Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Avoidable Madness

Below a photo of audience at a recent Lakers'/76ers game in Philly, moment of silence and lights held aloft for the utterly innocent victims of the Newtown, CT shooting.

From this week's Harper's Weekly (subcribe link):

"At an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, a man carrying three semiautomatic guns fatally shot six women and 20 first-graders. Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother in her home, then brought her .223-caliber Bushmaster assault rifle, 10mm Glock pistol, and 9mm Sig Sauer pistol, as well as a shotgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he shot his way through a glass door and killed staff members and students in a hallway and two classrooms before killing himself. The shooting was the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the sixteenth mass shooting in the United States this year, and the thirty-first school shooting since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. “These tragedies must end,” said President Barack Obama during a speech in Newtown. “And to end them, we must change.” The same week, police in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, arrested a high school student who was planning to kill his classmates with guns and explosives; police in Cedar Lake, Indiana, seized 47 guns from a man who had threatened to attack a nearby elementary school; police in Birmingham, Alabama, shot a gunman after he wounded three people at a hospital; a man in Portland, Oregon, shot and killed two people at a mall, then fatally shot himself; two police officers in Topeka, Kansas, were fatally shot outside a grocery store; and a federal appeals court struck down the country’s only statewide concealed-weapons ban. The National Rifle Association disabled its Facebook page, and 31 Republican senators with pro–gun rights voting records declined invitations to discuss gun control onMeet the Press. “A gun didn’t kill all those children,” said a Newtown gun owner. “A disturbed man killed all those children.” At an elementary school in Chengping, China, a man carrying a knife wounded one adult and 22 children, killing none."

Right, and as Eddie Izzard so famously said, "Guns don't kill people; people kill people – But I think the gun helps!"

Helluva Christmas anyone associated with any of these shootings will have. Completely unnecessary tragedies.

Banning semi-automatic weapons is a no brainer. Any conversation about gun control starts there. Every politician in DC knows this, yet nothing is done. 

Cui bono  indeed...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Howl At The Moon?

Honestly, this madness in Gaza is enough to drive you howling mad.

But  From Whence Cometh Israel's Raging Bull*@? Sometimes when leadheads (like NetanYahoo and his pals, like the Raygun)  try to talk us into stuff that's plainly untrue, it's a good idea to take a timeout for context, for  a wee history moment. And, say, where did Israel get that little Iron thing 'Star Wars' shield they're using anyway? Were those MY tax dollars?)

 Above is from Al Jazeera's excellent program Empire, (available to watch on line.) And if you seek some reality based idea of what's going on in Gaza, well, the western media, including the various Times and Posts, ain't the place. Nor is the BBC. Some interesting viewpoints here, and, tomorrow, Sunday morning on Up with Chris Hayes, the smartest show on TV, at 8 a.m. on msnbc and, immediately the show is over, available to view online here.

Good news of the week here. From Goldman, no less. Who knew?

And while I'm at it, Twinkies No More? Seriously? Someone still cares? Just before providing viewers with a demonstration of and the recipe for Deep Fried Whole Turkey this morning (clearly catering to some uncategorizable viewer cohort, perhaps the Twinkie fans? Perhaps all viewers?) Fox "news" shamelessly blames unions for Hostess' demise?  This bit is closer to the real story. Can't those Fox folks get anything right? I mean, Deep Fried Turkey? sigh – I've lost my appetite.

Laugh of the day? Gay Fishermen of Maine celebrate passage of same sex marriage. The accents may be more Gloucester than Maine, but funnnneee?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cliff Notes for Literary Snobs

We won't be fooled again?

"Letting those high-end tax cuts expire would amount to a blink-and-you-miss-it 0.003% contraction in the U.S. economy, according to Moody’s, and it would raise tens of billions of dollars in desperately-needed tax revenue next year. That’s no small thing when you consider that federal revenue has fallen to its lowest point in more than half a century."

After reading, at long last, a simple, reasonable article on the subject (exerpt above) I thought I'd throw this out there for anyone who's reached their limit with this Fiscal Cliff malarky; it's every bit as annoying as tv campaign ads, isn't it? Makes you want to suggest that anyone who brings it up, or mouths off about a topic about which they've managed to glean a smidgen of info somewhere, find one to jump off without delay. Wanna know what's really going on? go Here, read the calm, brief synopsis, then tell everyone you know who's caught up in the moan and groan of Cliffitis to put a sock in it.

Jeez, don't folks ever read?

But we'll be keepin an eye on those snakes in DC. Them tax cuts for those makin over 250 Gs a year better die a certain death. Wouldn't hurt to keep yer pitchfork sharpened.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Binder Full of Women

Driving through this Downtown Smalltown on Wednesday the massive sense of relief was palpable. Yes, Happy Days, even with the Cliff looming, sez Gail. A huge sigh seemed to permeate the atmosphere here in Maine, folks breathing freely,  Thank god that Karl Rove fella didn't steal the election! And hey, gals, you won the future for the rest of us! Who knew? Well, we knew, we gals. Like the Black Panther women used to say, You got to use what you got to get what you want. And we used our votes! yes, the ladies were out in force this election. More power to 'em, hopefully. We now have 20 female Senators – only 25 to go to have some semblance of equal representation in the upper level of the US Congress – for now, we are finally on par with sub-Saharan African national assemblies at 20% female members. (No bs.)

And Elizabeth Warren won! Yayyy! And New Hampshire has put its faith in the ladies as well, You go, girls. And an openly gay woman managed to snag a congressional seat. Now if the female contingent in Congress doesn't sell out to good ol' boy intimidation, we may be on the road to more progressive solutions to the nation's troubles. It's up to all of us to let those gals know we have their backs, as they say. Keep in touch, send letters, emails, keep it going. (Like the Obama folks kept their ground game going in nearly every state for the last four years – smart!) Just think, only another few election cycles and we may reach the kind of national assembly gender parity they have in, um, oh yes, Rwanda. (No bs, it's around 50% female.)

I guess it remains to be seen what Barry O will do with his mandate from the ladies, not ignore or doubt us. (The Repubs sure called it wrong.) There will surely be hell to pay if he doesn't make himself more visible and use that bully pulpit which costs him not one dime and kick some of the right wing nutjobs back under the rocks they crawled out from under. And for pity's sake, explain the fallacy of "the Cliff" to people, get on the tv and 'splain that it isn't what the crazies are saying it is. One can only hope Michelle (O not Bachman) uses what she got to get us all what we want.

Me, I'm gonna go hide for awhile and see if I can't get someone to publish my book and start another one. Leave the politicking to the  politicians, but not for so long that I become one of those Undecided voter types. (Never happen.) I'm thinkin taking the debates back is next, return the whole process to the League of Women Voters, like it used to be. It was Jamie Oliver who said if you want something done, hire a woman to do it.

So here's a weird thing, a harbinger of something: The Saudis are calling on countries like Turkey to reset clocks to Islamic Mean time rather than Greenwich. Odd that. And they've built a clock with six tons of gold at the top to convince the blingingly impressionable. On the subject of the middle east, next time you wonder why the Middle East peace isn't happening, try reading up on Bebe N, the man who won't take Yes for an answer.  Every bit as detestable as Mr. Rove's ideological adherents; no wonder Barry looks unhappy whenever he visits the White House.  When are these guys gonna deal with their childhood issues?

d'accord. A plus tard.. why there's one now!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ms. Fixit

“Well, I guess I’ll just fix this country myself.” 

So sayeth Elizabeth Warren (and more power to her, literally), the Dem Senate candidate in Massachusetts as she tries to win back Ted Kennedy's seat from the unpredictable Scott Brown and the thinly veiled racism of the Republican right. And if the voters of Mass. (Mainers often call them Massholes) give her the chance, no doubt she'll fix it proper, as Eliza Doolittle might say. All women hear her, it's how we feel at the end of nearly every day. In the face of the East coast flood, your typical female is prone to say, "Just grab a mop and let's giterdone. Stop moanin about the mess, waitin for someone else to take care of it, git off yer duff."
A  native Jersey girl myself, I feel for the thousands of folks along that tortured shore trying to find a loaf of bread, or a place to shower, or their car, at this point. Not to mention treasured keepsakes gone forever. The losses and devastation are beyond conceivable really, the photos mindblowing. How will they ever rebuild their lives? Where would you start? It's Katrina minus the levees.  My uncle's funeral may not take place as planned if, as my cousin wrote me, they don't "get the boats and sand outta the streets in time." Not to mention the electricity back on. And still the climate deniers lead in too many polls across the country, poised to retain (in Arkansas, to win) control of state houses (where they will carry forth the tenets of the Repub platform no one has actually read) largely thanks to the Repubs' success with redistricting after the 2010 census. I don't want to think it's because people are stupid, willfully so, but... I've gnawed my nails raw in anticipation of next Tuesday's results, praying Nate Silver knows something the other pollsters don't. I voted straight Democratic ticket this time, hoping they'll get their act together, adhere to time-honored principles and stop trying to play the game of political footsie with Big Money – because Citizens United said they have to simply in order to enter the playing field.
I can't help but recall swearing after the 2000 "election" that if my fellow citizens were dumb enough to either elect (which they didn't) or put up with W (they guy you wanna have a beer with?) installed as president, I'd have to relocate to more liberal shores, you know, where they still remember what life under fascism was like. And his numbers tanked shortly after he assumed office. But Nineleven fixed that, suddenly he was Superman. Aghast, I stayed, confident that after four years of the W cabal "misleading" us and disassembling "good" government while more than doubling the size of "bad" government (the part that spies on us), the country would rebel, would see the agenda unfolding, reject the radical conservative spiel that government is bad (unless spying on us or subsidizing Big Oil and Big Money), out-of-work folks are just lazy fekkers, women are designated by God solely as sperm repositories and baby machines (oh, and idle flatterers to whom "every sperm is sacred"), and if you can't afford health insurance there's something inherently wrong with you (no, it's not the lack of guaranteed health insurance one finds in those commie nations), that you're  the problem – unfixable, a drain on society. The list goes on. It's what the would-be president's ambition untethered to substance campaign of Myttology is all about. 
I'm trying to work, but it's hard, knowing that my son's and daughter's friends and their daughters may be imprisoned if they choose to have an abortion, that millions of have-nots will wither and die without the healthcare they need, that four years from now much of the country will be denied their right to vote, that some wacko now running down in Arkansas will pass a law allowing the state to execute uncooperative children... From Fuqua's (pronounced fookyu) book:
"The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline. Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellioius children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children are given in Deut 21:18-21:"
That anyone could run with the backing of the Republican party on such a platform should scare the shyte out of everyone about what that party really stands for now. Read their Platform here, scroll to page 9, and decide if these folks threaten your idea of personal liberties guaranteed by the Constitution or not.

Obama is right:  It IS all about the Supreme Court, the final arbiter of laws since Marbury v Madison in the early 1800s. There were plenty of folks in the 2000s saying this as well, folks who saw which way the tide was moving. Why don't americans know these things? Willful ignorance, and they, and their "undecided" cohorts who choose ignorance over being informed, those Johnny-come-late-to-the-table, never miss an episode of Dancing with the Stars, citizens, will get what they asked for if Romney/Ryan have their way. 

I encountered a friend on the street the other day and the subject of the election came up. I mentioned I was glued to all media in anticipation of Tuesday's outcome. Perplexed, he asked me why, and I insisted that our shredded democracy/Republic hung in the balance. His opinion was that my keen interest amounted to an obsession. Well, okay, yes, I guess you could call it that. Or you could call it, as I do, giving a shit, understanding that what happens rests with ME, with each of us, being a responsible citizen. Being able to tell shit from Shinola.
If you wanna play "I'm an American", you gotta know the rules.
Find them here. And pass 'em on.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Round Two

Benghazi,  a house afire...

Well, I guess we're in for another low- level- intelligence, americanized infotainment version of "debate" tonight. Too bad Obama doesn't have Sam and CJ and Josh to coach him through. You gotta wonder, if the president's people decided to "let Obama be Obama", what would that even mean? How does the guy hope to counter Romney's slippery slimey fishness with more witless commentary that hasn't an ounce of fight in it? Would a little righteous indignation kill him?  Is he really that worried about lookin like an angry niggah? Jesus, there's plenty to be furious about, isn't there?

Anyway, today someone at The Atlantic suggests everyone read this before they subject themselves to whatever criticisms the right is gonna throw at the O admin re the Benghazi disaster during the town hall torture tonight. I have to say, it reads like an high action screenplay, riveting all the more cause it actually happened, and if Obama has a brain in his head he'll mention FIRST the bravery of the security folks at the Benghazi compound and slam Romney for trying to capitalize on their noble failure to hold the fort.  Then he'll remind the Romryan morons that it isn't the JOB of security forces at US embassies to protect personnel but to "hold the fort".

You know, if back in '69 you'd a told me I'd someday long for the ball breaking political savvy of Lyndon Johnson I'd a called you demented.

LBJ, the old man with his long hair and his pack of beagles. Would that he'd come back from the dead and kick a little ass.  He'd make mincemeat of both Harry Reid and Boehner in one go. Set those boys down, as they say.

And you can bet he'd have him a nice bourbon and branch and a smoke before going on stage.
stay loose....

If you're watching the town hall debate tonight, follow along with the Dems' truth team fact checker simultaneously here.

I wish Elle Woods was the questioner. she wouldn't let Mitt get away with shit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Decision 2012? What Decision?

What's to decide? Whether 'tis nobler in the mind.... nonono. That's not it.

Oh yeah, it's an election year! And anyone who happened to stumble on PBS' smug little fact- deprived fest The Choice 2012 last night might wonder what all the fuss was about. See, the frustrating thing about Frontline programs for me is that they always just miss the mark and end up doing more harm than good.

To wit... let's say I'm one of those crucial "undecided voters" watching the program last night.  (I know, never happen, right? Like I've ever been undecided about politics in my life! And damn them anyway, undecided folks who can't be bothered to pay attention to their own country's politics but one month out of every four years, then they wonder how in hell everything went to pieces in the interim! screw 'em!)

But let's just say I'm one of them for the moment. Okay, here's my mindset: I'm gonna feel all patriotic and informed and openminded for a change and watch this 2 hour PBS show about the two presidential candidates even though I know PBS is so lefty and all. But I'm smart, I can see through the propaganda. And I like Mr. Rogers.

So I watch the show. Let me first say that prior to this I (the undecided voter) was leaning toward voting for Obama again, I mean, I wanted to be hopeful last time, and so voted for him then, but, geez, what has he done for me lately? So I'll check Romney out, he looks so clean cut and all, and well... he is white. But I'm not racist or anything. I mean I did vote for O last time, but when's the guy gonna grow a pair? Maybe havin a Black guy in a White House isn't cool! Who am I to say?

So I watch the show and am shocked, just shocked, at how lame Obama comes off, and seems to have been, all his life. He's kinda.... well.... effeminate, too loose, one of those people pleaser types.  Just kinda lame lame lame, lying around Hawaii getting high and all, kinda too cool, almost smug looking, ya know? Not grateful for the privileges he was given, going to Occidental and Harvard and all? There's somethin kinda off putting about the way he keeps tryin to act so white - but black when it suits him. Like he's not sure which he is. Anyway, thing is, according to the show, he hasn't done much, not really, seems like he just wants to run things, be the big kahuna all the time, but doesn't get much done. Never made any money really, he comes off as a player tryin to be a hero. (I don't mean  "uppity nigger" or anything, just ... you know, seems a bit lazy. Too much Talk, not enough Do. He's hardly ever on the news.  What does he do with his time?)

But Romney! Now there's a man! And it's nice to see a wife who knows her place, just seems right, I can't help it.  (Tho there was that one shot of her lookin pretty tough when that reporter asked too many questions, but not like Michele can look tough, just, well, kinda unladylike you know? )  Anyway, Romney's accomplished so much! I mean he really knows how to get things done, adjust to the situation and all. And make money doin it! So what if he doesn't like to pay his taxes to the country he's made so much money off of, but hey, he says it's all legal, so why not? So what if he sells cigarettes to teenagers in Russia? Fuck them. I'm sick of waiting for things to get better. My unemployment's runnin out soon and $200 a month in food stamps just isn't enough.

What have the Democrats done for me the last four years anyway? 

We need a real man in charge. Screw it. I'm votin for Romney! Undecided no longer!

(Hmmm..I better check if I'm still registered.  Stop by the town office right after my appointment at Planned Parenthood. Christ,  five weeks late! Good thing they do sliding scale.)

Oh, and for anyone yearning for a Bartlet in the White House, (yeah, only Daily!), Mo Dowd seems to have tapped into that zeit here. God Bless Mo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Extra Deep Space

Just what I needed: Extra Deep Space!!

Let's hear it for science! Read more here.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19728375

Forbes Thought Of The Day
“ When a man tells you he got rich through hard work, ask him: Whose? ”
— Don Marquis

Then there's Extra Deep Shyte, otherwise known as FoxNews.

Just taking a break from (the annual frenzy of) sorting through and packing up possessions, regrouping, adjusting to life's surprises. So paying little attention to politics these days, even though the blatantly elitist Romney campaign gaffs are endlessly entertaining as he goes about fashioning the geeknoose to hang himself with. God, and we thought W was dumb!
The Daily Show manages to keep up with events for me, at least offers a lighter side to what would otherwise seem the endlessly painful national tragedy that is "government" these days, insofar as political progress and intelligent debate are concerned. So Mr. Stewart recently did a primo job summing up the Republican Meind Set vis the rest of us, and the utter booshyte of austerity economics and other anti-have-not propaganda being pressed on struggling peoples across the globe. It's only four minutes long but he really nailed it – refreshing. Video Link here.  Now and then he redeems himself by doing bits like this.

Let's all give a big cheer for Curiosity, doing its job up there on Mars. You go, Bot!

October issue of Harper's Magazine has an insightful argument against the current international austerity fad as well, though it's quite beyond me why anyone buys the bootstraps-do- without-food- and- healthcare- and- pensions line. If that doesn't work, try this link, and if that doesn't work, buy a subscription. It's the thinking person's magazine.  A non-profit as well since, uh, 1856? Or so....

Remember Fractured Fairy Tales? (And Where are Boris and Natasha when we need them?)....  Here's one.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How I Spent September Eleventh, 2012

In the process of going through my cds, purging the no longer loved/needed (along with pretty much everything else I once believed important), I came across a slim, cheaply made DVD snagged at an anti-Iraq-war rally in Boston years ago. Aha! Here was the perfect antidote to the maudlin annual extravaganza of fearmongering claptrap the media barrages us with on what has come to be known as The Anniversary of Nineleven (the odd word “anniversary” implying something worthy of “celebration”).

Before pushing Play, I recall that over two thousand scientists and engineers have strongly disputed the government’s account of what occurred that day. Many people, not enough apparently, still feel (especially the victims’ families) something just didn’t jibe in the public’s passive acceptance of the Party line presented by “our” government. Those still skeptical may want to watch this same documentary  ( the one I have linkhere) and (Final cut linkhere which I haven't seen). But most likely you won’t. No one, as they say, wants to “go there” anymore, sleeping dogs and all that. No “relitigating the past” as Obama so cowardly advised immediately he took office.

Problem is, too many dogs were left sleeping after that horrid day, thousands in fact, treated worse than dogs, so that, according to research, a dramatic upswin occurred in the consumption of antidepressives, alcohol and other palliatives, junk food, sleeping aids, squandered savings, to really leave any of us believing we’re blameless in the face of no prosecutions of the perpetrators. 

And Edmund Burke comes to mind: All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

But hey,“whatev”.. Nothing to do with me.

At least the Bushies are gone, aren’t they? Another unanswered question we all surely know the answer to.
I know the day Obama announced we’d turn a page, a blind eye, whatever you wanna call it, my heart sank. I never bought his call to “hope”, but still, I harbored some. Silly me.

Watching Loose ChangeII, the courage it took to make that video against the wave of paranoia that swept the land then deeply impressed me once more. During the winter of 2001-02, everyone, everyone was eyed with suspicion as to our patriotism if we dared to question anything, or failed to display a flag in the yard or window or on the effing car for godsake, I remember feeling afraid then, of my fellow citizens, of my government and their unchecked ruthless determination. Watching the documentary again last night, for the first time in years, reminded me of the sense of desperation I felt during that time, and fear, wondering how so many of my fellow citizens could swallow Ari Fleischer’s narrative, believing we must “watch what we say”. Quoi?

Figuring to cheer myself up with Viggo Mortensen’s handsome face and superior acting talent, I followed the documentary with a viewing of the film “Good”. Superbly crafted film in every way, the kind of quality and honesty we see so rarely. It left me wondering (not for the first time) if I’d have been one of the Jews in Germany who saw what was coming and left in time. Or would I be one who insisted on thinking only the best of people, of the Party, that their intentions were basically good, a little bizarre, nothing to do with me, just boys being boys, same ol’ same ol’ politics, slightly illegal perhaps, but all to the “good”, in the end. And we all know what that end was.

But let’s not “go there”.  No, let's not.

Fall’s coming on here in Maine, chilly nights, clear blue days. I vacillate between despair for my country and bucking myself up with Things will get better. Surely this corrupted ship of state will right itself on its own. Yes, it’s just part of the pendulum, the process. Nothing to do with me. I’m a good person, aren’t I? Best to let things alone, don’t make waves, we are, after all, America, the world’s beacon of admirable ideal, justice, equality and all that.


Yeah, I’ll have another.



(I found the above in my great aunt's trunk and kept it)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hunting Season Looms

I've decided to take up shooting this fall. No particular reason, just pissed off. And while that's probably the very worst reason to pick up a gun, I'm doin it anyway. As a woman I can always use the excuse that it'll make me feel safer, when it won't. Just less frustrated. 

 I can't help but wonder if it isn't time for Hilary to take command of the situation, like my idol Sarah Connor. I've not been a huge fan of Hil in the past, but, hey, the gal's earned her button, you know? I mean, enough already with the oppression of woman. And someone just oughta go drag that insane Jezebel Ann Coulter by her long, obnoxious hair up the steps of the Capitol, bonking her noggin with every step, til she gets some sense. A concussion would be a blessing. Did you catch that she wants the Repugnants to take the vote away from women Nationwide so a Democrat can never again occupy the Maison Blanche?? In public she says these things!  Sic Sarah on 'er, I say. She'll show her what's what.

Paul Ryan is a detestable man, (as is his manlove buddy MR, but for other reasons). A full throated supporter of every right wing nutjob's efforts to limit my rights as a woman and citizen, to occupy my vagina and hold it for the Fatherland,  take women back to the Stone Age (where, in some ways, they may actually have been better off, more geographic mobility anyway free from scrutiny). I am aghast that that RR (aptly acronymed, don't you think?) ticket has any supporters at all, is even taken seriously. But then, folks actually took Bush 2 serously, I thought that would be the wake up call, but turns out it was the permanent national dose of Ambien. It'll be a real hoot, and a drag for O, if Santorum ends up with the nomination after all this hoopla. He may look sane by comparison. We are indeed down the rabbit hole once more as more crazy people aspire to run – no no, add an "i" – ruin, the country. 

I was unaware there were so many contenders for the top US job. To wit, there are six or seven on the ballot in all 50 states I think. Test your views against those of the candidates on this amazing website that will FOOL YOU as it did me. Turns out some woman is running who more closely aligns with my politics (sort of). Take a look here. Take the test. It's fun, and you're bound to learn something. A lot of research went into this site, clever fellas. Send the link to any illinformed conservatives you  know, that pretty much includes all of them.

Romney wouldn't care of course, being a wackass Mormon and all, but you can't help but wonder if "Peewee" Ryan has ever considered the following may have actually happened:

As usual, the French seem to have the right idea about how to deal with their financial mess, at least they're not about starving the poor like everyone else, which does nothing but generate more nasty karma, but then they have that, you know, Fraternite thing we Americans don't like to think about. Here it's me first, then maybe you. French 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell had some thoughts about how as humans we ought to conduct ourselves. They're pretty interesting.

a French thinker of not so long ago

I spend little time online, just too... I dunno.. unproductive. I rely on others to bring clever and entertaining FAcebook or other items to my attention.  This has been the House of Feminism this summer, what with T's studies on human trafficking and slavery and her online feminist pals. I'm always being shown hilarious things like this that put my generation in perspective.

Saw Woody Allen's new flick, To Rome with Love, last night. Made me feel Volare good.

Actually laughed out loud – a lot. Am I getting old and skewed enough for his humor at long last? Gorgeous, well, it is Rome, and funny. I was rooting for the opera guy. The Strand in Rockland is an old fashioned restored theatre, always a pleasure to see films there.

Today I learned that 66% of Americans polled don't know who Jamie Dimon is. Say, quoi? From an article in the latest Vanity Fair.  A disheartening piece of information. My fellow Americans never fail to disappoint when it comes to lack of knowledge – I mean, what possible excuse given all the news available to people in every conceivable form could one have for not knowing who one of the perpetrators of the biggest financial hoodwink of the era was? Boggles the mind. 
Here a few comments about the present economic state of the planet, especially of the West, I caught floating around the internet. Apologies to whoever said them, i just pasted them without thinking.
*  "This isn't structural – there are not too many workers. Work is going undone, things are decaying. What is happening is that capital has sucked up all the money, removing it from the world. The owners are hoarding or gambling while the world collapses."
and then, another...
*  "We must move from stabilize and reflate, to stabilize and recalibrate:
  • It is time for creditors throughout the developed world to finally take the write downs that have long been coming their way in connection with the trillions of dollars of truly un-payable household and sovereign debts that resulted from the credit bubble of the 2000s.  Yes, this will pressure lenders and, yes, they will need to be recapitalized to the detriment of their existing stakeholders.  But there is presently no shortage of capital seeking reasonable risk-adjusted returns, and I have every confidence that it will flow eagerly into the financial sector—if only the balance sheets of our institutions were honestly reckoned by having the currently unrecoverable carrying value of assets written down to that which can be recovered today from borrowers and/or underlying collateral."
(Sensible comments from thinking people.)

Hasta la vista, sista. Y los hermanos tambien.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dramatic Moment in Campaign

Paul Ryan... even more of a weasel than he looks?

Just check this out one second. I had to actually spend an hour searching to find any trace of this article about Paul Ryan dirty financial dealings just prior to the 08 crash, someone had brought to my attention the other day. Per Sunday's Guardian in the UK:

"Paul RyanMitt Romney's vice-presidential running mate, sold stock in US banks on the same day he attended a confidential meeting where top level officials disclosed the sector was heading for a deep crisis.
The congressman on Monday denied profiting from information gleaned from the meeting on 18 September 2008 when Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, then treasury secretary Hank Paulson and others outlined their fears for the banking sector. His office said he had no control over the trades.
Public records show that on the same day as the meeting, Ryan sold stock in troubled banks including Wachovia and Citigroup and bought shares in Goldman Sachs, Paulson's old employer and a bank that had been disclosed to be stronger than many of its rivals. The sale was not illegal at the time."
Oh and there's more....
In April the Office of Congressional Ethics cleared Spencer Bachus, Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, of allegations of insider dealing. Critics had charged he had taken advantage of insider information to trade shares on numerous occasions.
Bachus was present at the meeting that Ryan attended with Bernanke and Paulson. The next day he traded "short" options, betting on a decline in share prices in the financial services sector.
Attendees at the meeting have said Bernanke and Paulson's warnings were met with stunned silence. "When you listened to him describe it you gulped," Senator Charles Schumer told the New York Times."
Something fishy here. Terrifying even, or ... perhaps, more like...

This may be the first election of my entire life in which I do not cast a vote for President. Lesser of two evils just ain't good enough any more.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The money non-lenders.... 

The message to bank executives today is simple: build your bank to be as big as possible – and then keep growing. If you manage to become big enough, you and your employees are not just too big to fail, but also too big to jail. (Simon Johnson)

There's simply no way I could have read this editorial in Bloomberg the other day and not posted it here. It's an unstinting condemnation of the White House, the Justice Dept,  AND congress, both sides of the aisle,  by the former special inspector general in charge of oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (what most of us know as the Big Bank Bailout of 2008, yes, Mr. BUSH's little show, otherwise known as the financial coup d'etat that drained the US Treasury and stole the Common-wealth of the American people. I figure we can pretty much take his word when he says we've been hosed.

It's a long editorial but well worth reading, particularly considering the gathering warning signs of another market crash due soon. This guy's pissed, and so should we all be.

Bungled Bank Bailout Leaves Behind Righteous Anger

In the year since I stepped down as the special inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the sadly predictable consequences of the government’s disparate treatment of Wall Street and Main Street have only become worse. As the banks amass size and power, Main Street continues to get pummeled.
Part of the current economic malaise can be traced directly to Treasury’s betrayal of its promise to use TARP to “preserve homeownership.” TheHome Affordable Modification Program has brought little meaningful improvement, with fewer than 800,000 ongoing permanent modifications as of March 31, 2012, a number that is growing at the glacial pace of just 12,000 per month.
In June 2011, Treasury appeared to take a tentative step toward holding the mortgage servicers accountable for the widespread misconduct in the program by pledging to withhold the incentive payments to three of the largest banks -- Wells Fargo (WFC) & Co., Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) -- until they came into compliance with HAMP’s rules.

Released Payments

Treasury couldn’t even keep this modest commitment. Although Wells Fargo had improved its performance and was awarded all of its withheld incentive payments, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America continued to fail to meet the baseline standard. Nonetheless, in March 2012, as part of a broader settlement of the so-called robo-signing scandal, Treasury released all of the withheld payments, totaling more than $170 million. As a result, the government hasn’t held any servicer responsible for the widespread abuses of HAMP applicants, nor is it ever likely to do so.
In return for what was touted as a $25 billion payout, the banks received broad immunity from future civil cases arising out of their widespread use of forged, fraudulent or completely fabricated documents to foreclose on homeowners.
The headline number sounds impressive, yet the banks only had to cough up $1.5 billion to provide a paltry $2,000 to each borrower wrongfully foreclosed upon, a few billion dollars more in penalties to the states, and a few billion to provide for borrower refinancing. The remaining $17 billion, however, won’t involve payouts of money, but will be met in the form of the banks receiving “credits” for certain activities. This includes $7 billion that will be “earned” for routine tasks related to the housing crisis, such as bulldozing worthless houses, donating homes to charity, and agreeing not to pursue deficiency judgments against homeowners, whereby banks seek to force a homeowner to pay the difference between the balance of the loan at the time of foreclosure and what is recovered by the bank from a foreclosure sale. This sounds good, but it should be noted that these are all part of the normal course of business for the banks.
The remaining $10 billion in credits are supposed to be scraped together through principal reductions on “underwater” mortgages, but that doesn’t mean that the banks themselves will be taking $10 billion in losses. The settlement grants them partial credit for reducing the principal on loans that they service but don’t own, such as those contained in mortgage- backed securities. Worse still, they can earn additional “credits” toward the settlement through taxpayer-funded HAMP modifications. For example, if a servicer reduces $100,000 in principal for a mortgage through HAMP and receives a taxpayer incentive check for $40,000, it will still be able to claim $60,000 in credit toward meeting its obligations under the settlement.

Taxpayer Pays

As a result, the settlement will actually involve money flowing, once again, from taxpayers to the banks.
Another announcement that accompanied the settlement, made by President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address, was the creation of a working group under the Justice Department’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to investigate toxic mortgage practices. This arose out of the political fallout from the government’s failure to bring any significant criminal cases related to the financial crisis (other than my office’s case against Lee Farkas, the former chairman of the mortgage lender Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp.). With the statute of limitations fast approaching for much of the conduct underlying the crisis, it seems increasingly unlikely that any criminal cases will be brought.
It is fair to ask why more haven’t been pursued. The president, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have all answered this question by suggesting that it was greed and bad judgment, not criminal conduct, that contributed to the crisis, and a number of high-profile investigations have been closed.
The answer more likely lies with the Justice Department’s lack of sophistication and the timidity that set in after it lost a high-profile case against two Bear Stearns Cos. hedge- fund executives in 2009. In any event, it seems unlikely that an 11th-hour task force will result in a proliferation of handcuffs on culpable bankers.
It is clear that the criminal-justice system has proved ill-equipped to address the financial crisis. For that, we needed effective regulatory reform. Instead, we got the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
My fear about the inadequacy of Dodd-Frank has only gotten worse over the past year. The top banks are 23 percent larger than they were before the crisis. They now hold more than $8.5 trillion in assets, the equivalent of 56 percent of gross domestic product, up from 43 percent just five years ago. The risk in our banking system is remarkably concentrated in these banks, which now control 52 percent of all industry assets, up from 17 percent four decades ago. There is broad recognition that Dodd-Frank hasn’t solved the problem it was meant to address -- the power and influence of banks deemed too big to fail.

More Rescues

More important, the financial markets continue to bet that the government will once again come to the big banks’ rescue. Creditors still give the largest banks more favorable terms than their smaller counterparts -- a direct subsidy to those that are already deemed too big to fail, and an incentive for others to try to join the club. Similarly, the major banks are given better credit ratings based on the assumption that they will be bailed out.
As a result, the market distortions that flow from the presumption of bailout may have gotten worse. By failing to alter this presumption, Dodd-Frank may have inadvertently sowed the seeds for the next financial crisis.
Although there have been calls to break up the biggest banks, the Financial Stability Oversight Council has still taken no significant action to limit their size or power, and has only just begun to make noises about bringing nonbank financial institutions (such as American International Group Inc.) under its jurisdiction. Even basic steps such as creating and implementing the new rules have lagged, with two-thirds of Dodd- Frank’s rulemaking deadlines blown by May 1, 2012. And in some instances, the regulators have taken a step backward.
For example, one of the best protections against future bailouts is to ensure that banks have thick capital cushions that can absorb potential losses. Although Dodd-Frank called for higher capital levels to be set by the regulators for the largest banks, they still haven’t formally done so. Worse, the Federal Reserve authorized 15 of the 19 largest bank holding companies to drain their capital through cash payouts in the form of dividends to their shareholders and share repurchases. These actions benefit the banks’ senior executives, who own large amounts of stock, and increase the risk to the taxpayer that the banks will once again have to be bailed out.

Diluted Rules

The banks have also been gaming and watering down the rules and regulations. One of the best examples is with respect to the Volcker rule, which is supposed to prohibit banks from making risky proprietary bets that could lead to large losses and eventual bailouts. The final version contained a number of carve-outs and exceptions that created large potential loopholes. For example, in April 2012, Bloomberg News reported that JPMorgan Chase had moved some of its soon-to-be banned trading operations overseas into its London-based Treasury unit, branding a multi-hundred-billion-dollar trading position in synthetic credit derivatives as a “hedge.”
Legitimate hedging was one of the hard-fought exemptions to the Volcker rule won by the banks, intended to permit them to minimize risk to the system by allowing them to offset specific risks from positions that may remain in their portfolios. But as the New York Times and Bloomberg reported, JPMorgan’s supposed Treasury “hedges” appeared profit-driven and were so large that they moved markets.
After the articles warned that JPMorgan’s positions were potentially destabilizing and were probably difficult to unwind without “causing a dislocation in the markets,” the bank’s chief executive officer, Jamie Dimon, claimed such concerns were little more than a “tempest in a teapot.”
JPMorgan recently disclosed that the trade had cost it at least $5.8 billion.
Hopefully the incident will help embolden regulators to better use Dodd-Frank’s tools to clamp down on risk taking. To date, however, the response has been more accommodating. As Geithner told Congress in March 2012 when confronted with arguments similar to those made by the banks: “We’re going to look at all the concerns expressed by these rules,” he said. “It is my view that we have the capacity to address those concerns.”
Words like these presumably led one of the Volcker rule’s authors, Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, to warn that some at “Treasury are willing to weaken the law.” Indeed, words like Geithner’s, when accompanied by actions such as the Fed’s authorization of the largest banks to release capital, send what should be a clear message. We may be in danger of quickly returning to the pre-crisis status quo of inadequately capitalized banks that take outsized risks while being coddled by their over-accommodating regulators. A repeat of the financial crisis would soon be upon us.

TARP’s Losses

As the election approaches, Treasury’s triumphant declarations of mission accomplished for TARP have picked up steam, focusing largely on the reduction in expected losses. While it is good news that the program’s losses will be far less than originally anticipated, the numbers that Treasury has been publishing are incomplete. For example, Treasury continues to offset expected TARP losses by declaring the more than 500 million shares of stock that the New York Fed received in return for a pre-TARP bailout of AIG (AIG) as part of “Treasury’s investment.” Similarly, Treasury’s projections don’t include, or make reference to, the potentially enormous losses in future tax revenue from AIG, Citigroup Inc. (C), General Motors Co., and others that Treasury exempted through a change in Internal Revenue Service rules.
Treasury’s focus on TARP’s financial costs, of course, detracts from its significant nonfinancial costs, including the worsening of “too big to fail” and the lost opportunity to help struggling homeowners. But a separate cost -- the loss of many Americans’ faith in their government -- may still yield a major benefit.
The missteps by Treasury have produced a valuable byproduct: the widespread anger that may contain the only hope for meaningful reform. Americans should lose faith in their government. They should deplore the captured politicians and regulators who distributed tax dollars to the banks without insisting that they be accountable. The American people should be revolted by a financial system that rewards failure and protects those who drove it to the point of collapse and will undoubtedly do so again.
Only with this appropriate and justified rage can we hope for the type of reform that will one day break our system free from the corrupting grasp of the megabanks.
(Neil M. Barofsky served as the special inspector general in charge of oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program and is currently a senior fellow at New York University’s School of Law. This is an excerpt from his book, “Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street,” which will be published July 24 by Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.)
Read more opinion online from Bloomberg View. Subscribe to receive a daily e-mail highlighting new View editorials, columns and op-ed articles.
Today’s highlights: the editors on corporate-tax reform and on how to make air travel even safer; William D. Cohan on a merger gone very wrongAlbert R. Hunt on why this U.S. presidential campaign is tame; Simon Johnson on why HSBC should find a CEO who will break up the bankPankaj Mishra on the hidden history of state capitalism.