Saturday, February 28, 2009

Climaticide: The "True Name" of the Thing.

I had not been aware of the environmental/climatological work of blogger "Johnny Rook" at his blog, "Johnny Rook’s Climaticide Chronicles, until this morning, when I was directed thither by Down With Tyranny who presents a touching homage (a sort of pre-eulogy) to the courageous environmental crusader.

And now it appears I have found this site almost too late, because the eponymous/synonymous creator of the site is apparently struggling for life against some fell disease (unspecified, but fatal) even as we speak, and he may not even live through this weekend. DWT provides context, but the important words belong to the subject, Johnny Rook. The post is long, and I have abstracted it for presentation here. These seem to me to be the money grafs:
Of all the insanities that bedevil human beings on this planet none is greater than global warming. Only all out nuclear war poses as grave a danger to the planet and human civilization. Ironically, the former, if we fail to check it, may lead to the latter–a two-for-one sale at the Armageddon store, if you like.

I’m not confident that we are going to survive this. I’m positive that we won’t survive unscathed because the harm has already begun and we still haven’t done anything to reduce CO2 emissions. And here’s the question that keeps haunting me: If we won’t stop genocide in Darfur or provide universal health coverage in the United States, two horrible but much simpler cruelties, why should any one think that we will deal adequately with global warming? We are already way behind and likely to fall farther behind because we have waited so long to begin and because the necessary sense of urgency is still not there. Witness the hearings in DC on S 2191, Joe Lieberman and John Warner’s trillion dollar giveaway to the nation’s biggest polluters. This is not a measure to stop global warming, it is simply “green” pork barrel politics. Business as usual in drag.

The changes required of us are enormous. A little biofuel and a few CFLs aren’t going to do it. We can no longer live as we have and we have only been able to live as we have because we have borrowed so much from the future. We are way over the limit on our Gaia Visa card and the penalties and fees are going to be enormous. We can’t declare bankruptcy either, because in this case bankruptcy equals death.

I love the earth. I have delighted in it for 53 years and I hope to live here for a while longer. My doctor has told me that I’m not going to die today and I’m glad. But if I have to die anytime soon it will be a lot easier if I can go knowing that we have truly accepted reality and are making the radical changes in how we live that are required. If we take the necessary measures to stop global warming and to live sustainably the world that our children and grandchildren will live in will be unrecognizably different from our own. And if we don’t take those necessary measures the world that our children and grandchildren will live in will also be unrecognizably different from our own.
The previous text was written in 2007. The penultimate paragraph of DWT's account concludes:
To honor him, to honor his passion, to honor his commitment, take a few moments to click to Climaticide Chronicles … Perhaps to begin with his first post at this site that he started just last June: "Why call it climaticide? The power of calling things by their true names."
I use the term Climaticide because it is the true name of the crisis that threatens us. As the poet Thich Nhat Hanh has shown, calling things by their true names makes us aware of their complexity and wary of simplistic solutions.
The last post on the Climaticide site was dated Feb. 18, and describes Spanish researchers' reports that the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica has collapsed and sundered.

It has occurred to me that the climate-change skeptics, the 'denialist' ("de nihilist?") strain in public discourse, particularly virulent among the fundie/xianist fucktard Right, is regarded by them as a kind of rebuke to the growing influence of atheism and the diminishing authority of 'the gods.' It's as if the delusional bible-babblers were saying, "If there's no God, no Heaven, no Debil, then fuck the world."

Is that the "true" face of Christianity at work? I guess.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Is "Creative Apocalypse" the Next Step In Kapitalism' "Development?"

Is "Creative Apocalypse" the Next Step In Kapitalism' "Development?"Things are bad. Indeed they are.

And getting worse, not better.

(And I wish now I'd bought that Czech AK; at only $200, it was a steal.)

Michael Klare, in Salon today (DOTOF™: John Cole/Baloon Juice; Jon Schwarz/ATR), presents a frighteningly plausible account of what the NEXT stage of the Collapse of 08 might entail. I've said before, it seems to me too bad that the crisis didn't come when I was younger and more likely to survive it. The Hed is stark:
We're on the brink of disaster

Violent protests and riots are breaking out everywhere as economies collapse and governments fail. War is bound to follow.

(Editor's note: This article has also appeared on TomDispatch.com.)

By Michael Klare
Oh, you should have a World map handy for the next part:
Feb. 26, 2009 | The global economic meltdown has already caused bank failures, bankruptcies, plant closings and foreclosures and will, in the coming year, leave many tens of millions unemployed across the planet. But another perilous consequence of the crash of 2008 has only recently made its appearance: increased civil unrest and ethnic strife. Someday, perhaps, war may follow.

As people lose confidence in the ability of markets and governments to solve the global crisis, they are likely to erupt into violent protests or to assault others they deem responsible for their plight, including government officials, plant managers, landlords, immigrants and ethnic minorities. (The list could, in the future, prove long and unnerving.) If the present economic disaster turns into what President Obama has referred to as a "lost decade," the result could be a global landscape filled with economically fueled upheavals.

Indeed, if you want to be grimly impressed, hang a world map on your wall and start inserting red pins where violent episodes have already occurred. Athens (Greece), Longnan (China), Port-au-Prince (Haiti), Riga (Latvia), Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sofia (Bulgaria), Vilnius (Lithuania) and Vladivostok (Russia) would be a start. Many other cities from Reykjavik, Paris, Rome and Zaragoza to Moscow and Dublin have witnessed huge protests over rising unemployment and falling wages that remained orderly thanks in part to the presence of vast numbers of riot police. If you inserted orange pins at these locations -- none as yet in the United States -- your map would already look aflame with activity. And if you're a gambling man or woman, it's a safe bet that this map will soon be far better populated with red and orange pins.
It's a chastening thought to imagine armed and angry red-neck Murkins hungry, hopeless and really desperate. And that's just potential. It's already reality in a lot of places. I shall spare you the catalogue of horrors Klare lists in the ensuing graphs. They will make your head hurt in their number, complexity, seriousness,and ubiquity. This is Klare's conclusion:
Given a global situation in which one startling, often unexpected development follows another, prediction is perilous. At a popular level, however, the basic picture is clear enough: Continued economic decline combined with a pervasive sense that existing systems and institutions are incapable of setting things right is already producing a potentially lethal brew of anxiety, fear and rage. Popular explosions of one sort or another are inevitable. (Emphasis supplied. Ed.)

Some sense of this new reality appears to have percolated up to the highest reaches of the U.S. intelligence community. In testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Feb. 12, Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the new director of national intelligence, declared, "The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications ... Statistical modeling shows that economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one to two year period" -- certain to be the case in the present situation.

Blair did not specify which countries he had in mind when he spoke of "regime-threatening instability" -- a new term in the American intelligence lexicon, at least when associated with economic crises -- but it is clear from his testimony that U.S. officials are closely watching dozens of shaky nations in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Central Asia.

Now go back to that map on your wall with all those red and orange pins in it and proceed to color in appropriate countries in various shades of red and orange to indicate recent striking declines in gross national product and rises in unemployment rates. Without 16 intelligence agencies under you, you'll still have a pretty good idea of the places that Blair and his associates are eyeing in terms of instability as the future darkens on a planet at the brink.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama Names Another "Reliable" Crypto-Puke/DINO To Head Commerce

Here's a Wiki bio on Obama's Commerce Dept. nominee. Expect him to SAIL through (DOTOF™ to Archangel on FSZ):
Democrats criticized Locke for embracing the Republican Party's no-new-taxes approach to dealing with Washington's budget woes during and after the 2001 economic turmoil. Among his spending-reduction proposals were laying off thousands of state employees; reducing health coverage; freezing most state employees' pay; and cutting funding for nursing homes and programs for the developmentally disabled. In his final budget, Locke suspended two voter-passed, pro-school initiatives while cutting state education funding. That same state budget, though, had record-high allocations for construction projects.
We are supposed to be assured because, by Obama's own accolades for Locke yesterday when naming him to the post, he's fundamentally PRO-Bidness which, imho, is not the highest recommendation for nominees to a fucking post that requires the regulation of commerce.

I don't know if this is better than the rumored appointment of Harold Ford, or worse. Probably: a net "shit-encrusted digit" in the eye of anything like slowing, much less reversing, the headlong consolidation of the Corporation and the State.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wadda Buncha Fucking DICKS!

Yeah, these fuckers: A charity in Boston that gave a double amputee Iraq war vet a house in his home-town, Branson, Mo, that was built to be handicapped accessible - and then took the house away because he had been arrested for marijuana possession.
In January, just two days after the couple had returned from their honeymoon, the charity took back its gift after learning that Scott West had been arrested on marijuana charges in 2007 and pleaded guilty in December to a felony of possession with intent to distribute. Last week, a judge placed West on five years probation.

West acknowledges that he deserved to be punished. Despite his guilty plea, he insists he never sold marijuana. He believes the charity, Massachusetts-based Homes for Our Troops, overreacted. "It was something to help me," West said of the donated house. "It wasn't like a privilege to be taken from me."

Homes for Our Troops founder John Gonsalves did not respond to several requests for an interview. The nonprofit organization has built more than three dozen homes nationwide since it was established in 2004. It has about two dozen more homes under construction.

A spokeswoman for the charity said it was grateful for West's service and sacrifice. She described the decision to drop West from the program as the most painful Gonsalves has had to make.

"It hurts him; it haunts him," spokeswoman Vicki Thomas said.
I gotta couple of ideas how we can make SURE the pompous, hypocritical, judgmental piece of shit Gonsalves feel the pain. It's why the loard invented lead pipes and baseball bats.

There's a guy with two artificial limbs, lost in combat, 'defending the fucking country,' who comes home and smokes some weed, and somehow that erases his heoism, patriotism, and courage.

If Mr. West would loan me one of his old prosthetics, I think we could find a place to store it, around Branson somewhere.

Solis' Nomination Approved; Crow Served


I actually hope that this is NOT the last time I am wrong about Pres. Obama.

But I am not optimistic. Optimism is the secular equivalent of faith, and when the fella addressed "O, ye of little faith," he was looking right at me...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Today's the Day That Hilda Solis' Confirmation Is Supposed To Pass The Senate

Why do I keep thinking that it won't?

Is it because, as I believe (though I hope it isn't true), Prez.O named her only as a stalking horse, to goad the Pukes into opposition, to which he can then concede, thereby preserving the appearance of compromise while, handily, throwing over arguably the ONLY nominee for any post in his regime who is not vetted by the USCoC and the Mnufacturers' Association, and sticking yet ANOTHER shit-encrusted thumb in the eye of the "progressives" whom Prez.O regards askance in any case?

Or is it because I simply do not, in general, trust anyone so willing to compromise principle for "pragmatism?"

On Down With Tyranny, the blog asked Sunday if we'd have a Labor Sec by today. DWT is optimistic. Personally, I doubt it. There is HUGE animosity against Solis and her 'working-class' background, her roots in struggle, her experiences of oppression. She was/is the ONLY member of her class in the Cabinet choices.

I shall accept a small portion of 'crow' to consume with my dinner if it turns out that I have misjudged the Prez.

DWT ends her/his reflections with this provocative reflection by Marianne Faithful:


Btw: If you are not familiar with Faithfull's interpretations of the Brecht/Weil-ish entre-bellum oeuvre, you owe it to yourself to become acquainted with "20th Century Blues."

Btw, too: I'd love to hear Ms. Faithfull covering Leonard Cohen's material. If anyone knows of such, please lemme know?

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change

Emeritus Prof at Scripps, Richard Somerville weaves critical findings in climate science into a compelling story, making the most important issues of our time understandable to all.

Pay attention, please. There will be a test...


That test? Yeah, you're living it...

N-CHEAT! * Health/Pharma/Ins Parasites Infest Senate Talks

Somehow this item--
Health Care Industry in Talks to Shape Policy
--has almost entirely slipped under the popular press and blogger radar around the health care crisis and the proper and appropriate governmental/legislative approach to address and remedy the problems.

The relevance of it might be implied from the comments today at Obama's "Fiscal Responsibility Summit," when top Obama economic advisor, Peter Orzag, claimed that the road to responsibility was through the health industry. It will make considerable difference who the legislators listen to in shaping these policies.

The NYTimes reported the other day (Feb 20), that the decision has pretty much been made: Mandatory Insurance.
February 20, 2009
By ROBERT PEAR

WASHINGTON — Since last fall, many of the leading figures in the nation’s long-running health care debate have been meeting secretly in a Senate hearing room. Now, with the blessing of the Senate’s leading proponent of universal health insurance, Edward M. Kennedy, they appear to be inching toward a consensus that could reshape the debate.

Many of the parties, from big insurance companies to lobbyists for consumers, doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, are embracing the idea that comprehensive health care legislation should include a requirement that every American carry insurance.

While not all industry groups are in complete agreement, there is enough of a consensus, according to people who have attended the meetings, that they have begun to tackle the next steps: how to enforce the requirement for everyone to have health insurance; how to make insurance affordable to the uninsured; and whether to require employers to help buy coverage for their employees.

The talks, which are taking place behind closed doors, are unusual. Lobbyists for a wide range of interest groups — some of which were involved in defeating national health legislation in 1993-4 — are meeting with the staff of Mr. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, in a search for common ground.
I wonder if Billy Tauzin or Tom Daschle were in the room, donchew?

N-CHEAT* = "Nobody Could Have EVER Anticipated This!"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Don't Drop Your Soap! The Obama Fiscal Accountability Summit's Gonna Fuck Us, Gay-Ron-TEED, Chers...


Starting Monday, Feb. 23, Prez.O is convening a top-level domestic economic "summit" to address the fiscal and financial crisis now engulfing the US and the World's economies.

Do NOT-- I REPEAT: DO NOT --turn your backs on these fuckers. Whatsoever else they say they are doing, what they are REALLY doing is looking for ways to fuck the baby-boomers out of Social Security.

It's part of a decades'-long conspiracy to convert the Social Security Trust into private resources. Logn though to be the 'third-rail' in domestic politics, Social Security was assailed by the Chimperor and the the Busheviks right after the last 'election.' They were more or less beaten back that time, but it has always been obvious that it was only a temporary setback for the privatizers. Social Security is the last big (fuuking HUGE) pile of money in America NOT directed to making obscene profits for the oligarchs, plutocrats and other aristos. They're n ot gonna lat that state of affairs persist.

Remember, it was always only a Puke--Nixon, in the instant--who could bridge the breach with China (although it was actually Carter who inaugurated the new regime). Similarly, it will only be a Dim who can undo Social Security. Maybe you noticed: there is, coincidentally, a Dim in the WhiteHouse now. One who, one will recall, has often alluded to his distaste for Baby Boomers, their history or their prospects, preferring the faux-libertarianism of GenX.

This is a moment when we should all be looking to the model proffered by Naomi Klein, whose "shock doctrine" pretty much provides the schema fot the assault on SS. This "global crisis" is exactly, precisely the kind of event that will always be uased by the pols to push through their designs which couldn't pass without the threat of disaster, no matter how well manufactured.

Mark my words: If they once put Social security ON the table, it will not be the same program when it comes OFF the table, and the changes will not be in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the system.

Bill Greider, one of the smartest guys watching this shit, tolls the warning in the new number (Mar. 9) of The Nation:
Governing elites in Washington and Wall Street have devised a fiendishly clever "grand bargain" they want President Obama to embrace in the name of "fiscal responsibility." The government, they argue, having spent billions on bailing out the banks, can recover its costs by looting the Social Security system. They are also targeting Medicare and Medicaid. The pitch sounds preposterous to millions of ordinary working people anxious about their economic security and worried about their retirement years. But an impressive armada is lined up to push the idea--Washington's leading think tanks, the prestige media, tax-exempt foundations, skillful propagandists posing as economic experts and a self-righteous billionaire spending his fortune to save the nation from the elderly.


The thing about these assholes is they'll NEVER, EVER, EVER stop trying. And they'll win in the end.

ALWAYS!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Tiny-Minded Bible Blatherers In The NM GOP...

...Are raising a hell of a racket in Santa Fe during the Lege session, over the refusal of the NM House Dims to move a bill that would require photo ID for all NM voters. The bulk of the effort comes from the solidly Texan part of the state, south of Socorro. NMFBIHoP reports.

The Puckers have again raised their favorite straw-man and marched forth into battle behind the banner of "voter fraud." There have been exactly three verified cases of 'voter fraud' in NM since anybody bothered to start counting. I heard one of their number complaining on a radio report from the Roundhouse (our State-house) of someone somewhere (details? crickets!) alleged to have registered as both a male and a female, in order to contribute one more vote to some Dim incumbent.

The Dims, quite sensibly, respond that the problem is not voter fraud but official intimidation and abuse to deny the elderly, many Natives, and others of the right to exercise the franchise without interference.

It looks like the Dims--which control both Houses of the NM Lege--are gonna win on this one. Maybe, though, the same-day voter-registration proposal is gonna fail.

Mebbe, too, they'll win on eliminating the death penalty, and in gaining recognition for domestic partnerships. The Gub's said he might sign off on both measures if they get to him. There's less than two weeks for that to happen.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Women Of North Dakota Need To Go All "Lysistrata"


Via skippy, the (former) bush kangaroo:
attention all women in north dakota

time to go on a sex strike. no nookie...no nada...until this north dakota comes into the 21st century.

north dakota's house of representatives has passed a bill effectively outlawing abortion.

the house voted 51-41 this afternoon to declare that a fertilized egg has all the rights of any person. -
kxmc.com
A perusal of the comments accompanying the short article on the radio station blog can only leave one with the deep gratitude that I do not live within 500 miles of that fucking reactionary pest-hole...(Unfortunately, it seems that one of the commenters DOES live in New Mexico; she expressed a desire to leave; I'll help the fucking bint pack...)

Here's just the last example in the comments section of the post:
Posted by talacoma on Feb 19 2009 2:03PM - Yeah it would be great if all abortions where just used for woman who get raped or her life is in great danger. But the ones who use it the most are those who can't keep their legs closed or don't use protection. Here is a little hint to you woman, the decision on wheather or not you want a kid begins with keeping your legs shut. But I am sure that is too much to ask that people have self control or take resposibility for their actions since we live in a world that no one wants to admit that they did wrong.
As always when I read remarks associated with stories like this one, I wonder if the women involved with the likes of 'talacoma' fully realize the scorn and contempt with which their men view them, and if they do, why they do not do something about it (cf: Burning Bed).

I wonder if the High Plains Bloviator, fat Eddie Schultz, had anything to say on the matter, even though his travels have been taking him farther and farther afield from Fargo.

A quick perusal of his web-site reveals no sign that he payed the least attention to the matter. If so, please lemme know and flag it if you can...

But it figgers that fat Ed wouldn't touch this one. Schultz has only one principle: self-promotion. He wants the same kind of power he sees Limbaugh exerting over the Right to be his over the Left.

Which is ab-fucking-surd, since he's no leftist, no progressive. He's an Obama centrist, at best... But he'll do anything, sell anything, say anything to achieve that, even though the Left is not the sort of discourse that actually obeys the commands of would-be bosses...

I am objectively Pro-Abortion: Insured, On Demand, Safe, No Questions Asked.

TRNN Interviews US Commander In Southern Iraq

Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, US Army commander for Southern Iraq, declared that the security situation in Southern Iraq is not fragile. This contradicts recent statements from other military leaders like CENTCOM Commander Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Ray Odierno, the Commander in Iraq. Gareth Porter reports on his conversations with other commanders on the ground in Iraq who support Oates' statement. There seems to be a difference of opinion between the Commander-in-Chief and the field commanders on the situation in Iraq and the proper response to it. TRNN = The Real News Network.


I believe the US military will "rebrand" combat troops--which Obama has promised would be withdrawn by the end of 2011--as 'support troops.' Support troops WILL be necessary there, to support the Trans-Caspian Intervention Force for the foreseeable future...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Evolution Of The "Evolution Narrative"

Here's the/a/one, common, conventional schema:


Here's another, less common, far more accurate, version:

As HL Mencken remarked: For every problem there is a single, simple answer, and it is wrong. The point, of course, is that evolution is not one singular, simple narrative, and that humans are not the epicenter of it anyway. Evolution is a remarkably complex system, and humanity --"Man"-- is not necessarily (or even likely) its ultimate expression.

Which is the thing that pisses off the Xianist/Biblicalist/Theocrats more than anything else, I think. In the main, I think, they so vehemently reject environmentalism because they see it as retributive payback to the secular world for rejecting their "god."

My thanks, again, for the Nth time, to arch-atheist and science-blogger PZ Myers at Pharyngula, who links to the possibility that, we had to name a genre for the story of life, it would be a "soap opera." Myers writes
Both have lots of characters and story lines, every one full of anguish and drama, some ending happily (for a while), others ending miserably; individuals come and go, they get their brief period in the spotlight, then poof, everything moves on to the next big new event. There is no one grand goal for the ensemble, just a series of overlapping dramas, some ridiculous, some mundane, and the vehicle to tie them all together is usually something commonplace — a town or a hospital, for instance — and stories can abandon that unifying premise freely. And it never ends


Viva "General Hospital!"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Obama Seeks Delay in Deciding on Rove Subpoena

That's right. Via TruthOut comes a report that that venal, vicious, chubby, little villain Karl Rove has apparently called in a chit of some kind to get the Obamistas to intervene in his difficulties with John Conyers and his Congressional Committee subpoena to appear to answer questions about the illegal politicization of the Bushevik DoJ.

Marisa Taylor And Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers:
"The Obama administration is asking for two more weeks to weigh in on whether former Bush White House officials must testify before Congress about the firings of nine US attorneys. The request comes after an attorney for former Bush political adviser Karl Rove asked the White House to referee his clash with the House of Representatives over Bush's claim of executive privilege in the matter."
I must admit that I am not optimistic that, in this first test of the efficacy of executive privilege, Prez.O will side with Congress. (Okay, I am seldom optimistic; for ample and obvious reasons.) No President since Washington has returned to the Lege powers arrogated by the executive for the "present emergency." Rove's troubles, and hence the scope of his pleading, do not end with the USAtty firing scandal.
...House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D- Mich., has issued a subpoena requiring Rove to appear next Monday to testify about the firings and other allegations that the Bush White House let politics interfere with the operations of the Justice Department .

Michael Hertz , the acting assistant attorney general, said in a court brief released Monday that negotiations were ongoing.

"The inauguration of a new president has altered the dynamics of this case and created new opportunities for compromise rather than litigation," Hertz wrote in the brief dated Friday. "At the same time, there is now an additional interested party — the former president — whose views should be considered."

Members of the committee have been seeking the testimony of Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers since the spring of 2007.

Last July, a federal judge in Washington agreed with the House that Miers didn't have the right to ignore a subpoena from Congress . District Judge John D. Bates' 93-page ruling was considered a significant setback for the administration, which had asserted a broad executive-privilege claim that would have protected Miers from appearing.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit later delayed the effect of the ruling until after the November elections.

Since then, Rove's attorney has indicated that his client would be willing to testify about his role in the prosecution and conviction of former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on bribery charges. Democrats want Rove to testify about the matter because they suspect that he instigated the prosecution.

However, Democrats also insist that Rove should be made to testify about the firings of the nine U.S. attorneys.

Meanwhile, a special prosecutor is investigating what role White House officials had in the firings and whether their involvement constituted a crime.
This is a serious test for Prez.O. The question is not whether he will compromise, but what he'll concede and how long til he concedes it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Another Dis-Appointment: Ford For Commerce?


There are apparently murmurings among the chattering classes that Obama might ask former Tennessee Congresscritter, DLC/BlueDawg, "big-bidness" Dim Harold Ford to the Commerce Secretary post. I have one word for that: Sheeeee-it! That'd be another 'poke-in-the-eye' for those who still cherished the illusion of 'change.'

Over on Open Left, David Sirota reveals Ford's possible selection for what was to me the first time, in the midst of trying to exhort the captive SCUM (SoCalledUnbiasedMedia) to acquaint themselves with the actual responsibilities of the job before conferring it on Ford, for his business-friendly record.
In telling us that Merrill Lynch vice-president Harold Ford could be the next Commerce Secretary, NBC News' Chuck Todd tells us a lot more about how the D.C. media views government in general:
On paper, Ford checks a lot of boxes for a an easy-to-confirm nominee for this post: He's a pro-business Democrat (remember, this is Commerce Secretary so the job is to be a promoter of business)...
Sorry, but "being a promoter of business" is not the official job of Commerce Secretary - not even close. As Todd would have seen had he spent six seconds looking at the front page of the department's website, the Commerce Department oversees economic data, trade enforcement, the Census Bureau, climate change policy (the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) and patents/trademarks. Only a fraction of the Commerce Secretary's official job are the economic development agencies (ie. being "a promoter for business"). But to Washington reporters, the government's responsibilities are regularly depicted as being a conduit or appendage of Corporate America.

Now, it's certainly true that the government has been used an instrument of corporate kleptocracy. However, the idea that that is the government's official role is preposterous - and it's particularly preposterous that reporters could portray an office like Commerce Secretary as just "a promoter for business." Any objective look at what the Commerce Department does would suggest that a Commerce Secretary's jurisdiction could make him/her at least as much a regulator and enforcer as a corporate sycophant. But, according to the D.C. press, the only major prerequisite for the job should be a potential nominee like Harold Ford's loyal subservience to business interests.
It disturbs me, and I am sure it will disturb others, that the Obama 'team' may have selected Ford for the actually quite important post of Commerce Secretary, a man who will be pretty much guaranteed NOT to regulate his 'friends' in bidness/industry, while scrupulously preventing any infringements on their perqs by the Government.

Not to put tooooo fine a point on it: Harold Ford Is NOT "Change" anybody but a timorous tool quivering before the muscle and might of the USCoC and the Manufacturers Assn. If I thought it would matter, I'd cry "BETRAYAL" in anticipation of the accomplished fact.

Racehorse Clears Last Hurdle, Comes Out!


Thanks as ever to The Onion for forthright coverage of this important issue in equine tolerance.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

NSA Offers "Billions" TO Spy On Skype


Via Mark Crispin Miller's "News From Underground.":
NSA offering ‘billions’ for Skype eavesdrop solution
Posted by mcm, February 15, 2009
An industry source disclosed that America’s supersecret National Security
Agency (NSA) is offering “billions” to any firm which can offer reliable eavesdropping on Skype IM and voice traffic.

The spybiz exec, who preferred to remain anonymous, confirmed that Skype continues to be a major problem for government listening agencies, spooks and police. This was already thought to be the case, following requests from German authorities for special intercept/bugging powers to help them deal with Skype-loving malefactors. Britain’s GCHQ has also stated that it has severe problems intercepting VoIP and internet communication in general.
(snip)
“They are saying to the industry, you get us into Skype and we will make you a very rich company,” said the industry source, adding that the obscure encryption used by the P2Pware is believed to change frequently as part of software updates.
Read more.

Jooc*: Is this happening on St. Barry's watch?

FUCK the NSA!

*(Jooc = "Just out of curiosity")

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What Shall We Do With The Crooked Banksters?

Sadly, there's no plank to walk 'em off, and no shark-infested waters into which to plunge them. Bill Moyers and Simon Johnson discuss the other alternatives, in two segments from Moyers' NOW program, Feb 13, 2009 (DOTOF™ to Diane at WWL). Note: the sound isn't synched very well, so "look away" and listen:



Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Surveillor's Dream: Universal Digitalization Of Everything

Today on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman spends time with Harry Lewis, co-author of a distinctly non-utopian view of the digital technology age, “Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion.” Lewis, the former dean of Harvard College, is the author along with Hal Abelson and Ken Ledeen of a new book that explains how the digital revolution is changing our world more profoundly than we could ever imagine.
Almost everything we now do on a regular basis, from sending emails, taking photographs, writing text messages, calling on our cell phones, downloading music, typing on our computers, and using our credit and ATM cards, all of it generates information. Each bit of this information can be captured, digitized, retrieved, copied, and sent anywhere on earth. In an instant.

And every single day the endless information generated by our ever-expanding digital footprints is recorded, tracked, searched through, sold, analyzed, and saved forever.

Some might call this hyper-networked digital explosion and its potential for collaboration and innovation a kind of utopia.

But others warn that it also raises important concerns about privacy, identity, freedom of expression, accountability, and the future of democracy. They argue that our digitized world might actually be closer to the dystopias imagined in Aldous Huxley’s "Brave New World" or George Orwell's "1984."

The only difference...is that unlike the world of Orwell’s 1984, we have “fallen in love with this always-on world” and “accept our loss of privacy in exchange for efficiency, convenience, and small price discounts.”
Have you noticed how gladly e now give Big Brother our love? The coersion is completely subliminal now, so pervasive as to be (almost) completely invisible. The devil's bargain: Love "Big Brother" and we'll give you lots of new, noisy, shiny things: trinkets, gimmicks, toys, fones, games, and lots of sweaty-palmed porn.

One further point worth remembering: Post-structuralist/hermeneutic social philosopher Michel Foucault showed in his writings--especially Discipline & Punish-- that the 'human' sciences (i.e., psychology, sociology, psychiatry, demography, geography, anthropology, etc.), and in particular his discussion of Bentham's panopticon --no matter what else they may be-- are always also the publically funded laboratories in which the State theorizes and tests ways of controlling its occupants, mainly through surveillance, performed in the name of "research."

I usta get into huge arguments about this with science educators. They would deny that science was a 'regulatory' technology. But I'd ask 'em if in fact what Foucault describes isn't true? Does the State NOT harvest data on its citizens, mainly because it can?

They would then fall back on the "Science is neutral, and can be used for both good and ill. It's the purpose that counts." Which, of course, is pure ends-justify-means ethics. And it ignores the fact that science is never created de novo; we are born into it, and may only change it at best, at most, accidentally. "Science" is an entirely human-constructed regime, now irreversibly embedded in the world consciousness. But it is of course not the ONLY epistemological model. "Science" embodies and instantiates a 'particular' set of cultural conditions and social expectations.

WTF? "Why Are Justice Department Lawyers DEFENDING John Yoo?"


Strikes me as a very good question...
By Scott Horton
The Bush Justice Department rushed to defend John Yoo when he got hit with civil lawsuits brought by victims of the torture policies that he helped to author. Now the Obama Administration, which is legally obligated to conduct a criminal investigation of Yoo, seems poised to fall into a trap.

The assumption is that Yoo is being sued for things he did as a Justice Department employee, so his defense is to be furnished at taxpayer’s expense. But this assumption is wrong, because the misconduct by Yoo that has provoked the lawsuits isn’t run-of-the-mill incompetence. As Professor Jordan Paust explains, Congress passed a resolution in 1781 providing that government servants who cause injuries under the laws of nations must bear those liabilities themselves, and twelve years later a justice of the Supreme Court affirmed the principle. War criminals have no right to call on the Justice Department to defend them. They have every reason to expect to be prosecuted.
This of course does not mean that the Dims have enough political courage to actually prosecute the murderous fuckers like Yoo, Addington, and Gonzales.
(Between August 2002, and the end of 2006,) "nearly 100 detainees have died while in the hands of U.S. officials in the global “war on terror.” According to the U.S. military’s own classifications, 34 of these cases are suspected or confirmed homicides..."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Big Surpise: The Bank-sters Are (STILL) Playing Us For Chumps

I know, I know: what's news about that? It's been common practice for 100 years or more. They've upped the ante, raised the stakes, they're STILL trying to stack and mark the deck, and yet they're pretending everything's perfectly transparent. It's ALL bullshit, of course. The FIX is IN!

But somebody is saying so, now, finally, albeit WAAAAAY too late. A certain William K. Black, former fed banking regulator writing on HuffPost today, in a iece aptly titled "The AUdacity of Dopes," regales us:
We are being played for chumps. The Bush and Obama plans could only have been designed by failed bankers -- for their principal beneficiaries are failed bankers. We already know enough to confirm that the Bush administration made us the "fool" in the market by massively overpaying for assets. The Obama administration is about to compound that scandal with a "guarantee" program. The bankers that caused the crisis designed both programs. The senior officers at big bank aren't very good lenders, but they are expert in maximizing their compensation.

Worse, Mr. Geithner, the senior public official who, with former Treasury Secretary Paulson, designed the failed Bush plan is the architect of the disastrous Obama plan. Indeed, as the New York Times has just revealed, it should be called the Geithner plan. He overcame intense opposition within the Obama administration and designed a plan that is even worse than the failed Bush program. Geithner's gifts to the bankers that caused the crisis include: a unnecessary taxpayer bailout of "risk capital," a massive coverup of their banks' insolvency, gutting the proposed limits on executive compensation, and devising a "guarantee" mechanism designed to hide the expenses of the unprincipled bailouts from the American public. Remember, executive compensation is not "merely" a fairness issue. Executive compensation and the compensation systems used for appraisers, accountants, and rating agencies were designed, and served, to create the perverse incentives and ethical rot that caused the ongoing financial crises by producing a "Gresham's dynamic" in which fraudulent and abusive lending and accounting practices drove good practices out of the marketplace.

Here's the amazing part -- the bankers are so arrogant that they bragged to a sympathetic CNBC commentator they are playing us:
"What a delicious irony this is--last week, just as President Obama was publicly bashing the stupidity of the banks ... his economic team [was] privately begging for input from Wall Street. The administration was conducting around-the-clock discussions and interviews with senior Wall Street executives, including many from the same firms he was theoretically appalled with, about how to fix the lingering financial crisis. "
I always wondered why reasonable people would think that the owners of the country--oligarchs, plutocrats, aristos-- would turn management of THEIR "property," or the system of its administration, over to anybody who wasn't completely trustworthy, or who posed even the tiniest, remotest, slightest, slimmest CHANCE of undoing the immensely profitable status quo.

Obama's ineffectiveness--call it 'schooled toothlessness'--is testified to the very fact of his being where he is. I think he's probably a combination of a caretaker and a scapegoat, a placeholder until the next overt fascist coup which will use his (inevitable, inescapable) "failures" to destroy both the electoral possibilities of any future "marginal" candidate, and the populist/progressive wing of the Dims...

Free Food For Abandoned Pets: Please Tell 10 Friends

A chance to do a Good Deed that only costs few seconds.

Via Liberality:
Good Deed for Animal Rescue

Hi, all you animal lovers.. This is pretty simple... Please tell ten friends to tell ten today! The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily to meet their quota of getting free food donated every day to abused and neglected animals.

It takes less than a minute (How about 20 seconds) to go to their site and click on t he purple box 'fund food for animals' for free. This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate food to abandoned/neglected animals in exchange for advertising.
Here's the web site! Pass it along to people you know:
So g'wan, do the right thing...Click on it every day, at least once.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The First Test: Failed?


On Mark Crispin Miller's page today, he c&p'd Glen Greewald's Salon column in which Greenwald levels some pretty serious criticism against Prez.O's decision to embrace a 'state secrets' position to deny evidence to plaintiffs who were tortured in US custody:
Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability–resoundingly and disgracefully
Glenn Greenwald

The Obama DOJ today embraced one of the most abused Bush weapons — the “state secrets” privilege — in order to block torture and rendition victims from their day in court.

Two weeks ago, I interviewed the ACLU’s Ben Wizner, counsel to 5 individuals suing the subsidiary of Boeing (Jeppesen) which had arranged the Bush administration’s rendition program, under which those 5 plaintiffs had been abducted, sent to other countries and brutally tortured. Today the Obama administration was required to file with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals its position in this case — i.e., whether it would continue the Bush administration’s abusive reliance on the “state secrets” privilege to prevent courts from ruling on such matters, or whether they would adhere to Obama’s previous claims about his beliefs on “state secrets” by withdrawing that position and allowing these victims their day in court.

Yesterday, enthusiastic Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan wrote about this case: “Tomorrow in a federal court hearing in San Francisco, we’ll find out if the Obama administration intends to keep the evidence as secret as the Bush administration did.” As I wrote after interviewing Wizner two weeks ago: “This is the first real test of the authenticity of Obama’s commitment to reverse the abuses of executive power over the last eight years.” Today, the Obama administration failed that test — resoundingly and disgracefully:

“Obama Administration Maintains Bush Position on ‘Extraordinary Rendition’ Lawsuit
“The Obama Administration today announced that it would keep the same position as the Bush
Administration in the lawsuit Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc.
PS> It's not a misunderstanding:
UPDATE: I just spoke with Wizner about today's court hearing. It's really remarkable what happened. One of the judges on the three-judge panel explicitly asked the DOJ lawyer, Doug Letter, whether the change in administrations had any bearing on the Government's position in this case. Letter emphatically said it did not. Instead, he told the court, the new administration -- the new DOJ -- had actively reviewed this case and vetted the Bush positions and decisively opted to embrace the same positions.
...
The entire claim of "state secrets" in this case is based on two sworn Declarations from CIA Director Michael Hayden -- one public and one filed secretly with the court. In them, Hayden argues that courts cannot adjudicate this case because to do so would be to disclose and thus degrade key CIA programs of rendition and interrogation -- the very policies which Obama, in his first week in office, ordered shall no longer exist. How, then, could continuation of this case possibly jeopardize national security when the rendition and interrogation practices which gave rise to these lawsuits are the very ones that the U.S. Government, under the new administration, claims to have banned?

What this is clearly about is shielding the U.S. Government and Bush officials from any accountability. Worse, by keeping Bush's secrecy architecture in place, it ensures that any future President -- Obama or any other -- can continue to operate behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy, with no transparency or accountability even for blatantly criminal acts.
Meme chose, or sumpin, I guess...

I mean, I didn't really expect better of 'em.

Is The Pentagon Estblishment Challenging Civilian Control Again?


Source: Petraeus Leaked Misleading Story on Pullout Plans
Inter Press Service: "The political maneuvering between President Barack Obama and his top field commanders over withdrawal from Iraq has taken a sudden new turn with the leak by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus - and a firm denial by a White House official - of an account of the Jan. 21 White House meeting suggesting that Obama had requested three different combat troop withdrawal plans with their respective associated risks, including one of 23 months."
I suppose the fact of the meeting itself must be incontrovertible; only what was said is in dispute. I frankly do not fault Obama for considering plans for different contingencies, if indeed that is what he did. But, if he does not cashier Petreas or bring him to heel n a very public way, it will signal that Obama was always already ready to proceed in Iraq in ways he has (iirc) "pledged" he would not...

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Rude Pundit Holds His Tongue (Sort Of...)

Compare and Contrast:

2/06/2009
By the Numbers: Creeping Class Warfare, Republican Style:
How about just a minute or two of perspective?
Amount to bailout AIG - at least $85 billion
Amount to bailout Citibank - at least $45 billion
Amount to bailout Bank of America - at least $45 billion, with guarantees on $118 billion in loans
Amount the Bush administration overpaid for bailed-out bank assets - $78 billion

Proposed cuts to President Obama's economic stimulus bill (currently being debated by 20 "centrist" senators):
$1.1 billion to Head Start
$24.8 billion to states for budget shortfalls in education programs
$15 billion to states for additional education funding
$2 billion to Child Care Development Block Grants
$150 million to funding for programs in the Violence Against Women Act

Oh, and, hell, let's just throw this in:
Amount of just two years of George W. Bush's tax cuts: roughly $500 billion (adjusting for interest). Two-thirds of that came from tax cuts on the top 20% of wage earners.
(Note: this leaves out the cost of operations in Iraq because, well, does it need to be said?)

Education funding is seed money for better paying jobs and a larger tax base. Assistance for families to help with child care has a direct impact on the ability of people to work. And, really, even talking about cutting $150 million in a bill like this is like saying, "If I stop putting nickels in the gumball machine, I'll be able to buy that car."

The unemployment rate is 7.6%. And "centrists" (which is another word for "attention-seeking assholes begging to appear relevant") are quibbling over whether or not it'd be better to cut programs for health and education?


When you walk into an old house that's been neglected for years and is about to collapse into itself, yeah, you need to make sure the frame is stable, but you better get rid of the asbestos insulation before it infects everyone living there.
His point seems to be--though he seems uncharacteristically unwilling to exercisse his considerable vocabulary of opprobrium and invective, that the Pukes and the "Centrist Dims" are naught but but a pack of scum-sucking, ass-hole-licking shitwhistling fucknozzles who seem willing to pander to the rich and fuck the poor.

I know: sooo-prahz, suuooo-prahz...

"Oh, JESUS! That Hurts!": Fisting For Christ


Jesus' (Manly) General referred this to common consciousness:
The sex act called fisting is a source of confusion and misconceptions for many Christians. This is unfortunate, because it means that many Christian men and women are depriving themselves of what could be the most spiritual sexual experience of their lives. Like anal sex and BDSM, fisting is often mistakenly associated with the gay community or is considered a sex act too extreme to be appropriate for Christian couples. Not only are these views incorrect, but fisting actually has a scriptural precedent, as we will show.
If this is your 'cup of tea,' there's a forum for discussing the whole (ahem) phenomenon.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ken Silverstein Strikes Again: Plouffe Latches On The Oil Teat

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Ken Silverstein is an invaluable asset, as is the whole Harper's blog array (Scott Horton, Mr. Fish, et al). Today he reveals how swiftly David Plouffe, Obama's chief panjandrum and strategist, has climbed aboard the International Payola Express, the old Quid-Pro-Quo Unlimited; the Low-Down Deeds Done For Lucre, Nest-Feathering Milk Run.

Yeah, he's writing a book, too.
David Plouffe and the Call of Oil

By Ken Silverstein

Barack Obama took office just a few weeks ago and already David Plouffe, his campaign manager, appears to be doing quite well for himself. He’s already signed a lucrative book deal, which seems fair enough, but now he’s flying off to oil-rich Azerbaijan at the invitation of a pro-democracy front group that works closely with the ruling despot. According to Radio Free Europe, Plouffe will be giving a speech and also be meeting with President Ilham Aliyev, who inherited power from his father, a former KGB chieftain who took over the country when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Ilham Aliyev’s path to power is charted in his Wikipedia entry:
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Aliyev worked as a businessman in Moscow and Istanbul from 1991 to 1994. Around that time, media reports spread of his lifestyle allegedly involving gambling and women, and heavy debts to a Turkish casino owner. His father, Heydar Aliyev was reportedly unhappy at his son’s image as a playboy and the harm he felt this would do to his son’s prospects of succeeding him. Heydar Aliyev ordered the closure of all casinos in Azerbaijan in 1998.

In May 1994, İlham Aliyev was appointed vice-president of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR). There was controversy that Aliyev had bribed his way into the ranks of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. The following year İlham was elected to parliament (Milli Majlis) and later became president of the National Olympic Committee (still incumbent) and head of the Azerbaijan delegation to the Council of Europe. In August 2003, two months prior to the presidential elections, he was appointed prime minister. In October, Heydar Aliyev, suffering failing health, stepped down as president and in a controversial move, appointed his son, an independent candidate, as his party’s sole presidential candidate.
Plouffe was invited by the Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan, which RFE describes as a “mouthpiece of the president’s office.” I wrote about the group in 2007, when it came on a government propaganda mission to Washington. As I wrote at the time:
As for the ACDSA, its website reveals that the group’s projects include cheerleader-type programs like “Baku is a Hero City” (which reeks of Soviet nostalgia) as well as more explicitly political ones, such as election monitoring and polling. In a poll conducted a few years ago, according to a 2005 New Republic story, the ACDSA found that “only 5.9 percent of those surveyed voted for opposition candidate Isa Gambar” when he ran against Aliyev. Yet, the story said, “official statistics gave Gambar 12 percent of the vote, and some foreign observers said that he garnered as much as 40 percent.”
I wonder if Plouffe will be getting paid for his “speech”? If so, is he really that hard-up for money?

Here’s more from RFE:
David Plouffe, who served as campaign manager for Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, is due to visit Azerbaijan on February 8. Plouffe is scheduled to speak at Baku’s Gerb (Western) University on February 9 and then meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and parliament speaker Oktay Asadov.

The U.S. Embassy in Baku confirmed Plouffe’s trip. Embassy spokesman Terry Davidson told RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service that “Plouffe is coming as a private citizen. The embassy is not in charge of his schedule.” The visit comes one month before a controversial referendum in Azerbaijan to lift the ban on presidential terms, making it possible for Aliyev to continue to serve as president.

Through an aide, Plouffe declined RFE/RL’s request for an interview. Plouffe.
All dogs bark, all pols lie, all adjutants are grifters: It's just what they do, I guess.

But I do so hope he's not flying in on one of those old Aeroflot junkpiles. A pal of mine just came from (and went back to) central Asia, and he says the air service there is enough to pucker the toughest sphincter. But President Febreze better not give Mr. Ploof the administration's imprimatur, by facilitating the trip, either.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Chinese (PRC) Used To Have A Fitting Punishment


For those commercial interests which disgraced or embarrassed The State like this:
msnbc.com news services
updated 4:47 p.m. MT, Fri., Feb. 6, 2009
WASHINGTON - A Georgia peanut plant knowingly shipped salmonella-laced products as far back as 2007, at times sending out tainted products after tests confirmed contamination, according to inspection records released Friday.

Food and Drug Administration officials earlier had said Peanut Corp. of America waited for a second test to clear peanut butter and peanuts that initially were positive for salmonella. But the agency amended its report Friday, noting that the Blakely, Ga., plant actually shipped some products before receiving the second test and sold others after confirming salmonella.

Federal law forbids producing or shipping foods under conditions that could make it harmful to consumers’ health.
The top-level merchants or business people who got caught cheating--if that cheating was the cause of embarrassment to the regime--were summarily arrested, dispropriated, tried, convicted and executed. It might take two or three weeks, max.

Gives a whole new meaning to Chief Executive, innit?

I have long believed that, if the Rightards and death-penalty freaks were correct in their judgment that the death penalty has a 'deterrent' effect, the sight of somebody like Merrill-Lynch's John Thane kneeling in the gutter, awaiting the bullet in the brain would have a salutary effect...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Contractor Sentenced for Bribing Govt. Official For Contract Award

Which fact, in the story announced in a DoJ press release recently, invites (does NOT "beg") the following question: So Who Did He Bribe?

From Ken Silverstein, on the Harper's blog:
So Who Did He Pay Off?

By Ken Silverstein

From a Justice Department press release today:
WASHINGTON—A government contractor and former employee of the U.S. Department of the Treasury was sentenced in Washington today in connection with a bribery scheme involving contracts at the U.S. Tax Court in the District of Columbia…Daniel Money, 44, of Shady Side, Md., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to 30 months in prison, three years supervised release and a $7,500 fine…

According to court documents, Money was a Maryland-based contractor who provided maintenance, repair, electrical, construction and other related services for government agencies, including the General Services Administration (GSA) and the U.S. Tax Court. Through his company, Daniel Construction, Money obtained and performed government contract work and was also employed as a planner for the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Between March 2007 and May 2008, Money admitted, he agreed to provide a government official with a total of $55,000 in bribe payments in exchange for the award of two contracts to Daniel Construction, including a contract in the amount of $188,000 at the U.S. Tax Court.
You'll have noted a serious lapse in the reporting: After describing the deal--"Money admitted he agreed to provide a government official with a total of $55,000 in bribe payments in exchange for the award of two contracts to Daniel Construction, including a contract in the amount of $188,000 at the U.S. Tax Court."--we are left to wonder:
  1. "Who GOT the bribe?
  2. "What is the NAME of the corrupt official?
  3. "Why is that (seemingly vital) information not included in the report?"
Crickets...

PS: David Money, a crook from "Shady Side?" You cannot make this stuff up...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Here's Some Real "Investing": TARP Recips Spent $114 MILLION Lobbying


Via MTA: TARP Recipients Paid Out $114 Million for Politicking Last Year (Capital Eye):
The "struggling" companies whose freewheeling business practices have contributed to the country’s economic woes are getting a lucrative return on at least one of their investments. Beneficiaries of the $700 billion bailout package in the finance and automotive industries have spent a total of $114.2 million on lobbying in the past year and contributions toward the 2008 election, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has found. The companies’ political activities have, in part, yielded them $305.2 billion from the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), an extraordinary return of 267,208 percent.
Lessee here: Invest $114 MILLION, receive $700 BILLION! That's like a 10 THOUSAND percent return on investment.

Who says these guys don't know how to 'make' money.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Foreclosed? Scroom! Squat Til The Banks Produce The Note.

That's the advice proposed by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D. Oh). So many mortgages have been bundled, sold, resold and resold that producing the original agreement may be nearly impossible for the lender.

On Amy Goodman's Democracy Now yesterday, and again in a piece on Bob Sheer's TruthDig blog, Kaptur told people whose houses were being foreclosed to stay put.

Don't let the bankers kick you out, unless they can provide the original loan paper...Her advice to “squat” cleverly exploits a legal technicality within the subprime mortgage crisis. These mortgages were made, then bundled into securities and sold and resold repeatedly, by the very Wall Street banks that are now benefiting from TARP (the Troubled Asset Relief Program). The banks foreclosing on families very often can’t locate the actual loan note that binds the homeowner to the bad loan. “Produce the note,” Kaptur recommends those facing foreclosure demands of the banks.
“[P]ossession is nine-tenths of the law,” Rep. Kaptur told me. “Therefore, stay in your property. Get proper legal representation ... [if] Wall Street cannot produce the deed nor the mortgage audit trail ... you should stay in your home. It is your castle. It’s more than a piece of property. ... Most people don’t even think about getting representation, because they get a piece of paper from the bank, and they go, ‘Oh, it’s the bank,’ and they become fearful, rather than saying: ‘This is contract law. The mortgage is a contract. I am one party. There is another party. What are my legal rights under the law as a property owner?’
Meanwhile, many sheriffs around the country have adopted a go-slow policy with regard to foreclosures evictions, Cook County, IL, being one of the foremost examples. Others are in Wayne County MI, and Butler County, OH. In other regions, sheriffs have declined "to do the banks' work for them" on case-by case bases.

For the moment, I am pretty confident (KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK) that I am in only small danger of facing anything like these conditions, ceteris paribus. But I wouldn't bet on the kindness of Bernalillo County (NM) Sheriff Dan White, who is still chafing in the nether regions from he severe defeat he suffered at the hands of an effete liberal in the race for "Leather" Heather Wilson's congress seat.

Still, the advice seems pertinent.

Chalmers Johnson: "Unfortunately, The MIC Is Run Just Like GM"

(Map Shows Locations Of Global USer Military "Presence;" Click To Enlarge)

Unfortunately for those who cling to USer 'military superiority' for solace in a dangerous world. (MIC = Military/Industrial Complex, more accurately described as the Military/Industrial/Congressional/Intelligence/National Security regime.)

The problem is that, as US industrial and monetary policies have let--even encouraged--USer industrial might decline, off-shoring of vital skills, and displacing talented workers, the weapons on which our Imperium depends have become less and less well-made, as the proficiencies needed to manufacture them has been shipped overseas...

Vide (h/t to A Tiny Revolution) this recent Tomdispatch:
The Looming Crisis at the Pentagon
"How Taxpayers Finance Fantasy Wars"
By Chalmers Johnson

Like much of the rest of the world, Americans know that the U.S. automotive industry is in the grips of what may be a fatal decline. Unless it receives emergency financing and undergoes significant reform, it is undoubtedly headed for the graveyard in which many American industries are already buried, including those that made televisions and other consumer electronics, many types of scientific and medical equipment, machine tools, textiles, and much earth-moving equipment -- and that's to name only the most obvious candidates. They all lost their competitiveness to newly emerging economies that were able to outpace them in innovative design, price, quality, service, and fuel economy, among other things.

A similar, if far less well known, crisis exists when it comes to the military-industrial complex. That crisis has its roots in the corrupt and deceitful practices that have long characterized the high command of the Armed Forces, civilian executives of the armaments industries, and Congressional opportunists and criminals looking for pork-barrel projects, defense installations for their districts, or even bribes for votes.

Given our economic crisis, the estimated trillion dollars we spend each year on the military and its weaponry is simply unsustainable. Even if present fiscal constraints no longer existed, we would still have misspent too much of our tax revenues on too few, overly expensive, overly complex weapons systems that leave us ill-prepared to defend the country in a real military emergency. We face a double crisis at the Pentagon: we can no longer afford the pretense of being the Earth's sole superpower, and we cannot afford to perpetuate a system in which the military-industrial complex makes its fortune off inferior, poorly designed weapons.
There's more.

As Tom writes:
If you want to get a taste of what that means, then click here to view an ad for that ... potentially embattled boondoggle, the F-22, the most expensive jet fighter ever built. What you'll discover is not just that it will "protect" 300 million people -- that's you, if you live in the USA -- but that it will also employ 95,000 of us. In other words, the ad's threatening message implies, if the Obama administration cuts this program in bad times, it will throw another 95,000 Americans out on the street. Now that's effective lobbying for you, especially when you consider, as Chalmers Johnson does below, that for any imaginable war the U.S. might fight in the coming decades, the F-22 will be a thoroughly useless plane.
Defense cuts? You must be joking...These guys got us all by the short-and-curlies...and its mostly a waste of money. Now that's funny...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Get Used To, At BEST, Breaking Even

The Obama-Nation was full of good feeling and euphoria (yeah, i know) last week with the passage and signing of the Lilly Ledbetter law, giving workers who discover they've been objects of illegal discrimination 180 days from the last instance of law breakage to file a complaint with the EEO.

Whoopee!

Personally, I can barely contain my excitement.

Not so a certain Emily Dawson, writing on TheAmericanProspect fp:
...(T)he truth is that the Ledbetter Act simply restores employment-discrimination law to its pre-Ledbetter v. Goodyear standard. It doesn't actually create new protections for workers, protections Ledbetter herself could have used -- like a prohibition on employer retaliation if workers compare salaries. Another piece of legislation currently working its way through Congress, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would. "That [retaliation] is one of the reasons 20 years go by, and Lilly has no idea she's being paid less," says Fatima Goss Graves, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center.
So we should watch carefully to see if the Obama-nauts strive as hard for the Paycheck Fairness Act.

I'm guessing: Not. Nor EFCA.

Lower your expectations, folks. Lower! No, lower. Lower still. Indeed, FUGEDDABODIT!

Monday, February 02, 2009

I Bet You Thought I Was A Cynic, A Pessimist?


Meet Chris Hedges:
It’s Not Going to Be OK

Posted on Feb 2, 2009
By Chris Hedges

The daily bleeding of thousands of jobs will soon turn our economic crisis into a political crisis. The street protests, strikes and riots that have rattled France, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland will descend on us. It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability.

At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real. Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future. There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has collapsed.

How will we cope with our decline? Will we cling to the absurd dreams of a superpower and a glorious tomorrow or will we responsibly face our stark new limitations? Will we heed those who are sober and rational, those who speak of a new simplicity and humility, or will we follow the demagogues and charlatans who rise up out of the slime in moments of crisis to offer fantastic visions? Will we radically transform our system to one that protects the ordinary citizen and fosters the common good, that defies the corporate state, or will we employ the brutality and technology of our internal security and surveillance apparatus to crush all dissent? We won’t have to wait long to find out.
That's probably enough bad news for a week and it's only Monday. Read the rest. Wherein you'll learn of Sheldon Wolin's magically clarifying (in the same way Naomi Klein was with her "Shock Doctrine") theory of 'inverted totalitarianism.'
Wolin, who taught political philosophy at the University of California in Berkeley and at Princeton, in his book “Democracy Incorporated” uses the phrase inverted totalitarianism to describe our system of power. Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism and the Constitution while cynically manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but they must raise staggering amounts of corporate funds to compete.
We fundamentally agree on Obama's plight vs the hegemonic structure:
“The basic systems are going to stay in place; they are too powerful to be challenged,” Wolin told me when I asked him about the new Obama administration. “This is shown by the financial bailout. It does not bother with the structure at all. I don’t think Obama can take on the kind of military establishment we have developed. This is not to say that I do not admire him. He is probably the most intelligent president we have had in decades. I think he is well meaning, but he inherits a system of constraints that make it very difficult to take on these major power configurations. I do not think he has the appetite for it in any ideological sense. The corporate structure is not going to be challenged. There has not been a word from him that would suggest an attempt to rethink the American imperium.”
Indeed, it would be the height of idiocy to believe the system would permit any to obtain power within it who posed the slightest possibility of a challenge to its stability. Interesting how I continue to find full accord with Wolin:
“My greatest fear is that the Obama administration will achieve relatively little in terms of structural change,” he added. “They may at best keep the system going. But there is a growing pessimism. Every day we hear how much longer the recession will continue. They are already talking about beyond next year. The economic difficulties are more profound than we had guessed and because of globalization more difficult to deal with. I wish the political establishment, the parties and leadership, would become more aware of the depths of the problem. They can’t keep throwing money at this. They have to begin structural changes that involve a very different approach from a market economy. I don’t think this will happen.”

“I keep asking why and how and when this country became so conservative,” he went on. “This country once prided itself on its experimentation and flexibility. It has become rigid. It is probably the most conservative of all the advanced countries.”

The American left, he said, has crumbled. It sold out to a bankrupt Democratic Party, abandoned the working class and has no ability to organize. Unions are a spent force. The universities are mills for corporate employees. The press churns out info-entertainment or fatuous pundits. The left, he said, no longer has the capacity to be a counterweight to the corporate state. He said that if an extreme right gains momentum there will probably be very little organized resistance.

“The left is amorphous,” he said. “I despair over the left. Left parties may be small in number in Europe but they are a coherent organization that keeps going. Here, except for Nader’s efforts, we don’t have that. We have a few voices here, a magazine there, and that’s about it. It goes nowhere.”
Sickness unto death. I read a lot of apocalyptic literature in my youth, but I really never thought I'd be around for the collapse. I'm too old to survive it, now, more's the pity...

Aren't These The Bushevik Tax Breaks Obama Was Gonna Repeal?


Bush’s Plutocrat Assistance Program

By Ken Silverstein (Harper's)

From Bloomberg, via Laura Rozen:
The average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17.2 percent through the first six years of the Bush Administration and their average income doubled to $263.3 million, new IRS data show. The 17.2 percent tax rate in 2006 was the lowest since the IRS began tracking the 400 largest taxpayers in 1992, although the richest 400 Americans paid more tax on an inflation-adjusted basis than any year since 2000.

The drop from 2001’s tax rate of 22.9 percent was due largely to ex-President George W. Bush’s push to cut tax rates on most capital gains to 15 percent in 2003.
Yup, I'm pretty sure this was what Prez.O was talking about when, during the campaign, he said he'd roll back the big Booosh breaks for the BEEG money.

And what happened to that promise?

You understand "crickets," right?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

New, Improved, Minty-Fresh: It's A Tooth-paste AND A Floor Wax


Diane, over at the Cab Drollery blog, regards the nativist sentiments exemplified by GOPuke pundits like Bat Buchanan, members of the American Cause, which released a report arguing that anti-immigration absolutism was still the solution for the party’s deep electoral woes. Diane concludes:
The election of an African American president, while an indication that a majority of Americans were ready to move beyond race as a qualifier for national leadership...
But, I asked, does it really mean that?
I somehow doubt it, actually.

Fewer than 43% of whites voted for Obama His 'mandate' is slightly less than 6 percent, overall. More than 60 MILLION 'Murkins' voted AGAINST Mr.O. Think about that: 60 million people voted for four more years of disastrous GOPuke rule, rather than vote for Obama.

I am coming to regard--no, that's not true; I have always regarded--Mr.O as our political equivalent of Febreze or, if you prefer the visual to the aural metaphor, Photoshop: He makes "us" look/smell better, but only cosmetically. The same filth, venality, corruption, racism and mendacity that are ALWAYS there are STILL there, but their stench is covered up, the blemishes air-brushed out.
In fact, the cynic in me observes that Mr.O could be the ultimate "token," more symbolic than 'real.'