Now that a nonpartisan court has officially ruled that Al Franken is the winner of the contested Minnesotan Senate race, wide swaths of Minnesotans believe Norm Coleman should forego further appeals and concede. Public Policy Polling (pdf):

4/14-15/09; 805 registered voters, 3.5% margin of error

Do you think Norm Coleman should appeal the decision and continue to fight in court or should Coleman concede the race?

37% Appeal
63% Concede

If this man wants to run for governor someday, and there are rumors that he does, he needs to get out before he tarnishes his public image forever.

San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi wants the city to get into the drug dealing business by opening up a city-run medical marijuana dispensary. Though the law's as likely to pass as Cheech Marin is to sponsor a major public art exhibition--or something like that--it has at least been good for a chuckle: "The mayor will have to hash this out with public health officials," a spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom told the SF Chronicle. "It's the mayor's job to weed out bad legislation, and to be blunt, that sounds pretty bad."

From former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, on banks that are rushing to return TARP money so they can escape limits on executive compensation:

"If banks now claim they want to return the money because they don't need it, why do they have to raise new capital to replace the money from we the people in order to repay the government?"

Right.  If Goldman Sachs never really needed their TARP money in the first place, they could have returned it without first doing a risky and ultimately disappointing share offering.  One can only conclude that, yes, they needed the money back in October, no matter what they say now.

In related news, Felix Salmon takes note of the fact that due to a legal fluke Goldman's FY2008 ended in November but their FY2009 started in January.  In December they reported huge losses, but those losses are now in sort of a weird limbo:

I suspect that when it comes to bonus time at Goldman, December 2008 will never matter. The 2008 bonuses will be paid based on the 2008 fiscal year, while the 2009 bonuses will be paid based on the 2009 fiscal year. And those $1.3 billion of losses in December — losses which will never show up in any annual report — will be conveniently ignored by the compensation honchos.

Clever!  And it shows that Bill Gates was right.  As William Cohan reminded us yesterday, he once said that Microsoft’s biggest competitor was Goldman Sachs. “It’s all about I.Q.,” he said. “You win with I.Q. Our only competition for I.Q. is the top investment banks.”  And this is exactly the kind of thing that Wall Street has spent the last decade applying its galactic brainpower toward.  Too bad they aren't researching a cure for cancer instead, isn't it?

Sarah Palin Update

The latest on Gov. Sarah is here.  She continues to amaze.

(No, this has nothing to do with Bristol and Levi Johnston.  That's a soap opera I'm not touching.  This is something completely different.)

I guess a guy fainted on his show the other day and the dude is actually advocating secession, but whatever, I don’t care about any of that, I'm just interested in Glenn Beck-as-brilliant-performance-artist. The clip that made me think of the Glick connection was this one from Gawker (which they won't let you embed, dang it) showing the certifiably insane Fox host adopting a dainty lisp for some reason I have yet to determine. Watching this, it suddenly hit me where I’d seen his brand of nonsensical, pudgy-faced bloviating before. So either go watch the Gawker clip and come back, or just compare some generic Beck blabber with vintage Glick below, and then tell me if you've ever seen them in the same room together.

Carbon Policy

Obama's big speech yesterday about the economy was.....fine.  I don't think he addressed our banking problems quite as forthrightly as a lot of people seem to think, but he didn't do too badly either.  I was more pleased, however, that he said this about transforming the economy to be less carbon intensive:

The only way to truly spark this transformation is through a gradual, market-based cap on carbon pollution, so that clean energy is the profitable kind of energy....We can no longer delay putting a framework for a clean energy economy in place. If businesses and entrepreneurs know today that we are closing this carbon pollution loophole, they will start investing in clean energy now. And pretty soon, we'll see more companies constructing solar panels, and workers building wind turbines, and car companies manufacturing fuel-efficient cars.

OK, it's not much.  But one of my complaints about Obama during the primary was that he didn't take the chance to actually sell the country on carbon caps.  Sure, cap-and-trade was always part of his plan, but on the stump it was all windmills and green jobs and other happy talk.  What would happen, I wondered, when the time came and suddenly Joe Sixpack realized that Obama was planning to raise energy costs via a cap-and-trade program?  That's still going to be a huge fight, but at least he's beginning to mention it in public now.  It's a start.

And as long as I'm writing about yesterday's speech, what's the deal with the White House website?  The speech is blared across the entire front page of the site, but if you click on "Read the Remarks" you cannot, in fact, read the remarks.  You can read a blog post excerpting a few of the remarks, but the blog post doesn't link to the full remarks.  If you click on "Speeches" instead, the most recent entry is from February.  Maybe the full speech is somewhere on the site, but I couldn't find it.

What gives?  Bush's website wasn't as pretty, but at least it was usually pretty complete and easy to navigate.  I never had trouble finding his speeches.

Stress Test Follies

Apparently the results of the stress tests being done on big banks will be revealed publicly after all.  Sort of:

The administration has decided to reveal some sensitive details of the stress tests now being completed after concluding that keeping many of the findings secret could send investors fleeing from financial institutions rumored to be weakest.

While all of the banks are expected to pass the tests, some are expected to be graded more highly than others. Officials have deliberately left murky just how much they intend to reveal — or to encourage the banks to reveal — about how well they would weather difficult economic conditions over the next two years.

....The administration feared that details on healthier banks would inevitably leak out, leaving weaker banks exposed to speculation and damaging market rumors, possibly making any further bailouts more costly.

....“The purpose of this program is to prevent panics, not cause them,” said one senior official involved in the stress tests who declined to speak on the record because the extent of the disclosures were still being debated. “And it’s becoming clearer that we and the banks are going to have to explain clearly where each bank falls in the spectrum.”

I'm not quite sure if this qualifies as good news or bad news.  Transparency is generally good, especially where billions of taxpayer dollars are concerned, but at the same time, there's no way Treasury would be doing this unless they've already decided that everyone is going to pass the tests pretty handily.  That's not so good.  Judging from the tone of this piece, it appears that there are going to be two grades handed out: "Great!" and "Maybe just a wee bit shy of great but still pretty damn good!"  If that's what we end up with, this is transparency we can probably do without.

Where Your Money Goes

To commemorate Tax Day, the fine chartmakers at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities have created this look at where your tax dollars go.  It's nothing new for regular readers of this blog, but for lovers of wonky eye candy it's a nice way of showing that about 70% of the budget goes to a mere four things: defense, interest on the debt, Social Security, and Medicare/Medicaid.  This means that if you're serious about cutting the budget, you need to tell us what you're going to cut in those areas.  Hacking away at the remaining 30% just won't get you very far.

One nice touch is labeling all the various welfare program funded by Washington as "Safety Net Programs."  That's good framing!  Regardless of what you call it, though, that and education, which are usually the main target of the budget cutting crowd, only amount to 13% of the budget.  Scrooge himself couldn't squeeze more than few percent out of that slice of the pie.  Bottom line: cutting the federal budget in any way that's more than just symbolic is really tough.  Maybe that's why Republicans only get serious about it when they're out of power.

 

Trivia of the Day

The average time between major pushes for healthcare reform is 19.5 years.  If we blow it this time, our next chance won't roll around until 2028.

Deflation is Here

The latest economic news:

For the first time since 1955, prices fell from the same month a year earlier, reflecting a stark drop in the cost of gasoline and automobiles. Overall, consumers paid 0.4 percent less for a range of goods and services last month than they did in March 2008.

The Labor Department reported that its consumer price index fell 0.1 percent in March from February as lower consumer demand for a range of goods and services kept a lid on rising prices.

The party line on this is that it's not too big a deal because the decline was mostly centered on energy-related products and services.  Maybe so.  But I wouldn't bet the ranch on it quite yet.