Saturday, April 17, 2010

A bumper-sticker-sized meme

By Creature

And here you have it, financial reform is officially a "permanent bailout bill." From Luntz's page, to Boehner's mouth, to all the media laps. Like the "government take over of health care" scare, this should be fun (in a painful, tooth-pulling sort of way).

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, April 16, 2010

Even the S.E.C thinks Goldman Sucks!

By J. Thomas Duffy

Oh boy, the old saying of "If you want to dance, you gotta pay the band", is playing a medley of waltzes (we'll have to wait, to see, if they are death marches) for the banking/investment firm/giant vampire squid company Goldman Sachs.

It's not a good thing, when your company is in a headline like this - "U.S. Accuses Goldman Sachs of Fraud in Mortgage Deal".

Here's the press release from the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission;

SEC Charges Goldman Sachs With Fraud in Structuring and Marketing of CDO Tied to Subprime Mortgages

Washington, D.C., April 16, 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Goldman, Sachs & Co. and one of its vice presidents for defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts about a financial product tied to subprime mortgages as the U.S. housing market was beginning to falter.

The SEC alleges that Goldman Sachs structured and marketed a synthetic collateralized debt obligation (CDO) that hinged on the performance of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). Goldman Sachs failed to disclose to investors vital information about the CDO, in particular the role that a major hedge fund played in the portfolio selection process and the fact that the hedge fund had taken a short position against the CDO.

We like the way Stephen Gandel, at the Curious Capitalist blog, put it;

So there you have it. Finally, the financial crisis gets its first major fraud case. Investment banks created complex securities that increased the risks of in the financial system. Most then held on to the securities because they didn't know what they had. Goldman instead came up with an elaborate scheme to lay off the risk on unsuspecting investors. Either way, Uncle Sam had to come in a clean up the mess. As the SEC says, in selling something they knew was worthless, Goldman was no different from the medicine man of old. It's a fraud as old as time.


Last: So are hedge funds more to blame in the financial crisis than we thought? It certainly looks that way. When the hedge funds went before Congress a year or so ago, they were praised--Paulson included. Now it looks like Paulson masterminded a trade that cost the government tens of billions of dollars. I would hope his next Congressional meeting will be less pleasant.

Now, if you remember, back last October, we added Goldman Sach Advisor Brian Griffiths to our Ignorant Dolt roster, for a taste of playing us for suckers, defending paying fat cats like really really big fat cats, or, as John over on Gawker described;

Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach is quite the Christian apologist for wealthy people; he wrote a book called Morality and the Marketplace and has thought long and hard about how to reconcile the teachings of Jesus Christ with the relentless drive to acquire money. He's done pretty well with it. But wasn't there something about camels, and heaven, and rich men? And if Jesus wants Goldman Sachs employees to get multi-million-dollar taxpayer-financed bonuses, why are the Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel launching a shareholder movement to get Goldman to reign in its compensation packages? We guess that, for the fabulously wealthy who go for the whole heaven/hell thing, it makes sense to enjoy as many Amber Lounge after-parties as you can squeeze in while you're in this world, because the one that awaits doesn't really have much to offer.

The McClatchy Newspapers, who, if you recall, were on-the-money, from the get-go, about the Bush Grindhouse lying us into war, has also been the dog-on-bone with Goldman Sachs;

“It appears that the financial ‘protection’ provided by Goldman and described in the SEC complaint may have been more akin to the kind of protection provided by organized crime,” Hurley said.

McClatchy Newspapers, in a series published in November about Goldman’s role in the subprime lending disaster, found that Goldman sold more than $40 billion in mortgages in 2006 and 2007 while secretly betting on a housing downturn that would sink their value. It’s unclear whether any of those transactions have drawn SEC or Justice Department scrutiny, but a Senate investigations panel has been examining them.

Here's two of those articles referenced;

Goldman takes on new role: taking away people's homes

Investors could only lose in Goldman's Caymans deals

Goldman's response to the SEC charges is a yawner - "The SEC’s charges are completely unfounded in law and fact and we will vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation."

Ah, Felix Salmon, you want to step up here and talk a little about that "Goldman reputation";

Goldman’s reputation in tatters

Goldman talks ad nauseam about how everything it does it does for its clients, and how any profits it ultimately ends up making are just a result of being “long-term greedy”. But if it attempts legalistic hair-splitting about how its behavior in the Abacus case was technically not illegal, it’s just going to end up looking even more culpable in the eyes of its clients. Goldman, if it was behaving honorably here, would have been open about the whole truth of what was going on. It would have revealed Paulson’s role in structuring the deal to IKB and other investors, and it would have revealed Paulson’s short position to ACA. Instead, it played IKB and ACA for suckers. And that’s just not the kind of behavior that Goldman likes to think that it engages in.

Goldman, as you might extrapolate out their resounding statement, is going to set up a fall guy for this, however, when you read Annie Lowrey's, from the Washington Independent, analogy, you see she goes all Denzel Washington on Goldman, explaining like we're all four-year-olds.

Yves Smith, over on Naked Capitalism, helps her out;

Oooh, things are starting to get interesting.

A number of journalists and commentators (yours truly included) have taken issue with the fact that some dealers (most notably Goldman and DeutscheBank) had programs of heavily subprime synthetic collateralized debt obligations which they used to take short positions. Needless to say, the firms have been presumed to have designed these CDOs so that their short would pay off, meaning that they designed the CDOs to fail. The reason this is problematic is that most investors would assume that a dealer selling a product it had underwritte was acting as a middleman, intermediating between the views of short and long investors. Having the firm act to design the deal to serve its own interests doesn’t pass the smell test (one benchmark: Bear Stearns refused to sell synthetic CDOs on behalf of John Paulson, who similarly wanted to use them to establish a short position. How often does trading oriented firm turn down a potentially profitable trade because they don’t like the ethics?)

Back, last August, we pointed out how being noted for your greediness, wasn't, necessarily a good thing in "Survey Shows Name Should Be "Goldman Sucks", and then, December, added some more reasons.

They looted Main Street (and, possibly, Greece), so, it's nice to see, even belatedly, the S.E.C., finally, getting a glove, and getting into the game.

Bonus Links

Ezra Klein: Three questions about the Goldman fraud filing

Choire, at The Awl - Goldman Sachs SEC Lawsuit: "The CDO Biz is Dead We Don’t Have a Lot of Time Left"

Gregory White: Here Are The Financial Companies That Got Screwed By Goldman's Alleged Fraud


Scarecrow: SEC Sues Goldman Sachs; US “Shocked, Shocked,” to Find Wall Street Fraud

Dealbook: S.E.C. Inquiry May Widen, Khuzami Hints

John Nichols: Will SEC Crackdown on Goldman Spur Senate Action?

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

I hereby endorse Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination

Seriously, I do. I'm all in.

And so I hope he runs. And I hope he's not just toying with us:

If you see me losing 40 pounds that means I’m either running or have cancer.

Charming, as always, but he's pretty much the perfect Republican nominee, more perfect than Palin, more perfect than Huckabee. He's pretty much the incarnation of what it means to be a Republican. And so the Republicans would be stupid not to hand him the nomination should he decide to run.

As Jon Chait has written, "There are people who think that the solution to the GOP's image problem is to nominate a sleazy, corpulent, cigar-chomping lobbyist from the Deep South? Is Boss Hogg unavailable?"

You certainly don't need Boss Hogg when you've got the real thing. 

Haley Barbour '12!
Because you can't be too Republican.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Stupid lefty me

By Capt. Fogg

Hey, I'm a stupid lefty. I must be, since so many obviously intelligent people tell me so. After all, I don't think the health insurance reform bill is any worse than what's already been done by prominent Republican presidential candidates and neither does Mitt Romney so he must be a stupid lefty too.

The Cato Institute, obviously a bunch of lefties as well, has pointed out that Mitsky (let's give him his due as a Trotskyite) enacted a health care plan identical to Obama's while he was Governor of Massachusetts in 2006. Of course that Maoist/Islamofascist radical Romney won't admit to it and he was only trying to hide his Marxist/Maoist sympathies when he called the identical Democratic plan all those nasty names. Hell, he's probably right to do so since 2006 was so long ago we didn't even have Twitter and nobody remembers.

The Cato Institute remembers, stupid lefties that they are.
"As President Obama himself has pointed out, Romney is the guy who created the prototype for ObamaCare. How can he lead the charge against a health care plan that is modeled on his own?" said Cato's executive vice president David Boaz.
Well hell, he's a lefty and lefties do that and the Cato "cel"l is probably a front for North Korea. But the concept of "its only wrong when they do it" really requires more intelligence than I have so I'll just never cut it as a right wing "patriot." I really am not smart enough to get angry at the President for raising taxes when he lowered them or furious at his forcing his predecessor to put us into crushing debt, so the Tea Bag patriots won't accept me either. Who can blame them for suspecting a wealthy investor and fund manager of loving Stalin and longing for the worker's paradise?

So Mea Culpa -- I'm a stupid lefty and I'll go say ten Hail Reagans and pray for understanding.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Take the C train

By Capt. Fogg

Climb aboard the Republican crazy train, boys and girls -- we're going to Loonie Land! We're going to the Fox Fun House Hall of Mirrors where everything gets distorted to look Muslim, or Communist, or Fascist. Yes indeed the logo of the Nuclear Security Summit, can, if you squint your eyes and take another deep one from the paper bag of glue, looks like a crescent -- or if you're one of those sane elitist liberals, like an orbiting electron in the classical model of an atom.

But we're not sane are we? We're ConSERvatives and it's fun to be CRAZY! It's fun to sabotage any attempt to make the world a safer, saner place, it's fun to sabotage everything the voters (corrupted by socialism no doubt) do to restore sanity.

Yes, the latest attempt in the Logo Wars, to find crescents in everything Obama does and says started in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post "Now he's a crescent loon" and migrated to Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, which showed an array of Islamic national flags on Wednesday with the 2010 Nuclear Summit logo -- not that they're suggesting anything. They're just suggesting that since Obama is suspiciously "reaching out" to Muslims and thus is suspected of being a Muslim and since some Muslims are black -- well you decide for yourselves. We're not going to tell you what's true and what isn't. You decide.

I mean you'll note that Obama has pulled the plug on another mission to the moon and the moon you know, sometimes. . . well you get the picture -- not that we're suggesting anything, but looking at Space Shuttle mission patches you'll notice crescents all over the place and of course the shuttle orbits over Muslim countries constantly. Could be that Obama converted the Space Agency to Islam back in 1990! How sinister is that?

Of course since nuclear arms reduction was a particular dream of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, Murdoch may have wanted to pull back on the theme that arms control only weakens the nation when Democrats do it, or he may have been embarrassed by Insanity Hannity's being caught in a lie about what Obama's nuclear position actually is -- or perhaps he knows in his wrinkled Australian heart that it's just easier to get away with a totally insane innuendo than to play with dangerous facts. Nobody ever went broke after all, by underestimating the stupidity, gullibility and indeed the raw insanity of the American public.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Teabagging racism: "It's not just because he's black."

The key, and most revealing, line from this WaPo piece on the Tea Party rally in Washington yesterday:

[Teabagger Jerry] Johnson expressed opposition to Obama. "It's not just because he's black," he said. "I wish I could tell you that I loved this guy, that he was a great president, that I had faith in him. But I have none. Zero."

Read that again.

That's right, this apparent bigot, a lawyer from Virginia, said he opposes Obama not just because he's black. Meaning, partly because he's black.

There you go.

Unless this guy badly misspoke, which is unlikely, he basically admitted to being a racist. And I suspect he's far from alone among the teabaggers.

Which is not to say that all teabaggers are racist, of course. Not all of them are, just some of them. And while I understand that their prime motivation is taxation, which they zealously oppose, along with opposition to government generally, except when it benefits them, they certainly seem to be motivated by a variety of other factors, including Obama's race and a general hostility to anyone who isn't like them. It is hardly surprising that many of them, more than among Americans generally, are Birthers.

As for their extremist anti-tax crusade (and claim that Obama is a socialist), the facts are against them, too. With Obama's stimulus package tax credit, federal income tax on the middle class is, with the exception of 2008, at a 55-year low.

Not that the facts mean much to these people, though. Even if Obama's skin colour does.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Obama bans hospital visitation discrimination against gays and lesbians

He's been slow to act on DADT, and his silly opposition to same-sex marriage in favour of civil unions may be more political than personal, but what President Obama did yesterday deserves some serious praise:

President Obama mandated Thursday that hospitals extend visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians and allow same-sex couples to share medical power of attorney, perhaps the most significant step so far in his efforts to expand the rights of gay Americans.

The president directed the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation in a memo that was e-mailed to reporters Thursday night while he was at a fundraiser in Miami.

Administration officials and gay activists, who have been quietly working together on the issue, said the new rule, once in place, will affect any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding, a move that covers the vast majority of the nation's health-care institutions.

It is humane, it is compassionate, it is sensible, and it is a huge step in the right direction towards full equality for gays and lesbians, and for the committed and meaningful relationships they have.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Your moment of Rachel

By Creature

An inconvenient tax truth (psst, TeaBaggers, you're paying less).

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Who's the socialist?

Billy Wharton.

Who's Billy Wharton?

He's co-chair of the Socialist Party USA, the country's main socialist political party, the main successor to the Socialist Party of America.

So he's a guy who knows a thing or two about socialism, and about whether, as conservatives allege, Obama and his agenda are socialist. Well...

We didn't see a great victory with the election of Barack Obama, and we certainly didn't see our agenda move from the streets to the White House.

But what about what conservatives are saying?

It makes no rational sense. It clearly means that people don't understand what socialism is.

Now, to be fair, socialism isn't monolithic, and different socialists believe different things. Even CNN seems to understand this. But Wharton's point is right. People hurl the socialism/socialist label around without much of a clue as to what it actually means.

Indeed, it's rather amusing that, judging by the tone of its article, CNN seems really surprised to have learned that there is already a good deal of socialism, broadly understood, in America: Social Security, Medicare, etc. It's almost like CNN can't quite believe it, and so the article, valuable in a way but also profoundly stupid and deeply ignorant despite its citations of experts, contains a mixture of curiosity and repulsion. And, given where CNN is headed, it's hardly surprising that the final section of the article focuses on a single teabagger who, by all indications, is even more profoundly stupid and deeply ignorant.

Regardless, Wharton is quite right. Neither Obama nor his agenda is socialist. Like so many reformers before him, he is simply trying to save capitalism from itself.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Normalcy delayed

Good evening, everyone. It's now almost midnight in the east. Work flared up again today, leaving me, once again, exhausted, and I spent much of the evening, once I finally got home, lying on the couch watching the Jays beat the ChiSox and, much to my amazement, my beloved Habs beat the Caps 3-2 in OT in the first game of their first-round NHL playoff series. (I still expect Washington to win the series, but it's nice to take a game.)

Anyway, I won't be back to my usual blogging schedule as soon as I'd hoped, but I'll try to have a few new posts up tomorrow, and, as always, please keep checking back for more from my great co-bloggers. Even when I find myself unable to post, this blog keeps going because of their consistently fantastic contributions.

See you soon.

-- Michael


Bookmark and Share

Capitalist fools

By Carl

Capitalism is an economic system based in fear. If you're a coward, you're a capitalist.

Think about it. According to theory, capitalism is advanced through the "enlightened" self-interest of individuals (I'll get back to the enlightened bit later). Translation: greed. Greed is good in capitalism. Indeed, if capitalism can be said to have any morality, that morality is based in greed.

But greed is based in fear, just as nearly every negative emotion is. Greed is about the fear that you will not have enough, never have enough and therefore must always have more.

Ask anyone who was mixed up in the junk bond bubble of the Reagan years or the dot-com bubble of the Clinton/Bush years or the real estate bubble of the Bush years: it was not about having enough, it was about having more. From the homeowners who foolishly bit into a mortgage they could never possibly handle to the bankers who lent that money knowing full well those borrowers couldn't afford the mortgage to the stockholders who demanded higher earnings every quarter from the bankers who lent the money to the people who couldn't afford it, to the governments who gladly accepted the property and income taxes due on the money that the shareholders demanded by higher each quarter from the bankers who lent the money to people who couldn't afford it, all of this monumental folly was based in greed.

And enabled by countless pundits, analysts, media flacks, and government officials. "Ownership society," Mr. Bush? OWERship society is more like it, you pompous butthead!

Adam Smith in positing capitalism, even tho he called it laissez-faire (French for "leave to do"), spoke for the need for taxes on business activity, strong government oversight, and warned against business combinations of any sort that involved removing the personal responsibility for the actions of a business.

We call those "corporations". You'll never hear this from your immature libertarian friends who read Ayn Rand for the sex scenes and came away with some muddled sense of economic theory crossed with personal freedom.

Adam Smith, in Wealth of Nations, speaks of the "Invisible Hand" precisely once (Book IV, chapter II, paragraph IX , if you're playing along at home). It was in the context of domestic trade being preferable to international trade. In other words, all those "free marketeers" are bullshitting you. And yet, an entire conservative cottage industry has arisen over a gross distortion of Smith's intent.

All to support and justify naked greed. There is no community when greed is involved. You would steal from your neighbors as soon as you'd steal from a stranger if capitalism had its way. And if you don't believe that, pick up any  newspaper.

Indeed, on a macro basis, this is precisely what happens. International trade and relations are less dependent upon any sense of community than local and domestic trade, which was Adam Smith's point about the "invisible hand". Why were we attacked on September 11, after all? Was it because we're rich? Was it because we supplied arms to Israel, or Osama bin Laden? Was it because we had protected Muslims in Bosnia? Was it because we helped harm Muslims in Palestine?

Whatever part of the political spectrum you come from, it doesn't matter. Whatever answer to that "why" you feel comfortable with, it doesn't matter. All answers return to the greed of capitalism. Our private industries made money in conflict with our so-called "moral values." After all, if we fear radical Islam, why were we helping the mujahadeen in the 1980s? It's not like we were friends with radical Islam back then. We had just had hostages returned from Iran, for goodness sake!

Once you look at the world around you and do a thought experiment, you understand why greed needs to be in check, and why capitalism is for cowards. If we took morality out of the equation, if we truly allowed capitalism to be laissez-faire, crime would be a booming industry, all drugs would be legal, and porn would be available on the counter of your corner newsstand instead of bowdlerized and forced into dark corners and pay-per-view television.

Is that what we really want?

If capitalism was based on enlightened need, one could conceivably find a lot of good in capitalism. Capitalism presumes that we each have the other citizens of our community in mind.

Sadly, no...

Capitalism is not immoral, but capitalism is responsible for immoral acts. Capitalism is also responsible for the greatest man-made tragedies to befall America and by extension, the world.

In and of itself, capitalism is not immoral. It is amoral. It does not think. It only works like a vast enumbed machine, not distinguishing between friend or foe, between good or evil, between moral and immoral.

And here's the real kicker: capitalism is antithetical to American values, if we define "American values" as freedom, equality, and morality.

Those are in our Constitution. They're declared and demanded in the Declaration of Independence. And yet, self-interest sans enlightenment is harmful to all three of those. Sure, you can say that freedom exists, but is it really freedom when your boss can fire you at-will, and worse, threaten that to hold your behavior in check? Is it really freedom when that same boss can demand you work overtime or put in free hours from home, but then get all pissy when you ask for a few hours to take your sick kid to the hospital?

Is it really freedom without equality? And is it ever equal in a society where greed is honored and acquisition the goal?

And is that EVER moral?

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Ron Paul rising

I get Rasmussen's clear right-wing leanings, but what's the point, at this point, of conducting a poll pitting Obama against Republican/conservative/libertarian fave Ron Paul?

An Obama-Paul race is "virtually dead even," according to the poll (42-41 for the president), but, let's be clear, Paul won't be the GOP nominee, his overzealous supporters basically rig those straw polls, and, unlike Obama, Paul's never really been vetted by the media (so the American people don't really know who he is).

As I wrote back in February:

Paul is no doubt pretty popular with the John Birch crowd, what with his extremist anti-government and isolationist views, proximity to racism (if not his own racism), and general paranoia. (For some elaboration, see Carl's post from 11/07.) He's more libertarian than Republican, and has no chance at the GOP nod in 2012, but it's good to see the movement conservatives at CPAC expose themselves for what they really are.

He's on top at the moment, but it won't last.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Rich angry white guys

By Mustang Bobby.

The New York Times did a survey of the tea party folks and came up with some not-too-surprising conclusions.
The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

Not surprising, either, is the underlying mythology fed by radio bloviators and Fox News about President Obama that he's not really American.
“I just feel he’s getting away from what America is,” said Kathy Mayhugh, 67, a retired medical transcriber in Jacksonville. “He’s a socialist. And to tell you the truth, I think he’s a Muslim and trying to head us in that direction, I don’t care what he says. He’s been in office over a year and can’t find a church to go to. That doesn’t say much for him.”

And then there's the contradiction of people complaining about "government takeover" and wasteful programs that should be cut... as long as they can keep their Social Security and Medicare.
Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

Digby at Hullabaloo sums them up:
These people are nothing new. They have different iterations, but when you get right down to it they are, quite simply, the far right. They hate poor people (especially blacks) and they hate government that helps poor people (especially blacks.) They are deluded about taxes and spending and are paranoid about the government being infiltrated by "the other." They believe they are the only "true" Americans and alternate between insisting that their "traditional values" are best represented by the Bible or the Constitution, both of which they believe they are ordained by God to properly interpret. And they do not really believe in democracy which is really why they hate the government.

When they lose they stage a national hissy fit of epic proportions and persuade the Village (where they are perceived as the personification of the heartland of America) that they are something very important. Now that they have their very own TV and radio networks featuring crazed right wing demagogues 24/7, they are more successful on those terms than ever. But they are nothing new, nothing new at all. They are mostly a bunch of cranky, white men with money who are trying desperately to hang on to their privileges. Same as it ever was.

They are what we have called "Republicans" for at least the last 30 years.

When they had the chance to govern in the recent past, the rich white conservatives did a really lousy job of it by giving us huge budget deficits, recession, an illegal war, violations of Constitutional rights, corporate corruption to a degree that would make the Mafia blush, religious intolerance, sex scandals, hypocrisy -- all the things they accuse the "others" of doing -- all with the approval of the rich angry white guys. That's not to say that the Democrats have not had their problems and failings, but certainly not on the scale of the Republicans, and they didn't do it while they were lecturing the rest of the nation on how to live and that they were the real Americans. And their idea of a true leader is a woman with the voice of a bat, the intellectual curiosity of a sponge, the crowd-pleasing talents of a finalist on American Idol, and the business ethics of a snake-oil salesman. (Would it surprise you to learn that Ms. Palin's political action committee spent more money de-icing her jet than it did on the candidates she was supposed to be raising money for? Me neither.)

What I find fascinating -- and disturbing -- is the mantra that the Tea Party people want to "take our country back," and they mean it in both senses of the term; back from whomever it is they perceived took it away from them, and take it back to a time when everything was a perpetual rerun of Happy Days. It's not just the same as it ever was; they want it the same as it never was.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Palin's priorities

(I apologize for being AWOL the past couple of days, but work has been unusually and exceptionally busy this week and I just haven't had the time not just to blog but even to pay attention to the news. I'll get going again slowly, and I hope to be back to my usual blogging schedule soon. With that, let's get on it...)


Here's pretty much everything you need to know about Sarah Palin -- or at least a good deal of it:

Ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) spent more money to de-ice her private jets than she did donating money to candidates during the first 3 months of the year, according to new filings made with the FEC.

The filings show Palin's political wing, Sarah PAC, paid a FL-based airplane service company $14K to de-ice a private jet. The PAC spent more than $16K -- twice as much as it donated to individual candidates -- on hotels from New Orleans to New York City to Richland, WA.

And it's good to work on Palin's behalf. Consultants for the PAC made more than $233K through their contracts, the report shows. Ex-spokeswoman Meg Stapleton, who left the PAC last month, had a $10K per month contract. Randy Scheunemann, one of Palin's top advisors during the WH'08 campaign, also makes $10K a month; during the last 3 months, Jason Recher, another aide on the '08 campaign, made $50K.

The amount she pays her staff pales in comparison to the amount she gives to help GOP candidates win elections. Palin gave just $7,500 to candidates running for office this time.

So it would seem that Sarah Palin is all about... the glorification and adoration of Sarah Palin.

Even when she supports a Republican candidate, it's really just about her.

And, just as she did during the campaign, she spends wildly in her pursuit of (highly profitable) self-promotion.

No, this isn't news. Yes, we knew this already. But it's nice to have the clarification.

I can only repeat what I wrote back in October of 2008:

[W]hile there's undeniably a lot of ignorant, anti-intellectual Wasilla in her, that most of all, she clearly longs for the bright lights of the big city and the showy fashion of Saks and Neiman Marcus. She's like the backwards hick who so badly wants to be accepted, to belong, to make it, and to make sure everyone knows she's made it, and just ends up trying too hard and looking like a parody.

It's quite pathetic, actually. Whatever she once was, whatever she may be at her core, Sarah Palin is now just a massive fraud.

That much has remained consistent since her emergence on the national stage.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Another new black

By Capt. Fogg

My local Tea Party is gearing up for another froth and drool session on tax day although at least half of them know by now they won't be paying Federal Income Taxes this time or at least less than they paid the year before. You can be damned sure there won't be any of the local Billionaires (there are quite a few) amongst the cracker crumbs.

The Dow is over 11,000 as I write this, investor optimism boosted by earnings reports and economic data. Inflation remains contained at one tenth of one percent, despite the solemn assurances of Weimar style runaway. Retail sales continue to climb more than expected as the economic expansion continues.

"The amount of diesel fuel bought using credit cards at U.S. truck stops increased in March to the highest level in more than a year, indicating the recovery is broadening beyond manufacturing "

says Bloomberg and truck tonnage, which accounts for 68 percent of freight transported in the U.S., increased on a year-over-year basis in February for a third straight month, as truckers benefit from inventory rebuilding, increased exports and stronger sales.

It's getting harder not to call this a recovery, but it would certainly be hard to associate the news with the kind of implosion into economic chaos a Marxist economy and tyrannical Pol Pot killing fields some of the more extreme viewpoints have been forecasting.
"Bleak is the New Black"

writes Newsweek, but it's in the context of the increasing disparity between the sound and fury and the tale told by economic data.
"America is coming back stronger, better, and faster than nearly anyone expected—and faster than most of its international rivals."

and at present, the Dow is up over 70% in the last year. As to whether we would have turned around earlier if there had been no bailout, no stimulus package and a program of austerity, tax cuts for billionaires and continued deregulation as the Republicans demanded after 1929, it seems harder still to believe that we would be talking about recovery as anything but a cruel joke just now. Even so, despair, panic, and even hysteria are the stock in trade of the Fox News doomers and gloomers - the same folks who blamed pessimistic Liberals for "talking down" the solid economy of the Bush years. No, certainly a continued, uninterrupted recovery is hardly a sure thing, but more balanced Republican observers may be beginning to wish the fear mongering Murdoch would reign in his dogs a bit tighter before American voters realize that the last thing the Republicans seem to want is what they want: a recovery.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Breaking ... Obama to launch "Clunkers For Nukes"

By J. Thomas Duffy

In a bombshell announcement this morning, President Obama, following up on his successful Nuclear Security Summit, said that an agreement was reached last evening with the other participating 47 countries, and a new "Clunkers for Nukes" program will be launched.

"Legitimate governments, rogue players, terrorists, they're all eligible to turn in their nuclear weapons, or materials, and have their choice of a pre-owned automobile," stated White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, at an unscheduled briefing this morning.

"We have an overstock situation," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

"We're swimming in used cars ... We lost count, we have so many."

Last year, the Obama Administration instituted a "Cash for Clunkers" program, in an effort to stimulate the economy, and, according to administration officials, was quite successful.

Gibbs further explained, that the "Clunkers for Nukes" program will be scaled, in favor of the client.

"We're offering one car, for every ten-pounds of nuclear material, be it simple, unaltered plutonium, or enhanced, weapons-grade plutonium. It's projected, some potential clients could walk away with three, four, possibly even, five cars with their trade-in."

Gibbs would neither confirm, or deny, that President Obama, in a Rose Garden ceremony, would, symbolically trade in an two old American nuclear warheads, for cars that would be saved for his daughters, when they reach the appropriate age.

News of the "Clunkers for Nukes" program reached the Middle East, as Al Jeezera is reporting that Osama bin Laden is planning on releasing a new audio tape, indicating he is looking for a 1965 Cadillac, and may reach out to U.S. officials.

Bonus Riffs

Top Ten Cloves: Great Things About Obama Taking Over General Motors

What's Good For Tesla Motors ...

Retro Garlic: Is Chrysler Now Adopting The HuffPo Business Plan?

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

A message from the boss

Hi, all. Michael asked me to drop in to let you know he hasn't forgotten about you. He's very busy with work stuff (something I can relate to) and will be back to his normal blogging schedule soon. In the meantime, stick around. I'm sure one of our great co-bloggers will say something profound (or at least mildly amusing) in the posts to come.


Bookmark and Share

Financial Reform

By Creature

I still have hope that the White House and Congress will get their shit together and pass strong financial reforms, but with the GOP using the Frank Luntz's, up-is-down talking point that the proposed regulations will make future bailouts more, not less, likely I fear the GOP will control a message that should clearly be on the Democrats side.

While I don't think the GOP's Luntzing of financial reform will succeed (and kudos to the White House for pushing back already), I do think it will lead to a protracted fight and a glum electorate (which I assume is the GOP's plan) and this is something the Democrats cannot afford after the long health-care reform fight.

Update: Dodd's on the case. He calls out McConnell's lie, waves Luntz memo. Love it.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Well, it is Oklahoma, after all

By J. Thomas Duffy

If this news was coming out of, just about, any other state, then, it would be worrisome;

Okla. tea parties and lawmakers envision militia

OKLAHOMA CITY – Frustrated by recent political setbacks, tea party leaders and some conservative members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they would like to create a new volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.

Tea party movement leaders say they've discussed the idea with several supportive lawmakers and hope to get legislation next year to recognize a new volunteer force. They say the unit would not resemble militia groups that have been raided for allegedly plotting attacks on law enforcement officers.


State Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, a Republican candidate for governor who has appealed for tea party support, said supporters of a state militia have talked to him, and that he believes the citizen unit would be authorized under the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

It prompted Driftglass to issue a Flash!News!Alert!;

At this moment, somewhere in America, a drunk is abso-fucking-lutely sure that one more vodka-and-Red-Bull will solve all his problems.

It's one thing for the Teabaggers looking to build an army, but having a nitwit local legislator buying into their idiocracy ...

The always mirthful Will Bunch, at Attytood weighs in;

If it's scary, why are you doing this? What's alarming is that several lawmakers are on board with this proposal, although reading between lines it looks dubious it could actually pass the state legislature and become law, especially since -- and I'm not sure how this could have happened -- the governor of Oklahoma is a Democrat. Still, you never know what can happen when an idea gets rolling. It seems to me that if the citizens of Oklahoma think Washington is overextending its power, there are other solutions -- at the ballot box in 2010 and 2012, for example. Has Oklahoma City, of all places, forgotten what happened the last time somebody there stood up to claim he was not rolling over for the federal government?

As we alluded to above, deeply concerning, it were another state, other than Oklahoma.

See, Oklahoma was in the news, for profound dubious reasons, back in September of last year - which we took due notice of;

Yeeow! Ayipioeeay! ...You're Not Doin' Fine, Oklahoma!

Only one in four Oklahoma public high school students can name the first President of the United States, according to a survey released today.

The survey was commissioned by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs in observance of Constitution Day on Thursday.


"They're questions taken from the actual exam that you have to take to become a U.S. citizen," Dutcher said.


About 92 percent of the people who take the citizenship test pass on their first try, according to immigration service data. However, Oklahoma students did not fare as well. Only about 3 percent of the students surveyed would have passed the citizenship test.

Something tells me, if it ever got to the point, where they would have to draft a bill for this, they are likely to run into some problems, maybe things like spelling, proper puncuation, who actually is the President ...

The PartyofNoicans are doomed.

They think they own the Teabaggers, but the Teabaggers hate them ...

Sarah Palin is playing both sides of the fence...

And the Teabaggers keep topping themselves, on how delusional, how out-of-touch that they are.

What a country!

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

A Haley Barbour Cloud

By J. Thomas Duffy

While the subject matter surrounding this corpulent former RNC Bag Man is, wholly, worthwhile, the less I have to do with anything to do with Haley Barbour, the better.

Just hearing his name, or seeing him on television gives to excogitate, on whether to head for a second shower-of-the-day (possible, a third, if we, unfortunately, crossed paths earlier).

His name brings to mind the devastating riff Barry Crimmins used to perform, in which he said that the only way to properly view Haley Barbour was "kneeling in a bed of potatoes with an apple in his mouth."

So, after our previously successful, "A Eric Massa Cloud", we give way to the highlights of this growing, sordid mess.

A Haley Barbour Cloud

The GOP's southern strategy lives on ...The Ghost of Bobby Lee ...Miss. Confederate History Month ignores slavery...
In fact, it is possible that accidentally truer words have never been spoken. Bigotry, wrapped in scripture, deep fried in coded language and served with a side of potato salad, sweet tea and near-hysterically belligerent denial has been a Southern delicacy for as long as I can remember, and these Republican good ol' boys and girls just ain't Ever ... Ever ... Ever ... giving up Momma's home cooking...

Confederate History Month: Mississippi Learnings... Southern Discomfort ......Neo-Confederate History
It’s been almost 150 years since the Civil War ended and Confederate symbols have not gone away despite the fact that more and more people are realizing that the regime they represent is not some noble Lost Cause, but an illegitimate nation created to deny any rights to an entire race...

Haley the Barbourian and the Invisible Empire ...Neo-Confederate History...So you think slavery wasn't at the heart of the Confederacy… ...Haley's vomit
What "doesn't amount to diddly" is the revisionist notion -- which Confederate History Month celebrations perpetuate -- that the Civil War was about something other than slavery. The "lost cause" diehards insist that the treasonous rebellion was a fight over freedom or the Constitution or states' rights. But the "right" that was being fought over was the ability to own human beings, compel their labor, buy and sell them as if they were livestock, exploit them sexually and torture or kill them if they tried to escape

Haley Barbour's Racist Connections ...racist Council of Conservative Citizens ...Sons of the Confederacy Claim Tea Party Movement as Kindred Spirit ...Secret Proclamations?

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, April 12, 2010

Inglorious bastards

By Capt. Fogg

I never thought the Confederacy would take health insurance reform lying down; accept it any more than they willingly endured integration, voting rights for women or their former slaves, equal rights and opportunities for "cullids" and Jee-Yews and anything else that interfered with good, old fashioned, plantation feudalism. They're against anything those Yankees do even if in the long run insurance companies will profit from it and undoubtedly show their gratitude to the Gucci shod rebels in Tallahassee and other red state Capitals. Even though the ten thousand or so of my county's uninsured residents that now overwhelm the capacity of community outpatient clinics and emergency rooms are a liability and expense to me similar to uninsured motorists, the former are victims of Northern aggression while the latter do need to be forced to have liability insurance. Why? Well because a Yankee Democrat proposed it and Democrats did some of what the public elected them to do. OK, it's not quite a volley of cannon fire at Fort Sumter yet, but that was then and today's attacks on the concept that the government has any function beyond shocking and awing third world countries and keeping the slaves in line are more insidious. What else would you call slipping a rider into an innocuous and popular Life Insurance bill that declares the new Federal Health Insurance legislation unconstitutional. I know, I know, that's hardly the job of the Florida Legislature, the same distinguished body of statesmen who last year balked at adding an exclusion to a bill outlawing the observation of and participation in animal sex if it was for purposes of animal husbandry, because -- wait for this -- some Representatives thought animal husbandry referred to women marrying animals. But the spirit of Southern freedom isn't about the government standing up for freedom, it's about leaving us alone in our fantasy of primitive self sufficiency where we can do as we please and damn everyone else. Likewise the protection against being discriminated against by health insurers and protection against the public's indirect funding of health care for the uninsured must be about
"defending the rights of individuals"

as Rep. Ryan Nelson, R-Apopka told those assembled representatives of Florida Crackers, Swamp rats and toothless road-kill eaters called the Florida House of Representatives.
"every person within this state is and shall be free from governmental intrusion" in selecting health insurance coverage,

says the amendment. What nasty things might escape from that Pandora's box should this thing be passed into law! After all, keeping companies from dropping you when sick or weaseling out of legitimate claims by stalling until you die or your daughter dies is "intrusion." isn't it? Making you take responsibility for staying off the welfare rolls and clogging up the hospitals or walking around spreading TB is just egregious "intrusion." Let's give absolute immunity from the law to insurers and all in the name of individual freedom. Massa knows what's best and what's best is that you only shop at the company store. What's more, the Florida Attorney General shall have the power to sue the Federal Government on behalf of any neo-Confederate who thinks I have to pay when his diseased ilk inflate the local hospital operating costs because he doesn't believe in health insurance - sue at the Taxpayer's expense, of course. I don't like slippery slope arguments and I'm not saying that this will lead to revolts against mandatory car insurance or boat insurance or any kind of required liability insurance, but the principle is indeed the same: "Damn Gummint cain't tell us what to do" even if that government is elected to do what it's doing by a majority of voters who presumably still have the right to decide such things: a right not inferior to the right of corporations to do as they please. The principle is the same: government is about what we the people want, not what we the voters want. Upside down elitism and corporate feudalism at it's purest. Yes, I'm surrounded by people who tell me that the 1861 revolt, or "the War of Northern Aggression," was about "freedom" without any sense of irony and they feel likewise about almost anything that requires any funding, except of course farm subsidies and special tax breaks for Exxon Mobil. Their revolt is about the same kind of "freedom" I guess. Sometimes that's my freedom, not theirs, since they're concerned about my heirs' inheritance taxes while theirs won't pay any, and a couple of percent more on my income taxes while more than half of them won't pay any this year or ever have incomes anywhere near the top 10%. Of course their freedom to go about uninsured Makes my outrageous health insurance premiums more outrageous, but it's the thought that counts, isn't it? (Cross posted from Human voices)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Russia as foil

By Creature

Joe Lieberman's opposition to Obama's new START treaty has nothing to do with the substance of the treaty (or with the reasons stated yesterday) and all to do with keeping relations with Russia chilly. Better relations between the U.S. and Russia means there is less of chance that bombs will fall on Iran. And, in Joe Lieberman's world, that is unacceptable.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Making deals with the devil

Is it really any surprise that Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who wants to buy the NBA's New Jersey Nets and move them to Brooklyn, has some, shall we say, questionable business interests? I mean, how exactly did he acquire all that wealth? Surely he knows something about corruption, and worse, and about making deals with tyrants like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, as the New York Post is reporting.

I suspect that he has achieved his wealth and power to a great extent by making deals with various devils. What is troubling here, though, is that the NBA, a league plagued with struggling franchises and that desperately wants an infusion of wealth both into itself and into the country's top market, has apparently also made a deal with a devil. What needs to be asked is what David Stern and NBA brass knew when they signed up Prokhorov to be a member of their elite club.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A family of nations gathers in Washington, D.C.

By Carol Gee

Barack Obama had a long-standing interest in controlling the building and deployment of nuclear weapons.  Now he has the opportunity to actually do something about the problem of nuclear proliferation.  Terrorists who are willing to commit suicide for their own nihilistic causes would have no problem pushing the bomb's button, nor any worry about how many lives they take.  The more, the better.

The challenge of accounting for loose nuclear fissile material and what it could mean in a world with violent extremists is something that demands concerted efforts by the entire family of nations.  Dozens of countries will be represented at President Obama's nuclear summit.  But not all nations will be there.  In fact several key players are not coming.

But this unfortunate reality does not mean that the President should be deterred in his quest to make the world safer.  And I do not mean safer from "weapons of mass destruction."  The overuse of that phrase in the recent past has so cheapened its core meaning that the words no longer have any usefulness for me.  No, it means safer from people who would dearly love to get their hands on a nuclear weapon, or the materials to make one.

Whatever comes out of the nuclear summit will be dismissed by many of the President's adversaries as weak, not enough, without teeth, etc.  Others will define his efforts as dangerous, misguided or irrational.  But President Obama has made a start. In the wake of the signing of the START treaty, it builds momentum.  And it constructs credibility for this crazy idea that the world will survive more certainly if nuclear weapons are beginning to be seen, even if faintly, as things of the past.

We must believe that the family of nations has the will and the ingenuity to prevent extremists from getting nuclear capability.  Just because some feel that it is impossible does not mean we should not try our best to prevail despite the odds.  We have a consummate despite-the-odds leader in Barack Obama.  He appears willing to tackle the hardest issues. . . getting elected and reforming health care, for example.  His pragmatism, his ability to find common ground among disparate contenders, his energy and intellect all bode well for this project.  We all need to stand in his corner and to wish him well.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share