Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Open Thread


I can't really say whether this foul fellow is just a trick or treater dressed up as John McCain's last ghost of a chance of an electoral victory or a Klukker. Come to think of it, it probably amounts to the same thing.

Scariest costume this year? President Sarah Palin, for sure. And while I don't think it's likely, it's still a possibility. Any combination of Diebold vote-flipping and recurrance of melanoma and Bible Spice could be anointing herself with frankincense and myrrh come next January. Those of you inclined to pray that this never happens, I urge you to do so. The rest of you? Smoke 'em if you got 'em.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Corporate Welfare

...Worse Than You Could Have Imagined

Was anybody wondering how the DJIA miraculously rose by nearly 900 points yesterday on the news of the lowest consumer confidence results since that benchmark has been measured? It just doesn't make any sense unless there's some serious market manipulation going on. I asked myself what was happening and ran into something called the PPT, an entity whose very existence confirms some of my worst fears about how the world works.

Have you ever heard of the Plunge Protection Team? That's OK, until today neither had I. Officially it's called the Working Group on Financial Markets, and is a mechanism for manipulating the markets that is shockingly apposite to anything resembling free market principles - all the more so because it was set up under the Reagan administration. Wikipedia tells you what it is:
The Working Group on Financial Markets (also, President's Working Group on Financial Markets, the Working Group, and colloquially the Plunge Protection Team) was created by Executive Order 12631, signed on March 18, 1988 by United States President Ronald Reagan.

The Group was established explicitly in response to events in the financial markets surrounding October 19, 1987 ("Black Monday") to give recommendations for legislative and private sector solutions for "enhancing the integrity, efficiency, orderliness, and competitiveness of [United States] financial markets and maintaining investor confidence".[1]

As established by Executive Order 12631, the Working Group consists of:
  • The Secretary of the Treasury, or his designee (as Chairman of the Working Group)
  • The Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, or his designee
  • The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or his designee; and
  • The Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or his designee.
The current holders of the listed offices are respectively Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Chris Cox and Walter Lukken. I'm sure you've heard about the first three. I have a theory about why you haven't heard of Lukken, the CFTC's acting chairman, which I'll tell you later.

Wiki's explanation of what the Working Group is is straightforward and uncontroversial. What it does is another thing entirely. Indeed the reasoning behind the PPT epithet brings out conspiracy theory accusations:
"Plunge Protection Team" was originally the headline for an article in The Washington Post on February 23, 1997, and has since become a colloquial term used by some mainstream publications to refer to the Working Group. Initially, the term was used to express the opinion that the Working Group was being used to prop up the markets during downturns. Financial writers for British newspapers The Observer and The Daily Telegraph, along with U.S. Congressman Ron Paul and writers Kevin Phillips (who claims “no personal firsthand knowledge” and is “not interested in becoming a conspiracy investigator”) and John Crudele, have charged the Working Group with going beyond their legal mandate. Claims about the Working Group generally include that it is an orchestrated mechanism that attempts to manipulate U.S. stock markets in the event of a market crash by using government funds to buy stocks, or other instruments such as stock index futures—acts which are forbidden by law. However, these articles usually refer to the Working Group using moral suasion to attempt to convince banks to buy stock index futures.
Let's first address this idea that the characterization of the PPT as market manipulators using tax dollars is a conspiracy theory. The pertinent question to ask is "if the group cannot buy or sell stocks, how can it intervene to prop up the market?" And unless you can come up with a believable answer to that, the whole conspiracy theory idea evaporates. Which, by the way, puts you by the fire in the conspiracy camp. And me, I'm not buying the moral suasion argument, so pass the coffee please.

Anyway, the recent $700 BILLION government intervention in the banks renders the question moot. Having a direct interest in the banks through the TARP program, the government can directly intervene in the markets through something rather less moral than mere suasion. And all apparently with nothing approaching meaningful oversight.

Unlike Wikipedia, this extremely persuasive article from makes no bones about what is really going on in the markets. Note that it was published last Saturday, before the inexplicable Dow Jones Miracle occurred. The author, Ellen Brown, was responding to the fact that Wall Street somehow managed to weather the storm relatively speaking on Friday after "Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell nearly 10% during the [previous] night, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 8%, and Germany’s and Britain’s fell 5%".

Traders prepared for the worst, but remarkably, disaster was averted. The U.S. market fell only 3.5%, just another “ordinary” bearish day.

Why the more modest drop in the U.S., where the financial debacle originated and should have hit hardest? Suspicious observers saw the covert hand of the Plunge Protection Team (PPT), the group set up under President Reagan to maintain market “stability” by manipulating markets behind the scenes. Bill Murphy commented in
“Today the Muppets on CNBC were remarking how well our market acted, not falling apart as expected. All day long they spoke of how our market was acting differently today than every other stock market in the world. Well hello, the other countries don’t have a PPT, which is WHY our market is so different.

“There are those who might think what the PPT is doing is right. What they don’t realize is their making ‘Everything is fine’ for so long, and not allowing the market to trade freely . . . like allowing the stock market to fall the way it should, has kept the individual in the market . . . when they might have been SCARED out some time ago.”
In response to Bill Saporito’s comment in Time it might be countered that Henry Paulson’s Plunge Protection Team is quite adept at rigging an economy. The difference between an acknowledged socialist state and the stealth socialism we have in the U.S. today is that in a socialist state, everyone expects the market to be rigged and operates accordingly. In a rigged pseudo-capitalist economy, investors are easily separated from their money because they expect the market to follow “free market principles” based on “supply and demand.” They are seduced into “pump and dump” schemes – artificial manipulations that allow insiders to unload stock at a high price or buy it at a low price – because they trust in Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” which is supposed to automatically set things right in a market left to its own devices. The market today is indeed controlled by an invisible hand, but it is not necessarily serving the interests of small investors.
To quote more of this article might go beyond fair use, and I would anyway be tempted to quote the entire thing, so instead I will urge everyone to read the whole thing, maybe twice or more, because it does get pretty technical. Most important is that you understand what a 'pump and dump' scheme is, and that it always favors the big player and milks everyone else. The idea that the government is using your tax dollars to help transfer wealth out of small player's (such as retirement investment accounts) hands into the pockets of the already obscenely rich should eventually sink in.

As Ms. Brown lays it out, it's a case of "Plunge Protection for Some, Plunge Creation for Others." Her home-page (promoting her book Web of Debt) contains some excerpts from the book, which must have been published about a year ago - there are reviews from November of 2007. There is little doubt that she saw then what is happening now. And it don't look good.
To keep up appearances, the "Plunge Protection Team" has been authorized by presidential order to use U.S. taxpayer money to manipulate markets to make them appear healthier than they are, and lately it has been working overtime. But official assurances of a "soft landing" are mere window dressing, aimed at preventing another worldwide depression as home buyers and stock market investors stampede for the exits.
It's particularly galling that this brand of corporate welfare is going on while the McCain campaign rails on about Barack Obama's socialism. Apparently it's not the idea of the government redistributing wealth that bothers them, just the fact that it's going to someone who actually needs it. Anyway, it's all business as usual under the crony capitalist operating principles of the Republican Corporate Feudal State. Socializing the losses while privatizing the profits.

This whole story should give you the right to call BULL-SHIT!! to any Republican who ever opens their pie-hole and lets the words 'free market' emit from it, in perpetuity. It's worth a read if for no other reason than that.
Oh, and I said I'd tell you why you've never heard of Walter Lukken, didn't I? It's simple. He's the head of the CFTC, whose mandate under the Commodity Exchange Act is to prohibit fraudulent conduct in the trading of futures contracts. A regulatory agency. If you had heard of Walter Lukken it would have meant that he was doing his job. Which might have meant that this economic meltdown would never have occurred. Like the OSM that purportedly regulates the mining industry, or the EPA that supposedly protects the environment, the CFTC has been reduced to an office with one guy doing crossword puzzles and playing paddle-ball all day - regulators are the Maytag repairmen of the Bush administration. Business. As. Frickin'. Usual.
Addendum: There's a great related story from Wonkette about how Cindy Jacobs, a Christian dingbat associated with Pat Robertson's 700 club, declared a "Day of Prayer for the World’s Economies on Wednesday, October 29, 2008" “We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the 'Lion’s Market,' or God’s control over the economic systems,” she said.
“While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble.”
Because the stock market crash was caused by the sinfulness of allowing gays to marry, doncha' know?
“This is so severe in the economic area because we are facing judgment from the actions, not only for our stance towards Israel, but our blatant sin against Him in passing laws such as the one allowing homosexual marriages,” Cindy said.
Gawd, it'll be good to see the likes of those relegated to their backwaters again when the neocon/greedhead/Christofascist coalition is finally scattered to the four winds.

UPDATE: There's video of Cindy and her followers serenading the bull to the tune of God Bless America. hat-tips go to Slog the Stranger and TC.
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

100,003 Attend Obama Rally in Denver

Apparently in estimating the size of the crowd in Civic Center Park in Denver today, the Denver police missed three people: Myself, UC and UC's partner. Here's what 100,003 people look like in Denver's City Center Park.

If you squint really hard underneath the American flag back in the trees, you'll see the three of us the Denver PD missed. I'm the guy next to the pink pixel representing a pink hat worn by a lady standing next to me. For scale, since this was apparently taken using a telephoto lens, it's about a half-mile from the podium to the capital steps. The police are actually estimating more than 100,000 so it looks like we beat St. Louis for the biggest Obama rally in the nation.

Not bad for a state that eight years ago was considered reliably red.

Of course, there were a couple of McCain protesters. We saw these guys trying to look inconspicuous. Of course, our crowd wasn't their crowd - they had nothing to worry about but I'm sure they projected their biographies onto us and thought they were faced with a hundred thousand clones of themselves. I'd have been quiet, too. Not shown is the nun with a placard calling Obama a baby killer. Gotta love that one - when contraception and comprehensive sex education would eliminate most abortions, they can only think the best course the one most discredited: Ban abortions.

A bit more crowd-watching. They were hanging from lamp posts. They were in the trees. They were atop the Denver Post building and the Denver Art Museum. The crowd was huge, polite, and 80% of them had early voted. And finally, we found two of the undercounts:

Not to be premature but it looks like next Tuesday evening will be a very short one for John McCain.

Expect video from UC later....

p.s. Forgot to mention McCain was here last week. The estimated crowd at the National Western Arena (think Stock Show) was 4,000 people. Cheers!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Not Enough Katherine Harrises

To Steal This One

I keep looking at the map and I just don't think there are enough Katherine Harrises or Ken Blackwells in America for McCain to win. Isn't doubting that McCain can steal this election un-democratic? Am I calling down the thunder? What makes me think that the force is with us now?

Let's go back and look at how the last two Presidential elections went down.

I have no doubt that in 2000, illegal voter suppression disenfranchised tens of thousands of Florida voters creating a contest that settled within hundreds of votes.

The results of the recount court battle led to the U.S. Supreme Court handing the election to George W. Bush. Despite the ridiculous logic applied to the imfamous case, the problem was not the decision of the court, but rather the narrow grounds on which Gore's legal team contested the vote. Only when the proper legal application of voter intent--which included overvotes, which were not included in Gore's challenge--was applied to the recount by a consortium of journalists did we finally have conclusive evidence that Gore really won. Many irregularities took place in other states, but the scene of the crime was in one state--Florida.

Four years later, in 2004, illegal voter suppression disenfranchised enough voters for George W. Bush to take Ohio's decisive electoral votes. Once again, the election came down to the state that everyone thought it would come down to for months ahead of the election.

So yes, when the last domino of the election happens to be the state where your brother is Governor and this person

is in charge of elections, then yes, you wind up with this:

And, four years later, if the person in charge of the vote in Ohio is throwing out votes based on the weight of the paper used for their registration, you get this:


Imagine with me for one second that John McCain's team is every bit as good as Greg Palast says they are at suppressing votes. E-vote flipping has been evident as well. Still, in order for this to work, the McCain campiagn still needs to know which states' votes to suppress.

How can they do that when they face the reality of losing Georgia? Stealing Florida or Ohio or both will only mitigate the landslide, not bring victory.

By the way something, it even looks like the Supreme Court is not on their side anymore.

UPDATE: Just because I'm calling it doesn't mean anyone should get complacent. Remember, the goal is a complete shut out. Not one vote for McCain. Now get back to work.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Seriously. File this under the department of "you can't make this shit up."

In the letter, McCain urged Russia's U.N. Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, to contribute anywhere from $35 to $5,000 to help ensure McCain's victory over Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama, currently ahead in voter preference polls.

"If I have the honor of continuing to serve you, I make you this promise: We will always put America -- her strength, her ideals, her future -- before every other consideration," McCain assured Churkin.

Moscow's mission to the United Nations issued a terse statement on the Republican presidential candidate's letter, saying that the Russian government and its officials "do not finance political activity in foreign countries."


It is illegal for U.S. presidential candidates to accept funds from foreign sources. The McCain campaign accused Obama earlier this month of not doing enough to screen for illegal contributors and asked U.S. election officials to investigate.

What fantastic, intelligent and disciplined management the Repugnicans bring to their game!


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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Aching for Change Open Thread

Changer le Monde
"It is folly to wish to change the world,
but criminal to not even try."

Eric Clapton: Change the World

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
~~ Mohandas Gandhi ~~

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain Has A New Rival


Shot at least seven men for giving him the stink eye

Reason For Running:
Wants to Rid Washington of flimflam men, hornswogglers, jakes, jukers, and no-good four-flushers

Signature Issue:
Yelling at people

Proudest Accomplishment:
Once punched Teddy Roosevelt square in the mouth
(From The Onion)

UPDATE: You think I'm kidding? Look at this very recent New York Times/CBS poll. Do you notice that while Obama's support has gone up by 5% in one week, McCain's has gone down by 6%? Where do you think that other 1% could have gone?

It's sure as hell not like those kind of people don't exist.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Debate Open Thread

Have a Drink: Economy on the Rocks

-Liquor of your choice

Pour Liquor over ice. Drink.

(What'd you expect? I'm not Kvatch, you know.)

Drinking Game, McCain: If you really want to get hammered, take a shot every time McCain says 'my friends', 'courage', 'my fellow prisoners', or mentions his service in Viet Nam. For a fair buzz, take a shot if he mentions William Ayres or ACORN. If you're the designated driver, take a shot only if he comes up with a proposal that actually looks like it might work.

Drinking Game, Obama: To get hammered, take a shot if he mentions change or hope. For a fair buzz, take a shot every time he says he agrees with McCain. Designated drivers can have a shot if he actually tries to attack McCain where he's vulnerable - Keating Five or his idiotic pick of a running mate for instance.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Conservative Fiscal Policy as Grand Larceny

Alan Greenspan, The Alpha Dog of Crony Capitalism

The economy is undeniably THE story these days, with everybody on the edge of their seats wondering if it's really going to 'crater' or will the global intervention that's going on save the day.

When Jon Stewart had Greenspan on The Daily Show (Sept. 18, 2007) he brought up a very interesting point, and I think he nailed Greenspan on his low-interest policies. What Stewart points out is that the existence of the Fed means that there isn't really a free market at all. And after letting Greenspan pontificate on the supposed fundamentals of monetary policy Stewart smoothly demonstrated who was the smartest person in the room.

And it wasn't Greenspan. Not by a long shot.

Alan Greenspan Bums Out Jon Stewart

(Those of you outside the United States can watch this on Canada's Comedy Network.)
Stewart: "So the Fed - or whoever's leading it - could in fact, if they wanted to, goof on all of us."
Greenspan: "They wouldn't want to"
(Greenspan pontificates at length on fiscal policy - why there is a need for a central bank. Stewart goes along playing dumb to a point. Then he pounces.)
Stewart: So we're not a free market then. There's an invisible 'benevolent' hand that touches us.
Greenspan: Absolutely, you're quite correct. To the extent that there is a central bank governing the amount of money in the system that is not a free market and most people call it regulation.
Stewart: And so we're really just deciding , , because when you lower the interest rate and drive money to the stocks that lowers the return people get on savings in effect.
Greenspan: Yes indeed.
Stewart: So they've made a choice 'we would like to favor those who invest in the stock market and not those who invest in a bank, that helps us.'
Greenspan: God, no. That's the way it comes out, but that's not the way they think about it.
Stewart: (laughs) Explain that to me, because it seems to me that we favor investment but we don't favor work. The vast majority of people work. They pay payroll taxes and they use banks. Then there's this whole other world of hedge funds and short betting - it seems like craps - and they keep saying, "no no no, don't worry about it, it's the free market, that's why we live in much bigger houses." But it really isn't, it's the Fed. Or some other thing, no?
Greenspan: I think you'd better re-read my book.
Stewart: Alright. But am I wrong in saying that we penalize work by making a choice?
That last question never really got answered, Greenspan going into a rant about psychology versus economic models, admitting that the latter were pretty much useless in the face of the former. To which Stewart replies, "You've just bummed the shit out of me." Which I guess is why they call economics the Dismal Science.

The important point here is that Jon Stewart went up against the presumed alpha dog of conservative economics and utterly defeated him, tearing down a central pillar of laissez faire theories. The markets are not free and fair; no way, no how. The 'invisible hand' is in fact under the control of certain interests, who make choices that enrich some segments of society at the expense of others. The Fed functions as an economic weapon of mass destruction in the Great War on The Middle Class. And frankly it undermines the real fundamentals of the economy in doing so.

This was all predicted a long time ago. I remember reading an article in The Economist back in Reagan's reign warning of the very mechanism Stewart points to. I remember it so well because they called Reaganomics by a term that was new to me - the Rentier Economy. Essentially it's the same thing - a system that rewards ownership above work. The Economist recognized that such a situation was a recipe for disaster, and undermined the strengths of a free market. Indeed they likened the system to a type of feudalism - whereby the wealthy landowners forced the peasants to work, then reaped the benefits of their toil come harvest time. Under such a system their was little incentive for the peasant to work very hard, because he knew the fruits of his labors would just be stolen from him. Nor was there much incentive for the Lords of the Manor to compete or introduce new efficiencies. They already lived on opulent estates in houses with more rooms than they could occupy, and had lots of money to spend on gambling and hookers. It's no wonder that free market economics replaced this system of corruption and greed. The problem is that the free market has devolved into a system of crony capitalism, which I and others have recognized as little better than a system of corporate feudalism.

Crony capitalism ignores a fundamental of economics that's been with us forever, perhaps best expressed by a president known for his honesty.
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.
Capital is only the fruit of labor,
and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed.
Labor is superior to capital,
and deserves much the higher consideration."
-- Abraham Lincoln --
A healthy economy must MUST MUST be based on production somewhere along the line. Flipping real estate and trading paper 'instruments' just don't feed the bulldog. Ignoring that is what has led America into a spiral of debt, with the balance of trade increasing every year, and both the government and the general public living beyond their means in the blithe expectation that the bills will never come due. Worse than that is the fact that the base of paying jobs, particularly in manufacturing, has been eroded by outsourcing during the same time, undermining the ability of the economy to pay back the debt. This is an issue to which Mr. Greenspan seems to have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear, actually going on record as denying that this is harmful.

Bernie Sanders confronts him on the issue in this video. Watch this, Bernie rips him a couple of new ones. You want to start setting America on the right path? Hand Nancy Pelosi's gavel over to Bernie. (Not sure on the date of this exchange, sorry.)
The country clubs and the cocktail parties are not real America. The millionaires and the billionaires are the exception to the rule. You talk about an improving economy while we have lost 3 million private sector jobs in the last two years, long term unemployment has more than tripled, unemployment is higher than it has been since 1994, we have a $4 TRILLION national debt, 1.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance, millions of seniors can't afford prescription drugs, middle class families can't send their kids to college because they don't have the money to do that...CEOs make more than 500 times what their workers make, the middle class is shrinking, we have the greatest gap between the rich and the poor of any industrialized nation - and this is an economy that is improving? I'd hate to see what would happen if our economy was sinking.

...Today you reached a new low, I think, by suggesting that manufacturing in America doesn't matter. It doesn't matter where the product is produced. We lost 2 million manufacturing jobs in the last two years alone, 10% of our workforce. Walmart has replaced General Motors as the major employer in America, paying people starvation wages rather than living wages, and all of that doesn't matter to you?
This is by no means the only time that Greenspan has been confronted by people willing and able to shred his theories. Naomi Klein confronted him on the phone over his definition of corruption and crony capitalism on this segment of Democracy Now dated Sept 24, 2007. In this case she had no argument with his definition, just his refusal to admit that it applied in spades to the Bush administration. And NOBEL PRIZE WINNER Paul Krugman (Congratulations!) pinned a lot of blame for the current crisis on Greenspan and McCain economic adviser Phil Gramm in this interview with NBC's David Gregory. Do a search on Alan Greenspan at YouTube, I'm sure you'll find lots of similar material proving that Greenspan is more ideologue than theorist, and his ideology has driven the country off of a cliff.

CNN's Anderson Cooper has gotten a start on a new feature: 10 Most Wanted: Culprits of the Collapse, where he introduces America to the usually anonymous 'Captains of Industry' who have most contributed to the current economic crisis. So far positions 8, 9 and 10 are occupied by SEC Chairman Chris Cox, Lehman Brothers' Richard Fuld and AIG's Joe Cassano respectively. It will be interesting to see if Alan Greenspan ends up occupying one of the top spots, if not THE top spot. You could also expect to see Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the current chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, along with John McCain's chief economic advisor (and likely Treasury Secretary should McCain defy the odds and get elected) Phil Gramm in top spots. If not, there is no justice. And these are the fools, damned fools and deluded popinjays that the Republican Party would put in charge of finding a solution.

Sad, but true.
UPDATE: More insight into this story is to be had at Ice Station Tango.
Roll to the pole!

AUTHOR'S ENDNOTE: The picture at the head of this post is of George W. Bush presenting Alan Greenspan with the Medal of Freedom. Which, if I was just trying to point out that Greenspan was a useless asswipe, would have sufficed by itself. A picture really is worth a thousand words. I could have saved myself a lot of research and composition. Alas, I didn't even go looking for the picture until I'd put in the hours of work, not least of which was creating the transcript segments from the Daily Show video and the one with Bernie Sanders. Oh well, c'est la vie.

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McCain's Economic Guru

Have You Finished Greenspan's Book Yet Mr. McCain?

It's well-known by now that John McCain claims no strength on economic matters. When asked about the subject on January 17, 2007, The Senior Citizen Senator From Arizona infamously said "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should - but I've got Greenspan's book."

At the time he also promised that filling the void would be a priority when selecting a vice-presidential nominee. Which leads me to wonder which of the FIVE colleges Sarah Palin attended in her quest for a degree in journalism schooled her on the subject. Which leads me on further reflection to the realization that it's a moot point. A journalism major who can't even name a single newspaper that she reads may have absorbed even less from an economics minor, if indeed she ever took one.

Having broken his pledge to find a Vice Presidential running mate with the economics chops to fill the enormous void in his own knowledge, can we really expect that Mr. McGoo McCain has even read the book? He was after all quite willing not only to vote for, but to bang the drum in support of Prince Henry of Paulson's original 'rob from the middle class, give to the rich' so-called bailout scheme without bothering to read the THREE PAGE text of the proposal. So I don't exactly see him as a threat to clean out the shelves at the local library.

There is in fact considerable evidence that McCain has NOT read Greenspan's book - including the fact that Greenspan himself went on the record last month repudiating McCain's economic policies. Think Progress put out a post with video. Greenspan was most vehemently opposed to McCain's extension of the Bush tax cut, which would increase the deficit -already at $10 TRILLION - a guaranteed burden on you, your children, and your grandchildren. AKA The Bush Legacy.
After endorsing Bush’s massive tax cuts for the wealthy which turned Clinton-era record surpluses into record deficits, Greenspan has much to atone for. Telling the truth about McCain’s agenda is a good start.

As the Wonk Room has noted, McCain’s tax cuts would produce the highest federal deficit in 25 years. After inheriting Bush’s $407 billion deficit, yearly deficits under McCain would increase sharply, beginning with at least $505 billion in FY2009.

McCain has not specified how he would pay for his tax cuts, though he claims he will balance the budget in his first term. Recognizing that McCain’s math doesn’t add up, McCain’s top economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin has said, “I would like the next president not to talk about deficit reduction.”
So the bad news about McCain is that he doesn't understand the economy, he has not addressed his weakness with a smart pick of running mate, and he hasn't bothered even to read a book on the subject. The much worse news is that even if he had read the book, it's the wrong damn book. It's Greenspan's policies, driven more by conservative ideology than common sense, that got the country into the mess it's in now. And as Albert Einstein wisely noted, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

This cartoon from Tom Tomorrow brilliantly illustrates how Greenspan's policies for decades have been nothing but a thinly disguised mechanism to transfer wealth to the already obscenely wealthy, unremittingly greedy and shamelessly irresponsible 'entrepreneurial class.' That isn't working out too well. Do we really want to continue on with this kind of thinking?

(Originally published Nov., 2007)

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Friday, October 10, 2008

No Way Out

When Innocence Is No Defense.

If we can just pry our eyes away from the disaster that is the US economy, I'd like to bring your attention back to the equally disastrous US 'justice' system. The story began with some good news, as reported on Tuesday by the BBC:
Anger over Guantanamo Bay ruling

The White House has reacted angrily after a judge ordered that 17 Chinese Muslims held at Guantanamo Bay should be released into the United States. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said the US could not hold the 17 as they were no longer considered enemy combatants. The Uighurs were cleared for release in 2004 but the US says they may face persecution if returned to China.

The White House said the ruling could set a precedent that would allow "sworn enemies" to seek US entry. The government says the 17 also pose a security risk if released into the US. Lawyers for the Bush administration have argued that federal judges do not have authority to order the release into the US of Guantanamo detainees.

Analysts say the ruling is a rebuke for the US government and could set the stage for the release of dozens more detained at the military jail in Cuba.
They have been held at Guantanamo for nearly seven years. The judge said there was no evidence that they were "enemy combatants" or a security risk.

"Because the constitution prohibits indefinite detentions without cause, the continued detention is unlawful," he said.
So the good news was that finally these 17 detainees - who in 2004 were found NOT to be enemies of the United States, who had NEVER been charged with any crime - were ordered released from their Kafkaesque imprisonment at the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison facility, aka America's Gulag. Never mind the outrageous fact that these people had been captured and detained without cause to begin with in 2001, never mind that they had been illegally held for nearly seven years. They were ordered to be released, and that was good news not just in itself, but because it demonstrated that the Constitution still held sway in America, and the rule of law had some force.

I mean really, any legal system that would tolerate someone being confined for seven years for no reason whatsoever is not worthy of the name. Any judge who would countenance such a thing is not fit to administer a traffic court. Which is why anyone with a conscience should have been outraged to the max to read the follow-up story on Wednesday, reported by the BBC and Reuters.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday temporarily blocked the release of 17 Chinese Muslims held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The appeals court granted the Bush administration's emergency request for a stay of a federal judge's order that the members of the Uighur ethnic group be released into the United States at the end of this week.
The three-judge panel said it granted the stay only to give the appeals court more time to consider the dispute. The court ordered that briefs be filed by both sides on various dates through October 16.
Lawyers for the detainees opposed the request and said granting the stay would prolong the imprisonment of the Uighurs "by months and perhaps years." They said, "The government has delayed long enough."
There are two elements of this case that merit further examination. The first is the problem, "if we release these people, where do they go?" And that problem arises from the circumstances of their capture. The Bush administration has maintained that if they cannot be returned home and no other country will take them, they should stay at Guantanamo. (BBC article)
The 17 Uighurs had been living in a camp in Afghanistan during the US-led military campaign that began in October 2001. They fled into the mountains and were held by Pakistani authorities who handed them over to the US. Beijing has demanded that all Uighurs held at Guantanamo be repatriated to China. Many Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang in western China want greater autonomy for the region and some want independence. Beijing has waged a campaign against what it calls their violent separatist activities.
These people are from China, and were not in Afghanistan or Pakistan legally. So they can't be returned there, and they can't go back to China because they would probably be executed for their 'violent separatist activities.' The Bush administration refuses to recognize their responsibility for the Uighurs' current circumstances and continues to maintain, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever, that they would be a security risk if released on US territory. (There is apparently a small Uighur community in the US willing to take them in.)

The second element that should be examined concerns the merits of the administration's argument, "that federal judges do not have authority to order the release into the US of Guantanamo detainees." WTF!?! If federal judges don't have the authority to determine the legality of actions taken by the military the country can only be described as being under martial law. There is some indication here that the Bush White House considers the courts to be intruding on his 'unitary executive' powers as the Commander in Chief During Times of War. The problem is, the constitution makes it plain that only Congress has the authority to declare war, which it has not done. Even if it had, there is ample precedent from prior wars that the courts do indeed have authority over the president when the latter's actions are unconstitutional, as they clearly are here. So if there is a Separation of Powers issue here, the intrusion is purely on Bush's behalf.

There is another related story that makes this not only infuriating but terrifying.
From Raw Story:
The US military was using the same procedures employed at the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison at other facilities inside the United States where US citizens and legal residents were detained, according to documents released Wednesday.

At least one Navy officer was concerned that a detainee was being slowly driven insane by the policies, which prohibited detainees from having items such as shoes or socks, according to 91 pages of e-mails between officers at military brigs in Virginia and South Carolina released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"These documents are the first clear confirmation of what we've suspected all along, that the brig was run as a prison beyond the law. There was an effort to create a Gitmo inside the United States," Jonathan Hafetz of the ACLU's National Security Project in New York told the Associated Press, using the slang word for the U.S. naval facility in Cuba.
“Guantánamo was designed as a law-free zone, a place where the government could do whatever it wanted without having to worry about whether it was legal,” said Jonathan Freiman, an attorney with the Lowenstein Clinic at Yale. “It didn’t take long for that sort of lawlessness to be brought home to our own country. Who knows how much further America would have gone if the Supreme Court hadn’t stepped in to stop incommunicado detentions in 2004?”
Ask not for whom the cell door clanks. It could very well clank for you.
UPDATE:Glenn Greenwald discussed the Uighur case with Jonathan Hafetz of the ACLU HERE.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sidewalk to Nowhere

While catching up on blogs I came across this little piece of loveliness and harmony via Glenzilla's place.

While the video speaks for itself about the kind of tribal values of the dead-ender 24%-ers still hewing to those fabulous Republican Party Principles, Glenn was actually going off on the media. I applaud his efforts as he makes some great observations, like:

And worst of all, all of this rage and this innuendo is taking place in the most volatile climate of all — one of severe economic distress and anxiety — and these mobs are increasingly becoming convinced, because the Right and the McCain/Palin campaign is leading them to believe it, that this economic crisis is the fault of the black candidate — Obama — for making banks give mortgages to racial minorities. As an email printed just now by Jonah Goldberg put it — defending someone at a McCain/Palin rally today who screamed he was “very angry” at Obama the “socialist”:

He, and the rest of the conservatives in this country are sick and tired of being taken for granted, having our money stolen by the government and given to lazy, ungrateful people who don’t contribute or produce (or often, aren’t even citizens) anything.

This is what happens when you stoke the fury and resentments of people looking for scapegoats and work them into a blind rage. And they didn’t just pop up and start believing this. They’re saying this because the core premise of the McCain/Palin campaign has become that Barack Hussein Obama is a Terrorist-sympathizer, being funded by secret Arab sources, who hates the military and the troops. As McCain now asks in his most sinister tone in every speech: Who is the real Barack Obama? As National Review’s illustratively deranged Andy McCarthy put it: ” Someone is either a terrorist sympathizer or he isn’t; someone is either disqualified as a terrorist sympathizer or he’s qualified for public office.”

Glenn's points are well taken, and the rest of his post does the usual thourough job of painting the whole corrupt media picture.

On a related topic where Glenn did not opine, I will. That's about the outcome of the election.

Let's say that the Thugs are unsuccessful in stealing the election and Obama wins, which I'm pretty comfortable saying since I believe the margin is now too wide to overcome, even with thievery.

The. Dogs. Are. Loose.

The Thugs are preparing and unleashing their foul and vicious members. It's not that I am so worried about Obama's safety. I am worried about every brown skinned person, every gay person, every person willing to speak out against the Reichwings failed and corrupt policies. People of peace will be voilently confronted by these angry dogs of war in the street because "since your not with us, you're against us." Any persons our groups perceived as "other" or "that one" by these turds is going to have a tough time of it, as they/we will be blamed for their precious fanatsy universe crumbling and reality rearing it's long absent head. Commanded by the likes of Sarah Palin these lunatics will be back to bombing Planned Parenthood any day now.

On the other hand, there are these guys. Let's hope there are tons more like them.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Give Me Liberty

Interview With
Naomi Wolf
Author of
"Give Me Liberty:
A Handbook for American Revolutionaries

Unrulies ♥ Naomi Wolf!

Hat/tip - Amerikagulag

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Vote for Palin or Go to Hell

Ahhh, that ages old question that vexes this unruly mob: Cake or Death?

At a rally Saturday in California, that daggone Sarah Palin, bless her heart, said she had a providential moment concerning why we should support the republican ticket. A providential moment? Was it during your daily bible study time that you had this providential moment? Perhaps during your morning prayers? While a travelling missionary lays hands on your holiness?

Nope. It turns out it came when she was reading her starbuck's coffee cup. There on that sacred vessel, she told her starstruck audience, was a quote by none other than Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State.
There's a place in Hell reserved for women who don't support other women.
Vote for me or go to hell.

To bad her holiness didn't factcheck this tidbit with scripture or something since she's making judgment about eternal damnation and stuff. Or just be able to read, I guess, because Madeline Albright's actual quote:
There's a place in Hell reserved for women who don't help other women.

Actually that comes a helluva lot closer to scripture than the gospel according to Sarah Palin. Who's going to hell now?


Saturday, October 04, 2008

How We Became France

How did it come to this?

The Right, once so proud of hating the French despite L'Enfant and the support that enabled us to defeat the British, has led us to the point where our country is forced to become French.

No, we're not getting the good stuff. We get to keep cheap chain restaurants, bad wine, fear of raw-milk cheese and 60 hour work weeks. No, we get nationalization.

Congress just nationalized a bunch of mistakes made by a bunch of lenders in the name of greed. Never again can we complain about Airbus - we're nationalizing our automakers for making the same mistake year over year, building gas-guzzling SUVs instead of spending some money on basic research into producing fuel-efficient cars. We've become the worst of France.

I really do hope we can become more like them. I want a little socialism. Capitalism is looking worse and worse as it shows its darker side. Often here I've written about markets. French markets are controlled. Ours are not. And the French don't have a mortgage crisis.

So here's a steaming hot plate of Freedom Fries for our friends across the Atlantic. In the 1700s you provided us valuable support and resources, helped us build our capitol and were our major ally against the British. So now with our privately-funded pensions tanking, our health care system collapsing under its own rate and our economy unable to maintain itself due to the distinctly American penchant for laissez-faire capitalism, we may have to look to you, the evil realm of Old Europe, for guidance once again as we attempt to pull out of our national nosedive.

So how many of you would vote for Obama given the chance?

(about two to one)

Cross posted from my other place....

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pre Veep Debate Openness

"Nice Rack" - We Could be Talking Antlers

Thread below was getting a little crowded so I thought I'd offer this latest pre-debate spin from the McCain Camp.

Yep, folks, all Sarah has to do is pass some vague personality test and guess what, she's won! Hey, it's that kind of logic that got us the Shrub but know what, it makes sense in a certain cheap-beer-and-rasslin' kind of way. NASCAR fans like a good rack and Sarah has one hanging over her mantle. She needs to show some leg, tell a few good huntin' and fishin' anecdotes and she's in there.

Never mind that she can't name a Supreme Court case other than Roe v. Wade.

We call it American anti-intellectualism. One in five of us believe the Sun revolves around the Earth, for example. And furthermore, we're smug about our ignorance. Being the bright kid in an American school was an unpleasant place to be, at least until test time.

Blame fundamentalism, the belief that all the answers have been found for us and written by Hebrew and Aramaic speakers two thousand years ago. It's easy: Don't worry about anything, there's a plan being executed in your behalf. Ruin the Earth, there's another, eternal life waiting (obviously they haven't thought about the horrors of eternal life but that's another post). Which brings us back to dear Fundamentalist Sarah. Despite all reason, she believes the Earth to be 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs and humans co-existed, that humans could not possibly be causing global warming, the entire litany of fundie beliefs based on talking points and faith rather than reason.

So tonight's debate is about anti-reason, about a good, down-home hokky mom against a Washington insider out to tear her down. Good theater, might make a movie but know what? I surely don't want an ignorant hokky mom, no matter how well coached by McCain's team, running my country.

Or my PTA for that matter.

Thread away, Unrulies!

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