So the other day the New York Times finally got around to all-but-announcing that New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg has all-but-decided to run for President.
Which means – despite denials from his camp – that he’s running as a spoiler. Whether he’ll do more to screw up Republican or Democratic chances for the presidency remains to be seen. What’s clear is, he’s going to screw up the election, drawing votes from candidates on both sides.
Bloomberg’s position will be that he’s a “centerist” – whatever the hell that means. Does it mean he’ll favor the war in Iraq or oppose the war? Hard to say, because so far he has seemed remarkably disinterested in taking a stand on the issue. Ditto universal health care. Ditto, matters of making the income tax more graduated, caring for injured war veterans, ending or continuing inheritance taxes and other issues.
As I’ve in one way or another said here, here, here and here, Michael Bloomberg is a Class A phony. And a Class A spoiler. He won’t win, and heaven help America if he does. The only real reason he has for wanting to be president is, he wants to be president.
As the TV spots might say, "Tell 'Mike' Bloomberg to stop throwing monkey wrenches into the gears of Democracy."
Pass it on.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
You now owe nine trillion, 136 billion, four hundred and eighteen million, sixty-two thousand, 457 dollars and twenty nine cents. Thanks to this guy.
Hey, you want nightmares? Here’s a nightmare for you. Your share of the unpaid and growing national debt means that you or your heirs owe the IRS $30,000. Right now. Tomorrow it'll be worse. Matter of fact, it'll be worse by the time you finish reading this post.
The cause? Well, actually there are two causes – cutting taxes, and simultaneously firing up a war over nothing in Iraq. In other words, the two key features of the Bush conservative administration.
“Like a ticking time bomb, the national debt is an explosion waiting to happen. It's expanding by about $1.4 billion a day -- or nearly $1 million a minute,” said the Associated Press, in an article quoted in this revelatory horror story.More from the nightmare tale:
"In short -- we're issuing debt like it's going out of style. That means the Bush's tax cuts were in fact tax deferments because they'll have to increase in order to pay for the spending for the last six years. It also means that further tax cuts should be off the table. It also means the further spending for new programs are off the table."But do leading Republican presidential candidates get it? Nope. George Romney wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, while Rudy Giuliani wants even more of them.
That’s like trying to stave off foreclosure on the house by maxing out your credit cards.
But wait, it gets worse!
The "conservative" Bush financial policies are driving all of us into such a hole that foreign investors are snapping up – as if it's Halloween candy – all kinds of American property, American businesses, and the rights to control American technology. Others include investors in fairly undemocratic places like Dubai, Saudi Arabia the UAR, Russia and China. Click here for an example.
That means those folks are gaining more and more control over everything from the water you drink, to tolls collected on some of the highways you may drive, to the Pentagon's supply chain, to the U.S. Government’s staggering debts. If those foreign investors ever call in their chits, friend, chances are you’ll be on a breadline the next morning.
Somewhere in a cave in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden must be thanking Allah for giving the United States the reign George Bush and the so-called conservative policies that are sabotaging everything we have.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Merry Christmas, kiddies. Guess what’s in the toys Santa left you? And just lay off calling me a grinch, willyuh?
I woke up this morning wondering: To grinch? Or not to grinch?
I’ve decided to Grinch. So get off my case about it. I don’t need you to tell me I’m in a bad mood. And now for the reasons I took the trouble to post today:
• Hundreds of different kids toys – made in China for the likes of American “manufacturers” like Mattel – are lead-poison poisonous.
• All kinds of fish products from – you guessed it, pal, China – are poisonous. And we don't even know which ones.
• Earlier this year, it turned out dog food containing ingredients from China were poisonous. The key ingredient was wheat gluten, which is also in your bread, spaghetti, cookies, soups.
I could go on and on. Do you know where the wheat gluten in your breakfast toast came from?
It’s easy to blame China. To tell you the truth, they deserve a lot of the blame. But our own government, yours and mine, deserves a lot more of the blame.
The imbecile-in-chief we somehow let get elected and re-elected believes in unfettered capitalism. The idea is supposed to be, just get government out of commerce and the marketplace will fix all ills. Poison toys? They’ll go away. Poison fish? It’ll go away. Poison dog food? It’ll go away too, thanks to the wisdom of the unfettered market.
And how does that work? Easily. After you discover your kid is dead, your dog is dead, and you yourself are dead, you’ll stop buying the poisoned stuff. The market then will say to itself, “Hmm, we’ve lost three customers. We’d better get the lead out. Oh, and also the melamine, the antibiotics, the bacteria, the viruses, the mad cow prions and other toxins.”
Do you see a slight fallacy in that reasoning? Me too.
Even if you can keep on making rational purchasing decisions when you’re dead, it’s pretty hard to purchase anything rationally if you don’t know where it came from. Besides, once you're dead, why should the poison sellers wonder whether you'll boycott them or not – unless the government puts enough people with policing authority in there to bop the malefactor marketers over the head with the threat of a prison sentence?
I bet you can’t answer any of the following questions:
•Where did the fish that went into your last fried fish sticks dinner come from? Not the company that sold it to you. The raw ingredients.
•Where did the wheat gluten in your “healthy” 7-grain bread come from?
Where did the food eaten by the turkey that you’re eating from Christmas come from?
And how come the U.S. Government isn’t testing any of this poisonous stuff before it gets unloaded in American ports?
The U.S. Government belongs to the American people. That, pal, means you and me. It’s time to take the government back and put it to work for us. National defense means defense against poisoning and unscrupulous profiteers here and abroad, as well as against Al Qaida.
But tell that to a Republican! Tell them we need more government inspections of goods and services. Tell them the government needs sharper teeth to bite off the ears of any company that purchases and redistributes poison. Tell them we need a labeling law that will tell you where not only your kids' toys and your dog's food came from, but also your own fish, and steak, and the mucilage you licked the last time you mailed back a bill to the phone company.
Okay, enough for today.
And watch what you stick in your mouth.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush does a little business with a New York bank. Next thing you know, Florida taxpayers are holding the bag for billions.
Corruption, thy name is Bush! This story has the makings of another Carl Hiaasen novel. All it still needs is a sexy blonde and a fisherman who finds his bone-fishing grounds occupied by a politician fellating a banker.
Remarkably, it appeared here on Bloomberg.com.
The nub of it
Here are a few choice excerpts from the Bloomberg News story:
Jeb Bush, who incorporated Jeb Bush & Associates in February 2007, a month after completing his second term [as Governor], had been hired as a consultant to Lehman Brothers in June. Bush is the brother of President George W. Bush.And furthermore:
`Do Something Quickly'
In November, school districts and local agencies that kept their cash in the state pool rushed to withdraw $12 billion, or 46 percent, of the money in the fund. On Nov. 29, the state froze the fund to stop all withdrawals. ``If we don't do something quickly, we're not going to have an investment pool,'' [Carl] Stipanovich [executive director of the state board of administration] told the board that day.
Until November, the Florida pool was the largest public money market fund in the U.S. It held cash for about 1,000 school districts, towns and local agencies in Florida.
Stipanovich resigned on Dec. 4. He declined to comment.
What Stipanovich, 58, hadn't told his boss, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, was that Lehman Brothers was the same firm that had sold the state fund $842 million of mortgage- backed debt in July and August. Those securities defaulted within four months, and totaled more failing debt than any other bank sold the state, Florida records show. `
`At the time, I never knew it was Lehman Brothers that actually sold us these investments,'' Sink says.
Florida CFO Sink is riled up about more than Stipanovich. She says JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Lehman Brothers were offloading tainted debt on Florida and other states at a time when those assets were plummeting in value.
So now, if you’re still following all this:
Ex-governor Bush, the President's brother with deep political ties in Florida, sets up a consulting business. Lehman becomes his client. Next thing you know, the taxpayers are stuck with a bunch of nearly worthless paper from Lehman. The public is screwed.
You don’t suppose George Bush’s new U.S. Attorney General appointee, Michael Mukasey, will bring corruption charges, against Jeb, do you?
Nah, I don’t think so either.
New York Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat), who rammed Mukasey’s approval through the senate, please take note. After all, the AG is now your boy.
Monday, December 17, 2007
New York: Stunned by the fallout from the Screen Writers Guild strike that threatens to make television an even-vaster wasteland, the networks have begun to consider asking advertising agencies to develop their own programming with non-union advertising copywriters.
The networks may consider promising that in turn for useable scripts, the ad agencies will be permitted to work generous plugs for their clients’ products into each show.
First the respond was an agency seeking to steal the AXE Deodorant account, currently at a different agency. The upstart agency put its best creative team on the job. Here are the first fruits of their fertile minds:
From: Axe Creative Team
To: Dave Whetstone, Creative Director
We’ve been working all weekend on these. We think they're really cool.
The Armpit Show: This one’s a real charmer, kind of kooky, kind of droll. It’s a sitcom about a family’s adventures and little conflicts, as told by their armpits.
Now don’t get grossed out, Dave. we don’t want to show real armpits. We're talking about sock puppet armpits. They can sniff each other, talk about stuff like body odor problems, and of course always turn to Axe Deodorant to solve their deepest problems.
Continuing characters might include Bob Armpit as Father, Melissa Armpit as Mother, Bart Armpit (or if that’s too close to the Simpsons we could change his name to Brad Armpit) as the teen-aged son, Madison Armpit as the Little Sister, and a nosy neighbor, Mrs. Grungy Pitts.
Armpits In The News: Dave, I really, really think this could be serious competition to the Daily Show. The idea is to get laughs about the news by taking the people in the headlines and zooming in on their armpits. Sometimes you’ll be able to show wet armpits, but just as important, we’ll be able to rate the probable wetness under their clothing by the tenseness of whatever situation they happen to be in, on a scale of 1 to 10.
For example, if Barry Bonds has to answer questions about steroids and starts to look a little bit sweaty, that's an eight. If George Bush gets asked a question and gets that deer-in-the-headlights look again, that’s a nine. If Jessica Simpson gets asked about her love life – well, I think you get the idea. I foresee this adding a new phrase to the American idiom, “This looks like a number 10 armpit moment.”
The Scent Of Love. No, no, no, Dave, this is not a show about people. It’s kind of a Nature Channel show that each week features the scent of a different animal or bug and how that scent leads these wonderful creatures to find each other and reproduce. I figure our target audience would be adolescents, who are interested in sex but who can watch this show as an excuse to do high school biology term papers and feel they’re learning something.
Of course, adolescence is when a lot of brand preferences for things like underarm deodorant get formed, so this is a perfect show for the Axe people. We could even give it an intellectual atmosphere with scientific experiments. For example, we could coat a female fruit fly with Axe and watch how she gets ignored by male fruit flies.
Smelly Friends. The idea is, we have this co-ed apartment in the middle of Manhattan with a cast of continuing characters that include a guy and gal who are in love with each other but don’t know it, two gay guys who are in love with each other but also don’t know it and only one of them knows he’s gay, a real trampy-looking blonde who’s always bringing home guys she picked up in a bar or on the subway, and her two kids by an annulled marriage.
The big idea is, because it’s a New York apartment it’s always too hot, and there’s no way of turning off the radiator, so of course body odor becomes the main issue in all their lives. We keep seeing how body odor affects their romances and career prospects and how Axe comes in from time to time to solve various lifestyle problems.
The Axe Factory would be a program about a factory that makes electric guitars, and the musicians that buy them. Each week we follow a new guitar from the factory as it makes its way into the life of a different musician.
We see musicians on the road, sweating on stage, climbing back into cramped busses and so on. We learn a lot of inside stuff about musicians – for instance, that they have problems with expensive costumes that they can’t afford to replace very often – and that’s why they worry a lot about sweat stains. We have the tensions that arise on the bus when one or more of the actors get a little gamy. And of course we see how all these tensions get resolved with the help of Axe deodorant.
Axe Me Anything. This is a show about hip hop America, and the growing role that Axe deodorant plays in it. Each week, various up-and-coming hip hop stars get called to the stage and told an anecdote about body odor and Axe deodorant. They must then immediately do a rap song about the anecdote. The idea is to see which of the contestants can come up with the coolest rap number about body odor and Axe.
The audience gets to vote by keying their cell phones, and only Axe consumers who have a special phone number printed on the side of their Axe Deodorant know how to call in and vote. I see this as a kind of cross-cultural, or maybe multi-cultural kind of viewing experience with African-American, Spanish-American, Asian-American Indian-American and of course Caucasian-American rappers all doing their different numbers, so we can appeal to the widest possible audience.
Actor’s Apprentice: A group of waitpersons working in a restaurant on the Upper West Side vie to understudy Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. The audience votes via cell phone whether to keep the actors on or throw them off the show. Once again, only Axe Deodorant consumers will have the phone number.
The waitpersons have to sing, dance, do love scenes – and of course there’s this great tie-in to Axe. See, they’ll have to do a lot of running, climbing and other adventure-type scenes and then pass an armpit dryness test. Of course, only those waitpersons using Axe pass. The rest get told, “You’re fired, Stinky!” It’s a great way of demonstrating on camera the efficacy of the product
The Odornos: I don’t need to explain this one to you, Dave. It’s like the Sopranos, but with body odor.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Divine Micromanagement: Jesus Christ goes to the Circleville (Ohio) Pumpkin Show – and picks a winning beauty queen
“I want to thank my family, everyone at church, everyone at school, my savior, Jesus Christ, and everyone who puts on the Pumpkin Show and makes it happen.” – Andrea Turner, Winner, Circleville Pumpkin Show Queen, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tis the season to be kind to car thives, election fraudsters, and extractors of defense contract kickbacks
Washington: President Bush today granted pardons or commuted the sentences of an assortment of thugs, petty crooks, drug dealers and other sleazy smallfry.
Maybe next year, on his way out the door, he’ll finally commute Karla Fay Tucker’s death penalty.
Monday, December 10, 2007
If only they were Russians or Mafiosi, we’d send out armed cops to destroy them. Instead, we pay them with your tax money.
Look at these goons. They’ve got “Police” written on their helmets and their uniforms. Think they’re really career cops?
Nope, they’re a bunch of thugs seeking to make big money by working as mercenaries. They’re part of the Blackwater team, a U.S. private enterprise mercenary outfit that’s taking billions of the taxpayers’ money to murder people, including U.S. soldiers and innocent civilians.
According to an article running in the current issue of The Nation, some of the current controversy swirling around Blackwater includes:
• Gunning down seventeen Iraqi civilians in an incident the military has labeled "criminal."
• Multiple Congressional investigations. A federal grand jury. Allegations of illegal arms smuggling.
• Wrongful death lawsuits brought by families of dead employees and US soldiers.
• A federal lawsuit alleging war crimes.
• Charges of steroid use by trigger-happy mercenaries.
• Allegations of "significant tax evasion."
• The US-installed government in Iraq labeling its forces "murderers."
In other words, they're just your average lovely guys.
The rise of Blackwater is one of the most formidable indictments of the Bush Administration, its incompetence, and its callousness. Even supposing you have no interest in morals, and murder and tax evasion you ought to be concerned that these killers have been contributing mightily to wrecking the USA’s image abroad.
And despite a so-called attempt to “soften” their image, they make menacing little gestures such as parachuting into San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium during a football halftime show. The message to law-abiding Americans is clear. “Don’t screw with us, Dude. We can parachute into where you live, too.”
Where does Blackwater recruit these guys? Why do I have a suspicion it’s from the classified pages of Soldier of Fortune magazine?
Whazzat? You don’t know “SOF?” Well, if you’re into war stories, justifications of torture, and news about where you can go to meet people and kill them, this is your pub, dude.
Do read the article in the Nation. Here, again, is the link. It’s important to do this because, well, one of these days Blackwater might make the United States an offer we can’t refuse.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Dude, don't look now but the Bush economy is headed exactly where you secretly fear it's headed.
I'm grateful to my pal Buce at Underbelly for calling attention a piece from the Washington Post that points out we may be one flush away from drowning the economy.
But it's even worse than that. With the Steagall-Glass Act now history – it was enacted during the last major round of bank failures during the Great Depression and killed off by Iago lobbyists whispering in the ears of Ayn Randite anti-regulation idiots – we're all in for a drubbing.
Thanks to the Steagall-Glass Repeal, when a bank fails, the brokerage house attached to it fails. When a brokerage house fails, so does the bank attached to it. With no Steagall-Glass the economy now can double your trouble in half the time.
What we need is more regulation, tighter regulation, and fast. What we're going to get under Bush and the somnolent Congress of Cautious Democrats is zip.
Nope, I take that back. We're gonna get shafted.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
War? Or no war? The dangerously stubborn fool in the White House is bruising for a fight with Iran. Any reason will do. Or no reason.
Say one thing for President George W. Bush. When it comes to war, he sticks to his guns.
He called for war with Iraq because Saddam Hussein was supposedly harboring weapons of mass destruction. Remember?
When an American inspector said there were no weapons of mass destruction, George Bush said uh uh, they really were there and we had to send in troops to find them.
When the troops discovered there was nothing to find, the reason we were in Iraq changed. We were there to topple Saddam Hussein.
When Saddam toppled, the reason became that we were fighting Al Queda. Nevermind that there hadn’t been an Al Queda in Iraq until we jumped in there.
Oh, and now we’re there to give Iraq democracy. Well, they’re not exactly interested in democracy, but we’re there to give them stability.
Stability? Saddam Hussein gave them stabililty.
Now we’re up to our necks in an Iraqi morass. The nation is broke because Genius George cut taxes and started a war in almost the same breath. So what does he want to do? He wants to invade Iran.
First the reason was that Iran was building nukes. Now our own intelligence says the Iranians discontinued their nuke program four years ago.
So now the excuse is, Iran wanted to build nukes before they decided not to build nukes.
Or if that doesn't work, the excuse is that Iran could build nukes if they ever decide to.
The same could be said of Uganda, Norway, Latvia, Poland, Ghana, Japan, Brazil, South Africa, and just about any other nation you could name. Not to mention a very bright kid in a basement somewhere. So what’s different about Iran? George Bush feels like starting a war with Iran, that’s what’s different.
His philosophy of national security got articulated on this blog a while ago. It’s time to reiterate his brilliant philosophy:
“We won’t be safe ‘till everybody’s dead.”
Friday, November 30, 2007
Remember back in June of 2001 when President George Bush met President Vladimir Putin of Russia?
Putin got nicknamed “Pooty-Poot-Poot” by our dim bulb president who said, “I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul.”
Well hey, it’s possible Georgie-Duh-Duh’s sense was based on a heartfelt admiration of evil, which given the White House view on matters such as torture, warfare, healthcare and taxes may well be the case.
Or it may be that Bush’s sense of character runs as deep as his sense of diplomacy – in other words, about as deep as a puddle left on a sidewalk by someone’s pet poodle.
Thanks in part to President Bush’s stubborn diplomatic stances, President Pooty-Poot-Poot has just in effect torn up a painfully negotiated arms treaty, “a move which could allow it to deploy more forces close to western Europe.”
Cold war, here we come again! And say, isn't that exactly what we need to contend with at the same time we’re dealing with Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and a collapsing economy?
It takes a special kind of person to drag this nation back into the cold war, but Pooty-Poot-Poot’s pal Georgie-Duh-Duh managed to pull it off.
What comes next? Revival of 1950s school nuke drills where the teacher barks “Take cover” and the whole class dives under their desks to protect themselves from atomic radiation?
Well, while we’re all down under there, I suppose we all could read “My Pet Goat” again. Maybe with the book rightside-up this time.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I'm outta hee for a week or so. I'll be visiting the Upper Left Coast. Sort of a cranky semi-vacation, semi-family-get-together thing. I should be blogging again on or about November 30th.
Meanwhile, I'd hate to miss anything. So nobody move. Nobody say anything. Nobody make any ham-handed statements from the campaign trail. Nobody stick your foot in your mouth. Nobody invade any countries (Iran, for instance) at least until I return.
This means you, too, George, Dick, Hillary, Rudy, Barak, John E., Mitt, Mike, John McC and the rest of you. Oh, and you, too, Condi. Got that? Good. Then I'm on my way.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
“Proud” of torturing prisoners yet? Well, I guess you’re just not a loyal reader of The National Review. But here's a song to bring you up to speed.
I come to this late, but nevertheless amazed by a disgusting excuse for a human being named Deroy Murdock, a National Review Online Contributing Editor, who on November 5th of this year wrote, “Waterboarding is something of which every American should be proud.”
Boy, if there was ever a need for a patriotic song about waterboarding, Deroy Murdock has the reason nailed. I propose the following, more or less to the tune of "Varsity Rag." Put on your clown suit and sing away, Deroy!
Hang by their thumbs,
Hang by their toes
Force lotsa water
Into their nose
Everybody does the Torturers Rag
Hotter than hot
Colder than cold
Makes ‘em feel old
Gets as much applause as waving the flag
You can pass
Many a class
Here at the CIA
Just get ‘em tased
You’ll be amazed
The info they’ll give a-way
('though you can’t trust it.)
Hotter than hot,
Meaner than mean,
Make quite a scene
Everybody does the Torturers
Everybody does the Torturers
Everybody does the Torturers Rag
(I love that scrrr-eaming)
Every body does the Torturers Rag.
While I've got your attention, please note a few other bizarre points that Murdock made. Specifically:
• Waterboarding is not torture. (Fine. In that case, in the interest of convincing us of his point, will Mr. Murdock please volunteer to undergo the procedure for an hour or so – preferably on TV so that we all can enjoy the experience with him?)
• Waterboarding should not be discussed because then terrorists will know “what to expect, if tortured.” (As if they don’t know by now, anyway.)
• People who get waterboarded talk. (True, although it’s not clear either that what they say always can be trusted or that they wouldn’t have talked otherwise. Besides, if it’s so effective, how come we’re afraid of telling those captured terrorists – or innocent bystanders who sometimes get swept up in the net – what we’re going to do to them? Does that make water torture less effective?)
They say that nothing cures supporters of torture like a taste of their own medicine. But no, I’m definitely not advocating water torture for Deroy Murdock, unless, as I just suggested, he volunteers. What I do advocate is that whenever he shows up to speak in public, or just shows up in a restaurant, we all burst into song and treat him to a rendition of Torturers' Rag.
Or would that make him complain that we're torturing him?
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Otherwise they'd be spending all their time hating each other.
RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday called for the overthrow of Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers, his first explicit call that they be removed.
"We have to bring down this bunch that took over Gaza with armed force, and is abusing the sufferings and pains of our people," Abbas said in a speech in Ramallah...
Hamas also rounded up more than 400 Fatah activists, and on Wednesday announced media restrictions and plans to curb public gatherings.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
How to keep the whacked-out Bush Administration's free enterprise purists from plunging us into the next Great Depression
Suppose you went to the bank to take out some of your money and learned that you couldn’t get it. Not today. And not ever again because the bank was broke.
That’s what happened in the Great Depression of 1929, and it’s one of the factors that helped make the Great Depression so “Great.” Thousands of people lost not only their jobs and their homes, but also their savings.
Could it happen here again? Before you answer, consider this appalling tale:
The brat who destroyed a bank
In 1995, a 27 year old whiz kid with too little supervision and too much responsibility brought down an international London merchant banking company that had been doing business since 1762.
The bank was Barings and the whiz kid was a too-smart-for-his-own-good trader named Nick Leeson. Before he got tangled in his own elaborate financial knitting, a bizarre scheme involving markets in London and Singapore, a bit of arbitraging and a bit of financial fudging, he had managed to lose $1.4 billion of the bank’s trading capital. Another bank snatched up the chaff that was Barings for about two bucks.
The Bank of England tried a rescue attempt but failed. Employees around the world lost their bonuses, their livelihoods and in some cases their ability to retire with any degree of security.
As for Leeson, he did okay. After doing six years in the clink, he wrote a book called Rogue Trader that sold to the movies. Hey, it’s hard to keep a good story down.
So what’s this got to do with
your future? Pal, take a deep breath,
bite hard on a stick and listen up.
This country used to have a law called the Glass-StiegelAct. It was one of those laws that closed the barn doors after the horse got out, but at least it kept the barn door closed against future financial disasters.
Glass-Stiegel, signed into law after a long string of bank failures, prevented banks from doing stock brokerage business, or stock brokers from doing most forms of banking business. What I’ve just said is admittedly something of an oversimplification, but the principle of this law was to compartmentalize America’s financial institutions.
Think of it as a giant ship called The U.S. Economy. If the ship springs a leak and there’s only one huge compartment below, the ship is going to sink. But if there are lots of little compartments in the ship and one of the compartments springs a leak, the ship still will be able to make it back to shore.
Poking holes in the life boats
Alas, starting in the 1970s Congress started undoing Steigel Glass, essentially taking the compartments out of the ship’s hold, and poking holes in the life boats while they were at it. This was initiated by people who knew more about Ayn Rand’s brand of free enterprise fiction than they did about real financial history, and by bankers and brokers with influence, who saw a short term opportunity to make a bundle through mergers that would put them in two or more businesses instead of one.
The result is a banking system that’s a disaster waiting to happen. You don’t even need a super subprime mortgage meltdown. All you need is the next Nick Leeson, suffering from the same kind of gambling fever that drives people to keep plunging quarters into Las Vegas slot machines until their pockets are empty. When an event like that does happen to an American bank, it will bring down not only banks, but also the U.S. Economy.
Imagine being insured by
a bankrupt insurance company
How can a giant bank’s failure impact the U.S. Government and all of us taxpayers? Here's how:
Bank deposits up to $100,000 are insured by the Federal Government. If a bank with deposits of, say, $500 billion goes down, it’s the taxpayers who have to pay off the depositors.
That’s the kind of money the U.S. Government doesn’t have on hand, thanks to the insane Bushonomics theory that you can start a war, cut taxes at the same time, and drive the deficit into the trillions without horrible consequences. It’s like being insured by an insurance company that’s essentially broke
When a giant bank failure eventually comes, the U.S. Treasury will be forced to print money even faster than it’s printing it now to cover the insurance payments. When that happens, the value of your money will shrink, and the government will be forced to raise interest rates to attract borrowers. This will result in a cost of everything that’ll make today’s prices look like chickenfeed, followed by a national economic collapse.
In pre-Nazi Germany, inflation of this kind literally led to people taking a wheelbarrow full of money to the grocer for a loaf of bread, and eventually led to the rise of the Nazis.
Hiding the disaster potential
The potential disaster in the United States is masked by the fact that the government hasn’t hiked the FDIC insurance rate in decades. Today, that $100,000 limit is the equivalent to only $10,000 a few decades ago.
So if you can’t stash your cash in the bank, and you want to keep it safer, what can you do? Some people are buying gold, which has inflated in price nearly 300 percent in less than 10 years.
But there are risks in buying gold, too, not least of them the risk that I’m wrong about all this.
At any rate, the purpose of this post is not to encourage you to buy gold, but to encourage you to demand financial reform. The USA needs to bring its finances under control by ending the war and by restoring tax brackets that deserve to go into the 50- or 60 percent bracket for individuals with incomes in the millions and above, and into the 90 percent bracket for individuals with triple-digit millions in annual income.
And once that happens, we’ll need FDIC insurance up to $1 million per depositor, not a paltry $100,000.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
By gum, New York’s U.S. Senator Charles Schumer must be reading The New York Crank, and yesterday's post here, just below this one, made him break out in a sweat!
Only kidding, of course. But clearly Schumer must be feeling the sting of a furious backlash from his former supporters, like me, for his endorsement of Michael Mukasey for U.S. Attorney General. Why else would Schumer feel the need to rush into print with a New York Times op-ed piece defending his support of Mukasey? Republicans certainly aren’t upset by it.
Mukasey, it’s impossible to forget, is George Bush’s U.S. Attorney General nominee who swore under oath that he doesn’t, umm, understand what waterboarding is or whether it’s torture. Schumer’s brief in his own defense and that of Mukasey is a masterpiece of verbal legerdemain. It's one of those I-was-against-it-before-it-was-for-it-but-now-I’m-still-against-it flip-flop numbers.
Schumer’s arguments are all easily refutable:
1. Says Schumer, the Justice department is in a shambles and has become an agency that prosecutes people for political reasons and allows ideologues to infect decision making, but Mukasey would fix all that. Oh yeah? And what do you think the White House would do if Mukasey started upsetting the setup? They’d whack his hiney and sent him back into judgeship emeritus, is what. Oh, pardon me. They wouldn’t actually fire him. They’d “accept his resignation.”
2. Says Schumer, if Mukasey gets rejected we’ll have a “caretaker” Attorney General who could function without the advice and consent of the Senate. You mean, the way the previous two attorneys generals have functioned under George Bush? There’s still a House of Representatives that could cut off funding, and strangle various Bush programs – including the Iraq war – in the bathtub. There’d still be your Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck, which still would have subpoena power, and the ability to stir up a hornet’s nest under the President’s chair, especially if you pass anti-torture legislation as your op-ed piece promises and the caretaker Attorney General defies it. Heck, some would say that would be grounds for impeachment.
3. Watch this Schumer Shuffle carefully: “I deeply oppose this administration’s opaque policy on the use of torture – its refusal to reveal what forms of interrogation it considers acceptable. In particular, I believe that the cruel and inhumane technique of waterboarding is not only repugnant, but also illegal…” Oh yeah? So if Chuck is so strongly against dungeon interrogations, how does he account for this contradictory statement (allow lots of time for it to load) heard on ABC Radio. Schumer offers a wild hypothetical supposition about an atomic bomb hidden, more or less, under somebody's bed that would be a justification for "fairly severe" torture.
And if Senator Schumer feels waterboarding is an unacceptable form of torture but he won't rule out torture what form "fairly severe" would he accept? Branding with hot irons? Yanking out fingernails with a pair of pliers? Raping a child in front of its parent? C'mon Chuck, give us a few specifics.
4. Says Schumer, “Even without the proposed law in place, Judge Mukasey would be more likely than a caretaker attorney general to find on his own that waterboarding and other techniques are illegal…” Right. The man who can’t seem to imagine what waterboarding is or whether it's illegal today would suddenly have a change of heart and turn against the President who appointed him.
He must think we were born yesterday
The Senator titled his op-ed supporting Mukasey “A Vote For Justice.” Please, I want to puke. Schumer began his career as a high school politician in Brooklyn. This stuff might still fool the freshman class. It isn’t fooling most of the rest of us.
But when even a few Dems fall for this stuff, thus almost assuring that Mukasey will be the next Attorney General, there isn't much left to do. Except maybe stand under Chuck's window and protest with a song about waterboarding. Maybe Paul Hipp, the composer, would be willing to rename it The Chuck Schumer Waterboard Shuffle.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Franco’s fascist Spain, unconscionable torture, Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer and the utter repulsiveness of their political hackwork.
Why is Senator
During the “transition” from Generalissimo Franco’s fascist dictatorship to democracy after the dictator’s death, filmmakers in Spain still had to be careful what they did.
It was known that people had suffered brutal torture in Franco’s dungeons, and that in 1975, a young student who later was found to be innocent, had suffered the awful form of Franco’s capital punishment – death by slow strangulation using a garrote.
One still didn’t come straight out in Spain under the fascists and talk about such incidents – not even for a while after Franco was dead.
Speaking in code of torture
Instead, in 1975, director Pilar Miro directed a movie about another case of false accusation and torture that occurred in 1910. But this was a subterfuge. People in Spain understood what other event the film might parallel.
Entitled El Crimen de Cuenca, the film tells the story of two peasants who were accused of murder. There were no witnesses to the so-called murder and no physical evidence against the men at all. There wasn't even evidence that a murder had occurred. Consequently, a hard line prosecutor who derided his predecessor for being “a liberal” suggested to the police that they somehow or other get a confession out of the two men.
Torture so brutal it’s painful to watch
What followed – I saw the film this weekend at the Museum of Modern Art in New York – was difficult to watch. It involved not only brutal beatings, but also techniques – shall we call them “rough interrogation?” – such as hammering wedges of wood under fingernails, ripping off fingernails with a pair of pliers, “strangulation” of testicles, and “non physical rough treatment” such as denying water to the parched victims.
Not surprisingly, the two peasants eventually gave the police the confessions that the prosecutor wanted. However, the two confessions weren’t consistent with each other.
Moreover, a police theory about where the men had hidden the body, which the brutalized peasants parroted after sufficient torture in a police dungeon, yielded no body.
Finally, the police concocted a theory that the bones of the alleged murder victim had been burned, pulverized and scattered, accounting for the inability to find his remains. The peasants then were made to confess that this new theory was in fact what had happened. Eight years later, the murder “victim” showed up alive and well, and the two falsely accused peasants, who had been spared death at the garrote by a last minute plea deal, went free.
Like the Inquisition and Franco Spain
– except that it’s happening today
What’s remarkable about this film, now more than 21 years old, is how pertinent it is to the current debate over torture presided over or done at the behest of Americans in Iraq and elsewhere. The Cuenca case supports with an historical case study the claim that torture produces, at best, highly unreliable intelligence.
Torture someone enough, by any of a variety of methods, and your victim eventually will tell you what he thinks you want to hear. Anything to stop the pain. That is true of torture whether it happened in Spain before and during the Franco era, or in some secret CIA dungeon today.
Relying on the unreliable
Relying on completely unreliable torture techniques such as waterboarding for intelligence may help explain why after six years, the Bush administration has still failed to capture Osama Bin Laden. Or why, in the pursuit of terrorists in Iraq, we’ve managed many times to massacre innocent civilians instead while the intended target somehow "got away."
Just as bad – and perhaps more horrifying to us as Americans – is the sly acknowledgment that we torture people even as we deny it. (Officially we don’t torture people but we can’t or won’t confirm that we don’t waterboard them or that waterboarding is torture. Wink wink.)
Horrifying, brutal and coy
Judge Michael Mukasey, who now seems inevitable as the next U.S. Attorney General, took an even more outrageously coy stance in his U.S. Attorney General confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in effect saying that he couldn’t speak to torture by waterboarding because he doesn’t know what waterboarding is. If true, he may be the only person in the United States who hasn’t heard all about it.
It has come to the point where you simply don’t expect more from Bush administration nominees, not to mention the President himself. In the end, history will remember them primarily as a bunch of thugs and accomplices of grand larcenists who funneled money from the U.S. Treasury into the big business equivalent of racketeering scams. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to fear that they will find company on the other end of the political spectrum
Two nauseating senators
– sad to say, both Democrats
What I find nauseating is that the likes of Senators Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein, both Democrats, would in effect wink at some the worst human behavior mankind has committed short of mass extermination.
One day, some American kid in uniform will suffer similar torture. The justification the enemy uses will be that the Americans have been doing the same thing for years.
Schumer adds to the outrage by declaring, according to the New York Times, that he “had obtained Mr. Mukasey’s promise to enforce laws that banned any of the harsh interrogation methods known to have been used on Queda terrorists….”
That “promise” from a man who refuses to answer similarly under oath before a U.S. Senate committee isn’t worth the piece of paper it’s not written on. And the Schumer statement itself all but screeches with escape clause weasels.
I have made it a practice until now to avoid heaping negative criticism on Democrats on this blog. They suffer, frequently and unfairly at the hands of right wing bloggers, commentators and editorial writers.
But I find it unfathomable that Schumer and Feinstein have agreed to confirm Mukasey. Perhaps somebody offered them a bone – funds for their states that the Bush administration will decide not to block, for example. Or perhaps – since their reasons for confirmation are so incredible I am forced to imagine a reason – they made an agreement not to reveal some skeletons someone has found in their political closets.
If so, they have made a deal with the devil, and the fruit their deal will bear will be brutal torture in some Franco-like CIA or CIA proxy dungeon.
Odious political hacks
You can compromise over matters like taxes, water rights or criminal penalties. But there is a certain moral place where decent people ought to draw a line and say, "I will not agree to let this to happen." If there ever was a matter that shouted against compromising, it's the matter of torture.
Sad to say, Senators Schumer and Feinstein have revealed their true nature and the truth about them is both surprising and unpleasant.
They are both odious little political hacks.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
So there I am, puttering around in the kitchen this morning. The kitchen TV is turned on and the news is playing. I'm taking the news in with only half an ear and one eye when some smug-looking Brit comes on.
He was a doctor. I also think the news station was NBC-TV in New York, but don’t hold me to that.
What finally got my attention is that the Brit started to talk about the notion that carrying around weight kills you and food kills, too. He wasn’t talking about heart attacks. He was talking about cancer.
Some of the points I think I heard that self-satisfied-looking, smug-sounding sawbones make included these:
1. If your fat makes you “apple-shaped” (i.e., you have lots of belly fat) you’re in greater danger than if you’re “pear-shaped” (i.e. the fat is on your butt.)
So what are people supposed to do about that, you self-important British buffoon? Go to the doctor and ask for belly-to-butt fat transplant?
2. You shouldn’t eat meat, but if you do eat meat, it should be no bigger than a pack of cigarettes.
So now you’re telling me that to avoid cancer, I should out and buy a pack of cigarettes? And what about all those doctors who only a little while ago were telling me to stop eating anything with white starches -- white bread, spaghetti, potato -- and start eating meat instead? Ever hear of the Atkins diet? Maybe you'd prefer I ate the cigarettes.
3. “I understand you Americans like hot dogs a great deal.” He then said that while we really shouldn’t eat them, but if we do eat them, to eat them in moderation.
Good for you, generalizing from who-knows-what cliché about Americans wolfing down hot dogs, you pompous English fuddy-duddy. You probably watched some clip of the annual summer Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest and jumped to the wrong conclusion from insufficient data. Who let you pass your first Moron Science class?
Incidentally, I understand you English eat disgusting things yourselves, like cold beans on toast for breakfast, and then you go out for fried fish and “chips” for lunch. Carry on old boy because you're English, but eat I recommend eating that disgusting filth in moderation.
4. Alcohol, we in the audience were lectured, should be avoided because it tends to caused colon cancer and breast cancer.
On the other hand, other quarters of the medical community are recommending that you and I drink a glass of wine a day – just like those skinny French drink wine – to avoid heart disease and cancer. It's supposed to improve circulation and get the heart beating a trifle faster, sort of like a brisk walk. Are you against exercise, too?
Make up your muddled mind!
The Crank’s beautiful girlfriend – and I can assure you without going into details that she has considerably more medical knowledge than the average TV news producer – says it all boils down to one thing:
“Nobody's getting out of here alive.” That applies always, no matter what you eat.
I don’t know what you’re going to do about all this, but personally, I intend to go home and have a sizzling sirloin steak as thick as a pompous English doctor’s head, charred on the outside and bloody on the inside, plus a steaming baked potato with slabs butter melting through its fluffy white insides, and a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.
I mean, let’s face it. Everybody has to die of something and personally, I'd rather not die of starvation.
I know not what course you may take but as for me, I’d rather die of a sizzling steak, cabernet sauvignon and chocolate chip cherry vanilla ice cream than of a dreary pile of lettuce leaves and a dry slice of whole wheat bread.
Pass the cigarettes. I need to measure my sirloin.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Who wants to see us roasting in hell? Thanks to the Bush Administration, bigger questions are 1) who doesn’t? And 2) who will nuke us first?
Last Sunday night, the CBS News program 60 Minutes interviewed Afghan President Mohammed Karzai, installed in his position largely with the help of the United States. Karzai is a man who radiates dignity and self control, but in this CBS interview , he seemed trying to keep his temper from boiling over.
His complaint: That U.S. air strikes, aimed at Al Quaida bigwigs, are killing innocent civilians instead.
Civilian dead: 270.
High value targets: 0
Indeed, in further interviews with Air Force Colonel Gary Crowder, and a former Pentagon official, CBS uncovered that we’ve managed to kill 270 civilians with these air strikes, but not a single “high value target.”
Col. Crowder tut-tutted that while the civilians 270, Al Quaida 0 statistics are correct, “we have come a very long way in getting that intelligence to be more accurate. We will collect human intelligence, signals intelligence, overhead full-motion video, all of that tied together, very often in real time. That gives us a better understanding and a significantly higher confidence that the targets we're engaging are in fact valid military targets."
All very nice, one supposes, but Col. Crowder still didn’t offer any evidence that our new, improved techniques have netted us so much as one high value target either. Which leads one to wonder how much gas this Air Force brass gas bag can hold.
Meanwhile, we’re convincing more and more Afghans – neighbors, relatives, friends of the innocent bystander civilians killed by our “better understanding” – that they want to kill us in return. Can you blame them?
Imagine that a foreign power came to the United States, chasing people that none of us like – such as drug dealers and gang leaders. You might or might not like it, depending how much you mind a bunch of foreigners with weapons running around your home town. But suppose, that without killing a single thug, they managed to kill hundreds of Americans, destroy your home, and ruin your business. How would you feel then?
How do others hate us?
Let us count the ways.
Okay, that’s why now we’ve got the citizens of Afghanistan wanting to kill us. I don’t need to tell you about Iraq. They’re not putting out those IED’s because they really, really love us. So that’s two countries that would see us in hell.
How about Turkey? While trying to run interference for a group of Iraqui Kurds that’s creating hostile action on the other side of the Iraq-Turkey border, we’ve managed to alienate this once-strong NATO ally. That’s three nations that would see us in hell.
How about Iran? We’re threatening sanctions, and we’re barely veiling a threat to bomb them. Judging by the Presidential mumbo-jumbo that got us into Iraq, President Bush and his crowd seem to want to go beyond the threat, ASAP.
Okay, that’s four nations that want to see us all in hell. But wait, there’s more!
While we’re stretched out in the Middle East
why not go pick some fights in Latin America?
We’ve made it perfectly clear to Cuba that we’re not budging on our embargo there. Since the Cuban Missile Crises in 1962, we’ve been embargoing them, but quietly. Now, with Fidel Castro evidently dying and his younger brother Raul running things, we seem determined to poke a sharp stick into the Raul Castro’s eye. What will we get for this effort – unless it’s another invitation from Cuba to Russia to re-install those guided missiles pointed at the U.S. – you know, the ones that Jack Kennedy negotiated out of there more than 40 years ago?
That’s five countries whose citizens, for the most part, might be inclined to see us in hell, protestation of the Cuban career refugees in Miami notwithstanding.
Then there’s Vladimir Putin. Not a nice guy, which may be why George Bush seems to consider Putin something of a pal.
But with “friends” like Vladimir, you don’t need World War III. Which makes it puzzling why George Bush is now poking a finger in Putin’s eye by trying to ring Russia’s western flank with missiles, purportedly to shoot down missiles from Iran that actually don’t exist.
Synergy for a nuclear firestorm
That’s six countries that would like to see us in hell. And now we’ve got some synergy going. For example, instead of negotiating with Iran to cut out the nuclear stuff we keep threatening them, thus providing the irrityation that makes them work faster on developing a nuclear bomb and nuclear ICBMS, neither of which they have just now.
This makes us rush to get those missiles installed in Poland and Czechoslovakia, which infuriates the Russians enough to retaliate by installing missiles pointed at us in Cuba. So, lacking troops which are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, we nuke Cuba, which causes Russia to nuke us back.
Oh yes, did I mention North Korea and its own nukes?
How about Pakistan, which is unquestionably armed nukes and in peril of being taken over by Muslim extremists who hate our guts?
And for good measure, have you notice we have no good friends in Venezuela any more? That’s pretty important, because each time we offend someone in the Middle East, the price of oil goes through the rough again, driving our economy deeper into a hole. $10 a gallon gas, anyone?
Death Wish Infinity – The Ultimate Finale
What it boils down to – on the questionable assumption that he isn’t a total imbecile – is that George Bush is in the thrall of a powerful death wish. He wishes to die in a nuclear firestorm. Or to see the U.S. economy die in a financial firestorm. Or both. And he wishes for the rest of us Americans to die with him.
When people are dangerous to themselves or others, they are usually deemed insane, taken off the streets and confined to a mental institution where they can't do any harm. In this case, the body with power to get George Bush off the streets is Congress. Think they'll do it in time? Think they'll ever do it?
Oh, forget about it. Just pass the Kool-Aid.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
And if you think that's outrageous, check out this
Monday, October 22, 2007
The Kurds have no friends. But wait, there’s more! More tragedy. More pitfalls for America. And more danger for the world.
There’s an old Kurdish saying that, “The Kurds have no friends.”
They say this because they are a people and a nation divided into territories of other nations (see red areas of the map above) who have never been helped by anyone in their quest for independent nationhood. Parts of Iran are Kurdish. Parts of Iraq are Kurdish. Parts of Turkey are Kurdish. Parts of Syria are Kurdish. Part of what’s left of the Russian empire is Kurdish.
The enemy of my enemy is
the friend of my...oh nevermind!
Until recently, the Kurdish territory in Iraq was reportedly the least hostile to American troops of all Iraqui territory. After all, the Kurds were the people who got bombed with poison gas by the late Saddam Hussein. Watching Baghdad get busted up was something they must have enjoyed. I don’t imagine a single Kurd shed a single tear when Saddam met his end at the end of the rope. Moreover, chaos in Baghdad meant more autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan.
But there a few small problems with Kurdistan’s good news. First of all, a Kurdistan that's feeling its oats makes various other nations – none of them friends of the Kurds – nervous. That includes the United States which doesn't want an independent Kurdistan either. Or so we say. We still take the position that Iraqi Kurdistan is part of Iraq. Just like our old pal Saddam Hussein used to say.
A big passel of "what ifs...?"
What if Iraqui Kurdistan somehow actually won its independence? Would Turkish Kurdistan want to join them? What about Iranian Kurdistan? What about a Syrian Kurdistan? Did I mention Armenian Kurdistan, the Kurdistan located in the Soviet Union? This could raise hell with the internal management of the entire area.
When Kurds on the Turkish border get, uh, a bit frisky, as they seem to have been doing, ambushing, killing and kidnapping Turkish troops, Turkey gets highly peeved, as it has just done. So Turkey is massing troops in the Iraq border, not as part of a “coalition of the willing” but more likely as an expedition of the pissed off.
That in turn has led to frantic negotiations between the U.S. State Department and the Turks. Condi Rice herself is trying to hold this tiger by the tail.
But if Condi fails to mollify the Turks, they may cut off American military access via their country to Northern Iraq. And they may invade.
On the other hand, if the Iraqui Kurds somehow actually prevail, this may somehow give Iranian Kurds inspiration to rebel, which I speculate could provide Iran with a causus belli to get disagreeable about their nuclear weapons enterprises and blow something up. As for Syria – who knows?
Cold war and nuclear standoffs, anyone?
Or perhaps we could do World War III
I can’t even imagine where the Russians will come out on this one, given what else is going on. At the very least it’s more kindling for a cold war revival. Or for some hapless American troops to get caught in the crossfire between Kurds and Turks. Or Iranians and Kurds. Or Russians and Kurds. Or Iranians and Iraqis. Or Iranians and Russians. Or any strange combination of the above.
Maybe the U.S. will decide to solve the problem and mollify the Turks, Iranians, Russians and possibly the Syrians by bombing the Kurds, just the way Saddam Hussein did. That would bring this insane war full circle. One of our excuses for invading Iraq was that Saddam Hussein “bombed his own people,” meaning Iraq's Kurdish people. Shucks, we may start to think that’s our job. Of course, when that happens we won’t call them Kurds. We’ll call them “terrorists.”
I see by your swagger
that you are a cowboy...
“Bring ‘em on!” said George Bush, some time ago, his voice full of cowboy swagger. Now look at the constantly expanding mess we've got.
Well George, here’s an old cowboy maxim for you, even if I just made it up:
Never stick your bare arm in a bagful of rattlesnakes.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Just in case you missed it, the Federal Communications Commission is considering a rule that would allow one company to own the whole media shebang in your town – the newspaper, the TV station, the radio station and for all I know, the noon fire whistle.
Which means that one man – regardless of political stripe and living, say, in Australia – can decide pretty much what you can read. Or not read. Or hear. Or see.
Yeah yeah, I know, you can always go Internet surfing and find something your local news outlet didn't cover. Maybe.
One reason I say "maybe" is that the FCC commissioned a study revealing, not surprisingly, that locally-owned TV stations provide more local news than media conglomerates. You know, stuff like local politics and what's happening to your kids in school, instead of stuff like whether Brittney or K-Fed is gonna get custody of the kids.
So guess what the FCC did with the study? Right, they destroyed it, so that the public wouldn't get confused by the facts. (The facts about that dastardly FCC move came out last year when somebody leaked the report to Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat.)
So whaddya gonna do? Complain to your Congressperson? Umm, sorry. Most Congresspeople seem unable to multi-task. I'm not sure what they're focused on instead of media ownership. The war maybe? The budget? Getting re-elected? At any rate, not many of them will offend mega-media moguls.
And of you think the U.S. Supreme Court will attack this one on the basis of, oh, I dunno, violation of the anti-trust laws, you ain't been paying attention to Roberts, Alito, & Co.
So whaddya gonna do? Well, the only left to do is whack a Murdoch. Go ahead, you might as well play.
Monday, October 15, 2007
New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire turned Democrat, turned Republican to run for mayor, now turning Democrat-ish again for a possible run for the presidency is also turning out to be a major phony when it comes to matters of the environment.
The Mayor, who according to yesterday’s right-leaning New York Post, “has advocated everything from ditching incandescent light bulbs to taxing Midtown commuters to clean the air - produces 364 tons of smog-inducing carbon dioxide a year, according to a Post analysis of the billionaire's trans-Atlantic real estate portfolio and travel style.
“That's a carbon footprint larger than what's produced by 18 average Americans, 53 Europeans or 404 Guatemalans. It's equivalent to keeping 69 cars a year on the road or lighting the Empire State Building for 4 ½ days.”Well, the I’m glad the Post has finally come around to the left-leaning Crank’s point-of-view that the mayor’s environmental concerns are as phony as a $2 bill.
I said it here back in September. And I said it here in August. And I said it still earlier here in June. But it’s great that the Post came up with some fresh nitty-gritty details, including these shockers:
His homes, said the Post, “boast enough square footage to swallow two mansions like the 10,000-square-foot one owned by former Vice President Al Gore, one of several leading climate-change critics rapped lately for being voracious energy users themselves."
“Bloomberg's carbon footprint swells to epic proportions when you include his penchant for reaching his far-flung getaways by one of the handful of private jets owned by his financial information firm, Bloomberg LP.Meanwhile, the New York Times this morning reports another interesting assault by Bloombergian enviro-phony forces. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection is now busting people for picking up litter.
”In 2004 - before he took steps to conceal his weekend travel from the press - Bloomberg was averaging one four-hour round trip to Bermuda each month in his sleek Dassault Falcon 900.
“Twelve such flights in a year would spew 40 tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, roughly as much as two Americans would produce in a year.
Bloomberg's carbon footprint could actually be much larger. The Post did not have enough information to estimate pollution generated by Bloomberg's four personal cars, the propeller-driven airplane he owns, or the company helicopter he's said to use.”
Well, not any litter. If you want to make off with a rotten banana peel and a plastic bagful of doggy-doo, there’ll be no concerted effort to stop you.
But just you try to pick up an old bedspring that somebody tossed out! You’re gonna get a ticket and you’ll be liable for a $2,000 fine.
Is this nuts? Nah, Mayor Bloomberg, who early in his mayorship dismissed recycling as stupid and wasteful, has discovered there’s a market for scrap metal.
Now, if I discard something, there’s no law on the books I know of that says my trashed property automatically belongs to the city. But leave it to the Mayor to come down like a ton of bricks on some marginal scrap collector who’s just trying to clear the streets faster than the mayor’s sanitation trucks and scrape to up a living in the while he's at it.
We ought to be giving these guys a medal. Instead, Bloomberg gives them the finger.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
My Mac I-book, less than two years old and still on extended warrantee, has gone kerplooie.
I made an apppointment to take it into one of the Apple stores in Manhattan. I had to wait 22 hours for an appointment. When I showed up for my appointment I had to wait an hour to be seen. And what the Apple "Genius" at the repair bar saw was bad news.
"Looks like your hard drive," and said, "and there might even be more to it than that."
He took the computer and promised a new hard drive plus whatever else is needed, free, "in five days or so, or maybe two, or maybe sooner, or maybe longer than that."
Wow, thanks Apple. Love that specificity.
Meanwhile, a couple of other problems surfaced. Apple insists on retaining posession of the damaged hard drive. With all my data on it.
"But that's my data," I protested.
"But it's our hard drive, if you want a new one that works," said the "Genius."
So Apple has declared its private ownership of my personal information. The bastards.
Meanwhile, I can't keep sneaking into Staples and pretending to try out one of their computers in order to post here.
So this blog is on temporary hiatus, for five days, or maybe three, or maybe two, or maybe longer than that.
Got a gripe about Apple? You're welcome to post it here. However, there may be a delay between the time you send it in and the time it gets posted, because Apple is currently in full possession of my computer. Along with my bank account and brokerage codes, social security number, and other personal information.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Prosecutor and criminal investigator, discredited by various authors for outrageous prosecutions, decide to sue, sue, sue, sue, sue everybody
If you’ve read the best-selling non-fiction book “The Innocent Man” by John Grisham, you’re familiar with the tale of the prosecutor and the criminal investigator who nearly sent wrongly accused Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz to the death chamber for a murder they didn’t commit.
Undone by DNA evidence that exonerated the victims who’d been convicted on the basis of coerced confessions, coerced “witnesses” and sloppy investigation, prosecutor Bill Peterson nevertheless refused to retract the notion that Williamson and Fritz were guilty.
But wait, there’s more: three other books alleging prosecutorial – ah, shall we call them “errors” – not only in the Williamson and Fritz Trials but also in another murder case.
Man, if these guys – best-selling authors like John Grisham, attorneys of national stature like Barry Scheck, organizations like the Innocence Project, and publishers like Doubleday Dell, Random House, Broadway Books and Seven Locks Press all keep putting out books about the way you do your job, pretty soon somebody might start thinking that essentially you’re a conspirator in a pinstriped suit, willing to put innocent men to death for – well, who knows what reason, although I can imagine a few having to do with, oh, perhaps sheer ego, or career advancement and wanton disregard for the lives of innocent people.
So Prosecutor Peterson, along with former Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation gumshoe Gary Rogers are suing in an Oklahoma Federal court. According to the September 28th issue of the Tulsa, OK, World, their laundry-list of defendants against charges of libel and slander include:
•John Grisham, author of “The Innocent Man.”
•Robert Mayer, author of “The Dreams of Ada.”
•Dennis Fritz, the author of “Journey Toward Justice.”
•Barry Scheck, one of Fritz’s lawyers who helped exonerate him, and a co-author of “Actual Innocence,” that discusses the case of Williamson and Fritz.
•The Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, publisher of “The Innocent Man” and “Actual Innocence.”
•Random House Inc., which owns Doubleday Dell.
•Broadway Books, publisher of “The Dreams of Ada.”
•Seven Locks Press and/or James C. Riordan, publisher of “Journey Toward Justice.”
You’ll find more complete details here, with a link to the Tulsa World article:
I would fervently wish that the jury will decide to assign court and legal costs to the loser, except for one little problem:
Oklahoma juries seem to have a bad habit of regularly deciding against the wrong people. (See any of the books listed above.)
Monday, October 01, 2007
Well, gang, it happened again. The dollar sank against the Euro this morning to a new low. It sank against the Euro several times last week. And currency traders are betting the dollar will continue to sink. The ship is going down.
What’s that mean? Well, once upon a time we called it “The Almighty Dollar.” Back in 1959, a crummy five bucks in Paris could get you a clean hotel room, three squares a day, and still leave you some loose change for tootling-around money. There was even a guidebook called “Europe on $5 a Day.”
Today five bucks in Paris will get you a thimble-sized cup of espresso. Maybe. If you’re careful about the café where you order it. Or anyway, you could pull it off when I was there last month. Today, who knows?
This is a consequence of Bush Administration’s Dumbo-nomics. If you cut taxes, export all your industry to places where slave labor works cheap so that US companies can turn bigger profits, and then focus your government’s spending on a trillion dollar war about – oh right, we keep changing what it’s supposed to be about– your dollar turns to toilet paper.
So if you're the Bush Administration you can try to disguise what you’re doing by making money cheap – essentially running the printing presses overtime and lowering interest rates – and then pouring the less-valuable cash into the economy, enabling people to buy houses at outrageously inflated prices with cheap mortgage money.
Except, you know all about the housing bubble. That’s what happens when you borrow, borrow, borrow your way into so-called prosperity.
Now we’ve got inflation, plus a threat of recession, plus an increasingly-worthless dollar. If an Al Qaida saboteur had come to the US to do us in by deliberately manipulating the economy to our national detriment, he couldn’t have done a better job than the current administration.
But, but, but, but….!
What about American exports?
Conservative apologists for the Bush Administration will say, “But wait a second! A cheap dollar cheapens American exports, and that’s good for the American economy.”
Yeah, it would be, if the United States hadn’t exported virtually all of its industry.There's almost nothing left. We hardly make anything here any more, except for American cars that even lots of Americans don’t seem to want, high fructose corn syrup and partly hydrogenated corn oil.
So what do we do here? Well, our biggest and most prosperous industry seems to be moving money around. You know, brokerage, investment banking, mortgage lending, hedge-funding, that sort of thing. You can’t export that stuff since it's so much more intangible than say, steel or Barbie dolls when they still were made here.
Then we trade houses. Can’t export those, either. Although increasingly, some European can outbid you if you're out to buy, even with cheap mortgage money.
Meanwhile, China is making everything from poisonous toys, to poisonous fish, to poisonous dog food – and who knows what else Chinese melamine got into besides wheat gluten that went into dog food – and selling it to us, the former bread basket of the world.
Well, uh, then what about
the boost to tourism here?
Yes, the cheap dollar attracts tourists. That’s good for the hotel business, much of which is owned by foreign investors and therefore not so helpful to us. But it’s going to make your own vacations start feeling mighty expensive.
Think about it. You can’t afford Euro-based Europe any more. Not if you’re sane. But if you’re planning to go to New York, San Francisco, Miami or even the Grand Tetons, to name just a few places tourists like, be warned. You’ll be competing for hotel room space with folks who are flush with Euros. They can outbid you, out pay you, and crowd you out. And once the hoteliers see the Euros coming, they’ll raise prices accordingly. So eventually you’ll priced out, too.
Oh, eventually that will even have an impact on domestic airlines. Why cater to bargain-seeking Americans when you can charge Europeans more for the same seats? So unless your idea of a really cool vacation is piling into the family jalopy and sleeping in Cousin Hector’s basement on the other coast, you’re screwed again, pal.
Oh, I forgot. If you want to replace the family jalopy that’ll cost you more too, and not only if it’s a foreign car paid for in dollars. When American cars start looking cheap in comparison, guess what American carmakers will do.
Did I mention the price of gasoline? Oh, right. You already know about that.
P.S. Like the toilet paper in the photograph above? Get it here for only $7.95 a roll. http://www.justtoiletpaper.com/currencynew.shtmlOr just use the money directly.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I took the Madison Avenue bus home from work last night.
Distance: 2-point-something miles.
Time taken: Two-and-an-effing-half-hours!
The problem: In a word, diplomats. Last night New York was crawling with them. In a way it was like waking up in the middle of the night, stepping into the bathroom for a glass of water, and finding the sink crawling with cockroaches.
The great un-diplomatic Manhattan traffic tieup
Somebody – NYPD, Secret Service, FBI, or for all I know the Iranian Secret Police – was making a huge show of tying up traffic for the security of various nations’ diplomats, including our own, while they go to and from the UN blabbing and blubbering to no effect I can detect other than annoyance. Meanwhile, it’s New York’s citizens who got shafted.
So a dude who happens to be a diplomat wants to go for a ride. Does that mean you have to clear all streets of all traffic in a four block radius while the guy checks out of his hotel, loads his baggage into a huge chauffeur-driven SUV, ambles out the hotel’s front door, picks his nose, blows a kiss, and gets in?
I live a few blocks from the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue, a deluxe joint favored by people who live off the taxpayers’ (or slave owners’) money around the world. The Carlyle is on Madison Avenue between 75th and 76th. Why did that justify blocking off Madison Avenue from 73rd Street to God-Knows-Where, the side streets between Madison and Park on 75th and 76th Streets, and who knows what else?
Why did some diplomat’s temporary residency justify freezing several bus loads of passengers for twenty minutes. The bus couldn’t move forward. The riders couldn’t get off. We were prisoners of diplomacy! Out-effing-rageous!
The curse of Leona’s ghost
Earlier, the same bus that I was riding got caught in a different diplomatic security log jam in front of the Palace Hotel, on Madison at 51st Street. That’s the hotel that used to advertise that Leona (“Only the little people pay taxes”) Helmsley was their “Queen.”
Well, Leona’s now pushing up daisies, but her ghost still haunts the block. Nothing moved. Nothing budged. You could almost hear Leona cackling. Or sneering. Or gloating that “Only the little people ride busses.”
Secret technique of the
For those of you who are security buffs, I did notice one interesting technique that some U.S. security service is using. (I say it’s a U.S. security service because it happened in a van with U.S. Government license plates.)
They’re using hatchback SUVs. And before any diplomat goes out the hotel door with his finger in his nose, they open the back hatch. One of those buzz-cut, conservatively-suited, funny button-in-the-lapel, doo-hickey-in-the-ear, sunglasses types sits down in the back, cross-legged like Chief Sitting Bull, facing out the rear window.
Can you see him once the hatch goes down? Nope, because they use that one-way glass that prevents you from seeing inside the vehicle. But you'd better believe he's there. I saw him get in. I saw him sit down.
Is he armed? I couldn’t tell you that. I didn’t see a weapon. But I’d be willing to bet a two hour traffic jam he’s carrying iron.
I mention this just in case you’re a terrorist, planning to sneak up behind a diplomatic vehicle and start shooting. Fuhgedaboud it, dude. They’ll blow you a way before you have a chance to call home on your cell phone and say goodbye to Mom.
On the other hand, I do wish the Secret Service (or whomever) would stop deploying secret agents in full public view. But I guess that’s what happens when you tie up traffic. Everybody in the vehicle stranded next to yours gets to see exactly what you’re doing.
Uh oh, it just occurred to me that if somebody in the Secret Service reads this, they may insist we commute to and from work blindfolded from now on.
Revealed: The Crank’s
plan for improving
Look pal, I’m for security as much as the next person. And I’m probably more in favor of diplomacy than anybody else you could name. But diplomacy in Manhattan simply doesn’t work. With cranks like me running around grumbling about needing over two hours to go two miles, and how late it’s getting, and how hungry we are, diplomacy here is counter-vibrational.
So here’s what I suggest. Get hold of an airplane hangar out at JFK Airport. Run a partition down the center. One side ought to be a dormitory, with none-too-comfortable upper and lower bunks, just like what they have in the army. The other side ought to be a conference room.
When the diplomats get off their airplanes, they should be herded into the hangar and forced to stay there and negotiate until they get something settled. Anything settled, come to think of it.
Until then, they’d have to sleep in a common hall, listening to one another snore and fart and whatever else all night. And they'd have to eat Army food. Does the army still service creamed chipped beef on toast – what soldiers at Fort Dix used to call shit-on-a-shingle – for breakfast? Good. Serve them that. Every last morning. Until they solve problems like Darfur, Iraq, and nukes in Iran and North Korea. Betcha it wouldn’t take more than a week.
Did I mention that I advocate having just one toilet for the entire diplomatic corps? Well I do. As well as one common shower room. And if one of those nose-picking diplomacy hacks is bending over for the soap when Congressman Larry Craig comes through on a Congressional junket, tough luck!