Thursday, December 25, 2008

Harold Pinter Dies

A great man of words dies. Here is a link to some of his most compelling words, spoken on the occasion of having recieved the "Nobel Prize in Literature" for 2005:

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reality check: for the $4,284,500,000,000...

...given to Wall Street and to various other failing interests, the U.S. government could have instead given each of 136 million taxpayers of 2007 almost $32,000.

Fiat currency and bubble markets means socialism at the top, now and forever if they can get it.


Fuck, money's dead.

What Should Have Happened...

Stopping a Financial Crisis, the Swedish Way

A banking system in crisis after the collapse of a housing bubble. An economy hemorrhaging jobs. A market-oriented government struggling to stem the panic. Sound familiar?

It does to Sweden. The country was so far in the hole in 1992 — after years of imprudent regulation, short-sighted economic policy and the end of its property boom — that its banking system was, for all practical purposes, insolvent.

But Sweden took a different course than the one now being proposed by the United States Treasury. And Swedish officials say there are lessons from their own nightmare that Washington may be missing.

Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government.

That strategy held banks responsible and turned the government into an owner. When distressed assets were sold, the profits flowed to taxpayers, and the government was able to recoup more money later by selling its shares in the companies as well.

“If I go into a bank,” said Bo Lundgren, who was Sweden’s minister for fiscal and financial affairs at the time, “I’d rather get equity so that there is some upside for the taxpayer.”

Sweden spent 4 percent of its gross domestic product, or 65 billion kronor, the equivalent of $11.7 billion at the time, or $18.3 billion in today’s dollars, to rescue ailing banks. That is slightly less, proportionate to the national economy, than the $700 billion, or roughly 5 percent of gross domestic product, that the Bush administration estimates its own move will cost in the United States.

But the final cost to Sweden ended up being less than 2 percent of its G.D.P. Some officials say they believe it was closer to zero, depending on how certain rates of return are calculated.

The tumultuous events of the last few weeks have produced a lot of tight-lipped nods in Stockholm. Mr. Lundgren even made the rounds in New York in early September, explaining what the country did in the early 1990s.

A few American commentators have proposed that the United States government extract equity from banks as a price for their rescue. But it does not seem to be under serious consideration yet in the Bush administration or Congress.

The reason is not quite clear. The government has already swapped its sovereign guarantee for equity in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance institutions, and the American International Group, the global insurance giant.

Putting taxpayers on the hook without anything in return could be a mistake, said Urban Backstrom, a senior Swedish finance ministry official at the time. “The public will not support a plan if you leave the former shareholders with anything,” he said.


The public is routinely ignored by Congress. All Congress did was drag out a scapegoat and make him say this:

"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms." - Alan Greenspan before Congress, October 2008

I guess we are supposed to believe that Greenspan never heard of a case of a CEO pulling a "pump and dump" scheme and floating away on golden parachute.

The only justice is that the money with which they are bailing out the 1% is perhaps more worthless than it's ever been. I realize that it's not possible to devalue fiat currency in actual fact, what I mean is the perception of it's value.

But again, China and the U.S. will not let the dollar fail if they can help it.

Faith in either god or mammon are equally absurd. But at least faith in the dollar pays the rent, bills, and keeps food on the table.

Here is wisdom.Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast:For it is the number of a man;and his number is six hundred three score and six.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Only Advert You May Ever See Here...

What could be more fitting than the President of the U.S. at the service of an uncaring corporation?

I give you *W* - as everyone's bitch...

I have discovered the opposite of irony!

Paulson's Billions!

Paulson wants his other $350 billion to allocate according to his private whims. Reality has become a bad remake of Richard Pryor's Brewster's Millions. Well, except that Paulson is playing with someone else's money and burning through it like he was on a drunken shopping spree.

I'm so glad we avoided that $15 billion auto industry bailout. We saved just enough by doing that to actually give them $17.4 billion instead. But that's the current estimate, these things tend to grow like Pinocchio's nose and for the same reason.

Thanks for the American dream,To vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through. - William Burroughs

Franken Projected to Win

I'm not that invested in the race but I would prefer Franken to Coleman. I still can't get over the haphazard nature of how our voting process is carried out and the degree to which it is susceptible to corruption and manipulation. The claim that some 1,500 votes/ballots or so were simply mislaid boggles the mind. I think I read something about not counting absentee ballots which is a completely WTF moment for me because that's how I vote preferentially in my own state.

I hope those people at the poles can find their lunch money because I wouldn't want them to lose something important!

BTW, this is how its done, Mr. Gore. Franken may come across as a prissy yet stubborn mule; but you, Mr. Gore, will be remembered as a coward that let down your supporters at the crisis moment. You fight on not only because it's the right thing to do but also because it is what is expected of you.

Well done, Franken! However the vote turns out in the end...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lazy Post: Cutted and Pasted

Did America Get Punk'd on the Bailout?'d_on_the_bailout_/?page=entire

In short: Sirota makes some interesting points about the nature of the current credit crunch; in the main asserting that it was part of the reason for the Wall Street Bailout and that it was largely a fabricated crisis that didn't actually exist.

Funny thing's the edited comment of Jon B on that page, entitled "toxic waste, not loans":

I'm going to quibble with Sirota about the reason that was "advertised" for the bailout. If I recall, it was a mish mash of drivel that included the idea that banks were going to crash touching off a Wall Street panic unless the federal government purchased the troubled assets or toxic waste. Getting banks to lend was an "important goal" as well, but not the lead reason...after all TARP stands for Troubled Assets Relief Program....[skipped portion]...Yes, the TARP did eventually punk us, (not because it was supposed to get banks to lend, it was to buy toxic debt), because the TARP is being used far beyond buying the toxic debts mainly because the idiots of high finance don't know what to do to save themselves.

So yes, we have been punked but I think it pays to be stricter about the actual unfolding of events and how they were justified. Like another poster in the comments I think it pays to note exactly who was empowered to fix Wall Street. Most of the major actors are the very people responsible for this toxic mortgage fiasco in the first place. The architects of the crisis are now themselves in charge of the TARP funds and how they are allocated.

You can't make this shit up, folks!

Send Me Your Stuff, Bitches!

Everywhere I read these days people are convinced that we have entered into the bowels of hell and that there is no point in seeking shelter from what is coming.

Well, maybe that's true. Many of you doomsayers should send me all of your shit right now. I then advise you to commit suicide and decrease the surplus population. You meatsacks are taking up too much space and hogging up too many resources already. So jump, you fuckers!

But maybe that's not true at all.

People are worried about the "unwinding" of the various bubble bursts that we are going to have to weather. I don't claim that there's nothing to worry about - to the contrary, we have to act decisively and reestablish the middle-class in America. There's real work to be done and an elite 1% at the top to tame and regulate.

But the world is not ending. The world goes on. Same as it ever was.

A lot of you are worried about the fact that the economy is unraveling. The funny thing about that is that the economy has been a fiction for years - there's nothing there in actuality to unravel. You believe in dollars because everyone else does. If they all believed in something different so would you.

Between 1933-35 we went off the gold standard. Around 1973 we abandoned silver backed currency. Dollars are now promises to pay nothing at all. They are legal tender for all debts public and private: the promise to pay a printed piece of paper that says $1 on it. Even worse, it's often the promise to pay an electronic financial database entry instead of even the paper. See:

Most money is created when you step into a bank and promise to pay them for the loans they grant you. I have heard all kinds of reserve percentages bandied around over the years and I am now willing to accept that banks may be lending as much as $10,000 USD if they have 3% of it on reserve. Yes, that means they will create and loan you $10,000 USD that will accrue interest and penalties over a period of time in exchange for $300 USD that they may actually have on reserve. Yes, it's a racket.

The main point I am making is that this game is ongoing and has been in effect since before any of us were born. The people that benefit the most from this setup aren't going to allow it to stop except in the event of a bloody revolution. Be assured: the game will go on!

That's bad and good news. The bad news is that the world will not implode and nothing short of a bloody revolution is going to usher in any kind of substantive change that's going to topple the top 1% elites from their ivory towers of power. The good news is that we have a window of opportunity to insist upon the kinds of changes others have already implemented in Europe and Canada. We must become more social in our politics, institute a host of substantive regulatory controls, and then continue to nurture a hybrid economic model for the foreseeable future.

No more handouts to the elites. No more socialism at the top only. It is time to demand social equity and political justice.

For those of you not up to the challenge, please go back to the first two paragraphs and follow through.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kiss Off Reloaded!

It was exactly like that. No lie!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Glenn Greenwald on Political Class Hierarchy

From Bill Moyers Journal, December 12, 2008:
GLENN GREENWALD: You have. Let's just quickly describe in the most dispassionate terms, as few of euphemisms, as possible, where we are and what has happened over the last eight years. We have a law in place that says it is a felony offense punishable by five years in prison or a $10,000 fine to eavesdrop on American citizens without warrants. We have laws in place that say that it is a felony punishable by decades in prison to subject detainees in our custody to treatment that violates the Geneva Conventions or that is inhumane or coercive.

We know that the president and his top aides have violated these laws. The facts are indisputable that they've done so. And yet as a country, as a political class, we're deciding basically in unison that the president and our highest political officials are free to break the most serious laws that we have, that our citizens have enacted, with complete impunity, without consequences, without being held accountable under the law.

And when you juxtapose that with the fact that we are a country that has probably the most merciless criminal justice system on the planet when it comes to ordinary Americans. We imprison more of our population than any country in the world. We have less than five percent of the world's population. And yet 25 percent almost of prisoners worldwide are inside the United States.

What you have is a two-tiered system of justice where ordinary Americans are subjected to the most merciless criminal justice system in the world. They break the law. The full weight of the criminal justice system comes crashing down upon them. But our political class, the same elites who have imposed that incredibly harsh framework on ordinary Americans, have essentially exempted themselves and the leaders of that political class from the law.

They have license to break the law. That's what we're deciding now as we say George Bush and his top advisors shouldn't be investigated let alone prosecuted for the laws that we know that they've broken. And I can't think of anything more damaging to our country because the rule of law is the lynchpin of everything we have.


Get that? Two tiers. The haves and the have-nots. Owners and the owned. Master and slave.

The law is to control you and me, not them. Capitalism is the rhetorical excuse for how they take money away from us. If they should lose at the free market, they get bailed out. Corporations can even go bankrupt and cease to exist. You as an individual are increasingly hampered in your ability to clean the slate clean - there are debts that cannot be settled through bankruptcy and other hurdles that discourage certain types of bankruptcy. The bad debt owned by the elites is a matter for government intervention, if you default on your mortgage you are on your own.

At the top there is no law. Capitalism is actually socialism for the wealthy elite.

Didn't you know?

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Kiss Off!

"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," al-Zeidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."


I agree, although it's not my only area of interest nor is it the only issue that is worthy of complaint.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cheap Labor Republicans

Rachel has got to be my favorite lesbian in the world. She is charming, intelligent and tenacious - and it's all served up with a slightly cruel streak that delights in stabbing wrong-doers in the heart with the steel of the truths that hurt the most. Someday I'd like her to have my kittens but I'll have to be satisfied that she will instead make someone else a very nice husband (or something like that).

She calls it exactly as it is: we are led by people whose true allegiances favor foreign powers and interests. They can dress it up as the same old ideological claptrap, but the story is still that these assholes are more interested in aiding foreign car manufacturers than supporting those at home here in the U.S. Details matter.

And this all reminds me of my friend over here:

Personal Responsibility and Wages

Less Government and Cheap Labor

I've been reading that guy for a few years now. It's often very good reading. I enjoy his continual unraveling of the hideously hypocritical and self-contradicting GOP political rhetoric. Apparently when the GOP makes no sense that's the point anyway. When the GOP gets all of its wishes fulfilled and ends good wages and unions they might as well drift away on those golden parachutes to the UAE - we'll already be done here.

For everyone to win we have to recreate the U.S. as a manufacturing powerhouse with lots of exports. The only way we'll save the middle-class is by creating good paying jobs that allow people to afford the kinds of goods that also help to support the global economy.

How long did we think we could ride the wave of watching manufacturing leave these shores? Whatever your estimate it has to be somewhat less than forever. So let's stop off-shoring good jobs tomorrow. A few days later you will wake up to a much more robust U.S. economy.

We'll be happier and people elsewhere will also be happier.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More on $1 a Gallon



I'm a little surprised to see the idea of deflation rearing it's ugly head when the government and the fed are doing quite a bit to prop up the dollar and keep the current Ponzi scheme afloat. They don't win except via inflation, so they will use the related ideas of deflation and high unemployment to justify inflation creation.

Here is a funny idea about oil:
Oil is just a commodity like any other. There's nothing special about oil except for the way our society has been purposefully engineered to be dependent upon it and the fact that plastics can be made from it.

I like plastics. They have their uses. I like the idea of conserving oil for use in the creation of plastics. Yup, call me crazy...

I don't like the idea of oil as fuel when there are so many other things we could use instead. Now maybe it could be said that we needed oil as fuel until now, but we are rapidly approaching an era of technologies when the continued use of oil as a primary fuel will be a choice and not a necessity.

So, doesn't it seem reasonable that the price of oil is dropping? If there is a built-in surcharge in other products that accounts for what is largely a hidden gas cost then those items will also drop in price. That makes perfect sense.

Not so long ago gas was only about $1.50 USD - the fact that it jumped to nearly $4 USD on speculation was just part of the vagaries of a speculator market. It's not a market I think should exist, but I'm not in charge. So speculators were able to make out like bandits and put the screws to everyone else internationally. That's what happened.

But the drop of gas prices from $4 USD (record high oil barrel prices of near $150 USD) back down to something more reasonable is not really deflation. I'd call it more of a market correction and a step back from a purely speculator driven trend.

Think of it as haggling on a much larger scale.

Necessary Monty Python link:

Top Broker Accused of Fraud

Madoff, Money Manager for the Wealthy, Said to Have Run '$50 Billion Ponzi Scheme'

Quip: Is he just talking about fractional reserve banking or did he do something even worse?


HR 676 Single-Payer Health Care

I can support this right now. No matter what gets passed they will be tweaking it until doomsday - so let's just get this done.

Olbermann On the Bush Legacy

This might be useful as a reminder going forward. What will the spin machine devise to combat the truth?

The technology that will save humanity

The technology that will save humanity

Apr. 14, 2008 | One of oldest forms of energy used by humans -- sunlight concentrated by mirrors -- is poised to make an astonishing comeback. I believe it will be the most important form of carbon-free power in the 21st century. That's because it's the only form of clean electricity that can meet all the demanding requirements of this century.


Well worth a read in my opinion. We have to move beyond coal and oil, it's simply imperative for the economic health of the country. Into the bargain we get a cleaner source of energy the footprint of which is minimal.

Once solar panels are ubiquitous solar energy will tend to also be fairly inexpensive. And you don't specifically have to store the energy if you can sell it back to the grid at the current market price.

I won't say energy will ever be free, it will always have some cost. But solar and wind offer efficient and economical options the likes of which few of us have ever dreamed possible. Between both technologies most homes could most likely be energy independent most of the time.

And it's all just up ahead. It's almost here already.

Michael Pollan Watch

Read Farmer in Chief:

Video and transcripts:

More of Pollan putting it all together. It's mainly old material but still worth reviewing in light of all of the problems we are now facing.

I'll quote one little piece:
"This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact."

Oh, yes - much more on that later.

$1 a Gallon: a meditation

Some say this could happen in the very near future. I agree.

I am saddened the way our government allows energy to be traded and speculated upon when everything else in the economy is so critically dependent upon the availability and cost of energy. It really is a matter of national security that we become energy independent by whatever means necessary.

Many of us are learning the hard way that we simply don't need many of the things we foolishly thought we needed until now. Most of life's true treasures are right in front of you if you have the wisdom to appreciate them.

Save. Conserve. Never Waste.

The things you own end up owning you.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Why Be Grateful When You Can Just Be a Citizen?

I was watching a show entitled "Secret Millionaire" when I realized that most of the problems faced by the downtrodden people on the show were symptomatic of the dearth of social safety nets in modern America. Tearful handouts from wealthy patrons were made to two families whose stories would be completely different if we simply had national healthcare in the U.S.

One thing that struck a nerve was the overweening, self-congratulatory tone struck by the wealthy participants. I am pretty sure I have heard the term "multi-millionaire" enough for one week's time. The setup for the show is equally absurd: there is no way that the wealthy participants are being made to live life as "ordinary" people. The mere knowledge that it's over in 5 days time makes anything tolerable. Ordinary people are faced with difficult circumstances 24/7 and with no relief in site.

I'd like to see fewer TV shows like this one and more being done to prevent the problems that the show capitalizes upon.

The whole point of civilization is surely to achieve collectively what cannot be as easily achieved on one's own. Some of that surely has to do with security for one's personal health and freedom from the risk of bankruptcy because of a catastrophic health concern.

But so far the U.S. is run by clowns in the pay of economic thugs. And the people want more of the same.


Al Franken's Political Adventure

Yeah, Al Franken - that guy from SNL in its glory days. He's down by hundreds of votes according to officially released numbers yet his own campaign claims he is actually up in the recount. Whether Franken wins or not is not really my primary interest at this point. The supposed super-majority in congress was a bit of a fiction that was never really going to pan out anyway. Of interest now is what the Franken recount says about the voting process in the U.S.

In short: the vote is fucked!

Franken is finding out for all of us how political and fragile our representative democracy truly happens to be. Ballots are miscounted by machines and humans alike. Ballots go missing. The recount process itself is wildly political and tedious. With all of the technology in the world at our disposal this is apparently the best we can do. The voting process is a complete and abysmal failure. The flaws in the process are so cringe-worthy that I don't think I can think of the U.S. as a democracy of any kind ever again except with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

America, you fail it.