Sunday, October 26, 2008

Update: Foxes (from yesterday)

Two more links of interest:


Banks “We have better things to do with that money you gave us than lend it out”

The US has shoved 5 trillion dollars at this problem since the crisis started last year. Enough is enough. Money alone is clearly not sufficient, and that means more stern measures need to be taken. The financial industry, whose hubris is so great they just announced 70 billion of bonuses for themselves after getting a taxpayer bailout, needs to learn that they exist for the purpose of serving the overall economy, not themselves. This is especially true of banks, whose entire business model relies on the government giving them the right to create money, to borrow money at concessionary rates that no one else receives, and so on. Banks are entirely creatures of the government who exist because the government gives them what amounts to a license to print money under certain circumstances. They are in no way a "naturally free market".


Bailout Free-For-All: Companies Line Up For Cash,8599,1853819,00.html?iid=digg_share?iid=perma_share


OK then...

That first link is going to seem like capitalist heresy to many Americans because they still think that saving the "free market" is the agenda. Sadly, the very necessity of any kind of bailout proves that a "free market" doesn't exist and never will and that any unrestrained capitalism will fail because of human greed.

The second link is proof of that greed even in the midst of crisis. Every hand is out, and the most shameless of all are those of rich people.

"Free money? Gimme...!"

That's why Warren Buffett bought preferred stock. He wants to be sure that when profits are to be had he gets paid first. That's how they are - even when they are as rich as blazes, it's never enough.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Foxes Guarding the Hen House

Paulson and Kashkari are the biggest con men we have going. These two chrome domes would stick a knife in your grandmother and then steal the gold from her teeth. Is it too ass-holy to note that one of these dudes surnames looks like it literally means "cash n' carry"? So yeah, I see Kaskkari as a man that walks off with the goods. What a pair!

So When Will Banks Give Loans?

It is starting to appear as if one of Treasury's key rationales for the recapitalization program — namely, that it will cause banks to start lending again — is a fig leaf, Treasury's version of the weapons of mass destruction.

In fact, Treasury wants banks to acquire each other and is using its power to inject capital to force a new and wrenching round of bank consolidation. As Mark Landler reported in The New York Times earlier this week, "the government wants not only to stabilize the industry, but also to reshape it." Now they tell us.

Indeed, Mr. Landler's story noted that Treasury would even funnel some of the bailout money to help banks buy other banks. And, in an almost unnoticed move, it recently put in place a new tax break, worth billions to the banking industry, that has only one purpose: to encourage bank mergers. As a tax expert, Robert Willens, put it: "It couldn't be clearer if they had taken out an ad."


"We share your view," Mr. Kashkari replied. "We want our banks to be lending in our communities."

Senator Dodd: "Are you insisting upon it?"

Mr. Kashkari: "We are insisting upon it in all our actions."

But they are doing no such thing. Unlike the British government, which is mandating lending requirements in return for capital injections, our government seems afraid to do anything except plead. And those pleas, in this environment, are falling on deaf ears.


Late Thursday afternoon, I caught up with Senator Dodd, and asked him what he was going to do if the loan situation didn’t improve. "All I can tell you is that we are going to have the bankers up here, probably in another couple of weeks and we are going to have a very blunt conversation," he replied.

He continued: "If it turns out that they are hoarding, you'll have a revolution on your hands. People will be so livid and furious that their tax money is going to line their pockets instead of doing the right thing. There will be hell to pay."


And this is why you don't write blank checks without significant oversight and detailed instructions as to what to do with the money. I mean, we taxpayers aren't even stakeholders in any of this. Once again we trust in the good will of free-wheeling investors and bank presidents.

Did anyone hear the guilty admission of Greenspan yesterday? He basically admitted that he is a blinkered know-nothing. Of course, this is substantially after he has profited from his supposed ignorance.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Update: Gas Prices + More Bold Predictions!

Two months ago, I predicted:
Bold Prediction 1: Gas will drop below $3 a gallon by 2010.
Bold Prediction 2: Gas will drop below $2 a gallon by 2012.

Well, my time table was all bOrked. Today prices were below $2.90 in my town.

My new bold prediction is that this is the end of the oil era as we know it. There will be unsteady growth in renewable energies until oil is but one of many possible energies in use, but oil will never again dominate energy concerns as it has in the past.

OPEC's days are numbered. Tick-tock, assholes!

My second bold prediction is that we haven't even touched the surface of the individual energy independence that will soon flourish. I predict most people will be, or could be, off the grid in a generation's time.

My third bold prediction is that the sustainable food movement will eventually take the form of high yield "victory gardens" and that the era of the well-manicured lawn is over. People will use backyards as their primary food source and they will even raise their own livestock. This is predicated on both water politics and home economics.

My fourth bold prediction is that families will have a stay at home partner again. Unless all parties have high paying jobs outside of the home it is simply wiser for one partner to stay at home and tend to matters domestic, do the gardening, and possibly even raise children.

These are all actually related predictions if you think about it for 10 seconds.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Update: Fuck you iGoogle - Netvibes Here I Come!

My new homepage looks like this:

Thanks to

Bug-bye, iGoogle.

That's what I love about computers and technology - there's always some eager beaver out there doing it one better, or differently, or whatever. Don't ever accept anything substandard when you have options.

Nostalgia for Lunch!

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More Shameless Content Theft...


I generally find Chomsky's observations astute. There's lots of good information on basic politics and how things really work to be had in these two video segments. I am convinced he's absolutely correct on the healthcare issue. And I am also upbeat on the long-term health of the U.S. economy. We're not going down for the same reasons Wall Street isn't going to go down - we are too big for the world to let us fail. We ARE the game when it comes to consumer goods.

Now is the time to dictate our terms.

The Greatest trick!

The greatest trick was getting you to believe that headlines like this one matter to you personally: "Stocks drop on recession, profit worries."

Maybe this whole linking of stocks and retirement funds wasn't too smart, esp. if you are going to trash regulation of that market. Do you likewise take your monthly mortgage payment or rent to Vegas and just roll the dice with it? That would be stupid, right?

What we are seeing is the complete meltdown of nearly every GOP talking point. There is no free market, if there were they wouldn't need a bailout. The bailout itself is proof of both market protections and socialism at the top of the class structure.

Oh sure, they are going to back-peddle so fast it will look like a blur. But this is the right-wing that used disaster, scorched-earth capitalism against us all to attain their goals. Now to retain power they want to act as if it was all the result of a few bad eggs who are "Republicans in name only" (RINO).

Man, I hate the GOP. So much.

No, really - a lot.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Progressive Fantasy #1

The Horror of It All

Peering fearlessly into the increasingly likely terror of a Democratic President with larger Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, the Wall Street Journal editorial page sums up the stark horrors that could ensue.

Voters will be registered. Workers organized. Banks regulated. Health care provided for all. Government investment will drive a green revolution that generates millions of jobs. The wealthy will pay more in taxes. Guantanamo will be shut down; torture will end. Net neutrality will be mandated. Citizens may even be able to sue corporations that negligently do them harm. They don’t even mention the war in Iraq ending.



I got wood!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Reagan Era Asst. Treasury Sec. Paul Roberts

Ex-Asst. Treasury Sec. Paul Craig Roberts on Wall St. Bailout: “Has Deregulation Sired Fascism?”

JUAN GONZALEZ: What about this issue of the government’s bailout being aimed primarily at the financial institutions rather than the homeowners who—and the defaults that are at the root of the crisis?

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS: Yes. Well, it suggests that the bailout is either incompetence or fraud, because the problem, according to the government, is the defaulting mortgages, so the money should be directed at refinancing the mortgages and paying off the foreclosed ones. And that would restore the value of the mortgage-backed securities that are threatening the financial institutions. If the value was restored, the crisis would be over. So there’s no connection between the government’s explanation of the crisis and its solution to the crisis.


AMY GOODMAN: Paul Craig Roberts, the piece you’ve written, one of them, asks, “Has deregulation sired fascism?” What do you mean?

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS: Well, the original Paulson plan was to give the Secretary of the Treasury $700 billion with no accountability and give him complete control over the financial system. And that, of course, is state capitalism or fascism. If you control the financial system, you control the economy. And so, that was my way of pointing out the dramatic sort of power that was said to be necessary to stem a crisis that, in my view, could be fixed just by refinancing mortgages, like they did during the Great Depression.

AMY GOODMAN: Who is driving this? Who framed this bailout? And explain exactly who it is who benefits right now.

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS: Well, what the bailout does is it takes troubled financial instruments off the balance sheet of the banks and puts them on the balance sheet of the taxpayer at the US Treasury. So it’s a bailout of the financial institutions whose recklessness caused the problem. And as I’ve already said, it does not address the problem. It only addresses the problem of the banks. So the foreclosures and the defaulting mortgages will continue as the economy worsens, and yet nothing is being done to stabilize that default rate or to stop these foreclosures. So the money is essentially being poured into the coffers of Washington’s financial donor base.

JUAN GONZALEZ: In some of your articles, you reject a view by some Democrats that this is the end result of a deregulatory fever that began in the Reagan administration, and you point to a more recent aspect of this. And you point specifically to decisions that were made during the Clinton administration and the current Bush administration in 1999, 2000 and 2004. Could you elaborate on what those particular key decisions that were made?

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS: Yes. First, just let me say the Reagan administration didn’t do any financial deregulation.

In 1999, in the Clinton administration, they repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. This was the Depression-era legislation that separated commercial from investment banking. In 2000, they deregulated all derivatives. And in 2004, Hank Paulson, the current Treasury Secretary, who at the time was chairman of Goldman Sachs, he convinced the Securities and Exchange Commission to remove all capital requirements for investment banks, and thus they were able to drive up their profits by amazing leverage. For example, when Bear Stearns finally went under, it had $33 in debt for every dollar in equity. So this is an amazing leverage. And it’s amazing that all reserves against debt would have been removed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. So, the whole thing is reckless beyond imagination. Now, they claim that they had new mathematical models that assessed risk and that they didn’t need these reserves. Well, that was all a bunch of hooey, as we now see.



Wild stuff. Again and again and again I find sources that claim to know exactly how to resolve the financial crisis that we find ourselves in - and just as often I find that those sources criticize the Wall Street bailout as basically incompetence or fraud. I can find very few sources beyond those that will benefit from it in support of the Wall Street bailout.

So once again to be perfectly clear about it: almost everyone agrees that the 700 billion dollar bailout is unnecessary and does nothing to resolve the problems the nation now faces.

I said it to my SO over dinner tonight: the government can never again claim that we don't have the means to do whatever we want to do. If they can socialize this kind of thievery and saddle the taxpayer with it I hope they are finally prepared to do things like create a universal healthcare plan, subsidize renewable energy, rebuild the U.S. infrastructure, etc. I mean, we could just borrow even more money, right? What's the difference?

Man, I can't believe we aren't talking about prison terms for anybody on Wall Street. I can't believe we are actually going to reward people for making the most egregiously irresponsible financial decisions anyone has ever heard of.

How do you feel about those AIG style junkets that your personal $5K contribution is going to pay for? Sweet, huh? I mean, you didn't need it for rent or groceries or anything needful, right?


Friday, October 17, 2008

The finger on the button...

'Nuff said.

McCain's Empty Head

Sirota has many more deeply intelligent comments to make on this here:

The good news is that the economic debate is largely leaving McCain in the dust. The Treasury Department has been shamed into buying bank stock, after bailout opponents and world leaders demanded such a course. The problem is that Henry Paulson is still insisting on trying to forge a giveaway to his Wall Street buddies.

For example, Paulson is insisting on only buying nonvoting shares of banks. As the New York Times reports, "That means the banks’ current boards and current management — the same people who got the country into this mess — will still be making all of the decisions." Additionally, Paulson is only buying preferred shares that get a 5 percent interest return for taxpayers - a far lower rate than a private businessman would get in driving a hard bargain (for instance, Warren Buffett got 10 percent when he recently invested in Goldman Sachs).



I don't love Obama. I'm voting for him anyway because I think his becoming president has meta-meaning that is useful going forward. I hope that Obama will reform many of his stated policies about war, intervention abroad, the economy and a whole bunch of other issues. Obama is not nearly left or progressive enough for me to squarely get behind the man.

But I don't know what explains this moron McCain. Instead of standing on his record of service to the people of Arizona all he does is run an attack campaign. When he manages to make some kind of meaningful utterances, he's talking utter empty-headed bullshit.

And everyone knows this.

So, here's my prediction: a huge turnout of progressives and Democrats for Obama - the only candidate they could possibly vote for under the circumstances. And the Rethugs stay home in droves.

Because that's what they do. When they can't get their way - like petulant children - they just stay in, withhold their votes and sulk about how they aren't the kings and queens of the universe.

Mike Davis' Latest Polemic

Read it here:

Can Obama See the Grand Canyon? On Presidential Blindness and Economic Catastrophe

Davis isn't too hopeful and I can't blame him. I am not exactly an Obama cheerleader even though I intend to vote for him. But I was slightly encouraged by this comment on Davis' piece:

One often overlooked personal credential that Barack Obama has is the biographical fact that once upon a time, Barack the law student was editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review.

In the grandiose, hyper competitive, ego-maniacal pecking order of Ivory Tower academe, it is a singularly amazing accomplishment to weather the winnowing process ordeal and ascend to the very pinnacle of that very tall greased pole - to be selected by both one's peers and Harvard Law's own fractious faculty mentors to be the honest broker, called upon to chair the big meeting at the big table in a big room filled with a diverse, mind boggling array of super articulate people often in passionate disagreement with one another - disagreements sometimes fueled by powerful hidden agendas, recognized and unrecognized.

By all accounts, Barack Obama possessed the skill set needed to survive and thrive in that unique role.

Hey, here's hoping that Obama can step up and shock the hell out of everyone. It's precisely what we all need. He's going to have to abandon most of his centrist rhetoric in exchange for the inescapable necessity of rebuilding an American middle-class. We are going to need millions of jobs in the $20-30 USD an hour range to rebuild our sagging economy. The manufacturing that has been outsourced needs to come back home. Our infrastructure needs a major overhaul. Our energy policy has to lean heavily toward nationally secure and renewable sources. The farm must be re-envisioned for the next century. The corporation must be made subordinate to the needs of the people. Etc.

There is so much that I hope for that I fear certain disappointment, just like Davis.

Tense days...

Why Opera Speed Dial Rocks and iGoogle Ultimately Sucks

I use the Opera web browser preferentially and have done so since it was a pay for use program.

I can't quite recall the precise ordering of events but two things happened in fairly short succession that captured my interest. Opera began having a feature called Speed Dial. Here's a Screen Shot from a version of Speed Dial for Firefox (so yes, Firefox fans - go score that add-on right now!):

Each of the paneled mini-windows is actually a link to the current version of the page pictured in the Speed Dial interface. It's all the stuff you are interested in one click away and with a visual interface. Speed Dial comes as is with 9 entry spaces but you can tweak Opera and Firefox to give you more entries. I like this interface very much and I highly recommend its use.

Around the same time Google premiered iGoogle. In the best of all worlds iGoogle should like this:

Now that's pretty damned cool, right? Like Speed Dial it gives you access to points of interests because each of its panels is actually a link to the current main page of the RSS feed. And right, because its linking to many RSS feeds what you actually get are the constantly updated top stories from all of your feeds. You can get the current weather conditions, top stories from "the Beeb," quotes of the day, whatever floats your boat. Yes, it could be that cool.

But because of a forced upgrade with no path back to the preferred appearance, it actually looks like this:

What's the difference? That idiotic left navigation tool is what. Why the hell would anyone need or want another panel on the left hogging up valuable desktop real estate and thereby forcing additional vertical scrolling? Take a closer look - all it offers is a text version of the main iGoogle page with all of the same panel header links repeated. Now if it were placed as a horizontal tabbed CSS pull-down menu navigation device in the same header line that at the right reads "Get artist themes | Select theme | Add stuff" it wouldn't be so fucking annoying. Placed there it wouldn't be sucking up real estate. As is, it basically sucks. For about two or three months I have been using tools like "Remove it Permanently" in Firefox and "Kill Elements" for Opera to remove that annoying panel. And in all of this time, no one at iGoogle's development team has fixed that damned thing. And that points up another problem...

...iGoogle is calling the shots with something that is supposed to be highly user configurable and probably collecting marketing data as payment. Now I wouldn't necessarily mind the marketing data price tag if the damned thing were truly configured as I would like it. I mean, I'm not exactly linking to blueprints of suitcase bombs or anything like that - it's all news crap of various types. I'd like it if they'd let me do it my way. As is I'll probably find something better than it and say goodbye to iGoogle.

This user wants lots of personal preferences respected. They should know better.

Why did I compare these two interfaces when they serve different functions? Well, mainly because I use the iGoogle panels as links because RSS feeds tend to operate as gatekeepers and I'd rather go to different news sources and sift what is and is not important for myself. But that's the nature of RSS feeds, sometimes you want it served up as highlights and sometimes you want to dig into the many, many stories that are out there yourself.

When push comes to shove I can live without iGoogle, but I have become very acclimated to the use of Speed Dial as an indispensable feature of Opera and Firefox.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hunters become the hunted: State investigators hit AIG with fraud probe over fat cat expenditures

State investigators launched a fraud probe into AIG on Wednesday following revelations that top execs spent $86,000 on a partridge hunt after the feds gave the company billions to stay afloat.



Yes, we were all played. Inexpertly even. It made no difference. You are still on the hook for your $5K so that execs at investment firms can keep living in the exact same foolish manner that they always have.

Smell the theft. That stink is going to linger.

I am still entirely unsatisfied that bailing out investment firms was either necessary or any kind of emergency. But that's me, I actually give a damn what happens to ordinary people but not so much about what happens to assholes on Wall Street.

Green Acres in America: A Recipe for Prosperity

Eddie Albert to the 81st Annual Convention of the National Farmers Union

The corporate presidents and academics who make up the CED, recommended the elimination of one third of the farm population within five years by enforcing low parity pricing. As they stated, the primary benefits of their recommendations would be:

1. Increased return on corporate investment in agriculture.
2. Over two million farmers and families entering the urban labor pool, which would tend to depress wages.
3. Lower prices of agriculture products which would both increase foreign trade and provide cheaper raw materials for domestic food and fiber processors.
4. "…invest in projects that break up village life by drawing people to centers of employment away from the village…because village life is a major source of opposition to change. Where there are religious obstacles to modern economic progress, the religion may have to be taken seriously or its character altered."


An economist named Kuznets, later a Nobel Prize winner, noticed that there seemed to be six most important sectors that dominated our economy. They were:

1. Farm income
2. Wages
3. Interest income
4. Small businesses and professionals
5. Rentals
6. Corporations

Hubert Humphrey expressed it even shorter: “A 3 legged stool — capital, raw materials and labor. Short change any one of those three legs and the stool falls over”. He was talking of balance.

Go back to six sectors. Kuznets states that to provide a healthy economy, they, too must exist in a reasonably precise balance in relations to our national income. For example, (1) farm income, which they intended to suppress, should share in about six to 8 percent of our national income; (2) wages, labor, etc. 66 or 67 percent, (3) interest income 1.2 percent; (4) small business 10.5 percent; (5) rents 3.8 percent; (6) corporations 12.6 percent.

Those were roughly the shares of those sectors of our national income during our prosperous base period, ‘43 - ‘52.



What an intelligent speech. Highly Recommended!

BTW, these last three posts can be taken as my contribution to the worldwide blogging about poverty event.

Intellectual Property is Neither

Isn't the idea of "intellectual property" strange?

Some would argue that intellectual property rights should be the equivalent of real property rights.

In the natural world, you don't even get to keep your own skin - it's taken from you when you die and returns to the earth. In truth, you own absolutely nothing. It's not even possible for you to own anything, not really.

Ownership, and more specifically the notion of individual property ownership of any kind (be it real property or even intellectual property), is merely a useful myth created in law so that people have certain kinds of incentives to create and work. To another way of thinking the idea of ownership is a cultural construct - an idea to which certain human societies adhere.

Some societies find these ideas useful, some but not all.

The question is not whether "intellectual property" rights should be the legal equivalent of real property rights - the real question is: why should we have any property rights in the first place?

The foundational assertions that form our society and its laws will become increasingly relevant as the world becomes more overpopulated, work more automated, and money less evenly distributed. When people get hungry and the elite want to argue about property rights, they will find that a stone to the head trumps a finely crafted legal argument.

Do you think that's gold in your pockets?

Any time they want to devalue the money in your pockets they can print more of it. It has no intrinsic value of its own. We believe in money the same way we believe in God - it's all faith based until the music ends and you get stuck holding a wallet or checkbook notations of worthless paper.

Our whole economy is based on this idea - attenuated barter based on the exchange of items having no intrinsic value of their own (paper money and non-precious metal coins). It is because of the very elastic (inflationary) nature of the money that they can steal from you.

Gold is only better than paper money in one way - it is not very elastic and there is real scarcity. As gold is an element, unless you can solve the question confounding alchemists through the centuries you will find that the supply is indeed finite. You can discover more, but you can't just make more (via printing), and that's why it makes a better means of exchange. And interestingly, gold really does have many unique and interesting properties that make it valuable in itself - intrinsically.

Now what's better than gold? Real estate. That's how smart people "store" their money for safe keeping unless they are using it in other types of investments. Sadly, even the value of real estate is largely theoretical because they have ways to appropriate that too - they call it property taxes but it has the effect of converting the real property that you might own into something that you "lease" via continual payment of a property tax. When you fail to pay the tax, they just come and take your very real property away from you. Remarkable! And so few complain...

You see, they built up a way to continually set up the marks for the big con - we call it "government." They sold it to us via Art. I, sect. 10 of the Constitution - but they played bait and switch on us too. It's not gold, it's paper - and it's worthless. And it's not really real estate if they are just treating you like a serf on the land belonging to the banks/fedual lords.

And that's how the world really works:

You lose.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fascism and Taxes: The Nexus

Wiki defines fascism as: "...a totalitarian nationalist and corporatist ideology." Now I'm going to let you collect the other dots on that one, but it does mean that fascism is often seen as collusion between the state and corporate entities.

Many recent events have convinced me that the people are absolutely not in charge in the USA, if they ever were. Taxpayers will be forced to foot the $5K per capita price for the Wall Street bailout (the necessity of which remains significantly in doubt) and we will soon be forced to pay even more for the proposed bank bailout (some of which may be necessary) and eventually we will also see a mortgage bailout (unless we are willing to accept that hundreds of thousands of people will soon become homeless and therefore a drain on local governments).

Who will pay for all of this? Why YOU WILL, of course.

Why? Because of the nexus that exists between our government and monied interests:


Study says most corporations pay no U.S. income taxes

Dorgan in a statement called the report "a shocking indictment of the current tax system." Levin said it made clear that "too many corporations are using tax trickery to send their profits overseas and avoid paying their fair share in the United States."


The phrase "tax trickery" is a euphemism for elements of the tax code that are effectively handouts to corporations. It's not a mistake nor trickery of any kind. The only ones being fooled are the taxpayers themselves who apparently have no representation.

Taxation without representation. I think I have heard that before...

Monday, October 13, 2008

McSame at Acorn Event. I'm Just Sayin'...

Acorn pushes back, hugs McCain

Bertha Lewis, Acorn's chief organizer, said in a statement that came with the photo, “It has deeply saddened us to see Senator McCain abandon his historic support for ACORN and our efforts to support the goals of low-income Americans."



McSame is in the deep doo-doo now. What a fucking moron...


Not My Financial Crisis -- I've Got Literally Nothing to Lose've_got_literally_nothing_to_lose/?page=entire

...My feeling of remove from the crisis is a product of the fact that I don't have much to lose. Like millions of Americans, I own nothing -- not property, not stock, not a 401(k) plan, not health insurance, not a car, nothing.

Like most people I know in their 20s and 30s, it takes a stretch of the imagination to understand that I have a stake in the national economy. In terms of day-to-day life, my only ties to large financial institutions are a Bank of America checking account, a single low-limit high-fee Visa card, and a Kilimanjaro of student debt, which I have come to accept as something I will die with, not from, like a benign but grapefruit-size tumor or peaceable parasite dwelling in my large intestine. When people use scary terms like "unchartered territory" and "total meltdown," my first thought is, "Would an economic cataclysm wipe out my student debt? If so, then let's press reset and start the whole damn thing over! Burn it clean!"


...I request only a pinch from his remaining liquid assets to help pay down my student debt. Because while people with foreclosed homes and repo'd cars can declare Chapter 8 and clean the slate, student loans offer no such hope of escape. Like diamonds and herpes, those dotted lines are forever.



I am not at all clear on two things A) why isn't education free and merit-based? and B) why isn't student loan debt dischargeable?

We live in a legal and economic environment that forgives practically anything but the genuine desire to get ahead and become a productive member of society by way of an education.

Something is very wrong with this picture. What gives?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"We're the American People and We Approve This Message"


I love stuff like this. I wish it could run on national TV, but here on the internet tubes is good too.


AIG, Castigated for Resort Event, Plans Another One (Update2)

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) -- American International Group Inc., castigated by the White House, Congress and Barack Obama for hosting a $440,000 conference days after an $85 billion federal bailout, plans to hold another gathering for brokers next week.

The event, at the Ritz-Carlton in California's Half Moon Bay, aims to "motivate and educate" about 150 independent agents who sell AIG coverage to high-end clients, said spokesman Nicholas Ashooh.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino today called "despicable" expenses from the first gathering, a weeklong conference last month at the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach. Those costs included $23,000 for spa services, according to Representative Henry Waxman, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

AIG considered buying advertisements to explain its position, only to be told by public relations consultant George Sard that it would be "a really bad idea."


Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, said during last night's debate with Republican candidate John McCain that AIG should repay the U.S. Treasury for the costs of the event.



Honestly, isn't this exactly how you would act if it was clear that there was absolutely no penalty for the foolish manner in which you conducted your business? I mean, if I were handed billions of dollars for my mistakes I might be inclined to make many more mistakes in the future too!

And BTW, that's going to be about $5000+ USD per taxpayer for the bailout. I know you've been hearing $2000+ USD per person in the U.S. - but they aren't all taxpayers right now. I agree that many of them will be taxpayers and that they will likely still be paying off this kind of shit. But for now, it's on the backs of 138 million or so taxpayers we have today.

Senator Obama: this is why you should have voted "nay," you dumb-fuck! It's your job as a senator to protect the people from this kind of waste and corruption - not to vote for it and thereby force the taxpayer to pay for it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Good Point!

Agnosticism vs. Atheism

This is kind of a pet peeve of mine. Most people that say they are agnostic are really functional atheists, but they are making an epistemological argument to avoid confrontation and accusations of having faith or dogma.


Let’s examine the subtle difference in meaning between the following two sentences.

  • An atheist believes that God does not exist.

  • An atheist does not believe that God exists.



That's truly a distinction worth noting. I like it. The dictionary folks need to get their act together. The lack of a belief is not an activity involving belief. In fact, it's not an activity at all. It is a void.

Up, Up and Away!

Lehman's Golden Parachutes Were Being Secured While Execs Were Pleading For Federal Rescue

WASHINGTON — Days from becoming the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, Lehman Brothers steered millions to departing executives even while pleading for a federal rescue, Congress was told Monday.

As well, executives who feared for their bonuses in the company's last months were told not to worry, according to documents cited at a congressional hearing.


Waxman questioned Fuld on whether it was true he took home some $480 million in compensation since 2000, and asked: "Is that fair?"

Fuld took off his glasses, held them, and looked uncomfortable. He said his compensation was not quite that much.

"We had a compensation committee that spent a tremendous amount of time making sure that the interests of the executives and the employees were aligned with shareholders," he said. Fuld said he took home over $300 million in those years _ some $60 million in cash compensation.

Waxman read excerpts from Lehman documents in which a recommendation that top management should forgo bonuses was apparently brushed aside. He also cited a Sept. 11 request to Lehman's compensation board that three executives leaving the company be given $20 million in "special payments."

"In other words, even as Mr. Fuld was pleading with Secretary Paulson for a federal rescue, Lehman continued to squander millions on executive compensation," Waxman said before Fuld appeared as a witness.

The government let Lehman go under Sept. 15, only to bail out insurance giant American International Group the next day, in a cascading series of financial shocks and failures that put Washington on track for the multibillion-dollar rescue starting the end of that week.

Waxman described that plan as a life-support measure. "It may keep our economy from collapsing but it won't make it healthy again," he said.

That sentiment echoed on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrials sank below 10,000 on Monday for the first time in four years. Investors fear the crisis will weigh down the global economy and the bailout won't work quickly to loosen credit markets.


World Markets Plunge On Crisis Fears

Britain's benchmark stock index, the FTSE 100, lost 220.11 to 4,760.14 _ a 4.42 percent fall. The declines were led by the banking industry, with the mining and oil industries also suffering drops. HBOS PLC's share price dropped 15.7 percent, while the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC fell 13.6 percent.

Germany's DAX index fell 4.22 percent to 5,552.27. France's CAC-40 index dropped 4.85 percent to 3,882.81. In Russia, the RTS stock index tumbled more than 7 percent in first 20 minutes of trading.

Over the weekend, many European governments moved to save troubled banks, and made more promises to protect depositors from the credit crisis.

Germany on Sunday agreed a 50 billion euros (US$68 billion) package to bail out Hypo Real Estate, the country's second-biggest commercial property lender, after a rescue plan by private lenders fell apart.

France's BNP Paribas SA committed to taking a 75-percent stake in troubled European bank Fortis N, and Sweden and Denmark followed Ireland and Britain in raising the amount of savers' deposits guaranteed by the government.

Britain's treasury chief Alistair Darling said he was "ready to do whatever it takes" to get the country through the credit crunch, and was looking at a "range of proposals."

But analysts said that, like the U.S. plan, the lack of detail in many of Europe's moves failed to restore investors' confidence, resulting in the stock market tumbles. "What the markets need are some more details about exactly when and how these plans are going to come in," said Richard Hunter, head of British equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, "And they need some proof that some of these measures are taking hold."

Across Asia, all markets were also in the red. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index fell to its lowest level in 4 1/2 years, sinking 4.25 percent to 10,473.09.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index slid 5 percent to 16,803.76. Markets in mainland China, Australia, South Korea, India, Singapore and Thailand also fell sharply. Indonesia's key index plummeted 10 percent, it's biggest one-day drop ever.

In Russia, the RTS stock index tumbled more than 7 percent in first 20 minutes of trading.


U.S. Stocks Sink as Financial Fear Spreads

The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 695 points at one point today and fell below 10,000 for the first time since October 2004. It was trading off 6.5 percent, about 672 points, shortly before 2:30 p.m. The technology-heavy Nasdaq fell about 7.7 percent, or 151 points, and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 stock index fell 7.2 percent, or 79 points.

Investors are being led by fear, analysts said. The $700 billion financial bailout plan enacted by the federal government last week has yet to loosen the credit markets and banks remain reluctant to lend to each other. The price of gold has skyrocketed as investors seek a safe haven. Oil fell below $90 a barrel today for the first time in months. Overseas, banks are increasingly facing problems of their own.



One: Foreign nations and markets were pretty smug just a few days ago - now everyone's in crisis mode. What gives?

Two: I repeat, ad nauseum no doubt, this bailout is simply a handout so far. The existing bailout does NOTHING to fix the underlying problems that will continue to hamper the smooth running of the economy. The "trickle down" economic theory simply doesn't work. When rich folks panic they hoard because they can - they don't have to spend hardly any money. When poor folks go into panic mode - not so surprisingly - they actually spend because there is nothing to hoard. But they know they are going to need that bacon, that milk, those eggs, a loaf of bread and some Huggies. In other words, the economy flows perforce.

But let's sing out the Lehman wizards of Wall Street on a pleasant tune by The Fifth Dimension. What goes up, must come down, however soft the landing.

We should be waiting with torches and pitchforks.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Worst Xmas Evah!

No rescue in sight for what ails economy,0,353217,full.story

"The wheels seem to be coming off the economy right now," said Brian P. Sack, vice president of the respected forecasting firm of Macroeconomic Advisers. "It's hard to see how we avoid a recession, and it could prove a tough one to climb out of."

Even if the financial bailout plan begins to work, the nation will be lucky if all it experiences is a bad slowdown. The alternative, economists say, is something much worse -- a contraction that might go on for years.

The latest sign of trouble came Friday when the government reported that American employers sliced September payrolls by 159,000 jobs, the ninth straight month of losses and one that puts the country on track to shed a million jobs this year.

But jobs are only part of the trouble; almost every major player in the economy -- which had been growing until recently, if only slowly -- is now beating a hasty retreat:

* Consumers, who account for more than two-thirds of the nation's total economic activity and who boosted their spending earlier in the year thanks in part to more than $100 billion in government stimulus checks, have reversed course and begun cutting expenditures. Real consumption, after adjustment for inflation, slipped two-tenths of a point in June, a half-point in July and flat-lined in August, the latest month for which numbers are available, according to the government's Bureau of Economic Analysis.


As for retail, it had grown into one of the major employers in the economy as Americans saw their incomes and wealth rise and wanted to buy more stuff.

But with the incomes of the majority of Americans flat-lining and wealth declining as home values and investments plummet, the retail industry is likely to shrink as well.

"We expect 8,000 stores to close this year, which is probably a record," said Howard Davidowitz, head of Davidowitz & Associates Inc., a New York retail consulting firm.

"This will be the worst Christmas shopping season in a century," he predicted.



Um, yeah...the bailout is not designed to do anything but force the taxpayer to hand over billions, possibly trillions, to the very same financial gurus that wrecked their own investment firms. If you have tracked this story at all, we are literally handing over a minimum of $700 billion to people who modeled tranches of bad mortgage securities instruments on the track record of good mortgages in order to slap on the veneer of a blue chip investment onto them and thereby woo unscrupulous investors into parting with their hard-earned cash.

There is no planned oversight to speak of in the bill that has already been passed. It's all bullshit. It is one big giveaway. There is no provision to make the taxpayer a future stakeholder in any of the wealth that may later be generated by these companies. Say bye bye to billions.

In your nightmares you might imagine that the very wealthy share their wealth with the rest of us - but that is the same sad, bullshit "trickle down" economic theory that is always trotted out to justify this exact same strategy every time. These people have more money than they can realistically spend in their lifetimes even if they spent all of their time trying to do that instead of trying to get their hands on even more money.

What the bailout doesn't do, and was never designed to do, is stimulate the economy in any meaningful way. All it does is prop up some investment firms that were going under.

Why should the American taxpayer care about that even slightly?

Where is aid for middle-america? Where is the help we need to give to people in foreclosure? When people lose their homes, and then possibly their jobs because they have become financially unstable, they go on welfare and other kinds of public assistance. Did you know that people with bad credit find it difficult to get jobs because prospective employers consider them a security risk? Isn't it better to take over these bad mortgages, renegotiate them, allow people to stay in their homes, help them keep their jobs and thereby keep the wheels of the true economy rolling along? That's how you manage a slow-motion disaster: one family at a time.

The upshot here is this: the real bailout is yet to come.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bailout Double Hostage



Chicken Little politics. More importanly, this...

...Senate roll call vote:

...House roll call vote:

My personal hit list:

Senators -
***Dianne Feinstein (D)
***Barbara Boxer (D)

Representatives -
*** Dennis Cardoza (D-18)
*** George Radanovich (R-19)

I am voting for the opposition. No mercy.

The Wrong Bailout

Wary of Public Outcry, Revised $800B Wall St. Bailout Stuffed with Earmarks to Sway Election-Year Incumbents

ROBERT JOHNSON: I think this bill, five weeks before an election, is illustrating for the American people, when there are two currencies of power—votes and money—that even at this time, when the power of votes is at its cyclical high, meaning just before the election, they are almost laughing at the American people, in the—by the nature and structure of this bill. This is a very sad result.


JUAN GONZALEZ: Robert Johnson, you mentioned Henry Paulson. The New York Times has an article today, a fascinating look at how this crisis unraveled, and they claim that back in 2004, it was Paulson himself, who, as head of Goldman Sachs at that time, had meetings with all the other major investment banks and the Securities and Exchange Commission and convinced the SEC to allow them to reduce the amount of money that they kept in reserves to back up any debt that they had, in essence, that he pushed the SEC to reduce regulation and allow them to take the risks that ended them up where they are today.

ROBERT JOHNSON: I read that story, as well, and while I can’t comment in the sense of having been there, it doesn’t surprise me. Investment bankers were trying to relieve constraints, diminish capital and give themselves the freedom to take more leverage, and that is a very significant part of why we’re in this mess today.

I do also want to underscore that I believe it was Secretary Paulson who made the call to let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt, that led to the very, very violent restructuring of AIG with taxpayers’ money, which led to the crisis that led to this bailout bill. I believe, when people take the zoom lens out and look at the history of this bill, they will look at Henry Paulson as being the person who made the critical error that has sent us not only into a national, but a worldwide, credit freeze right now. He’s got a lot of work to do to earn his reputation back with the taxpayers’ $700 billion in the next chapter, and I am nowhere near as comfortable as Warren Buffett is about having him be the person to do that.


What I would like to see in this bill, I would like to have seen the money injected as capital infusion by buying preferred stock into the banks, so that the taxpayer would retain some rights, existing stockholders would be deluded. Existing stockholders, after all, are the owners of the companies that made this mess. Then, in the recovery, the Treasury could make back as much as, some estimate, $300 billion on that stock ownership, instead of having those existing stockholders make that money.

Secondly, and perhaps a place where we should have started, was the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation acknowledging the overhang of these—and unaffordability of all these mortgages and developing a restructuring, which, by the way, would raise the value of the securities, these mortgage-backed securities, that are toxic assets sitting in all the banks.

I do believe we need a bailout. As I said the other day when I was talking with Bruce Marks, I do not think this is a synthetic or fake crisis. We do need to inject what you might call life back into the organs of the economy. There was a story this morning. The Federal Reserve reports that bank lending to small businesses is being cut off very rapidly. And this does not portend well for the economic health of every region of the United States.

But homeowner relief, some significant regulatory reform, equity capital injections into the banks, which, by the way, because of the use of capital and the leverage of capital, you get ten to twelve times the impact on the credit flow in the economy as when you pay—when you overpay for toxic assets as the TARP facility would.

I think it was a very misconceived bill. Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, John Makin on the American Enterprise Institute, Alex Pollock, the American Enterprise Institute, Lucian Bebchuk at Harvard Law School and Olin Foundation—these are conservatives and liberals all standing around saying, “Why are you doing the wrong thing, Secretary Paulson?” And Congress went along.


Yes. It went up by roughly $150 billion for those kinds of special pork-related projects. Now, what you’re seeing is the Congress and the Senate are daring the American people to get mad and throw them out. As David Sirota said in his first book, Hostile Takeover, this isn’t about choosing between Rs and Ds; this is about a bipartisan money machine working against the population. They’re daring you. They’re daring you to turn out in five weeks and, in essence, support challengers against incumbents, because the incumbents are the ones responsible for doing this bill.



Democracy inaction or the beginning of some kind...?

My advice: vote every motherfucker that voted for this travesty - this great social and financial injustice - out on his ass!


There were and are dozens of ways to do this better and far more wisely.

And let's be very clear about one other thing. This really doesn't fix anything. It's just a money-grab. Who gives a shit if some investment firms go belly up? Who cares if foreign investors cry like bitches? This is very specifically about how to spend money for which we taxpayers work very hard. We were all just robbed - every person in the U.S. now owes a part of this handout worth a few grand and rising. Because that's the real problem: they didn't fix the underlying problems, those will still need to be fixed and escalate the price of this bailout.

I don't like to be alarmist, but this could be the final looting that is even possible. When you fall back from your current position, is there another to which you can fall back to the next time? Or is this it - the final belt-tightening before the end?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"And I, for one, welcome our new Diebold overlords"


That's a paddlin'...