How can you tax something that no longer exists? People who believed that saving for retirement with a 401K have watched the steady decline of their investments in the train wreck that is the stock market. Over the last few months the value of their "investment" has decreased from fifty to seventy five percent and left them very little to retire on. At this point social security is the only stable plan for retirement in existence and the Republicans keep trying to destroy that too. For the small investor to believe they are going to make enough money in the stock market to retire on is like me going to the casino thinking that I will hit a royal flush and win the jackpot. Not likely under the best of circumstances but conservatives think that everyone should gamble with their money and the stock market fits that requirement. Unfortunately some people fell for the scheme and now that their 401K is worth next to nothing they have had to reenter the work force or delay their retirement by several years. And how the heck can Exxon Mobil's pension fund be underfunded by 1.4 billion when the company just posted record profits. Again.
His prerogative. Get over it. The right didn't seem to mind when Bush or McCain did the same thing. But with different newspapers.
"There is research going on, and my hope is that women are finally going to have some options when it comes to sexual disorder treatments," Kingsberg said. "Right now, there are very limited options, but I think it's coming."
Double standard? You betcha. If the threats had been about McCain, the plotters would have been charged and convicted immediately. But what can you expect from someone who got their job under suspect circumstances.
Typical. Stevens has his very own version of reality. If he was a black male who had robbed a candy store, he would be behind bars already.
Almost unbelievable, until you remember that the Air Force flew nuclear warheads over the US a few months ago and didn't know that either.
Obama's Prepared Remarks for Sarasota, Florida Rally
In five days, you can turn the page on policies that have put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street.
In five days, you can choose policies that invest in our middle-class, create new jobs, and grow this economy so that everyone has a chance to succeed; from the CEO to the secretary and the janitor; from the factory owner to the men and women who work on its floor.
In five days, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope.
In five days, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need.
. . . . .
We are in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. 760,000 workers have lost their jobs this year. Businesses and families can't get credit. Home values are falling. Pensions are disappearing. It's gotten harder and harder to make the mortgage, or fill up your gas tank, or even keep the electricity on at the end of the month.
And just today, we learned that the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product – a key indicator economists use to measure the health of our economy – has actually fallen for the first time this year. That means we're producing less and selling less – so our economy is actually shrinking. And we saw the largest decline in consumer spending in 28 years as wages failed to keep up with the rising cost of living, and folks have been watching every penny and tightening their belts.
Now, this didn't happen by accident. Our falling GDP is a direct result of eight years of the trickle down, Wall Street first/Main Street last policies that have driven our economy into a ditch.
. . . . .
And you've got to ask yourself, after nine straight months of job losses and the largest drop in home values on record, with wages lower than they've been in a decade, why would we keep on driving down this dead end street?
Folks who can't pay their medical bills, or send their kids to college, or save for retirement can't afford to take a back seat to CEOs and Wall Street banks for four more years.
At a moment like this, the last thing we can afford is four more years of the tired, old theory that says we should give more to billionaires and big corporations and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. The last thing we can afford is four more years where no one in Washington is watching anyone on Wall Street because politicians and lobbyists killed common-sense regulations. Those are the theories that got us into this mess. They haven't worked, and it's time for change."
. . . . .
What we have lost in these last eight years cannot be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits alone. What has also been lost is the idea that in this American story, each of us has a role to play. Each of us has a responsibility to work hard and look after ourselves and our families, and each of us has a responsibility to our fellow citizens. And that's what we need to restore right now – our sense of common purpose; of higher purpose.
. . . . .
That's what this election is about. That is the choice we face right now.
Don't believe for a second this election is over. Don't think for a minute that power concedes. We have to work like our future depends on it in this last week, because it does.
This is an autumn of great discontent as not just the United States, but the entire world trembles on the brink of an economic recession that may bring the kind of pain that's known only to the oldest among us.
With days to go before Election Day, the nation watches as a presidential candidate and his political party unravel, frantically dragging every ugly ghost out of the closet in an attempt not only to fool everyone, but also to scare everyone.
. . . . .
They have presided for the last eight years over a stunning redistribution of wealth: They've turned Robin Hood upside down, taking from the poor and the middle class and giving to the very rich.
Yet they tar their opponent for daring to suggest that it's time to turn the tables and redirect some of that wealth to those who are jobless, homeless and hopeless, and to the millions of other hard-working Americans who are likely to join those growing ranks in the months and years to come.
They call him a socialist for embracing a principle that's rooted deeply in the teachings of the Christianity that they wear on their sleeves but cannot find room for in their hearts.
They promise to "correct the mistakes" of their own president, their own members of Congress, their own appointed overseers and regulators, if only we give them another chance.
They promise to punish the Wall Street tycoons and the big bankers who in their greed built this house of cards that's crashing down onto Main Street. Yes they will. Surely they will smite the robber barons who brushed a few crumbs from their groaning tables of riches into the laps of the very people who now vow to punish their benefactors of great wealth.
They say this even as the barons, fat with bonuses and commissions, pick over the carcass of a fallen economy, carving out another tasty morsel or two for themselves.
Is it any wonder that Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin and the Republican Party are sinking like the Titanic? Do they take us all for complete morons?
. . . . .
The financial collapse and the painful fallout that's stalking the nation won't be righted overnight, however. Putting Barack Obama in the White House and giving the Democrats a veto-proof majority in Congress won't mean that happy days are here again.
Hard work, sacrifice and suffering lie ahead. It could take a decade or more to repair all the damage that Bush, Dick Cheney and all their henchmen in prison, out of prison and on their way to prison have done to our economy, our military, our standing in the world, our Constitution and to civil discourse, common decency and competent governance.
In the meantime, we Americans would do well to try to remember all those things that our grandmothers told us about how to get by in hard times.
. . . . .
Someday we may be able to tell our grandchildren about the Election of '08 when we, the people, turned away from anger, hate and greed and once again embraced the better angels of our nature.
The space vehicle Messenger made its second fly-by of the planet Mercury on October 6. The false-color video below, using 11 different color filters to tease out age and terrain differences, is built from some of the roughly 1,200 photos taken during the spacecraft's most recent run by the planet. Although some speculation is involved in how the colors translate, yellow means rougher and younger turf, red is older and probably somewhat smoother landscape, orange is where volcanic activity shot ejecta onto the ground, and blues and purples are still the subject of debate.
Messenger will race past Mercury one more time before it is finally positioned for a last run to settle into orbit around the innermost planet in the solar system in 2011.
All this talk about taxing big businesses is nothing more than (Obama's) way to get to the middle class. You see it’s a downward spiral effect. Who’s giving you that paycheck? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
"Giving" me the paycheck? You mean -- pay for work is a handout?
Think. Who makes this money for big business? Who does the work, keeps things going, figures things out at the actual physical level? Who makes it so THE BOSS, the company, the stockholder gets paid? The worker. And happy they are to do so if they can live on their wage, put a roof over their head, food on the table, and care for their kids. Happy they are to commit decades to a company that responds fairly to them.
A strong, healthy, well educated workforce is essential to any business.
Joe the plumber wants to expand and grow his business, and worries he will have to pay more taxes under Obama once he makes over 250G -- which most small business don't. But if Joe the Plumber wants to expand, he has to hire workers. What kind of workers does he want? Healthy, educated, workers; people he can trust to do the work, who believe in his experience and leadership, things essential in a boss.
Naturally, Joe the plumber wants his crew to get to work on time. Rain, snow, sleet. So he, as well as they, depend on good transportation, good roads and good public maintenance of roads. Good health care delivery so that his workers can come to work strong an give him their best. Smart workers, well schooled workers. The best he can afford.
We could go on. But think about it, Joe. This is what taxes are about. Making the country run, making the good workers good so they can make all that wealth.
Makes perfect sense that the more wealth a company makes, the more it depends on all the things taxes go to pay for.
And this is what Obama told you about sharing the wealth, the three words that McPalin have blasted everywhere. Did you listen? Get the rest of that idea? Obama told you we share the wealth so we all can grow -- because, as a business, YOU NEED PEOPLE TO BE ABLE TO PAY YOU FOR YOUR SERVICES(you and your worker, that is; the people who actually go out on the truck for you to the job and actually DO the WORK).
Socialism? Where? This is foundational, defining to whatever our country has been, what's made it grow. Is that socialism? Working together to meet our needs as a nation? What a big umbrella of a word you make it.
Country first? Sure! How can we spread Democracy to the world if we are not strong at home? The strength of a nation is its workers, not just its executives, its stockholders. Though they all -- by taking care in their investing, by not empowering things that do harm (such as? tech that pollutes, that takes its profits upfront and yet are not held accountable, for instance; mortgage brokers who make bad loans, thinking of profit only; we could go on, but you get the idea), pave the road to the future.
You know, money isn't equal really -- not in actual life. What's $1000 to someone making $20,000 a year? What's it to someone making a million? It's all relative, all changing, based on things that change.
Actually, most of our taxes go for arms. (Don't believe me? watch this. You'll like it.) But is it so bad to help take care of the needy, the wounded soldiers, the elderly (I know; it's not fair that we age and die, but what can you do?), the sick, ... the roads, the bridges, the schools that make life better for us all? Things that are necessary to live?
We're so disconnected from our needs, from seeing what shapes our world. I hope most of all that we connect with it again, plan and envision together. That's the strength of a nation. Of a whole planet.
Obama sees that.
McCain just wants to win, to be executive in chief of the wars he sees no way around. And Palin hasn't any idea about any of this. Palin serves an enraptured cult of twisted prophecy that has made the Bible into a magic book. You really want that in charge of the bomb? What were you thinking, McCain?
We are a stalwart and stouthearted people, and never more so than in hard times. People weep in the dark and arise in the morning and go to work. The waves crash on your nest egg and a chunk is swept away and you put your salami sandwich in the brown bag and get on the bus. [snip]
It was dishonest, cynical men who put forward a clueless young woman for national office, hoping to juice up the ticket, hoping she could skate through two months of chaperoned campaigning, but the truth emerges: The lady is talking freely about matters she has never thought about. The American people have an ear for B.S. They can tell when someone's mouth is moving and the clutch is not engaged. When she said, "One thing that Americans do at this time, also, though, is let's commit ourselves just every day, American people, Joe Six-Pack, hockey moms across the nation, I think we need to band together and say never again. Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those who are managing our money and loaning us these dollars," people smelled gas.
Some Republicans adore her because they are pranksters at heart and love the consternation of grown-ups. The ne'er-do-well son of the old Republican family as president, the idea that you increase government revenue by cutting taxes, the idea that you cut social services and thereby drive the needy into the middle class, the idea that you overthrow a dictator with a show of force and achieve democracy at no cost to yourself -- one stink bomb after another, and now Governor Palin. [snip]
And the rest of us will have to pull ourselves out of the swamp of Republican economics. Your broker kept saying, "Stay with the portfolio, don't jump ship," and you felt a strong urge to dump the stocks and get into the money market where at least you're not going to lose your shirt, but you didn't do it and didn't do it, and now you're holding a big bag of brown bananas. Me, too. But at least I know enough not to believe desperate people who are talking trash.
Anybody who got whacked last week and still thinks McCain-Palin is going to lead us out of the swamp and not into a war with Iran is beyond persuasion in the English language. They'll need to lose their homes and be out on the street in a cold hard rain before they connect the dots.
I just knew there was a reason I worked for so many years in the wastewater business, and thanks to Yahoo! News the truth has now come out!
Hydrogen sulfide. A product of anaerobic decomposition that is flammable as all hell, extremely toxic at slightly higher levels and is to be found practically everywhere, it is a component of the gas that passes your pants. Or skirt, or whatever. It smells of rotten eggs in low doses, but it not to be confused with the skatoles and other more complicated organic compounds to be found in a fart. In higher levels it numbs your sense of smell, thankfully and then can kill you,
Just as an experiment, might I recommend a six-pack of any beer with 4 pickled eggs, followed by a bruising series of serious stick play, as in pool. Then get home before 11:00 PM so as not to piss off the significant other amd create a whole host of other complications.
Notice I said a six-pack and 4 pickled eggs, more than that and things could get decidedly dicey.
Now, getting into bed with that significant other, with sheets, covers and a down filled comforter, you will soon feel the urge to , shall we say, pass gas.
And never forget, with the link I have provided upstairs this is now a proven medical fact. So when that urge really comes on, grab those sheets, blankets and comforter and cover the heads of yourself and your significant other, let it rip and don't uncover for at least sixty seconds. Do this several times as the urge leads you, assuming the significant other has not out of serious acrimony slit your throat. Tomorrow may be a better day.
Hypertension is a serious medical malady, this could go a long way toward relieving it.
But this could also have you wandering around looking for another significant other.
After first refusing to take responsibility, the United States now confirms Syrian claims that an American "commando" raid into sovereign Syrian territory was carried out by Special Operations and CIA paramilitary forces, killing as many as eight people. The Pentagon is pulling out all the stops: we were afterget ready for thisan 'al-Qaida in Iraq commander'! And we killed him, by God!
Never mind that the people in the area of the raid, as reported by the Syrian state news agency, tell a rather different story: civilians were killed, including a man and his four sons, and two of the four raiding U.S. helicopters landed and took one or more people away (no doubt to be rendered to a country for torture, which we still never do, ourselves, of course).
Ah, but don't despair. We'll have a new President in just a few months, and violating sovereign territory without congressional declaration of war will be a thing of the past.
Oh, wait a minute. That's right. Barack Obama has stated on the record that raids into nations upon which we haven't declared war are altogether appropriate, justifiable, and to be continued.
Long live the unitary executive. Long live the heir to the throne of failed, if relentlessly belligerent, Empire.
She had a future and hope, and some asswipe took it away from her. She worked for a station that built a 2000' antenna back in the '60s, announced at the time as the second tallest structure in the world. It collapsed just last year, and with her brutal and horrific beating I am rising to some occasion.
I'm ready to get back under my rock in full defense mode. Be sure to call out the password, otherwise I will slaughter you with my 9-iron.
Shit, ask me if I can understand why some are so depraved. Senseless and moronic crimes perpetrated by individuals that have no right to life. I'm not for the death penalty, but send me either one of these and I might change my mind.
This sort of senseless shit has to stop. Wonder if this has connections to prosperity and the economy in general.
Well of course it does.
It wasn't too long ago I was with a neat lady about that age, but the disparity in age made it a no go. But even now I would fight for her with all I have.
In this lecture, I teach about the cause of inflation. The class starts out more or less normally, but a little more than half-way through, it becomes considerably different from just about any college class in economics you would ever take anywhere from anyone other than your host here at Big Brass Blog.
Title: The Equation of Exchange
Album: Dark Wraith Video Lecture Series
Publisher: Dark Wraith Publishing
Size: 184 Mb
This is a large flash video. If the movie keeps stopping and starting, when the video is playing, use the play button to stop the movie for a while. That will allow the file to buffer (that is, get lead time) onto your computer. You'll see this happening by watching where the white bar is on the playing timeline. The farther toward the end the white bar gets, the more lead time you've gotten buffered.
Depending upon the speed of your connection, if you are on DSL or cable modem, a few minutes should allow for more than enough buffer; if you are on dial-up Internet service, the movie may download about when Jesus returns.
Nevertheless, it is worth the wait.
The Dark Wraith encourages you to enjoy this highly informative lecture.
On Tuesday, Nov 4th, mom and I will vote and then we will move the last of our belongings to the car, have our mail forwarded to a P.O Box and move into a homeless shelter. Yes, I know it isn't the best plan, but at this point it's all I can come up with. Rents in the area are more than we can afford, mom can't get into a decent nursing home and very few places will let us have two dogs. Plus, my credit sucks.
It is important that mom stay in the area because she has convenient medical care, knows where she is most of the time, and has benefits that would be stopped if we leave the county and she would have to qualify all over again. As it is, she is going to have a hard time orienting herself in a new living situation.
It also seems that we will qualify for housing help if we don't have a place to stay, so if I can't find a place that we can afford, we can hang out with other people who also can't afford to live in the area. It doesn't make sense to me either. Somehow when I moved up here I never thought that this would happen.
I haven't been able to post because one, I'm depressed and two, I've been frantically looking for a place to stay and a way to make money that won't leave mom alone all day. So far I've had no luck with either of my two projects. If anybody knows of a safe place we can live in San Jose, I would appreciate you letting me know. The absolute last thing a person with dementia needs is to live in a homeless shelter. Mom needs a quiet environment that she is comfortable with so she can live out her last days in peace.
And I need a break so we can get back on our feet.
Just watched a part of "Frontline" that simply increased my belief that we are approaching a watershed event. I don't care whether or not you feel that either candidate is qualified to lead us out of the morass that has been created by stupid US policies over the decades, but now is most definitely a time for some fresher air, a change.
While i did not fight in the Civil War, i am old enough to remember the toll and lack of consideration for a portion of our citizens who were treated like lesser beasts. I remember a trip to Natchez Mississippi back in the early 60's where I saw people picking cotton by hane in the fields of east arkieville, but it actually got worse as we approached the great delta.
Crossing the big muddie at every stop we made, for gas ($0.26/gallon), food or anything there were still signs designating where certain sorts could be.It was like going back in time, even for one who almost remembers the Central High School crisis where the President showed a racist Governor just how to deal with it.
As a little kid I was indoctrinated into the culture of racism, it was rampant and everywhere. At that age I understand that I simply didn't know any better but amazingly I began to come to a realization. What i had been indoctrinated into was wrong.Seeing how horribly different people could be discriminated against with no recourse for themselves began to concern me. Not that i was any kind of deep thinker, but i was beginning to learn the lifelong lesson of giving a shit for others.
Of course the people I was beginning to think about in a different way were black Americans. Their only crime, if it could even be called that was being black. You are who you are.
I've had the luck to work with and meet many others of ranges of diversity, just like anyone else, some i approved of, some not.But I did try to accept different others as equal and capable. I've met many others that are many times more than i. But that doesn't surprise me at all.
There is no significant difference in human beings of any race or origin. The continuing trick for all of us is to look at each other with a renewed sense of appreciation, and to work as a team for the common good.
Those that refuse this most honorable goal, well, fuck 'em.
Regardless of race, color or creed.
Pretty much why I will vote for Obama, assuming I survive until the 4th.
The Onion scores again this week with a news video that tells the harrowing tale of John McCain being accidentally left on the campaign bus overnight -- but at least his staff left the windows cracked open.
Waxman: shock. That sounds like to me you're saying that those who trusted the market to regulate itself, yourself included made a serious mistake.
Greenspan: Well I think that's true of some products, but not all.
Waxman: Then where do you think you made a mistake?
Greenspan: I made a mistake in the presuming that the self interest of organizations specifically banks and others was such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders...
Waxman? Do you have any financial responsibility for the financial crisis?
(On his ideology)
Greenspan: ...to exist you need an ideology. The question is whether it is accurate or not and what I'm saying to you is "yes" I found a flaw...
He shucked and jived his way around this whole mess, but admitted I guess something. Who could have ever imagined that making millions of dollars a day with no oversight could possibly lead to greed and corruption and ultimate destruction?
Oct. 23: Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan testified on Capitol Hill about the economic crisis. Rachel Maddow talks to Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, about Greenspan’s testimony.
EFF Challenges Constitutionality of Telecom Immunity in Federal Court
Unconstitutional Law Cannot Shut Courthouse Door on Americans' Privacy Claims
October 17, 2008
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Thursday challenged the constitutionality of a law aimed at granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the president's illegal domestic wiretapping program.
In a brief filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, EFF argues that the flawed FISA Amendments Act (FAA) violates the federal government's separation of powers as established in the Constitution and robs innocent telecom customers of their rights without due process of law. Signed into law earlier this year, the FAA allows for the dismissal of the lawsuits over the telecoms' participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the government secretly certifies to the court that either the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president. Attorney General Michael Mukasey filed that classified certification with the court last month.
"The immunity law puts the fox in charge of the hen house, letting the Attorney General decide whether or not telecoms like AT&T can be sued for participating in the government's illegal warrantless surveillance," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "In our constitutional system, it is the judiciary's role as a co-equal branch of government to determine the scope of the surveillance and rule on whether it is legal, not the executive's. The Attorney General should not be allowed to unconstitutionally play judge and jury in these cases, which affect the privacy of millions of Americans."
Wall Street Hustlers Built a $100 Trillion House of Cards and Stuck You with the Fallout
Read the entire article by Joshua Holland, at AlterNet
Deregulation brought us hugely "leveraged" investments, and they brought us panicked markets and pain.
Debate over who is most to blame for the financial meltdown rages on against a backdrop of economic pain and anxiety that's unprecedented in the post-war era.
The bottom line: There was a feeding frenzy that drove housing prices far beyond what the fundamental laws of supply and demand would dictate. People certainly got in over their heads, but the ultimate responsibility for that lies with the investment bankers who cooked up exotic new ways to make risky investments look more secure than they actually were (I wrote about it recently here).
While the U.S. housing market is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 trillion, it was Wall Street's wheeler-dealers -- and their lobbyists and allies who kept regulators out of their business -- who built a house of cards out of "exotic" mortgage-backed securities and other "derivatives" worth as much as 60 times that figure -- paper wealth backed by little more than the irrational belief that what goes up will never come down.
It was the investment bankers who pushed those debt-backed securities hard to investors who were looking for huge returns on their dollars -- much better than they could get putting their money in old-school investments like stocks and bonds. Their hard sell created so much demand that it encouraged lenders to write loans to just about anybody for just about anything; loans, after all, were the raw material for the alphabet soup of "exotic" investment vehicles -- the "collateralized debt obligations," "credit default swaps" and other innovative products that have now turned "toxic."
That gets to one of the hardest pieces of this whole mess to understand -- why would Wall Street want lenders to push out billions of dollars worth of loans that were inherently risky?
Here, a bit of context is crucial. The financial industry first started churning out derivatives in the early 1980s. As I've written before, that was part of a larger move away from traditional investments -- manufacturing, agriculture and (long-term) commodities -- and into the speculative economy as the returns on money put into the "nuts and bolts" economies of the advanced world began to dwindle in the 1970s.
- - - - -
At first, investors mostly gambled that interest or currency exchange rates would go up or down. Then, during the 1990s, when interest rates were low around the world, the demand for more exotic "structured" investments -- including various derivatives and swaps based on debt -- skyrocketed.
This brings us to a key issue in the banking mess, one that has serious ramifications for how we move forward in the future. Obscured by the finger-pointing is a simple question: How could a drop in the value of the American housing market -- even a 20 percent drop in home prices -- threaten to bring down the entire global economy?
Part of the answer is "leveraging" -- using a limited amount of cash to buy a much larger position in an investment. Leveraging is a common investment tool, but there are rules in effect in regulated markets like the major stock and bond markets that limit the amount that an investor can leverage -- for example, the SEC says you have to put up at least 50 percent of the cost to buy a stock on American stock exchanges. But these fancy debt-backed investments are contracts between two gamblers and are not subject to those rules. They're traded "over the counter" -- in an opaque and largely unregulated exchange.
Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz neatly summed up the environment in which this took place:
The mortgage brokers loved these new products because they ensured an endless stream of fees. They maximized their profits by originating as many mortgages as possible, with frequent refinancing. Their allies in investment banking bought them, sliced and diced the risk and then passed them on -- or at least as much as they could. Our bankers forgot that their job was to prudently manage risk and allocate capital. They became gambling casinos -- gambling with other people's money, knowing that the taxpayer would step in if the losses were too great.
They wouldn't have been able to do it without reckless deregulation for deregulation's sake -- a bipartisan affair. Human greed and the herd mentality are constants, after all.
- - - - -
Then, as the new century dawned, with little public debate, a group of lawmakers -- Republicans and "blue-dog" Democrats -- led by John McCain's former chief economic adviser, Phil "Nation of Whiners" Gramm, pushed through the "Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000," which put the final nail in the regulatory coffin. The legislation provided us with the infamous "Enron Loophole" -- which exempted most energy trading from oversight -- but it also assured Wall Street's whiz kids that their new products would be free of pesky regulation, and the popularity of those investments soon exploded.
And here we also have to give a nod to the influence of the large hedge funds that have grown like kudzu in recent decades (in 2005, hedge funds held about three-quarters of a trillion dollars in assets; by the fall of last year, that number was estimated at around $2.7 trillion). A hedge fund is like a mutual fund that allows rich investors to cover their bets by putting a little bet on the other team. But unlike a mutual fund, which has to follow a whole slew of regulations, hedge funds, because they're only open to small numbers of "qualified investors" -- people with $5 million worth of investments -- are almost totally unregulated, the assumption being that the big investors are savvy enough to watch out for themselves and therefore don't need much oversight. They can play very loose, buying into speculative, risky investments that have the potential to turn a high yield, and they can be (and generally are) highly leveraged. There are few institutions that are less transparent than hedge funds, which rely on keeping their activities under wraps to keep from getting beaten by their competitors.
So, let's look at the chain from a shaky mortgage to a financial meltdown. First, the financiers took those mortgages and made them into mortgage-backed securities. Then, they took those securities and sliced them up into collateralized debt obligations, which got sold off and repackaged again and again.
During that process, investors' cash gets leveraged further and further, to the point at which the whole thing is based on little more than vapor -- paper wealth that can disappear in a flash with a market downturn.
- - - - -
That's precisely what's happening in today's financial markets, and the blame lies squarely at the door of the investment banks (and the deregulators who enabled their excesses). The lack of transparency in this "speculative economy" is such that nobody knows precisely who is holding onto what securities and derivatives, and the complexity of these investments means that they're almost impossible to accurately value in the real world. That combination has resulted in a kind of panic among the investor class, with everyone fearful that all these exotic bets might be called in. That has made it tough for the banks to raise cash, and has led to hoarding of whatever cash reserves they have. That has frozen the global credit market, and is spilling over into the nuts-and-bolts economy in which most of us live.
This is hardly an academic discussion, because as we navigate the crisis -- which appears to be in an early stage -- there is one thing that is as sure as death and taxes: Big Finance's lobbyists will again resist calls to re-regulate the financial sector. Again, we will be told that regulation will bring economic growth -- the end-all and be-all for Big Business -- to a grinding halt.
And when it happens this time, there will either be a powerful push-back by informed citizens who understand that the real-world pain they're experiencing is not a result of simple greed, but greed unchecked by any watchdogs, or there won't be. If there isn't, then when we emerge from this crisis we will end up simply priming the pump for the next one. As Robert Pollin, co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, told me recently, "It is time to recognize that unregulated financial markets always have, and always will, cause financial crises. There are no historical exceptions to this observation at all. This point has to be grasped."
In the short term, if you’re healthy and wealthy, you can use Sen. John McCain’s $2,500/$5,000 health care tax credit and enroll in a low premium/high deductible health care plan in the unregulated individual health insurance market. Once you get sick, you may lose your coverage to another round of medical underwriting … see your costs increase astronomically … have certain conditions exempt from coverage … the list goes on and on.
But for the 56 million Americans with employer coverage today who have a chronic illness, who are women or who are ages 55 to 64 — three groups of people who pay more for health insurance in the individual market — McCain’s plan to shift Americans from the employer-based insurance market to the individual market is more than an inconvenience, it’s a net loss.
Because while insurance companies require older and sicker people (or those who simply use more care, like women) to pay higher premiums, McCain’s plan doesn’t offer them a higher tax credit.
In fact, according to a new report from CAPAF, “the flat $2,500 credit will cover less than 48 percent for older Americans and more than 48 percent for younger Americans”:
Specifically it would cover 84 percent of the premium for an 18-to-24-year-old, but only 23 percent of the premium for a 60-to 64-year old…The McCain plan gives people ages 60 to 64 a tax credit that is 53 percent lower than one that adjusts for premium variation by age.”
What’s more, boomers — who make up 17 percent of non-elderly adults but account for 26 percent of those with at least one chronic illness — will have a hard time finding coverage in a market which tries to maximize profit by insuring only the healthiest Americans. But if they go uninsured, Medicare costs will skyrocket. In fact, a recent study found that “chronically ill people turning age 65 who were previously uninsured had lower spending than insured people prior to Medicare. Yet once on Medicare, these uninsured Americans spent 50 percent more than previously insured Medicare beneficiaries who also had chronic disease” [...]
FactCheck.org began misrepresenting McCain’s health care plan in a post released on September 22, 2008 and followed up on their efforts in another post last week. In both cases, the organization relies on the denials of the McCain campaign and fails to conduct a through analysis of the implications of McCain’s proposals.
In its latest post, FactCheck.org claimed that McCain has never proposed to cut Medicare or Medicaid benefits, and argued that CAPAF’s analysis twisted McCain’s financing-mechanism by claiming that he would be forced to make “cuts in benefits, eligibility, or both.”
But in fact, FactCheck.org’s claim is based on a false reading of McCain’s proposed financing mechanism, amplified by McCain aides’ own one-sided, partisan denial that piles McCain’s confusion about his health care plan atop misinterpretation.
. . . . .
Here’s how FactCheck.org cooked up its bogus claim.
CAPAF’s analysis was based on the McCain campaign’s repeated assertions that its health care plan is budget neutral. During the vice presidential debate, for instance, Gov. Sarah Palin explained McCain’s health care plan as “budget neutral. That doesn’t cost the government anything…But a $5,000 health care credit through our income tax that’s budget neutral.”
However, McCain’s plan to tax health benefits would fall $1.3 trillion short of paying for his plan. According to the Wall Street Journal, McCain plans to fill this gap with Medicare and Medicaid savings.
In short, after McCain revealed that he would finance his budget-neutral health care proposal by cutting Medicare/Medicaid (and not exposing health care benefits to income and payroll taxes, as the campaign has previously implied), CAPAF tried to explain the consequences of McCain’s newfound funding mechanism. As it turns out, McCain’s reduction does not keep up with medical inflation and enrollment rates and would require McCain to cut benefits, eligibility or both.
For instance, in 2013, McCain promises to cut $68 billion from Medicare, $14 billion more than the Congressional Budget Office says will be paid to doctors from the Medicare physician free schedule and more than Medicare will collect for all Part B Premiums. Thus, CAPAF concluded that McCain’s suggestion that Medicare’s waste and inefficiency exceeds what the program will pay doctors was wholly inaccurate.
Nevertheless, a so-called non-partisan “fact checking organization” quickly twisted CAPAF’s analysis into a post with a headline stating that CAPAF’s analysis was wrong.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that the infant mortality rate in the United States stood at 6.89 deaths per thousand live births in 2004, the latest year for which comprehensive figures are available; as such, the U.S. slipped from a rank of 24th in infant mortality rate for the year 2000 to 29th among countries the CDC tracks. The report also shows that the mortality rate for infants born to non-Hispanic Black women was almost two-and-a-half times as high as it was for babies born to non-Hispanic White women. Other groups with high infant mortality rates included Native Americans and Puerto Ricans.
A significant factor contributing to the high infant mortality rate in the United States appears to be premature births, which account for 12 percent of all live deliveries in the country. A birth is considered preterm if it happens before the 37th week of gestation. Premature births are on the rise in many countries, and in the U.S., the incidence has increased by 30 percent over the past 25 years, although a certain percentage of preterm deliveries from 35 to 37 weeks may be the result of unnecessary Cesarean sections being performed. This is probably not, however, an adequate explanation for the high rates of infant mortality among certain minority groups in America because women of color would be less likely to have access to the kind of prenatal care and counseling, misguided as it might be, where doctor recommendations for C-sections would be made. In fact, the preterm birth phenomenon in general has more complex, unknown causes than could be completely explained away by a high incidence of Cesarean sections and other birth-inducing procedures being performed.
The infant mortality rate in the U.S. dropped throughout the 20th Century, but the 21st Century has been different: from 2000 to 2005, the infant mortality rate held steady; it did, however, decline from 6.86 infant deaths per thousand live births in 2005 to 6.71 deaths per thousand live births in 2006, still far above the stated goal of U.S. policy, which is to reach an infant mortality rate of 4.5 deaths of babies for every thousand born alive.
For decades, the U.S. has been losing ground in its ranking among countries with respect to infant mortality rates: from a rank of 12th in 1960, the United States had fallen to 23rd in 1990 and then to 24th in 2000. The new data released by the Centers for Disease Control indicates that this trend has continued, with the United States, as of 2004, behind virtually every First World, industrialized country and even some Second World nations. The graphic below vividly illustrates the relative position of the U.S. and rightly calls into question what is often touted as the superiority of American health care.
Data from 1960 to 2004 can be viewed in the graphical table below:
Rankings for 2004 show that the United States shares 29th place in infant mortality rate with Slovakia and Poland. Virtually every developed, industrialized country in Europe and Asia had a lower infant mortality rate for the year, and so did Cuba, a country often harshly criticized by conservative American politicians.
The challenge to the United States in caring for its youngest, most vulnerable citizens is clear: considering the lower infant mortality rates that so many other nations are achieving, far too many American babies are dying. High on the list of priorities for the next Administration taking office in January 2009 must be the rectification of this outrageous national disgrace. An industrialized country with the resources to rescue a reckless financial services industry with a $750 billion dollar bailout for Wall Street welfare queens must surely be able to find sufficient money somewhere to save the lives of infants, even though they cannot speak for themselves, much less pour campaign contributions into the pockets of legislators.
The Dark Wraith encourages others to publish the graphics above and raise Holy Hell about what priorities this nation should have as opposed to those it has thus far demonstrated.
If the ABCs of the financial meltdown leave your head spinning -- if "default swaps" and "collateralized debt obligations" and "high-rated tranches" are all just so much gobbledygook -- don't worry. You're not alone.
The alphabet soup of exotic investments that represent the immediate cause of the banking mess is so complex that many of those "innovative" financiers responsible for bringing the global economy to the brink of collapse are now making a fortune in consulting fees explaining just what the hell it is that they created. According to the Financial Times, Robert Reoch, the London banker who may be responsible for creating the first of the now-infamous debt-based securities, is now "swamped by investors who want to extricate themselves from derivatives-linked messes, or simply to understand the products that came out of the past few years of intense financial innovation." The Washington Postreported that Joe Cassano, the financial products manager "whose complex investments led to (AIG's) near collapse," is raking in $1 million per month in consulting fees from the ailing financial giant to help sort out the toxic sludge on (and off) the bank's books.
But despite the dense jargon, it's important to get a handle on this stuff. The global economy is at risk of a crash that would cause intense pain among millions of ordinary people, and not because of a few million homeowners overextending themselves, but rather as a result of a small number of savvy wheeler-dealers rigging an unregulated investment market in such a way that they'd always win no matter who else lost.
Those charges don't even rise to the level of an argument, but that only becomes clear when you have a grasp of what all these "toxic" securities that everyone's talking about really are.
. . . . .
But the focus on home mortgages misses a crucial point: Through mid-July, banks had written off about $435 billion in bad American mortgages, a drop in the bucket relative to the size of the global economy. There's simply no way that even a major drop in the value of the U.S. housing market could possibly threaten the economic health of most of the planet.
That's where "derivatives" come in. These instruments, which Warren Buffet called "the real Weapons of Mass Destruction," are "worth" about $500 trillion, or roughly 10 times the output of the global economy.
So just what is a derivative? A derivative is a piece of paper that can be bought and sold for real money but isn't attached to a real asset. Its value is simply derived from something tangible -- hence the name. You hear a lot of talk these days about the "real" nuts-and-bolts economy, and derivatives are in essence the exact opposite: They represent an unreal economy, created by financiers in mahogany-paneled office suites in New York and London, and it's this shadow economy that teeters on the edge of collapse today, threatening to bring down much of the real economy with it.
. . . . .
There are all sorts of derivatives. They are essentially bets -- you can bet that a market will go up, or down, or that a particular company will do well or poorly. You can bet on interest rates going up or down, or the value of a country's currency, or you can make more exotic bets about just about anything in the world -- even what the weather will be like at some point in the future.
But the current meltdown was caused by debt-backed securities tied, at some point, to the U.S. housing market. When you buy a home, that's an asset. Presuming you make your monthly payments, the mortgage held by the bank is an asset as well. When a number of mortgages are cut up and bundled together and then sold off as a security, that's a derivative.
. . . . .
It's these bets that parallel the trillions of dollars in debt-based derivatives that have become so "toxic" -- they were making some people rich when the housing market was flying, but now that it's tanked, they've turned out to be bad bets, and the amount of money at stake is enormous -- far, far larger than the entire value of the U.S. housing market.
Now, we've also heard a lot about "credit default swaps," "collateralized debt obligations," "structured finance products" and a lot of other finance-speak in recent weeks. Collateralized debt obligations are collections of debt -- any kind of debt, but in this case bundles of mortgages -- that are sliced and diced and sold off to investors. Credit default swaps are like a form of insurance that allows those investors to hedge their bets, in case their guts prove wrong and the debt that they're betting will be repaid turns bad on them.
All these exotic financial vehicles are essentially contracts between two parties -- like bets between two fans -- that lay largely outside of the regulatory system that governs most of the banking sector.
. . . . .
You only need to understand a few central aspects of the huge market in debt-based securities that's grown up over the past three decades. In large part, they exist in a shadowy world free of regulation or oversight, they allow investment bankers to repackage risky investments into something that appears to be relatively safe (or at least safer than they really are), and they allow investors to "leverage" their investments -- essentially buying securities that they don't have the money to purchase -- to a far greater degree than traditional investments allow.
Yep. Josh's YouTube n "McCain's Legions" takes me back to 2000 and the KC Freepers... hard to think that this is now, this is STILL, that this cult of FOX tv / mall church faithful seem all the more disinformed, cultist, and hateful:
Yesterday, we got to see Obama in Roanoke, and even in the rain the event was full of sun. Well organized buses took us for a short ride from the easy to find parking lots. People were helpful, friendly, with not one hateful shout, though I did see a kid with an anti-Bush button on his cap. Did notice, however, that Roanoke's finest -- the police -- looked angry and not so helpful. I asked one big burly blond if I could go into the rally through the doors he seemed to guard. "Can you?" his smart reply. "I don't know. Can you?" So I was sure to smile at him (my best smile, my grandmother Mitchell's) and thank him afterwards, how nice it all was, so orderly, etc.
The crowd was happy, responsive, Webb's warm up terrific. And Obama? Courageous and made for this time, he makes me believe the yes of yes.
Afterwards, I talked to a lady from a German newspaper about what strikes me most of all. This:
McCain has told us we will have more war; that war is inevitable. He says this easily, this man who sings Bomb, Bomb Iran, thoughtless as a robot about what bombs do to the innocent, the collateral, the inadvertent targets. Clearly, alternatives to war are very secondary thoughts. War comes easy for McCain, and he wants badly to be commander and chief of it all.
And Palin. She terrifies me. It's more obvious evey time she opens her mouth that she doesn't know what she doesn't know. The world is a little one-layer cake for her, all so simple. So neat. Most of all, she embraces a cult church in love with End Time Theocracy. For her, nothing must stand in its way.
In short, McCain-Palin truly believe they know the future and that they have the ready made answers to take us there.
Obama is so different. Equipped with deep intelligence and a necessary humility, he understands that no one knows the future. His genius is in bringing people together to solve problems. That's what a leader does.
A little taste of luvly luvly Roanoke, the sweet creamy center in the square oasisness amid Jeffersonian mountains... I adore the kids here.
There are just a few things I'd like to see or hear less of.
1. Ending a sentence with a preposition. (Just saving Tart the trouble of pointing my bad grammar out!)
2. Joe Lieberman standing next to McCain at a rally, or pretending he's an independent who supports McCain.
3. John McCain (or anyone else) calling Barack Obama or his policies socialist. It's been so long since this country has seen a real socialist in politics some of us have apparently lost touch. They are out there, but they won't be invited to any major televised debates with The Big Two. If Obama is a socialist, what would that have made Dennis Kucinich as a presidential nominee? Honestly, how far left can you go if Obama is a socialist? We'd have to start inventing new words for them.
4. Sarah Palin. She scores on both points. Not only would I like to see and hear less of her, I'd like to not see or hear her at all. She can just return from whence she came.
5. Barack Obama being called the "anti-Christ." Come on, people! Can you be the anti-Christ and a Socialist? It's not just coming from Mississippi, but Nebraska as well, and 48 other states, and it's just stupid.
In Bellevue, Neb., Jessie Puglisi, 22, said, "Obama is the anti-Christ," adding: "My husband feels the same way. He won't even buy a magazine if Obama's face is on it."
Yeah, it's kinda hard to learn about someone if you refuse to read anything about them that didn't come via an email smear campaign.
Maybe they are just alarmed by the fact that Obama draws huge crowds of people who are desperate for some kind of change.
Those on the far right fringe must be riveted with fear and I'm eager for all of them to have at least four years of living with it. It's called payback for the rest of us watching in horror as George W. Bush worked his own special magic on the nation.
6. Women in politics who do nothing but echo what we've been hearing from men in politics for 200 years. I've long argued that as a nation, we aren't going to progress until women are in power. While I'm happy to see the representation of women in politics increasing around the world, it doesn't give me much hope when some of them are nothing more than a clone of so many babbling idiot men I have wanted to hastily discharge from their service to our nation. What disturbs me even more is when these people like Michele Bachmann get elected from "liberal" states such as Minnesota, and begin spewing their insanity like any old ignorant rifle-totin' redneck from the backwoods of Alabama driving a beat up pickup plastered with "NObama" and "God Bless America" stickers, all manufactured in China.
Less of all this, please. I've seen enough and heard enough during this election cycle to cover me for several decades, and we've got a bit more than two weeks to go.
If you're involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it's bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement. Senator Michele Bachmann, speaking at EdWatch National Education Conference, November 6, 2004.
"Two homosexuals that were holding up my picture this week at the Capitol and shouting that I want to hate people, I walked up to them and said: 'I don’t hate you. I love you and the Savior who created you. He loves you, too, can I tell you why? This is not about hating them, this is about loving them into the Kingdom.'"
Good grief. It's not enough that we have to listen to her blathering in this life, and for some she actually represents them in Congress, but the idea of having to spend an eternal afterlife in the "Kingdom" with the likes of her?
Safety and discipline. Wow! And here all this time I thought kids went to school to learn. When I first started high school way back when, they had a dress code for girls. We weren't allowed to wear pants unless it was raining. Mornings were almost always overcast in Lompoc so we would go to school in pants and say that we thought it was going to rain. Fortunately for us they lifted the ban on pants. As soon as it got warm we started wearing hot pants, I think the male teachers really liked those.
Dress codes are supposed to reduce violence and bullying by taking style differences out of the equation, according to the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Since the Clinton administration, the Education Department has encouraged schools to go further by adopting uniforms, saying they promote safety and discipline.
Ah yes, the schools are no longer trying to educate youth and prepare them for the real world, they are doing their best to turn out little automatons that aren't capable of independent thought and obey without question. No wonder we keep falling behind the rest of the industrialized nations in math and science. If you don't learn how to reason and trying to express your individuality is banned so that everyone is exactly the same, it makes it very hard to think for yourself. Which I guess is the point.
And in Gonzales, Texas, near San Antonio, parents are considering legal action over a new policy that requires students who come to school dressed inappropriately to either go home or put on a school-provided prison-style jumpsuit — one actually made by Texas inmates. Police had to restore order at a recent school board meeting where parents heatedly complained about the new policy.
“You’re punishing the children,” Gracie Mercer, mother of a Gonzales student, told board members. “You guys aren’t concerned about their education.”
Officials rebuffed the critics and said the policy would stay in place.
“We’re a conservative community,” Deputy Superintendent Larry Wehde said. “We’re just trying to make our students more reflective of that.
But sometimes, school officials will admit they’ve gone too far. That’s what happened in Fresno, Calif., last month when administrators at Dos Palos High School apologized to Jake Shelly, a sophomore whom they forced to change into a shirt bearing the words “Dress Code Violator.”
Jake’s proscribed apparel? A T-shirt sporting the American flag. The Dos Palos-Oro Loma Joint Unified School District’s dress code prohibits “shirts or blouses that promote specific races, cultures or ethnicities.
Despite Ron Paul's gruesomely unbecoming credentials on such matters as described above, what he has to say about this bailout is worth hearing. He has the part about inevitable inflation exactly right: no government can just print money out of thin air and expect a problem of the magnitude of the current financial crisis to be solved. In this case, not only will the problem not be solved, but it will become worse, and it will become worse multi-dimensionally. The United States economy will drop into a spiraling hyperinflation that cannot be avoided, a situation that will require ungodly, years-long economic suffering to fix; but far worse, we as a people are being marched straight into the destruction of this nation.
If you think that sounds like hyperbole, then I am already weary of you. Go somewhere and wave your McCain or Obama sign and feel all giddy about this election. You are already lost.
Listen to what the Texas congressman says about government becoming exponentially larger to somehow save the economy. Do be sure to ignore his little dig about how this problem all started "in 1971"; that's just the old Bretton Woods conspiracy theory nonsense. It's related to the worn-out Federal Reserve conspiracy theory nonsense. Yes, yes: the Federal Reserve should never have been created; it's nothing but a toy of banking interests, and it can become (as it finally has under the Bush Administration) the means by which the very worst tendencies of government to live beyond its tax revenues can be realized; but nothing can be done about that, now. The war to abolish the Federal Reserve over. It's been over for about a century. The Fed was something we could have lived with as a benign and quite helpful entity were it not for the contorted, Right-wing Republican logic that animated endless bitching about the Federal Reserve and, in the very next breath, whined and bawled and threw temper tantrums for the past century against federal taxes that could support a growing government that wouldn't need to turn to the unelected Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve for financing.
That all having been said, even if you're a true-blue Obamabot Democrat who thinks the government is the solution, listen to what Congressman Paul has to say about this bailout. He stays away from most of the conspiracy theory stuff and goes right to the heart of the utter folly of what's going on right now in Washington.
Nothing in this video is going to change your vote. Most people will still fawn over the corrupt, insular neophyte from Illinois or drool over the doddering, corrupted shadow of a man from Arizona, anyway; but listen. If you do, you will have no excuse whatsoever, in the years and months to come, to say with a straight face, "No one could have imagined..."
What the United States government is doing right now will be the cause of disaster. Our leadersand that includes both Barack Obama and John McCainthink they are being "responsible" by signing on to what will become a multi-trillion dollar spending spree (not including a $63 trillion credit-derivatives market on life support right now, for God's sake) that started with $750 billion for the welfare queens on Wall Street. That Save-the-Wall-Street-Guys-or-They'll-Shoot-the-Economy bailout is now turning into an equity marriage of the banking industry and the United States government. That is not only the very height of cynicism in making the private banking system the internalized financing arm of the government, it is also something far worse: it is definitional fascism.
Liberals pissed all over themselves when the telecoms got immunity from prosecution for doing the government's bidding in spying on Americans: MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann correctly conflated that act by Congress in granting immunity to the telecoms with the Third Reich-era German legislation called "Lex Krupp," Fascist Germany's broad recognition of the Krupp dynasty as above the laws applicable to others. Now, we are looking right into the face of something that makes immunity grants pale in comparison; we are seeing the government actually absorbing the entire banking system of the United States.
You want definitional fascism, which is the marriage of the corporate and the sovereign? You are now seeing it happen in real time, right in your face.
The two leading candidates for President are on board the bailout, and that meansregardless of their respective, mealy-mouthed quibblings with this or that part of itthey are both instruments of the Bush Administration's last and far grandest assault upon this nation's people and the republic that shelters them.
Listen. For once during this election, stop waving those God damned McCain and Obama signs, stop pissing away your anger hating McCain or hating Obama, stop trashing voices in opposition for matters irrelevant to the point they're making, and listen.
Then, once you're finished listening, go out and vote for your favorite man who will take us on down the road into the ugliness of a nation too ignorant to remember where fascism leads.
If the sound of Rep. Paul's voice annoys you, the transcript is available by clicking here.
If the sound of a clear, accurate warning of what is to come annoys you, go listen to McCain and Obama promise something other than the inevitable disaster that is coming at this nation like a freight train simply because we have once againjust as we did with the events of September 11, 2001allowed the Bush Administration to fail us and then use that failure as the pretext to wreck our treasure, our liberties, and, this time, our republic as the nation our Founding Fathers envisioned.
And don't blame the politicians. Theirs is not the task of rebellion.
That responsibility, whether we accept it or not, is ours.
This is actually fun, refreshing and enjoyable. It helped make my early morning. I hope you enjoy it as well. It's time for a break in the vicious, nasty pile of crap we call an election to take a break and have some laughter with each other.
Last presidential debate 10/15/2008 - John McCain's most appalling moment about choice yet - he actually mocks protecting women's health by putting "health" in air quotes. Obama speaks about protecting Roe v. Wade and leaving the decision in the hands of women and their doctors.
It came so late in the debate last night perhaps many viewers had nodded off and missed it. Or maybe, the TV audience was already anesthetized by John McCain's irascible, nasty style. Possibly the issue of abortion is just not the hot-button, culturally divisive issue it once was or maybe the worry about jobs, retirement, paying bills and all things economic trump the reproductive rights of women in this election cycle in much the same way as the financial crisis has drowned out Iraq and almost every other current national challenge.
But for me and I think most women in the viewing audience, McCain's mocking dismissal of women's health as a salient factor in abortion was one of the most repugnant, offensive moments in a presidential campaign that already had plumbed some of the dreckiest dregs.
So, let's get this correct: John McCain believes that the consideration of the state of a woman's health when it comes to an abortion is an extreme position of the pro-abortion gang? That a woman's health is just some kind of a loophole so all those abortion-loving females will be able to shower themselves with lots and lots more pregnancy terminations? Does John McCain think women treat the decision to have an abortion as some sort of elective cosmetic surgery ("Oh dear, I don't know what to do at the spa today.... should I have a cucumber wrap, a couple of shots of Botox or just pop in for a little womb scraping?")
John McCain, your record on women's health is abysmal as is your position on equal pay for women. By your own admission, you are a shameless womanizer and adulterer, with a despicable history of chauvinistic behavior and crude put-downs. The most telling evidence that you hold women in contempt came when you picked Sarah Palin as your running mate. You wanted to peel away the Hillary voters so you chose a woman who is the very antithesis of everything Hillary Clinton ever stood for. (But I guess in John McCain world, one set of boobs and ovaries is as good as any other.)
Consideration of the woman's health is the goddamn LAW in these United States, John McCain. It is not some far lefty position. It is your position that is extreme, but who wouldn't have expected that since you long ago became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the wingnut agenda.
When all you old, crinkly, stodgy, sanctimonious, Bible-beating, hypocritical men can start giving birth, you will have some standing on this issue with me. Until then, you have not one iota of credibility regarding women's reproductive rights.
Please let's get to the voting. I don't believe I can bear another day of the McCain-Palin lying and hate-mongering.
I really am tired of hearing people say that they can stimulate the economy and improve people's standard of living by cutting taxes. They tend to forget one ittybitty little point. One has to have a job in order to pay taxes. Not only do you have to have a job, you have to have a job that pays over $10,000 a year before you start paying taxes and then you won't qualify to have your taxes cut because you don't make enough money. As if an extra ten dollars on your refund would make that much of a difference in your life.
Looking at things from the poor side of town and almost making do with what we have, it's hard to believe that people who make over $250,000 a year can't make ends meet and deserve a tax cut. They could always cut back on the caviar and champagne and replace it with beans and beer like the rest of us.
Two separate Americas? You betcha!
Does Europe have homeless people living on the street? Just wondering.
On Wednesday night, during the third and final debate between Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama, McCain attacked Obama's foreign trade policy plans by, among other things, criticizing the Democratic nominee's stated intentions to renegotiate trade accords. McCain stated: "...Sen. Obama said he would unilaterally renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement... You don't tell countries you're going to unilaterally renegotiate agreements with them."
Subsequently, in answering moderator Bob Schieffer's next question, "Can we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and by how much in the first term, in four years?" Obama took the opportunity to address McCain's criticism: "I believe in free trade. But I also believe that for far too long, certainly during the course of the Bush administration with the support of Sen. McCain, the attitude has been that any trade agreement is a good trade agreement. And NAFTA doesn't have -- did not have enforceable labor agreements and environmental agreements.
"And what I said was we should include those and make them enforceable, in the same way that we should enforce rules against China manipulating its currency to make our exports more expensive and their exports to us cheaper..."
Below is the video clip of the discussion of energy independence that includes the exchange transcribed above.
Many readers of articles I have published over the past nearly four years here at online properties of Dark Wraith Publishing know that I have railed over and over again about the manipulation of the yuan-dollar exchange rate by the Chinese and the destructive effects this has had on the United States economy. In fact, in the very last article published here prior to this one, I tore into globalists like newly minted Nobel laureate Paul Krugman for their wholesale blindness to how benefits of "free trade" do notindeed, cannotoccur in a trading relationship where one side systematically, openly, aggressively cheats on the scale that China has in its trade with the United States. In that particular article, I ripped into Krugman, specifically, by writing: "[H]is global free-trade advocacyadvocacy that won him the Nobel because he masqueraded it as scholarshipis the naïve battle cry of the American political 'center' that has allowed China to gut the American economy of tens of millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars by manipulating the yuan-dollar exchange rate for years and years while our intelligentsia sat back bleating about the beauty of their theories of free trade making people's lives better."
In my September article, "The Echo of Now," I provided links to numerous other articles I have written wherein I described this destructive exchange rate manipulation and condemned U.S. government policy that has allowed it to continue for years without retribution.
So, now, here I am, coming to grips with a spectacle that nearly stopped my heart: a major-league candidate for President of the United States, the man who will undoubtedly be the next President of the United States, repeating almost verbatim what I've been bawling about for years with virtually no onecertainly no reputable economists or reasonably mainstream politicianscoming even close to being as forceful and specific as I have been on the matter of exchange rate manipulation by the Chinese, what it has done to our economy, and what we must do about it.
But there it was: Barack Obama spoke a truth about an economic issue that is not easy to understand and has never been mainstreamed as common knowledge.
Does this mean I will now vote for Barack Obama?
Hell, no. The man seems to understand an important principle of macroeconomics and how it applies in the real world of the economic wreckage that has been done to the American economy, but Obama also said in the same debate on Wednesday night, "I think that the Constitution has a right to privacy in it that shouldn't be subject to state referendum..."
How nice: states do not have the right to rescind that which inheres to people by natural law, but the federal government may, at its convenience in legislating terrorist-threat hysteria, put into law such abominations as the revised Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Sen. Obama voted for.
While words have importance, deeds have consequences. Sen. Obama talks well, certainly when he virtually quotes me verbatim on the issue of what has caused great harm to the American economy, but talk is cheap when the iron first of an emergent authoritarian state is behind the velvet words of glowing praise for "privacy" that can be hurled to the curb like so much trash when law enforcement personnel and Right-wing judges see fit.
Talk of "rights" is also cheap when the reality is that millions of Americans are prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned under the auspices of the "rule of law" while men and women at the very pinnacle of power allow and, in fact, with impunity craft the utter destruction of the American economy. Perhaps Sen. Obama might get around on the campaign trail one of these days to talking about taking legal action against men like Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, upon whose fiscal watch incomprehensibly costly catastrophe has befallen the global economy because of their malfeasance and incompetence in concert with the malfeasance, incompetence, corruption, and mendacity of the Bush Administration in complicity with weak, cowardly Democratic leaders who, at best, did nothing and, far more likely, were every bit a part of the plans and schemes that went so awry. We are now inexorably plunging into an era of crumbling empire, bankrupt of treasure and bereft of moral standing in the world that will now move on and leave us behind as the crippled, elderly relic of yet another broken dream of a more perfect union.
Who, then, will be punished for this heinous and massive crime against freedom? Who, then, will suffer retributive justice scaled to the monument of this outrage? Will Barack Obama be our champion?
Of course not. He is nothing but the sound and fury of the echo we remember of ourselves and our country in our shining hours. We have not seen those shining hours in a long, long time, though; our memories, like Sen. Obama, are all we have left.
For what it's worth, on one matter, Mr. Obama has spoken truth to the power of the electorate; on so much more, however, his silence is telling and his votes in the Senate are chilling.
Fortunately for the junior Senator from Illinois, once he is President, he may use that office to lead the city of liars, charlatans, and fools taking us into the gathering darkness of inevitable authoritarianism that is the fate of a free people who know not the responsibility such grace carries in choosing its leaders wisely. For our sloth, we shall pay dearly at the gateway to the future. President Obama will serve as nothing more than the toll keeper at that portal to the nightfall of our empire.
The Dark Wraith will spend the next four years, God willing, ensuring that President Obama faces withering criticism from one who wishes he had good cause to do otherwise.
To get your mind off the impending debate (!) and all the political crap I thought I would take some of you for a ride, this ride is free, no gasoline required, just a bit of imagination is all. Obviously this has something to do with a most magnificent creature, the monarch butterfly, a traveler of major proportions. This strikingly beautiful and seemingly delicate insect can travel thousands of miles on it's annual migration.
It's almost unbelievable, and it is most definitely fantastic.
In this neck of the woods, Arkieville, you can see them regularly this time of year, all heading south, but there are corridors where they seem to coalesce on their flight to Mexico to overwinter. I have noticed some of these places on my travels when I used to do source water work some time back and traveled alot. It's your dime, my truck, so i will take the scenic route, thank you.
There are so many incredible, beautiful places in this magnificent country, but for all of us, we are not too far away if we just learn how to look. That sometimes takes practice. And lots of patience, with a small dose of humility, and an awareness that we live in a wonderful world. At least in it's natural state.
OK, let's start the ride. Place your trays in the upright position, no smoking (tobacco) and someone pass that bong!
We head out from Little Rock west on highway 10, used to be out of town withing minutes, but little Rock has grown now to where it extends almost to lake Maumelle, a Corp Lake, the major City Reservoir. When we get here it is noticeable that the terrain has become more, let's say hilly, but rocky hills. This is the Ouachita formation, a truly ancient folded mountain range that believe it or not is a even more ancient extension of the Appalachians. The gap at the Big Muddy, where rock and stone are down there deep under the Mississippi River, but really deep, amazingly some of the rocks match up well with Algeria and other parts of north Africa. Duh.
Pass that damn bong again! Yeah, that's better. Now we are past maumalle and heading west the terrain gets more rugged, although we will be following the Fourche Lafave river bottom underneath the massifs of these ancient mountains that now are mostly big rocky hills.
This is unfortunately timber company land, and clear cuts happen more than I like, but nobody listens to me bitch too much so I keep my lip zipped, But not all of it is cut, coniferous forest mostly, sprinkled with hardwoods, when off to the right is a metal sign, about 1 sq yd, rectangular, that states "Needmore Cemetary". I shit you not, it's there. I've even been there but we are on a mission from gawd, so onward. We are getting close to Ola, the site of the world record black crappie, at 5lb 9oz that is one damn big crappie. Caught out of their beautiful Lake Ola Dale, the local water reservoir.
Being only on impulse power we blast past Ola quickly, the sleeping cops didn't even wake up. Yawn. Now off to the north-northwest the bulk of Mt. Magazine can be seen, it is as I have said a remnant of a vastly larger structure, a syncline if I recall some geology, with the spine of it running from WSW to ENE, after a few more miles we hit I think highway 306, which now takes us north to the mountain, and while maybe not so huge anymore, at 2753' it still can impress. Just tall enough where you can sense a slight shift in climate from bottom to top. This is the tallest structure in the central USA.
As we hit the steeper slopes the road becomes a switchback, and suddenly you can't help but notice dozens of monarchs fluttering down the mountain. All the way up, hundreds, even thousands of them heading south. It's cool to stop and take a break once in a while and just look around, the view is getting better all the time, and the butterflys are all over the place with a single purpose.
Once at the top there is a cool state park with a new lodge and accommodations for those who want to stay awhile, the butterflys are still coming up from the north side in a shower, regular as can be, heading down the south side until the sun begins to set, then all begins to become quiet as twilight approaches.
An owl hoots off in the distance, whip-o-wills begin to call. time to get a room and sit outside with guests and enjoy the evening, never forget to bring your 12x80 binocs for the night sky here.
It really may not be alpine, but it is truly wonderful. I highly recommend it.
Tomorrow we can descend and visit an acquaintance of mine, Brother Anselm at Subiaco Academy, he won the Holmes award a few years ago for his contributions as an amateur weather spotter. Then tour Paris. No, not that one, this one, Paris Arkieville. A most beautiful town. Then head across the river to see Altus and the wine country there. It really is cool.
Oct. 14: In a brief Special Comment, Keith Olbermann expresses his disapproval of the McCain/Palin campaign’s “lynch-mob mentality” and their refusal to discourage surrogates and supporters from threatening Barack Obama at GOP campaign rallies.
Forget John McCain's face-to-face encounters with Barack Obama, which wrap up Wednesday with their third and final debate. Thursday evening is when we'll find out just how thick McCain's skin is.
That's when he settles into the That's when he settles into the guest chair next to the TV star who has become his new, unrelenting nemesis -- David Letterman. [snip]
Letterman, whose comedic persona long has included a crusty edge, embraced the role of spurned host after McCain canceled a scheduled "Late Show" appearance last month because of plans to hurry back to Washington -- but then remained in New York that night. Since then, Letterman monologues have been littered with barbs aimed at McCain.
And that continued to be the case tonight, despite the the Republican's effort to make amends and show up on the "Late Night" set Thursday. The Times' Matea Gold passes along, courtesy of CBS, some of Letterman's latest lines:
You heard what happened at a rally yesterday. Sarah Palin mistook some of her supporters for hecklers. And you know, confusion happens in all walks of life. For example, a few weeks ago, John McCain mistook her for a legitimate candidate. ...
And tomorrow night is the final presidential debate. John McCain and Barack Obama. And John McCain is going to take this opportunity to unveil his new campaign persona. His new campaign personality, to really energize the last couple of weeks of the campaign -- Fighting Underdog. Fighting Underdog. ... And if that doesn’t work, then he’s going to go to Corrupt Bordertown Sheriff. And if that doesn’t work, Seen-it-All Bartender. And then Priest Who Tries to Communicate with Martians. And then the Alcoholic Safecracker. And then the Maniacal Hunter Who’s After Human Prey. And then the Shifty Racetrack Vet. And then the Retired Jewel Thief. And then the Archaeologist Who Scoffs at the Mummy’s Curse. ...
I'm sitting at a stop light and I see a church with a sign saying "Are You Chipped?" I've been driving past this place for two years and never really thought about what it was asking. Having some experience with the Pentecostal church in my youth I recognize that it refers to the number of the beast and the impending "Rapture". I also realize that one doesn't have to have a chip to be marked with the number of the beast. Technology got around that problem and most people don't realize that it has happened.
So the question is this, why in the world would you need to chip people since almost everyone has a cell phone with GPS tracking? And how many people have bought a car equipped with Onstar? Supposedly it can help you if you are in an accident, run out of gas, find a restaurant, etc, which means it can also keep track of your daily activities. Home telephone calls can be transferred to your car if you have to go somewhere and don't want to stop talking. Obviously you don't need to be chipped if they can track you without you ever knowing it.
Ten years ago Hollywood gave us Enemy of the State and showed how many places can keep an eye on you with you being aware of it and most people blew it off as fiction. Which it was, but that doesn't mean it was totally inaccurate. Now Hollywood has given us Eagle Eye and it shows that the technology to track you without you being aware has advanced even more. I've seen it four times (because of work) and yes, I know it has flaws and that it is fiction, but how many people are aware of the fact that very little of everyday life isn't on film somewhere?
Spend a little time during your daily activities to spot the cameras and you realize that you are on camera almost as soon as you step out of your house. And that's without a satellite tracking you. Either way I leave my residence, the first light I come to has cameras. As a matter of fact, most of the lights have cameras. In an effort to catch shoplifters almost any store you go into has cameras in action. The grocery store has cameras, the bank has cameras, casinos have cameras, hotels have cameras, the train station has cameras, clothing stores have cameras. RFID tracks almost everything you buy at this point and most people don't even notice.
This should be obvious, even to cat vivisectionists from Tennessee. An obvious case of a treatable malaise, but will the patient take the treatment? Vill der patient take der treatment?
Probably not. And from an entertainment standpoint that is too bad.
This poor excuse for a man has a severe case of diarrhea. In fact it seems that he suffers from it out of both ends. Just looking at the face is clue enough for me, and I can diagnose this shit from thousands of miles away, after all, I used to run sewage treatment plants.
As your acting Physician, mr. frum, I suggest inserting two large bungs in either end after allowing you to ingest a large volume of 10M sodium bicarbonate, followed by a fair dose of wine vinegar.
Then, for the viewing audience, may I suggest that you stand back. And I do so mean stand back, this will get ugly, don't forget your rainsuit and umbrella.
Princeton economist and columnist for The New York TimesPaul Krugman has won the Nobel Prize in economics, yet again rendering evidence that Nobel Prizes are every now and then awarded to the faddish and popular rather than to people who make substantive, beneficial, less self-serving contributions.
Oh, but... but... Paul Krugman is a LIBERAL. Ah, yes. That makes it okay: his global free-trade advocacyadvocacy that won him the Nobel because he masqueraded it as scholarshipis the naïve battle cry of the American political "center" that has allowed China to gut the American economy of tens of millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars by manipulating the yuan-dollar exchange rate for years and years while our intelligentsia sat back bleating about the beauty of their theories of free trade making people's lives better.
However, in the spirit of academic collegiality, I want to congratulate Dr. Krugman and offer a few admittedly biased observations about the life and works of a fine, respected, tenured man of the new world.
Sir, good for you! You got a Nobel Prize for your work on the impact of industry-level economies of scale on global trade patterns. Your advocacy of free trade is praiseworthy, and I am hoping you will now be willing to pursue your passion in an empirical, down-to-earth way. In fact, collecting this data should be done by you, personally, rather than by your grad research assistant lackeys. Here's what you need to do to get this research underway.
Go, sir, and have a long, hard look at the rusted spine of American manufacturing industries obliterated by years and years of having our products artificially overpriced in foreign markets while Chinese products were artificially underpriced in American markets.
Be an American union worker constantly under assault to make wage and benefits concessions while trying in vain to remain "competitive" in that-there "global economy" about which you and your fellow mainstream economists talk so glowing.
Incessantly repeat that tripe about how the United States must adapt to being a "services"-oriented economy, where low-margin, low-wage jobs are all we can get when, in fact, that whole meme has been nothing other than an excuse for watching tens of millions of high-paying industrial jobs fly overseas, not because some other countries are "better" than us (we economists say those countries have "comparative advantage" in manufacturing), but merely because exchange rate manipulation massively, systematically, and catastrophically distorted terms of trade and completely obscured any free market-driven allocation of productive enterprise in the global manufacturing and trading system. You famously claim that the solution is somehow "political" in the sense that we should spend U.S. tax dollars to retrain or reinvent our workforce instead of cracking down hard, fast, and painfully on the countries that are cheating in the global trade game. There's a liberal solution if ever I heard one: cower from the bullies and find "inner strength," perhaps even "peace" with our inner wuss. God forbid we should ever lean over the trade negotiations table and say to the apparatchiks in Beijing, "Knock it off with your 'free markets' lie: you are, have been, and always will be communist authoritarians; you have no place in your world view for 'free' anything, so stop claiming you're free trade advocates when you're most decidedly nothing but old-fashioned mercantilists trying to bleed a giant capitalist economy dry to keep your own failed socialist system going and your corrupt gerontocracy filthy rich." Yes, God forbid we should offend those freedom-loving rulers in Beijing. They might stop selling us their melamine-laced food.
[Note to readers: The next paragraph starts light and political but takes a rather hard turn into the monetary theory. Be forewarned.]
Yes, Dr. Krugman, soak up all that liberal love with your righteous condemnation of the Bush Administration and its policies while you, yourself, and all your fellow globalists cower in convenient silence as that same Bush Administration keeps using the accumulation of greenbacks in foreign central banks to finance reckless federal tax and spending policies. You know exactly why the Bush economists and trade "experts" make the ludicrous claim that China does not manipulate the yuan-dollar exchange rate. Somewhere behind all that silence, you and your fellow globalists have the so-called Classical System trade theory firmly embedded in the backs of your minds, believing that monetary phenomena are irrelevant in the long-run despite the accumulating, compelling evidence to the contrary that the U.S. economy has been gutted by the exchange rate pegging game being continuously executed by those 'irrelevant' monetary phenomena. In fact, you and a decent slate of other reputable economists do a darned good job of vociferously arguing about the nuances of how the current account (trade deficits and surpluses) drive exchange rates, and by doing this little backward flip, you and your fellow globalists first ensure that cause and effect are reversed for the purposes of your discussions, and then you are able to completely ignore the capital account effect when the currency of one country earned by another country flows back to the country of origin. This might not be such a big deal except that the Bush Administration has been using monetary policywhich, again, the Classical System claims is irrelevant in the long runto have the Federal Reserve overprint U.S. dollars, which China has continually sopped up by buying them with yuan to keep the Chinese currency weak and the dollar strong. That blows the whole short-run/long-run interest rate model of monetary policy dynamics affecting the price of money; but you folks don't have to worry about that because your whole debate among yourselves has the model working backward to begin with. You guys aren't exactly dumb: you know betteror, at the very least, you could know betterbut you all have a huge, vested interest in keeping the argument on the other side of the galaxy from anything having to do with long-term, economy-wrecking exchange rate manipulation propelling domestic interest rates, much less driving the growth path of comparative advantages among countries.
I should not be so harsh, Dr. Krugman, as to make it sound like you have no idea that China engages in exchange rate manipulation. The truth of the matter is, sir, you actually called for more Asian countries to institute exchange rate "controls" like the ones in China! Well, gee, as long as the guy next door is hosing our house with a flame thrower, let's encourage everyone in the whole darned neighborhood to make Molotov cocktails with gallon jugs of grain alcohol.
I sympathize with you, Dr. Krugman: my second and last course for my field specialization in development economics was taught by a Right-wing, hard-core, free trade theorist who hijacked the entire curriculum to blow through high-powered trade theory. Those equations were straight out of grad school math, and the graphical renderings of terms of trade were enough to fog even a math jockey like me. I'm quite sure that many folks like you, having invested so much mental capacity in getting your mind around the elegance of theories like that, aren't about to let minor matters like exchange rate manipulation and other forms of cheating and bluffing disturb you. Perhaps, hailing as you do from Princeton, your fellow Princeton Nobel Prize winner, game theorist John Nash, convinced you that optimal game strategy need not be concerned with the triviality of human incentive to violate the established, if unspoken, rules of a board game. No one could possibly imagine a world where optimal moves have to be computed under conditions where opponents can actually just steal your pieces from the playing field. Speaking as one who took grad-level game theory, I happily concede that it's hard enough modeling a simple game under perfect conditions; throwing in cheating on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars would make those equations look like quantum electrodynamics.
So, once again, Paul, I offer you congratulations. Like last year, when the Nobel Peace Prize was award to Al Gorea vastly rich man laying the ground work to make huge money with a venture capital firm investing in "green" technologiesthose fine Nobel Prize award-givers have ignored hundreds, if not thousands, of equally deserving recipients who have the misfortune of living their productive lives working, suffering, and making the world better out of the limelight of fame and respectability. Al Gore got the Peace Prize while political prisoners, human rights workers, and others were doing the hard work. His global warming hype whipped the world into a corn-for-fuel hysteria that ended up driving corn-for-food prices through the roof while giving authoritarian governments an excuse to evict indigenous peoples from their land so corn could be grown and inducing millions and millions of dollars to be spent on ethanol fuel plants that now sit idle. For your part, you and your fellow globalists give legitimacy to failed trade policies that ignore compelling incentives to cheat and thwart efforts to enact and impose massive, punitive tariffs on exchange rate cheaters like China. Good for you.
Now, you might sense some sarcasm here in my article, and you might attribute that to bitterness on my part since, once again, I did not win the Nobel Prize in economics. Let me disabuse you of that thought. I don't want the Nobel Prize in economics. I don't want to be on any list whatsoever with Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, a Right-wing windbag who never had an original idea of his own but nonetheless got the Prize in 1976 for his lifetime of achievements, most of which were nothing but derivative ripoffs from others, including Ludwig von Mises, an economist who was treated like dirt by liberal academia when he came here to the United States to escape persecution as a European Jew.
Paul, I hold no grudge against you for winning that Nobel Prize in economics. You deserve it. People like you should get the prizes, the honors, the accolades, the admiration, and the money: those are the things that ensure you will never see the consequences of your theories on everyday people who live and work in this new world of globalization that brings deteriorating wages, economic uncertainty, family break-ups, crime, structural unemployment, inter-generational poverty, early death, and utter, growing despair to tens of millions of Americans, some of whom still, despite all the evidence to the contrary, believe that their leaders and the academic giants who advise them have real, effective solutions.
Congratulations, Dr. Krugman. Now, go write some more liberal articles for the gullible.
The Dark Wraith has finished this praise-laden post to the newly crowned King of Economics.
Pizazz, I awake with a hunger for flesh and a thirst for human indignity. I exist in your quietest corners, under your bed, in your closet, always at night. The time is ripe for the plucking of human flesh.
I have no interesting graphics, no warning at all, I simply am, and will always be. Some will laugh, some may cringe, but all will trip with broken bones over me late at night when going for a drink of water at 3:00AM.
So be it.
I will pick up the debris of humanity, dispose of it and establish a new order, 18 toes are the new way to identify the new masters of the world, and don't give me too much crap.
Maybe tomorrow I'll really have something to say, right now I'm a bit speechless. Just wanted to make a noise, and look out, the first two paragraphs (!) you had better watch out and pay attention to.
Wraiths are not the only things to watch out for, I send some transgressors directly to him. Beware the pumpkin on your porch, it could turn on you. I am simply an operative of the Wraith, but i have power as well.
You have been warned.
Close to a full moon tonight, keep your head under the blanket.
"At the end of the 10-week investigation into the so-called Troopergate affair, Palin was found to have breached the ethics rules which govern her conduct as governor of Alaska. The findings, delivered by an investigator who had been hired by the Alaskan state legislature before she was picked as McCain's running mate, are certain to lead to questions over his judgment, and to queries and challenges as to her suitability for national office."
McCain: ‘As President, I’m going to end these abuses [of power] whatever it takes.’
McCain’s statement is ironic, considering his running mate was cited just last night by an official state investigation for unethically and unlawfully abusing her power. Noting that McCain was previously admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee for his involvement in the Keating scandal, Steve Benen reports:
The McCain/Palin ticket is the first in American history in which both candidates were found to have violated ethics standards before a national election.
McCain Campaign Says Black Is White:
Claims Troopergate Investigation Found No Wrongdoing
Having posted Hallowe'en 2008 Graphic #1 last week, it is now time to deliver the second graphic of this festive season of frightful mirth. With this offering, I provide due and equal time for some horror on the other side of the political fence.
The Collective awaits.
The Dark Wraith welcomes accolades for this fine picture as he plans the third terrorizing graphic for Hallowe'en 2008.
John, quit your whining. What did you think was going to happen after people felt comfortable enough during Republican campaign stops to yell out names such as terrorist and phrases such as "kill him? That after getting people all riled up they would bring you milk and cookies? Did the Oklahoma bombing teach you nothing? How about Eric Rudolph? People in your party run around accusing people who don't think like them of belonging to terrorist groups all the time. Heck, the other half of your ticket has done it quite frequently in the last few weeks. You accuse Obama of being naive when your behavior is absolutely clueless. At least one hopes that's what you are because the other alternatives are far worse.
Excuse me, some of us have been speaking out for years. What's going on now is that people are starting to understand that they let their fear get in the way of their common sense and now nothing in their life is private.
Only two years ago, the Bush administration could count on public fear of terrorism and a Republican-controlled Congress to support an array of anti-terrorism tactics and programs that tested or exceeded the limits of US law.
Coercive interrogations, indefinite detentions, secret overseas prisons, and warrantless surveillance of phone calls and emails were among the tools used in its no-holds-barred response to the September 11 attacks on the United States.
But with the administration near the end of its term, said Lewis, "things are starting to come a little unglued.
"The approach this administration took is breaking down. Some of it is, as it loses its political steam and its credibility, people are willing to speak out."
Of course they are. Being the sexually repressed country that we are, listening to our pillow talk is off limits. I just want to know where to get the talking pillows.
Now onto the upcoming Depression. Getting Congress to pass the bailout bill was only the beginning of the Great American Ripoff. The tip of the iceberg, one might say. It was just to get the money so Bush could do what he wanted with it, which is to reward the crew without a clue one more time. No matter how much money you give to the people on the top, as long as the people on the bottom get nothing, the economy won't get better. As long as the people on the bottom can't spend money on anything other than the basic necessities of life this problem will continue to get worse. Then we are going to find the rest of the iceberg. Just like the Titanic. Golden parachutes are of no use when you are drowning.
Industry executives quickly told Mr. Paulson that they liked the idea, though they warned that the Treasury should not try to squeeze out existing shareholders. They also begged Mr. Paulson not to impose tough restrictions on executive pay and golden-parachute deals for executives who are fired.
Mr. Paulson heeded those pleas. In his remarks on Friday, he carefully noted that the government would acquire only “nonvoting” shares in companies. And officials said the law lets the Treasury write most of its own restrictions on executive pay, and those restrictions can be lenient if they are applied to a set of fairly healthy companies.
If you are on the bottom and get fired, you can barely collect unemployment. If you are on the top and get fired, you get lots of money and a bonus package. In other words, the more incompetent you are, the more you get rewarded.
Speaking of the Peter Principle, how much more trouble can one Republican VP candidate get into? Much more than one would think. It seems that in their haste to protect her from herself, they might have done more damage than they intended. Hoist on their own petard. It would almost be funny except that this is the possible future of America we are talking about.
No matter how grumpy you are, this will bring a smile to your face. It's always nice to feel wanted.
Shadow barks and tries to jump over the fence when I come home after being gone more than a few minutes, I can't imagine what she would do if I was gone for months at a time. The black dog's tail is wagging so fast that it's a wonder it didn't take off into the atmosphere.
An investigation has concluded that Gov. Sarah Palin abused her power, according to a report just now unanimously released by the legislative council.
The report by investigator Steve Branchflower found that Palin violated the state's executive branch ethics act, which says that "each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust."
Branchflower was investigating whether Palin abused her power by pushing for the firing of state trooper Mike Wooten, who once was married to the governor's sister.
For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides
The legislature reaffirms that each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.
Finding Number Two
I find that, although Walt Monegan's refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin's firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.
Finding Number Three
Harbor Adjustment Service of Anchorage, and its owner Ms. Murleen Wilkes, handled Trooper Michael Wooten's workers' compensation claim property and in the normal course of business like any other claim processed by Harbor Adjustment Service and Ms. Wilkes. Further, Trooper Wooten received all the workers' compensation benefits to which he was entitled.
Finding Number Four
The Attorney General's office has failed to substantially comply with my August 6, 2008 written request to Governor Sarah Palin for information about the case in the form of emails.
Full Branchflower Report to the Legislative Council (.pdf) here or here.
Report: Palin broke state law
Oct. 10: Anchorage Daily News’ Michael Carey discusses the Alaska State Legislature's newly issued report on the Troopergate investigation which finds that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin “abused her power” while in office.
Oct. 10: MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell considers the damage the Troopergate report will do to Sarah Palin's moral posturing on the campaign trail and how it undermines the McCain campaign's character attacks on Barack Obama.
Having made no small issue of how I had been predicting the current economic crisis for the past nearly four years here at online properties of Dark Wraith Publishing, on a comment thread to a recent article at The Dark Wraith Forums, the following question was posed to me:
[S]eeing how your crystal ball wasn't in need of cleaning... are you surprised at anything that has occurred in the past coupla weeks?
Let me mince no words before I use my admission as an opportunity to expand the explanation from basic macroeconomics principles of what is happening and why.
Yes, one thing has surprised me, and I am glad it is affording me yet another opportunity to pay attention to everything in the data. I am seeing a wild, ebb and flow, inflation/deflation whipsaw occurring.
Normally, a massive, inappropriate, continual infusion of money into an economic system will cause an inflation; and, given that the United States central bank has been letting the total money supply grow way above the real growth rate of the economy, that is most certainly happening and will continue. However, on the other hand, I looked right at the monetary aggregates data (which can be seen graphically in my March 2008 article "The Gospel of Impending Doom") and saw that the Fed was holding the growth rate of M1, the money aggregate that comprises cash and demand deposits (checking accounts), well below the real growth rate of the economy. In and of itself, that would most decidedly lead to a deflation, as well as to a more general economic disaster were it not corrected.
My thought, however, was this: the Fed was allowing M2 and M3, the kinds of money that only huge financial institutions and others of powerful resources can use for liquidity, to grow out of control at rates way in excess of the real growth rate of the economy. It seemed that this would be the overwhelmingly dominant effect. We have had a situation where the economy had a real growth rate of maybe three percent or so, with M1 growing at around zero percent or so and M3 growing an accelerating rate approaching maybe 20 percent: that should mean M3 wins, and we get an eventual inflation rate at something approaching twenty percent minus three percent (or worse, as the real growth rate of the economy slows down below three percent and thereby cannot use even a fraction of the escalating overhang).
Okay, so where's the deflation coming from, then?
In retrospect, I understand it, although even now I'm trying to get my mind around what happened: this was the "credit crunch"! It was, at least in part, a disintermediation between all that liquidity the Fed was pouring in at the top to keep the Wall Street investment firms afloat and the money the base economy of ordinary people and businesses needed.
That M3 money (the part that isn't M1, which is actually included in the M3 aggregate count) really isn't "money" in any ordinary sense. Huge institutional financial services companies can use it like money because they can make it the collateral backing for access to the liquidity needed for transactions; but, in the end, it isn't liquid money.
When I was a consultant years ago, I knew some players out of Vancouver who had managed to find a trick way to do exactly what these large Wall Street firms have been doing. Those Vancouver boys were getting people with so-called "restricted stock" (insider stock that hasn't been held long enough to be freely tradable) to pledge their "Rule 144" stock for what were called "program trading" campaigns short-term investments in incredibly high-yield global currency investments. In other words, those guys from what used to be the Wild West of small-time financial roulette had figured out a way to turn highly illiquid "money" (restricted stock) for a brief period of time into pure cash-money to throw into high-stakes global currency markets, adding into the mix their own staggering margins for gains to leverage. That was essentially the very same game the Wall Street boys have been playing, except the players in Manhattan (and other points around the globe) have been doing it with billions of dollars of book-value "money" backing hundreds of billions of dollars of book value transactions. Every time the game came out a winner, the M3 monetary aggregate shot up even more, and that was how the Fed was allowing the M3 monetary aggregate to grow at such an accelerating, alarming rate, while M1, which is a subset of M3, just sat there flopping around the zero-growth line!
But, again, that M3 money is money only to a tier of the "economy" just loosely connected to the rest of the economy where normal people and businesses operate and use money for real transactions. Hence, the M3 growth rate would not rapidly articulate into inflation for two reasons: expectations of inflation would remain sluggishly behind for a substantial period of time since inflation has not been a problem for years, which means wages and prices would remain fairly insensitive to the emergent inflation signs (I explain this so-called 'sticky wages' phenomenon in Part Three of my series, "The Economics of Wreckage"); and, more importantly, the money aggregate that was growing so blisteringly fast simply could not rapidly become money usable to the real economy of tens of millions of people and millions of companies.
The upshot was this: the fast-growing pool of M3 money eventually and ultimately could not be used at a rate nearly sufficient to finance projects down the productive system, where people borrow for homes and durable goods, companies borrow money for floor-planning and buildings, and both households and firms need money every day for all the trillions of typical transactions in which they engage that keep an economy humming along.
This is a cautionary tale of why it is never a good idea for the Federal Reserve to get itself involved in "helping" the economy. Money should be "neutral": there should be exactly enough of it to ensure that real transactions for real things go smoothly. Too much money in the system, and it causes real values of transactions to become non-transparent as the watered-down money interferes with buyers' and sellers' assessments of how the money they are paying and asking for relates to the real, intrinsic values being exchanged; too little money in the system, and real transactions become more difficult to execute because the money is not there that everyone expects as the anticipated medium of exchange.
Going back to the later years of Alan Greenspan as head of the Federal Reserve, the growing federal budget surpluses had the desirable effect of actually stripping the Fed of its ability to engage in activist monetary policy, since the Federal Reserve uses so-called "open market operations" to add money to and drain money from the banking system (as I explain in Part Two of my series, "The Federal Reserve under Fire"). These open market operations are carried out withare you ready for this?United States Treasury debt instruments, specifically, the short-term, liquid species called "Treasury bills" (or "T-bills," for short)! If the United States is no longer running budget deficits, it is no longer issuing Treasury bills, the short-term debt instruments the Fed likes to buy to carry out its open market operations within the banking system.
Imagine what it would be like for Alan Greenspan to see his unelected seat of power being taken away. First, he trotted up to Congress to bawl that the stock markets were exhibiting "irrational exuberance," which gave him an excuse in the 1990s to execute a pattern of discount rate increases to try to kill the bull market because he thought (as has often been repeated since then) that the closing federal budget deficits were the result of rising federal tax revenues from capital gains.
When that didn't work, and the federal budget deficits kept closing and finally ended up in federal budget surplus territory with no end in sight, he signed on to newly elected President George W. Bush's massive, decade-long tax cuts to deal with a "recession" in 2001 that turned out not to be a recession by technical definitions of that term (which can be seen in this table of U.S. recessions since 1920).
Sure enough, that did the trick: massive federal budget deficits started coming in year after year, and the Federal Reserve was back in business as the unelected body controlling major parts of the economy through daily open market operations fueled by an unrelenting, rising tide of Treasury bills the U.S. government had to issue to pay for its expenses that its diminished tax revenues could not cover.
Now, here we are: an economy that is such a mess that reverberations are being felt around the world, although some of those global "victims" deserve every last ounce of suffering that will be visited upon them, most notable among the scoundrels being the faux free market-loving Communist rulers in Beijing, who manipulated the yuan-dollar exchange rate for years to make their imports to the United States artificially cheap and our exports to China artificially and symmetrically expensive: the Chinese central bank accumulated a monster pool of greenbacks in foreign reserves from this multi-year gambit, investing the dollars in American assets like U.S. Treasury debt and (dear Lord, let me keep from smiling as I write this) mortgage-backed securities.
Our illustrious Federal Reservefirst under the increasingly addled, self-serving chairmanship of Alan Greenspan and then under the obsequious, incompetent stewardship of Ben Bernanke and his fellow Governors of the Federal Reserve Board (one of whom is a former dinner theatre actress)were part and parcel of a disaster that has hit this country like a falling brick building, all because an old Keynesian trick of using short-term punches of money to wake up an ailing economy was turned into an everyday, 365-days-a-year alternative to sound fiscal management by the United States Congress and President.
And how did our government first address the crisis when it was too big to ignore? Why, it bullied into law a $700 billion-plus-no-end-in-sight bailout for the welfare queens of Wall Street, with both the respectable Republicans and Democrats muscling it through over the objections of those who, first, didn't like the whole idea and, second, didn't like Nancy Pelosi putting the House of Representatives under martial law and apparently threatening some congressmen with the same for everyone if the legislation did not pass.
But I'll be darned if that massive collapse of real asset values reflected in stock prices didn't happen anyway, despite the $700 billion dollar rescue package that was supposed to avert a global financial meltdown. Talk about throwing money down the drain. We have a former bigwig, Henry Paulson, from the failed investment house Goldman Sachs as the head of the United States Treasury, and he has just appointed his fellow former crony from Goldman Sachs, Neel Kashkari, to oversee the use of that $700 billion to buy up the bad investments of the reckless financial services industry giants.
So, returning to the question that began this article, what did I get wrong? That's easy: I did not see the deflation component of the current economic crisis.
In my own defense (aside from the fact that I'm calling the deflation aspect before virtually anyone is mentioning that it is happening), I shall state that my error is minor compared to those of President George W. Bush, the Congresses of the past seven-and-a-half years, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury, the mainstream news media pundits, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the financial services industry, the two major party candidates, and even most Right-wing and Leftist bloggers. While the important people and institutions flail around with worthless excuses, vapid theories, and useless remedies, be assured that here at Dark Wraith Publishing online properties, readers will get the benefit of my best judgment, which is based upon years of training, observations, and teaching combined with a gut-level knowledge born of those hard-earned credentials.
Unlike pretty much everyone out there in official circles talking about this catastrophic economic downturn, I do not get paid for what I think and write. I shall leave it to readers to assess what that indicates about my reliability relative to that of all the men and women who live at the hog trough of approved opinions, excuses, and solutions.
The Dark Wraith could, however, use an occasional donation from George Soros (although Mr. Soros would probably get the donation back with a friendly note telling him to go to Hell).
Oh no! This is absolutely terrifying. It seems that Michelle Malkin and I agree on something. How in the hell did that happen? For once she got something right. Who would have ever guessed? The last time I was this shocked was 19 years ago when I read a Pat Buchanan article and it made sense.
Continuing in economic news, the babbling Bush spoke this morning and the Dow had the usual reaction and dropped 107points before he retreated to his den. Why he thinks we are a prosperous nation is beyond me. We don't make anything anymore and jobs that used to be done in the US are now done in India or China. Joe Six-Pack (is he an alcoholic?) doesn't have the money to pay his mortgage, put gas in his car or food on the table and we're considered prosperous? I don't think that word means what he thinks it means. Unless he's talking about his buddies in the oil companies.
To a certain extent, this was the financial equivalent of taking down the speed limit signs, turning off the traffic lights, putting every cop on desk duty, and telling people to drink more beer. Don’t be surprised when there’s a massive pileup on I-80.
Radical measures. Really? I see that we are going to inject more money into failing banks and Wall Street companies in a futile effort to stave off the inevitable. As long as every solution relies on giving those who gambled on Wall Street more taxpayer money to piss away instead of to the average person who will spend the money throughout the economy, we will keep falling until we hit rock bottom. The radical measure would be to give us the money instead of those who will only use it to line their pockets or go to a fancy spa.
So Bush has had a hard presidency. LOL. Like he didn't bring it on himself. Try being an American citizen trying to pay their bills or worrying about their loved ones fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. Try being a mother and father who are trying to keep a roof over their head and hoping that their children will have a future that doesn't include poverty. Try being a compassionate human being instead of an enabler of the worst administration in US history. Try understanding that this country is in a world of trouble and doing more of the same thing we've been doing for the last eight years is not only foolish, it's crazy.
What I find interesting and disheartening at the same time is that in order to get real news, I have to watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. On the bright side at least we haven't had to suffer through stories about missing blond women or stars and their poor driving habits in quite a while.
I am not a conventionally religious man, or even a very superstitious one, but I do wish George Bush would stop asking God to bless America. Every time he does, we seem to be visited with another plague, suggesting divine wrath over our president's evil ways. How else to explain the persistent calamity that has marked this administration: a pointless but very costly war over nonexistent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the devastating New Orleans flood, the betrayal of the nation by the money-changers -- from Enron to Goldman Sachs -- that Bush welcomed into the temple of the White House?
What's next? Pestilence, frogs, locusts or incurable boils? Dare we risk four more years of catastrophic misrule by a "W" alter ego? For those indifferent to the serious implications of that question, I recommend Oliver Stone's new bio-flick, which brilliantly captures the "banality of evil" that has controlled our political life these past eight years. This phrase from Hannah Arendt's characterization of the mundane cruelty that so marked the daily experience of European fascism has a frightening applicability to the Republican leadership that has done so much damage to this nation's reputation for democratic integrity.
Cynicism rules even as ritualistic prayer breaks, as depicted in the film W, abound. The pretense of piety earns the president and his accomplices a get-out-of-jail-free card; at no point in the film do any in the top ranks of this administration -- captured so accurately and depressingly -- accept one iota of accountability for how much damage they have wrought. Unrepentant, the same Republican apparatchiks are employing the familiar Rovian tactic of divide and conquer in seeking to continue their hold on power. Once again, they seek to focus attention on hot-button social issues and patriotic litmus tests to draw attention from the fact that family values are being destroyed by the loss of job and home.
Perhaps John McCain is not a perfect replica of George W. Bush, but the parallels go beyond the senator's enthusiastic support for the toxic mix of Bush's imperial foreign policy and his arrogant indifference to the travails of our domestic existence. Neither man seems to have any sense of how we actually live or what we need from government. How else to explain their common antipathy to Social Security and Medicare, which, after public education, represent the nation's most successful programs? Can you imagine the panic today if McCain and Bush had succeeded in tying Social Security to investments in the stock market? They view government as nothing more than a proud sponsor of the military-industrial complex while ignoring the threat to homeland security from corporate pirates.
A Gallup poll released this week showed that a majority of Americans -- 53 percent -- are angry about the financial crisis. And 41 percent are afraid. The system, Americans believe, has failed them.
It only takes a glance at the morning news -- or a look at rising food and gas prices -- to see that these fears and frustrations are not without good reason. Every day, more and more people lose their homes and their health care and see their retirement funds erode. Or rather, they watch as these things get taken from them.
It's infuriating to watch and painful to experience, and it's understandable to be mad as hell. It's OK because when a large enough number of people get angry enough, that's when things start to change.
So, our question to you is, Are you mad enough yet? Because this crisis is about all of us. Are you sure your 401K is secure? Do you know how many of your tax dollars are being spent in Iraq -- a country that's sitting on an $80 billion surplus? Have you considered how you'll pay for your health care if Medicare goes broke?
The answers to these questions aren't pretty. Fortunately, Nov. 4 gives us a chance to change things.
But first we have to know where the candidates stand on the issues that matter the most, like the economy, the environment, health care, immigration and reproductive justice. It's no small task to get reliable information on anything, let alone politics, in an age of campaign attack ads, media bias and outright corruption. That's why AlterNet has put together some handy election guides to help you learn what you need to know about Barack Obama and John McCain before you make a trip to the ballot box. The guides aren't meant to be exhaustive, but they do cover a lot of ground. For the next two weeks, we'll be rolling out an election guide each day, starting today, with the economy.
Election Guide to the Economy
The country is in a unique moment in its economic history, facing a deep, structural energy crisis, stagnant wages for most, and spiraling costs for health care, education and food.
The housing market isn't expected to hit bottom until the middle of next year, and the fallout from the housing crash now threatens the global economy -- so much so that on Sept. 20, the Bush administration proposed an unprecedented bailout of many of the biggest players on Wall Street, which came on the heels of the government's multibillion-dollar rescues of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG.
There's now a consensus among economists that we have entered a recession. It marks the first time in the post-war era that the country has entered into a downturn before median family incomes had fully recovered from the previous recession. Over the past business cycle, poverty increased by more than 10 percent, and the number of people with employer-based health care dropped by about 8 percent.
The past year has been especially painful for America's working majority. In August, companies' payrolls shrank for the eighth consecutive month, resulting in a five-year high in unemployment.
Whoever ends up occupying the White House in January 2009 will be faced with the epic task of restoring Americans' sense of economic security. What will the next president do about energy? About the mortgage meltdown? What kind of trade policies will he put into place?
Opens tomorrow, I won't make it there but once upon a time I attended regularly for a few with an exhibitors pass. Better parking and all that, showing, or more like helping the significant other (rabbit) to show the girls.
Mostly her girls but I had a stake with them as well, used to get home from work and on arriving in the drive and getting out of the car they would all drop and pee. A definite sign of recognition from these sweet but sharp ladies. Then I would get out with them on the lakebank and lie down in the completely weedless bermuda grass and they would all amble down to lie with me, snuggle up a bit and proceed to chew cud.
I had it made but at the time I didn't know it.
Of course the girls are dairy goats, mostly nubians.
Just be careful when setting fence or making gates, they watch like hawks and are more intelligent than most imagine. Hanging a gate on more than one occasion I would have to gently elbow their heads out of the way, then with the job completed, the gate swinging fine on it:s hinges and the latch working perfectly I would head for the house.
Usually within seconds they would open the latch. run out into the backyard and all jump into my 16' Alumacraft boat, Thankfully i never parked it next to the house or they would all be on the roof.
Goats are sharper than the average bear. Sharper than me, too.
Once i got home and found them all in bed in my bedroom. Now that was weird.
According to Dana Perino all I have to do is get a job and everything will be A-OK. We'll ignore the fact that jobs are scarce and jobs that pay enough to pay the bills are scarcer. Well, I am working and that hasn't helped us at all, but part time rarely does. I wonder how much more I can take before I snap. Wall Street gets bailed out, AIG gets bailed out so they can go to the spa and I, along with all the other commoners, get the shaft.
There are very few jobs that let you pick your own hours so I registered with all kinds of Mystery Shopping companies and have been running around like a crazy woman ever since. Counting people at the movies, checking audience reactions to trailers (I've seen Eagle Eye four times and we won't even mention the chihuahua movie), putting together standees (wingnuts are hard to deal with in the real world too), shopping at certain stores, evaluating banks (that 's how I found the credit union), and getting my oil changed (can we say reimbursement?). And it was all was for naught.
The hits just keep on coming. Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, they did. It seems that the California Franchise Tax Board put a levy on my checking account this afternoon and it just so happens that my paycheck for taking care of mom was deposited this morning. Not a dime is left in my account. Not a penny either. I am completely wiped out. Plus, Bank of America now gets to charge me $35 each for the checks I wrote to pay the bills this morning after I checked my balance. Talk about more bounce to the ounce. Oh well, at least I have food stamps. If only mom and I had a place to live after the first.
I find this almost funny since the state pays me too watch mom knowing full well that I don't earn enough to live in California and the only way they would have known where my checking account was, was because I signed up for direct deposit. Stupid me. Indian givers. I guess they decided receiving was better than giving. They didn't even send me a letter, just let me be embarrassed when I tried to pay for my groceries at Costco. Thank goodness I have a credit union account somewhere else, it was the only way I could pay for said goods.
Well, gotta go. Mom just fell backwards trying to get into bed and it sounded pretty bad. Hopefully she didn't crack her hip again like she did two months ago.
Update: Nothing broken, she's asleep. I asked her why she fell and she said she forgot how to walk. She knew her name and the date, but not her age. She thought she was 49. I hate seeing her this way and there don't seem to be any nursing homes in the area that she can afford. She deserves better than this. Alzheimer's really sucks.
"Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin tells audiences the election is about the 'truthfulness and judgment' needed to be president." "But the Alaska governor often stretches the truth herself."
Well, you know, no shit. At this point in the campaign pretty much everyone recognizes that the McSame/Pain team is built on a thick foundation of lies so egregious that even the media can no longer play its designated role of pretending that both sides are equally mendacious. What made reading this worth while is the part where Palin's handlers finally allow her to speak to the press. She delivers what has to be one of the most amazing quotes ever seen:
Aboard her campaign plane, Palin defended her tough talk. Asked if her claims suggest Obama is dishonest, Palin said, "I'm not saying he's dishonest. But in terms of judgment, in terms of being able to answer a question forthrightly, it has two different parts to this -- that judgment and that truthfulness."
Koan? Riddle? Irony wrapped in a thick layer of meta? Read the line again (but just once; any more and your head will hurt). Can you make any sense out of it? Because I'm are baffled.
An article by Naomi Wolf at Alternet was passed along to me this morning by Big Brass Blog contributing writer Foiled Goil. The title of the article is, "Thousands of Troops Are Deployed on U.S. Streets Ready to Carry Out 'Crowd Control'," and the lead summary reads as follows:
Members of Congress were told they could face martial law if they didn't pass the bailout bill. This will not be the last time.
The article provides a link to the YoutTube video of Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) on the floor of the House of Representatives putting into the record, "...[A] few members [of the House of Representatives] were even told that there would be martial law in America if we voted 'No' [on the bailout bill]."
Consistent with this allegation of a threat of the imposition of martial law is the report in the Army Times that the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, having served in Iraq for "35 of the last 60 months," will for the next 12 months serve in the United States under the service wing of the Northern Command, ostensibly "...as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks."
Perhaps related to this deployment and to the threat allegedly conveyed by unnamed persons to members of Congress is the incident described in my article, "March 13, 2008," the day a rare, secret session of the House of Representatives was held. The closed-door meeting was supposedly held so some House Republicans could share secret information concerning reasons to vote for the privacy wrecking ball otherwise known as the revised Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; but the conspiracy theory angle was emerging that the session was really about an impending economic and financial collapse and the steps that would be necessary to control the situation and protect the members of the federal legislature.
Reports of threats, second-hand allegations made on the floor of the House of Representatives, and even confirmed deployments on American soil of U.S. troops for crowd control do not add up to proof of any active plan or scheme by the Bush Administration to impose martial law. Far more evidence would be required, including but not restricted to sworn statements from Congressmen who were, themselves, actually threatened. Should affidavits to that effect actually be executed, however, sufficient grounds would exist for immediate proceedings in the House of Representatives pursuant to expedited impeachment of the President and Vice President of the United States: it would be in such forum that further evidence could be acquired and, more importantly, any possible plot exposed.
Again, though, only an allegation has been made, albeit one consistent with facts, rumors, and other allegations which in their sum are deeply troubling but by no means cause for panic by citizens worried about the continuity of the United States as a democratic republic functioning under the rule of law.
Right now, concern about a possible coup d'etat of some sort is entirely unwarranted; however, a public allegation by a federal legislator that a threat of martial law was conveyed to obtain passage of a piece of legislation is of more than passing concern. If Rep. Sherman was engaging in hyperbole, then he is a fool, and those in his congressional district who vote for him are even greater fools. If, on the other hand, he truthfully reported what actually happened, then he is to be thanked, and those who vote for all of the legislators in the House and Senate who voted for the $700 billion bailout giveaway to the welfare queens of Wall Street are to be condemned for their reckless spending and damned for their capitulation to an outrageous, unconstitutional threat.
Dark Wraith Publishing will provide further reports on this matter should more information become available.
In Tuesday night's second debate between GOP candidate John McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama, Sen. McCain re-iterated his plan to control federal government spending by putting into effect an across-the-board spending freeze "...except for defense, veterans affairs, and some other vital programs [described in the first debate as 'entitlement programs']."
Elsewhere during the second debate, McCain announced a bombshell new initiative, saying that, as President, "I would order the Secretary of the Treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of the homes at the diminished value of the homes and let people make those... make the payments and stay in their homes." McCain then rhetorically asked himself, "Is it expensive?" and immediately answered, "Yes."
As a minor aside, Sen. McCain is right: buying up all the "bad mortgages" in the United States would be expensive. In fact, it would be staggeringly expensive. It would require legislation to enable the plan (which means he could not simply "order" this to be done), and it would require an increase in the national debt ceiling. The United States Treasury would be buying the aggregate difference between the principal on every "upside down" home mortgage in the entire nation and the underlying aggregate market asset value of that property, with no upside potential for recapturing that expense if real estate values ever rebound.
That having been noted, let us point out the obvious. A freeze on federal spending and a purchase by the United States Treasury of all the "bad mortgages" in the country cannot happen simultaneously. The U.S. government can do one or the other of two things, here: it can bail out every homeowner who is upside down on a mortgage, thereby blowing the federal budget deficits even farther into outer space than they already have been sent under the fiscal recklessness of the Republicans and the recent bipartisan recklessness of the $700 billion financial services industry welfare bailout; or the government can institute an across-the-board spending freeze that will exclude only defense, veterans programs, and certain entitlements.
It cannot do both, and the very fact that John McCain would declare his earnest intentions to carry out mutually exclusive policiesdeclarations he made on the same night, in the same forum, in the presence of millions of viewerspoints to one of three possibilities about the Republican candidate:
• Sen. McCain is so desperate at this point that, cynically or otherwise, he will promise anything, regardless of its absurdity in context;
• Sen. McCain does not understand that a spending freeze means he and Congress would by definition have foregone opportunities for vastly expensive initiatives;
• or Sen. McCain has lost a crucial understanding he simply must possess with respect to the realities and responsibilities of federal fiscal management as agreed upon by the Congress and the Office of the President.
In any event, what he said during Tuesday night's debate cannot be set aside as a misstatement: in no uncertain terms, without a hint of equivocation, John McCain laid out two compelling policies that are completely and irreconcilably at odds with one another. While voters might find both a homeowner mortgage bailout and a federal spending freeze attractive ideas, it should be pointed out to them that the Republican candidate for President might not be able to deliver on either promise and, as a matter of essential logic, most certainly could not deliver on both.
It would be most unfortunate if voters were to elect as President an individual who discovers fundamental errors in his thinking as learning experiences rather than as matters of prior common sense.
Oct. 6: Newsweek's Richard Wolffe discusses the McCain campaign's decision to return to smear tactics and character assassination as the election looms closer and McCain continues to slide in the polls.
In a conference call with reporters, attorney John Dowd was asked about a specific part of the Keating Five inquiry, the fact that Cindy McCain and her father had invested in a Keating strip mall.
"It was part of the inquiry, but it did not -- John was unconnected to that and unaware of it at the time, and did not participate in it," Dowd said.
Except John McCain really did know about the Fountain Square investments. And here is John McCain responding to questions from his own attorney at the time... yep, that's none other than John Dowd, himself:
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has chosen a former fellow Goldman Sachs executive to oversee the disbursement of the $700 billion blank check Congress and President Bush approved for the controversial bailout of Wall Street financial services companies.
The new head of the Troubled Assets Relief Program, as the congressionally blessed, George W. Bush-approved Wall Street welfare program is called, will be Neel Kashkari.
Neel Kashkari: he was a Vice President at Goldman Sachs before he signed on at the Treasury Department in July of 2006, shortly after Paulson left the firm to head Treasury.
That's right. Just like his current boss, Henry Paulson, Mr. Kashkari was a top executive at Goldman Sachs, the first of what has become a recent cascade of giant financial services companies collapsing under the weight of their bad investments in mortgage-backed securities and their phenomenally imprudent ratios of borrowed money to equity.
Handing oversight of the disbursement of what might very well be more than a trillion dollars to a former Wall Street executive of a firm that failed massively and, more importantly, had been failing massively for a long time before its over-leveraged, highly risky portfolio started coming apart in a very public way might seem to some observers like letting the fox guard the hen house; but that simile is wrong. This is, in fact, the very epitome of handing the fox clear title to the hen house, along with a brand new kitchen with an industrial-strength taxpayer-chicken broiler oven and a dining room table with seating for every other fox in the whole darned country.
Congress, whose members have raked in $43 million in lobbying money and campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs and its bigwigs since 1989, might as well have thrown in a big bouquet of flowers and a string quartet to provide just the right setting for the reckless Wall Street insiders sitting down to their All-U-Can-Eat smorgasbord of taxpayer money roasted and served to the corporate welfare queens of the new American century.
The word "ridiculous" does not even begin to cover what is happening right under our noses on the Wall Street-Washington D.C. axis of big corporation-big government revolving door corruption. This money grab has all the nuance of a tuba ensemble using dual, 10 megawatt amps. Woe be to any average American citizen when that band comes roaring down the tracks Hell-bent for Jubilee Day at the hog-trough of national debt heading for digit counts that overflow scientific calculator displays.
No one can stop this madness: not the tens of millions of voters, not the hundreds of thousands of federal civil servants, not the thousands of federal judges, not the hundreds of purported representatives of the People in the federal legislature, not the heads of the federal agencies, not the two major party candidates, not the President.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has no need for subtlety, now: he got the money his cronies on Wall Street wanted, he got enough power to dole it out as he sees fit to those high-stakes welfare queens, and now he can put his chosen Igor in charge of slapping together a veritable Frankenstein's monster of consolidated financial power in the hands of the very insiders who killed the industry from which is now being harvested parts for the biggest government-business joint venture zombie in the history of this nation.
And what are the voters going to do about this come November 4? Why, they're going to vote for either John McCain (who has received more than $200,000 from Goldman Sachs and more than $1,800,000 from commercial banks) or Barack Obama (who has received more than $700,000 from Goldman Sachs and more than $2,000,000 from commercial banks), both of whom voted for this cynical horror show.
If there were even a hint of Hollywood-style justice, at the very least, we could get a decent scene where Sarah Palin meets up with the monster in a most undesirable combination of dark hallway, terrifying music, and casting deletions.
Unfortunately, Washington doesn't make horror movies like the ones from Hollywood: for one thing, Hollywood usually eliminates most of the bad actors by the end; for another thing, unlike the show in Washington, Hollywood movieseven the worst of themalways come to an end.
The current economic crisis demands that we understand John McCain's attitudes about economic oversight and corporate influence in federal regulation. Nothing illustrates the danger of his approach more clearly than his central role in the savings and loan scandal of the late '80s and early '90s.
John McCain was accused of improperly aiding his political patron, Charles Keating, chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. The bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee launched investigations and formally reprimanded Senator McCain for his role in the scandal -- the first such Senator to receive a major party nomination for president.
At the heart of the scandal was Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which took advantage of deregulation in the 1980s to make risky investments with its depositors' money. McCain intervened on behalf of Charles Keating with federal regulators tasked with preventing banking fraud, and championed legislation to delay regulation of the savings and loan industry -- actions that allowed Keating to continue his fraud at an incredible cost to taxpayers.
When the savings and loan industry collapsed, Keating's failed company put taxpayers on the hook for $3.4 billion and more than 20,000 Americans lost their savings. John McCain was reprimanded by the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee, but the ultimate cost of the crisis to American taxpayers reached more than $120 billion.
The Keating scandal is eerily similar to today's credit crisis, where a lack of regulation and cozy relationships between the financial industry and Congress has allowed banks to make risky loans and profit by bending the rules. And in both cases, John McCain's judgment and values have placed him on the wrong side of history.
In an interview on Tuesday with WCAU in Philadelphia, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) backed away from his Sept. 16 claim that he believes in “excess government regulation,” saying that Americans actually want deregulation:
WELKER: It sounds like you’re calling for more regulation. Yet throughout your career you’ve advocated deregulation. Do you now see that as a failed economic policy — deregulation?
MCCAIN: Oh no. People don’t want regulation. They want to live as freely as they can...
A new LA Times/Bloomberg poll doesn’t bear McCain’s claims out, however. It finds that Americans are actually blaming the financial crisis on a lack of government regulation...
Palin is a never-ending train wreck of ignorance, inconsistency, outright contradiction and sneering. During her debate with Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden, she chatted up soccer moms and hockey moms, her mom and her pop and, by golly, yours too. She winked and she dimpled and 'goshed' and 'doggoned' it. She gave a 'shout-out' to some third graders in Wasilla, promising 'extra credit' for staying up to listen.
Less remarked upon was the substance. Despite the enormous variety of public crises we face, she dismissed virtually all forms of government regulation by invoking 'private contract' rather than collective duty; 'personal responsibility' rather than public oversight; and 'tolerance' rather than civil rights. She misspoke the name of a commanding general, she went unchallenged when she expressed her arch-creationist belief that humanity has had no hand in global warming, tucking all that away cosily but dismissively: 'I don't wanna argue about causes.'
I don't want to argue either. I was told never to argue with a fool or a drunk because the people watching can't tell the difference. Better to be quiet and thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
She believes that dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time. I guess this means The Flintstones (Doesn't McCain look like Barney Rubble?) was a documentary and not a cartoon? Oh well, at least she has rejuvenated Saturday Night Live.
On September 29, 2008, in the wake of the defeat in the United States House of Representatives of the first bailout bill, officially called the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, I published the graphic at left, illustrating the scorn for American taxpayers of the financial services industry. The two men in this graphic are United States Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (left) and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, who testified before Congress that the global financial system risked collapse if the U.S. government did not immediately start buying up the hundreds of billions of dollars in failing mortgage-backed securities of financial services companies that had carried the instruments on their books at wildly over-valued levels.
On October 3, 2008, a revised version of the bailout bill passed the Senate and then the House of Representatives, with President Bush signing the legislation that afternoon. The core feature of the new bill, the bailout of the financial services industry at a minimum cost of $700 billion, remained intact. Sweeteners designed to turn the legislation into a Christmas tree of desires for representatives who had voted against the first version of the bill ensured its passage in the second round. Expensive as they are, those added expenditures, promises, and mandates notwithstanding, the bailout bill is nothing other than a taxpayer-funded government giveaway to financial institutions that took excessive, imprudent, reckless risks for profit and, in so doing, ultimately placed their companies and, indeed, the global financial system at appalling risk. The U.S. Treasury Secretary and the Federal Reserve Chairman virtually told Congress that, unless the bailout bill passed, the irresponsible activities of those private institutions imperiled the stability of the entire global economy, and President George W. Bush said as much in his address to the nation on September 24, 2008.
While handing the U.S. Treasury the power to expend what could result in several trillion dollars of money the United States will have to borrow or print, since its expenditures already exceed by hundreds of billions of dollars its tax revenues, neither the original bailout bill nor the one that ultimately passed offered average Americans any relief whatsoever from the destructive economic downturn that has been underway for months. The bill that passed did not place a moratorium on foreclosures, which are putting millions of American families on the street. The bill that passed did not authorize the U.S. Treasury to bail out any homeowners or small businesses whose indebtedness now exceeds real asset value of mortgaged property. The bill did not make even the slightest attempt to bring under strict regulatory scrutiny and control the Federal Reserve, which has maintained a virtually zero-growth regime on the money supply average Americans use (the so-called "M1" monetary aggregate) while allowing the money supply used by massive financial institutions (the so-called "M3" monetary aggregate) to grow out of control. The bill did not make any mention whatsoever of mandating investigations of the regulatory agencies and personnel who had oversight responsibilities but were somehow unable to see, prevent, or even mitigate what came to be a "crisis" so severe that the President of the United States, in a historical and historic first, went before the American people to speak of looming economic disaster.
Despite overwhelming anger among constituents, the members of Congress capitulated to the threats from Wall Street, the Bush Administration, and the Federal Reserve. Despite an unprecedented influx of phone calls, e-mail messages, faxes, and other communications from average Americans, the members of Congress capitulated.
It is unlikely that even one elected representative saw my September 29 article, "To the Members of Congress Concerning the Bailout Proposal," in which I pointed out the stark similarities between the Bush Administration's manufactured hysteria about a collapse of the global financial system and its manufactured hysteria in 2002 about Iraq producing weapons of mass destruction that Congress needed to give President Bush the unfettered power to stop. Others who wrote articles condemning the bailout were similarly ignored.
The majorities in both houses of Congress did not listen to those who vote for them, nor did they listen to the writers, academics, and others who articulated in published works what was clearly and indisputably an overwhelming consensus of will against the bailout. Perhaps unique in modern American politics, last Friday, October 3, 2008, the United States Congress, together with the President of the United States, demonstrated in one act that the unquestionable, visible, evident, unarguable will of the citizenry is subordinate to the demands of something that is neither constitutionally recognized nor inhered of rights under any legitimate conceptual philosophy of natural law. In a battle of starkly defined opponents, Congress and the President chose the side of and made victorious that which is not even living, much less citizen.
Yet, despite that crushingly obvious reality, most of those who are reading this article will go to the polls on November 4 and vote for either Barack Obama or John McCain, both of whom voted for the bailout. Almost every last one of you, the readers of this article, will vote for one of these two men who have both indicated in no uncertain terms that your will means nothing to them other than that it will put them in a position of even greater power to ignore your will at their convenience and situational expedience; and you will cast your vote with no small degree of conviction that your chosen candidate will somehow bring changereform, evento a system that has ensured their rise to power within that very system. One calls himself a "maverick," the other lays claim to the banner of "hope and change"; yet these two men have already shown you which side they will choose when the veneer of democracy is denuded of its hiding places for raw power and greed.
Will there ever be a time when the politicians stop lying to us about their agenda? Not until we stop lying to ourselves about the wellspring of our powerlessness.
In the comment thread of my graphical post, "The People (Who Matter) Have Spoken," here at Big Brass Blog, long-time friend Missouri Mule asked the salient question: "What should we do, sir, submit or fight?"
Given that she has known me for quite a while, she knows very well what my answer is. What she does not know is that I will not answer the question just yet.
There is no reason to expend great energy fomenting an angry mob to doomed rebellion when, not so long from now, that angry mob might very well become a desperate legion spontaneously exploding in all-consuming revolution.
Does that sound far-fetched? Indeed, it probably does, which means you really aren't ready for my answer to Missouri Mule's question. For your own sake, I genuinely hope you never will be. For our children's sake, I truly hope otherwise.
McSame and Palin. Mavigoratin'! (please photoshop this... would make a great T-shirt.)
An unbranded range animal, especially a calf that has become separated from its mother, traditionally considered the property of the first person who brands it.
Re Palin's FOXy framing of her infamous Couric interviews ("I was annoyed"), someone needs to tell her that "administers" is a verb, not a noun. What? Does she think her base is illitterat' or sumthin?
Anyway, thinking about the vp "debate" -- the undebate, rather: Palin asked herself questions, answered them, changed the subject when asked a question, etc., all of which we all realize by now -- I think the wee willie winkie pose worked better for her than the old Roseanne Barr thing she projected and intoned in the church videos. But really. It's all just so embarrassin'.
And yes, Keith got it right on his show last night. McSame's secret weapon.
Much as it felt good to laugh about all this, it speaks to the deeper truth. It's time to say it. Ladies, we are being mocked, used, spindled and mutilated.
Cheez n' rice! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! Parents are petitioning to have yoga classes removed from the curriculum because they feel it violates the boundaries between church and state. I almost choked on my tea when I read that. I'll bet if they wanted to teach a bible class this wouldn't be an issue.
When I was in college at Cal Poly I took a yoga class and it was scheduled right before my calculus class. For the weeks of midterms and finals all we did was stretch, breathe and relax. The benefits to me were shown when I took the tests. I would look at the questions and instead of panic setting in, I was able to recall quite a bit more than my studying had indicated and I passed the course. Religion was never brought up in yoga class, either at school or at the gym. The sole purpose was to get exercise at the same time as restoring good blood flow to the ligaments and tendons.
"People have made it a religious war, and it's not a religious war. We are basically concerned parents, saying we don't want our children participating in something that could cause them more stress and confusion," Lucid said.
Honestly, this country is getting dumber by the second. It's a good thing Lucid is his name, because lucid he is not.
The Thursday night debate was won by Democratic candidate Barack Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, who was crisp, professional, and on-point with virtually all of his answers. Little more needs to be said about his performance: he ignored his debate opponent, GOP candidate John McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Biden clearly understood that attacking Palin would be an exercise in futility: first, she has no record as a national leader, and quibbling about her credentials, claims, and failings as a small-town mayor and then governor could easily have earned him the label of verbal woman-beater; second, the election is about Obama and McCain, not about Sarah Palin, despite some indications during the debate that she believes, as a general motive force of her ego, that it really is all about her. Biden punched right through Palin and hit McCain on everything from the war we are losing in Afghanistan that McCain said two years ago we had won to taxing employer-provided health insurance benefits, a McCain plan that will be as popular as pay toilets in a hospital diarrhea ward.
Without diminishing Biden's performance, Palin did make his work somewhat easier in that she repeatedly used her time to proffer scripted messages, which meant that Biden was already prepared to counter. To Palin's credit, on several occasions after her original script had been shot down, she simply denied that the counter-argument was true. One example of this was when Biden took apart her weak defense of Sen. McCain's vague plans for Afghanistan by noting that military commanders, themselves, had just declared that an Iraq-style surge in Afghanistan would not work; Palin rebutted by brazenly claiming the commanders had not said a troop-level increase would fail. In her rebuttal, she skillfully avoided using the word surge, meaning she was bright enough to know very well that she was doing semantic parsing on a thin ledge below which was a dungeon of morning-after fact check flogging.
As a side note, a continuing frustration I have with both Obama and Biden is their willingness to concede the Bush Administration/mainstream media notion that the "surge" was, indeed, successful. They really need to stop letting this matter go. To the extent that violence in Iraq has been reduced, thereby leading to a significant reduction in the number of American casualties, the greatest contributing factor was not that massive spike in the number of U.S. soldiers committed to Baghdad and other hot spots; it was, in fact, principally the result of the United States paying staggering amounts of money to potential adversaries to stop killing each other and, more importantly, to knock it off with shooting our GIs. Those "Sunni Awakening Councils" and other misfit organizations of bearded men with guns were the beneficiaries of what were literally pallets of money we shipped over there for the expressed purpose of buying their peace.
Now, let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with bribing enemies to be nice (provided, of course, that when we stop paying them, they'll remain nice, something that did not happen when we stopped paying the religious maniacs in Afghanistan once we no longer needed them to kill Soviet occupation troops). What is wrong is for both Barack Obama and Joe Biden to allow the Bush Administration and its lousy commander, Gen. David Petraeus, to look like military geniuses when all they really did was spend American taxpayer money to bribe unsavory killers.
Moving back to the matter of the debate between Sen. Biden and Gov. Palin, I shall not mince words about the latter. Speaking as a college professor, were Sarah Palin a student of mine, I would have flunked her the second time she completely avoided answering a question put directly to her:
Moderator Gwen Ifill asked Palin to describe the circumstance she considered the "trigger" for the use nuclear weapons, and the frozen-smile governor immediately went on a scripted speech about other countries' alleged nuclear weapons programs.
Palin was asked about her "Achilles heel," and she immediately went into a long-winded advertisement about how great she is, going so far as to let everyone know how very close to genuine, honest-to-goodness trailer trash she is by droppin' her "g" on every present participle like a Country & Western singer cuttin' loose with the good ol' boys.
When asked point-blank whether Iran or Pakistan represents the more significant threat to U.S. interests, Palin twinkle-toed like a ballet dancer wearing helium in her tights.
And, as if to forewarn of her own planned surge of Forrest Gumption, at one point early on, she proudly and defiantly declared that she was not going to let any debate moderatoror anyone else, for that matterdeter her from using the debate forum as she gosh-darned well pleased.
Fortunately for Ms. Palin, she is not my student, so I will have no opportunity other than the Websites of Dark Wraith Publishing in which to issue her a failing grade. It took that woman five small colleges to work her way to a fluff degree for people who cannot cut it in real, hard-core college courses, which are the kind I teach. Palin is the type of student who would have been in my class just long enough to suddenly stand up and blurt out, "Um, this isn't Art Appreciation for Imbeciles 101, is it?"
No, Ms. Palin, this is Hell, otherwise known as preparation for the real world of responsibilities that range from rearing your children properly to being one old man away from the most powerful office on the entire planet.
Although I support neither McCain nor Obama, given that neither candidate is willing to face the depth and scope of the multi-faceted, looming economic crises bearing down on this nation, to the extent that this debate between the dueling seconds mattered at all, it was definitely won by Senator Joe Biden.
Given his opponent, however, that isn't saying much for Mr. Biden.
Given that this race is really between Barack Obama and John McCain, though, regardless of who won, the American people are still faced with the unenviable responsibility for deciding which of two men is best able to deceive voters into believing that we can get our degree in prosperity without making it through Hell, first.
The Dark Wraith will be waiting to hand out the class syllabus for anyone interested in early registration.
Conservative pundits and politicians have piled onto the excuse like shipwreck victims clinging to a passing log: The real blame for the current economic crisis, conservatives would have you believe, lies not with anything they did, but rather with the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act -- a successful Carter-era program designed to get banks to stop covert discrimination, and encourage them to invest their money in low-income neighborhoods.
It's always easy to tell when the cons are completely lost at sea. The lies get more absurdly preposterous -- and also more transparently self-serving. But when they go so far as to openly and unapologetically latch onto race and class as an excuse for their woes (which this is, at its heart), you know they're taking on water fast -- and scared of going under entirely. [snip]
Here are the basic myths they're trying to push about the CRA -- and the facts that will enable you to fire back.
1. The CRA was a liberal boondoggle designed to con banks into funding housing for undeserving, unqualified minorities.
The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 was the result of decades of disinvestment in poor and working-class neighborhoods. It was designed to put an end to "red-lining" -- a widespread practice in which banks refused to write mortgages for houses in certain neighborhoods, no matter who was applying or how creditworthy they were.
2. The CRA forced banks to lower their standards and make loans to all low-income families and people with poor credit -- and find banks that refused to comply.
The CRA has encouraged banks to lend fairly and responsibly for over 30 years. It does not impose fines. It does periodically examine FDIC-backed banks, and issues them a CRA compliance rating. A highly-rated bank must meet the financing needs of as many community members as possible, and must not discriminate against racial and ethnic groups or certain neighborhoods.
3. The housing bubble burst when too many people with home loans mandated by the Community Reinvestment Act failed to make their mortgage payments.
The CRA only applies to FDIC member banks and thrifts.
4. The bulk of the "junk" loans that have been packaged into mortgage-based securities are CRA loans.
An analysis of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data in the country's 15 biggest metropolitan areas found that 84.3% of the high-cost loans made in 2006 were originated by non-CRA lenders -- including 83% of high-cost loans to low- and moderate-income individuals.
5. If the government had just set the lenders free to do their thing, the market would have prevented this. It's just another example of how government oversight always leads to market failure.
Wrong again, buckaroo.
As explained just above, up to four-fifths of these loans were issued by financial institutions that operated with little or no federal regulatory oversight.
6. The CRA is just another failed liberal handout program.
The benefits of CRA have been substantial. Robert Rubin recently estimated that the law has channeled upwards of $1 trillion into distressed neighborhoods across the country -- including both inner cities and rural areas without much access to investment funds -- without putting up any taxpayer money beyond what it takes to operate the CRA itself.
7. OK -- if it works so well, why do we still need it? Haven't the banks finally figured by now out that redlining was a stupid idea?
The very fact that the conservatives are trying to blame the mess on the CRA is, in itself, ample proof that we still need anti-redlining laws on the books. Fifty years into the civil rights era, and they're still arguing that it should be acceptable to permanently exclude people from the capital markets on the basis of race and class.
8. If we can't blame the CRA, then who can we blame? How about the federal banking agencies, which outright told banks to go ahead and adopt risky lending practices? In particular, a 1992 Boston Federal Reserve Bank publication, Closing the Credit Gap: A Guide to Equal Opportunity Lending, told the banks that it was OK to adopt unsound lending practices.
Nice try, but still wrong.
According to the National Community Reinvestment Association, the document cited above offered three new guidelines to lenders -- none of which are applicable to the current subprime crisis.
9. Well, then...it must be Bill Clinton's fault, right? In 1995, Clinton changed the Community Reinvestment Act to allow the securitization of CRA and subprime mortgages. That's what started all this.
Talking point regurgitation at its worst.
The 1995 revisions to the CRA only changed the way in which a bank's CRA compliance is evaluated. They made no mention of mortgage securitization at all.
10. OK, then -- it's the Democratic Congress's fault! President Bush and Senator McCain tried to stop the subprime mortgage crisis, but Democrats blocked their efforts.
It's not lying. It's a gift for fiction.
This one's actually made it into a TV ad. The claim is that Bush and McCain supported the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, which would have created a new government agency to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and other federal housing programs.
However, there's no pony in this manure pile.
11. No serious conservative economist would have ever approved of the CRA.
In March 2007, Federal Board Chairman Bernanke -- no liberal he -- noted that CRA has helped institutions discover and enter new markets that may have been previously under-served and ignored by insured depositories.
Time to fire back, and replace the Big Lie with some real truth.
A much-anticipated part of Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric ran Wednesday night on CBS. As had been suspected, the GOP nominee for Vice President of the United States showed just how thunderously, howlingly, irreparably, profoundly, categorically, pervasively, astoundingly, alarmingly unqualified to be Vice President she is.
During the interview, Palin criticized the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, declaring that she believes abortion rights should be left to the individual states to determine. Once she'd finished her scripted statement, Couric posed a follow-on question, and that's when Palin no longer had a prepared response.
Immediately below is a YouTube video capture, as well as an audio capture (in case the YouTube video gets pulled), of that portion of the interview, followed without comment by a verbatim transcript of Palin's response.
This is the transcript, prepared in house here at Dark Wraith Publishing, of the video segment above:
Couric: "What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?"
Palin: "Mmmm. Well, let's see. There's... of course... in... in the great history of America there have been rulings... that, um, there's never going to be absolute consensus by every American, and, um, there are... those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So, um, you know... going through the history of America, there... there would be others but, uh..."
Couric: "Can you think of any?"
Palin: "Well, I would think of... of any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level, maybe I would take issue with, but you know, um, as... as a mayor, and then as a governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it... as it reads today."
Okay, just one brief, dignified comment:
GOD ALMIGHTY! It hurts it physically HURTS to watch that woman suffer.
Senator McCain, have you no decency? Send Sarah Palin back to her own kind.
Dude: Please. For God's sake.
Damn, John: Even the moose head on the wall is trying to reach the channel changer.
Senator, only you can end this. Send her home. Alaska needs her.
The Dark Wraith will now officially have nightmares thinking about old man McCain kicking the bucket and Sarah Palin getting the keys to the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
* Note: On 10/1/2008, the Senate plans to use H.R.1424 as the vehicle for the economic rescue legislation. See Senate Majority and Minority notices and documents from the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Banking Committee. On the Banking Committee website, Division A (pp.2-113) of the draft legislation is referred to as the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008; Division B (pp. 113-261) is referred to as the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008; and Division C (pp. 261-451) is referred to as the Tax Extenders and Alternative Minimum Tax Relief Act of 2008.
According to campaign insiders, the decision to select a hoofed mammal to replace Gov. Palin evolved after Sen. McCain watched his running mate's performance in a series of interviews with CBS's Katie Couric.
"Good Lord, a startled deer could do better than that," Sen. McCain reportedly said, prompting his aides to draw up a shortlist of startled deer.
The Arizona senator supposedly brushed aside concerns that a startled deer would wilt under the pressure of a televised debate, telling aides, "At least a goddamn deer won't go on about Alaska being close to Russia." [snip]
The McCain campaign said today that Sen. McCain's new running mate, Bucky the Red Deer, would not be made available to the press prior to the debate.
"Bucky is very much a work in progress," said McCain campaign manager Rick Davis. "Right now we're working on keeping him from bolting off the stage." [snip]
Elsewhere, former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken revealed that he was gay in an exclusive interview with Duh magazine.
Today's arrogant putz award goes to Amanda Ripley. Ms. Ripley has written an article in Time about the failed bailout of Wall Street that is so condescending that it clearly reveals the disdain that those who have, feel for those who don't. The title wasn't too bad, but by the end of the first paragraph you know whose side she's on. And it isn't the American people. She thinks we are too stupid to comprehend how the economy is failing.
The American people have known that the economy was in jeopardy for more than a year. It's only the politicians, pundits, and the rich who haven't noticed and are waking up to the reality that the bottom is about to fall out of the bucket. Ever since hunger was revised to be known as food insecurity the economy has been failing and changing the name of the bail out to something else won't fool us. We are not unaware that the economy is in trouble, otherwise we wouldn't be deciding between buying food for the family or gas for the car.
Ms. Ripley's plan to convince the American people that they are being rained on instead of being pissed on is laughable from the beginning.
Find a face: Human beings are not moved by numbers or by vague predictions of certain doom. They are moved by stories. "It's simple," says Mileti. "You get one family in America. You go to their house. And you paint a picture of what their life is like one year from now. You describe a kid who can't go to college, the house that can't be sold, the inability of anyone to use a credit card. They need to get a camera crew and go to Omaha and find a family."
Hello? That's been happening for years to the underclasses and only now is it is hitting what is left of middle America. For the last four years some of us have been ranting, raving and writing about the inequalities between what the President has told us and the reality of our daily lives.
Be Specific: People need to know what will happen if they do nothing — or if they do something.
"People don't perceive risk," says Mileti. "People actually perceive that they are safe." To override that bias, you have to talk to people in a language their brains understand.
We understand quite well, which is why people actually got off their butts and complained 100 to 1 to their Congressmen. We know that the economy is crashing and we don't want those who benefited from it on the way up, benefit again on the way down.
It is time for everyone to quit blowing smoke up our asses and treat us like the good taxpaying Americans we are. We are not children, we are not mentally challenged and we are not the enemy. You are going to have to accept the fact that we no longer trust anything the government or the press has to say. You brought it on yourself and it isn't our job to bail you out.
So. The housing bubble finally made it down to the ground feeders.
Ground feeders, scavenger rag-and-bone folk forced to trawl base nooks and crannies. They picked things clean, scavenged the depths, and came up empty.
Metaphors abound: hitting rock bottom, and shit hitting fan. But nothing frames and orients as well as true life: Rattling around in my car was a gift from a bank for simply opening an account--a watch bracelet, something I'd never wear. Things get hung on my body only as talisman, telesma, earrings and pendants chosen with care and lovingly worn until lost. So what to do with such a thing, this watch bracelet, rattling around in car?
We gift it to the university cleaning lady, she who smiles like a madonna when she hears you speak her native tongue, smiles when you don't find her invisible; she who--in joy--scavenges a doormat, takes it home, washes it, lovingly (that word again) presenting it one morning at your feet. The watch bracelet moves her to tears, the deep tears that reveal the very preciousness of her, and the bank's easily cast-off trinket becomes a standard bearer of true gold. A philosopher's stone. A jesus.
But this bubble, how could it not burst? All flimsy surface tension, its glue mere hydrogen bond and zwitterion, it was always illusion. Mere pyramid scheme, four walls, mere means to end.
Flip this house, flip several, own as many as you can, and home becomes no longer shelter, brother to food and clothing, necessity. Home becomes mere house, becomes mere verb, flipping, the stuff of TeeVee, the real religion of America; flipping not to revive or build a neighborhood, but merely to exploit.
And this neighborhood, this gathering of homes, is the very ground of a culture. The place feet trod as they go about carrying life.
Feet know this. Like Oedipus, staked and swollen, they carry their fate, their place in the scheme of things. They are substance that tread substance, the place where things connect. How do they speak to us all they might know? Where we come from, where we're going, the terrain, the planet, the fate we share. Do we hear, even listen? Walking on mere bubble, illusion?
And so the question.
Do we really want to prop this up, pave it over, gild it with our collective hard-earned taxes, this non-existent foundation? Or do we choose to connect, to ground ourselves. To get real.
Real is understanding that we need three to five planets to live as we live. And real is understanding we can change.
Choose. We build the future on that choice.
mother earth news
A New Way of Looking At the Bailout
9/26/2008 4:53:35 PM
By Aly Van Dyke
While the Senate wrestles to construct some kind of utilitarian financial bailout, economists and political activists have moved out of the Wall Street box – and into the green house.
With one-seventh the money it looks like it will take to bail out the economy (so $100 billion), an investment in green power would produce nearly twice the amount of jobs as the mortgage bailout would.
These figures come from a study by two economists at the University of Massachusetts, Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier.
An article by Greenpeace media director, Glenn Hurowitz, expanded on the study.
“Instead of golden parachutes for CEOs,” he writes, “the government could finance America's transition from an oil- and fossil-fuel-dependent economy into one run completely on clean energy.” MORE
At first glance, it may appear that the 133 House Republicans who broke with their party's leadership did so out of principle -- that they bravely stood up against a massive cash transfer to those most responsible for precipitating the financial crisis in the first place. They appeared to be gambling a lot in taking that principled position, despite the fact that the bailout had drawn fire from across the political spectrum. The conventional wisdom, after all, has gelled around the idea that only an unprecedented cash infusion into the ailing banking system will stave off a potential Next Great Depression. The message many rebellious conservatives sent was that it takes courage to roll the dice with the world's economy six weeks before an election, even if the public was deeply skeptical of the measure (the reality is that almost none of the lawmakers who face tight races this fall voted for the bailout, fearing a backlash from voters; Congress is not known for courage or principle on the eve of an election).
And there's no question that the bill they and 95 of their Democratic colleagues killed was an extremely bad one, even if some token nods to "Main Street" had been added to help it go down lawmakers' throats more smoothly. [snip]
But a deeper look reveals another picture of the legislative fight that has occupied Washington since George W. Bush first proposed the bailout. Unlike most House Democrats, who voted against the bill in an attempt to send the plan back to the drawing board to get a deal that might better protect taxpayers and homeowners, House conservatives torpedoed the measure in order to advance their own alternative "bailout," one that's an ideologically motivated back door to bailing out Wall Street without doing anything for Main Street.
The plan is notably light on detail, even for campaign season, when politicians are loath to discuss the fine points of any proposal. But based on what can be gleaned from media reports, the heart of the "alternative" scheme is for the government to sell insurance for securities based on bad loans, rather than buy up the paper directly. Supposedly, the premiums would be high enough to assure that Joe and Jane taxpayer don't get fleeced.
On its face, that idea seems both fiscally sound and decidedly conservative, in the traditional sense of the word.
But remember what the immediate problem we face is all about. The financial industry is weighed down by an enormous "shit pile" of bad paper -- mortgage-backed securities, complex derivatives and insurance-like instruments that were supposed to make all these "creative" investment vehicles somewhat sound. That shit pile, impossible to value accurately, is threatening the whole economy, as lenders hunker down and hold onto their cash reserves in an attempt to ride out the storm of foreclosures, and that's making it tough for businesses and consumers to get credit they need to expand their operations or buy new gizmos.
That's not a situation that lends itself to a government-backed insurance policy. If the premiums aren't deeply subsidized by the American public, they'll be out of reach of troubled banks by definition -- after all, if they had enough cash to cover their bad debts, which will ultimately be the job of the insurer (that's you, me and the people we know), then they wouldn't find themselves on the brink of collapse to begin with. That means the government would still end up effectively buying up the banks' worthless paper piece by piece as the underlying assets on which that paper is written go belly-up. Think of it as the government selling fire insurance for houses that are already ablaze. [snip]
The other two tenets of the alternative plan are worse still.
In keeping with the tradition of a party that has one policy solution to all economic ills -- cutting taxes on the wealthy -- the conservatives who bucked their leaders also suggested cutting capital gains taxes, even if only on a temporary basis. It's a triumph of ideology over common sense. We've seen stock markets tanking, as investors flee like rats from a sinking ship, seeking safer ground in commodities, which have gone through the roof (oil prices have been moderated somewhat by expectations of a long slowdown that would cut demand). A tax holiday on capital gains would only encourage those investors with steely nerves (and gains) who are staying in the market to join the herd, getting out while it's tax-free to do so. That can only send the already sky-high prices for food, energy and everything else even higher into the stratosphere. Ordinary working people would end up paying on both sides of the deal -- getting soaked for Wall Street's Reckless Lending Insurance and then paying through the nose to put food on the table.
Adding insult to injury is the third leg of the "alternative" bailout plan: more deregulation of the financial sector.
That's nothing short of breathtaking in its audacity. It was a lax regulatory environment that brought us to the verge of collapse in the first place. Exotic security-backed loans -- loans that didn't conform to the standards in place for banks that held deposits, including subprime loans, mortgages given to people who misstated their income and loans with heavy prepayment penalties and huge balloon payments -- are, as one would expect, faring far worse than the kinds of traditional loans that are regulated by the Federal Housing Authority or backed by Fannie Mae. [snip]
Again, none of this is to suggest that Americans should shed a tear for the demise of the compromise deal struck between Treasury Secretary Paulson and the Bush administration -- it was a bad deal that deserved to go down in flames. But it's also becoming increasingly evident that some sort of intervention is necessary to prevent the crisis from spreading through the entire global economy. Rather than pugnaciously cling to a failed ideology by heaping lucre on the wealthiest in the hope that it trickles down to the rest of us, Congress should be going back to the drawing board and coming up with a bailout plan rooted in a modicum of economic justice.