Monday, September 29, 2008

Financial terrorists: The list

If an American citizen left an explosive device on Wall Street that brought down banks, sacked the stock market and destroyed the fortunes of millions of Americans, he’d be considered a terrorist. And probably a traitor.

Below is a list of members of the House of Representatives who threw an economic bomb on September 29, 2008 by voting down a rescue of the financial system. The bill they voted down wasn't perfect, but make no mistake about it. Whatever they claim their motivations to vote against it, they’re sabotaging banks, sacking the stock market, and destroying the retirement, savings and future of millions of Americans. In short, they've sabotaged the United States of America.

If this isn’t financial terrorism, what is?

Write to these economy killing excuses for law makers and tell them what you think of what they’ve done — most especially if you live in their district. You can find their addresses here.

Barrett (SC)
Bartlett (MD)
Barton (TX)
Bishop (UT)
Boyda (KS)
Braley (IA)
Broun (GA)
Brown-Waite, Ginny
Burton (IN)
Davis (KY)
Davis, David
Davis, Lincoln
Deal (GA)
Diaz-Balart, L.
Diaz-Balart, M.
Edwards (MD)
English (PA)
Franks (AZ)
Garrett (NJ)
Green, Al
Green, Gene
Hall (TX)
Hastings (WA)
Herseth Sandlin
Jackson (IL)
Jackson-Lee (TX)
Johnson (GA)
Johnson (IL)
Johnson, Sam
Jones (NC)
King (IA)
Kuhl (NY)
Lewis (GA)
McCarthy (CA)
McCaul (TX)
McMorris Rodgers
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Moran (KS)
Murphy, Tim
Peterson (MN)
Price (GA)
Rogers (MI)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Scott (GA)
Scott (VA)
Smith (NE)
Smith (NJ)
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Udall (CO)
Udall (NM)
Walz (MN)
Welch (VT)
Whitfield (KY)
Wittman (VA)
Young (AK)
Young (FL)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

“What, me worry?” Billionaire apartment buyers don’t fret about financial crises — as long as you give Paulsen and Bernacke $700 billion carte blanche

“…the continued depth of wealth at the very high end seems to be totally undaunted by the economic outlook,” reports Kirk Henckels. He’s executive Vice President and Director of Private Brokerage at Stribling, a Manhattan real estate brokerage firm that sells residences to — and keeps track of — people who are rich enough to be different from you and me.

In his “Mid-Year Luxury Report 2008” (the photograph at left is part of the back cover of that report and shows Henckels and his boss) Henckels talks about the still robust market for Manhattan housing in the “over $5 million” category and the people who are financially, umm, untroubled enough to buy them.

“ This group is still fast to act when a first rate piece of real estate or art comes on the market,” burbles Henckels, happily, “Witness the art sale this last June when a Monet fetched a record $80.4m and the sale of a $95m mansion in Palm Beach.”

Stay suspicious

Admittedly, all this was written some days prior to the growing crisis that has financial-gurus-turned-public-servants Henry Paulsen and Ben Bernacke offering to save the financial derrieres of the rest of us poor taxpaying slobs — provided we pony up $700 billion of our money and keep our lips zipped when it comes to questioning what they’re doing with the money, whom they’re giving it to, and how good their judgment is.

Remember, Paulsen is the same financial genius and investment banker who was saying in public, as recently as last July, that the fundamentals of the U.S. economy were strong. He didn’t know a disaster from a dingbat then. And now he’s asking us to trust him to incur the largest deficit in American history.

Why do I suspect that Paulsen and Bernacke want secrecy and freedom from Congressional oversight so they can secretly rescue the vast fortunes of people who otherwise wouldn’t be know where their next $95,000,000 mansion in Palm Beach is coming from?

But I digress. Here are some more eyebrow-raising observations from the Stribling white paper concerning the oblivious-to-it-all rich:

$7,000 per square foot
living quarters

• “…there has been a doubling of the number of sales over $20m [of cooperative apartments in Manhattan] from 6 in the first half of 2007 to 13 in the first half of 2008."

• “The highest sale was a duplex penthouse at 1060 Fifth Avenue that required work to combine the two floors and the purchaser has his own hedge fund.”

• “Also of interest is a pending sale on Fifth Avenue in the East 60s that, at $48m, translates to $7,700 per square foot.”

“You paid only $49 million
for a house?

Excellent buy, old boy!”

Townhouses, says the same Henckels-Stribling report, “enjoyed the same boost in prices as cooperatives with 5 sales over $30m, ranging to $49m this year versus last year’s top sale at 33m.”

And then he adds, “The highest sale at $49m was for the Milbank house at 14 East 67th Street, known more recently as Bob Guccione’s house. Even at this price it was arguably an excellent buy as it is very hard to find a 48 foot wide, 22,000 square foot house with full swimming pool in such a good location for $2,227 per square foot. That’s a bargain relative to the aforementioned $7,700 per square foot cooperative sale.”

Oh the poor babies! Billionaires so desperately need to have a 22,0000 square foot house in Manhattan with a swimming pool, and have such a difficult time locating one at an "affordable" $49 million bucks that John McCain, in the midst of this financial disaster we’re having, wants to give them a tax cut.

Yes, we need a bailout but —

Who knows if the economy can be saved? Banks need a bailout. But they also need to be temporarily nationalized and permanently regulated under close government scrutiny. The Paulsen-Bernacke plan boils down to “shut up, close your eyes and trust us.” That’s an outrage.

We need a bailout. But we don't need a tax cut for people who are pitiable if they're "only" paying $7,700 a square foot for a place to flop.

The rich idiots who got the banks into deep cow plop need to be dismissed the way dismissal happens to the rest of us — no golden parachutes. Give them two weeks severance pay and a security guard who escorts them to the door. And the Republican politicians who let the rich idiots run wild without regulation also need to be shown to the door by the voters.

We also need, as I’ve advocated before, an excess wealth tax. Such a tax would discourage the kind of rampant greed that’s bankrupting America. This tax would pour vast amounts of wealth back into the industrial economy where it can do the United States some good, rather than into private residences for people who simply can’t make do without a 22,000 square foot pied-a-terre, for $49,000,000, “in a good location,” of course.

Will real reform happen? I dunno. But if it doesn’t, I’ll see you on the bread line.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I complained to AARP that they're just shilling for insurance companies. Here's who I think replied to me.

AARP talks a good game about reforming healthcare for seniors. But I believe them about as far as you can throw a concrete block

Recently, they wrote to me asking me to enlist in their "Divided We Fail" healthcare "reform" effort by sending them money.

I wrote back to say their current "Divided We Fail" campaign is nothing but a vacuous plan with no substance, demanded by a company that shills profit-making medical insurance. Did I get back a reply? I sure did. But it was either from an illiterate or a robot.

Hey, I could be wrong, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, by letting you read the correspondence between me and AARP.

AARP started it all when
they sent me this e-mail:

Dear Crank [Real name redacted],

We have recently written you about the growing health care problem in the United States. As you know, in these difficult economic times, millions of Americans, especially those over 50, are finding it harder then ever to get by.

Meanwhile, health care costs are spiraling out of control, and many Americans are being forced to split pills, postpone medical treatment and even forego necessary medications. This is just not right!

We need to cure our ailing health care system – and you can help by supporting the most aggressive grassroots effort in AARP history – Divided We Fail. Through this massive effort, we will demand actions, answers and accountability from our leaders in Washington.

But, we can only succeed and create change with the support of AARP members like you. Can we count on you?

Support our work by clicking here now to give a secure, online gift. There is a lot of work to be done – and membership dues don’t go far enough – but with your gift of $15 today, we can continue our work to:

Lower the Cost of Prescription Drugs. Since 2001, the average price of prescription drugs has grown at more than double the rate of general inflation.

Keep Medicare Premiums Fair. Monthly Medicare premiums have doubled since 2000.

Improve Patient Care …and Provide Better Options for Long-Term Care. Patient care is more than caring for you when you are sick. It is also about keeping you from getting ill in the first place, and helping you avoid more costly health procedures.

Please contribute today. Peter, your online gift is urgently needed to help us make quality, affordable health care a reality for all Americans – especially seniors!

Individually, we accomplish little. But when we stand together, we can accomplish anything. Divided, we fail.

Thank you for your help in this and all our legislative efforts.
Bill Novelli

Chief Executive Officer
I thought, “This is pure bullpoop."
And I replied via e-mail with this:

Absolutely not! AARP fought for the lousy drug plan we have now. The so-called "divided we fail" message says nothing. "Tell your Congressman to fix this mess?" All you do is denigrate Congress and further the division. How should Congress fix the mess? You never say, do you?

When AARP sponsors a single payer plan for all Americans, and negotiated prices with drug companies, then I'll support you. Until then, so far as I'm concerned, AARP is nothing but a shill for an insurance agent who manages his own finances so ineptly (or perhaps greedily) that he has to go begging for money.
Then somebody
— or some thing —

at AARP replied to me.

The reply, as you’ll see, had nothing to do with my complaint that AARP is in effect pretending to sponsor nonspecific "legislation," while its interests lie with leaving healthcare and the Medicare drug plan in the hands of the insurance companies. Here is AARP's reply:

Dear Mr. Crank, [Real name redacted] Thank you for your message sharing concerns that a donation is required before signing our online petitions. We have shared your message with our web activist team and it's my pleasure to clarify this issue.

We apologize for any confusion our online messages have caused. You
are not required to provide a donation in order to sign our petitions. We are grateful for any support you can provide, be it through signing our petitions, getting involved through volunteer work, or making monetary contributions. Your involvement is key to our progress and we look forward to your continued support.

Occasionally, we send messages to activists like you requesting
donations to help with our advocacy work. Additionally, upon signing our petitions, you are sometimes sent a follow-up message requesting a donation, or you are immediately directed to a new page thanking you for your signature and also providing the opportunity to make a donation via our online form. We recognize that many of our activists are facing financial hardship, and we understand completely if you are unable to contribute monetarily.

Again, as with all of our efforts, we are thankful for your
involvement and with your help, we will gain the strength to convince Congress to ease some of the financial burdens our members are facing.

I hope this message clarifies this issue for you. We look forward to
continuing our relationship with you and working to positively impact the lives of our members, their families and society as a whole. It is the combined interest, energy and commitment from members like you that gives AARP the power to make life better.


Member Communications

Toll-free 1-888-OUR-AARP (1-888-687-2277)

Toll-free 1-877-434-7598 TTY
Be a champion for change! AARP's Divided We Fail initiative is
amplifying the voices of millions of Americans who believe that health care and long-term financial security are the most pressing domestic issues facing our nation. Demand action and answers from elected officials and candidates by signing the Divided We Fail pledge at
Huh? Is AARP staffed by illiterates or robots?
Beats me, but I sent a reply to “Hilda.” Here it is:
Dear "Hilda," Did AARP give you a reading comprehension exam before they hired you? Or, before they plugged you in if, as I suspect, you're a machine?

My message made no mention whatsoever of donations. What I had to say is repeated in the next paragraph. Incidentally, I think your reply is such an obvious non sequitur and example of how AARP isn't listening to its own membership that I plan to post our correspondence on my blog, The New York Crank [Http://] within the next 24 hours.

Here's what I said:

>>Absolutely not! AARP fought for the lousy drug plan we have now. The so-called "divided we fail" message says nothing. "Tell your Congressman to fix this mess?" All you do is denigrate Congress and further the division. How should Congress fix the mess? You never say, do you? When AARP sponsors a single payer plan for all Americans, and negotiated prices with drug companies, then I'll support you. Until then, so far as I'm concerned, AARP is nothing but a shill for an insurance agent who manages his own finances so ineptly (or perhaps greedily) that he has to go begging for money.<<

Thanks for providing the provocation for me to post our correspondence on my blog.
Crankily yours,

The New York Crank [Real name redacted]
Will Hilda have a meltdown?
Will AARP ever meaningfully address

the needs of its members? Stay tuned.

So far I haven’t heard back from “Hilda,” much less from Bill Novelli, who is not only the CEO of AARP but also the co-founder of a national PR firm that for some weird but unexplained reason (maybe you can guess) doesn’t publish its client list on the web.

If you want truly meaningful drug legislation — a no-hole drug benefit, universal healthcare and a single payer system, let AARP know about it. Send them a blistering note at

Tell them the New York Crank sent you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The birdbrains who are pecking America to death. Part 2.

Back in May, before the election heated up, I posted a piece called “Pecked to death by birdbrains.” I was railing against the U.S. Post Office. That was nothing compared to what’s going on today.

Now I have to rail against my fellow citizens — a nation overwhelmingly of birdbrains about to pigeon step in single file off a cliff.

As I write this, the stock market is failing. Our savings institutions are trembling on the brink of collapse. The newspapers are beginning to write stories about potential runs on banks, something that hasn’t happened since the Great Depression of 1929, which threw our nation into ten years of abject poverty.

Right now, Americans are still dying in Iraq, while the Taliban is regaining territory in Afghanistan, and Iran may be futzing around with a nuclear bomb.

And how are Americans reacting to this? According to the polls, we’re drifting from favoring Obama to favoring the know-nothing McCain-Palin ticket. Which essentially means four more years of mindless Bush policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

We’re talking, folks, about two people who know zilch about what affects stock prices, less than zilch about banking, and squat about how to deal with the mess we’re in today.

Denial of on-the-record facts

John McCain recently denied he said he didn’t know much about economics. If he truthfully believes his denial, he’s also suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Here, Senator McCain, is the truth:

Actually, the quote came from a 2005 piece by Stephen Moore, in which McCain said: “I’m going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics that I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.”

McCain also said this, per a December 2007 Boston Globe article: "The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should. I’ve got Greenspan’s book.

He’s “got” a book? One book, by one at least partially discredited economist? And on that, assuming he ever reads it, he’s going to base policies that could help the United States survive hard times or drown in a sea of red ink? He's going to get an economic education when he gets around to it, and meanwhile sink the rest of us if he gets an F? Or even a C minus?

What McCain, Palin and Bush are for is “less government.” Except, it was “less government” — the elimination, for example, of the Glass-Steagall Act — that sent the banks and brokerage firms of America reeling toward a round of disaster that hasn’t been equaled since, but may be equaled again shortly.

The U.S. Government lacks the money to pay off all the FDIC-insured bank accounts that will become worthless along with the banks that hold those deposits. Yet John McCain, who may or may not have gotten around to reading one not-entirely-trustworthy book on economics, wants to cut taxes as a cure all for everything from low housing prices, to collapsing banks, to failing brokerage houses, to troubled automobile companies to — well, to warts, for all I know.

But wait, there’s more!
Like starting a nuclear war!

Georgia invades South Ossetia. So Russia invades Georgia. And suddenly, we’ve got Bush-McCain-Pallin responding to this near-nuclear situation by pouring gasoline on the fire and encouraging NATO membership for Georgia. This would require us to invade Russia. And you know what that means in terms of nuclear war.


McCain-Pallin agree with Bush that we should surround the Russians with NATO nuclear missiles, right in the countries that border them. When the Russians tried the same trick in Cuba back in 1962, we wouldn’t stand for it. The event was called the “Cuban Missile Crisis” remember? We nearly risked World War III to get the Russians out of a neighboring country. Why should the Russians stand for it when we wouldn’t?

We’re heading for a meltdown — financial, international, diplomatic, nuclear. When it comes, most of the people reading this won’t be alive long enough to get past the next sentence.

But America “feels good” about the McCain-Palin continuation of the Bush program of national suicidal idiocy.

P.T. Barnum and the
North American Birdbrain

P.T. Barnum, the father not only of the three-ring circus but also of the theatrical con job once said that, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

But today’s North American Birdbrain exceeds anything even P.T. Con-em could have imagined.

The one thing I don’t have to worry about is this: When your bank collapses and your city explodes, you won’t come running to me. The reason?

Both of us will be nothing but a small, radioactive cinder.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mayor Sarah Palin to Wasilla rape victims: “I want to rape you again! Here’s a bill for getting violated. Have a nice day.”

Shocker: When Sarah Palin was Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, her appointed police chief fought to stick rape victims with the bills for rape kits the local hospital used.

The kits help to establish there was a rape and identify the rapist.

Said Palin’s Police Chief Charlie Fannon: "I just don't want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer."

Oh dear, the Palin administration didn’t want to stick the taxpayers with the bill for rape kits when they could stick it to the victims, instead.

Points out the blog Daily Kos, the total bill to Wasilla for all this forensic work on behalf of its rape victims would have been between $5,000 and $14,000 a year. And that’s less than Sarah billed the state of Alaska for sleeping in her own home.

I mean, talk about her "small town values!"

See the post, “Justice, Maverick Style,” here for the details about the small-minded excuse for a human being that John McCain wants to succeed him as president.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A pit bull with lipstick? This is what pit bulls do to babies. What ‘till you see what a McCain-Palin mad dog administration does to your family.

The photograph was published some time ago in The Baltimore Sun. It shows what a pit bull did to a baby.

The Republican party has declared Sarah Palin to be “a pit bull with lipstick.” 

Don’t you believe it. Truth is, Sarah Palin is Senator McSame’s lap dog, his More-Of-The-Same-Dame:

"Pit bull" image with
no-change lap dog politics

• Same unchanged deference to lobbyists who have secretly been writing the laws for their well-heeled clients instead of the American people. Republicans  talk a good game about "country first." But what they're really doing is putting profits for their greedy corporate donors and lobbyists first and the rest of America behind the eight ball.

• Same unchanged disregard for any proposal that will really fix the unemployment mess.

• Same unchanged disinterest in America’s rotting infrastructure which only the government can fix.

• Same blithe disregard for any measures that would really protect the environment.

• Same emphasis on cutting taxes for corporations and billionaires. Meanwhile, they want to tax your healthcare benefits.

• Same unchanged hatred for the kind of government regulation that used to prevent messes like the subprime mortage meltdown until Republicans repealed the regulations.

• Same unchanged lack of a meaningful proposal that would get every American citizen who wants it some form of affordable healthcare coverage.

• Same unchanged endless war in Iraq.

• Same unchanged financial responsibility that is digging a deeper and deeper grave for the United States of America, as foreign powers grab up our national wealth and laugh all the way to the bank.

McCain will make today's
bad situation even worse

A McCain-Palin administration will not only continue the situation but worsen it, lowering the already low international regard for the United States which has destroyed our worldwide leadership and which will keep us oil-dependent for many more years (That’s what “drill-drill-drill” is really-really-really all about. Making money-money-money for the swimming-in-profits oil companies while diverting major efforts from solar, wind and other energy sources.)

Ever see lipstick
on a real pit bull?

Yeah, sure — McCain is for “change.”

He’s about as much for change as a rabid four-legged pit bull will convince you it’s a hockey mom if someone paints lipstick on its drooling jowls.

Meanwhile, although she has finally — finally! — scheduled one measly press interview with Charlie Gibon, Sarah Palin has thus far refused to hold any full-court national press conferences where Americans can learn the answers to the questions we have on our minds instead of just the answers Republicans want to give us.

Maybe Sarah thinks it’s cute as a pit bull that she wants America wants to vote for her without knowing anything about her.

Well, here is one of the few things we do know about the woman who John McSame says will help him create “change.”

Sarah's shady college record?
Let's shed some light on it.

Sarah Palin thus far has offered no explanation of why she went to five different (mostly second-rate) colleges in six years before she got her four-year degree. In the absence of Palin’s willingness to divulge facts, we’re free to speculate on this national political figure. So permit me a few crankily speculative question:

• Despite her ability to make a fine speech, is Sarah Palin such a scholastic dimwit that she managed to flunk out of college one or more times?

• Was she caught cheating on exams or upsetting somebody else’s lab experiment so she’d come quit higher on the curve one or more times?

• Did she have one or more mental breakdowns?

Did she have to drop out of college (and — heaven forbid! — have an abortion because she was pregnant?)

The colleges themselves are forbidden by law to divulge their records. So we’ll just have to wait and see whether the Republicans and Sarah will share their secret information.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wait a second! Wait a second! Did a right wing blog just lend credence to rumors that she had an extramarital affair?

Ordinarily I'm not big on directing readers to Republican-slanted websites the likes of Matt Drudge's. But I'm making an exception in this case because it relates to the very newspaper that had some Republicans rejoicing when, with remarkable accuracy, it outed John Edwards and his extramarital affair.

And Edwards wasn't even running for any thing. Anyway, now that same newspaper is suggesting that Sarah's been up to some extramarital hanky-panky.

Matt Drudge reports. You decide.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Barack, dude: If you want to win this one don't get sidetracked by an Alaskan barracuda

Dude, I know it isn't easy, what with the Republicans trying to refocus attention from the real issues in this campaign to their nomination of a "hockey mom" who's evidently under some kind of criminal investigation for abuse of power in office. 

I know that raises questions as to whether McCain and the people around him have either the integrity or the competence to vet a cow in a milking barn, much less a vice-presidential candidate who's a heartbeat away from a doddering old dude with a history of cancer.

But when it comes down to pulling that lever for you (or making an x, or stabbing a chad, or touch-screening your name) only one thing matters.

As a Democrat who built a successful economy before the Republicans wrecked it kept reminding himself, "It's the economy, stupid."

So dude, keep reminding people that with or without Barracuda Sarah (who evidently, in violation of the law, fires civil servants if they're not political hacks) the Republicans want to kill Social Security. The Republicans want to kill Medicare. The Republicans want to kill your job, your income and your future.

The Republicans want to screw over the average American by cutting taxes for the rich again and meanwhile running up an even bigger national debt for our children – all this while the rest of America tries to hang on to our houses, pay off our mortgages and college loans, and hang on to our jobs (if we still have a job that hasn't been "outsourced" to India or China.)

Dump McCain by voting for Barack and we also get to dump the war that's draining your tax money and pouring it into that leaky sieve called Iraq instead of into medical care and infrastructure and job creation for America.

Dump McCain and America has a chance. And that hockey mom will be free to go back to Alaska and ask the criminal lawyer she's hired to defend her how her case is going. 

Hey man, I've just got back from almost three weeks of vacation. And whaddya know? I'm still cranky.