sustainable economic growth” when there are 0 Initial Claims (hurray!!) and a million EUC claims weekly (d’oh)? Again, a simple question. Luckily for Bloomberg, the DOL and the BLS there is no consensus number for EUC, as the downside surprises there would have been staggering, if anyone actually cared to report those on the front pages of the even impartial mainstream media.

Joe Weisenthal at The Business Insider

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Filed under Economics, The Crisis

A Bad Day For The CIA

Joby Warrick at WaPo:

A suicide bomber infiltrated a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least eight Americans in what is believed to be the deadliest single attack on U.S. intelligence personnel in the eight-year-long war and one of the deadliest in the agency’s history, U.S. officials said.

The attack represented an audacious blow to intelligence operatives at the vanguard of U.S. counterterrorism operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing officials whose job involves plotting strikes against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other extremist groups that are active on the frontier between the two nations. The facility that was targeted — Forward Operating Base Chapman — is in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, which borders North Waziristan, the Pakistani tribal area that is believed to be al-Qaeda’s home base.

U.S. sources confirmed that all the dead and injured were civilians and said they believed that most, if not all, were CIA employees or contractors. At least one Afghan civilian also was killed, the sources said.

Marc Ambinder:

The death of eight CIA officers would be the agency’s worst toll since the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, when at least six officers were killed. Robert Baer, the now ubiquitous former CIA officer who spend years hunting down the Beirut bombers, has written that the agency never recovered from the loss of life that day. In an environment where the CIA is under extreme pressure from all corners, the Afghanistan massacre begins history as a tragedy that even under ordinary conditions the agency would find it hard to bear.  Leon Panetta, the CIA director, must now add, to the mountain of pressing concerns, the grief counseling for thousands of employees.
The CIA’s semi-covert Predator drone strike program, targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives who cross back and forth from Pakistan, has killed hundreds  — a  number of which were most likely innocent civilians by any definition.
This is not to suggest an equivalence — just to say that the agency’s American operatives are most definitely combatants in this war, which is also to say that the rules of war and the legal understandings that the CIA is using to fight terrorism in Pakistan are not clear and not easily explicable to the American people. With the CIA’s massive footprint in Afghanistan, some sort of tragedy was probably inevitable.  (In 2001, officer Johnny Spann, a member of the CIA’s Special Activities Division, was killed in action in Afghanistan.)

Bobby Ghosh at Time:

It’s unclear how the bomber gained access to the base, but reports say the CIA has used it to recruit Afghans. “It is important to remember that the mission of the CIA in Afghanistan is to work closely with Afghans,” says Robert Grenier, a former CIA stationchief in Pakistan. “That mission necessarily carries a high degree of risk, especially given the prevalence of suicide bombers.”

Supposedly secure Western fortifications have been attacked before in Afghanistan. In October, five British soldiers were killed when an Afghan policeman fired on a U.K. training team inside a checkpoint in Helmand Province. But Grenier says that given the breadth and depth of the CIA’s operations in Afghanistan, the death toll among employees has been “almost miraculously light.” He adds: “Fate may have caught up with us today.” The Khost death toll matched the previous record of the number of CIA staffers killed in a single day. On April 18 1983, eight members of the Agency were killed when the US Embassy in Beirut was blown up by a Hizballah suicide bomb. A retired officer who was then in active service says the Agency “was in shock for about one day… and then we got mad.”

Khost is just across the border from North Waziristan, the lawless Pakistani tribal area from where al-Qaeda and the Taliban routinely launch attacks on U.S. and NATO positions in Afghanistan. The Taliban has already claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, but U.S. authorities have released few details. “We mourn the loss of life in this attack,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. Hank Crumpton, who headed the CIA’s counterterror ops in Afghanistan after 9/11: “This horrible attack underscores the risk that CIA officers, men and women, undertake every day in Afghanistan and around the world. They are America’s most important resource in this war, and this is a tragic blow.”

Siun at Firedoglake:

While everyone’s focus has been on Yemen – with reports that targets are being examined for possible retaliation attacks by the US – the US war in Afghanistan continues to go bad.

Yesterday, 10 Afghans were killed by US forces. The UN Observer writes:

Afghan investigators today accused US-led troops of dragging ten civilians from their beds and shooting them dead during a night raid.
Officials said that eight children and teenagers were among the dead and all but one of the victims were from the same family.

With demonstrations in at least two major cities calling for an end to such civilian killings, President Karzai pointed out that eight of the victims were “school students in grades six, nine and 10.”

Today, a suicide bomber entered FOB Chapman in Khost, a base “used by the CIA.” At least 8 (and later reports say 9) CIA operatives were killed as was an Afghan civilian:

The bomber managed to slip past security at Forward Operating Base Chapman in the eastern province of Khost before detonating an explosive belt in what one U.S. official described as a room used as a fitness center. The blast also wounded eight people, several of them seriously, U.S. government officials said.

It was not immediately clear how the assailant was able to infiltrate the U.S.-run post, which serves as an operations and surveillance center for the CIA near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. U.S. sources confirmed that all the dead and injured were civilians, adding that most of them were probably CIA employees or contractors. At least one Afghan civilian was also killed, the sources said.

Also today, an IED also killed 4 Canadian soldiers and a journalist from the Calgary Herald while an Afghan soldier opened fire and killed on US soldier and 2 Italians.

UPDATE: Benjamin Carlson at The Atlantic with the round-up

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Filed under Af/Pak, GWOT

Hau`oli Makahiki Hou, Misters Limbaugh And Obama

TMZ:

Rush Limbaugh has been hospitalized in Hawaii after suffering chest pains — this according to KITV Hawaii.

According to KITV, paramedics responded to a call at the Kahala Hotel in Honolulu at 2:41 PM and transported Rush to Queens Medical Center.

According to the report, Rush was in “serious condition” when he arrived to the hospital.

Attempts to reach a rep for Limbaugh were unsuccessful.

UPDATE #1: TMZ has confirmed paramedics did respond to the Kahala Hotel at 2:41 to attend to someone with “chest discomfort.”

Carol Lee at Politico

Vision at Free Republic:

At 7:41pm est Rush Limbaugh was “was rushed to a Honolulu hospital on Wednesday afternoon with chest pains.”

We have no idea how serious this is. I’m asking for an immediate prayer, rosery, whatever to help this man.

Jesus Christ protect and heal this man.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Our buddies over at the Free Republic know how to save Rush Limbaugh: Internet prayer vigil! There are like 150 prayers already! Do you realize what this means? Tonight could be the night we find out if God exists.

Andrea Nill at Think Progress:

While unfortunate, Limbaugh’s hospital visit is rife with irony. The ailing radio show host was sent to the same medical center that a United Press International reporter misidentified in an article published in 2008 as the facility in which President Obama was born. Though the error was corrected to accurately indicate that Obama was born in the Kapi’olani Medical Center, the mistake fueled “birther” conspiracy theories that Limbaugh then dedicated significant airtime to promoting. Since then, Limbaugh has gone as far to state that Hawaii “morphed into Kenya one day in 1961 [the year Obama was born] and reverted back to Hawaii the next day.”

Meanwhile, some of Limbaugh’s right-wing colleagues have spent the past week slamming Obama for vacationing in Hawaii over the holidays, which “to many Americans seems like a foreign place.” Last month, Limbaugh was voted the nation’s “most influential conservative voice.”

Tom Maguire:

Rush embarks on a deep undercover penetration of Ground Zero of the Birther theory.  I hope he is otherwise fine.

David Weigel at Washington Independent

Ann Althouse:

I’m impressed that it took 12 comments before anyone at Politico said that (or anything like that) after a report that Rush Limbaugh has been hospitalized with chest pains and is in “serious” condition.

ADDED: Much re-tweeted at Twitter: “The people calling for Rush Limbaugh to die are the same people who ask to control your healthcare.”

AND: Rush Limbaugh has said on his show many times that once the government runs health care, there is a threat that life-or-death decisions will be made based on politics, and people will worry that if they  criticize the government or espouse the wrong opinions decisions will go against them

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What We’ve Built Today

Updates!

This Hole Is Either Par Four Or Par Eight

But Don’t Look Back In Anger, I Heard You Say

Bring Out Your Deadbeats!

Worst. Decade. Ever. Or, Whatever.

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Vic Chesnutt: November 12, 1964-December 25, 2009

We are late on this story, but we wanted to give it some more attention.

Huffington Post:

Singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt has died, according to tweets from his friends and an announcement posted on the Constellation Records website.

From the announcement:

In the few short years that we knew him personally, Vic transformed our sense of what true character, grace and determination are all about. Our grief is inexpressible and Vic’s absence unfathomable.Chesnutt slipped into a coma after taking a large dose of prescription muscle relaxants. He died in Athens, Georgia, on Christmas Day. Since being in a car accident as a teenager in 1983, Chesnutt was only mobile in a wheelchair.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Chesnutt faced $70,000 in hospital bills, a subject he brought up in a Pop & Hiss interview earlier this month.

The Back Row Manifesto:

I first saw Vic Chesnutt in the early 1990’s, opening for Bob Mould at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, MI. I loved his his dark, twisted and deeply self-depricating sense of humor and the poetry he used to embody it in song. I still have the vinyl copy of his debut album Little which I bought from him at that show, and the subsequent records have been very important to me down the years. Seeing him live was always a treat, and the desire of other artists to work with him—from Kristin Hersh to M. Ward (who I saw for the first time opening for Vic at Southpaw in Brooklyn) to Grandaddy to Elf Power and countless others who contributed to the Sweet Relief II compilation of his songs—proves nothing more than the fact that behind his disarming, gruff and tender exterior was the beating heart of a great artist.

About 10 years ago, when our lives were in the orbit of mutual friends, I attended a small birthday dinner for Vic’s at a friend’s apartment in New York, and talked to Vic and Tina Chesnutt a little bit, got to know them ever so briefly and chuckled to myself at his reaction when he opened his big gift; a first iPod (Vic: “An iPod? Fuck! Thanks!”). After that, I never felt afraid to give a small hello when I saw him in a club or with friends, always greeted with a little bit of time and generous conversation. All this did was endear him more and more to me as an artist, and the obvious disappointment and pain that lurks in his music was not broached in such casual conversation. The fact that it was always there, though, made the news of his death yesterday less of a shock than a huge disappointment, not at Vic himself, but at life. Those you wish would live forever seem to always discover something unendurable about their own suffering in the world; I refuse to feel anything but compassion for Vic in the wake of this news and while I know the world will miss his howls growls and hushed tenderness, I also think his own relief is important to consider. And while that is small consolation to me, I will never know what it means to him. Which is all that matters.

Kristin Hersh, another of the great singer-songwriters of our time and one of Vic’s close friends, has set up a place where donations can be made to help Tina and Vic’s family pay for the expenses of this loss. I hope you will join me in making a contribution. May he rest in peace and may his records find ears forever.

John Hood at Flavorwire:

Sure, many of his tunes came soaked in melancholy, but Chesnutt wasn’t pouring on the tears and feeling sorry for himself. He was merely stating the facts as he came across them, and as they crushed him beyond hope.

The accolades have already begun accumulating; or, should we say, they continue to. Michael Stipe insists, “We have lost one of our great ones.” Patti Smith notes, “He possessed an unearthly energy, and yet was humanistic with the common man in mind.” Jeff Mangum reveals, “Hearing his music completely transformed the way I thought about writing songs, and I will forever be in his debt.”

But it was in life where the accolades really counted: Stipe “discovered” Chesnutt at Athens’s 40 Watt Club back in the late ’80s and would produce his first two LPs. Widespread Panic, who would also record two LPs with Chesnutt, as would the band that included Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto and members of Montreal’s Silver Mt. Zion and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, all of whom backed up Chesnutt on both 2007’s North Star Deserter and 2009’s At the Cut, arguably his best LP. Lambchop, too, got in on the praising, backing up Chesnutt for 1998’s The Salesman and Bernadette.

Then there were the bold-faced names that assembled for 1996’s Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation, among them Garbage, Smashing Pumpkins, and Kristin Hersh, another long-time friend of Chesnutt’s. It was that LP that brought Chesnutt to light, and it was the proceeds of that LP that helped that light continue to shine for another 13 years.

Camille Dodero at The Village Voice:

Chesnutt’s recent conversation with Terry Gross has been quoted a lot in the last few days because of its cruelly prescient honesty regarding Chesnutt’s recent “Flirted with You All My Life”–“a breakup song with death.” But also worth reading is Rob Trucks’s interview with Vic last year for this blog, if only to remember that the man not only grappled with depression, but hope. “Getting older’s not a shame, it’s a miracle,” he told Trucks. “It’s a miracle, you know. I’m still on a quest. I mean, I still am on a quest. I think my best work is ahead of me. And I really do think my best days are ahead of me.”

“Vic was a miserable bastard with a heart that was connected to the center of the world,” Chesnutt’s former tourmate Mark Eitzel wrote over the weekend on his blog. (“I’m a very complex person,” Vic was the first to admit. “My personality is a complex thing.”) Michael Stipe, Jeff Mangum, and others remember him here on the Constellation Records site; friend and songwriter Kristen Hersh is hosting a donation page for Chesnutt’s widow here. Lastly, you should really revisit William Bowers’s piece from 2007 about Vic Chesnutt’s work. It might be the nicest thing ever written about a “booger.”

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But Was He Seen On A Boat With JFK, Partying With Naked Women?

Radio Netherlands:

Reports from Iran indicate that the Supreme National Security Council has ordered a complete check-up of the jet which is on standby to fly Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei and his family to Russia should the situation in Iran spiral out of control. The order, to the Pasdaran Revolutionary Guard Corps, was dated on Sunday, 27 December. A fax containing the order was sent to Dutch-based Shahrzad News.

Huffington Post:

Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei could flee to Russia should the situation in his country continue to spiral out of control, according to Radio Netherlands.

The media organization reports that the Supreme National Security Council ordered a check-up Sunday of the jet on standby to evacuate Khamenei and his family should the need arise.

If Khamenei does depart the country, it would be reminiscent of an historic event in Iranian history: Jan. 16, 1979, when the Iranian Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi fled Iran following an increase in violent protests. The anniversary of that event is coming up soon.

The plane check is already being viewed by some as an indication that Khamenei will in fact leave Iran, as protests continue.

UPDATE: Iranian journalist and media researcher Omid Habibinia tells HuffPost he has doubts about the authenticity of the document that this report evolves around. He says it is fast circulating Facebook but for many reasons he believes the document is forgery, including the fact there are no words below the logo of the Islamic Republic of Iran and no mail is confidential in the Persian month Mehr.

Enduring America:

And then there are the uncertainties that go beyond today’s events. Consider, for example, how a rumour without any clear evidence is now “news”. The Twitter chatter on Sunday was that a jet, with an escort of military fighters, was ready at Mehrabad Airport for the Supreme Leader to fly to Russia. Yesterday, that chatter, backed up by a mysterious fax, turned into “news” on Radio Netherlands, and today it is worthy of publication in The Huffington Post.

Allah Pundit:

HuffPo notes that January 16 is the anniversary of the shah’s abdication, a date that’ll no doubt be targeted by organizers for a surge in direct action. But still: If Khamenei was going to show weakness this provocative — essentially an admission that he’s no longer sure he can hold the country together — wouldn’t he have tasked the plane check-up to only his most devoutly loyal underlings? The last thing he’d want is to risk a leak that might spook the security forces, who would suddenly fear that the balance of power was about to turn and would side with the protesters so that they didn’t end up hanging from lampposts. Seems much more likely that this is pro-protester propaganda than a genuine scoop, alas.

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Do The Nominees Get To Hear Muzak When Senators Place Them On Hold?

Brad Johnson at Think Progress:

In the aftermath of the attempted Christmas airplane bombing, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is unrepentant about his hold on President Obama’s nomination for the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the division of the Department of Homeland Security that handles airport security. Obama nominated Erroll Southers — a former FBI special agent, the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence, and the associate director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events — to run TSA in September. Southers’ nomination was approved by two Senate committees, but DeMint has placed a hold on Southers “in an effort to prevent TSA workers from joining a labor union”

Adam Serwer at Attackerman’s joint:

The Obama administration doesn’t care more about unionizing workers than terrorism. Jim DeMint cares more about unionizing workers than terrorism.

Doug J.:

It would be nice if a few Villagers here and there could take a break from bashing Harry Reid for not being Mike Mansfield and focus on crap like this.

David Weigel at Washington Independent:

One of the reasons that Republicans were able to beat Democrats over the head with votes against creating the DHS in 2002 — Democrats having proposed the new department in the first place — is that Republicans successfully prohibited collective bargaining. The inability of Democrats to flip this back on Republicans, who are currently attacking the president for fumbling transportation security — especially because it would demand a floor fight that would end with Republicans voting against a new TSA head — is pretty hard to understand.

Paul Krugman:

A number of people — though not, strange to say, any leading figures in the Democratic party — have pointed out that the TSA doesn’t have an administrator at the moment, because Sen. Jim DeMint is holding up Obama’s nominee. Why? Because DeMint is worried that TSA employees might unionize.

So much for making the fight against terror a priority. But then, it has been this way from the start. Whenever I hear someone talk about how we were unified as a nation after 9/11, I gag — partly because I remember how senior Republicans tried to keep airport security in private hands. Just weeks after the attack, preventing any expansion of government was more important to them than protecting passengers.

Nothing has changed.

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Filed under GWOT, Homeland Security, Political Figures