31 December 2008
23 December 2008
22 December 2008
20 December 2008
18 December 2008
11 December 2008
I watched the unveiling of Barack Obama’s “national security team,” and I have some questions for him. Why is there not a single person on the team who opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003? I’m not suggesting that every person you appoint should have been right about the war, but I think it’s reasonable to expect at least one non-hawk appointee. One of your main selling points in the campaign was that you were opposed to this war. I don’t see why your appointments shouldn’t reflect that position in some way. Why should we put up with having Bush appointee Robert Gates continue at Defense? As an old crony of Reagan spook William Casey, he was deeply involved in Iran-Contra and other dirty covert operations. Under Gates, the corruption and looting by war contractors in Iraq has not abated. He continues to push for massive budget increases at Defense, which does not represent any change from the past.
Dashiel certainly has this right. Gates has been described by a former boss as someone who would sell his own mother if it got him moved him an inch up the bureacratic ladder. Why in the world is he being retained?
And what about all the Rumsfeld parasites still on the Pentagon staff? Do they stay too? Really, sir, are we supposed to believe that you can’t find anyone better than this Bush toady to run Defense? If there was one chance to show courage and determination in appointments, it would be the Pentagon. All this signals is more of the same. I consider any person who worked for Bush-Cheney as already morally compromised.
Absolutely. Any so-called intelligence or information from these clowns is automatically suspect. Why are they being kept?
Speaking of the Pentagon, will you take a good hard look at cutting the Defense budget? I realize that it’s considered politically dangerous to do so, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we happen to be having an economic meltdown after throwing away our resources on an illegal war. The war industry is in fact a drag on the economy—we can have a strong defense without having to waste billions of dollars making weapons manufacturers filthy rich. Moderate cuts in the Defense budget, including clamping down on the massive waste and fraud, will be needed if we’re going to restore the economy. If we can’t challenge this sacred cow, all the economic stimulus packages in the world aren’t going to do the trick.
I disagree. I don't think that moderate cuts are what's called for. We need drastic cuts. The Pentagon's budget is obscene. The U.S. military is not designed to keep America safe, but to promote corporate interests abroad. For the average tax payer, it's an enormous waste of money.
What about Blackwater and the other private mercenary forces that are a stain on our honor and a threat to freedom? Will you please cancel their contracts? Will there be accountability for the crimes and corrupt practices of KBR and other Iraq War contractors who have been looting billions from our Treasury? You have nominated Janet Napolitano to run Homeland Security. This is a huge department created as part of Bush’s so-called “War on Terror.” Are you planning on continuing this so-called “war” which by definition can never end? Do you support the Patriot Act, one of the key items in Bush’s attack on the Bill of Rights? Do you plan to continue the illegal NSA spying “program” which uses the pretense of “terrorist surveillance” to violate the rights of our own citizens? Why is it called “Homeland Security” anyway? This is colonialist language that implies that we have other lands to administer—couldn’t we just call it domestic security?
We definitely need to hire a few linguist to tackle the semantic jungle created by the Shrubian administration and Fox propaganda news. We need to stop all this talk about patriotric troops protecting the fatherland and this bizarre dichotomy between imperial designs and "isolationism."
You have said that you oppose the shameful use of torture by the Bush-Cheney regime, and that torture will end under your administration. Will you also end the so-called “renditions” in which human beings are kidnapped and sent to other countries who then torture these prisoners? Will you end secret prisons and indefinite detention without charges? Will you call for the repeal of the Military Commissions Act, which denies the age-old right of habeas corpus and violates the Bill of Rights? Will there be any accountability for the crimes against humanity committed by the Bush administration? Will there be investigations into the unlawful actions of these people? If not, doesn’t that send the message that future Presidents can fail to uphold their oaths of office without fear of any consequences? How does sweeping these crimes under the rug help this country to change for the better? I noticed that there was no nomination for CIA director. Does that mean that Bush appointee Michael Hayden, who has supported all the illegal and immoral foreign policy doctrines of the Bush-Cheney regime, is staying on at CIA? Isn’t it time for thorough reform of the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies, especially following a period when a covert agent’s identity was exposed for political reasons by the administration, with minimal consequences? I hear you talking about the danger of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Could we also talk about the danger of any country at all having a nuclear weapon? How can we tell other countries not to get nukes when we’re not doing anything to reduce our own? Are we supposed to think that somehow we have the moral right and the inherent ability to wield these weapons, but other countries don’t? Will you lead by example and create a plan for gradual de-escalation of our nuclear arsenal, thereby lending legitimacy to our professed concerns about proliferation? I haven’t heard you or Hillary Clinton questioning any of the policies of the Israeli government. Why should criticizing these policies be taboo and equated with hating Israel or being antisemitic? We can criticize the Mexican government’s policies without being accused of hating Mexicans, can’t we? Are you willing to admit that the Palestinians have rights too? This endless conflict in the West Bank and Gaza doesn’t make me feel safer—it makes everybody less safe, in fact. What do you plan to do to help Israel and the Palestinians make peace? American politicians have been talking about supporting freedom and democracy for as long as I can remember. Why, then, do we pump arms and money into repressive authoritarian governments such as Egypt, Indonesia, or Uzbekistan? Will you end funding of such regimes? We still hear anti-Cuban rhetoric every election cycle. Yet we continue to treat China, a totalitarian government, as a favored nation. Will you challenge China on its numerous violations of human rights? Will you open dialogue with Cuba?
In other words, will we have a foreign policy that isn't completely hypocritical?
The Bush administration expressed constant contempt for the United Nations. Will your administration recommit to the principles of international law and cooperation? Will you accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, or will you continue the Bush policy of defying the court, the Geneva Conventions, and other international standards of human rights and responsibilities? The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have contributed to the drastic poverty and debt of the developing world by using so-called “neoliberal” economic policies to maintain the power and privileges of rich countries and international corporations. Would you consider policies of debt forgiveness for the Third World in order to free poor countries from burdens unfairly placed on their people by corrupt leaders? Would you oppose the predatory economic strategies of international corporations that are impoverishing millions in Latin America, Africa, and Asia? I expect the answers to a lot of these questions are going to be “no.” I know that there are great political constraints on a President in this country. Some are theorizing that you are bringing the establishment under your tent so that you can govern with less disruption than previous Democratic presidents. You’ve proven yourself to be a brilliant politician, which is a definite plus if you really want to create change. Nevertheless, I think these questions need to be asked, because change has to involve the challenging of preconceptions. And the level of disintegration we are witnessing today, socially and economically, makes this even more vital. You talk about unity, and I appreciate the sentiment, but you know, there are powerful groups who don’t want anything more than a cosmetic change, if that. And they aren’t giving up without a fight. If you just give in to these interests without confronting them, I think that there won’t be a significant enough change. This is true in every area of policy, but since I’m focusing on national security in this case, I will say that we need to make peace our priority, first and foremost. That means shifting away from our war-based social and economic structures. That means letting go of the illusion that we can be the world’s policeman. That means ending the madness of trying to exploit the world’s resources and people for the exclusive benefit of the U.S. and the international corporate classes. That means coming to our senses and recognizing our country as a republic, a nation among nations, and not an empire or superpower.
The Obama presidency will be interesting no matter what happens. If we end up in the same place at the end of his time in office, we'll have confirmed that substantive change is simply impossible within the current system.
10 December 2008
In other crucially important news, Larry Craig's lawyer defends our right to free speech, arguing that restroom foot-tapping is what the Constitutional framers had in mind. What would Joe have to say about all this?
7 December 2008
- Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
- Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
- Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
- S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
- Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
- The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
- Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion (Note: This is actually a bit low once delayed costs are completely factored in.)
- Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
- NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion
TOTAL: $3.92 trillion
Some debate this, saying that much of the money will be paid back. We'll see. I'm assuming that there's a reason why U.S. and foreign investors aren't rushing in to buy all of this bad debt.
6 December 2008
3 December 2008
27 November 2008
Ian Welsh gets this right:
The executive compensation debate is beyond tiresome and beyond stupid. It's not hard to rein in executive compensation, all you have to do is decide what the maximum pay you want someone to be able to receive is and tax most of the rest of it away. The simplest thing is to just count all income equally, tax it all at the same rate, don't allow deductions beyond a certain level (50K or so) and tax all income above, say 1 million at 90%, 95% for all income above 5 million. Don't allow too much income deferral and there you go. Slap on some "in kind" rules for corporations (yes, if your corporation pays for your car, that's salary) and while there will always be loopholes, you'll still rein in the worst excesses.
We've already got all the tools in our tool-chest--we just need to use them.
26 November 2008
25 November 2008
After long and often bitter debate, Congress has passed legislation, fiercely fought for by labor and progressive groups, that will limit top salaries to fifteen times the minimum wage. Tying the bill to a plan of overall reform of the U.S. economy, the bill echoes a similar effort enacted by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942, which was followed by the longest period of growth for the middle class in U.S. history.
I always thought this was a great idea--much more important than a minimum wage. People can, after all, be so lazy and unproductive that their labor is worth next to nothing. But it's impossible for people to create billions in wealth just through a wave of their hand at a board meeting.
24 November 2008
Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey: Money (Willy Wonka version)
Floyd: Money (live version)
Serj Tankian: Money
50 Cent: I get money
Monty Python: Money
Anime Version: Money
Kalomoira: Money ain't the key
18 November 2008
Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.
Personally, I'm not so sure there'll be room down in hell as quite a few of us already are headed there according to the experts in such matters. With all the overcrowding, maybe they'll choose a few of us to undergo reincarnation. According to Father Newman's spokesman, all those who did house to house canvassing for Obama will be sent to the crotch-cutting hell.
Ouch! That's gotta hurt!
17 November 2008
During a campaign interview with the Washington Post, Obama said, “I have been troubled by … the politicization of intelligence in this administration.” But it was Gates – as a senior CIA official in the 1980s – who broke the back of the CIA analytical division’s commitment to objective intelligence.
In a recent book, Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA, former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman identifies Gates as the chief action officer for the Reagan administration’s drive to tailor intelligence reporting to White House political desires. A top “Kremlinologist,” Goodman describes how Gates reversed a CIA tradition of delivering tough-minded intelligence reports with “the bark on.”
That ethos began to erode in 1973 – with President Richard Nixon’s appointment of James Schlesinger as CIA director and Gerald Ford’s choice of George H.W. Bush in 1976 – but the principle of objectivity wasn’t swept away until 1981 when Ronald Reagan put in his campaign chief, William Casey, as CIA director.
Casey then chose the young and ambitious Robert Gates to run the analytical division. Rather than respect the old mandate for “bark on” intelligence, “Bob Gates turned that approach on its head in the 1980s and tried hard to anticipate the views of policymakers in order to pander to their needs,” Goodman wrote.
“Gates consistently told his analysts to make sure never to ‘stick your finger in the eye of the policymaker.’”
It didn’t take long for the winds of politicization to blow through the halls of CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia.
“Bill Casey and Bob Gates guided the first institutionalized ‘cooking of the books’ at the CIA in the 1980s, with a particular emphasis on tailoring intelligence dealing with the Soviet Union, Central America, and Southwest Asia,” Goodman wrote.
16 November 2008
13 November 2008
12 November 2008
11 November 2008
10 November 2008
8 November 2008
- Walsten (2005): A-list blogs tend to stick more closely to mainstream media coverage.
- Graf (2006): Bloggers, as a group, tend to despise the mainstream media, tend to be male, and are generally further on the extreme ends of the political spectrum.
- Drezner and Farrell (2004): Bloggers, in some cases, can construct or focus public discourse in significant ways. (For a more pessimistic view, look at this 2004 article in Mother Jones.) However, most bloggers have relatively little influence due to the way that the web manages traffic.
- Burbules (2008): Blog literacy should be taught along with other types of media literacy.
- For those who are really interested in the topic, there's a 2007 thesis on political blogging by Sharon Meraz.
[Excerpt] Essentially, for the economy to continue growing and for the (interest-based) money system to remain viable, more and more of nature and human relationship must be monetized. For example, thirty years ago most meals were prepared at home; today some two-thirds are prepared outside, in restaurants or supermarket delis. A once unpaid function, cooking, has become a "service". And we are the richer for it. Right?
Another major engine of economic growth over the last three decades, child care, has also made us richer. We are now relieved of the burden of caring for our own children. We pay experts instead, who can do it much more efficiently.
In ancient times entertainment was also a free, participatory function. Everyone played an instrument, sang, participated in drama. Even 75 years ago in America, every small town had its own marching band and baseball team. Now we pay for those services. The economy has grown. Hooray.
The crisis we are facing today arises from the fact that there is almost no more social, cultural, natural, and spiritual capital left to convert into money. Centuries, millennia of near-continuous money creation has left us so destitute that we have nothing left to sell. Our forests are damaged beyond repair, our soil depleted and washed into the sea, our fisheries fished out, the rejuvenating capacity of the earth to recycle our waste saturated. Our cultural treasury of songs and stories, images and icons, has been looted and copyrighted. Any clever phrase you can think of is already a trademarked slogan. Our very human relationships and abilities have been taken away from us and sold back, so that we are now dependent on strangers, and therefore on money, for things few humans ever paid for until recently: food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, child care, cooking. Life itself has become a consumer item.
Today we sell away the last vestiges of our divine bequeathment: our health, the biosphere and genome, even our own minds. This is the process that is culminating in our age. It is almost complete, especially in America and the "developed" world. In the developing world there still remain people who live substantially in gift cultures, where natural and social wealth is not yet the subject of property. Globalization is the process of stripping away these assets, to feed the money machine's insatiable, existential need to grow. Yet this stripmining of other lands is running up against its limits too, both because there is almost nothing left to take, and because of growing pockets of effective resistance.
7 November 2008
6 November 2008
5 November 2008
One thing is clear: the election represents a clear repudiation of the Republican's national plan to mortgage the country to the super-rich. Unfortunatetly, Obama wil have only reduced scope to do anything after he inherits the empty coffers of the Shrubian misadministration, but at least there's some hope that something will change. As bad as the last eight years have been, I'm quite willing to give up the steaming crap that I've been handed and trade it in for whatever's behind Door 2 (or Door 3 or Door 4 . . . )
3 November 2008
I reject the label "gloom-and-doomer" where these difficult transitions are concerned. There's a lot about the way we live now that is disgusting, degrading, demoralizing, and socially toxic -- from our suicidal diet of processed fat, salt, and corn syrup byproducts to the spiritually punishing everyday realm of the highway strip to the fantastic loneliness and alienation of a people made hostage to a TV-consumer nexus of corporate colonialism. Were done with that. We just don't know it yet. Mr. Obama may not know it, either, but he is a trustworthy soul to hold our hands as we enter this unknown territory.
2 November 2008
World military spending grew 45 percent in the past decade, with the United States accounting for nearly half of all expenditures, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said Monday. Military spending grew six percent last year alone, according to SIPRI’s annual report. In 2007, 1,339 billion dollars (851 billion euros) was spent on arms and other military expenditures, corresponding to 2.5 percent of global gross domestic product, or GDP, and 202 dollars for each of the world’s 6.6 billion people. The United States spends by far the most towards military aims, dishing out 547 billion dollars last year, or 45 percent of global expenditure.
1 November 2008
31 October 2008
Writing about the other side of the world, a recent article in Journal of Applied Ecology (2008, Issue 6) talks to experts around the world about the polar bear population. Over half believe that the population will decline by about a third by 2050, with some experts predicting a more dire drop of about 70%. (Another article even reports of polar bears resorting to cannabalism.)
Lastly, Fred Pierce has a good article on the myth of "clean coal." From the body of the article:
Who came up with the term "clean coal"? It is the most toxic phrase in the greenwash lexicon. George W Bush, by promising to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the pursuit of advanced "clean" coal technologies, certainly popularised it. But I'd love to know where it came from. Any thoughts out there?
It is, of course, oxymoronic. Coal is about acid rain and peasouper smogs, asthma and mercury contamination, radioactive waste emissions and ripping apart mountains, killing trees, lung cancer and, of course, global warming.
Coal emits more carbon dioxide for every unit of energy generated than any other fuel. Sure you can clean it up a bit – though the toxins you've taken out of the ground have to go somewhere. But clean coal? Just say no.
But the phrase rolls on. Google offers more than a million web pages. We will hear a lot more of it as the UK government wrestles with whether to approve a new billion-pound "cleaner coal" power station – Britain's first coal plant for three decades – at Kingsnorth in Kent.E.ON, the company that wants to build the station, says Kingsnorth will be "ready" to capture carbon dioxide emissions before they go up the stack. Great, except there is no such technology right now.
This phrase "clean coal" has developed a life of its own thanks to remorseless commercial propagandising. This year a coalition of US coal mining companies and electricity utilities called Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (and recently renamed the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity) is paying the advertising agency R&R Partners $35m (£22m) to promote "clean coal" through advertising and other promotional activity.
This is up there with the safe cigarette and "atoms for peace". The industry is fighting back against growing scientific calls to outlaw coal burning, and the rejection of dozens of coal power plants proposals by communities across the US, with several states effectively banning them.
You may have noticed the campaign's effect. Both John McCain and Barack Obama support clean coal. It's neat. Who could be against clean coal? It allows them to oppose dirty coal without antagonising anyone. You may not have spotted that Americans for Balanced Energy Choices sponsored two early presidential debates, during which – guess what – no questions were asked about global warming.
29 October 2008
28 October 2008
27 October 2008
Not only did Powell lend his personal credibility to Bush at key moments – from the Florida recount battle to the Iraq War to Election 2004 – but a serious examination of his career would reveal a person who consistently has put his career ahead of his country’s best interests. For that matter, why should Americans tune in to watch NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw interviewing Powell on “Meet the Press”? Brokaw is the news media’s version of a Colin Powell, never putting his career in harm’s way to alert the public about grave dangers ahead.
We on the left need to be principled. A lying jack-ass doesn't deserve a pat on the ass just because he occasionally happens to gallop off in the right direction. Powell has made a career as a front-man for shady operations, a career in which he sided with the wrong people--people that he chose of his own free will. This notion that he was Bush's moral compass is ludicrous. Nobody gets hired into the Shrub administration unless they've check the box on the application form that says immoral slimeball.
24 October 2008
23 October 2008
22 October 2008
This is the point where it’s irresistibly tempting to call for a re-regulation of finance. And that is sorely needed. But we also need to remember why finance, like many other areas of economic life, was deregulated starting in the 1970s. From the point of view of the elite, corporate profits were too low, workers were too demanding and the hand of government was too heavy. Deregulation was part of a broad assault to make the economy more ‘flexible’, which translated into stagnant to declining wages and rising job insecurity for most Americans. And the medicine worked, from the elites’ point of view. Corporate profitability rose dramatically from the early 1980s until sometime last year. The polarization of incomes wasn’t an unwanted side effect of the medicine — it was part of the cure.
This is the elephant in the room that we're all taught to ignore. The current crisis didn't come about because the system "failed to work." We're where we're at because the system worked too well. The crème de la crème continued to skim cream off the top as the milk underneath soured.
Although we’re hearing a lot now about how the Reagan era is over and the era of big government is back, an expanded government isn’t likely to do much more than rescue a failing financial system (in addition to the more familiar pursuits of waging war and jailing people). Nothing more humane will be pursued without a far more energised populace than we have. After this financial crisis and the likely bailout, it looks impossible to go back to the status quo ante — but we don’t seem ready to move on to something appealingly new yet, either.
Henwood nails the point here. When we live in a context in which a key piece of anti-Obama rhetoric (albeit, one that hasn't been effective) is that he wants to "spread the wealth" and "be fair," there's something amiss with the class consciousness of the lower 99% of Americans (including those Joes who make less that 250 grand a year.) OF COURSE, WE WANT TO SPREAD THE WEALTH WHICH WE PRODUCED! I'd like to spread some of that wealth so that I received it instead of it falling into the hands of some fatcat who had gotten his clammy hands on it via some economic voodoo inherent in our current system. If a desire to keep at least a decent portion of the wealth that I help produce is socialism, communism, islamo-fascism, or whacko-leftism, so be it. I'm less concerned with titles and mottoes and more concerned with outcomes. But as Henwood says, we currently live in an ideological desert, with plenty of dissent and few productive avenues for it flow.
21 October 2008
It's obvious to me what happened. Palin was sitting on her porch recently and saw one of those rich Russians walking along the border across from her place and asked for a donation to the righteous anti-Socialist crusade. How was she to know that the guy was a Rooskie instead of an Eskimo?
20 October 2008
18 October 2008
Pay and bonus deals equivalent to 10% of US government bail-out package
Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.
Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed.
Pay plans for bankers have been disclosed in recent corporate statements. Pressure on the US firms to review preparations for annual bonuses increased yesterday when Germany's Deutsche Bank said many of its leading traders would join Josef Ackermann, its chief executive, in waiving millions of euros in annual payouts.
The sums that continue to be spent by Wall Street firms on payroll, payoffs and, most controversially, bonuses appear to bear no relation to the losses incurred by investors in the banks. Shares in Citigroup and Goldman Sachs have declined by more than 45% since the start of the year. Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have fallen by more than 60%. JP MorganChase fell 6.4% and Lehman Brothers has collapsed.
At one point last week the Morgan Stanley $10.7bn pay pot for the year to date was greater than the entire stock market value of the business. In effect, staff, on receiving their remuneration, could club together and buy the bank.
In the first nine months of the year Citigroup, which employs thousands of staff in the UK, accrued $25.9bn for salaries and bonuses, an increase on the previous year of 4%. Earlier this week the bank accepted a $25bn investment by the US government as part of its bail-out plan.
At Goldman Sachs the figure was $11.4bn, Morgan Stanley $10.73bn, JP Morgan $6.53bn and Merrill Lynch $11.7bn. At Merrill, which was on the point of going bust last month before being taken over by Bank of America, the total accrued in the last quarter grew 76% to $3.49bn. At Morgan Stanley, the amount put aside for staff compensation also grew in the last quarter to the end of August by 3% to $3.7bn.
Days before it collapsed into bankruptcy protection a month ago Lehman Brothers revealed $6.12bn of staff pay plans in its corporate filings. These payouts, the bank insisted, were justified despite net revenue collapsing from $14.9bn to a net outgoing of $64m.
None of the banks the Guardian contacted wished to comment on the record about their pay plans. But behind the scenes, one source said: "For a normal person the salaries are very high and the bonuses seem even higher. But in this world you get a top bonus for top performance, a medium bonus for mediocre performance and a much smaller bonus if you don't do so well."
Many critics of investment banks have questioned why firms continue to siphon off billions of dollars of bank earnings into bonus pools rather than using the funds to shore up the capital position of the crisis-stricken institutions. One source said: "That's a fair question - and it may well be that by the end of the year the banks start review the situation."
Much of the anger about investment banking bonuses has focused on boardroom executives such as former Lehman boss Dick Fuld, who was paid $485m in salary, bonuses and options between 2000 and 2007.
Last year Merrill Lynch's chairman Stan O'Neal retired after announcing losses of $8bn, taking a final pay deal worth $161m. Citigroup boss Chuck Prince left last year with a $38m in bonuses, shares and options after multibillion-dollar write-downs. In Britain, Bob Diamond, Barclays president, is one of the few investment bankers whose pay is public. Last year he received a salary of £250,000, but his total pay, including bonuses, reached £36m.
16 October 2008
McCain's claim that he supposedly knows so much about fighting in the hills of Afghanistan and surging through Iraqi cities because he's "been there" got very old. Are we really supposed to believe that someone who flies into some place for a photo op and a 30-minute PowerPoint briefing by the general's staff is suddenly an expert? My guess is that the soldiers and mercenaries working in these places detest doing all the extra guard duty and security detail just so some candidate can march around getting pictures in front of market stands and military mess halls.
There's a lot of concern right now about a newly manufactured crisis appearing. Pissed on Politics voices this uneasiness:
I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t know what it will be but I think it will come. A video from Bin Laden? Another preemptive war? A terrorist attack? A natural disaster used as a proxy to suspend the election and declare martial law? I feel something is going to happen but I still hold out hope that Obama can win.
15 October 2008
The money for all of this -- and much, much more -- was there, all along. When they said we couldn't have these things, they were lying -- or else allowing themselves to be profitably duped by the high priests of the market cult. When they wanted a trillion dollars -- or three trillion dollars -- to wage a war of aggression in Iraq, they found it. Now, when they want trillions of dollars to save the speculators, fraudsters and profiteers of greed in the global market, they suddenly have it.
Who then can believe that these governments could not have found the money for good schools, health care, and all the rest, that they could not have enhanced the well-being and livelihood of millions of ordinary citizens, and helped create a more just and equitable and stable world -- if they had wanted to?
This is one of the main facts that ordinary citizens around the world should take away from this crisis: the money to maintain, secure and improve the lives of their families and communities was always there -- but their governments, and their political parties, made a deliberate, unforced choice not to use it for the common good. Instead, they subjugated the well-being of the world to the dictates of an extremist cult. A cult of greed and privilege, that preached iron discipline to the poor and the middle-class, but released the rich and powerful from all restrictions, and all responsibility for their actions.
This should be a constant -- and galvanizing -- thought in the minds of the public in the months and years to come. Remember what you could have had, and how it was denied you by the lies and delusions of a powerful elite and their bought-off factotums in government. Remember the trillions of dollars that suddenly appeared when the wheeler-dealers needed money to cover their own greed and stupidity.
Let these thoughts guide you as you weigh the promises and actions of politicians and candidates, and as you assess the "expert analysis" on economic and domestic policy offered by the corporate media and the corporate-bankrolled think tanks and academics.
And above all, let these thoughts be foremost in your mind when you hear -- as you certainly will hear, when (and if) the markets are finally stabilized (at whatever gigantic cost in human suffering) -- the adherents of the market cult emerge once more and call for "deregulation" and "untying the hands of business" and all the other ritual incantations of their false and savage fundamentalist faith.
12 October 2008
John McCain on 3/25/2008 in response to the subprime upheaval:
"Our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital in financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting and tax impediments to raising capital."
Hmmm. Deregulation should fix the problem. We need to give banks and accountants more leeway to find "creative" solutions to their problems. And we should probably stop looking over their shoulder as they work--it's like so-o-o distracting.
And in another quote:
"The other part of what happened was an explosion of complex financial instruments that weren't particularly well understood by even the most sophisticated banks, lenders and hedge funds."
The accountant magicians who made off with hundreds of millions of dollars in personal wealth didn't understand how these things worked?! This is like saying that the burglars who robbed the bank didn't realize that their dynamite might damage the door of the vault. What a crock! The people who expanded personal fortunes in this fiasco shouldn't be criticized for their ignorance: they should be lauded for their success and cleverness. These are the Bonnies and Clydes of the modern age! Someone should be creating some folk songs in homage to these people. The only person who doesn't get it and thinks it's too complex is McCain. The average Joe on Main Street knows perfectly well what happened--we've been robbed by bizarro Robin Hood and his gang of merry Republican men who steal from the poor to give to the rich.
10 October 2008
"When they say trust us, we're not listening in on Americans – this shows that they are," said Jennifer Granick of the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Her group is suing the federal government to stop warrantless eavesdropping programs and hold government officials accountable. "This should be of concern to everybody."
Our tax dollars are paying for people to listen in on innocent Americans' talk with their spouses. Unbelievable. I still strongly believe that there needs to be impeachment proceedings. We really need to reflect deeply on all that has gone wrong during the last decade.
The richest 400 Americans -- that's right, just four hundred people -- own MORE than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. Four-hundred rich Americans have got more stashed away than half the entire country! Their combined net worth is $1.6 trillion. During the eight years of the Bush Administration, their wealth has increased by nearly $700 billion -- the same amount that they are now demanding we give to them for the "bailout." Why don't they just spend the money they made under Bush to bail themselves out? They'd still have nearly a trillion dollars left over to spread amongst themselves!
8 October 2008
7 October 2008
I can't wait until we're all issued our pins to wear so that we one and all can be true-blue patriotic (although some will still be patrioticker than others). Of course, there's a nasty rumor that Sarah's pin was missing several stripes, a clear indication of less than complete unswerving devotion to the fatherland.
According to a recent news report, McCain has past connections to a private group call the "U.S. Council for World Freedom" that was part of an international organization linked to former Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America.
This fits a pattern. Everytime McCain criticizes Obama for some tenuous relationship with some ne'er-do-well (often consisting of a 10 minute phone call 20 years ago or something equally ridiculous), we find out a couple weeks later that McCain has had substantial relationships with an even more questionable group of people.
6 October 2008
The panel unearthed internal documents showing that on Sept. 11, Lehman planned to approve "special payments" worth $18.2 million for two executives who were terminated involuntarily, and another $5 million for one who was leaving on his own.
That was just four days before the government let Lehman go under, touching off a cascading series of financial shocks and failures that put Washington on track for the multibillion-dollar rescue the Bush administration urgently requested from Congress at the end of that week.
A company's going bankrupt and the company approves giving people who were fired "special payments"! I wonder if my boss is planning on firing me and giving me 9 million bucks in "special payments"? I'm sorry, but I'm just a simple person who, like so many others, lost most of my life savings in this mess. Our children will spend many years of their lives paying for this. Shouldn't these fat sons-a-bitches be hanging from ropes??????? For much less that 9 million, I can go buy a rope and give these people their proper reward.
And there are still ignorant SOBs who want to vote for McCain so that he can continue the Shrub legacy and reward these people with tax cuts? Because they "earned" it? I just don't get it. Are Americans really this stupid?
McCain and Keating had become personal friends following their initial contacts in 1981, and McCain was the only one of the five with close social and personal ties to Keating. Like DeConcini, McCain considered Keating a constituent as he lived in Arizona. Between 1982 and 1987, McCain had received $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates.
In addition, McCain's wife Cindy McCain and her father Jim Hensley had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators. McCain, his family, and their baby-sitter had made nine trips at Keating's expense, sometimes aboard Keating's jet. Three of the trips were made during vacations to Keating's opulent Bahamas retreat at Cat Cay. McCain did not pay Keating (in the amount of $13,433) for some of the trips until years after they were taken, when he learned that Keating was in trouble over Lincoln. Because of these connections, Phoenix New Times writer Tom Fitzpatrick stated in 1989 that McCain was the "most reprehensible" of the five.
And "honest John" is now going to save us from the greedy Wall Street sharks with their high paid lobbyists? And he's going to do this through deregulation, tax-cuts (for the wealthy), and self-oversight? Why does this all sound so familiar?
5 October 2008
1. Theravada Buddhism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (99%)
3. Secular Humanism (87%)
4. Liberal Quakers (85%)
5. Taoism (76%)
6. Mahayana Buddhism (73%)
7. Neo-Pagan (69%)
8. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (60%)
9. Jainism (60%)
10. Nontheist (59%)
11. New Age (54%)
12. Sikhism (49%)
13. Orthodox Quaker (47%)
14. Hinduism (46%)
15. Reform Judaism (40%)
16. Bahai Faith (38%)
17. Scientology (29%)
18. New Thought (27%)
19. Seventh Day Adventist (23%)
20. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (22%)
21. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (20%)
22. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (15%)
23. Eastern Orthodox (13%)
24. Islam (13%)
25. Orthodox Judaism (13%)
26. Roman Catholic (13%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (7%)
4 October 2008
A million people in the US have lost their homes over the last two years and real wages have fallen while corporate profits have soared. According to the July 23 Wall Street Journal, the richest 1% of the US population received their highest share of the nation’s income in at least two decades while their average tax rate fell to the lowest level in 18 years or more.
3 October 2008
On the subprime lending meltdown:
PALIN: One thing that Americans do at this time, also, though, is let's commit ourselves just every day American people, Joe Six Pack, hockey moms across the nation, I think we need to band together and say never again. Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those who are managing our money and loaning us these dollars. We need to make sure that we demand from the federal government strict oversight of those entities in charge of our investments and our savings and we need also to not get ourselves in debt. Let's do what our parents told us before we probably even got that first credit card. Don't live outside of our means. We need to make sure that as individuals we're taking personal responsibility through all of this. It's not the American peoples fault that the economy is hurting like it is, but we have an opportunity to learn a heck of a lot of good lessons through this and say never again will we be taken advantage of.
There are two problems with this. First, McCain and Palin have both run on this "less government" mantra, claiming that the answer to everything is less government. We know, of course, that in practice this means less government for the poor (less infrastructure, less education) and more government handouts for the rich, but one thing it doesn't mean is proper oversight of lenders or corporate elites.
The second point that bothered me is Palin's notion that the people who are hurting are all irresponsible people who didn't balance their checkbook. I personally lost my entire life savings in this mess, and I did everything by the book--using my life savings to pay 20% down on a house and dutifully making every payment. Like Republicans have always recommended, my retirement fund was largely in stocks. I'm now in debt (since I lost every cent I owned and have to keep paying the mortgage) and my retirement has also largely evaporated. I know for a fact that I will never retire. Sarah's little lecture about how to balance a checkbook should be saved for her friends who hunt from planes. Many of us are all too familiar with how to balance checkbooks and live on tight budgets.
On the energy crisis . . .
Palin: Barack Obama and Sen. Biden, you've said no to everything in trying to find a domestic solution to the energy crisis that we're in.
This notion that there's some "domestic solution," that if we just go out and drill a bit more, we'll suddenly have plenty of oil, is simply false. It's a lie. There isn't a single geologists anywhere (who isn't in an insane asylum) who believes that the U.S. has giant reserves that'll meet our future needs. Alaska, with its miniscule population and with much of the remaining U.S. reserves, could meet its needs, but we're talking about a country here, not a giant state with a population smaller than many cities.
Overall, the debates weren't terribly interesting. I suppose we must conclude that Palin did well in the sense that she was intelligible and didn't show up in a swimsuit or accidently mention pteradactyls flying over Israelites at the dawn of history 5000 years ago.
2 October 2008
McCain says he wants to freeze all spending EXCEPT military spending. It gives me great comfort to see that we're following the footsteps of great democracies such as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The DPRK, after all, had a larger economy than South Korea in 1972, and now, after decades of pouring all their income into their military . . . they've got a big military. I think this should be the sole focus of the U.S.--to have a larger military than the rest of the world combined and muliplied by a factor of two. Or maybe a factor of three. . . . or four. Then I'd feel safe. . . . Or mabye five. What's that you say? What about infrastructure? Education? Who needs roads when we can be carted around in B52s? Who needs an education when we live in a kleptocracy?
[Excerpt] The Republican Party does not really care about governing. And it doesn’t care about issues or ideas, except insofar as they facilitate corporate profits. Everything is about hidden messages, code words, imagery, personality, in short—electoral hypnotism. Previous cynical Repug candidates chose Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle to be a “heartbeat away.” Those guys may have had a little more “experience” than Sarah Palin, but weren’t any more thoughtful, or competent. The fact is that the Repugs proved with George W. Bush that they could install an empty suit in the White House and still run things—sort of. “Yeah, they ran things into the ground,” you might say, but the rich cronies made lots of money, and that’s all that counts to these people. Their true motto is: “We don’t care.” Power is all that matters. That’s Karl Rove 101, and the man himself pronounced the Palin pick a stroke of genius. Confronted with the never-ending antics of insane wingnut freaks, the people who dominate the political discourse in the United States, I find myself most distressed at their pathetic Democratic enablers. Instead of an opposition party, what I saw displayed at the Democratic Party was the same old fantasy that somehow they could win by being nice and positive and reasonable. These people just don’t seem to learn.
30 September 2008
After conducting a college band and watching Palin deliver a commencement address to a small group of home-schooled students in June 1997, Wasilla resident Philip Munger said, he asked the young mayor about her religious beliefs.
Palin told him that "dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth at the same time," Munger said. When he asked her about prehistoric fossils and tracks dating back millions of years, Palin said "she had seen pictures of human footprints inside the tracks," recalled Munger, who teaches music at the University of Alaska in Anchorage and has regularly criticized Palin in recent years on his liberal political blog, called Progressive Alaska.
28 September 2008
Recently reported by the Associated Press:
When Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the small town began billing sexual-assault victims for the cost of rape kits and forensic exams.
On the other hand:
When Senator Joseph Biden, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, drafted the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, he included provisions to make states ineligible for federal grant money if they charged rape victims for exams and the kits containing the medical supplies needed to conduct them. (Senator John McCain, Ms. Palin’s running mate, voted against Mr. Biden’s initiative, and his name has not been among the long list of co-sponsors each time the act has been renewed.)
And we're supposed to believe that women will all flock to the polls to vote for her because . . . she's a woman? This has got to be one of the most anti-woman candidates this country has ever had run for major office.
Factcheck.org has a rebuttal of the claims that I made in this post.
Youvebeenleftbehind.com offers users the ability to store e-mails and documents that will be sent to up to 63 e-mail addresses six days after the rapture has occurred. Users get up to 250 megabytes of storage space, 150 megabytes of it encrypted for sensitive information such as bank account numbers or eTrade passwords that can be accessed by those who remain on earth.
I'm a bit disapppointed. I was sure that heaven would have email services. Evidently you get golden streets but poor wireless coverage.
27 September 2008
26 September 2008
25 September 2008
I guess there's a good reason for all the hemming and hawing:
Regulatory filings indicate that McCain campaign chief Rick Davis remains an officer with his lobbying firm.
Michael IsikoffNewsweek Web Exclusive
Sep 24, 2008
Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, has remained the treasurer and a corporate director of his lobbying firm this year, despite repeated statements by campaign officials that he had ended his relationship with the firm in 2006, according to corporate records.The McCain campaign this week criticized news stories disclosing that, since 2006, Davis's firm has been paid a $15,000-a-month consulting fee from Freddie Mac, the troubled mortgage giant recently put under federal conservatorship. The stories, published Tuesday by NEWSWEEK, The New York Times and Roll Call, reported that the consulting fees continued until last month even though, according to two sources familiar with the arrangement, neither Davis nor anybody else at his firm did any substantial work for the payments.
It feels like we are being threatened. Pay up or else. Or else what? We lose our houses? Our jobs? Our life's savings? Hasn't that already happened to hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people in this economy? It reminds of what the executives at American Airlines pulled on their pilots: if you don't take a salary cut, the company will go down and you will be out of a job.Then the executives got bonuses. So now Wall Street says: give us more money or you we will all go down. When was the last time Wall Street spoke in terms of "we all"? Probably the Bear Stearns bailout. It doesn't have to be this way. It's an unpopular, lame duck president. It's a treasury secretary who used to be head of Goldman Sachs. There are millions speaking out against this too quick move. It's almost as if they want to take the money and run. No wonder it feels like we're being robbed.
I agree. Personally, I've already lost my money. Now I'll lose more in order to bail-out some "system" that screwed me over in the first place--a system that isn't going to be dismantled or fundamentally changed.