30 April 2009

Transcendent Stupidity From The Right-Wing

Keith Olbermann nominations for the "Worst Person Award" names criminally stupid Republican congress critters:

Now, let us hear from Matthew's mother:

The House has passed the Matthew Shepperd Hate Crimes Act. Transcendentally stupid and criminally callous right-wing elements of the republican party are circulating a "whisper campaign" of disinformation and lies claiming the bill, now on the way to the Senate, protects pedophiles and child molesters.

Once again, when their bank of ideas becomes in default and fails they resort to the most heinous sort of vilification, name-calling, and outright lies!

29 April 2009

Turncoat or Turn About is Fair Play?

When I was just a young tad spending my summers down in the black earth area of Southern Illinois known as Little Egypt some of us had a sport we called "bee swatting". That's where you'd poke a stick into a nest of bumble bees and swat them with ping-pong paddles when they'd come swarming out of the hole.

Obviously, one or more of us would pay the price for our stupidity before we'd cut out and leave the bees to themselves.

Here's what makes me think of this. Some Republicans are in a turmoil and buzzing up out of their holes over Senator Arlen Specter's decision to switch from the Republican to the Democratic party. And, of course, like those kids from my youth, the Democrats are merrily getting in their swats.

But, let's examine this a little shall we?

Many Republicans, I fear, may have smoked some wacky weed in their younger days since they seem to display a pronounced short-term memory loss. They sure weren't outraged when that preposterous buffoon Zell Miller of Georgia switched from Democrat to Republican--surely they haven't forgotten the fool challenging Chris Matthews to a duel. And, they welcomed with open arms the Knesset's very own Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, claiming to be independent but mostly aligned with Republican issues.

No, The Republicans have nothing about which to complain.

Aside from that, there's a couple of things about Specter that I find a tad hinky. Am I the only person in American that remembers that when he sat on the Warren Commission investigating President John Kennedy's murder, he was the one who came up with the magic bullet theory--that the bullet that passed through Kennedy's throat stopped dead in the air, dropped nearly a foot and then resumed its forward path to strike John Connolly in the wrist?

Here's the simple truth. The Democrats aren't really gaining and the Republicans aren't really losing, as Specter, more often than not, comes down on the side of Democrats earning him the enmity of conservatives. Hence his decision. He had no chance of reelection as a Republican. Zilch. None. So aside from bragging rights the Democrats really do not benefit from this, and many Republicans are happy to be shed of him.

So, like all turncoats before him, the only real potential winner is Specter himself.

28 April 2009

Things I seriously Wonder About

Am I the only one who sees the brutal irony of the Fox network's decision to bypass President Obama's press conference in favor of its weekly program, "Lie to Me"? The other principle networks have announced that they will carry the press conference. But then, they don't lie to us quite as much as does Fox, now do they?

Why do we permit retailers to foist off on us ill-fitting clothing botched together in some off shore sweatshop? For example; try to find a pair of men's socks that do not have a constrictive rubber band like thing at the top--used to be that men's socks were woven in such a way that the tops naturally held tight against the calf, no rubber bands, or men's trousers with "odd" inseams such as 29, 31, 33, or men's boxer shorts cut to a specific waist size rather than elasticized waist bands designed to fit many sizes--that elastic rubs raw those of us with "sensitive" skin.

Does Dick Cheney still hunt? Who is foolhardy enough to hunt with him?

What is George W. Bush going to do with that 100-thousand acre ranch down in Paraguay? Does Paraguay honor extradition treaties? It has long been a refuge for Nazi war criminal and bank robbers on the lam. Bush would fit in with that crowd.

Why are we even having a debate about torture? We executed Japanese soldiers after WWII for waterboarding American GIs, it was torture then and no roomful of Republican pettifoggers alters the simple fact that it remains torture.

If we can bail out banks, the financial industry, defaulting home-buyers, the insurance industry and newspapers, why is it that I'm only getting a measly $250 from Social Security next month?

How can it be that some of the loudest opponents of same-sex marriage are people who have been married multiple times? Seems divorce, i.e. sequential monogamy, threatens the traditional institution of marriage one hell of a lot more than does a couple people declaring their love and committment.

How is it that every damned C-store in town charges precisely the same amount for gasoline at the pump and go up or down virtually at the same time? Who throws that switch?

If a PET-scan can detect cancer, even in its very early stages, why do doctors not order one for every patient as a part of their annual check-ups? Could it be that the cancer-industry plays a role.

Why do cars now cost more than my first home did?

Why do some regular homes cost more than my parents earned in their entire lives?

Why can't I find shoes with regular stiched on soles and heels instead of prefab glued on soles? What happens if I only want to replace the heels?

Am I the only one so old as to be able to remember, "Two-dollars regular and check the tires" or "Would you like me to check your hood, sir?"

27 April 2009

Republicans Killed Flu Pandemic Monies!

Every time, I feel myself, out of some misguided sense of political fairness, ready to cut the Republicans some slack, they pop to the surface like dead roaches in the punch bowl at the annual church potluck.

Damn these people, they ain't even got a lick of sense.

During the debate over the stimulus bill, yeah that one! Democrats wanted to include $900-million dollars for "pandemic" preparedness. That great humanitarian and renowned public health expert, Karl Rove, encouraged Republican senators to kill the proposal. And they did!

Susan Collins (R-Maine), an equally renowned nitwit, back in February boasted of her role in killing the proposal while belittling those who put it forth.

And here's the duplicity of it all. On her website she boasts of killing the measure and saving money for the fine citizens on Maine while she also sends out a press release of her work on behalf of Homeland Security in which she includes, yep---you guessed it, "pandemic preparedness".

Watch me closely. If I ever so much as look as though I'm about to cut any Republican, anywhere, anytime; even so much as one half-an-inch of slack, you have my permission to "dope slap" me!

I'd deserve it.

26 April 2009

The Height of Hypocrisy--Secessionist Perry Seeks Fed Help

Today, the San Marcos Record is reporting that Texas Governor, Rick Perry for help in controlling the swine flu outbreak. It less than two weeks ago that Perry suggested that secession from the union might someday be an option. Here's the story as it ran.

The San Marcos Record reports:

Gov. Rick Perry today in a precautionary measure requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile to Texas to prevent the spread of swine flu.

"As a precautionary measure, I have requested that medication be on hand in Texas to help curb the spread of swine flu by helping those with both confirmed and suspected cases of this swine flu virus, as well as healthcare providers who may have come in contact with these patients," said Gov. Rick Perry. "We will continue to work with our local, state and federal health officials to ensure public safety is protected."

Meanwhile, those concerned about the outbreak can protect themselves by three simple steps.

  1. Wash your hands often, particularly after contact with people and things in public places.
  2. Avoid unnecessary contact with people and groups. Difficult at work, but ask yourself if that meeting is really necessary and adhere to rule number one.
  3. If you experience any cold or flu-like symptoms, get to your doctor. Swine flu is treatable and survivable, but, expeditious treatment is critical.

24 April 2009

Medicare Disadvantage (Redux)

Today, in its Friday Alert to members, the Alliance for Retired Americans reports that The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has established stricter rules for private insurance companies, effectively cutting subsidies to Medicare Advantage (MA) plans by up to 5%.

Currently, the government overpays MA plans an average 14% more per beneficiary than for traditional fee-for-service Medicare. However, according to The Wall Street Journal, under the new regulations, MA plans cannot charge low-income and sick patients more than traditional Medicare, must explain what is covered in the Part D "doughnut hole"coverage gap, and will face extra scrutiny if patients' annual out-of-pocket costs are not capped at $3,400 or less.

The changes are designed to allow consumers to more easily compare options and costs. Medicare officials said they would try to eliminate plans with fewer than ten enrollees that are similar to other plans and make it hard for seniors to compare. Also changing: charges for hospitalizations, out patient services and other services often associated with chronic illnesses -services for which MA plans have been particularly likely to charge patients more than traditional Medicare would. However,many industry experts say beneficiaries enrolled in MA plans will likely face increased premiums or fewer benefits next year.

"The Alliance welcomes the changes," said Edward Coyle,Executive Director of the Alliance. "Insurance companies will no longer be able to use their government subsidies to unfairly treat sick and disadvantaged seniors".

I believe this is an important first step in the overall effort to keep Medicare healthy and viable for future generations of retirees and seniors and to make it a model, or keystone, for universal health care.

To learn more about this, please click on these posts from earlier this month.

23 April 2009

Obama Favorables

Despite the tea-bag tantrums of the far right, despite his nervous Nelly posture on torture and investigations of Bush's criminal regime, despite the daily battering of bad economic news, and despite his miscues on the people he's attempted to bring into, or has brought into, the administration, President Obama enjoys extremely high ratings of his job performance.

Most Americans believe he is taking the country in the right direction despite the travails and challenges they are coping with individually. There are indications that most of us are realistic about the amount of time it will take to turn things around.

Obama's favorables are currently at 64%, down slightly from February's 67%. Compare that to Bush (the second's) high 50s after his first 100 days. It is worth noting that is has been four years and three months since the nation felt that we are headed in the right direction. That was when Saddam Hussein was captured.

The key, underlying message is that a majority of Americans see President Obama as a strong, ethical and empathetic leader who is working to change Washington.

This can change, however. And it could change very quickly. Sixty-five percent of us are gravely concerned about the economy and fear that we can not get ahead. More than one-third of us have had a family member lose their job.

The highest ever percentage in AP-polling history, 90%, consider the economy an important issue and nearly the same number, 80%, believe that the rising federal debt will haunt and hurt future generations. Despite this wariness more people now believe we are headed in the right direction than did those in February.

Nearly one-quarter of Republicans approve of his performance thus far, but those Republicans who remain unfavorable are deeply polarized in their opposition and disdain for the president. It is yet to be seen how much influence this intransigent minority wields in the greater scheme of things.

In my opinion, Americans are a fickle bunch, and while Obama is the first real leader we've had in the White House for decades, honeymoons are short lived, and unless he can find a way to improve the outlook for seniors, working families, and the poor, he will lose his base support. No one rightfully expects that things would turn around in the first 100-days, but, many of us expect more than corporate bailouts, failed or questionable nominations for administration positions, and waffling on torture and the investigations into the criminality of the administration just past.

True, we're fighting two wars and trying to recover an economy that is as near to busted as one can get without declaring a depression, however, an optimistic outlook goes only so far. At some point the measurement becomes results rather than honest efforts.

The AP-GFK Poll was conducted April 16 - 20, by GFK Roper Public Affairs and Media, targeting land-line and cell phone users and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%.

22 April 2009

What to Do About Your 401K

Today, MSNBC.com posted a pertinent item from the Associated Press suggesting steps one should take before making changes in their 401K.

I, along with many others, have reached the point where I am reluctant to even open my statements and am in quandary as to what steps would make sense. Swallow my losses and park the money in "safe" bonds, or try to ride it out and hope that within the twelve months, before I'm compelled to start a draw-down, that sufficient recovery will have occurred to allow me to recoup some of the losses? The proverbial horns of a dilemma!

The article, and links to tools, was most welcome and I'll include those links for you in this post.

The basics are these:

  • Get benchmarks. Your plan should provide you a benchmark index.
  • Use the correct time period. Do not compare first quarter 2009 to fourth quarter 2008.
  • Use the internet to find tools to help you in your planning.
Benchmarking is the key, because it provides you lessons about funds and how asset allocation can make a big difference.

Link to entire MSNBC.com article

Tools and sites with more assistance:


Google Finance


In conclusion, you will help yourself if you can get your stocks and bonds inside funds that look somewhat like a model portfolio.

And remember, do not panic, do not be hasty. If you're five years or so away from compulsory draw-down, you'll probably recover. But, if you're a year or two away, you may need to figure out how best to reallocate your assets. But, be smart, and do a bit of research and planning, lest you make a tough situation even worse.

21 April 2009

Texas Senate "Flips Off" The Governor

Back on March 15, I wrote concerning Texas Governor's Rick Perry's wrongheaded rejection of $555-million in federal unemployment benefits: Governor Perry Lies & State-by-State list of "Stimulus Money".

In that piece, I suggested that our only hope of salvaging that much needed relief for our state's poor and working families would be if we put enough pressure on the legislature to put together a veto-proof override of the Governor.

Yesterday a bi-partisan group of state Senators voted to accepted the unemployment money in direct rebuff of Perry who had adamantly opposed what he calls, "Two many strings".

Nineteen Republicans and all twelve senate democrats were defiant in voting to take the last piece of the stimulus package. Perry had already agreed to take most of the $17-billion stimulus package offered the state.

Perry, and other vested interest and critics of the measure, say they believe the state's employers will be stuck with expanded unemployment benefits.

Proponents of the bill point out that the state's unemployment fund will suffer a $1-billion dollar shortfall by October, which would force the state to borrow money to pay benefits regardless. Acceptance of the bailout money "will immediately save the state some $80-million and lessen the burden on employers", said Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.

"This is the pro-family thing to do", said Bob Duell, R-Greenville.

Earlier, the senate voted to strip most of Perry's office budget and apply that money to helping military veterans.

Clearly, the senate knows something the out-of-touch with reality governor does not; seniors, retirees, the poor, and worthy working families watching jobs dry-up, 401Ks melt like ice cubes in August, and savings erode, and mortgages being foreclosed are hard-strapped and need this small pittance in relief.

The measure now moves to the Texas House. Remember, we need a veto-proof majority to hand Perry a much needed defeat on this measure. Contact state representatives today and ask them to join with the senate in support of this measure.

20 April 2009

Appomattox - Secession - Health Care - Socialism

OK, OK, you want to see how I tie these together. Here goes.

Recently, the Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, in a nakedly blatant appeal to the "tea-bagging" rabble, allowed as to how he thought that Texas might ought to secede from the union in order to get the "federal government off our backs so we could run our state as we see fit."

I'll tell you what, if that old boy had a brain he'd take it out and roll it in the dirt, he'd kick a cow patty on a hot humid day, and squat back on his heels while wearing spurs. He's got to be dumber than a sack full of Brazos river sand.

That issue got settled, for once and all, April 9, 1865 at Appomattox! Dang old public education system just isn't what it once was. But, you'd think a governor would know stuff like that if a hooky-playing, pool hall-hanging, tough-guy wannabe like me learnt it!

And, just this morning some old mossback wrote into the local paper saying, in effect, that he didn't survive the great depression and fight in WWII just so Obama could bring about Socialism. One does wonder if he eschews his social security check, refuses Medicare, puts his money in non-FDIC insured banks, stays off the interstates, and refuses any medical treatment based on federally funded research or clinical trials. All such programs are forms of Socialism.

The truth is that the United States, like virtually all other developed nations, has a "mixed economy" of Capitalism and Socialism.

I'm thinking that the old fellow (85) probably thinks like Rick Perry and would don butternut and secede. Particularly if the Democrats succeed in establishing some form of universal health care.

Speaking of universal health care. That fight is on the horizon and will be front and center shortly. This time the Democrats have a large war chest, a vast line-up of organizations and public action groups aboard, and a meaningful and viable plan.

The Republicans? Well they've pretty much stated they're going to be against it, no matter what it is. But, have no plan of their own to put forth. Maybe they're thinking secession too.

17 April 2009

Obama Gets Serious About Medicare

Today, in its Friday Alert to members, the Alliance for Retired Americans reports...

In a speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday, President Obama assessed economic recovery efforts, linking health care costs to broader economic problems and speaking of the need for health care reform to reign in the expenses of Medicare and Medicaid.

He also called on Congress to "get serious" and stop postponing difficult decisions in order to accomplish health care reform this year.

Laying out his vision for America's economic future,the President restated the role of Social Security as part of a secure retirement, speaking of a need to focus on the program's long-term stability after health care reform is achieved.

"The high cost of health care in this country is not just emptying the pockets of retirees, it is emptying the pockets of America," said Edward Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

"By eliminating wasteful spending like over payments to private insurance companies for Medicare Advantage plans, we can take the first step toward getting our economy back on track and having quality, affordable health care for our citizens," Coyle said.

16 April 2009

A Christian Nation

The Christian fundamentalists are all in a knot because our president recently said that the United States is not a Christian nation. I knew what he meant. He meant that our government is not dominated by or designed around Christian beliefs and that there is, in the U.S., a plurality of religions with equal protection and whose members have voice in our affairs. And, that there is no official state religion and that secular law rather than religious belief dictate our policies.

It is true that roughly 77% of today's Americans identify themselves as Christian. However, only 53% are protestant, while Catholics, Mormons and other denominations---as well as non-practicing persons calling themselves Christian, comprise 47% of those other Christians.

Over the past ten years the number of Christians have increased by a mere 5.3%. In that same time span adherents of Non Religious/Secular, Islam, Hinduism, Wiccan/Pagan, Native American Religion, Bahia, New Age, Sikhism, Humanist and Deist religions each have doubled or tripled.

And, for what it is worth, many of the founders; Jefferson and Adams, to quickly name two, were Deists or Unitarians. I heartily urge anyone really interested in researching this topic to first read the Jefferson Bible, wherein he highlighted only those words actually said to have been spoken by Jesus rather than words attributed to him by others. One gets a different perspective on the man Jesus and his teachings.

But, no! We're not a Christian Nation. Never were, and hopefully never will be. We're a nation of religious freedom for many religions and have no "state" religion. Unfortunately, some religions would, and during this period of world history, it seems to be some Christians and some Islamists, impose their beliefs on others. And that is precisely what many of the early colonists were fleeing.

15 April 2009

Tories Throw A Tea-Party

I really hoped to be able to ignore this topic, but what the hey...it is just too easy a target to pass up.

If you're not aware, and I don't know how that could be, Fox News with right-wing backing from such luminaries as Newt Gingrich and Richard Armey are staging across the nation today (Tax Day) a protest billed as a tea party after the Boston Tea Party from our revolutionary era. A media event created by the media its self. The last time that happened, I think we blew up a ship in Havana harbor, wasn't it, and started the Spanish American war.

What these butt-licking curs don't recognize is that the taxes they're protesting are from the Bush's right-wing Republican dominated administration. But, as we know, these whack jobs never let the facts encumber their actions and words.

But, the truly dangerous thing about their events, utterances, and behavior is the sense of empowerment and permission they give to the unhinged, deranged and absolutely dangerous elements in our country.

One such lunatic was seen at their so-called tea party holding a placard saying: END ALL UNCONSTITUTIONAL ANTI-CHRIST SOCIALISM FEDERAL DEFICIT SPENDING PROGRAMS.

One does not believe he had in mind Bush's illegal wire-taps, extreme rendition, torture and invasion and occupation of Iraq. Here's a clue as to the guy's mental state---ALL CAPS. Yep, you can almost see this wild-eyed, spittle-flying berserker screaming at the top of his voice.

But, don't take just my word for it. Check out this video from MSNBC.

14 April 2009


There is a large body of research that establishes that pets do older people a lot of good. Companion animals do become part of the family and help people relax and are a form of socialization.

However, as we age, they can become complications. More than 21,000 elderly Americans have to visit the emergency room each year as a result of falls related to their pets, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most are people 75 or older and cause life-altering fractures.

The report says that most of these falls result from several different things:
  • Tripping over pet toys.
  • Untrained and excited dogs jumping up.
  • Pets who sleep on the bed or at one's feet.
  • Tripping over a pet lurking around one's ankles.
  • Getting tangled in a leash.
There is, also, the issue of making plans for a pet who will outlive you, or still be active after you become too frail to properly care for it.

All these things aside, I think the benefits of pet ownership far, far out weigh these potential problems. As with most problems, there are solutions.

  1. Obedience training, quickly brings an unruly dog into line.
  2. One can always hire a dog walker (neighborhood teen) to provide exercise.
  3. Make arrangement for a friend or relative to adopt your pet should there have to be a parting.
  4. Scour the house for pet toy obstacles the same way you do for throw rugs and the like.
  5. Some long-term care facilities do allow pets.
  6. Be realistic and don't feel guilty if circumstances dictate that you need to find your beloved pets a new family. As we age, we have to accommodate the limitations imposed on us by the process. Some are wrenching and painful.

Our pets are important to us, providing companionship and unconditional love and there is no reason that we need to give up the pleasure they provide simply because of the infirmities of age. Their presence adds meaning to and probably prolong our lives and ability to stay active and involved. As I said, the benefits far out weigh whatever problems they create.

But, again, be realistic and plan and make arrangements for changes as you become older.

13 April 2009

Medicare Disadvantage

If you're 65 or older you've gotten the junk mail from Humana or Aetna or dozens of other insurance plans offering you complete, all-in-one health care plans. These plans fall under the title of Medicare Advantage.

They sound so clean and simple. A complete turn-key health plan with some including some form of drug coverage, vision and dental. But, there's a big old problem. These plans cost the country a whole lot more than traditional Medicare, and are part of what is draining the system.

Back in January, Medicare Advantage insurers announced a price increase of 13% compared to a 6% premium increase for private commercial insurers. That's more than twice as much. There are welcome signs that this hand-out of our tax dollars to the insurance oligarchs is due to come to an end.

During his campaign, President Obama, singled out for heavy criticism this give-away to insurance companies and promised to whittle out $50-billion in subsidies to the program.

Now, according to the Alliance for Retired Americans, the president is making good on his promise. Last Monday, April 6, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced cuts in payments for Medicare Advantage plans in 2010. The Wall Street Journal reports that reimbursements to such plans would fall by 4% or more next year, with even more to follow.

These plans cost taxpayers more, by anywhere from 13% - 19%, than the traditional Medicare program and, in part, contribute to predicted future Medicare "crunch".

Eliminating the added expense burden of Advantage plans, is a good first step toward real health care reform and ultimately insuring universal health care for all.

09 April 2009

Candidates for the Tumbrel!

First go below and read the April 7 & 8 post. "The Real War" & "Where are the Tumbrels".

Before beginning, let me note that in the crash of 1929 some Wall Street Robber Barons at least had the good grace to hurl themselves off the tops of tall buildings. Not so today, they're looking for hard working American families to bail them out after years of no oversight and unregulated malfeasance, outright criminality, and sheer stupidity.

Here, from a Special Report from Wealth Daily and Independent Investment Analysis are ten of the top candidates for the tumbrel.

Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Countrywide Financial, who lied repeatedly to investors about the company's liquidity while burning through loans and credit lines totalling at least $13-billion. This does not take into consideration the money thrown at it by the Fed or the company's supposed $50-billion "cushion".

Eventually Countrywide was taken over by Bank of America for a mere 20% of its previous reported market value of $24-billion and putting thousands of employees on the unemployment line.

Earlier Mozilo had dumped much his stock in the company, raking in a nearly $292-million profit with two pensions worth $24-million, along with other shenanigans resulting in another $250-million.

James Cayne, former CEO of Bear Stearns whose primary skill appears to be as a bridge player. He oversaw a $3-billion hedge fund loan for subprime mortgages. A month later clients were informed that there "effectively" was no value in the funds and that the company was soon filing for bankruptcy.

There were other miscues, but that was the killer. Cayne exited Bear Stearns with a $61-million golden parachute.

John Thain & Stan O'Neal. Both are former CEOs of Merrill Lynch. Both speculated on the subprime mortgage scam and presided over write down after write down, totalling more than $20-billion, as Merill continued its downward spiral.

Bank of America rescued Thain and gave him another high powered job and then drop-kicked him last January.

O'Neal looted Merrill of almost $162-million in his "compensation package".

Martin Sullivan, AIG CEO. In late December, 2007, our boy Marty told investors of his "confidence" and "high degree of certainty" in what the company had booked. He didn't mention that the month before that statement to investors that auditors warned him that "AIG could have a material weakness relating to risk management of those "bookings".

Not so long after that, we taxpayers gave AIG an $85-billion bailout. Sullivan was given a $19-million golden parachute which included a $5-million "performance bonus" and a new contract with a $15-million parachute. New York Attorney General, Anthony Cuomo, has frozen the deal as he investigates "unwarranted and outrageous executive payouts after the company, which suffered horrendous losses, received billions in taxpayer bailout money

Alan Greenspan, Former (1987 - 2006) Chairman, Federal Reserve. An infamous Freidmaniac, Greenspan's loose monetary policy and opposition to oversight and regulation makes him a key architect of today's financial bust. In fact, many world economists see him as one of the most culpable behind the collapse.

Today he enjoys a full government pensions, a "sweetheart" book deal and advisory position with hedge fund, Paulson & Co, bond giant PIMCO, and the Deutsche Bank's banking team and their clients.

Phil Gramm, former Texas Aggie professor and Republican Senator (1985 - 2002) serving on the Senate Budget Committee (1989 - 2003). Another "Free Market" Freidmaniac, Gramm added and abetted deregulation, opposed funding of the SEC to police Wall Street, and helped stymie an SEC rule that would have prevented auditing firms from getting too close to the companies they audited.

He also authored what has come to be called the ENRON loophole, exempting energy speculators who make trades electronically from federal regulation. His wife served on ENRON's board at the time of its collapse.

Upon leaving the Senate, Gramm became vice chairman of UBS Securities, the investment banking arm of Swiss bank UBS, which discretely tends the wealth of American millionaires and billionaires. And, of course, that full government pension, which includes full health benefits and 80% of his Senatorial salary.

Dick Fuld, Lehman Brothers CEO & Erin Callan, ousted Lehman CFO. Callan who was once tagged "The Best Accessorized CFO on Wall Street" became the public face of Lehman's collapse, once telling the world, after the firm sold off 50% of its stock value, "I'm optimistic about the company's future". After posting a horrible $2.8-billion quarterly loss, she was shut up and shortly thereafter summarily shoved out of the door.

Throughout all this, Fuld managed to blame everyone, except himself for the firm's hanging too long to its subprime "assets". During the tightening of the credit market, 73% of the firm's stock value had vanished. Recently, the San Mateo County (California) investment pool filed suit against Fuld, Callan and other top execs in the firm for reimbursement of financial losses from their investments with the firm, alledging, "this represents the worst example of fraud committed by modern-day robber barons of Wall Street, who targeted public entities for their risky practices and then paid themselves hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation as their companies deteriorated".

Callan now oversees the global hedge-fund at Credit Suisse, and Fuld? Well he's still flying high.

Hank Paulson, former U.S. Tresury Secretary & Past Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs. Let us turn to Wikipedia and its summation of this particular anti-regulation Freidmaniac. "...it has been pointed out that Paulson's plan could potentially have some conflicts of interest, since Paulson is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, a firm that benefits largely from the plan..." The plan? well, the initial bailout plan that gave the Treasury Secretary unprecedented powers over the nations economy and financial life. "Decisions by the Secretary...may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

Excuse me while I go search for a filled chamber pot to sling as the tumbrels roll by.

08 April 2009

Where are the tumbrels?

Def: Tumbrel, Noun. A two wheeled horse cart with sides, similar to a dray.

Tumbrels were most notably used during the French Revolution to haul the nobility and other offenders off to the guillotine. They were carried barefooted through the streets as the populace spat upon them, threw stones, and the contents of chamber pots at them.

Harsh stuff.

But consider please the "crimes" and excesses of the banks and Wall Street and ask yourself if we ought not to take a few Wall Street Robber Barons for a tumbrel ride.

Consider the $85-billion bailout of AIG, whose executives immediately ganged together to splurge on a $442,000 weekend "retreat" at a posh Southern California resort. No doubt, to recover from the arduous task of putting together one of the biggest con jobs ever perpetrated on the American taxpayer.

Where are the tumbrels?

Consider the ensuing multi-billion dollar bailout of the banking industry and its more than five-million mortgage loans to indigents, credit risks, and under capitalized speculators. Those mortgage loans have been euphemized as "Toxic Assets". Toxic? I reckon. Assets? Hah!

Where are the tumbrels?

Remember when the first shoe hit the floor? I'll remind you. Lehaman Brothers or was it Bear Sterns? BS, I think. The stock was degraded and then the company was handed over, lock stock and barrel to JP Morgan. Quickly after that the Fed decided to bail out Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. We had apt warning that big trouble was coming, and it was going to cost us a ton.

As one insider, supposedly aghast, put it, "if you want to know who is to blame, there are only two places to look: the financiers themselves and the nonfeasance of a feckless SEC!"

Where are the tumbrels?

Enter the FBI. Back in September 2008, the FBI began to take seriously the potential criminality behind these events: Lehman Brothers, Freddie and Fannie, and AIG. In less than a year the wide-reaching inquiry has grown from targeting 14 major firms to at least 26. The G-men (and women) aim is to determine whether any company executives had any responsibility through misinformation, material misinformation, and misstated assets, which caused the financial woes of the institutions being investigated.

Oil up the wheels of the tumbrels! Heads are going to roll!

Coming tomorrow, naming the names of those who should be taking a tumbrel ride.

07 April 2009

The Real War

I know that some readers will label me as an "economic determinist", which those of a rightest persuasion label as a communist. This is because Marx and Engels postulated that "economic factors underlie all of society's decisions."

One need not be a communist to recognize the validity of the theory as it applies to governments. And herein is the real war being waged in America. The struggle isn't really about labels such Republican and Democrat or Conservative and Liberal, although each cohort subscribes to one of two very different economic theories.

And that is my point. The issue is economics and whether or not our government should pursue Keynesian economic practices or "Friedmaniac" economic theory. One promotes regulation and government spending while the other totters on a three-legged stool of privatization, deregulation, and eliminating government spending on social programs. The other promotes government spending and regulation as a means to control voracious, unrestrained capitalism wielded by greedy self-interests and to insure that wealth does not become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

That is the struggle, and if you're one who thinks Milton Friedman was on the right track, I offer you our current situation. And the experiences of Indonesia, Brazil, Chile and Argentina in preceding decades. We Americans don't do well with history. Ours or any one else's. So to elucidate, each of these countries were treated to the joys of Friedman's University of Chicago's School of Economics theories in practice. Each suffered rampant inflation, run away unemployment, dire social upheaval, and coporatist juntas, brutal dictatorship with torture, disappearances, and mass murder. All resulted from application of Friedman's theories by zealous, right-wing ideologues backed by the CIA and American corporations.

If you doubt this assertion, it behooves you do some research into the role Friedman's economics, the CIA and American corporations played in the turmoil and deconstruction of each of these Latin American nations not too many decades ago.

The unattractive thing about Friedman's economic theories in practice is that they act to concentrate more and more wealth in the coffers of the rich, eliminate a middle class, and increase the number of expendable poor people. Sound familiar?

On the other hand, John Maynard Keynes achieved his greatest prominence during the depression. He recommended to the Roosevelt administration that an increase in government spending along with price controls and other regulations, even if that resulted in deficits, would stimulate consumer demand and thereby reduce unemployment. He argued that cutting government spending or reducing production were not productive and would act to keep prices high and prolong the depression. History has shown him to be absolutely correct.

Some of us, old enough to remember, were the beneficiaries of Keynes' economic theories as we came to maturity in the sixties, which many cite as the best economic times of our nation's history. Certainly there were societal ills; institutionalized racism and sexism, lack of health safety nets for the poor and elderly, and pockets of extreme poverty. I won't drift off into the Great Society and how Republicans attempted and in some cases succeeded in hamstringing programs aimed at correcting these ills, my point is that Keynesian economics works, and demonstrably works quite well.

This is the battle in Washington right now, Keynes versus Friedman. It would appear that the Obama administration has come down on the side of Keynes. Some naysayers claim he is gambling with our future. I'd point them to history and suggest that it dictates that this path is the only intelligent way to go into the future.

06 April 2009

Seeds of Discontent

Seeds! Yep, seeds. Today's topic

Huh? You ask me, what's the deal with seeds.

Well, here's the deal and it is a raw deal for farmers and those of us building home gardens. Or, for that matter, all of us unless you're on a meat only diet.

Congress is about to sneak through, under the cloak of modernization of food safety, HR 875 which is as draconian a bill attacking biodiversity as one could conjure up. Imagine being sent to prison for growing from "heirloom seeds" a few rows of sweet corn.

The bill was introduced by Congress Woman, Rosa DeLauro, whose husband works for Monsanto and is designed to define only their, and other agribusiness, "genetically modified" seeds as safe. This prevents farmers and home gardeners from growing seeds for next year's crop, among other things. The seeds are "engineered" so that they can not be used as seed stock. Quite sterile!

You want seeds? You're going to have to buy them from Monsanto or some other monolithic agribusiness corporation. Buy heirloom seeds (yeah, for the kind of seeds grandpa used to grow those great old roasting ears you remember from your youth) and you could be sent to prison.

Aside from the fact that the genetically modified seeds are supposedly more disease and insect resistant, they do not produce crops that are as tasty as grandpa's. And doesn't it rankle you just a tad that the feds could send you to jail for growing what you wish to grow on your own land. Already there are severe penalties if your crop from heirloom seeds (contaminates) pollinates a neighbor's field of "approved safe" genetically modified corn, or soy beans, or...well now you can fill in the blanks.

Additionally, as written, the bill is vague, leaving open the potential of a "seed czar" in the federal bureaucracy with the power to create new regulations and definitions to insure that Monsanto and other huge agribusiness corporations holds, under penalty---including prison, onto the seed franchise in America.

To learn more and to take action against HR 875 go to:

Stop HR 875 Action Page

03 April 2009

Republicans Are Insane!

If you have any doubt that the Republicans are full-blown, moon-barking, car-chasing lunatics just consider these few items.

One. They are floating the notion of a Palin - Jindal ticket for 2012. Ahem! Yeah, that is correct. Sarah Palin who has been dis-invited from the major Republican annual spring fund-raiser, the Senate-House Dinner. And who replaced her? you ask. Why that womanizing fraud, Newt Gingrich, of course. One anonymous Republican honcho said she's a "disaster". And like Newt is not?

Meanwhile, other Republicans are floating trial balloons of a 2012 ticket with a "disaster" at the top and that goofy little guy from Louisiana that gave that embarrassing and laugh provoking Republican response to President Obama's address to congress a few weeks ago.

One wonders if these people ever talk to each other. One disses Palin publically while others are promoting her as presidential material

Oh please let it be. Then the ass-kicking we gave them in 2008 will look like a school yard fracas by comparison.

Two. With what can only be called bizarre sincerity they first came out with a counter budget proposal, which had no details, earning the ridicule of even right-wing media outlets. Without proper shame or embarrassment they then head-huddled, burned the midnight oil and have come forth with yet another budget proposal...and, folks as the cliche goes, the Devil really is in the details.

No new discretionary spending for five years in the middle of a recession. One asks, how then might we create jobs and rebuild our infrastructure? Aside from this effort to stymie economic recovery their budget also offers tax cuts of 10% for the very same Wall Street Robber Barons who managed to run aground the financial ship-of-state.

There's more, but that should be enough to convince the more rational among us that the only sensible thing to do with the Republicans is to chain them to a tree in the backyard. Isn't that what one does with an egg-sucking, car-chasing dog?