Sunday, December 28, 2008

This blog is taking a very short vacation

I just don't feel mean enough. Or nasty enough. Or cranky enough.

So I'm taking a short vacation. Blowing town. 86-ing the routine.

I'll be back sometime the week of January 7th. Crankier, I hope, than ever.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Now retailers ask for a bailout, disguised as a tax holiday. I hope Obama tells 'em, "No!" You should, too.

Look, I favored the bank bailout, although not the kind it turned into — with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen overseeing a blind giveaway.

He's dumping taxpayer money into banks without controls or tracking to determine how the money is used. Consequently hard-earned taxpayer money is not being used to finances homes or businesses. Instead, it's being used to let banks go on an acquisition spree and give big bonuses to greedy bank executives.

That's reverse income distribution

Paulsen is aiding and abetting the process of stealing from the squeezed middle class and the poor to make the rich richer. Some ambitious prosecutor ought to find a way to slam Paulsen in the pokey for betraying America's trust.

I also favor the automobile industry bailout, although I'm waiting to see if President Elect Obama ties a sufficient number of strings to every buck — strings with the other end tied to pollution controls, electric cars, hybrid cars, exciting new designs, and to limits on the building of SUVs.

Now retailers try to
jump on the gravy train

Now retailers have begun yelling, "Me too! Me too!" That's an outrage. I'd rather see money invested in American manufacturing than in the sale — at retail stores — of foreign-made goods. The American economy has to come first. Sure the retailers are hurting. We're all hurting. But the retailer demand is just an attempt to grab taxpayer money.

The bailout is disguised as a "tax holiday." According to "gimme money too" plan proposed by the National Retail Foundation, states would forget about their own sales taxes at specific times and then...

...the federal government would reimburse the 45 states that have sales taxes for the lost revenue, and would provide the five states without a sales tax (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon) with revenue approximating the sales tax reimbursement that would be received by states with similar population.
The money may go to the states (with a windfall for states that have no sales taxes) but it all boils down to a giant gift to Wal-Mart and other chain retailers. Those are those wonderful folks who squeeze the few American manufacturers who remain to the breaking point, and contribute to the trend of exporting American manufacturing jobs to cheap labor nations like Pakistan, China and India.

Ask your Senator and Congressional Representative to tell the NRF to stuff their greedy idea in their cash registers and choke on it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Is it time for U.S. tax policy gently to encourage a little bit of population control?

You’re looking at not-the-most-recent photograph of Jim Bob Duggar and his family, of Arkansas.

It’s out-of-date because since this photograph was taken last year, the Duggar’s have given birth to yet another child. So now they have 18 kids in all.

I became aware of the family while watching The Today Show on December 22. I have to admit, I really like the kids. They were polite, bright, friendly, positive, enthusiastic and organized. I can’t help but wish them well.

That said, I’d like to take the Duggar parents on a tour of the damage that overpopulation is doing to our planet and our nation.

For example:

According to the World Bank and the United Nations, from 1 to 2 billion humans are now malnourished, indicating a combination of insufficient food, low incomes, and inadequate distribution of food. This is the largest number of hungry humans ever recorded in history

Based on their evaluations of available natural resources, scientists of the Royal Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences have issued a joint statement reinforcing the concern about the growing imbalance between the world's population and the resources that support human lives…

The continued production of an adequate food supply is directly dependent on ample fertile land, fresh water, energy, plus the maintenance of biodiversity. As the human population grows, the requirements for these resources also grow. Even if these resources are never depleted, on a per capita basis they will decline significantly because they must be divided among more people…
Big deal, you might say. The Dugars are not hungry. They live in a large, debt-free home. They haven’t even made an impact on their local school system, since they’re all home-schooled.

Wait until you see this family’s
carbon footprint and water consumption

But wait a second. Want to think about energy and water consumption alone? According to MSNBC, one of the many media organizations that has done admiring feature stories about the family…
The family estimates it has used 90,000 diapers and launders 200 loads of clothes each month in a row of industrial-size washers and dryers….Transportation is facilitated by nine vehicles, led by a 21-passenger bus.
Beginning to get the picture?

When should Americans say,
“not on my tax dollar?”

This country, as well it ought, has encouraged stable families through its tax policies — with child tax credits and other tax deductions for dependents. I’m for that in general. I’m even for increasing the tax deduction for families, most especially struggling families with low incomes — up to a point.

That point is reached when people start having more than “replacement children” — the two kids needed eventually to replace their parents. After that, the government ought to be saying, “Listen, the number of children you want to drop on this planet is your business, at least for now, but we refuse to let you make it ours. Reproduce all you want, but don’t ask your fellow citizens to help finance this irresponsible behavior of yours.”

If we fail to do that, future generations might eventually have to start placing a “birth tax” on each child after the second one. That, or responsible citizens will have to starve along with the irresponsible ones.

Incidentally, the Duggar family’s website states that Jim Bob and his wife make their living as “licensed real estate brokers.” In addition, Jim Bob is a former Representative in the Arkansas House of Representatives and former candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Except for one little, uh, anomaly.

Uh oh, it’s one of those
“real estate seminar” things

Surf around a little bit further and you discover that Jim Bob is in the tape and seminar business in a big way, too.

To quote from his sales pitch:
Order DVD Set & Seminar Manual Value Pack! $129 NOW ONLY $109
>> Order Men's Manual Vol. II (Manual Only) $30
But wait, there's more!
Say hallelujah!

Keep digging into this stuff and following links and you discover that the “DVD Set & Seminar Manual Value Pack” are, umm, “faith based” as is the Duggar family’s home schooling setup.

To quote from the home school organization which sells its curricumlum to the Duggars:
We believe Adam was directly created in innocence and in the image of God and did not evolve from preexisting forms of life. By voluntary transgression, he fell; and thus the whole human race is now sinful by nature and practice and, therefore, under just condemnation to eternal separation from God…
Funny, I didn’t learn any of this stuff on the NBC report.

Anyway, I somehow doubt that this is on the required reading list of the kids’ home schooling.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Note to Tina Brown. We didn’t “all go mad.” But some of us innocent bystanders are mad as hell about big time financial criminals.

In Wednesday’s Daily Beast, editor Tina Brown covers herself with ashes falling from the financial conflagration lighted by Bernie Madoff, (link) the man at right.

“Did we all go mad?” she asks, that single phrase spreading the blame with all the careless abandon of an investment banker who spreads the risk of a spurious bond portfolio by dumping it on unsuspecting investors.

Was it, she asks, “some strange collective suicide spree of self-indulgence, self-delusion, and blind pursuit of money money money till we drowned in it?”

No, Tina Brown. “We”
did not all go mad.

No Tina Brown. “We” did not all go mad. Rather, unregulated crooks ran amok, aided and abetted by laissez faire politicians, many of whom also profited directly or indirectly from the madness.

As a consequence, millions of innocent bystanders are suffering, although maybe not in your world Tina.

I’m amazed that despite all your editorial skill and connections, the most heart-rending story you could think to publish concerning Madoff comes from a former editor — tellingly of a magazine called “Self” — who complains that now she may have to give up her maid and ride the New York subway. (link)

But certainly in the real world innocent people are suffering grave consequences. That's because the fallout from the Madoff scam, the mortgage meltdown and other scandals gushes through the entire economy, hurting all of society.

How could “we” escape?

Let’s say you wouldn’t touch a derivative with a ten foot pole. You invested only in solid, blue chip companies. Doesn’t matter.

Thanks to our meltdown economy triggered by financial shenanigans, stocks from Procter & Gamble to GE are down, down, down. Bank stocks you reasonably thought were solid are now shipwrecks—Wachovia and WaMu come first to mind. The U.S. Treasury itself, save for its ability to print funnier and funnier money, is on the rocks.

Let’s say you were retired and ultra-cautiously put all your money in insured bank savings accounts, hoping to live off the interest.

Doesn’t matter. Interest rates are more than halved from two years ago — thus more than halving your retirement income, other than Social Security. And your bank may have invested in capers ranging from Madoff's magical money machine to worthless mortgage derivatives.

Moreover, if you need to withdraw some of your savings to survive the currently pathetic interest rates, your monthly interest income will go lower still. And then you'll have to withdraw more principal. And so on, until your savings vanish.

What if, like millions of Americans, your biggest investment was your home? Perhaps you hoped upon retirement to sell it and live on the proceeds. Tough luck. Now, thanks to mortgage market manipulations, you may not be able to sell your home.

What if you had saved and invested a lifetime to put a child through college? Lotsa luck.

In fact, what if you’re the president of a college, or of a hospital that now has a troubled endowment because of the economic wildfire caused by financial arsonists like Bernie Madoff?

Let the punishment
fit the crime!

What ought to be the penalty for those financial thugs and their laissez-faire enablers in government who spread ruin and misery? To start, no more light sentences, community service, or mere fines. It’s time the law and the courts were changed so that the people who cause intense and widespread misery will suffer punishment commensurate with the misery they have created.

Consider: In some states, in murder trials, witnesses may be called during the sentencing phase to make impact statements about the effect a single murder has had on their lives. So why not have the same in trials involving white collar crimes that cause suffering and loss among thousands or even millions of victims?

Let widow after widow, pensioner after pensioner, human ruin after ruin — for hours, or days, or weeks on end — stand in court before the convicted Wall Street thugs.

Let the victims glare straight into the eyes of these crooks, and say, “Because of you my retirement 401(k) is worthless and I can’t afford to eat anything other than bread and cat food.” “Because of you the company I worked for went broke and now at the age of 55 I can’t find a job.” “Because of you, I have no hope.”

They’re not “white collar criminals.”
They’re sociopathic destroyers of lives.

If there are serial and mass murderers, what should we be calling the people who perpetrate mass frauds that ruin so many retirements, deprive young people of their educations, plunge hard-working people by the thousands into misery, and do exponentially more harm to the American economy than the two airplanes that were crashed into the World Trade Center?

Five years in prison for a Bernie Madoff, a Marc Dreier and other schemers yet undiscovered or largely ignored — as well as those in government who should have been stopping them — is the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.

Nor should these crooks ever be pardoned for their crimes, as Michael Milken, is currently asking for his own crimes. A presidential “pardon” for the likes of Milken, the junk bond king of the 1980s, is as unconscionable as the fact that after spending less than two years behind bars he is walking around a free man, one of the 500 riches on the planet thanks to his junk bond exploits, while his PR flacks try to spin his tale of greed and plunder into one of genius, philanthropy and heroism.

Master crooks deserve
maximum sentences

Each life harmed or ruined by financial finaglers reflects a brutal assault against a human being. Financial crooks in many cases have almost the same impact as muggers who lurk at mail boxes and beat up little old ladies for their pension checks. So no more five-year sentences in minimum security prisons, with time off for good behavior. Throw the book at the evil bastards.

Give the guilty the penalties they deserve. For each life ruined, ten years. Each additional life is an additional crime. Sentences for each crime should be served consecutively.

Remember, these are not “white collar criminals.” These are criminal sociopaths, lacking any sense of conscience or empathy for their victims or for society.

Life in prison without
? Why not?

If it can be shown that someone ruined a hundred lives, sentence him, at ten years per life, to a thousand years behind bars. If it can be shown he ruined ten thousand lives, sentence him to 100,000 years. One suspects that victimized America longs to hear a sentencing judge say with a sneer, “What’s your problem? With tune off for good behavior, you’ll be a free man by the end of the 29th Century.”

In other words, throw these sociopaths into a cell, slam the door shut, solder up the keyhole, and let them rot there until they die. They effectively told their innocent victims, the American public, to go to hell. They deserve no less back from us.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Give me that old soft shoe...a short meditation on flying footwear, despotism, bad jokes and violence

Are you old enough to remember 1960, when Nikita Khrushchev took off his shoe at the UN and began banging it on the table where he sat?

Wow, what an uproar! The press — and there were seven New York daily newspapers at the time — went bonkers. People were horrified at the notion that a world leader could remove his shoe and disruptively bang away during what should have been the dignified (if unproductive) proceedings of the United Nations.

But the President of the United States, at the time Dwight David Eisenhower, had the class to withhold direct comment.

A clodhopper to the head

Now we have another shoe indicident, in this case a shoe-throwing member of the Iraqui press who tossed his clodhoppers, one at a time, toward President George Bush’s head in Bagdad.

Admittedly, this is not to be taken lightly. A shoe to the head can hurt. Add to that the fact that evidently anything having to do with shoes in Muslim culture is an insult — from showing your soles to someone to a direct hit with flying footwear.

To his credit, the President seemed alert enough to duck — probably his first and only display of diplomatic prowess in eight years.

Never screw up an opportunity
to undo what you’re doing right

President Bush’s followup comment, however, proved that you can take be quick on your feet when it comes to ducking flying shoes, but at the same time come off as an agile-tongued boor with an ill-suited sense of humor.

“All I can report is it is a size 10,” he [the President] said, continuing to take questions and noting the apologies. He also called the incident a sign of democracy, saying, “That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves,” as the man’s screaming could be heard outside.
Screaming? Well, evidently the shoe-thrower was “calling attention to himself” by getting “kicked and beaten” by the Iraqui authorities until he “cried like a woman,” according to a witness whose statement was reported in the New York Times.

Well hey, the protesting shoe-thrower certainly shouldn’t have done it. But on the other hand, the President’s flip remarks were completely uncalled for when the sounds of a man getting kicked and beaten was audible from inside the room.

Otherwise, if you can believe what George Bush says, that’s what we do in a free society — beat the living crap out of anybody who protests against the guys in power.

I mean, if it’s not to stifle protest, what the hell is democracy for?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

OJ Simpson, Judith Regan, Rupert Murdoch, Marc Dreier, unhappy hedge funds…Is there anyone who couldn’t hide behind a corkscrew?

Remember Judith Regan, the wunderkind book editor with her own imprint at Harper Collins? She got fired for trying to publish O.J. Simpson’s “memoir” called “If I Did It.” It was reportedly a near-confession of murder written to raise some walking-around money for OJ.

The mere exposure of that sleazy idea got the book cancelled about as fast as Regan got fired. Soon after that, OJ got busted for some funny business in Las Vegas involving several shady characters, loaded guns and sports memorabilia that Simpson kept calling “my stuff.” OJ recently went off to the pokey for that one.

Lots of nasty business went down with the fallout that rained for Regan’s evident lack of publishing, umm…shall we call it taste? She wasn’t just removed from Harper Collins, where her imprint had a home, but also shown the door Rupert Murdoch’s parent company, The News Corporation.

So Regan sued The News Corporation for breach of her contract and settled for $10.75 million. But now, according to Bloomberg News, Regan is accused of stiffing her lawyers.

The way I do the math, the lawyers are looking $2.6-plus million bucks. Give a nearly $11 million settlement, I don't blame the lawyers for figuring they earned it. So now the law firm, headed by a dude named Marc Dreier, are suing Regan for the money.

But meanwhile, Marc Dreier has been charged with a cheating hedge funds out of more than $100 million.

Hedge funds? What, no lobbyists and bag men, too?

Is there anywhere on this planet where you can’t find human beings so crooked they could hide behind a corkscrew?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Plug it in where, Tesla? A few urbanite questions about that snazzy all-electric car that maybe you California lifestyle dudes haven’t thought about.

Hey, I’m glad you Tesla electric car guys in San Carlos, CA, are introducing a $100,000-plus all-electric automobile.

Sounds great for all those Silicon Valley millionaires you have for neighbors.

So I can’t blame you for hitting up the Feds for part of that automotive bailout money. I hear you want it to help you sell your car to people like me, the next time I happen to have a spare $100,000 or so rattling around in my pocket.

But I’m a big city apartment dweller who has accepted the notion of building up, not out, to conserve space, land, energy and other resources. My fellow apartment dwellers and I seem to have a problem, even if we have the money to spend on your car.

Fortunately, here to solve our problems and answer our questions is Dr. Zzazapmore Watts, Professor of Carbon Footprint Studies at the Institute for Unintended Consequences. Welcome, Dr. Watts.

Dr. Watts: The pleasure’s all mine. I get a big charge out of being here. Who has the first question?

Q: Dr. Watts, where am I supposed to plug in my car?

Dr. Watts: Why, in your garage, of course.

Q: But I live in Manhattan and park on the street.

Dr. Watts: Can’t you rent garage space?

Q: Lots of people in New York do, at around $600 a month. But these are big garages, like the kind you might find in downtown San Jose, near you. They don’t have outlets at every parking spot. What am I supposed to do?

Dr. Watts: Keep a very, very long extension cord in your trunk.

Q: But even if I have an extension cord long enough, there typically aren’t enough outlets in most commercial garages for all the parkers to plug in.

Dr. Watts: Get a bunch of power trees. Plug one tree into the outlet. Plug the next five trees into the first tree's outlets. Plug the next twenty-five trees into...

Q: But that would put me in violation of the electrical and fire codes.

Dr. Watts: Then commercial garages will simply have to rewire.

Q: That’ll take years and another small fortune.

Dr. Watts: Maybe we could have a federal garage bailout. What do you a need a car for anyway if you live in the city?

Q: To get away and drive to my country home on weekends.

Dr. Watts: Then why don’t you just plug your car in when you get to your country home?

Q: I could. But the round trip from my city home is more miles than the range of your car’s battery charge capacity. I’d be able to charge up in the country, drive home to the city, and then start back for the country the following weekend. But I’d run out of electricity in the middle of the highway during Friday night rush hour.

Dr. Watts: You could leave your car in the country and take public transportation home. Isn’t there a bus or a railroad to where you have your country home?

Q: Both. But then I’d have to take a gasoline taxi either from the train station to my country home or from the bus stop to my country home. Oh, and the bus uses carbon-based diesel fuel, tool.

Dr. Watts: Maybe you could ride a bicycle home from the bus stop.

Q: After dark? On a busy highway?

Dr. Watts: You’re implying…?

Q: That I’d get killed.

Dr. Watts: Well, you certainly won’t need to plug in after that.

Q: By the way, I heard that in the chi-chi beach-and-weekend-house town of Southampton, New York, they recently modified a hastily passed town regulation that, for the sake of eco-friendliness, all swimming pools will eventually have to be powered by solar heat systems. Why did they back off?

Dr. Watts: They found out that in order for the solar cells to work, they’d have to chop down all the shade trees around the houses. And houses on less than a half acre would have solar panels so big that they’d have to remove the houses. Fortunately, they did manage top pass a complicated regulation mandating solar panels on very big properties after one of the councilwomen insisted that “The eyes of the world are on Southampton Town.”

Q: Sounds a bit overblown to me.

Dr. Watts: Some would say narcissistic. On the other hand, one of the other councilwomen said, “Shame on me for voting for this.”

Q: So where does that leave us, Dr. Watts?

Dr. Watts: Fill ‘er up with the high test.


Wait a second, wait a second! In what is clearly a conspiracy to show up the New York Crank and make me look stupid, Tom Friedman's column in the December 10th New York Times revealed what Dr. Watts failed to:

The Better Place electric car charging system involves generating electrons from as much renewable energy — such as wind and solar — as possible and then feeding those clean electrons into a national electric car charging infrastructure. This consists of electricity charging spots with plug-in outlets — the first pilots were opened in Israel this week — plus battery-exchange stations all over the respective country. The whole system is then coordinated by a service control center that integrates and does the billing.
Got it! Instead of driving into the service station and saying, "Fill 'er up with the high test," I drive to my battery station and say, "Fill 'er up with the lithium."

Okay then. Just as soon as we have "battery-exchange stations all over the respective country," you can bet your bottom gas guzzler I'm going to save up $100,000 and get me a Tesla.

Of course, there's no point having battery exchange stations all over the place until everyone has Teslas. (Or Chevvy Volts.) And there's no point in having a Tesla or a Volt until we have the battery stations.

Gentlemen, bring out the chickens and the eggs.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Attention President-elect Obama: Would you please consider instituting a single Alferd J. Packer Memorial Pardon for one (un)deserving Republican?

Of all the too-funny-to-be-tragic events in American history, my favorite is the cannibalism trial and sentencing of Alferd J. Packer (that poor soul in the photograph) in 1874.

The precise facts concerning the trial are still a trifle murky after all these years. But the story involves a sort of pathetic nobody whose first name had morphed by mysterious means from Alfred to Alferd. Alf-whatever was in a party of gold hunters that got stranded by winter weather in the Colorado Rockies.

What happened next depends on whose sworn testimony you want to believe and whose forensic reconstruction of history you prefer. You can find the basic and occasionally conflicting elements of the tale here. What seems common to all accounts is that Packer evidently ate or was accused of eating his stranded traveling companions.

This led to one of the most colorful (if sometimes differently quoted) sentencing speeches in the history of American law. I memorized the version I read in a 1970-something press report — a report prompted by the attempt of some smart-alecs at the General Services Administration in Washington, D.C. to name their cafeteria “The Alferd Packer Memorial Grill.” I also seem to remember a recommended slogan for the cafeteria, “I never met a man I didn’t eat.” But perhaps my memory is playing games with me.

Anyway, back to the judge’s sentencing speech. The version I memorized went like this:

There was seven Democrats in Hinsdale County and you, you man-eating son of a bitch, you ate five of them! I hearby sentence you to hang by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead as a warning against further depredations of the Democratic Party in this county.
Wikipedia has two other versions of the sentencing speech, including this rather more colloquial and elaborate one:
Stand up yah voracious man-eatin' sonofabitch and receive yir sintince. When yah came to Hinsdale County, there was siven Dimmycrats. But you, yah et five of 'em, goddam yah. I sintince yah t' be hanged by th' neck ontil yer dead, dead, dead, as a warnin' ag'in reducin' th' Dimmycratic populayshun of this county. Packer, you Republican cannibal, I would sintince ya ta hell but the statutes forbid it."
Which brings me to Carl Rove, Alberto Gonzolez, John Yoo, Richard Cheney and various other man-eating you-know-whats. In various capacities as members of the Bush administration, all of them contributed to the demise of this nation’s international status, economy, military preparedness and respect for law and the United States Constitution.

There’s a rumor floating around that on or close to his last day in office, George Bush will offer a blanket pardon to anybody who ever did anything for him. That would most certain have to include the cast of characters listed in the previous paragraph.

I hope it won’t happen. Instead, I’d like to see a trial and guilty verdict for each of them, followed by a symbolic pardon offered by President Obama — but only to one of the miscreants. I don't care which one. Pick one. Free him just to signal that even an aggrieved American populace can show a bit of mercy when the administration is Democratic. And then to hell with the rest of them.

Oh, wait. The statutes still forbid courts from sentencing people to hell. Well, don’t worry. Just do what President Bush did and ignore the statutes.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Quote of the week — common sense automotive finance from a non-financier

"You could buy all the common shares of stock in General Motors for less than $3 billion. Why should we give GM $18 billion or $25 billion or anything? Take the money and buy the company! (You're going to demand collateral anyway if you give them the "loan," and because we know they will default on that loan, you're going to own the company in the end as it is. So why wait? Just buy them out now.)

"...None of us want government officials running a car company, but there are some very smart transportation geniuses who could be hired to do this. We need a Marshall Plan to switch us off oil-dependent vehicles and get us into the 21st century.
--Michael Moore on The Daily Beast, December 3, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg demands some poor schnook’s head. Leave it to a bully like the mayor to pick on a little guy.

It happened last Saturday. Giants receiver Plaxico Burress somehow managed to shoot himself in the thigh while packing unauthorized iron at a Manhattan nightclub.

Plaxico’s an idiot. But in the aftermath of the self-wounding, it turns out Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a bigger idiot.

Good intentions,
bad result

An as-yet unnamed hospital “administrator” at New York Hospital failed to call the cops when Burress was brought in bleeding from the thigh.

Under some well-intentioned New York law, such gunshot wounds are supposed to be reported to the police “at once.” How long is “at once?” Who is the person in a hospital emergency room situation who is charged with doing the reporting? The law is a bit, umm, fuzzy on all that.

Meanwhile, it’s clear some hospital administrator, with a tragic instinct for decency, at first refused to give the cops information about the gunshot wound to protect a patient's privacy. Reports the New York Times:

A hospital administrator initially declined to give information to the detectives from the 17th Precinct, citing federal privacy statutes. “They initially cited a statute that does not apply,” Browne said, “in trying to resist releasing information. But they were persuaded otherwise.”
Mistake phooey! Bloomberg
wants to see spurting blood.

Okay, so far we have a little confusion over what to a non-lawyer might look like two conflicting laws. No problem. The cops get the details they want anyway. But then the Mayor of New York jumps into the picture, demanding blood. Again, according to the same New York Times article cited above:
He [Bloomberg] called on the Manhattan district attorney’s office to pursue criminal charges in the case, saying: “It is just an outrage that the hospital didn’t do what they’re legally required to do. It’s a misdemeanor, it’s a chargeable offense, and I think that the district attorney should certainly go after the management of this hospital.”
Right. Maybe we could erect a guillotine in City Hall Park, while we’re at it. Whose head does the mayor want to roll anyway?

Somebody — as yet unnamed in the press — has already been suspended, according to the hospital. Is it an admissions clerk who misunderstood the law and therefore deserves decapitation?

Is it an overworked hospital resident who could be drummed out of the medical profession to satisfy the mayor’s yearning to see a head in a basket over what is essentially an error in legal judgment — made during a medical emergency?

Does Bloomberg really
want a bigwig’s head?

Don’t bet the farm on it, pal.

Perhaps the Mayor wants to behead Herbert Pardes, the medical doctor who, as President and CEO of one the city's leading medical research and teaching hospitals, has more important things to do than hang out in the emergency room in the wee hours of the morning in case any celebrity jock comes in with a self-inflicted thigh wound.

Or maybe Mike the Bully is after John J. Mack, the hospital’s Chairman who is also the Chairman of the Board of Morgan Stanley. Gee, maybe not. I mean, it would be so embarrassing on the golf course down in Bermuda where the Mayor goes for weekends.

But I have a thought here:

While we’re chasing municipal evildoers and preparing to throw the book — or the guillotine blade — at them, how about going after certain corrupt guys who ripped the city off for many millions to build a ball park so they could take their friends out to the ballgame free? And feed those friends free while they're at it?

Here’s something that
demand outrage

I’m talking about all the taxpayers’ money and property that the Bloomberg Administration ripped from the municipal treasury to help fund the filthy rich New York Yankees in their quest for a new, deluxe stadium.

Consider this report from the New York Daily News:
Mayor Bloomberg's top aides engaged in a behind-the-scenes brawl to win a free luxury suite at the new Yankee Stadium that could wind up costing taxpayers, e-mails show. Some of the mayor's top deputies spent months threatening and cajoling to get the free skybox. They even demanded free food and ultimately got most of what they wanted after they agreed to provide America's richest team 250 free stadium parking spaces in exchange.
Now that’s what I call criminal. Oh wait. Mike The Bully would have to cut off the heads of his own top sycophants. And then his own head.

Oh well, never mind. Let’s just roll out the tumbril holding the poor shmuck from the emergency room.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Seven things I’m crankily grateful for this Thanksgiving (and no, that dried out bird is not one of them)

1. I’m grateful that starting Inauguration Day the turkeys will be where they belong. That’s on the farm, or on the dinner table, but at long last not in the White House.
No, I don’t think Obama’s perfect. But at least he’s evidently smart, studious and careful — and apparently awake, alert and intellectually curious. Look at America's economy, military situation, diplomatic situation and reputation in the world. Then imagine how it would be if we had four more years of Bush, or McCain, or Sarah Palin.

2. I’m grateful that moose chili tastes probably as bad as five-day-old turkey chili.
I never tasted moose chili. So how do I know it's awful? Did you ever have an urge to take a really fine sirloin or T-bone steak and make chili out of it? I didn’t think so. The fact that Sarah Palin can’t think of anything better to make out of a dead moose than chili — even when the TV news cameras are there to watch her do it — probably means that if you’re in your right mind you probably don’t want to eat moose. And that bodes well for the moose population of Alaska. Except, of course, for the occasional moose who crosses Palin's path.

3. I’m grateful that cloying and thinly-disguised Palin for President in 2012 ads are already running on TV.
I mean, we all know this doofus thinks she knows enough about diplomacy, economics and law to be President tomorrow morning. By repeatedly shoving herself and her fawning supporters down our throats, she’s inadvertently assuring us she’ll be old news (and very boring or laughable old news) in 2012.

4. I’m grateful that the Big Three automakers are run by morons.
By showing up in Washington via their private corporate jets to beg for money, and then by offering Congress no plan beyond “gimme lotsa dough,” the Dingbat Three have given the next President grounds to seize temporary control of the companies via their stock when he bails them out. Then he can force them to produce the kind of low-or-no-carbon, fuel-efficient cars America (and the world) really needs. If that happens, who knows? There might even be a world market for Made In America automobiles again. Will Obama do it? I dunno. But Americans can hope, can’t we?

5. Ditto the banks.
I hope, I pray, that the Obama administration will forcefully remind America’s bankers what bankers are supposed to do. It's what they used to do before the free market imbeciles took over and broke America’s economy worse than Al Qaeda ever dreamed possible.

6. I’m grateful that our next president is not about to shove religion down our throats.
Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion — the right to decide how, when and even whether you pray, and what you believe about whomever or whatever you are praying to. Contrary to what the religious right would have you believe, this nation was not founded as a Christian nation. Nothing against Christianity, you understand, but consider:

• Tom Paine, who wrote the pamphlets “Common Sense” and “The Age of Reason” that helped precipitate the revolution was not a Christian, but a Deist. Ditto Thomas Jefferson, and probably Ben Franklin. Ditto George Washington (who was also a Mason and who refused communion), John Adams, and probably James Madison.

• Haym Salomon, a Jew, was largely responsible for raising the money that armed and fed George Washington’s soldiers. Isaac Franks, another Jew, was Washington’s aide de camp.

•Most Philadelphians at the time of the American Revolution were Quakers, whose belief in “divine guidance” was as likely to come directly from an inner conscience as from the Bible.

7. I am equally grateful that our soon-to-be President realizes that patriotism can be summed up not by what we wear on our lapels, but what we do for our nation. Just for openers, if you are unwilling to pay your fair share of taxes, you are not a patriot. You are a pretender.

Happy Thanksgiving. And may you enjoy many more in a nation that was founded on freedom and truth, not on hypocrisy, bullying, flag pins or any particular religion.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Citibank thanks America for filling its begging bowl with a royal one finger salute. And Congress snores when it should regulate interest rates.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

Last week, while Congress was engineering a bailout package of the taxpayers’ money to rescue Citibank and save the economy, Citibank was sending out notices to its cardholders of a new and usurious policy — a policy that could drown consumers and help sink the economy.

Louie the leg-breaker
is now a Citibanker

Usury is nothing new to bankers who issue credit cards. For example?

While banks, on average, were paying their customers 1.25% on interest checking and 2.40% on money market accounts, they were charging credit card holders an average of 11.27% overall to borrow the same money. That's according to this morning’s And that’s just the average.

Those are the kinds of rates that used to get loan sharks from the Bonano family put away for 10 to 20 years in Sing Sing. But it’s worse than that.

According to a “Notice of Change in Terms and Right to Opt Out,” set in hard-to-read, tightly spaced mouse type that Citibank mailed out last week:

All of your APRs may increase if you default under the Card Agreeement that you have with us because you fail to make a payment to us when due (even though we may have waived the late fee), you exceed your credit line, or you make a payment to us that is not honored.
Increase to how much, pray tell? Why, to a rate that would make a mafia collector like Louie The Leg Breaker blush.
In these circumstances, we may automatically increase your APRs (including any promotional APRs) on all balances to the Default APR, which equals the Prime Rate plus up to 23.99% or up to 29.00%, whichever is greater.
The math of Citibank

Twenty-nine percent? Twenty-nine percent!! Do the math (which you can do with the interest rate calculators at At that rate, if you were $5,000 in the hole and gave the vig collectors at Citibank or any credit card company $128 a month to pay down the loan, it would take you ten years and cost you over $15,000 clear your debt.

Remember, this isn't a trap Citibank has set for the rich. This is entrapment of the poor and desperate.

Round up the usual victims
of banking greed

Who’s likely to run into a default problem and get socked with Citibank Mafia rates? Why, people in financial trouble. People who lost their jobs thanks to the meltdown caused by the banking industry's own irresponsible practices. People who are sick and have no medical insurance. Or people who went a few bucks over their credit limit, by accident or due to unavoidable emergency.

Nevermind knowledgeable financial commentators pointing out that Citibank’s terms (the bank will have to pay between 5% and 8% for its “screwup money” compared to the 29% Citibank wants you to pay for screwing up) are “too lenient.”

Citibank flips the bird
to American taxpayers

Even the timing of Citibank’s announcement — that it will charge extra vig to the weak and desperate — matches the Big Three auto makers’ stupid insensitivity. (Just last week, the Detroit CEO’s extended their own begging bowls for the taxpayers' money to Congress — after flying to Washington, each one on his his own private jet.)

Citigroup's CEO deserves to get hauled before the banking committees of both houses of Congress, have his pants yanked down and get paddled stiffly across his hind end. He deserves it for the matching insensitivity of demanding cheap money for his own bank’s screwups while charging Mafia usury rates to his wounded customers.

Incidentally, strapping consumers reduces their ability to help shop this nation out of the current depression we're in. And make no mistake. It's not a recession. It's a depression.

Federal regulation
of credit card rates is

what we really need

All the bank rate gouging is possible because Congress allows credit card interest rates to be set by individual states.

This may have made sense several decades ago when all banking was local. If the bank of East Muleshoe charged the kind of rates Citibank is charging, East Muleshoe farmers would converge on the state house with raised pitchforks, and local bank credit card rates would quickly settle back to reality.

But under years of Republican deregulation, banks doing credit card business can go shopping for a friendly state that will let them charge big city Mafia rates. In exchange states get some local employment and a generous annual gift to the state treasury. Two states, South Dakota and Maryland are now profiting off the misery in the other 48.

This has got to stop. Credit card business is interstate commerce. Interest rates need to be regulated by Congress, and kept at manageable levels. Either that, or states should have the right to regulate the rates charged to any of their inhabitants.

Otherwise, the bailout is just another gift from your wallet to the banks, and grants them permission to continue ripping you off.

Tell Congress to
stop the ripoffs.

Here’s how:

You can find the mailing and e-mail addresses of your senators and Congressional representative here. Write to them. Today. Demand Congressional regulation of credit card interest rates.

You can learn who represents you and how to contact them by going here.

Write a letter. Or simply copy and paste into an e-mail this post from The New York Crank under the heading, “I agree with this.”

Let Congress know you want something done about the greedy bastards. And that something is either Federal credit card rate regulation, or allowing states to regulate all rates charged to their residents.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thanks (I suppose) Emily Rueb of The New York Times, for calling attention to The New York Crank. And therein lies a tale.

A few years short of five decades ago, when the New York Post was still a liberal-left newspaper, the editor there believed in the infallibility of his far more distinguished rival, The New York Times.

So when a respected Times reporter ran an article “revealing” a city-owned “slum” in lower Manhattan, a very young reporter was dispatched by the Post’s editors to write a feature story about life and misery on city property. I was the reporter.

Charles Dickens
where were you
I needed you?

My bosses were confident I’d come back to the city room with a tale of Dickensian horrors — aged pensioners huddled in freezing apartments, wind whistling through broken windows, rats biting babies, cockroaches feeding on everything else, Social Security checks pilfered from broken mailboxes, tearful widows, crippled orphans…you get the idea.

Instead, I found some tenement buildings that most certainly contained a few violations. They ranged from a missing doorknob on the outside of one building’s front door to a kitchen ceiling that needed painting after an already-repaired leak had been plastered over. All the same, the apartments were a long way from horrid slum hovels. In fact, they were a considerable improvement over some of the dumps that I and a few of my young reporter friends were living in at the time for roughly twice the rent charged to the city’s tenants.

“As you sure of this?” one of the guys on the Post city desk asked nervously when I told him there was no story. And then, referring to the editor, he said, “Jimmy Wechsler will never believe the Times got it wrong.”

Semi-fallible bloggery

Having believed in the fallibility of Times reporters since late 1960 when I visited the little slum that wasn’t there, I’m not surprised by the semi-fallibility of a notably brief piece about The New York Crank that popped up yesterday in the New York Times City Room blog.

To quote the relevant text in full:

Apparently there’s some hate going around about New York City’s taxi industry. [The New York Crank]
I am pleased and grateful, of course, that the Times, or at least Times reporter-blogger Emily S. Rueb, chose to notice, mention and link to my own cranky cranny of the Internet.

In fact, I would have e-mailed a private thank you note to her, if only the Times blog contained a mechanism to do this, or an indication of a Times e-mail address at which she can be reached. Who knows? One of these days someone might even stumble across a news tip that might interest her. Some of the best news stories occasionally fly in over the transom.

All the fits we print are news

Flattered although I am to have caught the attention of the Times, I’m a trifle miffed that Ms. Rueb demonsrated how the Times is still fallible. In this case the fallibility has to do with detecting the point of what you're reporting on.

Yes, I was having a hissy fit. But the fit is not the message. If anything, the admittedly cranky headline was simply a loud linguistic horn to call the attention to the content of the post. I submit:
A) From the headline on, The New York Crank taxi piece was clearly at least as critical of Mayor Michael Bloomberg as it was of the taxi industry. Scroll down and see for yourself.

B) One point of the post was that the Bloomberg administration is doing a horrendous job of properly regulating the taxi industry, with quotations concerning that point from a legal brief filed by the industry's own lawyers.

C) Another (possibly useful) point was a list of cranky suggestions concerning how some changed regulations might improve not only taxi transportation, but also fuel conservation efforts, pollution and the city’s clogged streets.
Having said that, I do believe Ms. Rueb may have a great career ahead of her. Getting it wrong — or at least getting it not quite right — would appear to be a path to institutional sainthood at The New York Times. The celebrated reporter whose 1960 slum story proved a bit...shall we say overblown?...was none other than the late Edith Evans Asbury.

P.S. (November 20th): Turns out that if you hunt around hard enough (which I evidently did not when I wrote and posted this piece yesterday) somewhere way, way down on the bottom of the City Room blog there is a section called "Boilerplate" which indeed does provide a way to communicate with the staff there. So I sincerely apologize to the Times and my own readers for having stated otherwise. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mayor Michael Bloomberg vs. New York City’s taxi industry: Here’s wishing a plague of boils and oil leaks on both their vile, law-flouting houses

Let me start with my cranky prejudices. I hate New York City taxis.

Generally speaking, New York’s cabs are filthy, uncomfortable rattletraps. The “clear” Plexiglas partitions between the front and back seats (actually, most of them are opaquely grimy), designed to keep the driver from getting shot by a stickup man, can also get a passenger’s face flattened if the vehicle stops suddenly.

The seats in most of New York’s taxis (they’re rejiggered Ford Crown Victorias) are low on the floor. The seats supposedly offer lots of “leg room” but don’t you believe it. The front seats get pushed so far back (I assume for the comfort of the driver) that sometimes passengers can’t even find “foot room.”

Still more reasons to hate New York taxis: The driver’s identification card, only sometimes posted where it’s supposed to be, is generally unreadable behind the filthy Plexiglas shield. At night, lighted by the rough equivalent of a dim flashlight bulb, it’s just as unreadable.

Cell phone madness

Its also rare — extremely rare — to get in a cab in which the driver isn’t chattering away on his cell phone. I’ve had drivers take me to the wrong destination because they were too engrossed in their conversations to listen to where I said I wanted to go or to notice that we had passed my destination.

Much as I hate the taxi industry I also have an equally intense loathing for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the who's ultimately in charge of regulating taxis.

"The voters be damned!"

Bloomberg campaigned for term limits, got them, and subsequently decided that contrary to the term limits law and he will of the voters, he wanted a third mayoral term. So now he has used his considerable political clout to overrule term limits (which the New York's citizens voted for twice) with the complicity of the City Council. The Council was in effect bribed by having their own term limits lifted, too.

That's only a small part of it. Another item: In his misguided efforts to achieve something that would make his record look good, the mayor unsuccessfully fought for a lunatic congestion pricing plan which would have done little to relieve congestion, but would have driven up the cost of doing business in New York. You’ll find a number of informative rants on the subject here:

Turning yellow cabs “green”

The latest bee in the mayor’s slightly cockeyed bonnet has to do with “green taxicabs” — you know, the kind that spew out less pollution and carbon dioxide and drink up less fossil fuel.

Never mind that Mayor Bloomberg could save New York from tons of hydrocarbons, not to mention a good part of the traffic that’s clogging the streets simply by outlawing cruising. That’s the practice the cabs have of trawling the streets for passengers—a practice that puts just about all 13,000-plus cabs on the city on the street. They're out there 24 hours a day, seven days a week according to a taxi industry legal brief for which I’ll produce a URL shortly.

If we simply had a law like the one in Paris that prevents flagging down taxis in streets, the vehicles could line up at designated taxi stands, engines off, until a passenger came along. And during rush hours, you wouldn’t have potential passengers desperate for a ride wading into oncoming traffic to snare an empty cab.

Less traffic? Less pollution? A safer city? Nope, that would be too easy. Instead, the Bloomberg-controlled Taxi and Limousine Commission suddenly decreed that all new taxis have to be of a new and fuel efficient design that gets 25 miles to the gallon. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Sad to say, wrong.

Cute, clean, green and dangerous —
maybe the mayor’s people can’t read.

There are already some of these cute 25 mpg-or-better vehicles out on the street. I like to ride in  them. They’re of a completely different design than the traditional, modified Ford Crown Victoria that gets only 12 mpg. They’re higher off the ground, therefore more comfortable than the Crown Victoria. They're easier to get into and out of. They seem to offer about the same amount of legroom, but offer passengers the added advantage of being able to sit up straight. And maybe just because they’re new, they’re not as filthy as the Crown Victorias.

A small problem:
they’re also not as safe.

The taxi fleets that successfully sued the Mayor to lift his regulations pleaded that the little cars weren’t as safe as the big Fords. I assumed for many weeks this was just an industry red herring. I was wrong, as I learned when I examined court papers filed by the taxi industry. Some examples of safety problems:
…just weeks ago, the TLC [Taxi and Limousine Commission] was forced to issue a warning and directive stating that one of its mandated after-manufacturer vehicle alterations - the addition of vinyl seat overings – hinder the deployment of side curtain and front seat air bags in the hybrids. Had the TLC taken time to read the owners manuals of the approved vehicles, it would have seen that they explicitly warn against the installation of vinyl seat coverings. The TLC, however, ignored this safety warning and many others in its rush to mandate hybrid taxis.
Oh, and even one of the manufacturers agrees these fuel efficient babies aren’t safe as taxis:
…Toyota, who created and licenses hybrid technology – refuses to support the use of its cars as taxis due to its engineers’ concerns. A Toyota spokesman said: “Our engineers are nervous about it because they were not designed for commercial use. (NY Times, April 27, 2008) Another Toyota representative explained that the hybrids “have not been designed to withstand the rigors of 24/7 commercial use.”
And in the “You’re doing a
heckuva job, Bloomie” department
In October 2004 the TLC [Taxi and Limousine Commission] conducted a sealed bid auction fort the CNG or hybrid (collectively “alternative fuel”) licenses. The City set the minimum bid price at an amount significantly below the then-prevailing market price for unrestricted licenses because the TLC recognized that alternative fuel vehicles are more costly to own and operate than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles…
…At the time of the auction, the TLC knew that there were no commercially available alternative fuel vehicles that meet TLC specifications for use as a NYC Taxi….Despite the lack of available alternative fuel vehicles, the TLC went forward with the auction …Eighteen of the licenses were successfully bid on…The bidders proposed the use of hybrid Ford Escapes, but the TLC refused to allow them to use these vehicles because they did not meet the TLC specifications for interior room. The TLC rejected all other vehicles the bidders proposed, and did not offer any other vehicles that could be used with the alternative fuel licenses…
Congatulations, license bidder —
you’ve successfully bid on…nothing.

Because the TLC refused to issue the bidders licenses and refused to approve any vehicles for use with the alternative-fuel licenses, on April 21 2005 the bidders sued the TLC demanding that the TLC close on their licenses.
We were for the Hondas before
we were against them —but
now we’re
In July 2008…the Honda Civic Hybrid and Honda Accord Hybrid were removed from the list. Plaintiffs were told that the Honda Civic Hybrid was removed due to particularly poor performance. Later in July, however, the Honda Civic was inexplicably added back to the approval list. In August 2008…the Honda Civic was also removed again.
Here are my own cranky solutions
to New York congestion and taxi problems

1. Outlaw taxi cruising. Require all taxis to wait for passengers at taxi stands, or to be summoned to specific addresses by telephone. It works in Paris, where the streets are even crazier. It'll work here, too.

2. Detroit’s on the rocks. Require them — require them I said — to manufacture hybrid cars safe enough to be used as taxis. Just tell them, “no taxis, no bailout.”

3. With city taxis lined up at taxi stands, it’ll be easy enough to subject them to a daily filth inspection. If they’re filthy inside, cut off their medallions (which the City auctions off like permanent real estate for a minimum upset price of $700,000. In fact, in the aftermarket those medallions sell for well over a million bucks. Is it any wonder a taxi ride costs so damn much in New York, while taxi drivers barely eke out a living working 12 hour days?

4. Stop the city’s cabbies from talking on the phone, with or without hands-free devices. If they’re caught talking on any telephonic devices in their taxis, don’t cut off their medallions. Cut off their ears.

5. Put a moratorium on those million dollar taxi medallions. (An exception can be made for individuals who own just one medallion and are trying to make a living.) After two years, all other medallions should become invalid and the taxi owner (usually a multi-car fleet) will be forced to rent taxi medallions from the city for an annual and more reasonable price. The city will collect a steady income stream — instead of an occasional taxi medallion windfall that the city then has to pay for by spewing more taxis onto the street. And because taxi overhead will be so much lower, drivers who lease their cars should be able to earn more, while passengers pay less.

But it all has to start with dumping Mayor Bloomberg. Despite a considerable amount of image doctoring, he’s not a successful mayor. He’s just as incompetent as George Bush. Send him back to Wall Street, with the rest of the investment world failures.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The best, clearest, funniest and most colorful explanation of why Wall Street is collapsing that you’ll ever read…

…was written by Michael Lewis in Portfolio magazine. You’ll find it by clicking here.

This will take you at least 20 minutes to read (unless you’re a highly accomplished speed reader.) Trust me, it’s worth every minute.

Thanks to my friend Buce at the Underbelly blog for alerting me to this one.

Monday, November 10, 2008

“I’m calling to offer you a green way to pay your bills. And also, this is a stickup."

Here's another collection of tales about why business “self regulation” is the rough equivalent of no regulation at all.

This one has to do with your own privacy, the dangers of identity theft, phony appeals by banks to reduce your carbon footprint, and an ominous blackmail attempt now under FBI investigation.

"We can regulate ourselves —
without no stinkin' government"

Let’s start with the “self-regulation” bit. Most companies, trade associations, and true believers in unfettered enterprise will tell you that government regulation is bad and that industry can better control abuses of your privacy by itself.

Such was the case championed by the Direct Marketing Association — a group that supports those wonderful folks who bring you junk mail, SPAM, and intrusive phone calls at dinnertime.

At issue was all the people who prefer not to be disturbed by telephone marketers peddling subprime mortgages and other wonders of modern civilization.

The law says that once you move and your telephone number changes, your old number can be taken off the “Do Not Call” list. Or at least it can be taken off until a new victim has his dinner ruined once too often by telemarketers trying to reach through the telephone and grab his wallet.

The Direct Marketing Association
complains—and gets it all wrong

According to a story put out by DIRECT Magazine, one of the leading publications of the direct marketing business

…the DMA [Direct Marketing Association] had argued that disconnected names should be removed more quickly from the Registry.

At the FTC’s behest, the DMA submitted a sample list of 20,000 Registry numbers that had been disconnected or reassigned based on whether their names had changed and found that “16% would have been scrubbed in error.”

Based on these results, the DMA’s contractor refined its scrubbing process and reanalyzed the 20,000 numbers. It determined that 8,374 should be treated as active registrations, the FTC continued.
For the arithmetically challenged, that means that more than 40% of those do-not-calls were still valid, not 16% as the DMA claimed.

But wait! There’s more!

And it isn’t good news.

The don’t-regulate-me crowd at the DMA also had urged that “only the line subscriber or person who is billed for the telephone line be allowed to register that number in the National Registry.” In other words, they didn't want you to be able to phone in and put your aged and disabled mother on the registry list. Screw her! Let her opt out on her own. If she needs help, tough luck. And furthermore...
“Critics [representing telephone marketers] were also worried that consumers could be registered without their consent. In response, the FTC now requires that consumers “call from the number they want to register or provide a verification e-mail address if registering online.”

“In addition, the FTC limited the number of registrations that can be made from a single e-mail address.”
See, what the annoying phone call folks are doing is protecting you against having your name "unfairly removed" from the Do Not Call list. Why? I guess they assume that if you haven’t gone out of your way to opt out, or haven't heard that you can, you really, really want those phone calls at dinnertime. So they've been "protecting" you so you'll keep getting called.

Go green and make
your banker richer

Then there’s the so called “PayItGreen Alliance,” a group of financial institutions that not only has trouble putting spaces between words but also, according to The Big Fat Marketing Blog “trumpet the money saving benefits of paperless transactions for bill paying and other purposes.”

The blog, which is written by Larry Riggs, a Direct Magazine staffer, comments:
Wait a second. Are we being treated to another massive con job from the financial industry? 

In fact, banks and others have been blowing this trumpet for at least 20 years.

 While it‘s fashionable able now to say you care for the environment, we must remember that it costs banks and credit card companies a hell of a lot less to send and receive bills electronically.

 So who’s really saving the big bucks?

 Of course, not using paper leaves consumers susceptible to privacy invasion and data breaches. Hardly a day goes by now without reports of data theft from banks, hospitals or retailers.
Company gets blackmailed
—with your information

As if to drive the point home, on the same day that Direct Magazine revealed a slight, umm, error in DMA thinking about Do Not Call Lists, the very same day it published Riggs’ comments above, the magazine also broke news of an investigation into a terrifying blackmail scheme involving identity theft.
A large manager of prescription benefits has charged that extortionists have threatened to disclose medical information on its customers if the company fails to meet payment demands, the Washington Post reported.

Express Scripts said it had received a letter in October that listed the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers on 75 of its customers. In some cases, prescription data was included, the Post continued.

The letter stated that millions of such records would be released if the company failed to pay, the article said.

Express Scripts processes prescription claims… handling 500 million prescriptions year for roughly 50 million Americans, the Post stated.
One of the problems with giving personal data such as your Security Number, health information and other personal data to private corporations is that the info seems somehow to "walk" out of the office more often than is comfortable. And sometimes it falls into the hands of very bad guys. Blackmailers, for example.

“We can handle it with self-regulation,” private industry and doctrinaire Ayn Randist free marketers insist.

Except, of course, when they can’t. Which occurs more and more often, putting you, your privacy and your identity at risk.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The nuts of the Right Wingnut Society have an hysterical meltdown. Does Barack Obama really hope to work with these guys?

During his victory speech, Barack Obama held out a fig leaf to the folks on the right. “I hear you,” he said, adding that he needs them and hopes to work with them.

Well, maybe a handful of the saner ones among them. But if the right wing blogosphere is any indication, getting cooperation on national priorities will be about as easy as shoveling balls of mercury into a truck with a pitchfork.

Here’s a sampling of what I ran across today. Admittedly, I’ve been cherrypicking. But I gotta tell you, those right wingnut cherries are low-hanging fruits.

All you right-wingers
are hereafter pariahs
— to the right wing

...Congratulations are also due to President George W. Bush for being one of the most incompetent, overspending, uncommunicative, clueless politicians. He has single-handedly reduced the Republican Party to “also ran” status by pissing-off almost everybody. Granted, a lot of Republican senators and congressmen aided and abetted him.

We’d be remiss in not offering kudos to McCain for the selection of Gov. Palin whom, while I’m sure she has some sort of future ahead of her, was not reassuring as a choice to be one-tragedy-away from the Oval Office.

And lastly, our thanks to all the corrupt, greedy, and incompetent of Wall Street and the banking industry for galvanizing the electorate mere months before the election and reminding all of us that “it’s the economy, stupid!”

Now we can all look forward to the three horsemen of the apocalypse — Obama, Pelosi, & Reid — trashing what little remains of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, of the American way, of capitalism, of free will, of the American Dream.
Well, we've been saying all along that George Bush and his crew, and John McCain and his divisive attack politics were destructive. Glad to see the right finally taking our cranky point of view. To see more of what this wing nut spun on the topic, go here.

From The Anti-Idolitarian Rottweiler:
Bush was a “left lurching” moderate.
(Yeah, like anybody believes that)
Bush, followed by McCain, were the very epitome of “moderate” with their ever more left-lurching policies.

So how did that work out for us again?

We’re here today because of “compassionate conservatism.”….

The proof is in the pudding. If we don’t purge the GOP of “moderates” and start running conservatives, then this is just the beginning.
Actually, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and maybe a bit of starchy pudding would get this Rottweiler to slow down and think about what he's really saying. Does he really want to see a party that was rejected for leaning too far right go over the right hand edge? For the original of this screed against the leftwardly-lurching right wing, check here.

From Atlas Shrugs: Bloodletting to come
(but it’s all in-house bloodletting)
Have you heard or seen the latest attacks on Sarah Palin coming from the McCain camp (and who knows what other GOP 2012 contenders are behind it)? Our party destroying our people? They are smearing Palin but wouldn't smear the Mansourian candidate?

Furthermore, the McCain aides told Cameron that Mrs Palin threw tantrums over bad press reviews and was a shopaholic. He also reported that chief McCain foreign policy advisor Randy Sheunemann was fired late in the campaign for allegedly leaking details of the splits.

I don't see the report up on the Fox website tonight but there may be something there in the morning. Nonetheless, with Palin allies pushing her for a 2012 run, this is clearly explosive stuff and doubtless the harbinger of some serious bloodletting after the Barack Obama landslide.
You can look over the shoulder of this member of the right wing circular firing squad here.

Would you like a squirt of 
outright racism on your slime?’
Socialist Negro wins 3 Southern states

Isn't that what this group should be discussing?

Now Barack Hussein Obama is no peanut-farming, triangulating, "big government is dead" Clinton/Carter type bubba Southern favorite son. Yet he won Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina. And Georgia was a close call, and the demographic trends in Texas will make future Socialist Negroes competitive there. Yikes.

And the incisive commentaries of a pair of guys
not likely to find jobs in a rocket science lab or
investment bank

I think that Barack Obama's tax proposal...Is retarded. You know, my family (mom and sister) is poor as shit, but that's why I'm in school now as an accountant because I want to make a lot of money. While the tax cut will help my family and me right now, I don't feel it's right that I will be penalized for my success. I might as well be someone who's been detoxed for a week and that's voting for the first time just because Obama's a black man with a "plan". I mean that's what Oprah said and she also said "We'll take all the druggies votes if we can." His acceptance speech was moving until I remembered... Hitler gave great speeches too.
Listen kid, I hate to tell you this, but if you want to be a success you'd better be prepared for some serious mental improvement. Forget the expletive and the misuse of the word retarded for now. Or your greed. When you say, "I don't feel it's right that I will be penalized for my success," you're counting your chickens before you have so much as a single egg to hatch. And without taxes and then government financial aid to your college, who's gonna keep the doors open while you learn how to read a balance sheet? Or what a balance sheet it? "Hitler gave great speeches too." Kid, you won't know Hitler if he grabbed you by the neck and threw you in a gas chamber. On the other hand, Hitler misled a lot of imbeciles. Get your IQ tested.

That was the first. Here's a
bright idea from the second

so how is obama helping the little people? he is going to screw little people. get an education and learn simple economics and you will be ashamed of yourself for saying that and for voting for someone who is going to ruin our economy more than it is. if you don't believe me, you are not educated enough to figure it out. it is elementary.
Gotcha, pal. You're a Harvard Ph.D in economics and you're writing this in mufti from a Halloween party. The previous two educated thoughts came from the commentary section here.

Barack, I consider you an authentic America hero. But when you start trying to communicate with a crew that's steering the aircraft from the outer edge of the starboard wing, you'll need all the luck you can get.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The real fraud during this election is Republican election fraud

The horror stories keep coming. You can read some of them here.

Just a few of the most disgusting tricks that this article, taken from AOL, says that Republicans are playing to confuse or terrify voters:

• In Colorado and Virginia, people reported receiving calls that told them their registrations had expired and they would be arrested if they showed up to vote.

• Over the weekend in Virginia, bogus fliers with an authentic-looking commonwealth seal said fears of high voter turnout had prompted election officials to hold two elections — one on Tuesday for Republicans and another on Wednesday for Democrats.

• In New Mexico, two Hispanic women filed a lawsuit last week claiming they were harassed by a private investigator working for a Republican lawyer who came to their homes and threatened to call immigration authorities, even though they are U.S. citizens.
It's a criminal matter and
Republican behavior
is downright felonious

All this is an election fraud, pure and simple. Where are state and national attorneys-general and the FBI when we need them — to find the people who are perpetrating this true election fraud, prosecute them, and throw their crooked butts in prison. That includes not only the low-level callers and leaflet pushers, but also those who thought up these “pranks.”

Subversion of elections is an overt act of subversion against the United States of America. Election fraudsters and their puppet masters belong in jail — not giggling up their sleeves in Republican Party headquarters.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

John McCain is attempting to sell his soul to the devil. Woe to America if he succeeds.

It’s an old story that gets told in many ways, but the plot is always pretty much the same.

Some person, in search of wealth, or glory, or love, or vast unfettered power, sells his soul in exchange for what he wants.

He bargains away morality, decency, and civility. And then becomes a helpless tool of a devil until he is whisked off to hell.

Such is the story of John McCain.

Once, or at least we are told so, John McCain was a man of honor. Once, at least on some issues, he stood firmly on principle.

Once, his word was trusted.

But then John McCain decided he needed to be President. That personal feeling of need became more important to him than anything. More important than the truth. More important than the future of the United States. More important than his own highly touted honor.

So John McCain lies about his own record, claiming he is a "maverick" — a baldfaced lie from a man who voted with the President 90% of the time to claim.

John McCain directly or through the people working to get him elected lies constantly about his opponent, Barack Obama. McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin incite mob violence and skinhead assassination plots by falsely implying that Obama is a terrorist, or some unstated-but-unimaginable thing worse.

John McCain sews seeds of doubt and hatred in a society that Barack Obama is attempting to bring together.

McCain lies about big things like the economy and the war in Iraq. He lies about inconsequential things like Obama’s heritage. He repeats lies. And repeats them. And repeats them again — all in a desperate sell-your-soul attempt to win the Presidency.

It is a presidency that in the hands of John McCain will create a living hell for most Americans.

It will be a hell plagued by wars, terrorist attacks, the end of the successful Social Security and Medicare programs, increasingly unaffordable health care for most Americans, simultaneous inflation and recession, the U.S. Government's financial collapse, forest and wildlife dieoffs, polluted water supplies, police intrusion into the homes of peaceful Americans, and eventually, as Sarah Palin’s power grows, even the death penalty for first degree murder meted out to hapless young rape victims who dare to abort the babies of their rapists.

But McCain’s deal with the devil only can work if you stay home and fail to vote for Obama.

Please, on Election Day remember this: your vote for Barack Obama will do more than help him become President. It will also save America from a living hell.

Give Barack Obama your vote and let McCain and Palin go to hell by themselves.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

“What, your hand got shredded with a saw? No health insurance? Bummer, pal. Now scram.”

“I recently took care of a young contractor who had shredded his hand using a saw and cut right through one of his tendons,” an emergency room doctor from Massachusetts writes.

"This is a serious injury that requires expert attention. After cleaning and closing his wounds to the best of my ability, I referred him to an orthopedic doctor for outpatient surgery. A couple of days later, I called him up to see how he was doing. I was shocked to hear his story: he had called every orthopedic doctor in the area, but no surgeon would see him because he had no health insurance. This man is young, hardworking, and needs the use of his hands to provide for himself and his family, yet his lack of health insurance put his career and family in serious jeopardy."
Nor was this the only medical insurance horror story this same ER doctor encountered. For example:
"On the last shift I worked, the paramedics brought in a 95 year old man who was found on the floor. No one knew how long he had been lying there. Our paramedics were horrified by the sight of this man's home. They described a disheveled apartment that hadn't been cleaned in months; no food in the fridge; and no signs of anyone helping. When I went to examine this man, he was covered in urine and stool that was days old. After taking care of him, I decided to call Elder Protective Services to report the situation. I was surprised to find out that they already knew about his situation and "see him regularly." The last time they saw this man was two weeks prior to his visit to our ED."
This and other stories come from a website established by Doctors for Obama. It’s generously seasoned with horror stories from concerned doctors about what happens when a nation does far too little to medically insure its citizens.

Stories from doctors? Didn’t they used to be opposed to government involvement in medical insurance? Not any more.
"This is why I am so frustrated with my job. Our healthcare system does not allow paramedics, nurses, and doctors to take care of the people who need it the most: 1. hard working Americans who are simply trying to provide for their families; and, 2. elderly Americans who have worked so hard to make sure our lives are better than theirs. In this election year, I believe that solving the healthcare crisis is the most serious issue on the agenda. After reviewing the candidates' plans, I have concluded that the choice is clear: Senator Obama's plan provides a road map to meaningful, realistic reform; Senator McCain's plan will make matters worse."
Please read more of what the doctors say about the disgraceful healthcare situation in America. And remember, the McCain healthcare proposal wants to tax your health benefits under a plan that would do little or nothing to alleviate the situation for people like the man with the shredded hand, or the 90 year old American starving to death in a pool of his own feces.

Obama has a plan that might finally bring America’s medical insurance into the modern world — instead of leaving it where it is now, in the Third World. Give him your vote.