Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Does Any of THIS Seem Familiar?

.. Becoming a Banana Republic

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling,

... But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.(May 2009 issue)
Sounds a lot like the rise of the modern fascist State, to me.

But what do I know...

How about this?
.. Despite the limitless gorging on public funds by the very oligarchs (government owners) who caused the financial crisis in the first place, the predominant sentiment from our establishment media now is that Obama needs to force ordinary Americans to "sacrifice more." Back in 2006, Jonathan Schwarz wrote this very prescient post predicting that the U.S. would soon adopt the type of so-called "structural adjustments" which, through the IMF, we repeatedly forced upon other heavily indebted, defaulting nations: whereby we would demand that they pursue solutions that further enriched their economic elites while massively cutting the social spending that provided the barest of safety nets to their ordinary citizens. (26 March 2009)
The modern, THIRD-WORLD fascist, state, that is...

... People are pissed off about this financial crisis, and about this bailout, but they're not pissed off enough. The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d'état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.

... The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers.

... As complex as all the finances are, the politics aren't hard to follow. By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below. (March 17, 2009)
This strikes one as not being that much of an accident or act of god, and more a whole lot of wealthy speculation, innit?

What was it Judge Brandeis said about people and wealth?
We can have a democratic society or we can have great concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. We cannot have both.” -Louis Brandeis, U. S. Supreme Court Justice, 1916-1939
The wealthy are opting out. Molotov cocktails are pretty easy to manufacture...

(DOTOF™: Energy Bulletin)

The Birth Of A Socialist

From Faux Noise:
Three alcohol-fueled fights erupted at a Michigan auto dealership last week on the day employees were told the business was closing, another sign of a community on edge as it tries to deal with the flailing economy.

The first brawl took place outside Wayland Chevrolet at about 1 p.m. on Friday after several employees visited a bar. Police were alerted to the dispute, but it was broken up before they got there, Wayland Police Chief Dan Miller told FOXNews.com.

"Had they been sober, this probably wouldn’t have happened," Miller said.

Local news station WWMT-TV captured the second altercation at about 2 p.m. The video shows a scuffle, with employee Jason Stanton knocking another worker to the ground outside the dealership.

Later, Stanton explained what set him off.

"Does it matter how hard you work, because there is somebody a little bit above you that has the right to control every decision and every effort you put forward, don't you have a right to be a little bit mad when somebody says hey we're all done?" Stanton asked WWMT-TV. "It's terrible, horrible."

The third fight followed an incident between two salesmen at a pizza restaurant next door.

Wayland Chevrolet blames the shutdown on the downturn in the auto industry and the scheduled closing of General Motors Corp.'s metal stamping factory this year in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming.

"I think people are just on edge," Miller said. It’s unfortunate, but it just adds insult to injury when they go out and get intoxicated."

Miller said disorderly conduct and assault charges are possible while they try to identify the employees involved.

The dealership employed about 30 people.
This is only the beginning. Just wait til "ThePrez" gets finished killing off the UAW: Another 5 MILLION unemployed (and probably unemployable) workers, with access to alcohol and guns.

What, you thought that WASN'T the plan?

Puh-Leeeez! Use your fuuking brain.

Blaming unions for the conditions of the fate of the Big Three is like blaming the passengers on 9/11 for crashing their planes into the WTC. It took Nixon, the Arch-Puke, to go to China. It's gonna take a black Dim to kill off the Unions (and Social Security, too, but that's a little later.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

No Nation, No State, No People May Regard Themselves As Civilized,

Or be regarded as civilized by the rest of the "civilized world," which promulgates the profit motive in the treatment of its sick, injured, or imprisoned.
That means, unfortunately, US.

Not that THAT should come as any sort of surprise to anyone who was more observant than a sponge.

ANOTHER Heroic Waste Of Time: ACLU vs. PATRIOT ACT

Silly, fuzzy, hopeful, naive widdle Wabbits!

The ACLU, noting the USAPA is due for reconsideration/ renewal in December this year, is calling on Congress and "thePrez" to use the opportunity presented by the "re-authorization debate" (as fucking IF) to repair some of the most egregiously intrusive, anti-democratic facets of the hastily passed (but carefully written) attack on America's civil liberties that sprang into being within mere weeks of the 9/11 'terror' attacks and though largely unread by those who were charged to vote for or against it, passed almost unanimously through BOTH Houses of Congress.

The ACLU report identifies sections of the Patriot Act that need to be amended. These are:
  1. National Security Letters (NSLs): The FBI uses NSLs to compel internet service providers, libraries, banks, and credit reporting companies to turn over sensitive information about their customers and patrons. Using this data, the government can compile vast dossiers about innocent people. Government reports confirm that upwards of 50,000 of these secret record demands go out each year. In response to an ACLU lawsuit, Doe v. Holder, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal struck down as unconstitutional the part of the NSL law that gives the FBI the power to prohibit NSL recipients from telling anyone that the government has secretly requested customer Internet records. The FBI has admitted numerous incidences of NSLs being improperly used.
  2. The “Material Support” statute: This provision criminalizes providing "material support" to terrorists, defined as providing any tangible or intangible good, service or advice to a terrorist or designated group. As amended by the Patriot Act and other laws since September 11, this section criminalizes a wide array of activities, regardless of whether they actually or intentionally further terrorist goals or organizations. Federal courts have struck portions of the statute as unconstitutional and a number of cases have been dismissed or ended in mistrial. The law gives the government the power to shut down charitable organizations suspected of financing terrorist activities with virtually no notice and no due process.
  3. The 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: This past summer, Congress passed a law to permit the government to conduct warrantless and suspicion-less dragnet collection of U.S. residents' international telephone calls and e-mails. The ACLU and many other similar groups are seeking amendments to provide “meaningful privacy protections and judicial oversight of the government's intrusive surveillance power.”
The ACLU report charges that “More than seven years after its implementation, there is little evidence to demonstrate that the Patriot Act has made America more secure from terrorists. But there are many unfortunate examples that the government abused these authorities in ways that both violated the rights of innocent people and squandered precious security resources.”

It declares, “The framers of the Constitution recognized that giving the government unchecked authority to pry into our private lives risked more than just individual property rights. These patriots understood from their own experience that political rights could not be secured without procedural protections. The Fourth Amendment mandates prior judicial review and permits warrants to be issued only upon probable cause.”

“Stifling dissent does not enhance security,” the report concludes. It contends that the Patriot Act “vastly – and unconstitutionally – expanded the government’s authority to pry into people’s private lives with little or no evidence of wrongdoing.”

Little is known about the government’s use of many of its authorities under the Patriot Act, but raw numbers available through government reports reflect a rapidly increasing level of surveillance. The statistics show skyrocketing numbers of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders, National Security Letter (NSL) requests and Suspicious Activity Reports while terrorism prosecution numbers are down. The government has increased the numbers of terrorism investigations it has declined to prosecute.
"ThePrez has been ambiguous (or is it ambivalent) about his positions vis a vis the Bushevik-era endeavor to suppress dissent, monitor innocent citizens'/civilians' communications, trample on Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights, and promote unlimited Governmental surveillance. During the Campaign, he said he'd work to repeal it. Of course, nobody with more brain thqan a legume thinks or ever thought that that was ever gonna happen. He has neither the stones nor the mandate for such a sweeping rebuke to the Fascist/CorpoRat State interests of whom he, after all, is the supreme representative. Now, and presumably with the approval/connivance of the Obamanauts, FBI Chief (and Bushevik hold-over) Robert Mueller has already approached the Senate Intelligence Committee arguing for the complete, total re-authorization.

Remember, please: No President, not one of the 43 since George Washington, has EVER voluntarily ceded back to Congress and the people ANY powers they arrogated to the Executive for the purposes of handling exigent 'emergencies.' St. Barry, "thePrez," is NOT going to be the one who does...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Whither, Messr.s Heinrich And Teague?

Via DownWithTyranny--
Yesterday Blue America hosted a live blogging session with Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards. In the course of answering a question, she brought this up:
On health care-- I’m an original cosponsor of H.R.676 (Rep. Conyers)-- I think we must have a marker for a public plan option however this debate shakes out in the end-- otherwise we never will address cost and we’ll never get to single-payer. Now as you can only guess, the insurers, and for-profit hospitals and all the industry are marching the halls of Congress to keep the basic system that’s in place. So, in these coming weeks after we settle the budget next week, we need an all out push for H.R. 676 so that a progressive voice will be in the mix when the final bill is crafted. We need more co-sponsors on H.R. 676-- so get to work!

Here's an alphabetical list of the most current (the 111th Congress) co-sponsors (principal sponsor is again John Conyers):

And the list follows (scroll down). On it is the name of Ben Ray Lujan, one of three, newly elected, New Mexico Democrats serving in the House. Conspicuously (imho) absent are the other two: BOTH Martin Heinrich and Harry Teague.

I am sure both Mr. Heinrich and Mr. Teague have principled reservations about signing onto a bill--i mean, it's only a resolution, really--which urges the United States to institute a health system under which:
• Every resident of the US will be covered from birth to death.

• No more pre-existing conditions to be excluded from coverage.

• No more expensive deductibles or co-pays.

• All prescription medications will be covered.

• All dental and eye care will be included.

• Mental health and substance abuse care will be fully covered.(1
• Long term and nursing home services will be included.

• You will always choose your own doctors and hospitals.

• Costs of coverage will be assessed on a sliding scale basis.

• Tremendously simplified system of medical administration.
• Total portability-- your coverage not tied to any job or location.

• Existing Medicare benefits for those over 65 will be vastly improved.

• No corporate bureaucrat will ever come between you and your Doctor to deny your care.
If you'd like to read the actual legislation, the whole bill (PDF) is online. The idea is simple-- Medicare coverage for every American.
So, Rep.s Heinrich and Teague--Marty! Harry! If I may call you that--c'mon, fellas, what's not to like? I hope it's just that you've been a little dlatory in signing on, right? You've been busy. Lots of pressing decisions. I'm sure Ben can help you out...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

International Magistrates Target Bushevik Barristers For War Crimes

Scott Horton, the ubiquitous one, posted the following on his Harper's/No Comment blog:
Bush Torture Lawyers Targeted in Criminal Probe

One of America’s NATO allies—which supported the Bush Administration’s war on terror by committing its troops to the struggle–has now opened formal criminal inquiries looking into the Bush team’s legacy of torture. The action parallels a criminal probe into allegations of torture involving the American CIA that was opened this week in the United Kingdom.

Spain’s national newspapers, El País and [Público}(Público) reported that the Spanish national security court has opened a criminal probe focusing on Bush Administration lawyers who pioneered the descent into torture at the prison in Guantánamo. A source who preferred to remain anonymous advised that University of California law professor John Yoo, former Department of Defense general counsel William J. Haynes II (now a lawyer working for Chevron), former vice presidential chief-of-staff David Addington, and former attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales are all targets.

The case was opened in the Spanish national security court, the Audencia Nacional. In July 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a former Spanish citizen who had been held in Guantánamo, labeling the regime established in Guantánamo a “legal black hole.” The court forbade Spanish cooperation with U.S. authorities in connection with the Guantánamo facility. The current criminal case evolved out of an investigation into allegations, sustained by Spain’s Supreme Court, that the Spanish citizen had been tortured in Guantánamo.

The Spanish criminal court now may seek the arrest of any of the targets if they travel to Spain or any of the 24 nations that participate in the European extraditions convention (it would have to follow a more formal extradition process in other countries beyond the 24). The Bush lawyers will therefore run a serious risk of being apprehended if they travel outside of the United States.

Judge Baltasar Garzón is involved in the investigation, according to the El País report. Garzón is Europe’s best known counterterrorism magistrate, responsible for hundreds of cases targeting the activities of ETA and related Basque terrorist organizations. He also spearheaded the successful investigation of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organizations operating in the Maghreb region, including Spanish enclaves in Morocco. But Garzón is best known for his prosecution of a criminal investigation against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet that resulted in the issuance of an arrest warrant for Pinochet while he was visiting England.
.Call me petty, but I for one am delighted at the thought that the members of the Bushevik regime will have to keep looking over their shoulders for the first sign of apprehension (as it were) when they travel abroad. The gutless Obamistas won't do anything, so I'm glad the international justice league is on the case...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lest Anyone Think Bill Greider's Lost His Edge ...

Here's Greider's latest piece from The Nation, in which he caustically derides "thePrez"s" real money version of the Monopoly Game:
President Obama has invented a new board game for Wall Street money guys to play that promises to be a lot of fun. It's very much like the regular Monopoly game that kids play--only better--because this one uses real money, provided courtesy of the taxpayers. The best thing about Obama's game is nobody loses. Usually, the winner in Monopoly is the one who winds up with the most money. In the Obama version, the losers get any losses back from the government at the end of the game. The president has promised.

The guy is a genius. He located these two whiz kids--Tim and Larry--who are smarter than God about financial matters. President Obama commanded the advisors to solve the financial mess, raise the zombie banks from the dead and start the good times rolling again. This game is what they came up with. It's a very complicated game and not everyone can understand it. But the Wall Street titans smell hope. For this Monopoly set has no "Go to Jail" card in the deck.

It starts just like the real Monopoly game. The president hands out tall stacks of cash to all the players--hedge funds, insurance companies, big-time investors, any well-heeled capitalist with a serious taste for acquiring greater wealth. The players then roll the dice and move their little titan icons around the Monopoly board. They can buy up properties wherever they land, sort of like landing on Boardwalk and Park Place. Only in this case the properties are the nearly worthless financial assets held by the country's leading banks, like the mortgage-backed securities now known as "toxic assets."

The banks are glad to be rid of their rotten stuff and will begin to feel better about lending again to commoners. The titans accumulate a stack of property cards and sell them off to other players at extraordinary profits. At least this is what Tim Geithner and Larry Summers told the president to expect and he believed them. Before you know it, everyone will start feeling better about themselves. The once worthless financial paper that no one would buy will begin glowing with rising value. Now wealthier titans and much relieved bankers will buy more cars and houses, hire more gardeners. More jobs, more hope, everything starts rolling toward national recovery. Everyone is a winner, even the losers.

Only adults are allowed to play this game. It is much too complicated for ordinary citizens so sophisticated financiers are needed to do such tricky deals. But Americans at large can have fun watching the action and rooting for various participants. The contest will be a welcome distraction from other anxieties. Who is going to accumulate the tallest stack? It's like Monopoly Olympics for the grand masters of the universe. Will Warren Buffett take a seat at the table? Bill Gross, the PIMCO bond king, is salivating at the prospect of double-digit returns and says Obama's game is "win-win-win." Can billionaire George Soros resist such an opportunity? Will legendary traders at Goldman Sachs square off against James A. Baker III's Carlyle Group with its oil-rich Arab backers? What a kick that these famous people will be playing with our money.

But, remember, this is not about a few shrewd players accumulating more wealth. It's about saving the country. Everybody will want to do their part. Obama has shown them the way.

Probably there are some naysayers in the public who won't get it. They will whine about the odd ways in which winners always seem to get another chance in US capitalism to win again. Some people will look around them and complain that things do not seem to be improving in their neighborhood. They will attack our president personally, try to undermine his authority.

President Obama can charm them out of their anger. He might say, "Hey, guys, lighten up. It's only a game."
You can see, he hasn't lost his touch for the gentle art of snark, with a touch of snarl...

Tom Ferguson On TRNN, Part II: "thePrez" and "The Street"

TRNN's Paul Jay speaks to Thomas Ferguson, professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston on the Obama - Geithner plan. Speaking to what he would have done instead, Ferguson says, "I would have done it as Roosevelt did with the New Deal. You gotta make the banks write down the bad assets, and you gotta get the bad assets out of the banks, throw them into something owned by the people of the United States, and then try to sell them back." He says, "the simplest way of doing it is taking them over."
FYEIEIO, Part 1, here:

Real Change, From America's Highest Placed Socialist

Via Lambert's comment at Avedon's place, through hipparchia at Corrente (lambert's place), from Physicians For National Health Plan (PNHP):
Challenging head-on the powerful private insurance and pharmaceutical industries, Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a single-payer health reform bill, the American Health Security Act of 2009, in the U.S. Senate Wednesday. The bill is the first to directly take on the powerful lobbies blocking universal health reform in the Senate since Sen. Paul Wellstone’s tragic death ("assassination." Emphasis supplied. Ed.).
Highlights of the bill include the following:

* Patients go to any doctor or hospital of their choice.

* The program is paid for by combining current sources of government health spending into a single fund with modest new taxes amounting to less than what people now pay for insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

* Comprehensive benefits, including coverage for dental, mental health, and prescription drugs.

* While federally funded, the program is to be administered by the states.

* By eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry, along with the burdensome paperwork imposed on physicians, hospitals and other providers, the plan saves at least $400 billion annually - enough money to provide comprehensive, quality care to all.

* Community health centers are fully funded, giving the 60 million Americans now living in rural and underserved areas access to care.

* To address the critical shortage of primary care physicians and dentists, the bill provides resources for the National Health Service Corps to train an additional 24,000 health professionals.
A single-payer bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), H.R. 676, obtained 93 co-sponsors in the House during the last session. It has been reintroduced in the new Congress as the U.S. National Health Care Act with the same bill number.

A copy of the bill is available here. (PDF)

Quentin Young, M.D., (312) 782-6006
Mark Almberg, (312) 782-6006, cell: (312) 622-0996, mark@pnhp.org

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stiglitz: They're Robbing US Blind

From the invaluable but not quite ubiquitous Ken Silverstein, Harper's DC Bureau chief and blogger at Washington Babylon, today:
Stiglitz: “This amounts to robbery of the American people”

From Reuters:
The U.S. government plan to rid banks of toxic assets will rob American taxpayers by exposing them to too much risk and is unlikely to work as long as the economy remains weak, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said on Tuesday…

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s plan to wipe up to US$1 trillion in bad debt off banks’ balance sheets, unveiled on Monday, offered “perverse incentives”, Stiglitz said.

The U.S. government is basically using the taxpayer to guarantee against downside risk on the value of these assets, while giving the upside, or potential profits, to private investors, he said. “Quite frankly, this amounts to robbery of the American people. I don’t think it’s going to work because I think there’ll be a lot of anger about putting the losses so much on the shoulder of the American taxpayer.”
Now, here's the crucial question: Is Stiglitz fat? Because if he is, then we can disregard anything he says, just like Michael Moore...

"The Prez" should save banks, not banksters...

From "The REAL NEWS Network," which asks for your support to continue to make these fascinating vids available, "Early mistakes are compounding...The stimulus was underwhelming" ... We Are SO Fucked:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Leverage? You want Leverage? I got yer fucking LEVERAGE, RIGHT FUCKING HERE!

Via L'Orangerie: (
Reuters) – FedEx Corp is threatening to cancel the purchase of billions of dollars worth of new Boeing Co cargo planes if Congress passes a law that would make it easier for unions to organize at the package-delivery company, the Wall Street Journal said.
EFCA really scares the living shit right the fuck outta CorpoRat Murka, and they're pulling out all the stops to block or even better, to kill it.

They "got to" America's Most Spineless Senator, Arlen Specter (not really all that hard, on the evidence) yesterday, and he announced that he'd changed his mind and could/would no longer support the measure. Similarly gutless, feckless, useless shit-heel Congresscritters from Washington state, southern California, and the St. Louis area can be counted upon to fold quietly now and speedily abandon all pretense that they support workers' rights.

Reminder: There are OTHER package services to which you might consign your freight, with the loud admonition as to the reason you are doing so...

Oh, and yeah:

FUCK "Brown"!

Duly Noted: Outrage Finds Outlets

Vandals Hit Home of Ex-Chief of Bank
Published: March 25, 2009

LONDON — The house of Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of ailing Royal Bank of Scotland, was vandalized early Wednesday and windows of his car were smashed.

Mr. Goodwin attracted criticism for keeping his £703,000, or $1 million, pension despite a string of ill-timed acquisitions under his reign that brought the bank under government control and calls from Prime Minister Gordon Brown to surrender the payment.

At least three windows on the ground floor level of his house in an affluent suburb of Edinburgh, Scotland, were smashed and a black Mercedes S600 parked in the driveway was vandalized. It is unclear whether Mr. Goodwin was in the house at the time.

“We can confirm we attended at an address in Oswald Road at 4.35 a.m. on March 25 and inquiries are ongoing,” a spokeswoman for the Lothian and Borders Police said in a statement. No one has been arrested or charged and the policeare seeking for anyone with information about the incident to step forward, she said.

Royal Bank of Scotland paid £290 a month for security arrangements at Mr. Goodwin’s house, the bank said earlier, adding that such arrangements are normal practice for any departing chief executive. Linda Harper, a spokeswoman for the bank, declined to comment on the incident and said it is a matter for the police.

Mr. Goodwin left Royal Bank of Scotland after the government pumped in £20 billion following the acquisition of Dutch lender ABN Amro at the peak of the market. Once hailed as a skilled deal maker who turned a small bank into a global financial services operation, Mr. Goodwin became the target of public scorn and a symbol of the decline of Britain’s banks because of the bank’s losses.

Death threats and outrage aimed at recipients of $165 million in bonuses at the insurance giant American International Insurance was cited as one reason officials eventually decided not to release the names of the employees who received the money.
Anybody know where Alan Greenspan or Phil Gramm lives?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Five Easy Questions

Suggested by Chris Bowers, a troublemaker over at OpenLeft, these are five soft-ball questions that Obama won't answer tonight at the big presser, because they won't be asked.
President Obama, Why Is Wall Street Evil?
(by: Chris Bowers, Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 13:58)
President Obama is holding his second prime-time press conference tonight. The regularity with which he has personally appeared to talk to the press and the public is a welcome change over the bubblicious behavior of his predecessor. The questions will, no doubt, focus on the bailout, the bonuses, and the budget.

What I would like to see tonight are some leading, almost Gannon-esque questions that egg on President Obama to say some mean things about Wall Street. Partially, this is because I just want to hear the President say some mean things about Wall Street. Mainly it is because I would like to see some sort of wedge driven between the administration and Wall Street. Here are some suggestions:
  1. Many people have said that what is good for Wall Street is also good for Main Street. However, since 1970, only the wealthiest 1% of American households have seen an increase in real income. That sounds very good for Wall Street, but very bad for Main Street. Isn't it entirely possible that there are things that are good for Wall Street, but very bad for Main Street?

  2. Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Geithner said that the financial crisis was caused by Wall Street taking excessive risks. You have said that a culture of greed played a role. However, over the past six months, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars have been pumped into Wall Street, but no new financial regulations against excessive risk or excessive compensation have come with that money. Without new regulatory guarantees against excessive risk taking and lavish compensation, why should Main Street trust Wall Street to do anything but continue taking excessive risks and compensation, thus losing all of Main Street's money once again?

  3. There are reports that some financial firms, like Goldman Sachs, are scrambling to give back government money in order to avoid having to pay the bonus tax that Congress will pass next month. Do you think it is a good idea to work with people who are so selfish and greedy that they consider their bonuses to be more important than helping to save the economy?

  4. If banks made bad decisions to get themselves into this mess, and if the federal government is willing to help banks get rid of bad assets that they acquired through bad decisions, then why isn't it helping people pay off their credit cards? After all, aren't individuals more trustworthy than Wall Street, anyway?

  5. FDR said that "government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob." Do you think that it is accurate to say that we got into this situation partially because we had government by organized money? Also, can you comment on reports in today's Wall Street Journal that your housing plan was hashed out with Wall Street executives over pizza? Specifically, I am wondering if they paid for the pizza.

Anyway, those are the type of questions I would like to see. Throw President Obama a softball to whack Wall Street, and see if he swings.
Pigs will fly out Obama's big, floppy ears, dropping sugar-cured bacon out their asses before you'll hear even ONE of those (impudent, impertinent) queries voiced on the national state tonight.

What's A Bigot To DO???

(Left: The FRC Headquarters: Bates Hotel, Louisiana)
The Obama Admin last week incurred the wrath of the Family Research Council, and its fey leader, Tony Perkins, who went all apoplectic that the Obama administration has decided to endorse a UN Declaration on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Americans United has the story:
The non-binding declaration, sponsored by France and signed by Canada, Australia and all the members of the European Union, reaffirms “the principle of non-discrimination which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” It deplores “violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatisation and prejudice…directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The resolution condemns “human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur, in particular the use of the death penalty on this ground, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health.”

Radical stuff, huh?

Yet FRC President Tony Perkins groused that Obama will “reverse Bush’s policy and endorse a nonbinding U.N. declaration to ‘protect’ homosexuals. The document was first presented at the General Assembly last December, when the U.S. joining several African and Arab nations refused to sign. Press reports emphasize that the declaration calls for the ‘decriminalization’ of homosexuality, a policy already forced on the U.S. by a 2003 Supreme Court decision.”

In an email alert headlined “Queer Eye for the State Guy?,” Perkins complained, “It condemns not only ‘violence’ and ‘harassment,’ but also ‘stigmatization and prejudice,’ terms which some would apply to any disapproval of homosexual conduct, no matter how peaceful and loving.”

What’s a bigot to do? Why not give a nod to a competing UN resolution sponsored by, of all countries, Syria?

“Only 66 of the U.N.’s 192 member countries signed the [French] statement,” Perkins observed, “while nearly as many (58) endorsed a counter-statement pointing out that rights based on ‘sexual orientation’ are not found in established international law. On the contrary, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defends the family as ‘the natural and fundamental group unit of society.’ That – and not political correctness – is a principle worth defending.”

Let’s see. Who might be among the 58 countries “defending” the family and pushing for the “right” to execute, jail or otherwise penalize gay people?

Try those venerable members of George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” Iran and North Korea. And don’t forget paragons of democratic virtue such as Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Libya, Algeria, Zimbabwe and the various ‘stans – Pakistan, Tajikstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Sudan took time out from waging genocide in Darfur to sign on too! And our erstwhile allies Iraq and Afghanistan were on the list as well.

Many of these countries scoff at individual freedoms, of course. Their definition of “family” includes polygamy in some cases and many keep women in brutal servitude. Religious minorities – including Christians, Tony – are persecuted relentlessly.

But what the heck, at least they’re keeping the gays in their place – pariahs, prison or the grave. Right, Tony?

You know, Tony, it’s really hard to feel the love when you keep dishing out the hate.

The Family Research Council is among the Religious Right groups scheduled to meet with the Obama administration’s “faith-based” office tomorrow to discuss a variety of issues. One wonders: Will the UN resolution be on the agenda?

P.S. Hat tip to Religion Clause for several of the links in this post. Religion Clause is must-reading for me every day.

(By Joseph L. Conn)
I wouldn't sign a non-binding resolution protecting Tony Perkins or any of his flock from being eaten by lions or slain by Carthaginians. In fact, I'd pay good money to watch...

And innit fascinating that Obama's head of the office of faith-based initiatives, up to whom all these greedy, money-grubbing Mammon-loving hypocrites are going to have to suck, is an out, gay man? I have had moments when i doubted Obama's wisdom in his selection of appointments, but that one I flat-out LOVE! I'd love to be a fly-on-the-wall when that meeting goes down...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Amazing! Bernie Sanders Has Grown A Set

Ken Silverstein, at Harpers' Washington Babylon blog, gives us this:
Senator Sanders Blocking Key Obama Nomination

I reported back in February on the case of Gary Gensler, the former Goldman Sachs employee and derivatives cheerleader who President Obama nominated to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Gensler’s nomination sailed through the Senate Agricultural Committee but Senator Bernie Sanders has placed a hold on the nomination (as has a second senator who is as yet unnamed). A statement from Sanders’s office said:
While Mr. Gensler is clearly an intelligent and knowledgeable person, I cannot support his nomination. Mr. Gensler worked with Sen. Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan to exempt credit default swaps from regulation, which led to the collapse of A.I.G. and has resulted in the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history. He supported Gramm-Leach-Bliley, which allowed banks like Citigroup to become “too big to fail.” He worked to deregulate electronic energy trading, which led to the downfall of Enron and the spike in energy prices. At this moment in our history, we need an independent leader who will help create a new culture in the financial marketplace and move us away from the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior which has caused so much harm to our economy.
Good Onya, Bernie. Let me repeat the money quote:
Mr. Gensler worked with Sen. Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan to exempt credit default swaps from regulation, which led to the collapse of A.I.G. and has resulted in the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history. He supported Gramm-Leach-Bliley, which allowed banks like Citigroup to become “too big to fail.” He worked to deregulate electronic energy trading, which led to the downfall of Enron and the spike in energy prices.
Iow, Gensler's not just another fox for the hen-house patrol, he's one of the foxes that organized the last raid...

Speaking of Moral Vacuums, Does Any Of This Ring A Bell?

Chris Hedges, on TruthDig, writes:
In decaying societies, politics become theater. The elite, who have hollowed out the democratic system to serve the corporate state, rule through image and presentation. They express indignation at AIG bonuses and empathy with a working class they have spent the last few decades disenfranchising, and make promises to desperate families that they know will never be fulfilled. Once the spotlights go on they read their lines with appropriate emotion. Once the lights go off, they make sure Goldman Sachs and a host of other large corporations have the hundreds of billions of dollars in losses they incurred playing casino capitalism repaid with taxpayer money.
Hedges goes on to report on a conversation he had with Henry Giroux (a former pal of mine in the Ed. Biz):“The emergence of what Eisenhower had called the military-industrial-academic complex had secured a grip on higher education that may have exceeded even what he had anticipated and most feared,” Giroux, who wrote “The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex,” told Hedges.
“Universities, in general, especially following the events of 9/11, were under assault by Christian nationalists, reactionary neoconservatives and market fundamentalists for allegedly representing the weak link in the war on terrorism. (Remember Ward Churchill. Ed.) Right-wing students were encouraged to spy on the classes of progressive professors, the corporate grip on the university was tightening as made clear not only in the emergence of business models of governance, but also in the money being pumped into research and programs that blatantly favored corporate interests.

And at Penn State, where I was located at the time, the university had joined itself at the hip with corporate and military power. Put differently, corporate and Pentagon money was now funding research projects and increasingly knowledge was being militarized in the service of developing weapons of destruction, surveillance and death. Couple this assault with the fact that faculty were becoming irrelevant as an oppositional force. Many disappeared into discourses that threatened no one, some simply were too scared to raise critical issues in their classrooms for fear of being fired, and many simply no longer had the conviction to uphold the university as a democratic public sphere.”
These pressures have not --and will not-- dissipated: After a speech/address to students and faculty at the University of Oklahoma (where I once taught), by atheist/evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, the fucktard/flying monkey contingent of the Oklahoma Lege (about 75% of the total) threatened the University's funding.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dershowitz Rides Academic Freedom Train To Yoo's Defense

I am NOT at all surprised by this news, recovered by Scott Horton from the San Jose Mercury News on Saturday, about the possibility that John Yoo may be disciplined or fired by the University of California at Berkeley:
UC Berkeley leaders are wrestling with that decision as a federal investigation into John Yoo’s legal advice to the Bush Administration apparently winds down.
The dilemma is rare. At risk are the tenets of academic freedom that have long allowed college faculty members to speak their minds in the name of scholarship. Yoo’s case revolves around his advice on dealing with accused terrorists, including a notorious memo that provides legal justification for torture. Yoo, who is temporarily teaching at Orange County’s Chapman University, has long attracted protests on his home campus, but some surprising allies have come to his defense.

“I think this is simply a left-wing version of McCarthyism,” said Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor who disagrees strongly with Yoo’s views on torture. “He should be judged solely on the merits of his academics.”

But Berkeley administrators and faculty leaders said they would be concerned about Yoo teaching law students if he were found to have violated ethical or legal standards. Critics have called Yoo a yes-man for President George W. Bush, essentially telling him what he wanted to hear.
The author of the story was taken for a ride by Alan Dershowitz. He writes, no doubt drawing on a statement from Dershowitz, that the Harvard professor “disagrees strongly with Yoo’s views on torture.” But those who have closely followed the torture debate generally place Alan Dershowitz as the single figure closest to John Yoo in the legal academy–hardly one of his critics.

Like most defenders of torture techniques, Dershowitz usually begins the discussion by saying that he is “personally opposed” to torture. He then quickly turns to defining torture down and providing legal justifications for it. Here for instance is an interview Dershowitz gave to Salon.com in which he explains his torture preferences:
Q: Any reason why you use needles under the fingernails as your torture method of choice?

A: A reviewer criticized me for that. I purposely wanted to do that. I don’t want to be vague. I wanted to come up with a tactic that can’t possibly cause permanent physical harm but is excruciatingly painful. I agree with the reviewer; he’s right when he said, “different strokes for different folks.” For different people, different kinds of nonlethal torture might be more effective. Obviously, to the experts, having seen the movie “Marathon Man,” drilling the tooth might be better than some. But the point I wanted to make is that torture is not being used as a way of producing death. It’s been used as a way of simply causing excruciating pain.

Q: Aren’t there other forms of torture that would be less painful than that, that you might have considered?

A: But I want more painful. I want maximal pain, minimum lethality. You don’t want it to be permanent, you don’t want someone to be walking with a limp, but you want to cause the most excruciating, intense, immediate pain. Now, I didn’t want to write about testicles, but that’s what a lot of people use. I also wanted to be explicit because I didn’t want to be squeamish about it. People have asked me whether I would do the torturing and my answer is, yes, I would if I thought it could save a city from being blown up.
But aside from this, Dershowitz’s comment that criticism of Yoo is a form of “leftwing McCarthyism” is absurd. Yoo is not being taken to task for his views or even his academic writings. In fact, it’s clear that Yoo was helped on his path to a tenured post at Berkeley by his movement conservative perspective—the faculty and dean were eager to have a prominent writer from a politically influential legal movement on board. Yoo’s problem comes from what he did as a government lawyer, in authoring a series of opinions which were essential in implementing torture policy. More than a hundred individuals died in captivity and in more than two dozen cases, the deaths have been directly connected to the use of torture techniques that John Yoo approved. His work had lethal consequences.

Aside from the ethics and criminal law problems, Yoo’s work is troubling just from the perspective of professional competence. It did not meet basic standards and was in fact rejected by the Bush Administration itself. Moreover, Yoo’s self-defense—that he was asked to render his best professional assessment on an abstract legal issue—appears to be false; the forthcoming report of the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which as I’ve written elsewhere, reportedly recommends that Yoo be referred for bar disciplinary action, will furnish more guidance on this.

I marvel over Dershowitz’s new-found perspective on academic freedom. Can this be the same Alan Dershowitz who launched a massive and successful campaign against Norman Finkelstein to deny him tenure at DePaul University because of his criticism of the Israeli government and of Alan Dershowitz himself?

In the Dershowitz perspective, academic freedom apparently shields those whose viewpoints are very close to his own, but not his critics.
In which practice he resembles nothing so much as the bag of shrieking assholes he so admires in the Fascistic, Zionist Israeli Government and their acolytes and adherents.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Oxymora: "Giant Shrimp." "Compassionate Conservative." "All Deliberate Haste." "Business Ethics..."

From the Department of Self-Evident Discoveries, via QuickHits, on the OpenLeft blog:

Are Business Executives Just More Apt to Be Unethical? (jeffbinnc)
(Shorter: Yup. The Ed.)
One big reason why business leaders so often act unethically is that, well, they're more apt to be unethical. (Well, they are inclined to have a different understanding of acting 'ethically," shall we say? The Ed.)

According to research conducted by Public Agenda, "When typical citizens talk about business ethics, they cite executives who enrich themselves while driving their companies into the ground. Protecting employees' jobs, they say, should be a top ethical priority. When executives talk about ethics, they are concerned about the damage recent scandals have done to business' reputation and the need to restore public trust."

Get that? What really matters most to business executives is the effect of their actions on public appearance, not genuine public well being.
There is a long history of debate over the issues comprising the discourse of "ethics."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Birthday Surprise From The *ICORP* of Iraq

A former official in the former regime now ways there are and were "many" innocent captives held at Guantanamo.

Larry Wilkerson, formerly an Army officer (Col., ret; a chopper pilot in the 'Nam) and an aide to then-Sec. of State Colin Powell, said he was speaking out to provide an active counter-voice to recent proclamations by former Vice-President Cheney. Cheney has made news lately claiming Obama's policies on detaining terrorists and torture have reduced US capacity to "protect" Americans.

According to Wilkerson, many of the alleged "enemy combatants" swept up in the first years of the US intervention in Afghanistan, in particular, weren't competently 'vetted.' That is, the charges against many captured prisoners were never substantiated, an many accused malefactors were and are still completely innocent. Yet they have been detained for up to 7 years, so far, with little chance of release.

The best known of these are the 8 Uighurs whose complete innocence is without dispute, but who are still not released. But according the Wilkerson, there may be as many as a couple of HUNDRED of such cases.

He told the AP in a telephone interview that many detainees "clearly had no connection to al-Qaida and the Taliban and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pakistanis turned many over for $5,000 a head." USer invaders had bounties for the capture of Talibs in the first years of the invasion of Afghanistan.

Sometimes, I think the US won't close the Gitmo Prison until a hurricane levels the place, drowns all the prisoners, and sweeps away all the evidence...I think that's what they're actually waiting for.

*ICORP* = Invasion, Conquest, Occupation, Rape & Pillage

Happy Birthday, Shock & Awe!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Obama To Privatize VA Care For Battle Injuries? What The FUCK?

You GOTTA be fucking kidding me.

A plan supported by the Obamistas would charge injured veterans' 'private' health insurers to supply needed treatments to wounded vets.


You cannot make up shit like this. Are these fuckers really THAT tone-deaf?

The plan is supposed to save the Government hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Plan is meeting with some resistance, but Veterans' organizations are admitting that it seems to be a done deal.
The leader of the nation's largest veterans organization says he is "deeply disappointed and concerned" after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases.

"It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan," said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. "He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it."

Cdr. Rehbein, clearly angered as he emerged from the session said, "This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ' to care for him who shall have borne the battle' given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America's veterans!"
So what happens to a wounded GI who, say, comes home with GWS (GulfWar Syndrome), but his insurance company (if he can get insurance) decides it doesn't cover exposure to depleted uranium? How high would her/his premiums rise if s/he were diagnosed with PTSD? Could the insurance company refuse to cover the injury? This is just fucking DUMB.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jeff Sharlett Reports Some SERIOUSLY Weird Xian Shit

For sexual weirdness, it's hard to top 'evangelicalism.'

Jeff Sharlett, one of the reporters most assiduously on the cases of the Xian/Fundie/Fascisti/Flying Monkey Rightard 'reaction,' since a long time (see, e.g., his revelations about "The Family," D.C.'s underground Xian fetishists who own about half of the Congress and the (last, so far) WhiteHouse), has a chunk of new stuff with which to beguile our imaginings:
“Naked and Guilty” is a story about a hell house in Texas bound up in an essay about sex and evangelicalism, published this winter in the print-only edition of Lapham’s Quarterly. It draws on my last book, but most of it is original to LQ. The new Buddha killers have posted it online.
Young Christians encounter sex, violence, and the eros of evangelicalism in a Texas hell house. Sounds great, but:
A lanky, long-haired teenager from the Honor Academy’s drama team, dressed as a Roman centurion, stood over him with a whip. “Sex and drugs and rock n’ roll!” he hooted. “You did this to Him, man!” Down came the whip. “You did it man!” Blood splattered the front row. Fake, I assumed. Gabrielle swallowed a scream and pushed herself back against the wall, sobbing. Valerie held onto her as the whip continued cracking.
There's a sect of fanatical Xians out thisaway, up in the hills north of Santa Fe, called the "penitentes." Each year they crucify a "lucky" volunteer.

All these fuckers are plain, bat-shit, rabid-rat crazy!

OMIGAWD! Pat Boone's Taken The Brown Acid

Someone somewhere decided it would be informative (?), or entertaining (?), or instructional (?) to ask an aging and obviously droolingly, flatulently senescent Pat Boone (yeah, THAT Pat Boone) about what he'd do if he ran the zoo. He had a dream, you see:
News Bulletin: In a stunning, unprecedented civilian uprising, President Obama, Vice President
Biden, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid were recalled and sent packing. Practically overnight, responding to the national emergency, an extraordinary election propelled entertainer/activist Pat Boone into the White House. The new president just revealed his first-term agenda. ...
After running the gamut of (ranging from odd to utterly depraved) Wing/Loon/Fundi/Fascist craziness, Pat got to Education (DOTOF™: PZM/Pharyngula):
As a man who intended to be a teacher myself, I issued an ultimatum to the teachers' unions: They would return to basic math, including arithmetic, and basic English (the mandated official language), and basic science devoid of unproven theories like evolution, sticking instead to factual evidence and not discounting "intelligent design" as the more scientific basis for life and existence. All history books would again detail the reasons America was founded, and tell the stories of our Founding Fathers and national heroes - not latter day revisions. Teachers' pay and advancement would depend on the test scores and comprehension of their students.
We might be forgiven for wondering why such people are permitted to actually reproduce, when they are obviously such monumentally bad gene-donors...


NM Governor Bill Richardson MUST decide today whether to sign a bill abolishing the death penalty in NM. The betting is about 6-5 that he'll sign it.

If he does, NM will become the 15th state to abolish it.

After years and years of trying, abolition advocates finally got the bill through the Legislature this year.

Over recent years, the death penalty has become less and less tenable, as evidence has emerged that innocent people have been killed by the State, and that the measures to prevent that were so lax; that it has been inequitably sought and applied (the majority of death-sentences are levied against black or brown "perps" who are alleged to have killed 'whites'), and that it has become too expensive, due to pre-execution litigation and the cost of maintaining death row.

Richardson said recently that in the aftermath of 9/11 he had become an advocate for the death penalty, but recent investigations and revelations were changing his mind. He doesn't say so, but he cannot have been ignorant of the actions of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan who, on the brink of incarceration himself, ended the death penalty in his state.

I have been of a somewhat mixed mind, personally. I think guys like Bernie Madoff--whose financial predations were responsible for the immiseration of hundreds of people, and is unofficially tied to the actual deaths of several more--should face the ultimate sanction. I would sometimes like to test the Right-wing/Flying Monkey assertion that the death penalty was a deterrent, on the most egregious thieves and bunco-scammers.

But I was greatly affected when, some dozen or so years ago, I read the results of a study which reported that, by a small margin, bloody-minded Murkins approved the death penalty EVEN when there was undeniable evidence that innocent parties had been and always would be killed killed by the conscious action of the State.

Snark--i.e., executing Madoff--aside, the death penalty is a barbaric holdover from an earlier, more brutal, less knowledgeable time, and it is time that the USofA join the rest of the civilized world in ending this travesty of justice.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

8 DINOs Will Butt-fuck Climate Change Laws

The eight Democratic senators who signed on to the letter are the doddering, senescent Robert Byrd (WV), the feculent, detestable Blanche Lincoln (AR), the moronic and treacherous Ben Nelson (NE), the wretched, drooling fool Evan Bayh (IN), the singl;e-set-of-grandparents' Mark Pryor (AR), the predictably dishonest Bob Casey (PA), the gutless, sold-out shill Carl Levin (MI), and the vacuous, venal slag, Mary Landrieu (LA).
If you are 'represented' by any of these cheezy, sleazy, skeevy fux, perhaps you should reconsider your loyalties...

Via TPM:

When President Obama submitted a budget that predicted passage of a revenue-raising climate change bill, hopes rose that Congress could successfully rein in carbon emissions this year.

But a cap-and-trade climate bill is almost certain to be filibustered by Republicans -- and in a letter delivered to the Senate Budget Committee yesterday, eight Democratic senators joined 25 Republicans to defend the GOP's right to set a 60-vote margin for passing emissions limits.

"We oppose using the budget process to expedite passage of climate legislation," the senators, including eight centrist Democrats, wrote in their missive.

Using the procedure of budget reconciliation, which would allow a climate change measure to become law with 50 votes while preventing filibusters, "would circumvent normal Senate practice and would be inconsistent with the administration's goals of bipartisanship, cooperation, and openness," the 33 senators wrote.

Budget reconciliation was used by George W. Bush and congressional Republicans to prevent Democrats from stalling both the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. The opposition of nearly one-half of the Senate, however, means that President Obama's party will have little room to use the tactic as successfully as Bush's supporters did.

Filibuster-proofing the upcoming health care reform bill through reconciliation already has been ruled out strongly discouraged* by pivotal Democratic senators on the Finance Committee, Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

Democrats' reluctance to take advantage of their procedural arsenal to pass climate change and health care this year doesn't mean that both pieces of legislation would necessarily fall to filibusters. But it does mean that Republicans will have significantly more opportunities to insert pro-business provisions into these pivotal bills.

Late Update: The eight Democratic senators who signed on to the letter are Robert Byrd (WV), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Ben Nelson (NE), Evan Bayh (IN), Mark Pryor (AR), Bob Casey (PA), Carl Levin (MI), and Mary Landrieu (LA).

*Late Late Update: Baucus has not ruled out reconciliation entirely. As he told the Kaiser Family Foundation last week, "I am doing whatever I can to avoid reconciliation [on health care] and don't take it off the table totally, because it is a backup.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bernie Madoff's Wife Will Keep Million$$$?

What the fuck?

If Bernie had been caught dealing $10k worth of cocaine or week, he'd have gone to jail (and probably not Club Fed).

AND his house, cars, art, home, and everything associated with him would have been forfeit, on the theory of the fruit of the poisoned tree.

The INSTANT he pled guilty, they'd have swept it all up and put itout for auction.

But the Scumbag Billionaire stole fucking BILLIONS. AND his wife and family get to keep that $800Million nest egg?

No, really:
Some had hoped that prosecutors would force Madoff to name any accomplices who helped carry out the fraud. Now many investors look at the plea hearing as a setback of sorts because Madoff is entering the plea without a deal with prosecutors. That means he is under no obligation to disclose names or turn over assets.

His victims are doubtful that the plea will lead to the prosecution of anyone who helped Madoff or the recovery of additional money for the defrauded. Still unclear is how much of Madoff’s family fortune might be forfeited to the government, including the penthouse and tens of millions of dollars in assets in his wife’s name.

Obama's DoJ: "Standing Firm for Injustice"

That's the gist derived by the ubiquitous Scott Horton, on the Harper's NoComent blog today from reports circulating in DC lately of the Obamistas fealty to Bushevik legal tactics to protect individuals form accountability for high crimes and misdemeanors, the worst of which was protecting the associate of the Executive from prosecution for deeds done to protect the Executive:
The Obama Justice Department yesterday again embraced a position of the Bush Administration that Senator Obama appeared to have criticized on the campaign trail. Daphne Eviatar reports in the Washington Independent that:
the department filed a brief renewing the government’s motion to dismiss the case of Rasul v. Rumsfeld. The case is very similar to the lawsuit filed by U.S. citizen and former enemy combatant Jose Padilla against former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, which I’ve been following. The plaintiffs in Rasul v. Rumsfeld allege that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Bush officials are responsible for their torture; prolonged arbitrary detention; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; cruel and unusual punishment; denial of liberties without due process, and preventing the exercise and expression of their religious beliefs.

According to their legal complaint, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed claim they traveled to Afghanistan in October 2001 to offer humanitarian relief to civilians. In late November, they were kidnapped by Rashid Dostum, the Uzbeki warlord and leader of the U.S.-supported Northern Alliance. He turned them over to U.S. custody—apparently for bounty money that American officials were paying for suspected terrorists. In December, without any independent evidence that the men had engaged in hostilities against the United States, U.S. officials sent them to Guantanamo Bay. Over the next two years, they claim — as does a fourth British man — that they were imprisoned in cages, tortured and humiliated, forced to shave their beards and watch their Korans desecrated, until they were returned to Britain in 2004. None were ever charged with a crime.
Their case was previously dismissed on the grounds that Guantánamo detainees (which these individuals are not, they have been released) have no due process rights. Of course, the Supreme Court rejected that view in Boumediene v. Bush, in which it concluded that Guantánamo detainees at least have some rights to challenge their detentions. The matter was sent back to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration.

The Obama Justice Department has adopted the arguments and positions of the Bush team, however. It continues, even in the face of Boumediene, to argue that the detainees have no due process rights; it also argues extensively that Donald Rumsfeld has complete immunity from claims that he was the engineer of torture and mistreatment of the prisoners.
I'll skip now to the money graf:
Robert H. Jackson, America’s greatest attorney general, called the use of immunity notions to block accountability for the mistreatment of prisoners in wartime a uncivilized practice and committed that it could not stand. He went one step beyond this. America, he committed in his most famous oration, would “press this chalice to its own lips”–namely would agree to hold its own officials accountable by the same standards and rules it advocated at the end of World War II. The Obama Justice Department is working hard to make Attorney General Jackson into a liar. It is also destroying the credibility of President Obama’s commitment to abide by international law.
I shan't impose any further on "Fair usage than this provocative excerpt. But let me encourage you to get thee hither and peruse the whole argument.

("Just because I am not surprised does not mean I am not outraged.")

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Voy a Santa Fe hoy.

Taking the RailRunner! (The photo above captured the train near Cerrillos, NM.--about 10 miles south of Santa Fe.)


$7, all day, all zones, between Belen and Santa Fe.

The best bargain in the State...

Lunch and margaritas at Tomasita's...Drinks later a the Bull Ring, or mebbe Jimmy's Tiny's...(Sadly, after too many years to count--close to 40, I reckon--The Green Onion has closed! Que triste! Muchas lagrimas!)

This is it for posting today.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Just When You Think You've Reached Bottom

At Calculated Risk, there is the following bit of worrisome (if not exactly surprising) intelligence:
From James Saft at Reuters: Builder loans are the forgotten land mine in U.S. credit crisis (ht Michael)
Banks in the United States face a new source of write-downs and failures in the coming year, as loans made to developers to finance residential and commercial property development rapidly go bad.
Called acquisition, construction and development, or ADC, loans, they total 8.4 percent of all bank loans, just below a 30-year peak, and are used by developers to buy land, put in infrastructure and construct housing or commercial space.

[CR Note: or just C&D loans for Construction & Development]

"Everyone in the media is focused on consumer foreclosures," said Ivy Zelman, a housing analyst at Zelman & Associates. "What they're not focused on is the builder-developer foreclosures, which are only in the early innings and which will continue to wreak havoc as these assets are liquidated at depressed prices. Until they are cleared, there can't be a stabilization in home prices."

Zelman thinks the pressure will cause "hundreds of banks" to close.
Of particular concern is that ADC loans are concentrated in smaller banks, which tend to have deep ties to local developers. ADC loans account for 47 percent of nonperforming loans at small banks, compared with 14 percent at larger banks.
This really isn't a new topic - the FDIC issued a report on emerging risks in 2006 that clearly showed that medium sized institutions ($1-$10 billion in assets) had excessive exposure to C&D loans. And it is really the mid-sized institutions, not the smaller institutions (although plenty of those will fail too because of bad C&D loans).
When there's a crash, I suppose it's unlikely that some few or several parts of the system will be spared the general failure.

Which invites (it doesn't 'beg') the next question: What, where, and on whom is the next shoe gonna fall?

"It's A Dirty Job..."

Ken Silverstein at Harper's blog, Washingtonbabylon, has this interesting tidbit this morning
Citigroup does business abroad

By Ken Silverstein

London-based Global Witness has just put out a good report on how some major international banks, including Citibank, “have been dealing with some of the world’s most corrupt regimes.” Gavin Hayman, the group’s Campaigns Director, said, “The same lax regulation that created the credit crunch has let some of the world’s biggest banks facilitate the looting of natural resource wealth from poor countries.”

Among the findings:
Barclays kept open an account for the son of the dictator of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea long after clear evidence emerged that his family were heavily involved in substantial looting of state oil revenues.

A British tax haven and a Hong Kong bank helped the son of the president of Republic of Congo, another oil-rich African country, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of his country’s oil revenues on designer shopping sprees.

Citigroup facilitated the funding of two vicious civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia by enabling the warlord Charles Taylor, now on trial for war crimes in the Hague, to loot timber revenues.
Perhaps you heard yesterday that Citi-bank's chairman had announced two consecutive months of 'profitability'? One wonders which murderous thugs they've empowered lately to show a 'profit.'

But, of course, the banks have a perfectly rational explanation: If they hadn't supplied the means and opportunity, somebody ELSE would have, and Citi (or which ever one was implicated in the current 'arrangements') wouldn't have had those profits for their stockholders.

Such arrangements, of course, now implicate the US Govt, because the investment/bail-outs from the State has poured into these crooked fuckers' bought us into the scam.

(Iirc, Margaret Thatcher's son was busted trying to start a coup in Equatorial Guinea, nest paw? Dots to connect?)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Saul Alinsky's "Rules For Radicals"

I was reminded of this today when on FSZ a commenter named Alec tried (rather too pedantically, imho) to 'school' other commenters on proper blog discourse. (Fuck him, really)

Some of these rules are ruthless, but they work. Here are the rules to be aware of:

RULE 1: "Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have." Power is derived from 2 main sources - money and people. "Have-Nots" must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)

RULE 2: "Never go outside the expertise of your people." It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don't address the "real" issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)

RULE 3: "Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy." Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

RULE 4: "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules." If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity's very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)

RULE 5: "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon." There is no defense. It's irrational. It's infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)

RULE 6: "A good tactic is one your people enjoy." They'll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They're doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid "un-fun" activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)

RULE 7: "A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag." Don't become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)

RULE 8: "Keep the pressure on. Never let up." Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)

RULE 9: "The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself." Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists' minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)

RULE 10: "If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive." Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management's wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)

RULE 11: "The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative." Never let the enemy score points because you're caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)

RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

Apocalyptic Eliminationism: Rich, White, & Wacked-Boy Planned Nuclear Rampage

Once again, life surpasses art: An Xian/Fundie/Racist trust fund 'baby' who "hated" Obama wanted to build and light a 'dirty' bomb. You cannot make this shit up (via Raw Story):
Slain US Nazi hated Obama, had parts for 'dirty bomb'
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Monday March 9, 2009

Claim: Depleted uranium purchased over the Internet from an American company

Trust fund millionaire James G. Cummings, an American Nazi sympathizer from Maine who was slain by his wife Amber in December, allegedly had the radioactive components necessary to construct a "dirty bomb," a newly released threat analysis report states.

The man, allegedly furious over the election of President Obama, purchased depleted uranium over the Internet from an American company.

"According to an FBI field intelligence report from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center posted online by WikiLeaks, an organization that posts leaked documents, an investigation into the case revealed that radioactive materials were removed from Cummings’ home after his shooting death on Dec. 9," reported the Bangor Daily News.

"Amber (Cummings) indicated James was very upset with Barack Obama being elected President," reported the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center (PDF link). "She indicated James had been in contact with 'white supremacist group(s).' Amber also indicated James mixed chemicals in the kitchen sink at their residence and had mentioned 'dirty bombs.'"

"Also found was literature on how to build 'dirty bombs' and information about cesium-137, strontium-90 and cobalt-60, radioactive materials," said the Bangor Daily. "The FBI report also stated there was evidence linking James Cummings to white supremacist groups. This would seem to confirm observations by local tradesmen who worked at the Cummings home that he was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler and had a collection of Nazi memorabilia around the house, including a prominently displayed flag with swastika. Cummings claimed to have pieces of Hitler’s personal silverware and place settings, painter Mike Robbins said a few days after the shooting."

After Amber Cummings admitted to the murder and entered an insanity plea, Belfast, Main police felt it necessary to bring the FBI on the scene. Bangor Daily reporter Eric Russell followed up in a filmed interview with Belfast Police Chief Jeffrey Trafton:
The paper also reported that Cummings had a long history of violence.

Public safety officials were quick to claim there was no threat.

The story of the first attempt at constructing a "dirty bomb" in the United States was not carried by any mainstream press outside of Maine.

"Conservatives apparently didn't want to draw attention to a radioactive, wealthy version of Timothy McVeigh coming from their own sphere, although nearly every day during Bush's reign saw "dirty bombs" hyped as the ultimate threat," summarized Wikileaks.

"The left didn't want to repeat another 'dirty bomb' story, the likes of which Republicans had used to drive hundreds of billions of dollars into Republican dominated military and security contractors."

In the report, an unnamed source noted, "state authorities detected radiation emissions in four small jars in the residence labeled 'uranium metal', as well as one jar labeled 'thorium.' The four jars of uranium carried the label of an identified US company."

"Further preliminary analysis on 30 December 2008 indicated an unlabeled jar to be a second jar of thorium. Each bottle of uranium contained depleted uranium 238. Analysis also indicated the two jars of thorium held thorium 232."

"An Internet search of the James B. Cummings Trust indicated that it has an annual income of $10 million," noted a report republished by Wikileaks.
I have friends in or around Belfast, ME, and I've written them to find out what they know. THe story apparently broke almost three months ago.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Crazy For God: Interview with Frank Schaeffer

Hughely's a shitty interviewer, but Schaeffer's interesting anyway.

An earlier interview with Amy Goodman:

The whole movement's gone off the rails.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fum, Fo, Fie, Fee, I Smell The Stench of Sanctimony

I don't like to go all meta, and start discussing 'blogging" per se, or the practitioners thereof, but...

Come ON, people!

Yes, Rush Limbaugh is a vicious (shrewd) and forthrightly racialist/classist/chauvinist/nativist demagogue. His utterances are repellant, his (apparent) "philosophy" is repugnant, his outlook is reptillian, his appetites are rapacious, and his appearance is repulsive. None of his "bad" behaviors--things that get normal people thrown into state prison for DECADES, with a bunky named Thor--have ever stuck to him. This won't either, and in anything like a logically coherent universe this time, at least, probably it shouldn't.

Slimeball has been on the air (in now over 1000 cities) for more than 25 years. He has a constituency (Hint: the 60 million or so voters who voted 'for' McCain). So, when he said he hoped Obama "fails," he was saying no more than in all probability EVERY Puke member of Congress, their staffs, their wives and their children, and their constituents back home also thought and fondly believed was a patriotic sentiment.

Of course he hopes Obama will fail. Obama's failure is one of only two ways the Pukes and their corpoRat masters will regain the perqs and appurtenances of power (i.e., the command of the military, which will be crucial in the coming troubles; the other being the next 'terror' attack, in which case Obama will be impeached before the ashes are cold, and Slimeball will be instigatiing a lynch mob from his studio at Cap Cities Communications, which owns him).

But I'll tell you a secret. From the day that the Brooks Brothers' riot shut down the Miami-Dace recount, I hoped and wished and desired and wanted Bush to fail at anything and everything, with every shred of my being. Nov. 22, 2000 I began my failure watch. And I know (this is where the sanctimony comes in) that I was not, and am not, alone. Did you REALLY want that smirking, simpering, strutting, swaggering piece of simian turd to succeed?I didn't.

Before 9/11, I cherished every moment of his lack of grace, I reveled in his every bumble, I toasted his inanities. I gleefully partook in Slate.Com's Rumsfeld Death Watch. I reviled the drooling simpleton, I derided his policies, I attacked him personally and as ruthlessly as I could. I was eventually driven off Slate (in the end, around 10 other blogs) for the venom of my vituperation. From the moment he unleashed the white frat boys, I KNEW what was in store for the country. I had absolutely no doubt, and I hated him for it, with a hatred that has not abated, even with his departure from Washington. I want him and his whole crew, at the very least, in stocks for two days on the National Mall.

So I find it amusing and simultaneously galling to read 'left/lib' blogs, in the columns and comments of which the 'victors' (this time) excoriate Slimeball and his ilk for their shameless admission of what is the obvious truth. Slimeball and the rest of the Rightards WANT Obama to fail because if in the extremely unlikely event that Obama and the Dims do not "fail," the Slimeball and the Right cannot hope to regain power. Probably they cannot return to power absent the almost total collapse of the State.

(Much is made of an Obama/FDR, '09/'29 analogy. The Pukes, to take the rhetorical initiative, need to be able to cast Obama as the Dim Hoover. The Dims failed to pin the Hoover label on Bush, where it obviously belongs, but that's maybe because Bush is more like the Coolidge of the analogy. The Pukes are poised in the wings with their latter-day FDR, maybe Jeb Bush (I don't intend the analogy to be any more than structural). But I digress...)

So yes, just as any sane, sensible, reality-based citizen these last eight years wished profoundly that the Busheviks would fail to harm the Nation and the polity any more than they already had, so the insane, insensible, fantasy-based retards of the right now proudly and loudly 'wish' Obama will fail. Yet my strongest objections to the contrary notwithstanding, the Busheviks succeeded beyond their wildest hopes at the chore they were set, which was, in a word, gutting the commons and making the people like it.

Mission: Accomplished.