Friday, January 30, 2009

Iraqis honor George Bush

Bush finally got his statue in Iraq. Who says Muslims don't have a sense of humor?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lessons in capitalism

So I guess this is how trickle-down economics is supposed to work.

In early 2008, just as Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain was preparing to slash expenses, cut thousands of jobs and exit businesses to fix the ailing securities firm, he was also spending company money on himself, senior people at the firm say.

According to documents reviewed by The Daily Beast, Thain spent $1.22 million of company money to refurbish his office at Merrill Lynch headquarters in lower Manhattan.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Viral e-mail rant

I was reading through my e-mails this morning when I came across one from an acquaintance with a subject line that ominously read, "Cell Phone Numbers Go Public Next Week". Curiosity got the best of me, so I opened it up and saw this:

Cell phone numbers will be released to telemarketing companies next month! Get on the "Do Not Call" list.

Cell Phone "Do Not Call" list REMINDER.... all cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sale calls.


To prevent this, call the following number from your cell phone: 888-382-1222 ..
It is the National DO NOT CALL list . It will only take a minute of your time. It blocks your number for five (5) years. You must call from the cell phone number you want to have blocked. You cannot call from a different phone number.

My very first thought was, "this sounds like complete bullshit." So I spent all of 30 seconds looking it up on "The Google" and discovered that this e-mail has been circulating the Internets in various forms since 2004.

It really amazes me that otherwise intelligent people still fall for this kind of crap. Ok, I admit that I did fall for one of these once years ago when I received an e-mail from a friend that stated confidently that all e-mails would be taxed starting next month because the USPS had to make up for lost revenue because the Internet was taking their business and everyone needed to call/write their congressperson to complain, and then forward the message to everyone they knew. So naturally, I contacted my congressman, who replied within minutes with a form letter that stated,
You know that saying about a sucker being born every minute? Go take a look in the mirror. SUCKER!! It's no wonder that schmucks like me can keep getting elected to do the bidding of corporate and foreign interests at your expense. You'll believe anything! I'll bet you're still waiting for that check from Bill Gates and think that Nostrodamus predicted 9/11.
Ok, I am taking some license with the response, but that was the gist.

Any of you who have been forced -- through threat of termination -- to take an online computer security course by your employer will immediately suspect this to be an instance of social engineering. In this particular case, you would be right.

The originator creates a plausible-sounding story and sends it to his friends, counting on the fact that recipients will see that it is from a friend and think, "well this is from so-and-so and s/he would nevah evah lie 2 me, so it must be legit. OH NOES!!!1!ELEVEN!!! These telemarketing bastiges will be calling me all the time now, even when I'm trying to have teh sexOrz!! And I'm going to get charged for it!! I'd better do what it says and then send this to all my bestest friends and relatives so they can be prepared, too, ZOMG!!!!"

Please, the next time you get an e-mail that makes some outlandish claim and ends with a request that you forward it to your friends, take a few seconds to verify it. Just Google the subject line. You'll save yourself from feeling like an idiot after you've sent it to 100 people if it turns out to be a hoax.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

8 years of Bush in 8 minutes

Keith Olbermann sums up some of the most egregious acts in American history perpetrated upon the world by George Bush and the Republican party (a.k.a. - The Party that Wrecked America™). For those who only watch Fox News, all of this will no doubt be new to you. If you have actually been paying attention for the past eight years, then this just serves as a trip down memory lane.

Here's the full transcript in case the video is disappeared:

George Walker Bush.
43rd president of the United States.
first ever with a criminal record.
our third story tonight,
his presidency: eight years in eight minutes.

early in 2001 the U.S. fingered Al Qaeda
for the bombing of the USS Cole
Bush counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke
had a plan to take down Al Qaeda.
instead by February the NSC
had already discussed invading Iraq,
and had a plan for post-Saddam Iraq.

by March 5 Bush had a map ready for Iraqi oil exploration
and a list of companies.
Al Qaeda?
Rice told Clarke not to give Bush a lot of long memos.
not a big reader.

August 6, 2001
a CIA analyst briefs Bush on vacation:
"Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S."
Bush takes no action tells the briefer—quote
all right, you've covered your ass now.

next month Clarke requests
using new predator drones to kill Bin Laden
the Pentagon and CIA
say no.

September 11th
Bush remains seated for several minutes
to avoid scaring school children
by getting up and leaving.
he then flies around the country
and promises quote a full scale investigation to find
those folks who did it

Rumsfeld says Afghanistan does not have enough targets
we've got to do Iraq.
when the CIA traps Bin Laden at Tora Bora
it asks for 800 rangers to cut off his escape
Bush outsources the job to Pakistanis
sympathetic to the Taliban
Bin Laden
gets away

in February General Tommy Franks tells a visiting Senator
Bush is moving equipment out of Afghanistan
so he can invade Iraq.
one of the men who prepped Rice for her testimony
that Bush did not ignore pre 9-11 warnings
later explains quote we cherry picked things
to make it look like the president
had been actually concerned about Al Qaeda
they didn't give a bleep about Al Qaeda

July and Britain's intel chief says Bush is
fixing intelligence and facts around the policy to take out Saddam
January 03
Bush and Blair agree to invade in March
Mr. Bush still telling us he has not decided
telling Blair they should paint an airplane in UN colors
fly it over Iraq and provoke a response
a pretext for invasion

the man who said it would take several hundred thousand troops
the man who said it would cost more than a hundred billion
the man who revealed Bush's yellowcake lie
his wife's covert status
the White House liars who did it
and covered it up
not fired
one convicted
Bush commutes his sentence

then in Iraq, stuff happens:
Iraq's army, disbanded
the government de-Baathified
200,000 weapons, billions of dollars just
foreign mercenaries immunized from justice
political hacks run the Green Zone
religious cleansing forcing one out of six Iraqis from their homes
Abu Ghraib
the insurgency
Al Qaeda in Iraq

other stuff does not happen:
post-war planning
body armor
vehicular armor

the payoff?
and billions for Halliburton, Blackwater and other companies
while Mr. Bush denies VA healthcare to 450,000 veterans
tries to raise their healthcare fees
blocks the new G.I. Bill
and increases his own power with the USA PATRIOT Act
with the Military Commissions Act
public orders exempting himself from a thousand laws
and secretly from the Presidential Records Act
The Geneva Conventions
sparking a mass rebellion at the Justice Department

secret star chambers for terrorism suspects,
overturned by Hamdan v Rumsfeld.
denying habeas corpus,
overturned by Boumediene v Bush.
200 renditionings
sleep deprivation

Rumsfeld warned in 2002 that he was torturing
that it would jeopardize convictions
out of 550 at Gitmo
hundreds ultimately go free with no charges
dozens are tortured
eight fatally
three are convicted

on U.S. soil twelve hundred immigrants rounded up
without due process
without bail
without court dates
without a single charge of terrorism

it wasn't just Mr. Bush no longer subject to the rule of law
he slashed regulations on everyone from banks to mining companies
appointed 98 lobbyists to oversee their own industries
weakening emission standards for mercury
and 650 different toxic chemicals
regulators shared drugs
and their beds
with industry reps
the Crandall Canyon mine owner told inspectors to back up
because his buddy, Republican Mitch McConnell
was sleeping with their boss
McConnell's wife is Bush Labor Secretary Elaine Chao
her agency overruled engineer concerns about Crandall Canyon
and was found negligent
after nine miners died in the collapse there

Mr. Bush's hands off
as Enron blacks out California
doubling electric bills
after months of rejecting price caps Mr. Bush bows to pressure

the blackouts end

Mr. Bush further deregulates commodity futures
midwifing the birth of unregulated oil markets
which just like Enron jack up prices to an all time high
until Congress and both presidential candidates call for regulations

and the prices fall

deregulating financial services and lax enforcement of remaining rules
created a housing bubble
creating the mortgage crisis
creating then a credit crisis
devastating industries that rely on credit
from student loans to car dealers

firms that had survived the Great Depression could not survive Bush
those that did got
seven hundred billion dollars
no strings, no transparency
no idea whether it worked

unlike the auto bailout
which cut workers' salaries.
a GOP memo called it
a chance to punish unions

but Bush failed even when his party and his patrons
did not stand to profit
investigators blamed management cost cutting communication
for missed warnings about Columbia
Bush administration convicts include
sex offenders at Homeland Security
convicted liars
every kind of thief in the calendar
and if you count things that were not prosecuted
the vice president of the United States actually
shot a man in the face

the man apologized.

Mr. Bush faked the truth
with paid propaganda in Iraq
on his education policy

tried to silence the truth about global warming
rocket fuel in our water
industry influence on energy policy

politicized the truth of science at NASA, the EPA,
the National Cancer Institute, Fish and Wildlife
and the FDA

his lies
exposed by whistleblowers from the cabinet down
"complete BS" the treasury secretary said
of Mr. Bush on his tax cuts.

Rice's mushroom cloud
Powell's mobile labs
Iraq and 9-11
Jack Abramoff
Jessica Lynch

Pat Tillman
Pat Tillman again
Pat Tillman, again.

the air at Ground Zero
most responders still suffering respiratory problems.

global warming
carbon emissions
a Clear Skies initiative lowering air quality standards
the Healthy Forests initiative increasing logging
faith based initiatives
the cost of medicare reform
fired US attorneys
politically synchronized terror alerts

the surge causing insurgents to switch sides
that abortion causes breast cancer
that his first recession began under Clinton
that he did not wiretap without warrants
that we do not torture.

that American citizen John Walker Lindh's rights
were not violated
that he refused the right to counsel

heckuva job Brownie
some survivors still in trailers
New Orleans still at just two-thirds its usual population

the lie that no one could have predicted the economic crisis
the economists who did
no one could have predicted 9-11 except
one ass-covering CIA analyst
or thirty
no one could have predicted the levee breach
except literally
Mr. Bill
in a PSA that aired on TV a year before Katrina

Bush actually admitted that he lied about not firing Rumsfeld
because he did not want to tell the truth.
look it up.

all of it
all of it and more leaving us with
ten trillion in debt
to pay for 31% more in discretionary spending
the Iraq War
a 1.3 trillion dollar tax cut

median income down two thousand dollars
three-quarters of all income gains under Bush
going to the richest one percent
unemployment up from 4.2 to 7.2 percent

the Dow, down from ten thousand five hundred eighty seven
to eighty two hundred seventy seven
six million now more in poverty
seven million more now without health care

buying toxic goods from China
deadly cribs
outsourcing security to Dubai
still unsecure in our ports
and at our nuclear plants
more dependent on foreign oil
out of the international criminal court
off the anti ballistic missle treaty
military readiness and standards down

with two unfinished wars
a nuclear North Korea
disengaged from the Palestinian problem
destabilizing eastern european diplomacy with
anti missile plans
and unable to keep Russia out of Georgia

2000 miles of Appalachian streams
destroyed by rubble from mountaintop mining
at his last G-8 summit,
he actually bid farewell to other world leaders
saying quote—goodbye from the world's greatest polluter

consistently undermining historic American reverence
for the institutions that empower us
education, now "academic elites"
and the law, "activist judges"
capping jury awards

and Bin Laden?
living today unmolested in a Pakistani safe haven
created by a truce endorsed and defended by George W. Bush

and among all the gifts he gave to Bin Laden
the most awful, the most damaging not just to America
but to the American ideal
was to further Bin Laden's goal
by making us act out of fear rather than fortitude

leaving us with precious little to cling to tonight
save the one thing that might yet suffice:


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Is it live, or is it Memorex?

Here are excerpts from Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric. Which ones are real, and which one is the Saturday Night Live spoof? Sadly, it's difficult to tell in some places.

Friday, September 26, 2008

McCain Wins Debate!!

Aw dang, those pesky Republicans went and spoiled the ending. Now what I am supposed to do tonight?

What is the bailout really about?

Something that's been noticeably absent from all of the fear-inducing rants about the absolute need to ram through Congress a bill to throw $700,000,000,000 at Wall Street to save them from themselves is any substantive discussion of why that specific amount of money? What will it be used for? What will we, the taxpayers, get in return for mortgaging our grandchildrens' futures? Treasury has already told us that that number was "not based on any particular data point" and that they "just wanted to choose a really large number" (how very like the Bush administration to use their "gut" in place of real analysis), which should be enough to set the "terrist threat level" to "severe with sprinkles on top".

Devilstower and Hunter over at DailyKos have been asking these questions and the conclusions they reached are very disturbing. Here's Devilstower's take:

"This crisis was brought to you by subprime mortgages. We know that because we're told it many, many times each day. So how big is the problem?

The total value of all home mortgages has risen steeply over the last few years as the housing bubble drove home prices up and lax lending rules roped more people into the pool. Home mortgages were valued at $7 trillion in 2003 but were up to $11.1 trillion by last year.

How many of those were "subprime?" It depends on how you define it. Funny thing: the initial definition was loans that didn't meet Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac qualifications, meaning that those institutions shouldn't be holding any subprime loans. But as a term, subprime is now more often applied to any loan where either the applicant's credit fell below the mid-range of "good" or where the lender did an abbreviated credit check. That kind of loan really came and went rather quickly. They were 8% of loans in 2003, topped out at 20% of loans in 2005 and 2006, and were back to 3% of loans in 2007. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, $139 billion of subprime loans were handed out in the last quarter of 2006, but this was down to $14 billion in the matching quarter of 2007

Now the real question: how many of those loans are in trouble?

Foreclosures were up a steep 79% in 2007, reaching just over 1% of mortgages. The numbers are up again so far in 2008 (though not as steeply). We could top 2% in default this year or next. There are some expectations that foreclosures could triple from today's historically high levels, meaning ultimately 3% of mortgages could be in trouble.

And that's where we get that math problem. 1% of all mortgages -- the amount now in default -- comes out to $111 billion. Triple that, and you've got $333 billion. Let's round that up to $350 billion. So even if we reach the point where three percent of all mortgages are in foreclosure, the total dollars to flat out buy all those mortgages would be half of what the Bush-Paulson-McCain plan calls for.

Then we need to factor in that a purchased mortgage isn't worth zero. After all, these documents come with property attached. Even with home prices falling and some of the homes lying around unsold, it's safe to assume that some portion of these values could be recovered. In the S&L crisis, about 70% of asset value was recovered, but let's say we don't do that well. Let's say we hit 50%. Then the real outlay for taxpayers would be around $175 billion.

Which, frankly, is a number that Wall Street should be able to handle without our help. After all, the top firms on Wall Steet payed out $120 billion in bonuses alone between 2000 and 2006. If they've got that kind of mad money, why do they need us to step in now? And why do they need twice as much as all the mortgages that are even likely to implode?"

So there's a little problem with the math. Would that mean that this really isn't about the subprime collapse? Hunter explains.
"...despite what we've been told, then, we can only presume that the problem is in fact not all the bad, scary subprime mortgages. And it's not. Yes, a lot of people are finding themselves upside-down on their houses right now, but Paulson isn't proposing we do squat to solve that -- and even the "controversial" Democratic counterproposal, that we actually do at least a little something to help those people, after they've already gone bankrupt, is pathetically weak.

Instead, we're getting a Wall Street bailout not of the mortgages, but of the absurd, speculative, economy-wrecking derivatives based on those mortgages, derivatives that investors and banks ravenously sold each other at unsupportable and quite-probably-crooked prices. Those derivatives, generally speaking, are "bets" on the state of the underlying mortgages. And they didn't just bet wrong -- they bet irrationally, based on presumptions of near-zero risks to those underlying mortgages. And worse, the big banks even -- bafflingly -- got special permission to overleverage themselves 40 to 1, all but assuring collapse if those derivatives went south. Which they did.

Fine, then, but how is that self-induced bubble an unweatherable economic crisis for the rest of us? Yes, those banks may fail -- as they should. It'd be a crime if they didn't, given their mismanagement of their accounts. But the real problem is that those banks are, literally, too big to be allowed to fail. Their failure would present a liquidity problem for the rest of the market. They can do anything -- they could even burn money on the street -- and the strong preference of government would be to bail them out for it, because the alternative is financial chaos.

The subprime mortgages aren't the problem. And the overleveraged firms shouldn't be a problem. The problem is keeping the rest of the economy afloat no matter what happens to the firms in trouble."

So we're being lied to. This bailout has nothing to do with the subprime market as we're being led to believe. This is about the smoke-and-mirrors derivatives market. It was an elaborate Ponzi scheme that allowed the same assets to be used as collateral for different investments many times over. So where do we go from here?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

False dichotomy

So Dubya was all over teh teevee last night mongering fear. Again. The sky is falling (even though the economy was strong just last month) and something drastic must be done. Everyone knows the story by now: we absolutely must give $700 billion to Henry Paulson immediately so he can save us all from imminent disaster, nevermind that he helped create this whole mess in the first place, both as CEO of Goldman Sachs and as Secretary of the Treasury. It's the way Republicans do government: they allow the people who create problems, due to either gross incompetence or willful action, to determine and implement the solutions to the problems they themselves created. If Paulson gets his way, what he will do with this money will be left to his sole discretion, and Congress won't even be allowed to ask because we're told that doing so would hinder the recovery process. Or something.

The choices are clear, Bush and his merry band of thieves are telling us: we must either give a huge pile of American taxpayer dollars to Wall Street -- even to the banks and investment houses that have been successful, and to foreign banks -- so they can continue the party, or they will wage a scorched earth campaign on the economy. This is a false dilemma. We are going to have a major recession as a result of their planned meltdown and there's nothing we can do about it. Giving $700 billion to Wall Street won't prevent that. This raid on the treasury is just Dubya's parting gift to the ultra wealthy. It will also have the effect of preventing the next president from pursuing his agenda since there simply won't be any money left because the "fiscal conservatives" have bankrupted the entire country. By the way, that $700 billion figure, by Treasury's own admission, was pulled out of someone's ass because they just wanted to choose a really large number.

I say don't give them a damn penny. It's their mess, let them clean it up. The fact is, Wall Street neither needs nor deserves a bail out. Many smart financial experts, including Warren Buffet, warned years ago that derivatives were "financial weapons of mass destruction", but their words were ignored because they were immensely profitable. Wall Street is trying to use this crisis (and it really is a crisis) to further increase their already massive wealth when we pay for the clean up. These people are flush with cash.

Just last year, Wall Street’s top five financial firms — including names such as Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns — awarded $39 billion in bonuses at a time when stockholder value in those companies fell by $74 billion.
Read that again: $39 billion in bonuses were paid to Wall Street's top five financial firms last year. And now they say they need a bailout? I don't think so. They're just holding a gun to our collective heads. This is nothing but extortion, plain and simple.

A recession is coming. Giving more money to Wall Street will do nothing but prevent those of us most affected by their greed from weathering the coming storm.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Did Palin have affair with husband's business partner?

I've never bought a copy of The National Enquirer in my life because they are just not a reliable news source. However, they did nail John Edwards' affair. Could they have another scoop?

No less than three members of the man’s family including one by sworn affidavit have claimed that Sarah Palin engaged in an extramarital affair with hus­band Todd’s former business partner, Brad Hanson.
I report. You decide.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Dear Congress:

I ran up $5,000 on my credit card betting at the dog track. Can I have $700 billion too?