Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Friday, April 30, 2010

...and he'll continue to "let" Halliburton do the drilling, too

Obama won't halt offshore plans, despite widening spill, but he's selling it as a pause to the Faithful.

Another Halliburton job, it seems.

The immediate damage is bad and growing, already the second greatest environmental disaster in American history, but the Feds are strangely growling only at BP and not the contractors whose bad job killed 11 riggers and threatens the entire Gulf Coast wildlife and economy.

Another win for the lobbyists.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fact has a liberal bias

Ian Welsh speaks on fiscal sustainability. You listen.

1) Social Security, at current rates, is not expected to run short of money before 2037.

2)The simplest way to “fix” Social Security, if you’re worried about a “problem” 27 years in the future, is simply to remove the contribution limit. End of problem. Period. Social Security is not in crisis.

3) The reason politicians want to “fix” Social Security is to increase the SS surplus, so they can use it for other things.

4) Medicare has more serious issues. However the simplest way to fix healthcare in the US is to move single payer, which would reduce healthcare per person by one-third. It has worked for every other country in the history of the world that has done it. It will work for the US. Since we’ve admitted now that everyone deserves health care, and since it’s cheaper, and better, why not use the next round of healthcare to fix Medicare by fixing health care?

The unspoken entitlement is the US military. The US spends about half the entire world’s military budget. There is, actually, no one in the world who can invade or seriously threaten the US in any fashion. (Is Canada going to invade? Mexico?) You can easily slash the military budget in half and still be so far ahead of any possible combination of enemies that it isn’t even close.

And yes, taxes are going to need to go up. Here’s a simple fix—tax all income over 5 million at 90%. It won’t hurt the economy (the best economy in America’s history was back when marginal tax rates were this high in the 50’s and 60’s). It will mean that the rich, who got almost the entire bailout and whose irresponsibility threw the US into its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression will pay for it...

Now the other things Ian speaks of... among some...

there is a curious relation to others

and those who support them without question...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ignoring the Common Cause

When are the idiot minutemen going to realize the same people that are making Hell for the Mexicans in Mexico are making Hell for the Americans, too?

You have your fear, which might become reality;
and then you have Godzilla, who is reality.
-— from the movie “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”

Despite the posturing of the Congress anyone on Wall Street who goes to jail for shorting fraud is simply a scapegoat and likely a patsy as well.

Why is this? Well, back in 1999, Michael C. Ruppert wrote:

...It is also perfectly legal for a Wall Street brokerage or investment bank to go "offshore" and borrow once laundered drug money to finance a corporate merger or leveraged buyout (LBO). Why do this? If you were a major multi-national corporation in a cutthroat competition to buy a company with a hundred million in sales (which might boost your stock value $3 billion) you would be willing to pay a seemingly outrageous price. [How much would you be willing to spend to make $3 billion? - 2.9?]. All an LBO is is an acquisition financed on borrowed money. If you are Goldman-Sachs, arranging the deal, and you can borrow laundered drug money at five per cent or a bank's money at ten per cent where are you going to go? Remember that since the cost of capital is lower using laundered drug money you are now able to outbid all the other competitors because your total payback stays the same. Does this actually happen? In 1998 the Russians asked for only $18 billion to save their entire economy. With $440 billion a year moving around how could it not happen?

And a major drug dealer, like a Carlos Lehder, a Pablo Escobar, an Amado Fuentes, a Matta Ballesteros or a Hank Rohn, sitting around with ten billion dollars of useless illegal money, is more than happy to loan it at five percent because his money is now legal and liquid. And, if one goes to prison or dies, there is always another dealer to fill the void so that the supply is not interrupted. The drug trade now has power because it is underwriting the investments of the largest corporations in the world. It underwrites politicians. It has hooked the gringos on Wall Street whose own children sometimes die from its drugs. Wall Street cannot afford to let the drug barons fall. Congress cannot afford to let the drug barons fall. Presidents and their campaign finances cannot afford to let the drug barons fall. Why? Because our top down economy, controlled by one per cent, cannot take the risk of letting competition (business or political) have the edge of using drug money. The third world has its revenge for European colonialism but Wall Street still calls the shots. And for every million dollars of increased sales or increased revenues from a buyout, the stock equity of the one per cent who control Wall Street, increases twenty to thirty times.

Remember - The National Security Act of 1947, which created the CIA, was written by Wall Street lawyer and banker Clark Clifford. Clark Clifford is the man who brought the CIA backed drug bank BCCI into the United States. Allen Dulles who virtually designed the CIA and served as its Director, and his brother John Foster who was Eisenhower's Secretary of State, were Wall Street lawyers from the firm Sullivan and Cromwell. Dwight Eisenhower's personal liaison with the CIA was none other than Nelson Rockefeller. William Casey was Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission under Richard Nixon. Former CIA Directors from William Raborn to William Webster to Robert Gates to James Woolsey to John Deutch all sit or have sat on the Boards of the largest, richest and most powerful companies in America.

As we near the millenium one thing is clear to anyone who sees the economic system clearly. The system is on the verge of implosion. Privately owned and operated prison companies trade on Wall Street. One of those, Wackenhut, is a virtual CIA proprietary. We have entered, at the end of the industrial age, a phase of growth where we must incarcerate an ever expanding number of people to sustain the growth of all the companies profiting from law enforcement, crime, imprisonment and war. And the overheated stock market must grow or collapse. The reason this nation spends five dollars on prisons for every one dollar on higher education - even after seven straight years of falling crime rates - is because there is more profit in it in the current economic model. Hell, we have turned police departments into profit making entities through asset forfeiture. This is insane!

This economic model is patently no more sustainable than a snake eating its own tail can be considered nourishment. Organized crime has become the government and it seeks to make all citizens become subliminally guilty participants, fearing for their own livelihoods, believing that the system will collapse if someone really tackles the issues facing us - as surely as the iceberg faced the Titanic...

In 1999 that was sheer tinfoil hat talk.

The monsters that run the economy are not going to go to jail. They own the people that own the jails. There will be some idiots that go to jail, alright. Convenient idiots that everyone will love to hate.

When you step on an anthill, the ants don't know who you are.

History shows again and again how nature points up the folly of man.
-Blue Oyster Cult

Sunday, April 25, 2010


What's good for Godzilla-$acks is good for 'Merika.

Do What Thou Wilt

not the Star of David at all

Matt Taibbi in the Guardian yesterday:

...There have been a lot of greedy financiers and banks in history, but what makes Goldman stand out is its truly bizarre cultist/religious belief in the rightness of what it does.

The point was driven home in England last year, when Goldman's international adviser, sounding exactly like a character in Atlas Shrugged, told an audience at St Paul's Cathedral that "The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest". A few weeks later, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein told the Times that he was doing "God's work".

Even if he stands to make a buck at it, even your average used-car salesman won't sell some working father a car with wobbly brakes, then buy life insurance policies on that customer and his kids. But this is done almost as a matter of routine in the financial services industry, where the attitude after the inevitable pileup would be that that family was dumb for getting into the car in the first place. Caveat emptor, dude!

People have to understand this Randian mindset is now ingrained in the American character. You have to live here to see it. There's a hatred toward "moochers" and "parasites" – the Tea Party movement, which is mainly a bunch of pissed off suburban white people whining about minorities consuming social services, describes the battle as being between "water-carriers" and "water-drinkers". And regulation of any kind is deeply resisted, even after a disaster as sweeping as the 2008 crash.

This debate is going to be crystallised in the Goldman case. Much of America is going to reflexively insist that Goldman's only crime was being smarter and better at making money than IKB and ABN-Amro, and that the intrusive, meddling government (in the American narrative, always the bad guy!) should get off Goldman's Armani-clad back. Another side is going to argue that Goldman winning this case would be a rebuke to the whole idea of civilisation – which, after all, is really just a collective decision by all of us not to screw each other over even when we can. It's an important moment in the history of modern global capitalism: whether or not to move forward into a world of greed without limits.

θέλημα is the will of a god, alright, but one suspects the sophisticated Mr. Blankfein, like the rest of his bank$ter cronies, is totally clueless about exactly which side of the Force he serves.

Obama Republican Calamari

George Washington: A Banana Republic With No Bananas, run by old white men, and plenty of bombs.

Frank Rich:

...The truth is that both parties are too often in hock to the financial sector, and both parties bear responsibility for the meltdown. In response to a question from Jake Tapper of ABC News last weekend, Bill Clinton was right to say that he and two of his Treasury secretaries, Rubin and Lawrence Summers, “were wrong” to leave derivatives unregulated. They deserve regulation, Clinton said, because “sometimes people with a lot of money make stupid decisions and make it without transparency.”

Those same people also make smart decisions without transparency — smart for them, if not the country. Even if the reform bill does bring stringent regulation to derivatives — a big if — that won’t rectify capitalism’s worst “innovation” in our own Gilded Age: the advent of exotic, speculative “investments” that have no redeeming social value and are instead concocted to facilitate gambling for its own sake. Such are the Goldman instruments of mass financial destruction that paid off for John Paulson. In 2007 alone, according to Gregory Zuckerman in his book “The Greatest Trade Ever,” Paulson’s personal take amounted to over $10 million a day, “more than the earnings of J. K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods put together.” That “financial alchemy,” as Zuckerman calls it, explains why the finance sector’s share of domestic corporate profits, never higher than 16 percent until 1986, hit 41 percent in the last decade.

As many have said — though not many politicians in either party — something is fundamentally amiss in a financial culture that thrives on “products” that create nothing and produce nothing except new ways to make bigger bets and stack the deck in favor of the house. “At least in an actual casino, the damage is contained to gamblers,” wrote the financial journalist Roger Lowenstein in The Times Magazine last month. This catastrophe cost the economy eight million jobs...

...Those who shorted the housing market shorted the country.

The key to resolving this is simply, as always, follow the money.

In this bubble of the multiverse, matter and energy are conserved.

The real vampire squid are right there, in your face, on your face, if you can leave your digital screens long enough to look.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What is this "education" of which they speak

The fraction of the progressive blogsphere that realizes that, yes, Virginia, there is a vampire squid sucking the life out of our nation and the rest of the world has organized a Fiscal Sustainability Conference to counter the lies the bank$ters continue to effectively spread about things like social security and health care.

A good idea. You can bet the Company will be there taking names, though. I hope all the academic types have tenure already, and the non-tenured very secure sources of funding.

too many to burn at the stake

...and Murdoch is mightily perturbed, it seems a substantial fraction of the British electorate has developed the witch-sight, looking beyond the facade of their government to see the reality within

Marina Hyde

During this most eccentric of British elections, I keep recalling a memo leaked way back in 2000, in which New Labour's polling guru Philip Gould contemplated the malfunctioning project. "Something has gone seriously wrong," he quoted Peter Mandelson as saying. "But what is it?"

These days, Labour mightn't struggle to answer that question, but the fact that it is easy to imagine a version of this communique doing the rounds everywhere from Tory high command to Rupert Murdoch's British HQ offers the tantalising possibility that this might be a "change election" in more ways than one.

It has already left the arch spouters of certainties mouthing flummoxed platitudes like "we live in interesting times". For those of us perfectly happy to concede we haven't a clue at the best of times, and merely hazard this sort of cobblers in exchange for beer tokens, the sense of discombobulation is delicious and thrilling. But for those whose business is knowing best, it appears to be an infinitely less pleasant interlude.

Chief among these is Rupert Murdoch, everybody's favourite unelected foreign billionaire, whose stranglehold on every British government in recent memory arouses approximately one thousandth as much vocal public ire as a duck house. That the News Corp chief has affected to endorse Cameron as the "candidate of change" is one of the satirical jokes that are his speciality. Obviously, Murdoch wants the opposite of change. He wishes to carry on exactly as things have for decades, with him calling the shots. To Murdoch, the Tory leader is nothing but a host organism, and a change of government merely the shuffling of junior personnel.

But something has gone wrong – or threatens to. Murdoch is distressed, we must assume from news that his UK avatars – son James and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks – barged into the Independent's offices this week, incensed the paper had used the advertising slogan "Rupert Murdoch won't decide the election – you will".

One can only sympathise. This is the sort of coarse personal attack against which Rupert's entire career has been the most noble of crusades. And as former Sun editor David Yelland noted on these pages this week, Cameron failing to secure a majority would leave Murdoch locked out of No 10 for the first time in decades.

Yet Murdoch is far from the only one who has potentially wrong-footed himself in this strange new landscape. As he prepared to assume the premiership, Gordon Brown stated that the core of his political message was his big vision of "an X Factor Britain", a TV show he apparently misunderstood completely, believing it to be about meritocratic aspiration as opposed to selling disappointment and making Simon Cowell stupefyingly rich in exchange for debasing popular culture.

So there is a certain hilarity to the fact that Brown is now beginning to discover the meaning of his wish, with his spin doctors continually forced to defend his tone-deaf public turns with the words: "Look, this isn't the X Factor."

Oh, but it is. And for all our neophyte fascination with the uncharted territory into which the TV debates have ushered us, the concern should be that we have imported US presidentialism overnight without the bruisingly rigorous primary system that justifies it. From where is the proper scrutiny to come? The one thing we can safely say after this week is that you can't trust the mainstream media to provide it. And yet, and yet again … was the synchronised ferocity of Thursday's smear attack on Nick Clegg a gift to the Tories – or might it go seriously wrong? Will these two-footed, hobnail-booted tackles prove the deadly weapons they once were, or in the changed landscape will the papers themselves look part of the same Punch and Judy politics for which a significant proportion of the electorate has clearly developed such a visceral loathing?

I couldn't begin to tell you. All that seems clear is that elements of the press appears to have assumed that the election would be as easy to manipulate as a Cowell programme. Yet they too misunderstood the shows, because they did not prepare for chaos. Cowell always prepares for chaos, and he has found a way of turning it to his advantage, presiding over formats in which all possible outcomes benefit him. The house always wins – as the House of Murdoch was wont to do before the advent of troublesome new variables like TV debates and the internet.

For those of us whose belief that Murdoch is the key issue in British politics is counterbalanced by the absolute knowledge that it is the last one ever to be raised on the doorstep, it is thrilling to observe that the old boy no longer has all the angles. This sublimely unreadable election is giving us a brief and tantalising glimpse of a world of dislodged certainties. Of course, bitter experience suggests that the window will slam shut on it – but somehow, even the not knowing feels like a progress of sorts. Who knows, perhaps we shall wake to utter chaos on 7 May, and sense that something has gone seriously right.

One can hope for no Hope for Britain.

Not Dying, Undead

Greenwald today:

...they all feed from the same trough, and their sole allegiance is to their decadent, insular, endlessly nepotistic, and deservedly dying pseudo-aristocratic culture...

Greenwald notes the colleagues of Bruce Ivins are willing to testify to a panel of the National Academy of Sciences that there is no way the man did the anthrax killings, that Ellen Kagan is a corporate piker, that even Chuckie Schumer is nervous about the way the wind is blowing, the Pentacle Pentagon bold-facedly lies about the pogroms going on in the new provinces and what they're doing to our kids to make them execute it, that Obama's revealed himself to be a kinder, gentler Bu$hie in the War on Terra, and that the elites from both Parties go to the same parties.

You know, the usual stuff.

Still, it's nice to see it said in someplace approaching main$tream traffic.

unsolved mysteries

unless, of course, you don't live in the Village

Not In My Back Yard

shorter financial capital of the world: what is good for thee is not good for me

that's right, rip up the appalachians and trash the great lakes for their heating gas and electricity, but leave their water supply alone

that's consistent, isn't it?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Capitalists for Capitalism, Predators for Prey

Via Digby, the Great Shark Hunt.

I view this kind of writing by an ex-vice president of Citibank as the work of an intelligent predator that realizes for the big cats to survive they have to keep the herd healthy.

Still, it is refreshing to hear a denizen of the Wall Street jungles echo what we've been saying:

...Public choice theory has identified the root causes of regulatory failure as the capture of regulators by the industry being regulated. Regulatory agencies begin to identify with the interests of the regulated rather than the public they are charged to protect. In a paper for the Federal Reserve's Jackson Hole Conference in 2008, economist Willem Buiter described "cognitive capture," by which regulators become incapable of thinking in terms other than that of the industry. On April 5 of this year, The Wall Street Journal chronicled the revolving door between industry and regulator in "Staffer One Day, Opponent the Next."

Congressional committees overseeing industries succumb to the allure of campaign contributions, the solicitations of industry lobbyists, and the siren song of experts whose livelihood is beholden to the industry. The interests of industry and government become intertwined and it is regulation that binds those interests together. Business succeeds by getting along with politicians and regulators. And vice-versa through the revolving door.

We call that system not the free-market, but crony capitalism. It owes more to Benito Mussolini than to Adam Smith...

But see, this is disinformation designed to evoke the empathy of the herd beast and not how this bank$ter really feels. What this big cat wants you can hear from the growls in his belly in the preceding paragraph:

...The idea that multiplying rules and statutes can protect consumers and investors is surely one of the great intellectual failures of the 20th century. Any static rule will be circumvented or manipulated to evade its application. Better than multiplying rules, financial accounting should be governed by the traditional principle that one has an affirmative duty to present the true condition fairly and accurately—not withstanding what any rule might otherwise allow. And financial institutions should have a duty of care to their customers. Lawyers tell me that would get us closer to the common law approach to fraud and bad dealing...

This is part of the chain of disinformation that led to that remarkable statement about that remarkable Benito. You could smell the carrion on the wind with the opening lie. Spot the pivot on which the worm turns:

...Classical liberals, whose modern counterparts are libertarians and small-government conservatives, believed that the state's duties should be limited (1) to provide for the national defense; (2) to protect persons and property against force and fraud; and (3) to provide public goods that markets cannot. That conception of government and its duties was articulated by the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the U.S. Constitution...

Peace, whose modern counterpart is war. Knowledge, whose modern counterpart is ignorance. Freedom, whose modern counterpart is slavery.

This is the mantra of the Wall Street liberal.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime..."

dumb luck, indeed

Via Chris Hedges, Chomsky:

"...The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen.

Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.

I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime. I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies...”

retention incentives

The vampire squid tries to tighten its grip...

...As if to put the icing on the cake, the investment bank Goldman Sachs is set to shell out another $5 billion in bonuses to employees.

What's more, the bonuses are expected to cover the employees' work for just the first three months of the year, according to the UK Sunday Times.

According to the report, bankers will receive remuneration of about $170,000 per person for the firm's 32,500 employees. Some traders are set to receive millions.

Earlier this year, Goldman's "junior" bankers were told they'd begin receiving salaries that were double their previous takes.

"It's made me rethink everything," a Goldman Sachs employee, "sipping champagne," told the site. "I like the new structure even better. My monthly take home just went way up..."

Of course, there is also the "we wouldn't want anything to happen to your nice new Recovery" tack brother Jamie takes.

The only problem is that no one outside Larry Summers' office actually believes that. For economic blackmail to work there has to be something worth saving. Increasing the cognitive dissonance by trying to sell a Recovery while real inflation of consumables, deflation of real estate, rising interest rates, and increasing unemployment hit every one is bound to lose you support.

And financial reform?

People are starting to notice the health care reform actually makes the working poor worse off.

Nobody trusts the Oborg to do anything but hold the bags for the highest bidders.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

$ecurity Plans

Chaos, apparently, is the plan:

The White House has warned state and local governments not to expect a "significant federal response" at the scene of a terrorist nuclear attack for 24 to 72 hours after the blast, according to a planning guide.

President Obama told delegates from 47 nations at the Nuclear Security Summit on Tuesday that it would be a "catastrophe for the world" if al-Qaeda or another terrorist group got a nuclear device, because so many lives would be lost and it would be so hard to mitigate damage from the blast.

A 10-kiloton nuclear explosion would level buildings within half a mile of ground zero, generate 900-mph winds, bathe the landscape with radiation and produce a plume of fallout that would drift for hundreds of miles, the guide says. It was posted on the Internet and sent to local officials...

The chaos that would inevitably follow such a blast would make it difficult for the federal government to react quickly. "Emergency response is principally a local function," the document says, though "federal assistance will be mobilized as rapidly as possible."

The "Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation" was developed by a task force headed by the White House Homeland Security Council. It was circulated to state and local government officials and first responders in January 2009.

The report has never been formally released to the public, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro says.

It offers practical guidance to first responders and advice on radiation measurement and decontamination.

Disaster experts say local governments aren't prepared for a nuclear attack. "There isn't a single American city, in my estimation, that has sufficient plans for a nuclear terrorist event," says Irwin Redlener of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

The message for families is simple, he says: Stay put. Wait for instructions. If you've been outside, dust off, change, shower. "What citizens need to know fits on a wallet-sized card," Redlener says. "A limited amount of information would save tens of thousands of people...

Stay put... just like in New Orleans, one supposes.

"...it figures they'd do something like this..."

The more things Change

with democrats like these who needs republicans

The Oborg are not so pissed that the wingnuts are murmuring sexual epithets about prospective $upreme nominee Ellen Kagan- but Greenwald's piece pointing out that her voting record might as well be a Bu$hCo appointee from Regent University seems to have drawn the Wrath of the Assimilated.

Twist in the wind, Third Way minions.

Bow down before the ones you serve, you're going to get what you deserve.

You were elected by progressives, not a bunch of Company warmongers working for Poppy Warbucks. If we don't support you for your Company choices, it should not be surprising. Nor should it be surprising that those that line your pockets want to pay for their own and not you.

No, it has nothing to do with Kagan being gay. It has nothing to do with Obama having an African American father. It has everything to do with Obama pretending to be a man of integrity but really being a whore for whoever can give him the best dollar value.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It Can't Fail to Fail

What are these Constitutional Rights you speak of?

...the Florida State Department of Juvenile Justice will use analysis software to predict crime by young delinquents, putting potential offenders under specific prevention and education programs. Goodbye, human rights!

They will use this software on juvenile delinquents, using a series of variables to determine the potential for these people to commit another crime. Depending on this probability, they will put them under specific re-education programs. Deepak Advani—vice president of predictive analytics at IBM—says the system gives "reliable projections" so governments can take "action in real time" to "prevent criminal activities?"

Really? "Reliable projections"? "Action in real time"? "Preventing criminal activities"? I don't know about how reliable your system is, IBM, but have you ever heard of the 5th, the 6th, and the 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution? What about article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? No? Let's make this easy then: Didn't you watch that scientology nutcase in Minority Report?

Sure. Some will argue that these juvenile delinquents were already convicted for other crimes, so hey, there's no harm. This software will help prevent further crimes. It will make all of us safer? But would it? Where's the guarantee of that? Why does the state have to assume that criminal behavior is a given? And why should the government decide who goes to an specific prevention program or who doesn't based on what a computer says? The fact is that, even if the software was 99.99% accurate, there will be always an innocent person... that is exactly why we have something called due process and the presumption of innocence. That's why those things are not only in the United States Constitution, but in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights too.

Other people will say that government officials already makes these decisions based on reports and their own judgement. True. It seems that a computer program may be fairer than a human, right? Maybe. But at the end the interpretation of the data is always in the hands of humans (and the program itself is written by humans).

But what really worries me is that this is a first big step towards something larger and darker. Actually, it's the second: IBM says that the Ministry of Justice in the United Kingdom—which has an impeccable record on not pre-judging its citizens—already uses this system to prevent criminal activities. Actually, it may be the third big step, because there's already software in place to blacklist people as potential terrorist, although most probably not as sophisticated as this.

IBM clearly wants this to go big. They have spent a whooping $12 billion beefing up its analytics division. Again, here's the full quote from Deepak Advani:

Predictive analytics gives government organizations worldwide a highly-sophisticated and intelligent source to create safer communities by identifying, predicting, responding to and preventing criminal activities. It gives the criminal justice system the ability to draw upon the wealth of data available to detect patterns, make reliable projections and then take the appropriate action in real time to combat crime and protect citizens.

If that sounds scary to you, that's because it is. First it's the convicted-but-potentially-recidivistic criminals. Then it's the potential terrorists. Then it's everyone of us, in a big database, getting flagged because some combination of factors—travel patterns, credit card activity, relationships, messaging, social activity and everything else—indicate that we may be thinking about doing something against the law...

While everything may seem driven by the desire to achieve better security, one single false positive would make the whole system unfair. And that's not even getting into the potential abuse of such a system. Like the last time IBM got into a vaguely similar business for a good cause, during the 1930s. They shipped a lot of cataloguing machines to certain government in Europe, to put together an advanced census. That was good. Census can improve societies by identifying needs and problems that the government can solve. At the end, however, that didn't end well for more than 11 million people.

And yes, this comparison is an extreme exaggeration. But one thing is clear: No matter how you look at it, cataloguing people—any kind of people—based on statistical predictive software, and then taking pre-empetive actions against them based on the results, is the wrong way to improve our society. Agreeing with this course of action will inevitably take us into a potentially fatal path.

Agreed, but it's just what our Company handlers have wanted. These critiques of course don't touch on another flaw: all software delivers according to the GIGO principle. Garbage In, Garbage Out. Somebody like J. Edgar doesn't like you and you're bound for the pokey, no matter who you are.

Ah yes, J. Edgar, the head of the FBI who insisted there was no organized crime left in 'Merika, 'cause they owned him.

show trials

It's not what they say they're doing, it's what they actually do.

Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street powerhouse, was accused of securities fraud in a civil lawsuit filed Friday by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which claims the bank created and sold a mortgage investment that was secretly intended to fail...

...The suit also named Fabrice Tourre, a vice president at Goldman who helped create and sell the investment.

In a statement, Goldman called the commission’s accusations “completely unfounded in law and fact” and said it would “vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation.”

Note, Goldman's Godly Lloyd C. Blankfein, who views it as his moral duty to steal, is nowhere listed. It goes without saying Barry O.'s pal Jamie at Chase is untouched. It's civil fraud only they're accused of, the real moneymakers are not targeted, and increasingly, despite all its declared thunder, as with single payer health care reform, the White House is busy taking all the teeth out in the name of "bipartisanship".

...The Obama administration is telling Senate Democrats to ditch a measure in their financial reform bill that would create a $50 billion liquidation fund by assessing a fee on big financial institutions. The fund is intended to be used to cover the cost of winding down large firms, when they fail. According to the Associated Press, the administration would like the financial industry to cover the cost of liquidation after an institution has been dismantled...

Whether Tourre is a fall guy or a scapegoat or a trojan horse for another policy shift remains to be seen.

One thing seems pretty certain: the vampire squid is not going to let go of its prey without killing it. [thanks and a tip o'teh tinfoil to Lambert again]

Friday, April 16, 2010

give them what they want

The real and permanent rulers of the United States.

Even when they sermonize against it, they're really for it.


...proposed reform legislation gives regulators “resolution authority,” which basically means giving them the ability to deal with the likes of Lehman in much the same way that the F.D.I.C. deals with conventional banks. Who could object to that?

Well, Mr. McConnell is trying. His talking points come straight out of a memo Frank Luntz, the Republican political consultant, circulated in January on how to oppose financial reform. “Frankly,” wrote Mr. Luntz, “the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big Bank Bailout.” And Mr. McConnell is following those stage directions.

It’s a truly shameless performance: Mr. McConnell is pretending to stand up for taxpayers against Wall Street while in fact doing just the opposite. In recent weeks, he and other Republican leaders have held meetings with Wall Street executives and lobbyists, in which the G.O.P. and the financial industry have sought to coordinate their political strategy.

And let me assure you, Wall Street isn’t lobbying to prevent future bank bailouts. If anything, it’s trying to ensure that there will be more bailouts. By depriving regulators of the tools they need to seize failing financial firms, financial lobbyists increase the chances that when the next crisis strikes, taxpayers will end up paying a ransom to stockholders and executives as the price of avoiding collapse.

Even more important, however, the financial industry wants to avoid serious regulation; it wants to be left free to engage in the same behavior that created this crisis. It’s worth remembering that between the 1930s and the 1980s, there weren’t any really big financial bailouts, because strong regulation kept most banks out of trouble. It was only with Reagan-era deregulation that big bank disasters re-emerged. In fact, relative to the size of the economy, the taxpayer costs of the savings and loan disaster, which unfolded in the Reagan years, were much higher than anything likely to happen under President Obama.

To understand what’s really at stake right now, watch the looming fight over derivatives, the complex financial instruments Warren Buffett famously described as “financial weapons of mass destruction.” The Obama administration wants tighter regulation of derivatives, while Republicans are opposed. And that tells you everything you need to know.

So don’t be fooled. When Mitch McConnell denounces big bank bailouts, what he’s really trying to do is give the bankers everything they want.

I should say so. After all, November 1963 came a scant three months after August. The sock puppets are quite interchangable and disposable.

Vietnam all over again

Now there's a Great Game plan.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Obama DOJ Indicts Bush Administration Official

Not for starting an illegal war or three, or for racketeering in the newly annexed imperial provinces, or showing Gitmo snuff porn tapes in the White House to Junior, though.

For leaking information about the Bu$hCo NSA's wireless wiretapping of all electronic communication in the country to reporters, naturally:

...the description applies to articles written by Siobhan Gorman, then a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, that examined in detail the failings of several major N.S.A. programs, costing billions of dollars, using computers to collect and sort electronic intelligence. The efforts were plagued with technical flaws and cost overruns.

Only a small number of prosecutions have been brought against government officials in recent decades for improperly disclosing information. Such cases often provoke a public debate over the tradeoff between protecting government secrets and covering up government wrongdoing or incompetence.

The indictment suggests the Obama administration may be no less aggressive than the Bush administration in pursuing whistleblowers and reporters’ sources who disclose government secrets. In a little-noticed case last December, a former contract linguist for the F.B.I., Shamai Kedem Leibowitz, pleaded guilty to leaking five classified documents to a blogger.

In the Bush administration, the Justice Department spent several years investigating The New York Times’s sources for a 2005 article that revealed the existence of the N.S.A. program of eavesdropping without warrants. No one has been charged in that case.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a press advocacy group, called the indictment of Mr. Drake unfortunate. “The whole point of the prosecution is to have a chilling effect on reporters and sources, and it will,” Ms. Dalglish said.

Mr. Drake, who began working as an N.S.A. contractor in 1991 and was a high-ranking agency employee from 2001 to 2008, is charged with 10 counts, including retention of classified information, obstruction of justice and making false statements. The retention counts each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment asserts that Mr. Drake, a computer software expert, contacted the reporter at the urging of a friend and set up a secure e-mail account, through a company called Hushmail, that allowed him to send anonymous e-mail to the reporter. He later met the reporter and turned over classified documents with the classification markings removed, the court document said.

James Wyda, a federal public defender representing Mr. Drake, said his client has been “extraordinarily cooperative” with investigators and was “very disappointed that the process ended in criminal charges.”

“Mr. Drake loves his country,” Mr. Wyda said. “We look forward to addressing these matters in a public courtroom.”

Ms. Gorman, who now works for The Wall Street Journal, has not been accused of wrongdoing. A spokeswoman for The Journal, Ashley S. Huston, said Ms. Gorman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for The Baltimore Sun also declined to comment.

In addition to describing the technical programs, the Sun articles disclosed a crisis in meeting N.S.A.’s demands for electrical power and to describe how the agency had rejected a program that had the promise of collecting communications while protecting Americans’ privacy.

The articles, though, did not focus on the most highly protected N.S.A. secrets — whose communications it collects, exactly how it collects them and what countries’ codes it has broken.

That may make a prosecution more feasible, from the point of view of protecting secrets during a trial. But because the articles in question documented government failures and weaknesses, the decision to prosecute could raise questions about whether the government is merely moving to protect itself from legitimate public scrutiny...

Questions? Does anyone really question that?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

one gets letters

Nice if true, but one expects thunder without lightning:

Dear Friend,

On Sept. 25, 2008, Washington Mutual Bank, a $300 billion thrift and then the sixth largest depository institution in America, was seized by federal regulators and sold to banking giant JPMorgan Chase. It was the largest bank failure in U.S. history. And it was one of the seminal moments in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The decline and fall of Washington Mutual was the subject of a hearing I chaired this morning, one of a series of hearings on the causes and consequences of the financial crisis.

The Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair, has been investigating the financial collapse for 18 months. By examining the failure of Washington Mutual, we will show that the crisis was not the result of the "invisible hand" of the market, or the fickle hand of fate.

This bank collapse was a man-made economic assault. From Washington Mutual's Seattle headquarters to the board rooms of Wall Street, people guided by greed and plagued by poor decision making brought about the crisis.

Washington Mutual built a conveyor belt that dumped toxic mortgage assets into the financial system like a polluter dumping poison into a river. Unsatisfied by the profits they could earn from traditional home loans, the company in 2005 increased its involvement in what's known as subprime lending - extending mortgages to people less able to afford them, and charging them higher interest rates and fees that almost guaranteed they would default. After making these risky loans, Washington Mutual packaged them into securities that fed Wall Street's hunger for complex investments.

For a while, everybody made money. But the party couldn't last, and we all know what happened. When the bubble burst, Washington Mutual and other financial institutions who had placed these risky bets collapsed.

In the ensuing financial crisis, millions lost their jobs; millions lost their homes. Good businesses shut down. Financial markets froze, the stock market plummeted, and once valuable securities turned worthless. Storied financial firms teetered on the edge or went under. The contagion spread worldwide. And in October 2008, American taxpayers were hit with a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.

Today's hearing showed how Washington Mutual's management helped bring about the crisis by pursuing short-term profits built on untenable risks, and by ignoring repeated warning signs that it was headed for disaster.

Over the next two weeks, additional subcommittee hearings will examine other causes of the crisis.

The issue has never been more critical. Soon, the Senate will debate new rules of the road for the financial industry to make sure the failures of this crisis aren't repeated. It is my hope that the subcommittee's work will help make clear to my colleagues and the public the need for robust reforms to protect Main Street from the excesses of Wall Street.

I hope you will follow our work, and that you will be as convinced as I am that the greed of so few should never again threaten the livelihoods of so many.

Best wishes,
Carl Levin

Mr. Levin should realize he's doing no more than thousands of bloggers have been doing in cyberspace for the last few years. I don't think he's going to get any more media attention than we have, either. As far as committee meetings go in effectiveness, one should remember what happened to Ollie North after his famous meetings that were actually on the tube: nothing, but Reptilian fame and fortune.

Chaos was always the plan, Mr. Levin. If you haul the bank$ters on the carpet, everyone from the business pages of The New York Pravda to the infotainment crew at Faux News will deplore you and impugn your motives. Be ready for it.

pot meets kettle and calls it "black"

Just so happens he's right though. Kevin G. Hall:

The architect of sweeping legislation that would revamp financial regulation took the Senate floor on Wednesday to accuse the Senate Republican leader of lying about the bill and being in Wall Street's back pocket.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Ct., delivered a blistering 20-minute speech that included the revelation of a political talking points memo from a Republican strategist that was virtually verbatim to the criticism voiced Tuesday by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

McConnell had accused Dodd of drafting partisan legislation, even though the Banking Committee chairman has worked for roughly half a year with key Senate Republicans and incorporated many of their ideas into his bill. McConnell also said the bill continues controversial bank bailouts, but it doesn't.

"It's a naked political strategy," thundered a visibly upset Dodd. He held up a leaked memo attributed to GOP strategist Frank Luntz that advises Republican lawmakers to accuse Dodd and other Democrats of perpetuating bailouts for giant banks. The public disliked the bank bailouts, so framing the Democrats' financial overhaul legislation as a "bailout" could win Republicans votes.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. The bill as drafted ends bailouts," Dodd said, describing how regulators would get new powers to dissolve large financial institutions, even healthy ones if their size is deemed to threaten the broader financial system...

Still, the old pot is a little worse for wear himself.

The DINOcrats are finding their compromises are in fact compromised if they haven't known it from the start.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

but we knew that

Matt Tiabbi is correct, David Brooks belongs in the Guinness Book.

David Brooks: Yes. I was going to say that for the first time in human history, rich people work longer hours than middle class or poor people. How do you construct a rich versus poor narrative when the rich are more industrious?

I would give just about anything to sit David Brooks down in front of some single mother somewhere who’s pulling two shitty minimum-wage jobs just to be able to afford a pair of $19 Mossimo sneakers at Target for her kid, and have him tell her, with a straight face, that her main problem is that she doesn’t work as hard as Jamie Dimon.

Only a person who has never actually held a real job could say something like this. There is, of course, a huge difference between working 80 hours a week in a profession that you love and which promises you vast financial rewards, and working 80 hours a week digging ditches for a septic-tank company, or listening to impatient assholes scream at you at some airport ticket counter all day long, or even teaching disinterested, uncontrollable kids in some crappy school district with metal detectors on every door.

Most of the work in this world completely sucks balls and the only reward most people get for their work is just barely enough money to survive, if that. The 95% of people out there who spend all day long shoveling the dogshit of life for subsistence wages are basically keeping things running just well enough so that David Brooks, me and the rest of that lucky 5% of mostly college-educated yuppies can live embarrassingly rewarding and interesting lives in which society throws gobs of money at us for pushing ideas around on paper (frequently, not even good ideas)...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

don't listen to what he says, look at what he does

Or doesn't do, as Greenwald points out:

After waiting 14 months for a confirmation vote that never came, Dawn Johnsen withdrew today as President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel. As I documented at length when the nomination was first announced in January, 2009, Johnsen was an absolutely superb pick to head an office that plays as vital a role as any in determining the President's record on civil liberties and adherence to the rule of law. With 59 and then 60 Democratic votes in the Senate all year long (which included the support of GOP Sen. Richard Lugar, though the opposition of Dem. Sen. Ben Nelson and shifting positions from Arlen Specter), it's difficult to understand why the White House -- if it really wanted to -- could not have had Johnsen confirmed (or why she at least wasn't included in the spate of recently announced recess appointments).

...here's what I do know: virtually everything that Dawn Johnsen said about executive power, secrecy, the rule of law and accountability for past crimes made her an excellent fit for what Candidate Obama said he would do, but an awful fit for what President Obama has done. To see how true that is, one can see the post I wrote last January detailing and praising her past writings, but all one really has to do is to read the last paragraph of her March, 2008 Slate article -- entitled "Restoring Our Nation's Honor" -- in which she outlines what the next President must do in the wake of Bush lawlessness:

The question how we restore our nation's honor takes on new urgency and promise as we approach the end of this administration. We must resist Bush administration efforts to hide evidence of its wrongdoing through demands for retroactive immunity, assertions of state privilege, and implausible claims that openness will empower terrorists. . . .

Here is a partial answer to my own question of how should we behave, directed especially to the next president and members of his or her administration but also to all of use who will be relieved by the change: We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation's past transgressions and reject Bush's corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation's honor be restored without full disclosure.

What Johnsen insists must not be done reads like a manual of what Barack Obama ended up doing and continues to do -- from supporting retroactive immunity to terminate FISA litigations to endless assertions of "state secrecy" in order to block courts from adjudicating Bush crimes to suppressing torture photos on the ground that "opennees will empower terrorists" to the overarching Obama dictate that we "simply move on." Could she have described any more perfectly what Obama would end up doing when she wrote, in March, 2008, what the next President "must not do"?

I find it virtually impossible to imagine Dawn Johnsen opining that the President has the legal authority to order American citizens assassinated with no due process or to detain people indefinitely with no charges. I find it hard to believe that the Dawn Johnsen who wrote in 2008 that "we must regain our ability to feel outrage whenever our government acts lawlessly and devises bogus constitutional arguments for outlandishly expansive presidential power" would stand by quietly and watch the Obama administration adopt the core Bush/Cheney approach to civil liberties and Terrorism. I find it impossible to envision her sanctioning the ongoing refusal of the DOJ to withdraw the January, 2006 Bush/Cheney White Paper that justified illegal surveillance with obscenely broad theories of executive power. I don't know why her nomination was left to die, but I do know that her beliefs are quite antithetical to what this administration is doing...

And, of course, the Republicans are using this a vindication of Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton's depredations. Look, they say, Bush only did what had to be done. Even liberals like Obama agree.

As if Obama was a liberal instead of nothing more than another sock puppet of the $ecurity-industrial complex...

What is this Recovery they speak of?

Ian Welsh points out again, they haven't made the fixes to ensure there's no repetition of 2007.

Not only is it not going to happen, it's not supposed to happen.

All of the big bank$ters are bankrolled by the government with low sometimes interest free loans. Not only that, there's the promise of more if things get really bad again. That's for them.

Now, however, we hear that consumer interest rates are about to go through the roof. That's for us.

Friday, April 09, 2010

"...when another country invades yours, you're allowed to fight back..."

Jonathan Schwarz:

...Why the sharp difference between us and the rest of humanity?

1. I have no idea whether any of the people shot were armed, or insurgents, or armed insurgents. There will inevitably be long dreary arguments about this between U.S. liberals and conservatives, complete with 5,000-word blog posts analyzing the video frame by frame.

But here's the thing: even if everyone but the journalist and children were armed insurgents, no one else on earth cares. That's because, when another country invades yours, you're allowed to fight back. And if you invade another country and start slaughtering people, you don't somehow make yourself the good guy by proving that they were trying to fight back.

2. The technological mismatch between the U.S. and everyone else is so gigantic that it violates normal humans' sense of justice. This is something almost no Americans give a second thought to, but it's widely appreciated in those countries (ie, all of them) that don't have noiseless death-machine drones flown by joystick from 10,000 miles away.

In other words, even if everyone shot in the video had been fighting the U.S., and even if it had somehow been on some neutral third ground, the rest of the world would still be horrified at the unfairness. For instance, here's Colin Powell writing in his autobiography about the shelling of Beirut in 1983, and how that led to the suicide bombing of the Marine barracks there:

McFarlane, now in Beirut, persuaded the President to have the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey start hurling 16-inch shells into the mountains above Beirut, in World War II style, as if we were softening up the beaches on some Pacific atoll prior to an invasion. What we tend to overlook in such situations is that other people will react much as we would... And since they could not reach the battleship, they found a more vulnerable target, the exposed Marines at the airport.

I think we can count on the fact that, since no one could reach the Apache attack helicopters shooting from far overhard, someone will try to find a more vulnerable target. And Americans will find this terribly unfair, while to the rest of the world it will seem like the essence of fairness...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

"at least then you'd know you were in a fight...."


... early on when people asked, "Would you rather McCain had won?" someone said, "At least then you'd know you were in a fight." And even though right now we are seeing Obama turn the Democratic Party into the Republican Party - only a more successful version, since it seems to have no real opposition - our ability to be outraged by outrages has dissipated with the knowledge that these horrific policies are occurring at the hands of officials with a (D) after their names. As if it was never the policies we objected to after all for eight long years. As if that (D) makes it all okay. But, dammit, it's not okay...

via Greenwald, Adam Serwer:

...From a civil libertarian point of view, we're in a much worse place than we were during the Bush administration, when Democrats were willing to oppose Bush's expansive claims of executive authority. Now we have only muted criticism from Democratic legislators and hysterical cries from Republicans that Obama isn't going far enough...

Oh, we still know we're in a fight, alright, but many people just can't seem to figure out what they're fighting. But it's all really pretty clear. Don't pay attention to the color of their skin, or the length of their hair, or their party affiliation. Don't pay attention to what they say. Look at what they do.

"...democracy exported by helicopter gunships..."

...The best guess is that over 1 million Iraqis have died since 2003. See:


The true scale of the killing can be gauged from the fact that in December 2007, the Iraqi government reported that there were 5 million orphans in Iraq - almost half of the country's children.

US/British intervention in Afghanistan is proving to be similarly catastrophic. Bush and Blair did not invade these countries to bring democracy. Rather, their intention was to guarantee US (and in a minor way British) control of oil supplies (directly from Iraq, and indirectly through Afghanistan)...

...that, and the heroin.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

No taxes for you!

Aiding the terrorists, Think Progress reports neither GE or ExxonMobil paid federal income tax in 2009.

Doubtless reporting stories like that is another reason to eliminate net neutrality...

Aiding the Insurgency


Although it is unclear exactly who was really aiding the insurgency. Since it wasn't the innocents killed, one can only assume it was the American soldiers. Killing innocents has that effect on people. It makes them want to fight you more.

Exactly what you want if you want endless war.

You see, the Warlords have another source of income in Afghanistan. We previously knew about the opium- we're not burning the fields because we want the high regard of the locals.

Or their new bosses, perhaps. There are clearly things that we could do to pacify even the narco-state of Afghanistan. Since these do not involve new weapons systems or private contracts, and do involve elimination of the poppy (and now, cannabis) as a source of rural income, they will not be done. The endless war must not end.

Journalists have never been held in high regard by our warlords, not those like the hapless Reuters journalists, nor those who would puncture their ballooning lies.

How much easier will Oceania's struggle against Eurasia/ Eastasia be when there's no one to tell exactly who is murdered or why.


With a tip o'teh tinfoil to lizpolaris:

Obama's stance on __________ was a good reason to vote for him.

a) civil liberties
b) constitutional law
c) single payer
d) FISA (oh wait, that about face happened before the election)
e) open, transparent government
f) single payer
g) whales
h) net neutrality


Evidence of Revision

I should have linked to this on the 4th- but better late than never...

But in case you're interested, here's the rest of whole series (about 8 hrs).

If you only have time for one more than the one on Martin Luther King- you need to see this (google video, downloadable, and free).

Nuking the Whales in Cyberspace

The courts are telling us we can not have net neutrality.

I am sure the $upremes will weigh in on this before it's all over. You know what that means: Disney and Murdoch will end up owning a piece of every email.

We can not have net neutrality, we are told, but without it, it's only a matter of time before Big Bubba is having us all play Let's Make a Deal 24 hours a day. Every Playah a winnah!

same product, new label

more Change that pretty much isn't

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Monday that he was revamping American nuclear strategy to substantially narrow the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons.

But the president said in an interview that he was carving out an exception for “outliers like Iran and North Korea” that have violated or renounced the main treaty to halt nuclear proliferation...

Monday, April 05, 2010

"...all that matters is what a man can do, and can't..."

Ian Welsh is pretty sure 'Merika can't.

Or won't, which pretty much amount to the same thing.

I would like to point out that in any mass extinction event a variety of ecological niches open up for the adaptive. That is, for those that can.

Take, for example, the niche of predator.

If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance...

baffle 'em with bullshit, and the Great Orange Satan remains probably one of the most befuddled forums in cyberspace.

...In a baffling reversal on yet another environmental issue, the Obama administration has decided to defend in court a Bush-era regulation that allows unlimited dumping fo hard rock mining waste on public land, in Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management holdings...

I'll make it real simple for you, mcjoan. Don't listen to what they say. Watch what they do. It all gets really clear then.

Although there seem to be a few sniffing suspiciously at the sandwich they've bought. Reproduced here, before the Orange One takes it down, LaFeminista:

You Leftists are ruining our chances in November!!!

For that I apologise....


Apart from finding the term leftist in America a little hard to fathom...

What leftist policies have been implemented?

Private Health Insurance for all?

I thought that was a Republican dream; until it wasn't.

I must have been mistaken that it had something to do with the evils of a single payer system.

My bad.

Drill baby Drill!!

I thought that was a Republican dream; Oh wait, there are still places we cant drill. Oil Independence is on the way, oh yes it is!! Even though it has been proved it most certainly is not.

Shame, I thought the green economy was on the agenda..

Roe v Wade undermining

I thought that was a Republican dream? Hell we show them every time the Hyde amendment comes around, hell we even get the President to write an executive order. Take that republicans! What next, minutemen guarding my vagina?

I thought Roe v Wade was settled law.

Silly me.


I thought that was a Republican dream? No matter how puerile heterosexual marriage can get, its still better than teh evils of teh gay marriage.

Yes but we are talking about repealing DADT, sort of anyway. Step by step equal rights!! Half a right is better than none at all!

Oh, how could I?

Welfare for the wealthy

I thought that was a Republican dream? No matter how badly they screw up, give a tax break, hell throw a whole pile of cash their way even. Forget changing the fundamentals, just make toothless regulation by legislation.

Look, useless legislation is better than none at all.

Pardon me.

War on Terror

I thought that was a Republican dream? Fight them everywhere but here, surge baby, surge. They will love us in the end! Terrorism is unfair, they should fight us on the battle field, cowards! Hey lets throw another $750 billion at the military just in case we could possibly lose. Collateral damage, don't even go there sunshine!

I thought we would ask ourselves a question or two, the first couple being. Why do they fight, and why us?

Surge me silly.


I thought that was a Republican dream? Whereby, no matter what the vote, republicans have a majority. Hell, we can even take their policies an call them our own, forcing the republicans to the right! Hell, Nixon would be one of us, he ran on peace, then surged.

So much for being centre left.

Hey ho.


Yep, I'm losing the elections in November with all these leftist policies that have been implemented, and I didn't even mention:

The Patriot Act

The Military Commissions Act


Habeas Corpus,Guantanamo, Bagram, and Abu Gharib; total silence on my part.

Torture, not a word.

Illegal War, I didn't say a thing.

How much I love executive orders.



I am.


Apparently I have now also ruined kos with my snark, and method of expression. For this I do humbly submit my deepest regrets, or some such.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Scams of Future Passed

Here's why I get uneasy about the EPA going after carbon emissions, or global warming, and the kinds of high tech solutions the bureaucrats advocate.

Matt Tiabbi via Michael Moore (without the Rolling Stone pop-ups):

...If you want to get all Glenn Beck about it, you could lay the blame for this entire mess at the feet of weepy, tree-hugging environmentalists. It all started with the Cahaba River, the longest free-flowing river in the state of Alabama. The tributary, which winds its way through Birmingham before turning diagonally to empty out near Selma, is home to more types of fish per mile than any other river in America and shelters 64 rare and imperiled species of plants and animals. It's also the source of one of the worst municipal financial disasters in American history.

Back in the early 1990s, the county's sewer system was so antiquated that it was leaking raw sewage directly into the Cahaba, which also supplies the area with its drinking water. Joined by well — intentioned citizens from the Cahaba River Society, the EPA sued the county to force it to comply with the Clean Water Act. In 1996, county commissioners signed a now-infamous consent decree agreeing not just to fix the leaky pipes but to eliminate all sewer overflows — a near-impossible standard that required the county to build the most elaborate, ecofriendly, expensive sewer system in the history of the universe. It was like ordering a small town in Florida that gets a snowstorm once every five years to build a billion-dollar fleet of snowplows.

The original cost estimates for the new sewer system were as low as $250 million. But in a wondrous demonstration of the possibilities of small-town graft and contract-padding, the price tag quickly swelled to more than $3 billion. County commissioners were literally pocketing wads of cash from builders and engineers and other contractors eager to get in on the project, while the county was forced to borrow obscene sums to pay for the rapidly spiraling costs. Jefferson County, in effect, became one giant, TV-stealing, unemployed drug addict who borrowed a million dollars to buy the mother of all McMansions — and just as it did during the housing bubble, Wall Street made a business of keeping the crook in his house. As one county commissioner put it, "We're like a guy making $50,000 a year with a million-dollar mortgage."

To reassure lenders that the county would pay its mortgage, commissioners gave the finance director — an unelected official appointed by the president of the commission — the power to automatically raise sewer rates to meet payments on the debt. The move brought in billions in financing, but it also painted commissioners into a corner. If costs continued to rise — and with practically every contractor in Alabama sticking his fingers on the scale, they were rising fast — officials would be faced with automatic rate increases that would piss off their voters. (By 2003, annual interest on the sewer deal had reached $90 million.) So the commission reached out to Wall Street, looking for creative financing tools that would allow it to reduce the county's staggering debt payments.

Wall Street was happy to help. First, it employed the same trick it used to fuel the housing crisis: It switched the county from a fixed rate on the bonds it had issued to finance the sewer deal to an adjustable rate. The refinancing meant lower interest payments for a couple of years — followed by the risk of even larger payments down the road. The move enabled county commissioners to postpone the problem for an election season or two, kicking it to a group of future commissioners who would inevitably have to pay the real freight.

But then Wall Street got really creative. Having switched the county to a variable interest rate, it offered commissioners a crazy deal: For an extra fee, the banks said, we'll allow you to keep paying a fixed rate on your debt to us. In return, we'll give you a variable amount each month that you can use to pay off all that variable-rate interest you owe to bondholders.

In financial terms, this is known as a synthetic rate swap — the spidery creature you might have read about playing a role in bringing down places like Greece and Milan. On paper, it made sense: The county got the stability of a fixed rate, while paying Wall Street to assume the risk of the variable rates on its bonds. That's the synthetic part. The trouble lies in the rate swap. The deal only works if the two variable rates — the one you get from the bank, and the one you owe to bondholders — actually match. It's like gambling on the weather. If your bondholders are expecting you to pay an interest rate based on the average temperature in Alabama, you don't do a rate swap with a bank that gives you back a rate pegged to the temperature in Nome, Alaska.

Not unless you're a fucking moron. Or your banker is JP Morgan...

Because Chaos was the Plan

Michael J. Burry: I Saw the Crisis Coming. Why Didn’t the Fed?

Michael, while you may have been an unpopular outlier at the time, be sure- be really sure- that massive amounts of money moved to enrich many people other than you, although many more were falling hard.

... the truth is this: The collapse of Enron back in 2001 revealed that the biggest financial institutions, here and abroad, were busy creating products whose sole purpose was to help companies magically transform their debt into capital or revenue. At the time, there were news reports about Merrill Lynch pretending to buy Nigerian barges from Enron, JPMorgan Chase dressing up its loans to Enron as commodity trades and Citigroup disguising Enron debt as profits from Treasury-bill swaps.

This went well beyond Enron. Our banks had gone into the business of creating “products” to help companies, cities and whole countries hide their true financial condition. Consider the recent revelations about how Goldman Sachs and J. P. Morgan helped Greece hide its debt. Now we discover that our banks not only were raking in huge profits helping others hide debt, they also drank their own Kool-Aid. As a chief executive of Citibank said in 2007 about financing dangerously leveraged deals, “As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance.”

Our bank regulators were not, as they would like us to believe, outside the disco, deaf and blind to the revelry going on within. They were bouncing to the same beat. In 2006, the agencies jointly published something called the “Interagency Statement on Sound Practices Concerning Elevated Risk Complex Structured Finance Activities.” It became official policy the following year.

What are “complex structured finance” transactions? As defined by the regulators, these include deals that “lack economic or business purpose” and are “designed or used primarily for questionable accounting, regulatory or tax objectives, particularly when the transactions are executed at year end or at the end of a reporting period.”

How does one propose “sound practices” for practices that are inherently unsound? Yet that is what our regulatory guardians did. The statement is powerful evidence of the permissive approach bank regulators took toward the debt-dissolving financial products that our banks had been developing, hawking and using themselves for years. And it’s good reason for Americans to be outraged by the “who me, what, where?” reaction of Mr. Bernanke and the S.E.C. to the revelation of Lehman’s Repo 105 scam...

Transparency is only as good as the observational medium.

You can be as clear as crystal glass, but if the lights are off, nobody sees through you.

Incorporation of What Can Not Be Expunged

Happy Eostre.

This Easter it's important to remember what happened in Nicea.

The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day İznik in Turkey) by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in A.D. 325. The Council was historically significant as the first effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom.

Its main accomplishments were discussion and settlement of the Christological issue of the relationship of Jesus to God the Father; the construction of the first part of the Nicene Creed; settling the calculation of the date of Easter; and promulgation of early canon law...

Emperor Constantine was one shrewd hombre. By assimilating the religion of the slaves, he made himself one of the first populist Empires. He codified all of the Empire's main religion to his rules.

What were the results of this? The new Christianity had something for everyone in the Empire. Heather McDougall:

...early Christianity made a pragmatic acceptance of ancient pagan practises, most of which we enjoy today at Easter. The general symbolic story of the death of the son (sun) on a cross (the constellation of the Southern Cross) and his rebirth, overcoming the powers of darkness, was a well worn story in the ancient world. There were plenty of parallel, rival resurrected saviours too.

The Sumerian goddess Inanna, or Ishtar, was hung naked on a stake, and was subsequently resurrected and ascended from the underworld. One of the oldest resurrection myths is Egyptian Horus. Born on 25 December, Horus and his damaged eye became symbols of life and rebirth. Mithras was born on what we now call Christmas day, and his followers celebrated the spring equinox. Even as late as the 4th century AD, the sol invictus, associated with Mithras, was the last great pagan cult the church had to overcome. Dionysus was a divine child, resurrected by his grandmother. Dionysus also brought his mum, Semele, back to life.

In an ironic twist, the Cybele cult flourished on today's Vatican Hill. Cybele's lover Attis, was born of a virgin, died and was reborn annually. This spring festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday, rising to a crescendo after three days, in rejoicing over the resurrection. There was violent conflict on Vatican Hill in the early days of Christianity between the Jesus worshippers and pagans who quarrelled over whose God was the true, and whose the imitation. What is interesting to note here is that in the ancient world, wherever you had popular resurrected god myths, Christianity found lots of converts. So, eventually Christianity came to an accommodation with the pagan Spring festival. Although we see no celebration of Easter in the New Testament, early church fathers celebrated it, and today many churches are offering "sunrise services" at Easter – an obvious pagan solar celebration. The date of Easter is not fixed, but instead is governed by the phases of the moon – how pagan is that?

All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are very ancient too. In the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead...

Of course, all the rebel zealots saw their chance to become part of the system... kinda like certain (former) alledgely radical popular leftwing bloggers we know today when Obama triangulated into town...

The religion of the slaves became controlled by the slave owners.

Thus, Christianity became a psyop of the Roman Empire, and has been used by every authoritarian in the West ever since.

nice cat if you can bell it, mousies

You really do need to.

The EPA is making noises about going after the real deal.

This is the real problem with carbon dioxide emissions. People get upset when I say it, but global warming at its worst creates a world with greater biodiversity. The tropics have extended to the poles in the past, as recently as 5 million years ago, and by the fossil record, life does just fine.

Kill off the oceans, though, and you are in for a world of trouble unless you're a jellyfish.

Scientists suspect that acidic water connected with upwelling killed several billion oyster, clam and mussel larvae that were being raised at the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery near Tillamook on the Oregon coast in the summer of 2008. The hatchery provides baby shellfish to growers up and down the West Coast.

Shellfish growers in Washington state, who supply one-sixth of the nation's oysters, increasingly are concerned that corrosive ocean water entering coastal bays could threaten their $111 million industry.

Acid levels in other areas of upwelling — off Africa, South America and Portugal — haven't been studied as intensely as those off the U.S. West Coast have.

Feely said the oceans' acidity levels were higher than they'd been at any time in the past 20 million years. Based on "pretty good" evidence, Feely said, previous high acid levels in the oceans have caused mass extinctions of marine plants and animals, which can take 2 million to 10 million years to re-evolve...

Given the debacle known as health care reform, you can count on the Oborg to quickly triangulate the reform minded EPA people into irrelevancy.

The only bells I'm hearing are on this joker:

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Hear What?

Hear Bob Herbert:

The great man was moving with what seemed like great reluctance. He knew as he climbed from the car in Upper Manhattan that he was stepping into the maelstrom, that there were powerful people who would not react kindly to what he had to say.

“I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight,” said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “because my conscience leaves me no other choice.”

This was on the evening of April 4, 1967, almost exactly 43 years ago. Dr. King told the more than 3,000 people who had crowded into Riverside Church that silence in the face of the horror that was taking place in Vietnam amounted to a “betrayal.”

He spoke of both the carnage in the war zone and the toll the war was taking here in the United States. The speech comes to mind now for two reasons: A Tavis Smiley documentary currently airing on PBS revisits the controversy set off by Dr. King’s indictment of “the madness of Vietnam.” And recent news reports show ever-increasing evidence that we have ensnared ourselves in a mad and tragic venture in Afghanistan.

Dr. King spoke of how, in Vietnam, the United States increased its commitment of troops “in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support.”

It’s strange, indeed, to read those words more than four decades later as we are increasing our commitment of troops in Afghanistan to fight in support of Hamid Karzai, who remains in power after an election that the world knows was riddled with fraud and whose government is one of the most corrupt and inept on the planet...

Strange but not unexpected, Mr. Herbert- he's the Company's kind of guy.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Road Tripping

Intermittent posting over the next week or so as I do the family road trip thing.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Springtime for Bank$ters in 'Merika

Kevin G. Hall:

WASHINGTON — Oil consumption has fallen, demand from U.S. motorists for gasoline is flat at best and refiners that turn crude into fuel are operating well below capacity. Yet oil prices keep marching toward $90 a barrel, pushing gasoline toward $3 a gallon in many markets, and prompting American drivers to ask, "What gives?"

Blame it on the same folks who brought you $140 oil and $4 gasoline in 2008: Wall Street speculators.

Experts attribute much of the recent rise in prices to flows of speculative money into oil markets. These bets are fueled by investor expectations that the U.S. and global economies are poised to return to growth and thus spark increased use of oil. Strong growth in China supports the narrative of rising oil consumption and tightening supplies...

What's to lose? They raise the price high enough on the Recession is Over mantra, they guarantee another economic crash, and short sell to ensure it.

Ian Welsh:

Failure to put in place policies to break this bottleneck, as I said at the beginning of the Obama administration, meant that even if their otherwise inadequate policies worked, success would quickly lead to failure.

Failure is part of the plan. How can they be neo feudal overlords without having most people in impoverished serfdom?

Barry's Ba$e

What, me worry?

The Assimilated

Resistance is futile:

“And lots of people shoot guns — that’s normal around here so you don’t pay any attention to it.”

Further evidence that normal is a mean median mode and not a meaningful measure of sanity, one supposes. Just because all the other lemmings are running off the cliff isn't a reason to take a leap. Although you have plenty of company that way.

...People like Mr. Savino and his father, Jim Gulliksen, who is the local chapter’s chief executive officer — and like his son, a Navy veteran — said they have worked since then to distinguish the group from its past. Estimates of statewide Michigan militia membership range from several hundred people to 500 or more.

“My goal is to get the militia name clean,” said Mr. Gulliksen, 60, who works as a manager in the paint and hardware department at the local Wal-Mart.

The strict Christian dogma espoused by the Hutaree does not fly as well these days either, at least in Adrian militia circles. Mr. Savino said that he converted to Islam in the late 1990s after a soul-searching separation from the Lutheran faith he had grown up with, and that he believed that he was the only Muslim in the militia...