Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Ideology of the "Center"


From FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting):
Climate Change Secondary to 'Free' Trade at NYT

06/29/2009 by Gabriel Voiles

Tying the urgent present-day topic of economic reporting in with the most pressing global emergency of climate change, Dean Baker has posted at his Beat the Press blog (6/29/09) on "What Does 'Free Trade' Have to Do With Taxing Greenhouse Gas Emissions?":
That is the question that the New York Times should have been asking in an article that reported President Obama's opposition to taxing imported items from countries that have not taken steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The point of his cap-and-trade program is to make items that require large amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions more expensive, thereby discouraging their consumption.

If goods can just be imported from countries that have no tax on GHG, then the point of cap-and-trade is undermined, as goods that require large amounts of fossil fuels will just be produced abroad. It is understandable that importers and other special interest would be opposed to measures that prohibit this sort of evasion, but that has absolutely nothing to do with "free trade."
Baker notes that "the NYT completely misrepresents the issue by implying that this is somehow a debate over principles of free trade," when really "it is a debate of whether special interests will be allowed to import goods to undermine the limits set by a cap-and-trade bill for GHG emissions."

For more on press distortions of Obama's cap-and-trade policies, listen to the FAIR radio show CounterSpin: "Mike Lillis on Climate Bill" (5/22/09).
As Paul Krugman averred yesterday, climate change denial and equivocation is tantamount to global treason.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Triumph of Triviality: Weapons of Mass Distraction

Both A Tiny Revolution and the FAIR blog had found the piece on Robert parry's Consortium News blog by Spanish sociologist Pablo Ouziel who describes
the consequences of how "we wake up in the morning to hear and watch the newest tragedy that has swept the world's media attention"--whether it's "the tragic crash of an airplane" or "the death of a star." Meanwhile:
Serious events and acts are taking place everyday which merit serious social debate, yet because of the fact that our societies are deeply fragmented, broken and clashing between each other, we are unable to grant ourselves the necessary pause, required for conciliation and unity.

Because of this, we are easy to control as a mass of isolated individuals, which is held together by norms and regulations, bureaucracies, military and police, and concepts such as the nation state, the church and the corporation.

If we are to stay in this model of society, I fear we will live in perpetual war until we destroy ourselves by not paying attention to the fact that something is drastically wrong.
Ouziel's digest of exactly what is wrong reads like a list of topics steadfastly avoided by corporate media in the U.S.: "We are living in societies plagued with corruption at all levels, we are constantly expanding our militarized societies surveilled by police forces and colonizing armies, which are rapidly eroding our freedoms." (See the FAIR magazine Extra!: "The Media Ignore Their Core Duty: Arianna Huffington & Glenn Greenwald on Media Accountability" (9–10/08).)
Isolation, ironically, has ALWAYS been part of the telos of "massification," through alienation. The increased development of 'niche markets' exaggerates alienation. Alone in the crowd, we are puppets of the media who pull our strings and push our buttons while driving us, aas individuals, even further apart. This is not surprising fiven that 1) the media are owned by the CorpoRats, and the 'solidarity' of members of related groups is utterly inimical to the CorpoRat interests in authoritarianism, globalism, and increased, oppressive surveillance.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Nobody REALLY Believes The CRA Crashed The Bubble

By "Nobody," I mean self-proclaimed wunderkinder like John Carney, a noisy, reckless sharpie who peddles his nonsense on a blog called "Business Insider." The Business part is probably self-explanatory. The "Insider" part refers to where Carney has to work his facile tongue to provide his 'sources' with lingual prostate massages. He appears to have acquired a taste for their shit. For all his pretentious leering an his incredibly WEAK face, his privileged teen-ager sneer, he's only #3 on the Google list of "top John Carney" hits (the top one being a prestidigitator, the second a pro-football place-kicker for the Giants) and he doesn't even appear on the Wikipedia list of prominent "John Carney's."

Nevertheless this aspiring "Carney" delivered himself recently of a re-iteration of an already-long-debunked Rightard/Flying Monkey history revision blaming the increased access to affordable housing for the Nations brown, black and other "poor" for the collapse of the housing bubble. Dickweeds like Carney who spread such calumnies should have their fingers mangled so that they have to type with tom-tom mallets attached to their foreheads.

Ryan Chittum, former WSJ staffer who has fled the Dark Side for the light of the CJR "Audit" blog, does a masterful job of interpreting both Carney's alarmingly misinformed speculations and Felix Salmon's adept filleting of Carney's excesses.

Because, of course, the contribution of the CRA mortgages to the sum and total of the "bad mortgages that triggered the 'securitized mortgage' crisis was and is minuscule. More than 90--way closer to 95--percent of the bad mortgages causing the problems today were written, not by banks (which were the sole authorized lenders for CRA mortgages) but by the fly-by-night scum and slime at places like "Countrywide" and HFC (now part owner of Citi, nest paw?). Here's the nutz of Salmon's complaint against Carney:
Salmon says at one point:
The fact is that the CRA did not encourage banks to extend the kind of toxic loans which ended up being such an important component of the financial crisis. Indeed, most of those loans weren’t made by banks at all — they were made by unregulated sub-prime lenders who had no CRA responsibilities whatsoever.
But Chittam's not done. He goes on to present any number of other prominent critics of Carney's methodology, style, and parentage. One example:
Here’s Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth A. Duke talking to the American Bankers Association in February, noting that a tiny minority of loans were under the CRA:
I would like to dispel the notion that these problems were caused in any way by Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) lending. The CRA is designed to promote lending in low- to moderate-income areas; it is not designed to encourage high-risk lending or poor underwriting. Our analysis of the data finds no evidence, in fact, that CRA lending is in any way responsible for the current crisis…. In fact, the analysis found that only 6 percent of all higher-priced loans were made by CRA-covered lenders to borrowers and neighborhoods targeted by the CRA. This very small share makes it hard to imagine how CRA could have caused, or even contributed in a meaningful way, to the current crisis. Further support for this conclusion comes from our finding that serious delinquency rates for subprime loans are high in all neighborhood-income categories, not only those in lower-income areas, as might be thought if the CRA were a contributing force to the subprime crisis.
The rest of the piece, which i nice and long and full of nifty quotes, charts the trajectory of the debunking of Carney's (and the Right, in general') misleading claims, and should provide a welcom resource for folks who don't have at hand the data with which to dismiss what are fundamentally racist claims by the right that the poor are to blame for their own and our own 'diminished' conditions.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why New Mexico Needs Health Reform

From a HHS:
With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages.(1) In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job.(2) Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage.

THE HEALTH CARE STATUS QUO:

Congress and the President are (supposedly. W) working to enact health care reform legislation that (purportedly. W) protects what (reputedly. W) works about health care and (allegedly. W) fixes what is broken. New Mexicans know that inaction is not an option. Sky-rocketing health care costs are hurting families, forcing businesses to cut or drop health benefits, and straining state budgets. New Mexicans are paying more for less. Families and businesses in New Mexico deserve better.
(So, then, why is Obama/HSS supporting measures that won't do what they are promising they will do, and opposing and rejecting the only alternative that wou.ld fix the problems??? W.)
NEW MEXICANS CAN’T AFFORD THE STATUS QUO

* Roughly 933,000 people in New Mexico get health insurance on the job(1), where family premiums average $13,050, about the annual earning of a full-time minimum wage job.(2)
* Since 2000 alone, average family premiums have increased by 110 percent in New Mexico.3
* Household budgets are strained by high costs: 21 percent of middle-income New Mexico families spend more than 10 percent of their income on health care.(4)
* High costs block access to care: 16 percent of people in New Mexico report not visiting a doctor due to high costs.(5)
* New Mexico businesses and families shoulder a hidden health tax of roughly $2,300 per year on premiums as a direct result of subsidizing the costs of the uninsured.(6)

AFFORDABLE HEALTH COVERAGE IS INCREASINGLY OUT OF REACH IN NEW MEXICO

* 23 percent of people in New Mexico are uninsured, and 70 percent of them are in families with at least one full-time worker.(7)
* The percent of New Mexicans with employer coverage is declining: from 51 to 48 percent between 2000 and 2007.(8)
* Much of the decline is among workers in small businesses. While small businesses make up 73 percent of New Mexico businesses,(9) only 35 percent of them offered health coverage benefits in 2006 -- down 4 percent since 2000.(10)
* Choice of health insurance is limited in New Mexico. HCSC (Blue Cross Blue Shield) alone constitutes 35 percent of the health insurance market share in New Mexico, with the top two insurance providers accounting for 65 percent. (11)
* Choice is even more limited for people with pre-existing conditions. In New Mexico, premiums can vary, within limits, based on demographic factors and health status, and coverage can exclude pre-existing conditions or even be denied completely.
To reiterate: So, then, why is Obama/HSS supporting measures that won't do what they are promising they will do, and opposing and rejecting the only alternative that would fix the problems??? W.
NEW MEXICANS NEED HIGHER QUALITY, GREATER VALUE, AND MORE PREVENTATIVE CARE

* The overall quality of care in New Mexico is rated as “Weak.” (12)
* Preventative measures that could keep New Mexicans healthier and out of the hospital are deficient, leading to problems across the age spectrum:
o 16 percent of children in New Mexico are obese.(13)
o 26 percent of women over the age of 50 in New Mexico have not received a mammogram in the past two years.
o 44 percent of men over the age of 50 in New Mexico have never had a colorectal cancer screening.
o 70 percent of adults over the age of 65 in New Mexico have received a flu vaccine in the past year. (14)

The need for reform in New Mexico and across the country is clear. New Mexico families simply can’t afford the status quo and deserve better. President Obama (says he) is committed to working with Congress to pass health reform this year that reduces costs for families, businesses and government; protects people’s choice of doctors, hospitals and health plans; and assures affordable, quality health care for all Americans.
I repeat: So, then, why is Obama/HSS supporting measures that won't do what they are promising they will do, and opposing and rejecting the only alternative that would fix the problems??? Now, if someone who knows how all this misery and misfeasance can be corrected by the "Obama Plan," or anything like it, send up a fucking flare?
Endnotes:
1 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey. HIA-4 Health Insurance Coverage Status and Type of Coverage by State--All Persons: 1999 to 2007, 2007.
2 Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2006, Table X.D.
Projected 2009 premiums based on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "National Health Expenditure Data," available at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/nationalhealthexpenddata/.
3 Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2000, Table II.D.1.
Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2006, Table X.D.
Projected 2009 premiums based on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "National Health Expenditure Data," available at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/nationalhealthexpenddata/.
4 Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, 2006.
5 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey Data. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007.
6 Furnas, B., Harbage, P. (2009). "The Cost Shift from the Uninsured." Center for American Progress.
7 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey. Annual Social and Economic Supplements, March 2007 and 2008.
8 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey. HIA-4 Health Insurance Coverage Status and Type of Coverage by State--All Persons: 1999 to 2007, 2007.
9 Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2006, Table II.A.1a.
10 Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2001, 2006, Table II.A.2.
11 Health Care for America Now. (2009). "Premiums Soaring in Consolidated Health Insurance Market." Health Care for America Now.
12 Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. 2007 State Snapshots. Available http://statesnapshots.ahrq.gov/snaps07/index.jsp.
13 Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health.
14 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey Data. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007.
"Calling Martin Heinrich!" Martin Heinrich! Martin Heinrich? Please answer The Red courtesy phone? Mr. Heinrich! Please Answer Your Citizen/ (as opposed to your Corporat) Constituents:

Why the fuck haven't you signed on to HR 676?

It's the LEAST They Could Do...

Below, Gary Larson 'bird's-eye' view of the House/Senate
reconciliation
process on climate protection and health-care Bills:
The "LEAST" being the (Revo-fucking-LUTIONARY!) "Cap-and-Trade" band-aid on the suppurating bed-sore passed by the House (but still pending in the Senate), and the Obama-care health plan which, whatsoever its weaknesses, holes, absences, and flaws, will assuredly be hailed as the GREATEST THING SINCE EDIBLE UNDIES, and will be touted, by everyone involved in passing it, as the 'answer' to the (apparently abjectly betrayed) "promise" for a new approach to USer health care, but which has n ot even been introduced in EITHER House..

"They," of course, being the corpoRat pig-fuckers in the WhiteHouse and Congress (inclusive).

To the extent that either the energy-plan or the health-plan is in any way 'satisfactory' to the industries which must fall under the regulatory supervision of the legislation, that bill will be a failure to the interests of common folks and the environment, the planet and life in general. These folks always seem willing to prove the null hypothesis in my theory, that humanity is a cosmic experiment testing whether "life" can survive "intelligence."

To the folks who claim that ANY attempt is better than no effort, I offer a hearty "Cods'-wallop!" Both measures, in whatsoever form they eventually comprise, will become excuses to forego FURTHER reforms, to IGNORE the metastacizing crises, and to go before the voters as "reformers," their patent, looming, reeking, odious failures to act in any meaningful way notwithstanding...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Out Here, Where The Water Isn't, BIG Change Is Needed

Way out on the windswept desert,
Where nature favors no man

Chief Buffalo found his brother
At rest on the sunbaked sand.

He says "My brother, what ails you
That illness treat you this way?"

But his brother never said,
Cuz his brother was dead,

Been dead since way last May."
--Jimmy Rodgers "Big Chief Buffalo Nickel"

There's probably better than an even chance that anthropogenic global climate change will render the USer southwest uninhabitable in a not-too-far-distant time: say a century or so, give or take a decade or two. It is already dry here (in Albuquerque, where to my considerable perturbance, the "monsoon" seems to have begun at least a month too soon, by historical standards), the region having experienced localized droughts of durations varying from two, to 10 or even 12 years. In fact, the "droughts" of the past 15-20 years are so pervasive in the region, and of such duration, that many climatologists believe the period against which the "droughts" are measured may itself have been a (wet) anomaly in the historic arc of the region's climate.

Nevertheless, the population of the region is growing radically, with immigrants from the rust/snow belt of the US, as well as those coming north from Latin America for work. So, for the next 100 years anyway, the civil authorities are going to have to try to meet increasing demand with diminishing supply. Luckily, these realities seem to have been grasped by certain officials high in the Governments where many adjustments loom, including some Governors of the region's States.

Peter Gleick, of the renowned and respected Pacific Institute, recently had the chance to discuss the issues of water, conservation, use, and replacement with some of the governors and/or other key State officials, and a precis of his presentation is available now at Alternet.
The number of Governors and Premiers from the western U.S. and Canada that attended the water briefing at the Western Governors Association (WGA) meeting. My own Governor, Governor Schwarzenegger, who has not been nearly as well informed on water as he is on climate, was absent.

Let me summarize what I proposed they consider in the coming years:
  • Rethink supply and demand
  • Improve institutional management
  • Protect water quality
  • Integrate climate change into all water planning
(Each point is elaborated at some length in the article. I present only highlights here. Emphases supplied. W)

During the Q&A, we discussed the proper level and role for water management, the idea of innovative groundwater storage as opposed to new dams, the role of international mechanisms for managing water between the U.S. and Canada, and the U.S. and Mexico, and more.

In a small sign of the times, our tables were all served with commercial bottled water despite the fact that Park City has wonderful Utah tap water that originates in the snow of the surrounding mountains. Maybe the Governors should take a lesson from the Mayors (led by, among others, former Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City, Utah), who have taken a pretty strong stand against bottled water use. While this meeting showed our leaders are taking many steps in the right direction, we still have a long way to go before we’re properly managing our water.
Personally, I think municipal authorities, especially out here in the desert, should be urged to creat regulation for "bulk" bottle-water sellers (Costco, Wal-Mart/Sams, et al) requiring the retailers to make provision to receive and recycle their empties.

Also, the archetypal "British manor lawn" has gotta go!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

We Need To Eliminate "For-Profit" Health Insurance

And if we were to execute a few of the executives, as a 'lesson' to those remaining, that wouldn't be a bad idea either. At least clap 'em the pillories for a couple of days. CJR's Trudy Lieberman had this story earlier in the week. I was gonna post it, but neglected to do so. Now it has appeared on "Raw Story."
A retired health insurance executive — in a shocking but not terribly surprising admission — confessed Wednesday that insurance companies deliberately confuse policyholders and attempt to dump sick patients to plump their profit margins.

“[T]hey confuse their customers and dump the sick, all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors,” former Cigna senior executive Wendell Potter told senators at a hearing on health insurance Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

“Potter, who has more than 20 years of experience working in public relations for insurance companies Cigna and Humana, said companies routinely drop seriously ill policyholders so they can meet “Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations,’” Potter told the hearing, according to ABC News.

“They look carefully to see if a sick policyholder may have omitted a minor illness, a pre-existing condition, when applying for coverage, and then they use that as justification to cancel the policy, even if the enrollee has never missed a premium payment,” Potter added. “(D)umping a small number of enrollees can have a big effect on the bottom line.”
Lieberman's summary of Potter's story:
Last week, (the LATimes) covered the testimony insurance executives gave before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and offered readers some insight into industry-think. The executives told Congress that they would continue to rescind coverage for people who unintentionally fail to disclose what insurers consider preexisting conditions when applying for health insurance. UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint, and Assurant Inc. have cancelled some 20,000 policies, leaving policyholders stuck with medical bills. Sometimes, companies cite even the flimsiest evidence of deceit in order to justify rescinding their coverage. And sometimes they’ve paid bonuses to staffers who help purge their books of policyholders likely to file expensive claims.
A few of Potter's more provocative admissions:
I didn’t want to be part of another health insurance industry effort to shape reform that would benefit the industry at the expense of the public...

A couple of years ago I was in Tennessee and saw an ad for a health expedition in the nearby town of Wise, Virginia. Out of curiosity I went and was overwhelmed by what I saw. Hundreds of people were standing in line to get free medical care in animal stalls. Some had camped out the night before in the rain. It was like being in a different country. It moved me to tears. Shortly afterward I was flying in a corporate jet and realized someone’s insurance premiums were paying for me to fly that way. I knew it wasn’t long before I had to leave the industry. It was like my road to Damascus...

I was in a unique position to know how companies made money—what they had to do to satisfy shareholders—and how the industry has been able to kill reform in the past. I had been part of those efforts and didn’t want to be part of them again...

(T)he media has lost interest in writing stories similar to the managed care horror stories they wrote in the 1990s, when insurers and employers were forcing people into HMOs. There is less coverage of the consequences to people resulting from insurance company practices. A lot of critical reporting is just not being done. Most reporters willingly accept a prepared statement that company executives and lawyers have written, and they feel their obligation is over. The calls we got were few and far between after the media lost interest in managed care.
There's a lot more. I think Obama could have spent all the time he wasted with ABC this week interviewing Potter in prime time, and then going on the offensive, if he really gave a runny shit about the people's health-care...

But he doesn't.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

For ANY one of my age, disposition, and temperament, this story is sheer tonic!

Over at Lambert's place, the ever-vigilant bloglord found and posted the following:
Oldsters use Improvised Bankster Takedown Device after 2 million Euros looted from their pensions
Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:51am — lambert

UK Independent:
A group of pensioners has been accused of kidnapping and torturing a financial adviser who lost over €2m of their savings.

The pensioners, nicknamed the "Geritol Gang" by police after an arthritis [sic] drug [sic], face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty of subjecting German-American James Amburn to the alleged four-day ordeal.

Two of them are said to have hit him with a Zimmer frame [picture at rightleft] outside his home in Speyer, western Germany, before he was driven 300 miles to a home on the shores of a lake in Bavaria.

Mr Amburn (56) says he was burned with cigarettes, beaten, had ribs broken, was hit with a chair leg and chained up "like an animal".

The incident began on Tuesday last week after Mr Amburn, the head of an investment firm called Digitalglobalnet, was allegedly attacked by two men aged 74 and 60.

Another couple, retired doctors aged 63 and 66, later arrived to join in the alleged torture.

"I was struck. Again and again they threatened to kill me. The fear of death was indescribable," he said.

He told them he could pay them back if he sold some securities in Switzerland and they agreed to let him send a fax to a bank there.
You can see this one coming, right?
He scribbled a plea for help on the fax. Armed commandos stormed the house on Saturday.
Wielding automatic Zimmer Frames, no doubt.

Seriously, I've advocated the 198-Fold Way many times on this blog. And I don't believe in torture.

However, what our financial class must be brought to understand -- and that financial class includes at least the banksters, the Finance Wing of the Democratic Party, which includes Obama -- is that their actions, and their way of life, have consequences. The money they think of as digital, as counters in the game, may -- rather, will, must -- mean food, shelter, health for others.

NOTE: And I have to confess, despite my protestations above, a sneaking admiration for the old guys -- 60 and 74 -- who can still cut it. Let's just draw the line at the walkers, mkay?

UPDATE I don't think, despite the superficial plausibility of the idea, that the Zimmer Frame has anything to do with Don Zimmer. Bucky Fucking Dent.
Let's repeat that; it's important:
(T)heir actions, and their way of life, have consequences. The money they think of as digital, as counters in the game, may -- rather, will, must -- mean food, shelter, health for others.
That's EXACTLY how gamblers must school themselves to regard the money represented by the chips they bet. These fuckers are just tin-horn gamblers getting rich risking money that isn't even their own. And there's no sanction on their extravagant carelessness with OTHER PEOPLE'S FUCKING MONEY. Something or somebody's GOTTA put the fear of god in 'em.

I admire the geezers! And I'd contribute to a defense fund, a few Euros anyway.

The G-RDF! (Geezers'-Revenge Defense Fund). Anybody know how to set one up?

(BTW: DOTOF™ to Susie/Suburban Guerilla)

In Israel: "Natural Growth" = Ethnic Cleansing

Via TheRealNews Network: Israel pokes a stinky, blood-and-shit-encrusted thumb in "thePrez"'s eye.

Surprised? Me neither...

More at The Real News
After U.S. President Obama’s Cairo address to the Muslim World, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state under what’s called the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But access to water and land, amongst other issues raise serious questions about the feasibility of a Palestinian state, considering that more than half of the West Bank is already annexed by Israeli outposts and settlements. (Emphasis supplied. W)
Anybody who thinks that Israeli pols will EVER permit a truly autonomous, independent, sovereign Palestinian state to exist within Israel is out of their fucking minds.

I mean, can you imagine Bibi Netanyahu addressing a group of kibbutzim, telling them they MUST share water with the "filthy Arabs?"

Me neither...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Branding HAARM

Via Susie Madrack (Me-shak Abednigo?)/Suburban Guerilla

Posting Reluctantly Suspended For A While


I gotta go do some plumbing: pull and refurbish a toilet at a house the rental of which I am managing for a pal who's away teaching in Afghanistan.

Toilets are awkward devices to work with, for a variety of reasons: they are heavy, awkward, and often rot out the flanges upon which they sit.

To say nothing at all about the "waste" component.

Also, setting 'em right, back on the (always NEW) wax ring and getting the closte bolts right simultaneously is often tricky.

So for now, Adieu.

I shall be trying not to get any one me.

We Don't Need to "Defend" Obama On Health Care


He's a big boy, and can defend himself.

By getting behind the "BEST" policy on health-care for the whole country, not jusat for his patrons in the HIP (Health-Insurance Parasites).

It's NOT for-profit 'insurance.' It's not a 'public option' or some kind of skeevy "co-op" approach.

No one should be denied care for treatment of treatable maladies. Period.

Lambert had it right (via):
The public option is not some sort of compromise. It is not some kind of gentle glidepath to single payer, since the legislation will be designed to make the transition to single payer FAIL, as Kathleen Sibelius admits. And as the public option FAIL takes 10 years or so to play out, it will suck all the oxygen out of real policy change and discredit government involvement in health care into the bargain, as Medicare Part D is doing — making the transition to single payer even less likely. Meanwhile, Versailles, having guaranteed a market to the insurance companies by mandating participation, will chip away at the subsidies that make it possible for the 50 million uninsured to participate in that market, screwing them even further. And as the FAIL plays out, many hundreds of thousands will continue to be denied care, and thousands of them will die. How can any progressive support the public option with a straight face?

Progressives shouldn’t waste their time and energy on the public option; that public option is at the extreme left of “serious” discourse means absolutely nothing in policy terms, because the Overton Window is skewed so far right that no workable policy is available anyhow. Let Dean do what he thinks he needs to do; let the career liberals in MoveOn, SEIU, and OFA use public option as a fundraising vehicle; wev. None of this is relevant, and all of it is a distraction.
I have had issues with lambert (or he with me, i fergit), but he's right in the money here. As is Avedon Carol:
We need a not-for-profit plan that everyone pays for and no one can opt out of that is available to everyone. We need healthy people to be paying for it while they are still healthy and can afford to pay for it, or we aren’t sharing enough risk. We need to keep the CEOs and shareholders out of it and have something that works for everyone. We need single-payer.
...
Americans may not think healthcare is the #1 economic priority we have today, we do think it’s a priority. Americans have been lied to about whether the choice is between paying more for healthcare or getting healthcare reform, but that of course is not the choice, and I doubt we’d have any trouble selling single-payer to a single decent and honest soul if people were told that single-payer would save money instead of costing more. But of course, Obama’s plan isn’t single payer, and it is expensive, and (its) real problem is that (many people) feel the need to defend Obama rather than defend good healthcare policy.

And that’s been the problem with all of these people who continue to lose sight of the policy issues themselves. It’s all very well to dispute the lies the right-wing tells about the Obama plan, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also dispute the lies Obama himself has been telling us. He’s not trying to get you healthcare, and we’re not going to get it if “good progressives” keep letting him get away with it.
Obama and the Dims, along with all the Pukes, are doing everything but tell the truth on health-care reform. Insurance is NOT the best way, not the most efficient way, the most effective way, the most humane way to care for people--though it does keep *HIP" moneys flowing into the coffers of the two wings of the Party of Property, Privilege & Power. For-profit insurance companies have built-in incentives NOT to authorize care for people: Premiums not spent on care are automatically deemed to be "profit."

No nation is civilized which subordinates the health of its people to the wealth of its elites.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Green Shoots and Leaves? Or The "Foetid Corpse Of Reaganomics"?

To read or listen to or watch the quotidian accounts from the SCUM (SoCalledUnbiasedMedia) on the condition of the economy and the prospects for a recovery, you might believe that: 1) the economic corner had been turned, 2) the recession touted as the worst since 1930 was blunted and passing speedily, 3) unemployment was stabilizing, 4) the housing bubble was solved, and 5) the stock market was once again a vibrant engine of economic growth.

You could believe it.

But you'd be wrong. Very wrong.

The corpoRat media reporting on the crisis partakes of ALL the worst characteristics that are the hallmarks of "local" sports journalism: Boosterism, home-townism, cheer-leaderism, and uncritical adulation of local 'team,' players, coaches, etc. Josh Holland, at Alternet, has the gory details:
Amid the most painful period of economic turbulence in generations, a narrative has emerged that a handful of less-than-catastrophic economic reports represent the first "green shoots" of a healthy return to growth.

When a slew of absolutely depressing economic data were released in late May, economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, wrote: "these reports might have led to gloomy news stories, but... the media have obviously abandoned economic reporting and instead have adopted the role of cheerleader, touting whatever good news it can find and inventing good news when none can be found."

In other words, the green shoots narrative should be met with healthy skepticism. New York University economist Nouriel Roubini -- who earned the moniker "Doctor Doom" for correctly anticipating the crash -- says that rather than "green shoots," we're seeing some "yellow weeds" emerging from the cracks of our shattered system, and argues that there's every likelihood that a "recovery" will mean several years of sluggish, below-average growth for the industrialized economies.

Most economists do agree that extraordinarily aggressive interventions by our government and those of other key countries -- whatever criticism one may have of their specifics -- have averted, for the moment, the worst-case scenario: a deflationary "death spiral" in which people don't spend, firms lay off workers and state revenues dry up just when they're needed the most, causing yet more austerity and more downsizing.

But as New York Times' columnist Paul Krugman noted, those moves "make the conventionally minded uncomfortable, and they keep pushing for a return to normalcy." And there are a variety of stakeholders that have a vested interest in creating a perception that we're "returning to normalcy." Wall Street is trying to repay the government (but without letting the taxpayers off the hook for future losses) in order to escape limits on executive pay and other watery "conditions" attached to the public's largesse (Goldman Sachs' research department has been out front in shaping the green shoots narrative). The Obama administration is fending off conservative charges that his stimulus package -- of which only a small fraction has actually been spent in the four short months since Congress approved it -- is a failure. The Fed and other institutions are anxious about foreign investors' perceptions of the U.S. economy's overall health, and economic reporters and pundits are loath to admit that they've been sleeping with the fetid corpse of a dead economic paradigm known as Reaganomics.
Economic triumphalism, in other words, is every bit as hazardous as our social "exceptionalism." "

The USer consumer supplies 70% of the whole of the US economy, and about 15% of the GLOBAL economy. There is a lot at stake in restoring the confidence of USer consumers. But if it's all smoke and mirrors, and the next "bubble" bursts (resetting all those millions of option ARMS over the next couple of years, for instance), the subsequent repudiation of the markets by consumers could well doom the whole enterprise.

The Tinkerbelle economy: "Don't Let Tinkerbelle DIE! Applaud! Clap! Believe! Believe! Ya gotta BELIEVE!!!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers' Day to All You Dads.

(On the Rez, near Shiprock)

Fathers' Day (and Mothers' Day, too) just remind me that one is NEVER too old to be an orphan.

My folks have been gone for a decade, almost. When they became too ill to fend for themselves, I went back home to care for them. I was, in effect, live-in hospice care, for about 18 months it needed for them to finally succumb to the tobacco they'd smoked for 60 years. Of the four sibs, my 'career' was the most expendable. I never begrudged them a minute of the time.

My pop was a very funny guy, in a really understated way. Mom preceded him in death. They were married 57 years. Momma was a tight as a tick (except when it concerned her dogs). Pop had struggled along for a couple of years with an old, out-dated Apple computer my kid brother had given him to prowl the net. Pop, who had always been very active and busy, was restricted by his illness (advanced COPD) to very little activity, so he prowled the web. A week or so after momma passed, daddy decided to throw over the traces a little and get a new box. He had plenty of money.

So one day, he sent me into town with instructions to bring him back one of the new (at that time) IMAC machines. They came in two sizes (prices). He told me to bring him the cheaper of the two, and I did. But when we got it set up, he was unsatisfied with the performance, so he told me to return the cheaper version and exchange it for the better one; which I did.

This was in late February or early March (momma passed in early Feb). When I got back to the house with the machine it early but was nearly dark. But there was plenty of (incandescent) light to set it up and hook it up and for Pop to start to play. Which we did.

Except that, at the very moment we turned on the power, all the lights in northern New Mexico went out.

We later discovered a semi-tuck had hit a relay station out at Lukachukai, on the Rez. But at that moment, Pop just started laughing: laughing and laughing and laughing, as much as his ruined lungs would support. It left him gasping. In the dark I hollered out, was he okay. And he said, yep, he was fine, but he was goddamned if he was gonna be bullied by mother's "chindi," the Dine'h word for 'ghost.' Not that we're Dine'h, but pop was a native New Mexican, born out in the Navajo country in 1919, and he knew the lore. Even though momma had passed in a distqnt hos[pital, he KNEW, no matter what anybody said, the lights going out were the result of the temper-tantrum thrown by my (late) mother/his (late) wife at his extravagance.

When the lights came on, the next day, I asked him if he wanted to placate momma's spirit, he said, "No. I'll take my chances." And there weren't any more problems with the Co-Op's power delivery.

I remember my pop's last words to me, just before he lapsed into what was his terminal coma. I had been reading him Hawking's book, A Short History..., and he was sorta paying attention, but I could tell he was drifting off, too. He looked up from the pillow, gaunt, and said "Hey professor"---that's what he called me when he was being affectionate yet gruff--"He professor," he grumbles, "you think I'm gonna find out the answers?" I gently squeezed his hand, and said, "Pop, if you do, find a phone and call me..." He laughed, coughed, winced, and went to sleep.

Two days later he was gone. We never said another word.

My folks were always my best audience. I still want to call 'em up when I tumble onto some particularly bright detail in life, or read a good book. I don't miss them, exactly; it's been a while. But there's nobody anymore with whom to share the wonder and hilartity.

The Man CAN Deliver ...


A Speech...He is a stem-winder on the Stump!

Campaign promises?

Well, you know, it's hard...

Murkins LOVE 'em a Preznit who sounds good. Makes ya wonder how much more Cheney's Chimp could have gotten away with if he hadn't been a blundering, bumbling buffoon.


(DOTOF™: Avedon/Sideshow; visit Troubletown!)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"And Put It All Out On Hiway Sixty-ONE!"

Shawna Forde (l) ordered the murder of a nine-year-old girl; her collaborator
(whether Gaxiola or Bush is not specified--r) pulled the trigger.
Align Center Defending America! Enlist the Militias/Minutemen
To Take On The Mexican Cartels


Talk about killing two birds! It could help reduce both the numbers of the vicious, violent narco-Cartelistas and the (probably not quite as vicious, violent) USer vigilantes, like the crew that targeted that Arizona family, the father and the 9-year-old daughter of which were murdered by a Minute-man gang that believed they were ripping-off a gang of meth dealers for money to fund their anti-immigration campaigns.

I almost wish the Forde Gang HAD taken out a cartel-operation, because they would ALL quite surely be dead by now (read the interview with the Juarez cartel hitman, "Sicario" in the May number of Harper's, to see how one-sided the battle might be.), saving the State of Arizona the unnecessary expense of trying and (through the magic of jury nullification) dropping the charges. (The guy they whacked was indeed a small-time drugger; his daughter, also killed, had no known drug affiliations. However little brown-haired girls don't get the attention of little blonde girls, so tough shit, I guess)...

The idea of these two groups facing off in the desert, no quarter, is a fascinating solution to an enduring problem. We could sell tickets, burritos, and beer and reduce the national debt of both nations. YeeHaw! Arriba!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bowing to "right-wing Jewish elements," YouTube Pulled Max Blumenthal's Jerusalem Vid

"Feeling the hate in Jerusalem," which he recorded in the hours before and after Obama's Cairo speech earlier this month. Vimeo still has it up. Download it for posterity:

Feeling The Hate In Jerusalem -- The Censored Video from Max Blumenthal on Vimeo.



DOTOF™: (johnalive)
Youtube bans Max Blumenthal's 'Feel the hate' video

Richard Silverstein sends out notice that "Max Blumenthal's video, Feel the Hate in Jerusalem, has been banned by YouTube (where it was viewed hundreds of thousands of times) after a campaign by right-wing Jews who believe it promotes anti-Semitism. (It promotes anti-dickheadism, which isn't (always) the same thing. W)

I hope you'll circulate this message and my post to your own friends, colleagues, and co-workers. We need a viral campaign to get YouTube to reconsider their foolish, anti-free-expression decision to ban this important piece of media education on the issues of ... racism."

Here's Max Blumenthal responding to the campaign against the video:
it is clear there is an active campaign by right-wing Jewish elements to suppress the video by filing a flood of complaints with Youtube. At the same time these elements have attempted to paint me as a self-hating Jew determined to foment anti-Semitism.
Here's a link to Richard's report.

Here's an alternative link to another hosting service that has the video.

You can send a letter to youtube here.

Update: A commenter at Richard's blog says someone has reuploaded the video and it has not been taken down yet.

Dept. of LemmeSeeIfIGotThisStraight: If his testimony MIGHT end up on The Daily Show, Cheney'll Just Take The 5th?


Really. You cant just make shit like this up. It's unethical. Look at your calendar. Apr. 1? Nope. June 19. Today, a spokesperson for the Obama DoJ expressed reluctance to release Cheney's statements from the Scooter Libby probe. Why? Good question.
Will Officials Take the Fifth Unless the Daily Show Is Muzzled?
06/19/2009 by Jim Naureckas

Do they still teach the First Amendment in law school?

That's what you have to wonder when you see a lawyer for the Obama administration's Justice Department arguing that statements made by former Vice President Dick Cheney in the Scooter Libby probe ought to be kept secret because a future vice president might refuse to speak to a future investigation out of concern "that it's going to get on the Daily Show" (Washington Post, 6/19/09).

Really? That's how we're going to ensure that officials cooperate with criminal investigations, by using government secrecy to guarantee that their statements will never be subjected to criticism in the media? Yes, that's the plan, according to "career civil division lawyer" Jeffrey M. Smith.

Here's an alternate plan: How about instead we allow the media to criticize and even satirize the statements of public officials, and make sure that officials cooperate with criminal investigations by subpoenaing them if they refuse to do so? Nope--that would be "unseemly," according to Smith.

It does make you wonder what they're teaching in constitutional law classes--particularly at the University of Chicago.

If I Ran The Zoo...

I think you gotta start with the proposition that nobody with any real power/money/influence is eager to embrace a comprehensive realignment of the forces involved in moving--no matter howsoever delicately or timorously--toward any fundamental change in the way health care is payed for in Murka. The folks running things are quite satisfied with the way things are, health-care wise. Their own care is not now, never has been, and never shall be an issue. They get the best. Period. What happens to the rest of 'us' is not, in their humble estimation, really any business of theirs, or concern either, for that matter. It has nothing to do with them. They are completely insulated--as completely as possible--from the vicissitudes that regularly collapse upon and crumble those among the scrambling hordes not so lavishly provided for.

They are, therefore, vitally eager that the element of "profit" NOT be removed from the calculus, however. The status quo enriches them, and is co constructed that, unimpeded, it will to increasingly enrich them. If it doesn't also provide for the health of the people, well, shit happens.

With this in mind, the trajectory of The "Health-Care/Insurance" debate in Congress became clear to me. At least, here's how I'd do it, if I--the legal representative of the Owners who were at best extraordinarily ambivalent about, if not unutterably opposed to-- had promised 'change', and wanted to make it still look like I wanted "change," but didn't really want to "change" anything that would disturb the Owners any at all, or cost 'em any profits, or deprive 'em of any perqs, or challenge the status quo, or threaten the balance of power, or anything.

The plan--Obama's and that of the Congress as well, all of them in cahoots, one way or another--is to propose and back such a cosmetic, weak, listless, meaningless, expensively inequitable program which NOBODY likes, costs a ton of money, and leaves huge holes in the coverage; then negotiate it down to nothing, or the status quo made mandatory.

And then blame the 'libruls' for failing to compromise for the fact that the bill, when actually evaluated, only perpetuates the basic outlines of the status quo.

Brilliant!

Cuz it won't matter what's actually in the bill. By then, any bill passing Congress carrying the "Health Insurance Reform" imprimatur will be covered as avidly and as admiringly as the arrival of the Titanic in NYC Harbor tomorrow might occasion. EVERYONE will proclaim the most miraculous, life-changing, extravagant VICTORAYS! "thePrez" MOST especially. Wide and bright will be the smile! Effusive and self-congratulatory will be the rhetoric: VICTORAY! for the people and against those greedy insurance bastids (while nevertheless being compelled, by force of law, to have health insurance available only through 'private," albeit national providers...).

Cuz nobody WITH power EVER wants to see ANY change to ANY condition that was operating when THEY got power. No incumbent ever really wants to expand the franchise, to make it easier for somebody who hasn't voted before to vote now, for instance. The only reason there are impediments to same-day registration/voting is because incumbents, who have to pass the laws enabling it, don't stand to gain anything by it.

Indeed, in their eyes, in the logic of incumbency, the potential to enfranchise an opponent's voters actually far outweighs the potential to enfranchise your own voters. That's cuz incumbency decides your voters have already voted for you under the current rules. People who haven't previously voted, but who are inspired to vote in some current election, cannot, incumbency surmises, be counted upon to vote for the incumbent associated with the issue which inspires this hitherto placid voter to action. New voters cannot be placated by the status quo, and so are not to be trusted.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

SCROTUS: Better To Keep An Innocent Person In Jail Than Cast Doubt On The Prosecution


Margin: 5-to-4, Roberts, Sc/Alito, Unca Thom, and A. ("Meese") Kennedy in the affirmative. With Sotomayor, it might well have gone 6-3, as she's very friendly to the perquisites of the State.
Court finds convicts have no right to test DNA

WASHINGTON (YahooNews)– The Supreme Court said Thursday that convicts have no constitutional right to test DNA evidence in hopes of proving their innocence long after they were found guilty of a crime.

The decision may have limited impact because the federal government and 47 states already have laws that allow convicts some access to genetic evidence. Testing so far has led to the exoneration of 240 people who had been found guilty of murder, rape and other violent crimes, according to the Innocence Project.

The court ruled 5-4, with its conservative justices in the majority, against an Alaska man who was convicted in a brutal attack on a prostitute 16 years ago.

William Osborne won a federal appeals court ruling granting him access to a blue condom that was used during the attack. Osborne argued that testing its contents would firmly establish his innocence or guilt.

In parole proceedings, however, Osborne has admitted his guilt in a separate bid for release from prison.

The high court reversed the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. States already are dealing with the challenges and opportunities presented by advances in genetic testing, Chief Justice John Roberts said in his majority opinion.

"To suddenly constitutionalize this area would short-circuit what looks to be a prompt and considered legislative response," Roberts said. Alaska, Massachusetts and Oklahoma are the only states without DNA testing laws. In some other states, the laws limit testing to capital crimes or rule out after-the-fact tests for people who confess.

But Justice John Paul Stevens said in dissent that a simple test would settle the matter. "The court today blesses the state's arbitrary denial of the evidence Osborne seeks," Stevens said.

Peter Neufeld, a co-founder of The Innocence Project who argued Osborne's case at the Supreme Court, said he was disappointed with the ruling.

"There is no question that a small group of innocent people — and it is a small group — will languish in prison because they can't get access to the evidence," Neufeld said. The Innocence Project helps free wrongly convicted prisoners.
I am pretty much always skeptical when folks say it is only a small number of people who have been improperly convicted. I think the number is quite large, and that most are th result of "political" convictions. Also I believe it is NEVER a good idea to give more punitive power to the State against the individual; it is ALWAYS a good idea to give the State more power to regulate corporations, which should in any case be deprived of their favored "person" status.

Recently the Court ruled that accused persons do not have the right to refuse to answer police interrogators unless they have legal representation, which seems to me to be a victory for police-state tactics. This should come as no surprise, as our political liberties have increasingly been traded for the (spurious) assurances of physical security, so our personal liberties are also subordinated to preserving the legitimacy of the security apparati of the penal system.

Hey, Everybody. The "Pukes" were Right. There WAS voter registration fraud


The only slight hitch for the frothing fabricators of the wackloon/fucktard/flying monkey Right is that...

WAIT for it....

Just a little longer...

Yeah, the hitch is that the fraudsters were, in fact that very party which so publically worried about ACORN and ANSWER and their possible electoral misfeasances.

On BradBlog:
Head of CA GOP Voter Registration Firm Pleads Guilty to Voter Registration Fraud

What's perhaps most interesting here is what isn't mentioned in this story, as written on the Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now" blog. First, here's their entire blog item...
The owner of a voter-registration company pleaded guilty Tuesday to voter-registration fraud, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Laguna Beach resident Mark Jacoby, who collects signatures for petition drives, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to three years' probation and 30 days of service with the California Department of Transportation.

Jacoby, owner of Young Political Majors, registered to vote at Los Angeles addresses that were not his own. State law requires petition circulators to be qualified voters. Jacoby will also be required to show proof he is registered at his correct address.
And what they didn't bother to mention in that story?...Amongst other things, the fact that Jacoby and Young Political Majors were hired by the California Republican Party to head up their voter registration efforts in the state. Jacoby had been arrested for Voter Registration Fraud last October, smack dab during the media's orgasmic heights of last year's phony GOP ACORN "Voter Fraud" hoax, even as Fox "News" (and the other news outlets who similarly fell for the scam) were going wall-to-wall with their unsupported insinuations about voter fraud by ACORN, Democrats and Obama.

The news about the arrest of Jacoby, at the time, had occurred just as I was heading out for an appearance on Fox "News", so I was able to break the news on-air in my own "Fox 'News' Alert". (Video originally posted here)

Given the way the LA Times blog "covered" the story of Jacoby's plea --- not even mentioning the fact that this guy and his group were hired by the California state Republican Party --- I'd say it's a fair bet Fox wouldn't even have bothered to mention the original arrest at all had I not been on air and forcing them to do so myself. Much as they are unlikely to bother reporting Jacoby's plea today.

Ya think if the head of ACORN had made such a plea (or even been arrested at all) it might have been covered just a bit on Fox "News"?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Funnier than SHIT! "The Little People" Feel "Betrayed" By System NEVER MEANT To Protect Them

Matt Renner, writing at Truthout, says the Geithner/Summers/Rubin/Gramm/Obama "Bank Plan" leaves out prosecution and compensation.

"Today, the Obama administration will present a plan for reregulating the financial industry - one of the most highly anticipated policy reforms on the president's long list.

But critics charge that the key to the future of the financial system is accountability for crimes (past and anticipated. W)..

The collapse of the financial industry and the subsequent government bailouts have enraged Americans, who see their government using tax dollars to save a system which failed to protect the interests of the little people."
Hoooooo-(fucking)-Haaaaaaaa!

That's just funnier than reeking shit squirting outta a starlet's comely ass on a Monte Carlo photo shoot, since the system--as it was imagined by Reagan in the 80s and was broken and brokered by Clinton, in the mid-90s-- was NEVER supposed to preserve, protect, promulgqate, propogate, or in any other way attend to the interests of the "little people."

The "little people" only matter as sources of incremental infusions of disposable capital, and to maintain the charade of a democracy when they "vote" every once in a while. Leona Helmsley spoke for the Owners when she disparaged the proles.

NOBODY gives a rosy red fat rat's ass about the "little people," as long as the BIG GUYS get paid off.

And, as always, if there should happen-stantially occur some small ancillary benefit to the "little people" from some measure intended to fatten up the fat cats even more, well, you know, shit happens.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Carrying Capacity

One of the foremost acolytes of the "Gaeia" movement, British scientist James Lovelock, suggests that, in not even the very worst case scenario, the capacity for Earth to support human life could be reduced by global climate change and planetary warming to not many more than a billion people.

Bring out your dead!

If true, somehow every single one of the survivors, man, woman, and child, would have to figure out away to dispose of 7 human carcasses.

Look around you. Where would you put 'em?

Is There ANY "Objective" Evidence Geithner & Summers Are NOT Bankster Moles?


I cadged this, lock, stock and barrel, off BaselineScenario, because it is such a good piece of critical journalism, the kind of thing that should be done a lot more of; nd because the subject is so topical. Geithner and Summers have proven to be predictably 'reliable' vulpine sentries at the chicken-coop. The author is Simon Johnson, and he takes Timmy & Larry out behind the barn and provides some needed instruction:
Writing in the Washington Post this morning, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers outline a five point plan for dealing with the underlying problems in our financial system, entitled "A New Financial Foundation."

The authors are not completely clear on what they think caused the current crisis, but you can back out some points from their reasoning – and the implicit view seems quite at odds with reality.
1. Their view: Regulation is overly focused on safety and soundness of individual banks. Reality: There was a complete failure of safety and soundness supervision. This must be fundamental to any financial system – without this, you’ll get mush every time.

2. Their view: “A few large institutions can put the entire system at risk,” so we need a system regulator. Reality: you need to control the behavior of large institutions, more than a few of which got us into this mess. If you can’t come up with a proposal to prevent them from taking system-damaging risk (and there is nothing in today’s article about this), then break them up. The article mentions penalties for being large - higher capital and liquidity requirements for larger banks; we’ll see the details in/after Geithner’s speech tomorrow, but I am not holding my breath for anything meaningful.

3. Their view: All large firms will be subject to consolidated supervision by the Federal Reserve and there will be a council of supervisors. Reality: we have plenty of layers, up to “tertiary” regulators (and beyond, in some senses) and there is already enough opportunity for regulatory arbitrage. What prevents the biggest banks from capturing or manipulating regulators? There is no mention in today’s document of the extent to which everyone, including the authors, believed in the big banks’ risk management abilities last time – and continue to rely on the advice of their people today.

4. Their view: The originator “of a securitization” will be required to “retain a financial interest in its performance.” Reality: It was a big unpleasant shock when everyone realized that Lehman, Bear Stearns, and others had retained a large exposure to dubious financial products, some of which they had issued. We are back to the Greenspan fallacy here – if financial firms have an incentive not to screw up on a massive scale, they won’t.

5. Their view: “[T]he administration will offer a stronger framework for consumer and investor protection across the board.” This sounds incredibly vague and may be the worst news today. It looks like they are backing away from the idea of a Financial Products Safety Commission, for example as proposed by Elizabeth Warren.
And of course the complete omissions from this document are breathtaking. No mention of executive compensation or the structure of compenstion within the financial sector. Not even a hint that the complete breakdown of corporate governance at major banks contributed to execessive risk taking. And no notion of regulatory capture-by-crazy-ideas of any kind.

There are a couple of positive notes towards the end. The administration will seek a resolution authority for dealing with failed banks, but we knew this already. And the authors recognize the need to change how financial systems operate around the world; unfortunately, there is zero detail on this crucial point.

Overall, there are no surprises here. Brick by brick, we are building the foundation for the next financial crisis; by all indications, it will be more disruptive and a great deal more damaging than the crisis of 2008-09. But presumably by then the authors will be out of office.
And, as I noted at the Baseline site, quite imperturbably comfortable with the PILES of cash with which they'll have amply and lavishly feathered their own palatial nests.

UPDATE (2:49 PM, MDT): Robert Reich offers three absolutely essential reforms, to prevent what Johnson describes above as the findation of the next crisis/bubble:

1. Stop bankers from making huge, risky bets with other peoples’ money. At the least, require they back their bets with a large percentage of their own capital, and bar them from raising money off their balance sheets through derivative trades. Also require they take their pay in stock options or warrants that can’t be cashed in for at least three years, so they’ll take a longer-term view. Best of all would be a requirement that investment banks return to being partnerships and the capital on their books be their own, not yours or your pension fund’s. When investment banks were partnerships, every partner took an active interest in what every other partner and trader was doing. The real mischief started once they started selling shares to the public.

2. Prevent any bank from becoming too big to fail. Separate commercial from investment banking, as they were before the late 1990s. Commercial banks should return to their basic function of linking savers with borrowers. Investment bankers should return to their casino function of placing bets in the stock market and advising you and others about where to place your own own bets. Combining the basic utility with the casino only made bankers far richer and subjected you and me to risks we didn’t bargain for. If separating commercial from investment banking isn’t enough to bring all banks down to reasonable size, use antitrust laws to break them up.

3. Root out three major conflicts of interest. (1) Credit-rating agencies should no longer be paid by the companies whose issues are being rated; they should be paid by those who use their ratings. (2) Institutional investors like pension funds and mutual funds should not be getting investment advice from the same banks that profit off their investments; the advice should come from sources without a financial stake; (3) the regional Feds that are responsible for much bank oversight should no longer be headed by presidents appointed by the region’s bankers; non-bankers should have the major say, and the regional presidents should have to be confirmed by the Senate.
What is striking is the degree to which Reich's quite sensible injunctions are absent from the prescriptions of the Geithner/Summers Plan, nest paw?

Can a lazy environmentalist really change the world?


Via Grist:
You can guilt-trip me and you can moralize and you can gloom-and-doom about it, but there are probably certain behaviors I have that I’m just not going to change. But if you presented me with solutions ... if we can figure out ways to reduce my impact—that I can afford—great! I’m going to do them ... I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing, but I think that this is the reality and there are probably hundreds of millions of Americans who feel like I do. I’m a lazy environmentalist.”—Josh Dorfman

And thus was born the brand that has spawned a blog, a (now defunct) radio show, two books (and counting), a Sundance Channel Green television series that premieres tonight at 9 p.m.-—and a ray of hope for couch potatoes everywhere.

But the man known as the Lazy Environmentalist is certainly no sloth himself. In fact, Josh Dorfman has been so busy writing and researching and talking and filming that he’s hardly had time to devote to his first green venture, a high-end sustainable furniture store called Vivavi.

It was a coworker from Vivavi, actually, that prompted Dorfman’s first use of the “lazy environmentalist” phrase, when he was accused of not being an environmentalist at all (despite his sustainable shop) because of bad habits like long, hot showers. (Which he still refuses to give up—they help him think, OK?)

Now Dorfman is dedicated to cutting out the typical green-minded guilt-trip crap and helping people find eco-solutions that not only fit their lifestyles but improve them. He’s still coming to terms with what kind of role he’s playing in this movement, but says maybe he’s less journalist/media personality and more “change agent.” Change that sticks, that is, and spurs more change—because it just makes sense.
Read ON, to read more in an interview with Dorfman.

Monday, June 15, 2009

C (E) &P: "Guns V. Butter" As Personal Propaganda

Some folks (FDL among them) are appealing for an outpouring of communications from constituents to sway the votes of members of Congress on the impending vote for a $95 BILLION supplemental to fund the expiring war in Iraq and the newly-flowering invasion/incursion/occupation/vicarious bombing of Afghanistan and Pakistan. I know: Fat chance.

But just in case you'd like to make your voice--alright pixels--read, FDL has a site in common with Democrats.Com where you may sign a petition.

Or you might want to do as I did, and avail myself of the language of the petition as a template for a letter to my local Congresscritter, a newbie named Martin Heinrich, D-NM3 (YMMV). Here's the original text of the petition:
We cannot afford expanded warfare and expanded health care at the same time.

I urge you to oppose the $95 billion Supplemental Appropriations which will keep U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely and expand the senseless war in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

I urge you to use those funds instead to provide health care to the 45 million Americans who cannot afford it, either through an immediate Single Payer system like Rep. Conyers' H.R. 676, or a "Public Option" that leads directly to Single Payer.

And here is the message I formulated from the petition and sent on to Rep. Heinrich
Hon. Sir:

In the face of the cascading economic problems confronting us, the country cannot afford expanded warfare and expanded health care at the same time. It is the old guns/butter dilemma. But it has never been more real, or more important to decide for the People.

Therefore, I urge--implore!--you to oppose the $95 billion Supplemental Appropriations which will keep U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely and expand the senseless war in Afghanistan/Pakistan. These policies are no more than an extension of the Bushevik regime's misguided, fatal mistakes in the region which have already cost us so dearly, in blood and treasure.

Instead of unleashing more carnage on people who have never done us any harm, I urge you to use those funds AT THE VERY LEAST to provide health care to the 45 million Americans who cannot afford it, either through an immediate Single Payer system like Rep. Conyers' H.R. 676, or a "Public Option" that leads directly to Single Payer.

The last time I checked, you had not signed on to co-sponsor HR 676, a move which would gain you much approval in your district, if my opinion is any indication. Please, sir, in this if nothing else, be FOR the People.

Y'r Ob't S'v't,


Dr. Woody Konopelli, Ph.D., HMWb,TE
DIY Propaganda! Anybody can do it...

Bibi's "Plan" For Palestine


Mebbe he'll let 'em run casinos?
In an much-anticipated foreign policy address Sunday night Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel, but only if the Palestinians recognize Israel's nature as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu said that he embraced President Barack Obama's vision, adding, however, that the Holocaust was not the reason for the establishment of the Jewish state.

The prime minister said that the descendants of the Palestinian refugees must not be resettled within Israel borders and that Jerusalem must remain united. Israel, he said, would not build any new settlements or expropriate new land for existing settlements.
The "Palestinian State" Bibi envisions will, that is, possess no capacity for self-defense, will have no authority over its borders, will not have any part of Jerusalem as a capitol, will not be able to include its children (if they emigrated in the past 60 years). Unmentioned, but a factor which MUST be considered, is how Israel will deal with the issue of already-expropriated Arab properties, and how Israel will share the regions limited and diminishing natural resources with what will amount to pseudo-sovereign enclaves of Arab completely surrounded by ambivalent, if not hostile, expansionist Israelis.

The Israelis may want to study how we have managed such populations within our own nation: dressing them in "authentic" costumes, and encouraging them to pursue "native" arts and crafts, music, and dancing for the entertainment of the tourists.

And casinos. So they don't starve in plain sight...

Oh, wait...

The Fix Is In: Big PhARmA, AMA, Join With *HIP* To Kill Public Option


It's in the bag. Nobody in DC has the stones to fight off all that money! Forget about it. Go home, pack up the kiddies, and head for the beach, because there is NOTHING you can do. The Deal Is Done! Reform is OVER. Everything will go on as before!

Any "changes" will be cosmetic, but Obama and the Root-beer Drinkers will tout it to the heavens as a "REAL REFORM." Which will of course be a fabric of Transparent Lies. But the Big Lie machinery is in place, so it will become "true," with sufficient, authoritative repetition. Trudy LiebermanCJR last week added a segment to the on-going studies she's been conducting on the representation of interests in the public debate over health-care reform (the whole series is archived here). She was wondering when attention would finally get around to Big PhArmA and the AMA, two lobbying groups every BIT as opposed to the "public option" as the grifters and thieves of the *HIP* (Health Insurance Parasites). Most of the press coverage had and has focused on the HIP, leaving the physicians and the pharmaceutical companies who stand to "lose" a LOT of money, mostly alone.

Last week, the AMA and Big PhArmA joined the fray, and according to Robert Reich, their overt presence in the debate will likely be determinative, as always:
Former Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, reveals that drug makers and insurers have teamed up to kill the public option, and that many moderate Dems and Republicans seem to be embracing softer versions of a public plan. Count the AMA on the insurer-drug team as well.

Most journalists, let alone the public, haven’t read the lengthy comments the AMA submitted to the Senate Finance Committee, laying out what the AMA really wants. But Kuttner, Reich, and other influential bloggers and MSM reporters should take a good look, and offer a more informed discussion of the AMA’s actions.
The AMA is NOT happy, and they're joining their natural allies in the 'health industry' to tube the pooch. Lieberman continues:
The (AMA), which represents the hard-liners of organized medicine, has been as instrumental as insurers in blocking serious health reform over the decades—not only with their campaign contributions (the AMA ranks second only to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the last ten years in the amount it has spent to influence Congress) but also with other forms of public pressure. Like insurers, they started out by being oh-so-agreeable. Early this year, the AMA even tried to position itself as the “Voice for the Uninsured.” But look what it stands for now. Some of its proposals look like they were cloned from those of AHIP, the insurers’ trade group.(Emphases supplied. W)
The AMA opposes EVERYTHING about national health care. EVERYTHING:
According to the AMA, the magic of the market will bring insurance to all. To that end, it supports letting markets create the most attractive combinations of plan benefits and premiums. It wants to tax some insurance benefits provided by employers and shift some of the newly created tax revenue to tax credits or vouchers for the uninsured, and it supports the individual mandate, which would require people to buy insurance in the private market if they coud afford it. The individual mandate is the sine qua non of the insurers’ reform agenda.

Along the way, the AMA wants to rid the market of state-mandated benefits, also high on the insurers’ wish list. “Appropriate regulations and fewer benefit mandates would permit market experimentation to find the most attractive combinations of plan benefits,” the docs say. No self-respecting insurance carrier would disagree. It opposes letting people between age fifty-five and sixty-four buy into Medicare, even temporarily. The AMA has a proposal for the youngsters, too. It suggests that the government offer tax credits or vouchers to parents of kids enrolled in SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, to make it easier to buy health coverage in the private market. In other words, it wants to begin eroding government coverage for poor kids.

The AMA doesn’t care for a public insurance option, either. Here’s what the doctors say:
The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans. A crowd-out of private insurers and the corresponding surge in public plan participation would likely lead to an explosion of costs that would need to be absorbed by taxpayers.
There you have it—is this the same old AMA opposing anything that even remotely looks, smells, or quacks like an entrĂ©e to national health insurance? Is it 1948 all over again? Health care journalists should make it their business to find out.
There is no fire hot enough to which to hold the feet of the most powerful interests in the game to make them back off. None. Obama doesn't have the stones (or the mandate), the Dims are as ever gutless AND completely sold-out and compromised (save Bernie Sanders, the 'socialist' without a constituency), and the Pukes are supremely happy with the chaotic status quo, which they anticipate will enable them to replace Obama next cycle, and leave themselves a clean plate upon which to carve up what's left of the Democracy.

We are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Fucked, friends.


UPDATE (10:45 AM, MDT): I just was over at Bill Sher's Progressive Breakfast blog where he has more news on a much wider scale than I have addressed above, and is well worth your continued attention. I particularly enjoyed this item:
OurFuture.org FLASHBACK: "Capping jury awards would have almost no impact on health costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But it would help conservatives protect insurance company profits, instead of patients victimized by fraud or negligence." (Emphasis supplied. W)
That, my friends, is nuanced analysis.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sibel Edmonds Joins The Blogosphere. Shout "Hy-De-Hay, Sibel!"

Sibel Deniz Edmonds (born 1970) is a Turkish-American former FBI translator and founder of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC).

Edmonds was fired from her position as a language specialist at the FBI's Washington Field Office in March, 2002, after she accused a colleague of covering up illicit activity involving foreign nationals, alleging serious acts of security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence which, she contended, presented a danger to the United States' security.

Since that time, court proceedings on her whistleblower claims have been blocked by the assertion of State Secrets Privilege. On March 29, 2006, she was awarded the PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award in recognition of her defense of free speech as it applies to the written word.
Apparently the Bush-regime gag-order on her has been lifted, because she's been posting for just about a month. The blog is not her first venture into the public sphere:
In August, 2004, Edmonds founded the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), an alliance of whistleblowers who have come forward to address security weaknesses of the US. The NSWBC helps national security agency whistleblowers through advocacy of governmental and legal reform, public education on whistleblowing activity, provision of comfort and fellowship to national security whistleblowers suffering retaliation and other harms, and working with other public interest organizations. NSWBC is involved in backing former intelligence analyst Russ Tice, who was dismissed by the National Security Agency (NSA) in May, 2005. On December 16, 2005, ABC reported that Tice was among the sources of a leak about illegal NSA wiretap programs, ordered by the White House and first disclosed by the New York Times.
So let us welcome this brave and forthright colleague to the IT frontier. iBienvenidos!