What’s worrisome about the bailout repayments is that banks might buy back their government-held warrants on the cheap. If the ten big banks that have been in the headlines this week after the Treasury announced they could pay their way out of TARP get discounts like multiple smaller banks before them, taxpayers will be on the losing end...again.

But there's good news: Two bailout watchdogs, the Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP) and the Congressional Oversight Panel, announced today in a letter to the Senate that they intend to zero in on the sale of warrants in order to protect taxpayers and shed some much needed light on these transactions.

 

The biggest applause that President Barack Obama received on Thursday, while speaking about health care reform at Southwest High School in Green Bay, came when he said that health care coverage should not be denied due to pre-existing conditions, that there ought to be a public health insurance option for all, and that taxes should be raised on the well-to-do to finance changes in the health care system. In other words, some of the most progressive elements of his speech drew the most enthusiastic response from the crowd.

Here are those excerpts:

From the annals of the dark side of Disney, we bring you news that citizens of Burbank, California, are suing the media giant for allegedly dumping toxic chemicals, including a known carcinogen, in their community since 1998.

According to the Burbank Leader, citizens hired Delaware-based watchdog group Environmental World Watch Inc. to test local waterways for chromium 6 (also known as hexavalent chromium), which increases risk of lung cancer in those who inhale it. The group reported “significant quantities” of the toxin downstream from Disney's facilities.

Unsurprisingly, Disney has been tight-lipped about the case so far, but a spokesperson did call the allegations "completely baseless."

This all comes on the heels of the company's big we're-going-green announcement earlier this year, when execs outlined plans to conserve energy and reduce emissions and waste. If it turns out the dumping accusations are legit, Disney'll have quite the PR problem to imagineer its way out of.

 

Hungry for some pirate news? Who isn't? The latest is that Somalia's ocean-going scourge is increasing its reach into new areas, threatening vessels even farther from shore. Their so-called "mother ships" essentially act as floating bases, enabling pirates to stay at sea longer. But on the bright side for mariners, monsoon season is almost here, so we can expect pirate attacks to subside, at least temporarily. From allAfrica.com:

Somali pirates are extending their activities further out from the Somali coast, beyond the Seychelles in the east and to the Red Sea in the north, warns an international naval task force.

The force has urged mariners to take advantage of the monsoon season about to  begin, which will hinder pirates' activities until September.

In a special advisory issued to shipping Wednesday, the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) of a number of Western powers noted that most attacks on ships in the past two years have taken place during daylight hours in the Gulf of Aden.

"However, recently pirates have attacked vessels at night and have conducted attacks far off the eastern coast of Somalia," the CMF said. Using "mother ships" as staging platforms, they are able to operate much further from the Somali coast than before.

The force also said a confirmed pirate attack in the southern Red Sea created "a new area of potential risk."

 

Drill Baby Drill

Matt Yglesias notes that public support for serious action on global warming has fallen recently:

The trouble is that what the public wants is basically a fantasy — a policy that will let us avoid paying the costs involved in coping with the climate crisis. I understand why people want a policy like that — I want one too. The problem is that it can’t happen.

Au contraire!  The Republican Party has just what the public is asking for:

Democrats in Congress [] seem determined to make our energy situation even worse....Instead, the American Energy Act will produce more energy, lower fuel bills, create more jobs, yield a cleaner environment, and lead to a more secure nation. Can there be any doubt what path is best for the country?

See?  Energy policy is easy when you're willing to avoid actual reality and instead simply engage in pipe dream pandering.  That's today's GOP at work.

In last night's Daily Show, a "reporter" toured the New York Times with executive editor Bill Keller in a segment called "End Times". The Daily Show predictably went for low-hanging fruit: the Grey Lady is incredibly old, is made of paper, and is starchier than a pot of potato stew. And did they mention it lost $74 million in the first quarter of 2009?

So yes, the Times is having a hard time lately. But though the Daily Show called it a "creaky old rag," Jon Stewart should be grateful for the paper's existence. The Daily Show—like Google News and Digg and Gawker—relies on newswires and newspapers' first-hand reporting. If the newspapers go down, it won't be just the newsstands that will be empty. Blogs and aggregators would also suffer the effects: definitely functionally, and likely fiscally.

Though you couldn't tell by the segment's tone, the Daily Show acknowledged this point in a Q&A with a Times reporter posted today on the newspaper's art blog. Jason Jones of the Daily Show said: "I think the point of the piece is, really, if I could be serious for one moment, that without institutions like yours, the news would not exist." Bill Keller put it more poignantly: "The last time I was in Baghdad I didn't see a Huffington Post bureau, or a Google bureau, or a Drudge Report bureau there, because there isn't one... because it's expensive, because it's dangerous. It's a lot easier to stay home and riff on the work somebody else does."

One point I think both Keller and the Daily Show skimmed is that just because you're a blogger, doesn't mean that you're not also a reporter. Here at Mother Jones, I believe nearly all of our bloggers also do reporting. And certainly, a blog post can BE a piece of original reporting. I don't know what the path forward for the Times looks like. But I do know that I, like the Daily Show, hope they can change their model however they need to to stay afloat. Even if, as Jones pointed out, their lifeboat is made of paper.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Brown Shoots

The World Bank is fantastically gloomy about the prospects for the global economy this year:

The World Bank publicly released an update on Thursday [for] 2009, saying it expected the global economy to contract by "close to 3%." That is sharply worse than the World Bank's March estimate of a 1.75% contraction. Mr. Zoellick said that while there are signs of an easing of the recession in wealthy countries, developing nations are suffering from a drop in exports, remittances and foreign investment.

....Mr. Zoellick described the global downturn as occurring in "waves." In the first wave, the financial crisis battered the U.S. and Europe. As markets in wealthy countries dried up, a second wave, hit developing nations. Now a third wave is weakening financial institutions in those countries, which could produce a fourth wave that could further undermine financial institutions in the U.S. and Europe.

Italics mine.  That's a huge change in just three months.  Zoellick didn't provide any details about why the Bank's forecast has plummeted so dramatically since March, but their economists must be seeing some pretty sizeable deteriorations to drive a change this large.

On the bright side, the IMF thinks that the recovery in 2010 will be stronger than they previously thought.  I sure hope so.

My Voltaire Moment

Yesterday, as I learned that The Donald handed Miss California Carrie Prejean a pink slip, allegedly because she failed to meet contractual obligations to make scheduled appearances, I had a Voltaire moment: "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it."

Since Prejeans's interview at the Miss USA Pageant, she has since become one of the most vilified characters in liberal America (even though San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom defended her), as she went so far as to become a spokeswoman/unofficial lobbyist for the National Organization for Marriage.

To be fair, during the infamous pageant she was questioned about same-sex marriage by Perez Hilton, who likely had an agenda to pursue, and whose website received tons of traffic from the incident. Hilton's question was clearly loaded, because as a judge he was aware that Prejean was a student at San Diego Christian College, a conservative, evangelical school in El Cajon, California. Also, I think Prejean's response was actually quite tactful. When questioned by Hilton, she responded, "Well, I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family, I do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman." (See the video below)

James von Brunn, the white supremacist arrested for the murder of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum, held numerous extremist views, as has been widely reported.

He maintained that 9/11 was the product of a Jewish conspiracy. In one posting, he claimed that only one Jewish person was killed at the World Trade Center--even though the "WTC was the nexus for international Jew trade, located in the largest Jew city in the world." He added, "It is revealing that 3 Jews laughing with glee, pointing at the exploding WTC, were caught by a neighbor on video-tape."

Like many anti-Semitics, von Brunn believed Jews controlled the world financial system, and he used the traditional data points and rhetoric of such hate-mongers: "From this cess-pool of Jews and traitors came the FTAA which in 1994, with Congressional blessings, changed its name to WTO (World Trade Organization)."

But von Brunn also tracked updates on the global financial Jewish conspiracy. In 2003, von Brunn posted on Stormfront.org, a site of "white pride," information about Google that he had found at the website of Holocaust denier David Irving. The basic charge: Google was founded, funded and controlled by Jews. And you know what that means.

I don't have any special comment about the upcoming Iranian election pitting hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against moderate reformer Mir Hossein Mousavi, but I thought Marc Lynch's musing was worth passing along.  Here it is:

The Iranian election has already captivated the Arab public sphere — it has been all over the headlines and the TV stations. I imagine that many of the Arabs who see democracy as an important and positive issue find this Iranian election inspiring (as they did Khatemi's 1997 campaign). The Arab public may regard a Mousavi victory as the same kind of opportunity to rethink relations with Iran as Obama's victory offered for relations with the United States. Arab leaders may find it harder to mobilize opposition to Iran with the seemingly reasonable Mousavi in office than with the cheerfully inflammatory Ahmedenejad.

....Of course, if Ahmedenejad wins, the reverse effect may take hold. When George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in 2004, a very wide swathe of Arab public opinion concluded that this meant that the American people really did bear responsibility for Bush's unpopular policies. If the U.S. is really a democracy, they asked, then didn't Bush's victory mean that his war on terror and invasion of Iraq really did represent the American popular will? If Ahmedenejad wins, the same dynamic may hit Iran in the Arab world: the Iranian people had the chance to correct their policies, and chose to continue as they were. That might lead to a hardening and deepening of anti-Iranian sentiment, at least among elites and leaders.