Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bill Moyers Talks to Robert Johnson

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/02272009/watch.html

BILL MOYERS: How do we stop the bleeding?

ROBERT JOHNSON: People talk of nationalization. I just call it restructuring. Restructuring is a part of capitalism. That's how the airlines get restructured when they go through bankruptcy. How you might have to deal with the auto industry, how you deal with venture capital projects. Do the same thing with the banks.
...
Well, I think the notion of nationalization has been a little bit of a PR spin. Restructuring is what you do as capitalist economies to maintain function and continuity. Nationalization invokes the specter of the state seizing the means of production, like Che Guevara is about to take over or something.
...
Well, what I think they need to do is inspect them thoroughly, examine, mark down the assets to a conservative level that protects the taxpayer. See the resulting deficit on the balance sheet, which is the hole.

Then the government injects the capital. People continue to operate the banks. People who continue to work there then perhaps sign new contracts with the government. And the government just becomes the stockholder until such time that they sell the stock back to the market and get paid back a little bit for all the lost support that they're creating for these banks.

...

BILL MOYERS: Well, FEMA's a pretty unsettling model.

ROBERT JOHNSON: Yes, it is. But I would say you could work with Tim Geithner, who's quite a competent man, working with the existing Citibank management, with just a different set of stockholders. The one danger you have, when you keep these banks open, when they're insolvent, is they have a temptation to very risky activity.
Sort of like a quarterback throwing the Hail Mary pass. The losses on an interception accrue to the taxpayers. And the touchdown is kept by the stockholders. So if they take excessive risk in those times they can actually endanger the stockholders further. The plan that Geithner and the White House, the Obama administration, is adopting right now, which I will call intravenous drip capitalization, is one of forbearance. Meaning, don't realize the losses on the balance sheet now. Don't account for everything in a prompt way. Don't truncate the losses, but allow them to go on. And the danger is the ditch could get deeper and deeper.

BILL MOYERS: What's the most discouraging thing you've seen about the Obama plan?

ROBERT JOHNSON: I think the capital assistance program is warehousing zombie banks and running the risk of the taxpayer over the next one or two years, will experience much larger losses.

...

BILL MOYERS: And so the government would step in and do what?

ROBERT JOHNSON: I would ask for letters of resignation from the top executives of all the major banks. I would not do a case by case restructuring. I would take the largest group all in and say, "I want everybody's letter for resignation."

You might not honor all those letters, but you'd have them. I would then say, "The stock is worth zero. The balance sheet is too far negative to continue risking the taxpayer's money." The examiners, somewhat like FDR did in a bank holiday, would examine the depth of the hole in those balance sheets.

Fill that hole with money, taxpayer's money, to recapitalize. Send them back out into the marketplace where people know they're wholly capitalized. And last thing I would do is I would separate the toxic assets from the bank that you put back in the marketplace.

So everybody knew the resulting creature was sound and confidence could rebuild. Inner bank credit could start to flow again, 'cause they aren't afraid of each other.

BILL MOYERS: But the question is would that resulting system of financial institutions, separated from the bad assets, recapitalized for the medium term, create new credit flows?

ROBERT JOHNSON: Give people confidence that there was fair play. That the economy and the financial system, I would say, was subject to the same discipline as the rest of us. There's an old saying about you don't ever want to walk under a guillotine, but after the blade falls, you can walk over it. Well after the blade falls people just start walking forward again. But they don't want to be walking under it.

BILL MOYERS: You're saying that the blade should fall, on the management of these banks, and the shareholders who went along with this excessive risk taking, because they wanted the big returns. The blade should fall on them. Get them out of the way. Government restructures. And then offers the banks back into the market and new investors come in.

ROBERT JOHNSON: That's correct.

BILL MOYERS: So the people pay the price who bet wrong, right?

ROBERT JOHNSON: That's correct. I think that's very fair. I think that's how markets are constructed.

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Must view interview.

Obama Progressive on Healthcare

Obama's health care plan expects an individual mandate
http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=02&year=2009&base_name=obamas_health_care_plan_expect

Here's how it will work, according to the officials I've spoken to. The budget's health care section is not a detailed plan. Rather, it offers financing -- though not all -- and principles meant to guide the plan that Congress will author. The details will be decided by Congress in consultation with the administration.

One of those details is "universal" health care coverage.

That word is important: The Obama campaign's health care plan was not a universal health care plan. It was close to it. It subsidized coverage for millions of Americans and strengthened the employer-based system. The goal, as Obama described it, was to make coverage "affordable" and "available" to all Americans.

But it did not make coverage universal. Affordability can be achieved through subsidies. But without a mandate for individuals to purchase coverage or for the government to give it to them, there was no mechanism for universal coverage. It could get close, but estimates were that around 15 million Americans would remain uninsured. As Jon Cohn wrote at the time, "without a mandate, a substantial portion of Americans [will] remain uninsured."

The budget -- and I was cautioned that the wording "is changing hourly" -- will direct Congress to "aim for universality."

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Obama Budget: $634 Billion For Health Care
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/25/obama-budget-634-billion_n_169961.html

President Barack Obama is asking Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy and cut Medicare costs to provide health care for the uninsured while making the just-enacted $400 tax cut for most workers permanent. In his first budget blueprint, Obama proposes setting aside $634 billion over the next decade to expand government subsidized health coverage _ a little more than half the money needed to ensure that every American gets medical care.

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Details are scarce but there's the first hints of what is to come. Again, quite hopeful.

May it be?

A president worth supporting? A president who is taking incremental step after incremental step in trying to force truly substantive change? I am so cynical and so injured over the many long years that I can't quite bring myself to believe it. And yet, there are signs that Obama is using the memory of his first lackluster "bipartisan" month in office and the increasing urgency of the economic crisis to start implementing a far more radical and progressive agenda. Yes, it's possible to use the "shock doctrine" in the other direction too, D.C. Fat Cats!

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Obama To Lobbyists: I'm Ready To Fight
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/28/obama-to-lobbyists-bring_n_170724.html

President Barack Obama challenged the nation's vested interests to a legislative duel Saturday, saying he will fight to change health care, energy and education in dramatic ways that will upset the status quo.

"The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long," Obama said in his weekly radio and video address. "But I don't. I work for the American people."

He said his ambitious budget plan, unveiled Thursday, will help millions of Americans, but only if Congress overcomes resistance from deep-pocket lobbies.

"I know these steps won't sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they're gearing up for a fight," Obama said, using tough-guy language reminiscent of his predecessor, George W. Bush. "My message to them is this: So am I."

Some analysts say Obama's proposals are almost radical. But he said all of them were included in his campaign promises. "It is the change the American people voted for in November," he said.

Nonetheless, he said, well-financed interest groups will fight back furiously.

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I have high hopes for Obama. I hold back because it's hard to believe a moment of political change may actually have arrived. I still can't decide if Obama is the winner in this possible game of clever brinksmanship or if he's just the ultimate, most patient political centrist that has ever lived. Change cannot come quickly enough for me. One good sign is the way the GOP seems to be pulling apart at the seams. If the center is all that's left at the end of the day, we can start pulling from the left a lot harder AND actually getting our way.

Two links worth noting:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/

http://www.recovery.gov/

Gentle Landings



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There is nothing like a good visual aid to fully grasp the problem.

Friday, February 27, 2009

P2P File Sharing is Really NOT the Problem

This article is by far the best article I have ever read explaining why file sharing on the Internet is actually not the problem the various entertainment industry groups claim of it:

How To Kill The Music Industry
http://torrentfreak.com/how-to-kill-the-music-industry-090227/

If you look at their annual reports you can plainly see that the music industry vastly overstates their claimed sales declines. Markets do not grow forever and Jens Roland's article does a good job of explaining what people are doing with their money instead of buying music and going to the movies.

A few weeks back a younger relative of mine - approx age 20 - put a question to me that had been perplexing him: "Why would you want to own a CD or DVD?"

Maybe that's an even pithier answer to what ails the RIAA and the MPAA. Any intelligent reply to that question would open up the door to a new business model. The business model of selling physical, easily damaged media that must occasionally be replaced or updated to a new media player is ABSOLUTELY over. Dead. Gone. Paul is buried...

We are going to have all kinds of digital media on tap sooner or later. Either the consumers will work it out for themselves or the industry can take part also, the choice is theirs.

But let's make one thing abundant clear: entertainment industry gatekeepers have become entirely superfluous.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama's First Address to a Joint Session of Congress

Text of speech:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-of-President-Barack-Obama-Address-to-Joint-Session-of-Congress/

Bit I liked:

------

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

For history tells a different story. History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

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Quoting Poppress at HuffPo:
He might have said of the economy, "We have a patient who needs open heart surgery and the other party thinks leaches will cure the problem."

Exactly.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Faith in the Dollar

It has begun.

They want you to believe in the turn around. The recovery is being predicted for the second half of 2009 and a full upswing for 2010. Major media wants you to believe.

In truth, you might as well.

Do you suppose it hurts the top 1% when these economic culls occur? It does not.

Believe.

More later...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oh Onion...





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Two best bits ever...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Victory Gardens UK!

UK Gardeners Grow Their Own with National Trust
http://property.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/property/gardens/article5761956.ece?print=yes&randnum=1235153172843

The National Trust is seeking to persuade every household, office and company to grow its own vegetables in a campaign that will create 1,000 allotments on its own land.

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This kind of thing needs to become commonplace. The grocery store needs to become the place you get extras and meats, not your primary means of feeding yourself.

Growing your own food is such a powerful political act too.

Two more links from the past:

Green Acres in America: A Recipe for Prosperity
http://thebloodofpatriotsandtyrants.blogspot.com/2008/10/green-acres-in-america-recipe-for.html

Michael Pollan Watch
http://thebloodofpatriotsandtyrants.blogspot.com/2008/12/michael-pollan-watch.html

Stimulus Watch Link

http://www.stimuluswatch.org/

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This is a really cool and informative link.

You can view stimulus plan projects by state and even by city. There are also options to view by program types or keywords.

Looks very well done so far.

Plastic Surgery is So Plastic

Plastic Surgery Confidential
http://www.vanityfair.com/style/features/2009/02/plastic-surgery200902?printable=true¤tPage=all

He goes through the standard health questions, then asks, “How can I help you today?”

“I was just hoping to get a professional opinion about my options in terms of plastic surgery.”

The doctor squints and replies, rather emphatically, “The way it works is: you tell me if something specifically bothers you, and I’ll tell you if I can address it. But I’m not here to sell you services or goods, because there may be something that you don’t see that I see.”

“And you won’t share?,” I ask, somewhat startled.

Dr. Racanelli explains that he has an ethical problem with pointing things out, because he’s heard of cases in which patients felt they were talked into a procedure. He continues, “If there’s a specific area of concern, then you and I can discuss it at length … I’m not here to, like, pitch you.”

...

“There’s a way to image, and it’s a very successful marketing tool,” he replies. “I do not do it, and the reason is: the only person who knows what your nose is going to look like after surgery is God.” Despite my general discomfort with superfluous references to a higher power, I feel the urge to jump out of my seat and give Dr. Racanelli a standing ovation.

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One out of three doctors gets it right. Pretty interesting article in my view.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

GOP: Obstruct, Obstruct, Obstruct!

Federal GOP:


California GOP:



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I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. But I NEVER vote for Republicans. Not ever.

The GOP is ideologically blinkered and does not in any way represent my interests. And I doubt very much that they either do or even can substantively represent 99% of the people of the United States. The GOP represents the top 1% elite members of our society and them alone.

Maybe they don't represent your interests either. Don't be fooled by "fundy" issues like abortion and other Christian-right issues. You can go hang as far as the GOP is concerned. You will never get your agenda passed. Concentrate on the actual political and economic issues, religious beliefs are best handled on a household by household basis. Your beliefs in the nature of the divine are yours alone and the idea that you will get everyone to agree with you is disrespectful of the rights of others.

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. You might disagree with that second point, but I defy anyone who has paid attention to the activities of the GOP over the last 50 years to dispute that last point. In short, it's a fact.

I consider the GOP the party of irrelevancy. This new era of obstruction strikes me as pointedly un-american in tone. It's as if the GOP wants to quit the sandbox and take all of its toys home with them - your toys too, if you let them get away with it.

Here's an idea:
Don't!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Obama Whiplash



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Yeah, I suck. I gave away the punchline.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Less Than

Decade at Bernie’s
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/16/opinion/16krugman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

Last week the Federal Reserve released the results of the latest Survey of Consumer Finances, a triennial report on the assets and liabilities of American households. The bottom line is that there has been basically no wealth creation at all since the turn of the millennium: the net worth of the average American household, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was in 2001.

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Thank you Bush! Thank you GOP! All smoke and mirrors, all one big illusion.

I have said it endlessly for 8 years: these guys were a lootocracy. Reverse Robin Hood - steal from the poor and give to the rich. Whether through deregulation or war or crisis-based economics - they had both hands deep into your pockets. Believe it, you are living the proof of that statement.

Prosecution for the endless lies? Is it time?

Obama as a Trojan Horse

Liberals not pleased with go-slow approach by Obama
http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-obama-anxiety16-2009feb16,0,2757301,full.story

Reporting from Washington -- Slowly over the last few weeks, some of Barack Obama's most fervent supporters have come to an unhappy realization: The candidate who they thought was squarely on their side in policy fights is now a president who needs cajoling and persuading.

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Obama's To Do List
http://politics.theatlantic.com/2009/02/obamas_to_do_list.php

THE PRESIDENT: My priorities for the rest of the year. Number one is to get the right structure for the successor to TARP; spending the $300-some billion that has already been authorised as wisely as possible, and injecting transparency and trust into the financial system. Having a housing program that provides relief to people who are at risk of losing their homes. Financial regulations that ensure that the crisis doesn't happen again. A innovative and aggressive push for health care reform that focuses not just on access but also on costs, and trying to just provide relief to working families. And a push for an energy policy that puts us on a path to sustainability.

You asked given what we inherited, are we going to be able to get all this done. Some of these reforms don't cost money. They will still be heavy political lifts because there are philosophical arguments about how to approach it. Some of these problems are very complicated. Health care is a classic situation where it may cost money on the front end and save enormous money on the back end and what we're going to have to figure out is what can we do now to start getting that ball rolling, because the longer we put that off, the worse off we are financially. Medicare and Medicaid on their current trajectory cannot be sustained. And the only way I think we're going to fix it is if we see those two problems in the broader contest of bending the curve down on health care inflation....

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While we grow impatient with the man he still says the sorts of things we'd like to hear from the President. His statements may be vague but he seems to be focused on the correct issues. So what gives?

Obama seems to be performing some mix of the following political maneuvers:
1. Acting benign and bipartisan when he actually means to do some fairly radical things
2. Actually being bipartisan in an attempt to make the GOP reveal themselves as stridently too far to the right to compromise
3. Moving in tiny steps because the shifts in status quo that he wants to achieve are too hot politically to make in one bold, decisive movement
4. Trying to seem progressive while sabotaging himself with all of this talk of bipartisanship and negotiating in ways that make no sense to progressives (see previous posts on that subject)
5. Stalling for time while trying to please everyone. In the end, realities will take over and leave fewer choices on the table

I don't know. It's anyone's guess which of these things are at play. The list is probably incomplete.

It would be great if he could be the change we really need. But as time marches on it seems less likely. It must be understood that time is an enormous factor in all of this.

Certainly we need to be agitating from the perceived left of things. We need bolder moves than the limp-wristed stimulus package that was supposedly agreed to over the weekend. Nearly 40% of it was wasted on GOP appeasement tax cuts.

Stupid.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

GOP Opposes Job Creation



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GOP - The Party of Irrelevancy

Good to know...

Jump You Fuckers! Part Three

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/14/business/economy/14pay.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1234588665-ORtEVmI52gmQ0XJ7wx5I/A

A provision buried deep inside the $787 billion economic stimulus bill would impose restrictions on executive bonuses at financial institutions that are much tougher than those proposed 10 days ago by the Treasury Department.

The provision, inserted by Senate Democrats over the objections of the Obama administration, is aimed at companies that have received financial bailout funds. It would prohibit cash bonuses and almost all other incentive compensation for the five most senior officers and the 20 highest-paid executives at large companies that receive money under the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

The stimulus package was approved by the House on Friday, then by the Senate in the late evening.

The pay restrictions resemble those that the Treasury Department announced this month, but are likely to ensnare more executives at many more companies and also to cut more deeply into the bonuses that often account for the bulk of annual pay.

The restriction with the most bite would bar top executives from receiving bonuses exceeding one-third of their annual pay. Any bonus would have to be in the form of long-term incentives, like restricted stock, which could not be cashed out until the TARP money was repaid in full.
...
“These rules will not work,” James F. Reda, an independent compensation consultant, said on Friday. “Any smart executive will (a) pay back TARP money ASAP or (b) get another job.”

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Congress Trumps Obama by Cuffing Bonuses for CEOs
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/13/AR2009021303288.html?hpid=topnews

"This is a big deal. This is a problem," said Scott Talbott, chief lobbyist for the nation's largest financial services firms. "It undermines the current incentive structure."

Talbott said banking executives expected certain restrictions would be applied to them but are concerned that some of the most highly paid employees, such as top traders, who bring in hefty sums for the company, would flee to hedge funds or foreign banks that have not accepted U.S. government funds.

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Incredible, ain't it?

Just a heads up fellas...




For Whom the Bell Tolls
by John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Jump You Fuckers! Part Two

Simon Johnson on Bill Moyers Journal
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/02132009/watch.html

BILL MOYERS: Are you saying that the banking industry trumps the president, the Congress and the American government when it comes to this issue so crucial to the survival of American democracy?
SIMON JOHNSON: I don't know. I hope they don't trump it. But the signs that I see this week, the body language, the words, the op-eds, the testimony, the way they're treated by certain Congressional committees, it makes me feel very worried.
...
BILL MOYERS: ...I mean, when I watched the eight CEOs testify before Congress at the House Financial Services Committee earlier this week, I had just finished reading a report that almost every member of that Committee had received contributions from those banks last year. I mean in a way that's like paying the cop on the beat not to arrest you, right?
...
SIMON JOHNSON: I have no problem with poachers turning gamekeeper, right? So if you know where the bodies are buried maybe you can help us sort out the problem...
...
SIMON JOHNSON: I have no idea. Of course, the administration, the new administration, has a lot of rules about lobbying. And they have rules that basically say, I think, as understood the rules, when they were first presented, I was very impressed. They basically said, "We're not going to hire lobbyists into the administration. There has to be some sort of cooling off period."
BILL MOYERS: And the next day Obama exempted a number of people from that very rule that he had just proclaimed.
SIMON JOHNSON: Yes. It's a problem. It's a huge problem.
BILL MOYERS: So here's the trillion dollar question that I take from your blog, that I read at the beginning, quote, "Can this person," your new economic strategist, in this case Geithner, "really break with the vested elite that got you into this much trouble?" Have you seen any evidence this week that he's going to be tough with these guys?
SIMON JOHNSON: I'm trying to be positive. I'm trying to be supportive. I like the administration. I voted for the president. The answer to your question is, no, I haven't seen anything. But you know, perhaps next week I will. But right now, as we speak, I have a bad feeling in my stomach.
My intuition, from crises, from situations that have improved, the situations that got worse, my intuition is that this is going to get a lot worse. It's going to cost us a lot more money. And we are going down a long, dark, blind alley.
...
SIMON JOHNSON: That's where you go and you check the bank's books, and you say, okay, not only do we use market prices, not pretend prices, not what you wished things were worth, what they're really worth, okay, in the market today. We use that to value your loans and the securities that you have, your assets, right?
And we also assess what will happen to the value of the things you own if there's a severe recession. So that's the idea, it's a stress test, like when you go to see the doctor, they put you on a treadmill, and make you run to see how your heart is going to behave under stress.
So you're looking at how the bank's balance sheets will look under stress. And then you say to them, "This is our assessment of the amount of capital you need to cover your losses, and to stay in business, and be able to make loans, through what appears to be a severe recession."
And, as the president said, we may lose a decade. So we've got to be very hard headed, and all the officials forecasters are still too optimistic on that. This is the amount of capital you need. Now you have a month, or two, to raise this amount of capital privately.
And when this was done in Sweden, by the way, in the early 1990s, they did it to three big banks. One of the three was able to go to its shareholders, raise a lot more capital, and stay in business as a private bank, same shareholders. That's an option. Totally fine. However, the ones that can't raise the capital are in violation of the terms of their banking license, if you like.
We have no problem in this country shutting down small banks. In fact, the FDIC is world class at shutting down and managing the handover of deposits, for example, from small banks. They managed IndyMac, the closure of IndyMac, beautifully. People didn't lose touch with their money for even a moment. But they can't do it to big banks, because they don't have the political power. Nobody has the political will to do it.
So you need to take an FDIC-type process. You scale it up. You say, "You haven't raised the capital privately. The government is taking over your bank. You guys are out of business. Your bonuses are wiped out. Your golden parachutes are gone." Okay? Because the bank has failed.
This is a government-supervised bankruptcy process. It's called, in the terminology of the business, it's called an intervention. The bank is intervened. You don't go into Chapter 11 because in that's too messy. Too complicated. There's an intervention, you lose the right to operate as a bank. The FDIC takes you over. I think we agree, everyone agrees, we don't want the government to run banks in this country.

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Here's what I want to be understood in the most crystal clear way that is possible to imagine: we know exactly what to do and we must do it.

I've been blathering on about the solution for over two months privately and I even blogged about it here:
http://thebloodofpatriotsandtyrants.blogspot.com/2008/12/what-should-have-happened.html

There is no fucking mystery in what we need to do. None. Zero. Anyone that tries to claim that we don't know what to do is completely and hopelessly full of shit. Got that?

Most reasonable economists agree that we need to do something like the Swedish solution. Krugman supports it. DeLong supports it. The list is quite expansive really. Those people are not idiots despite what people may say about their political leanings. And despite all the empty rhetoric about how "left-leaning" these economists may be let's be clear about what they want to do: they want to save capitalism and the status quo in this country as you know it. For this they are branded heretics, leftists, and even socialists.

The extreme right - completely blinkered and as spent as a used condom - wants more deregulation and tax cuts to boot. The market will correct this problem. I really can't address that kind of thinking because it is too cruel and asinine on its face. Thousands will die while these morons figure out that they are dead fucking wrong.

Personally, I am extremely disappointed in Obama already. It may be that he is in the midst of the ultimate clever economic brinksmanship against the GOP...maybe...we can hope. Hope is cheap. Hope is usually in vain and achieves nothing. Or it may simply turn out that despite all of that uplifting campaign rhetoric Obama is a mere stooge for the elites that control him.

We are in deep shit. Not because the outlook is so bad economically, but because there is no political will or ability to do what must be done.

We are in the grip of the lootocracy.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cenk Uygur: Who Keeps Screwing Us Over?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cenk-uygur/who-keeps-screwing-us-ove_b_166438.html

...I knew what Congress was doing yesterday by bringing the Wall Street executives in and scolding them in public was a dog and pony show. But I had not realized how profoundly full of shit these politicians are.

They make a big display of yelling at the CEOs and then the very next day they quietly remove any cap on their compensation. These people are not on our side. This is why so many Americans are so damn frustrated. Everyone in power appears to be bought and paid for. There is a circle of people in DC and NY that keep passing the money around to one another and then come and collect it from us.

I want to know -- no, I demand to know -- who killed this provision? Who argued for taking this cap on executive pay out of the stimulus bill?
...
We're wasting our time here. Just nationalize the damn banks already. Almost all of the top economists are now in agreement that we should take this step. The people who put the money in are the people who own the company -- that's how capitalism works. I'm a die-hard capitalist. I don't want the federal government owning banks for an extended period of time. But what's worse is to continue letting these bankers rob us of our money day in and day out while we sit around like fools.
...
My favorite joke is when people say if we don't continue to pay these clowns millions of dollars they will take their talent elsewhere. I literally laughed out loud after writing that. Please, have at it hoss. Take your talent wherever the fuck you would like.

Is it possible that the Obama administration is behind this move? Absolutely. First, Tim Geithner is a complete Wall Street guy. He believes in protecting the Wall Street bubble. That's why they were ecstatic when he was selected. And Obama himself is a guy who is instinct is almost always to be conciliatory. If Wall Street says this is necessary, he's going to want to reach out and appease them to get things moving. But not this time. This is a conciliatory move we cannot abide.

I voted for Obama, but I did not loan out my intellect to him. I can still make up my own mind on whether he is right or wrong. And if he is participating in this, he is 100% wrong.

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Let's repeat the most important message there three times:

There is a circle of people in DC and NY that keep passing the money around to one another and then come and collect it from us.

There is a circle of people in DC and NY that keep passing the money around to one another and then come and collect it from us.

There is a circle of people in DC and NY that keep passing the money around to one another and then come and collect it from us.


My advice to that circle of assholes?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Atheism Investigated and Religious Tax-Exemption Rejected

10 Myths and Truths About Atheists
http://www.alternet.org/story/126118/10_myths_and_truths_about_atheists_/?page=entire

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That's a good link - it has some good stuff for conversation.

Compare with:

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1,000,000 Strong to Strip Mormon Church of Tax Exempt Status
http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/126078/1%2C000%2C000_strong_to_strip_mormon_church_of_tax_exempt_status/

LDS officials initially claimed they donated $2,078 to the Yes on 8 campaign (although direct donations by individual members exceed $20 million). But recent tax filings reveal that the church spent nearly $190,000 to help pass Proposition 8, paying church members to phone bank and travel to California to campaign for the measure.

While officials investigate the odd discrepancy between the church's initial report and its tax filings, independent groups have formed to lobby for a review of the church's tax-exempt status.

"1,000,000 Strong to Strip the Mormon Church of Its Tax Exempt Status" is a Facebook group founded to turn outrage over the church's role in the campaign into action.

"I am of the notion that religious institutions constantly overstep their bounds in regards to how much the written legal parameters allow them to attempt to influence politics," says John Jeb Brenden Whitlock, who founded the group. "The LDS Church was at the time the most obvious target."

While Whitlock believes that stripping the church of its tax-exempt status is an unrealistic goal, the group is nevertheless pushing for "better regulation of how they spend their finances."

To that end, the group encourages its members to write to the IRS requesting an investigation into the LDS Church's finances.

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Since when are religions not political? I cannot frankly think of any kind of organization that is more intrinsically political than a church. The exemption is and always has been pointedly absurd. Maybe it's time to rethink that whole thing...

Bill O'Reilly's Palpable Hypocrisy and Ignorance



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Wow. What a moron O'Reilly really is.

Avoiding Oversight At All Costs

Some Banks Want to Return Government Money
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/11/business/economy/11wall.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

Paying back all those funds would be difficult in this tough economic environment. But banking executives worry that the government may intrude further into their businesses as long as they are beholden to Washington.

“We just think that operating our business without the government capital would be an easier thing to do,” said David A. Viniar, the chief financial officer of Goldman. “We’d be under less scrutiny, and under less pressure. Not that we’d be out of the public eye; we’re still going to be in the public eye.”

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Facing Oversight, Banks Go on Offense
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/10/AR2009021003302.html?hpid=topnews

The banks helmed by Blankfein and the other seven chief executives called to appear before the House Financial Services Committee this morning received $165 billion from the $700 billion government bailout. Lawmakers are furious at the executives over accounts of their lavish spending since receiving the taxpayer funds, and have attacked them for hoarding the money instead of using it to boost lending.

"This is going to be a torture session for them; they know they are going to be pilloried, particularly by the Democrats on the committee," said Anne Mathias, director of policy research for Stanford Group, a financial services firm. "They know that they have to reframe the debate on their own terms and show that they understand the public frustration."

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Obama on Nationalization
http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2009/02/obama-on-nationalization.html

Obama: Sweden, on the other hand, had a problem like this. They took over the banks, nationalized them, got rid of the bad assets, resold the banks and, a couple years later, they were going again. So you'd think looking at it, Sweden looks like a good model. Here's the problem; Sweden had like five banks. [LAUGHS] We've got thousands of banks. You know, the scale of the U.S. economy and the capital markets are so vast and the problems in terms of managing and overseeing anything of that scale, I think, would -- our assessment was that it wouldn't make sense. And we also have different traditions in this country.

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Yeah, that's Obama getting it completely wrong. Wrong as wrong can be...

And who benefits? Exactly.

We do not benefit. Not you and I. Not Main street. The ones that used deregulation and off-shoring to destroy a strong economy are still being handed gold on silver platters while the rest of us go without.

But we must continue going without because we have different traditions in this country. Traditions like what Obama - plutocracy?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This Modern World: Ongoing Content Theft


Salon link:
http://www.salon.com/comics/tomo/2009/02/10/tomo/

Selling the Stimulus

A collection of three videos:







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Obama always speaks well. He shows that yet again. Some of it is overly simplified and therefore ambiguous. But I hear him saying "...from the bottom up" and I just have to smile.

Maddow is deeply intelligent as always. She dogs her subject and never veers off course while continually appearing to be the very soul of congeniality. Ultimately, she is wickedly cruel - but so charming that it cannot possibly be held against her.

William Greider does a good job of telling it like it is. Obama and the Dems must make a true choice. I have heard that Obama owes much to individual contributions of mere dollars and that he therefore owes far less to the usual lobbying interests that normally own politicians. The question is quite simple: who does Obama serve? He cannot have two masters.

Has Obama chosen to go down in history as the man that turned it around or will he stay pat at the mere color of his skin?

Maddow Schools the GOP on the Meaning of Stimulus


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Rachel, you will be mine. Oh yes, you will be mine.

From Jobless in America

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090223/von_hoffman/single

"Class war has begun." - Sue Oelkers, Red Wing, Minn.

"Here in California, the official unemployment rate is now 9.3 percent, but that doesn't include people like me, and there are a lot of us." - W.K. Grady, Los Angeles

"...We were told, Work hard, play by the rules, and pay your taxes and you will get ahead--you will have the so-called American Dream. That's a damn lie, and I for one am mad as hell about it. God help those in charge should I and the millions of other people like me (our numbers seem to be growing exponentially by the day) reach a point of desperation and no return. There will be a revolution and no redemption for the people who caused this mess." - Joris B. Rapelje, Clinton Township, Mich.

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Joris? Don't be too surprised by that late night knock at the door...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Teaching Mr. Obama How to Haggle

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/09/opinion/09krugman.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

So Mr. Obama was reduced to bargaining for the votes of those centrists. And the centrists, predictably, extracted a pound of flesh — not, as far as anyone can tell, based on any coherent economic argument, but simply to demonstrate their centrist mojo. They probably would have demanded that $100 billion or so be cut from anything Mr. Obama proposed; by coming in with such a low initial bid, the president guaranteed that the final deal would be much too small.

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Mr. President, I call your attention to this Monty Python bit:
http://www.mwscomp.com/movies/brian/brian-14.htm

Your inability to haggle correctly has been noticed by others also:

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http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2009/01/tax_cuts_as_stimulus.php

It’s one thing to unveil a compromise as a result of a bipartisan negotiation, and another thing to unveil an opening bid that you say you hope conservatives can get on board with.

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So what have you to say for yourself?



They were pleasantly surprised and complimentary about the tax cut that were presented in that framework. Those tax cuts are still in there. I mean, I suppose what I could have done is started off with no tax cuts, knowing that I was going to want some and then let them take credit for all of them. And maybe that's the lesson I learned.
...
It's a little hard for me to take criticism from folks about this recovery package after they presided over a doubling of the national debt. I'm not sure they have a lot of credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

IBM to Workers: Fuck You!

IBM to laid-off staff: Go to India
http://infotech.indiatimes.com/News/IBM_to_laid-off_staff_Go_to_India/articleshow/4085361.cms

In a move to support the pinkslipped employees, the world’s largest technology employer has asked its laid-off employees in US and Canada to join its projects in cheaper-wage destinations like India, China, Brazil and Eastern Europe.
...
The memo said former workers will be put in contact with hiring managers at IBM in countries including Slovenia, Romania, Brazil, Nigeria, the Czech Republic, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

The company specified that only "satisfactory performers" who are "willing to work on local terms and conditions" should pursue the jobs. The wages paid to those moving would be as per the local standards. The company expects many may get lured by the offer as employees seek for "life experiences".

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Wow. You just can't make this shit up, folks!

Anyway, I have this funny anecdote about why the U.S. economy is in the toilet. Maybe you've heard it...?

Naw...I kid...it's not a joke. It's a high stakes game of how to stay alive in modern America. And that takes money. The strange part is that the corporations that are supposed to be the backbone of our society have moved most of the wealth creation opportunities elsewhere.

Maybe they aren't our friends after all. Maybe we shouldn't be giving them so much slack and tax breaks.

Just a thought...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Facing foreclosure? Don't leave. Squat

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/02/04/EDK215MNA0.DTL&hw=Amy+goodman&sn=001&sc=1000

Marcy Kaptur of Ohio is the longest-serving Democratic congresswoman in U.S. history. Her district, stretching along the shore of Lake Erie from west of Cleveland to Toledo, faces an epidemic of home foreclosures and 11.5 percent unemployment. That heartland region, the Rust Belt, had its heart torn out by the North American Free Trade Agreement, with shuttered factories and struggling family farms. Kaptur led the fight in Congress against NAFTA. Now, she is recommending a radical foreclosure solution from the floor of the U.S. Congress: "So I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes. Don't you leave."

She criticizes the bailout's failure to protect homeowners facing foreclosure. Her advice to "squat" cleverly exploits a legal technicality within the subprime-mortgage crisis. These mortgages were made, then bundled into securities and sold and resold repeatedly, by the very Wall Street banks that are now benefiting from TARP (the Troubled Asset Relief Program). The banks foreclosing on families very often can't locate the actual loan note that binds the homeowner to the bad loan. "Produce the note," Kaptur recommends those facing foreclosure demands of the banks.

"[P]ossession is nine-tenths of the law," Rep. Kaptur told me. "Therefore, stay in your property. Get proper legal representation ... [if] Wall Street cannot produce the deed nor the mortgage audit trail ... you should stay in your home. It is your castle. It's more than a piece of property. ... Most people don't even think about getting representation, because they get a piece of paper from the bank, and they go, 'Oh, it's the bank,' and they become fearful, rather than saying: 'This is contract law. The mortgage is a contract. I am one party. There is another party. What are my legal rights under the law as a property owner?' "If you look at the bad paper, if you look at where there's trouble, 95 to 98 percent of the paper really has moved to five institutions: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wachovia, Citigroup and HSBC. They have this country held by the neck."

Kaptur recommends calling the local Legal Aid Society, Bar Association or 888-995-4673 for legal assistance.

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More links:
Adverse possession
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adverse_possession
Squatting
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squatting
How Squatting Works
http://people.howstuffworks.com/squatting.htm

Edit (18 Feb 2009):
Homeowners Take a Stand, Demand Original Paperwork
http://www.cnbc.com/id/29241628

A cool trick to delay foreclosure
http://bubblemeter.blogspot.com/2009/02/cool-trick-to-delay-foreclosure.html

A University of Iowa study last year suggested that companies servicing mortgages are often negligent when it comes to producing the documentation to support foreclosure. In the study of more than 1,700 bankruptcy cases stemming from home foreclosures, the original note was missing more than 40 percent of the time, and other pieces of required documentation also were routinely left out. ...

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A contract, like vengeance and swords, cuts both ways...

Obama: Spending is the Point!



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I guess we should just cut taxes for the elites because that has always worked so brilliantly before...

I will be so happy when the people that support the GOP either drop fucking dead or learn about real life economics. It is very easy in this great country to think yourself a genius when all you really are is a lucky bastard that made a few right moves. People are sometimes made billionaires almost purely on the basis of greed and one lucky moment of opportunity. I'm not saying they weren't prepared to take full advantage of that moment with their own skills and intellect, but luck remains an enormous factor.

The wheel of fortune plays everyone for a fool in the end. History tells us so.

"The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." - Ernest hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Obama on Energy



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When he speaks, I almost always agree. But talk is cheap and actions always speak louder than mere words.

Now he must lead by walking the walk.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Christian Bale Goes Techno-Nuts!



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You know, I hate celebrity gossip. But I like Christian Bale as an actor. This changes nothing for me. I have no idea if his getting overheated was justified or not, what I do know is that I don't care either way. Bale hasn't started any wars or tried to legitimize torture. Bale hasn't sunk our economy or foreclosed on thousands of homes. He's just an actor that got pissed off. I have moments every day where I must vent some spleen. I give Bale a pass - and a laugh given the vid on youtube.

We are living increasingly in a surveillance society. Everybody has some fucking camera/video enabled cell phone and is ready to film you at your worst. Thank god that you aren't a celebrity and therefore not particularly newsworthy just because you pick your nose in your car or what have you.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ongoing Content Theft

Monday, February 2, 2009

Depression economics: Four options

Depression economics: Four options
http://www.straitstimes.com/vgn-ext-templating/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=a4b3cd4c9f72f110VgnVCM100000430a0a0aRCRD&vgnextchannel=0162758920e39010VgnVCM1000000a35010aRCRD

WHEN an economy falls into a depression, governments can try four things to return employment to its normal level and production to its 'potential' level. Call them fiscal policy, credit policy, monetary policy and inflation.

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Just to keep things tidy, those are the four main options. Everything else is somewhat superfluous.

Fiscal policy is area that needs to be focused upon and Brad DeLong tells us why. DeLong also claims that credit policy must figure into our equations, but in my estimation he means that there must be only enough stimulus in that area to regain our confidence in financial institutions.

Evolutionary Tree of Life



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Yeah, nothing ultimately explains first cause - but that doesn't mean that one should suddenly impose a Designer into the scheme. The Law of Parsimony warns us not to multiply entities needlessly and that the simplest of two competing theories is preferred.