Wednesday, December 31, 2008

some results of recent surfing

1. Here's a 3500sqft 5 bedroom brick house in a tree-lined neighborhood. Nice yard, hardwood floors, full basement. Yours for only $8,925. The catch? It's in Detroit.

2. At the above link you'll also note that realtor.com lists over 200 houses in metro Detroit for less than $1,000. The average house in Detroit is now valued at less than $20,000.

3. This blog documents how Detroit is now one the greenest metro areas in the world. The reason? Nature is reasserting itself amid the abandoned ruins, with burned out and bulldozed blocks reverting back to open prairies with tall grasses, and high rise buildings sporting rooftop mini-forests. More here. And here's a cool photo essay of the urban decay.

4. Roundup of 2008 economic forecasts and stock picks that didn't quite work out. My favorite:
• James J. Cramer, “Future of Business” New York Magazine
“Goldman Sachs… finishes the year at $300 a share. Not a prediction — an inevitability.”

Goldman Sachs’ share price [last week] was $78, and the firm announced its first quarterly loss — $2.2 billion.
Jim Cramer should never be taken seriously ever again.

5. Alberto "Judge" Gonzales opines that the true victims of the War On Terror are not the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, or the millions of displaced Iraqi refugees, or the thousands of dead and wounded American soldiers, or the innocent people tortured at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, or the millions of American citizens subjected to illegal electronic surveillance... no, according to the "Judge", the real victims are himself, George Bush, and Dick Cheney. All they did, you see, was implement some policies to Keep America Safe that "some people didn't agree with", and here they are being subjected to all of this vulgar criticism from the very people they were trying to protect all along. Actually, this viewpoint makes a lot of sense. If you're a deranged lunatic, that is.

6. From the Big Picture, lots of photos of the Gaza nastiness mentioned in the post below. Not for the faint of heart.

7. A somewhat unselfaware post on a blog called "Stop the ACLU". The post unironically derides and ridicules the British Culture Secretary's plan to censor internet content. No, really. That's what it says. The post is surrounded on all sides by childish, ill-informed harangues against the ACLU for destroying our great nation. It's a wonder that people this stupid ever figure out how to connect their computers to the inter-webs.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

good fences make good neighbors

You may have seen on the news that the Israelis have been active recently in bombing the shit out of the Gaza Strip. This is the Israeli response to Palestinian militants continually firing rudimentary rockets over the border into Israel, which has caused injuries, a few deaths, and some terror.

For me, the Gaza Strip is something I always heard about, but never really conceptualized in any detail. Sure, I had a rough idea what its political significance was, where it was located, etc. But now that I've done a bit of research, I've gained a more refined idea of what the Gaza Strip really is.

First, here's a map:


As you can see, it is roughly rectangular, roughly 25 miles long and 4-7 miles wide, bordered on 2 sides by Israel, on one side by Egypt, and on the other side by the Mediterranean. If you looked at this map from a geographical view alone, without bringing in any political or demographic considerations, the territory here might appear to be a nice section of beachfront. Perhaps the locale for some fancy resorts, or a rather largish coastal retreat for an investment banker.

Sadly, no. The coastal border has no port, and is tirelessly patrolled by Israeli gunboats. The three land borders are bounded by 30ft walls that look like this:



There's an airport in the southeast corner. Here's a picture of it:



You might notice a few, er, gaps in the runway there. Those are from bombs. No plane can land there or has been able to land there for many years.

You may ask, how do people ingress and egress this place, the Gaza Strip? Short answer: they don't. Although there are a handful of (highly militarized) border crossings, these are usually closed. Up until recently, the Israelis allowed supply trucks to cross into Gaza to allow food and medical supplies in amounts sufficient to keep Gazans from dying in large numbers. On November 5, this practice was drastically curtailed. According to this article in the London Review of Books, during the last two months 90-95% of the scheduled humanitarian shipments into Gaza have been stopped. An average of roughly 12 trucks per day have been allowed to cross into Gaza.

Did I mention that 1.5 million people live in Gaza? They are roughly 99% Arab Muslims. Unemployment is 50% and rising rapidly. Even before the recent blockade, 20% of children suffered from "chronic malnutrition" and 45% were found by a Johns Hopkins study to be "anemic". What might these figures be now that only 5-10% of the usual supplies are being allowed in? No one knows for sure, but it's a good bet that lots of people are starving.

Apart from any questions of how the Israelis might best handle the situation given that they certainly need to provide for their own security, given all of the facts above, how can the Gaza Strip be classified as anything other than a giant concentration camp?

tendencies

Did you ever notice that in any contest or dispute -- be it a tennis game, a boxing match, an election, a war, whatever -- a person calling themselves "conservative" or a "Republican" will, without regard to any other existing circumstances, context, facts, or logic, almost always support the party with the lightest skin color?

Why is that?

Monday, December 29, 2008

all your internets are belong to us

Some British asshat has determined that the internet contains some of teh bad stuff and it is high time that Something Must Be Done. Unfortunately, this British asshat happens to be the UK "Culture Secretary", which appears to be somewhat akin to the American FCC.

He proposes that the British government, along with the Obama administration, take steps to... er, do something or other to, well, uh... I'll just let the asshat speak for himself:
There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it.
Got that? This asshat says some things "should just not be available to be viewed." Which things? Well, don't worry your heads, he'll decide that using his own exceedingly wise personal sense of taste and discrimination.

Why is this so important to the asshat? Well: "Leaving your child for two hours completely unregulated on the internet is not something you can do." So... since neither the asshat nor his wife can be bothered to spend time monitoring their own children, the rest of us are just going to have to bite the bullet and put up with a universal system of heavy-handed censorship implemented by him and others of his ilk (who also can't stand their own children).

He also thinks the Obama folks will be on board: "[The asshat] also believes that the inauguration of Barack Obama, the President-Elect, presents an opportunity to implement the major changes necessary for the web. "

Let's hope not. Let's also hope that the nebulous and unspecific proposals he mentions are technically impossible. And, sure, we could further hope that this asshat is hit by a bus on his way to the office one day soon. But that would be uncouth of us, wouldn't it? Not quite up to our normal standards of decency, you might say.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

from the tiny Dept. of Government Agencies I'd Like To Invent Rather Than Abolish

I neglected to post anything about the Blagojkevachgq scandal. It was interesting to read Fitzgerald's complaint. Kind of like the enjoyment I used to get from watching Cops. You know, here's a really dumb criminal, let's stick a camera in his face while he's being arrested and listen to all of the moronic things he has to say.

Funny? Yes. But on the scale of nefariousness, Blagokjavqghic & Co. is dwarfed by the ongoing crime spree over at the Bush Administration. In other words, nothing to get too worked up over.

The most interesting angle in the story to me was the suspicion that there are hundreds or thousands of Blakogadvaiqchs out there at all levels of government who happen to be not quite so ambitious as he, nor as blazingly stupid, and therefore continue their petty-to-middling public corruption without coming to the attention of law enforcement or running afoul of the handful of prosecutors, like Fitzgerald, who actually care that a sizable portion our publicly elected officials are liars, thieves, and crooks.

Because, after all, our law enforcement personnel have far better things to do with their time and resources. Like conduct military-style raids on the homes of terminal cancer patients who smoke weed to make themselves feel marginally better prior to their deaths.

So my humble suggestion is that we disband the DEA. Just send pink slips to all the agents and their executives and their middle managers and their secretaries and send them to alternative job training. Preferably something involving shovels, or mattocks, or possibly pool skimmers. Something where they can perform a service of actual value to society. Do the same with all of the multi-agency drug task forces that infest our cities and towns.

Granted, this will result in a tough problem for our federal, state, and local governments. Two, actually. First: what to do with all the money we will save as a result of these massive budget cuts? Second: how will we keep our prisons filled and avoid the nation's prison industry -- having enjoyed such a profitable run during the drug war -- from suffering the same fate as the auto industry?

These are certainly grave challences for us to overcome. Luckily for us, I have a solution. In place of the DEA and its various clones at the state and local level, we can create a similar infrastructure under the auspices of the newly formed Public Integrity Enforcement Agency (PIEA). The PIEA will be funded from our savings in closing down the failed War On Drugs, and will wage a new War On Public Corruption, using all the same tactics (surveillance, informants, entrapment, civil forfeiture, military-style raids, perp walks, and the like, though hopefully eschewing such tried and true drug war mainstays such as planting of evidence and subornation of perjury), but targeting greedy politicians, power-hungry appointees, and hypocritical bureaucrats. We should have a strict mandatory minimum sentencing regime and ruthlessly enforced No Tolerance policies.

This is one government program somebody like me could really get behind. I might even pay extra taxes to support it. The only hitch is that, before long, and in stark contrast to the drug war itself, this war might begin to show results, and with all the corrupt politicians occupying prison cells instead of government offices, people like me might actually have to run for office to fill the void. Then, my fellow Americans, we are in for some serious trouble.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Still here, still throwing (metaphorical) shoes at the preznit


But that guy is phenomenally good at ducking them.

As I have noted several previous times, back when Bush and Paulson first proposed looting the treasury of several hundred billion dollars for the benefit of their Wall Street cronies, our illustrious congress would have none of it. "No, sir!" they said. "We must have oversight and accountability!"

One prominent feature of this accountability was "limits on executive pay." Notwithstanding that the provision proposed for this purpose by the congress itself was exceedingly weak, congress then allowed the administration to insert one additional condition; a single sentence that we now learn -- or I should say, the Washington Post and its readers are now learning, though those of us who were paying attention knew it all along -- I say, a single sentence was added that acted as a lexical dentist of sorts, forcibly removing all remaining teeth from that particular mouth of accountability.

From the article:

Congress wanted to guarantee that the $700 billion financial bailout would limit the eye-popping pay of Wall Street executives, so lawmakers included a mechanism for reviewing executive compensation and penalizing firms that break the rules.

But at the last minute, the Bush administration insisted on a one-sentence change to the provision, congressional aides said. The change stipulated that the penalty would apply only to firms that received bailout funds by selling troubled assets to the government in an auction, which was the way the Treasury Department had said it planned to use the money.

Now, however, the small change looks more like a giant loophole, according to lawmakers and legal experts. In a reversal, the Bush administration has not used auctions for any of the $335 billion committed so far from the rescue package, nor does it plan to use them in the future. Lawmakers and legal experts say the change has effectively repealed the only enforcement mechanism in the law dealing with lavish pay for top executives.

Note that it says "which was the way the Treasure Department had said it planned to use the money." My italics. Because although they said this, they had no present intention of actually doing it this way:
Meanwhile, Paulson repeatedly told lawmakers that he did not plan to use bailout funds to inject capital directly into financial institutions. Privately, however, his staff was developing plans to do just that, Paulson acknowledged in an interview.
But because Bush and his minions had always been so trustworthy up until that point, it only stands to reason that congress, in its infinite wisdom and foresight, would naturally take them at their word.

People, this is theft on a massive, historical scale. The magnitude is stunning. Congress has been delinquent, and, what's worse, its dereliction of duty in this particular case, while shameful, is not exactly big news at this point and arguably isn't even the worst thing they've done in the past year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yes, my college football team got screwed by the BCS...

But even that is no reason for this.

Dear Congress,
Thank you for your efforts in leading our great nation. But please, stick to what you do best: supporting torture and warrantless spying, bowing to the demands of the least popular president in history, and -- of course -- spending the nation into utter penury so that inept financiers don't have to go without their poached salmon and liveried doormen.
But whatever you do: stay the FUCK out of college football.
Thank you.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

time to get a hummer

Courtesy, at least in part, of my supermarket "rewards" card:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I check IOZ so you don't have to

On Proposition 8.

Money:
Everyone remembers Martin Luther King for his campaign of non-violence, but what they forget, what they choose to forget because his real radicalism terrifies most Americans, was that he was the man who stood before America and called in a debt, told the nation that the check was due. The power of his nonviolence was in the dramatic role he cast himself: this one man holding back a seething tide of implacable rage. Behind the entire civil rights movement lurked the specter of violence held in check, but not forever.
Not sure I agree with his take on the gay movement, but I don't have an actual dog in that fight, so I'm not going to criticize. But the quote above oughta be widely read and understood for its relevance to... well, a lot of stuff.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sign on the line that is dotted

I'm a business lawyer. The company which is my client is essentially a deal machine -- with many different and differently structured revenue streams flowing in and out. I see a lot of contracts cross my desk, and they vary extensively in terms of form, function, structure, content, purpose, etc. And I've been doing this a while.

So there aren't a lot of contract provisions that surprise me. In terms of royalty set-ups and revenue sharing structures, I've seen hundreds upon hundreds of different variations. But this was quite a new one:
8.1 Revenue Share. You shall receive a percentage of the Net Revenue associated with your use of the [Company's] Service. "Net Revenue" means the revenue actually received by [Company] from [clients], less any refunds to [clients] and less expenses related to discounts, taxes, third party commissions, [business] referral fees, payment transaction fees, costs incurred with service providers, distributors, or resellers of the [business] services ordered, cost-of-money/bad-debt fees and other write-offs, currency exchange fees, and applicable [business] and technology fees. You acknowledge and agree that the percentage of Net Revenue that you shall receive and the resulting payment due hereunder shall be determined solely by [Company] and reported and paid on an aggregate basis [...] [italics mine]
Ooookay. Where do I sign?

I suppose this might be what is known as a "black box" revenue sharing structure. We won't tell you what percentage you'll get, or what that percentage will be calculated on. We're going to list a whole bunch of vague deductions we might take, but don't worry too much about that because we're not going to report them to you and in any event you won't ever know what the top line number was to begin with. Oh, and all calculations and payments are in our sole discretion. Sound good? Now, let's go make some money!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A person who most likely should not own a gun

I missed a call on my cell phone the other day. Judging from the area code that it was someone at the, uh, corporate office, I hit the "call back" button a while later and found myself talking to an ex-co-worker who had moved away several months ago.

So this guy is in his car with his wife, and makes small talk until she gets out to go inside a store or something. And then he tells me why he called. He wants to consult my expertise as a lawyer and a gun owner. (This guy has never owned a gun, or even fired one, and I think the only time he's ever held one was this one time he was drunk at my house and I showed him my AK-47). But he is concerned with the "political environment" of the country, and believes he should buy a gun -- before it's too late!

Which is pretty rich, of course. And just as a practical matter, despite Dems pretty much locking up the levers of federal power for themselves, there is no mandate or even widespread support for tightening gun laws. I don't believe it will happen.

But this guy is what you'd call "super-low-info" politically, and I didn't feel like arguing with him, so I gave him some gun advice and let it stand at that. But then he tells me that he needs to finish up the conversation quickly before his wife gets back, because she doesn't "allow" him to own a gun, or even to talk about owning a gun, and if he gets one he'll have to do it in secret and keep it at his friend's house. I was still laughing at least 10 minutes after the call ended.

If a bank is too big to fail...

Doesn't that mean it is too big to be allowed to exist? That is what Matt Yglesias argues in a very smart (and short!) post on banking regulation. I agree with the whole thing.

Meanwhile, according to this article, the Treasury's bailout of Citi (which puts taxpayers on the hook for $300 Billion in potential losses, not just the $20 Billion often mentioned) was announced "five days after Paulson told the House Financial Services Committee that Treasury and the Fed’s actions had resulted in "a significantly more stable banking system where the failure of a systemically relevant institution is no longer a pressing concern rattling the markets.”"

So... five days ago Paulson either: (a) didn't know Citi was on the brink of failing, (b) Paulson lied to congress, or (c) Citi was never on the brink of failing but is only too happy to take the taxpayers' money and Paulson is only too happy to give it to them. Take your pick.

And also meanwhile: as I mentioned two months ago here, Bush and Paulson fully intend to spend the entire $700 Billion in TARP funds prior to scurrying out of office in January. Paulson has already spent half the money. He will now go back to congress to "request" authority to give away the second half. And, as I noted two months ago here, congress is virtually powerless to refuse to give it to him (this "tranching" of the bailout money was a much-touted "safeguard" to ensure congressional "oversight", which, as I noted here has up til now been non-existent and will not be forthcoming). And oh by the way, Paulson said last week that he did not intend to request the rest of the money, but would allow that authority to the incoming administration. Oh well.

Remember a few months ago when the Bushies were crying that the government didn't have enough money to spend $50 Billion over 5 years to fund health care for poor kids? I guess the application of fiscal responsibility depends on whose ox is being gored. Sick kids can't afford a doctor? Fuck 'em. Investment bankers forced to sell their vacation houses and curtail spending on their mistresses? Sheeeeeit! Let's see if we can't afford to funnel a few hundred billion their way.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

some stuff

1. I guess maybe I should wait until Obama takes office before I really start criticizing him. It just seems like Bush/Cheney is/are so incredibly bad, that with Obama we ought to be seeing immediate, dramatic, and widespread changes in governing behavior. My fear is that he will be the anti-Bush only in matters of government giveaways (which I'm not necessarily against) that are, politically speaking, easy calls to make (because giving away government money just isn't a hard sell with most of the electorate), but will generally not be much different than Bush on other matters that are, politically speaking, much harder calls to make (rollbacks of such things as war, torture, unrestrained spying being, somewhat inexplicably to me personally, a much harder sell for much of the electorate). I guess we'll see, but I am not inclined to hold back here on this blog if we don't quickly see a lot of Change in the latter category.

2. I watched WALL-E. Twice, in the last 2 days. As the critics might say: "Brilliant! A Stunning Achievement!" Other than the big mass market ad campaign (which you really couldn't miss even if -- like me -- you don't watch a lot of teevee commercials) I really didn't hear a lot about it when it came out. But this movie really is great; it's a better Distopia pic than I Am Legend or Omega Man, better social commentary* than Idiocracy (which is high praise coming from me), and to the extent it's a romantic comedy, well, I don't like the genre, but it's the best I've seen. I really wouldn't call it a sci-fi flick, but it's definitely better than all but a distinguished handful of those. Maybe I'm going a bit overboard, but I really think it will be remembered as a landmark of filmmaking.

3. This article reports that the online dating site eHarmony, which was founded by an evangelical Christian, will, beginning next March, "provide a dating service with "male seeking a male" or "female seeking a female" options". Which is perfectly fine, of course, except that the site is not doing so because it wants to court the business of gays and lesbians, or because it is the "just" or socially responsible thing to do, or because the market demands it, but rather because it is required to do so under a settlement agreement with a gay man who charged the site with discrimination in a New Jersey lawsuit. Now, I am a supporter of gay rights. I was disappointed that Prop 8 passed in CA. I believe homosexuals should have the right to marry, and I would never personally discriminate against a person because of who they choose to have sex with. And yet, I do not believe that a privately owned company should be forced to tailor its products to suit the needs of gays or lesbians, or indeed any other group of people. If the people who run this site are religious and believe that "gays ways is sin", and want to run their business accordingly (to their own detriment, I might add), then that is their prerogative. There are plenty of other dating sites available for gays and lesbians to find mates. I would venture to guess that there are many dating sites that are only for gays and lesbians to find mates. Certainly eHarmony is not a government actor and has no governmentally sanctioned monopoly or special license, and for all appearances seems to be a wholly private concern. They should be entitled to act according to their own morals and views, without being subject to liability or state-enforced equality measures. On the other hand, maybe at some point in the litigation eHarmony took a long hard look at their position and decided, according to its own lights, that it would be better for its customers, its potential customers, its profits, and their own souls or karma or whatever, and decided it would be best to open the site to same sex patrons. If so, good for them. And maybe their management can sit down and have a long talk with those fine folks at the LDS.

4. I still can't get my head around the fact that Texas Tech (Texas Tech!) is playing for a spot in the national championship game this weekend. I honestly haven't decided whether to root for them. I probably would (probably), if I wasn't holding out the (likely false) hope that a Tech loss might mean my own team could end up in the BCS Championship. Over the last 2+ weeks not a day has gone by that I haven't silently berated Colt McCoy for leaving so much fucking time on the clock. Why, why? Why snap the ball with 20+ seconds left on the play clock? And again with 17 seconds left on the play clock? And again with 9 seconds left? You're on the freaking 10 yard line and you have a time out in your pocket! Take some freaking time off the clock you brain dead moron! It's not like this is the first ever football game you've been involved in. Your daddy -- as Brent Musburger has told me at least One Million Times -- was a freaking football coach! You've ate, slept, and breathed football your whole life. RUN some FUCKING time OFF the clock! Sorry. I still haven't gotten past it, obviously.
__________________
* And just to be clear, when I refer to "social commentary", I think there are two distinct themes: (1) the first concerns the destruction of the earth by irresponsible human behavior. While I believe this is somewhat overblown, certainly humans as a species are currently being irresponsible to a degree from an environmental standpoint. We should do better; not for the sake of the planet, but for the sake of our progeny. But whether or not I agree with the degree of danger represented in the movie, I think that this theme, and the devastatingly skillful way in which it is presented, will have a powerful effect on all the millions of youngsters who have and will see it. In terms of affecting the actual behavior of people into the future, this movie is worth a career's worth of filmic output by Michael Moore or Al Gore. And, (2) The second theme is one I consider stronger value-wise (though probably much weaker impact-wise): the idea that humanity is striving toward material comfort at the expense of virtually all other values (for example: adventure, true (rather than meta) sensory experience, virtue, curiosity, learning, art, erudition, justice, etc). Of course, I'm guilty of this myself, and it is depressing. WALL-E drives this home in a very clever, comprehensive way, taking it pretty much to its logical conclusion: fat, fuzzy-brained, helpless humans who can't even so much as walk on their own two feet. This is, in essence, not only where we're headed, but where we seemingly want to go.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

...and so it begins.

I'm not an idealist. Haven't been for quite a while now. So I wasn't exactly surprised to read today that the cowardly Senate Democrats rewarded Republican shill Joe Lieberman with a plum committee chairmanship. Lieberman, a warmongerer and recent purveyor of Obama-as-terrorist/Marxist slurs, repeatedly spat in the face of Democrats over the last year and has supported the Bush/Cheney cabal in most every one of their most egregious power grabs over the past 7 years. So it is only natural that Senate Democrats would continue to support and reward him.

As IOZ would (and does, regularly) say: uh, yeah, they're on the same side!

For his part, Lieberman credits Obama for his ascendance: "Lieberman singled out the 'appeal by President Obama himself' as a key reason he's staying."

But that's not all President-elect Obama has been up to. He's also in the process of placing Hillary Clinton in the preeminent foreign policy post in his nascent administration. Although I'm not as much anti-Hillary as I once was... it surely is disappointing to know that Obama's Secretary of State will be someone who supported the Iraq War, voted for the AUMF, and has favored the most hawkish of positions on Iran. John McCain's slogan abides: My friends, that's not change we can believe in.

Furthermore, Obama's people have -- albeit anonymously -- been making conciliatory noises on whether there will be any accountability for the Bush/Cheney cabal in connection with their torture policies. No, holding those people accountable for kidnapping, torture, and endless imprisonment of innocent people would be... divisive. And we can't have that. We've got so many More Important Things To Do. (Like give multi-billion dollar handouts to car companies that have spent the last two decades twiddling their thumbs while their sales fall and their cars get crappier and less fuel efficient -- but I guess that's a separate post, eh?)

What does Obama himself have to say about this? Well, on 60 Minutes he said: "I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture..." Indeed. And there's another guy who has repeatedly said this: His name is George W. Bush. And, I guess, since Obama knows that America Doesn't Torture, then that's pretty much an end of it, no need to investigate or, really, do anything, other than continue on much as before, but with a better public communications strategy.

Or, maybe it's just me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

straight up thievery.

Remember back when we were being sold on the bailout? Bush, Paulson, their minions, and their lackeys in the media ramped up the fear level, talked a lot about The Coming Depression, threw around words like "dire" and "catastrophe", and in general just basically put a rhetorical gun to our heads and said "your money or your life".

And then the valiant keepers of the public trust -- those stalwarts of integrity, holders of the purse strings, -- yes, Congress -- took up the charge. To a thoroughly frightened but still skeptical public, they said: "Yes, something must be done. We realize you don't trust Bush. We don't either. And that's why we are going to insist -- insist! -- upon accountability, transparency, competence, fairness, and -- above all -- what we, Congress, have always been most known for: Stringent And Rigorous Oversight.

In the immortal words of Tyler Durden: how's that working out for ya?

Competence? Not so much. After stridently insisting for the first two weeks of bailout talks that the only way to address the crisis was to buy "troubled assets" from financial institutions and mocking those who suggested buying equity stakes in impaired institutions... Paulson has now completely changed course and decided that, well, buying troubled assets isn't such a great idea and the real solution is to buy equity stakes in impaired institutions. My friends, that's not competence we can believe in.

Fairness and accountability? I don't fucking think so. Congresspersons repeatedly stood in front of teevee cameras and harangued against greedy Wall Street execs, with their golden parachutes and outrageous compensation packages and said "Not on my watch!" They proclaimed that no banks taking taxpayer handouts would be allowed to overpay their executives in the manner of times past. "Not with us on the job, they won't!", Congress said. Well, according to the linked Bloomberg article, under Paulson's new and improved plan: "It would appear that no penalties will apply to institutions that receive taxpayer funds and violate the act's restrictions on executive compensation." Shocking. I mean it. I am really truly shocked at this. You could really seriously knock me over with a feather. So very very surprising. And unexpected. I mean, no one could have possibly predicted this!

Transparency? You didn't really believe that, did you? "The Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans from American taxpayers or the troubled assets the central bank is accepting as collateral."

Oh, and but the much-touted Stringent And Rigourous Oversight? Not bloody fucking likely:
"[T]he Bush administration has committed $290 billion of the $700 billion rescue package. Yet for all this activity, no formal action has been taken to fill the independent oversight posts established by Congress when it approved the bailout to prevent corruption and government waste. Nor has the first monitoring report required by lawmakers been completed, though the initial deadline has passed."
And again, this is just a shocking, unbelievable development in this whole situation. I mean, who could have ever predicted that something like this could ever happen? Utterly inconceivable!

For those interested enough to inquire...

no, i've not quit blogging. (Nor have I been abducted by the newly formed Obama negro-communist-baby-killing death squads we've all been hearing about.) I guess I sorted of defaulted to taking a break after the run-up to the election. Plus, I just switched to a new computer, and have sort of been in Vista Hell these last few days.

Regular blogging to resume soon, I hope.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Time: you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here



It is hard to believe it's almost over. This election has been going on seemingly my entire life.

I voted last week. The experience was not in any way extraordinary. In my lily-white suburban district there was a significant line at around 10am, but the line moved quickly and -- apart from an overly officious person chastising voters about their cell phones and their cups of Starbucks -- there were no problems or really anything out of normal at all.

I voted for Obama, and certainly I hope he wins, as looks relatively certain from all available data. I think I like Obama as a person, and surely no one doubts that he is competent, knowledgeable and intelligent -- characteristics that have been sorely lacking in the White House this decade.

On the issues, I do not agree with a lot of what Obama represents. While I agree with his tax plan and believe a return to Clinton's tax policies is both fair and fiscally responsible, in my view Obama leaves a lot to be desired in terms of policy. He supports the failed and increasingly ridiculous War On Drugs (otherwise known as the War On Non-Conformists and Brown People). He appears to have bought into the framing of Bush's War On Terror. He's relatively close to Bush's Iraq policy as it currently stands, and is in general much too much of military interventionalist for my taste. He supports the Wall Street bailout, which is the biggest program of corporate welfare in the history of the world. He has not committed to punishing any of Bush/Cheney's lawbreaking, and has only very weakly expressed any support for rolling back the executive power grab accomplished by the current administration. He's weak on civil liberties, which for me is a huge negative. And none of these are small things, but rather to me the most important issues we face as a country.

Of course, on each of these items John McCain is worse, and on some of them far worse. I believe a McCain administration would be an unmitigated disaster for this country -- and for the world. McCain and Palin represent a toxic mix of anti-intellectualism, reality-denial, religious zealotry, abject incompetence, and violent bellicosity. They must be defeated.

And if that's not enough, Obama's election would represent a solid repudiation of Bushism which can only be healthy for us as a nation. Not as much as a repudiation as I would personally desire, but an unmistakable repudiation nonetheless. (For a more eloquent and detailed argument on this point, I suggest Andrew Sullivan's lengthy endorsement from yesterday.) This, at least, is a point on which "Hope and Change" is, um, hopefully not merely a slogan.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

some stuff

1. Looks like the face-carving bitch story died an early death (though TPM, in its typically dogged fashion, is trying to Schiavo-ize it). I'm surprised. What doesn't surprise me is that Fox News VP John Moody has still not followed up on this statement on his blog: "If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting."

2. Check out this site for the most complete aggregation of election polling, along with tons of great graphs and charts and projections and related analysis. If there is anything poll related or concerning nuts-and-bolts of elections that is not included here, I don't think it truly, objectively exists.

3. Speaking of which... do you think Republicans ever stop to wonder what it means that the two richest, most important, and most powerful states in the union are so far in the Democrat's column that neither presidential campaign even bothers to visit or spend any significant advertising dollars there at all? Do they ever give any intellectual analysis to this idea other than "well, that's where all the minorities, fags, and commies live, so obviously they're gonna vote for the Democrat"?

4. Top-level McCain adviser -- speaking on a not-for-attribution basis, natch -- calls Palin a "whack job". True, but doesn't this fall into the category of information that would have been far more valuable to have PRIOR TO nominating her to be Vice President of the United States of America?

5. Best Halloween costume ever? (probably NSFW).

6. Here's a fascinating "Screw you guys, I'm going home" letter from an investment banker to his clients (pdf). Hate to give away the ending, but the last paragraph is priceless. To paraphrase: "While I've got your attention: LEGALIZE IT!"

7. ABC is counterprogramming tonight's Obama infomercial with a show called "Pushing Daisies", which apparently is not a documentary about McCain's candidacy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"I would draw your attention to the curious incident of the dog in the night-time"



"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident."

It appears that I may have overestimated the integrity of our leading national media organizations. Or maybe I've just underestimated their complicity in the GOP's latest and most egregious episode of Desperate Dirty Tricks(TM), represented by the crazy face-carving bitch from College Station, Texas and the McCain campaign's urgent attempts to plaster her carved up face across every teevee and newspaper and magazine cover in the land, thereby scaring the shit out of every right-thinking, god-fearing, suburban soccer mom in the country, causing them to immediately drop their copy of InStyle and run, not walk to the nearest early-polling place so that they can vote down the angry dark-skinned black baby-killing face-cutting communist Muslim hordes threatening to destroy our Great White Jesus-Sanctuary of a country.

Because these media organizations were lied to by at least two people working for McCain's campaign. The face-carver herself and the campaign's Pennsylvania media flack/hack. These lies, in turn, caused not a few of these media organizations to blare completely false and dangerously sensational allegations which threatened to incite severe racial strife in the few remaining days before a rather important election.

I call this a big story. Fox News itself, de facto media arm of the GOP, officially claimed that this "race-baiting" would spell the death of McCain's chances in the election. But that was before. Now? Dead silence. As far as I can tell, not a word anywhere in any major newspaper or on any major tv outlet.

Where are the calls for an explanation? Where are the demands for accountability? Why does McCain's Pennsylvania spokesman still have a job? McCain's organization -- and McCain himself -- are responsible for this. Sure, they didn't put the face-carving bitch up to it (at least I don't think so), but there can be no argument that they jumped in with both feet and attempted to use this obviously ridiculous story to maximum political effect. In my mind, this is far worse that McCain/Palin casually throwing out "Marxist" "socialist" and "palling around with terrorists" bullshit.

And furthermore -- fuck it -- unless and until McCain repudiates the face-carver and her enablers and fires the people responsible for this, I think it is not unreasonable to go ahead and lay the entire thing at his feet. Who's to say that he didn't put the face-carver up to the whole thing? He's not denying it. His people's fingerprints are all over the whole mess, and he's done nothing of any substance to distance himself from it.

But you can be sure that McCain won't address it in any meaningful way without pressure from news media. But right now they are displaying an extraordinary lack of backbone, or maybe they just don't mind acting as an unprincipled megaphone for the very worst kind of racist lies. At a minimum, you'd think they would publicly question the credibility of the people that fed them this shit. Right now they're not even doing that. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens with the next big desperate dirty trick. Because, as this incident has demonstrated beyond any doubt, these are people without shame or conscience, and as soon as they understand that no one is being held accountable for even something like this, then the one remaining check on their behavior will have been removed, in which case the repulsiveness of their next dirty tricks will only be limited by the awfullness of their imaginations.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Isiah Thomas: honest, stable, classy guy

Reports yesterday suggested that Isiah Thomas had been taken unconscious from his by an ambulance to a hospital to be treated for a drug overdose. Thomas is now most famous not for winning championships with the Pistons but for stealing money for half a decade as GM and sometime-coach of the New York Knicks during a tenure in which the Knicks, despite the league's highest payroll, won very few games and racked up tons of bad p.r., including well-substantiated charges of sexual harassment by Thomas himself, eventually resulting in a jury verdict of $11.6M in punitive damages.

Thomas denied the incident had taken place. Instead, he said, his daughter had been hospitalized: "Thomas, in a brief cellphone interview with The New York Post, said it was his teenage daughter, Lauren, who was in distress. Thomas denied that anything had happened to him."

Thomas then trotted his son out in front of the press, who then dutifully repeated Isiah's line that he was not involved in the incident, that all the reportage was false, and that it was Isiah's daughter that had been hospitalized.

Enter Harrison [NY] Police Chief David Hall, who "confirmed that a 47-year-old male had been taken from Thomas’s home. He refuted claims that the incident involved Thomas’s daughter.“I understand that this person claims it was his daughter; he is lying,” Hall said. “It was definitely not his daughter, it was a male. We know the difference between a 47-year-old black male and a young black female.”"

Friday, October 24, 2008

I can haz Oktober supprize?

Ashley Todd, College Republican from College Station, Texas, has made a hell of a mess. She was volunteering for the McCain campaign, and faked an attack by a 6'4" "dark skinned" black man who... wait for it... just happened to be a crazy violent Obama supporter. A likely story, that was quickly and easily debunked.

BUT not before the McCain campaign was all over the story, amplifying it out to media all over the place. Directly contacting reporters and pushing the story, adding in details that had not yet been released by the police. The full story is here, and damn it is worth reading.

This could be a huge story. Here's another good summary, with video of reporters defending their sourcing of the outrageous claims after the McCain people deny being the source of the quotes. 2 different television reporters both saying the same person contacted them: McCain's Pennsylvania communications director Peter Feldman.

People in the comments suggested that Obama would have his lawyers working with the police to get the full story out, but the smart choice for Obama has to be to completely step away, keep your hands completely off the situation -- let the media and the local government hand the matter without any interference. In fact, have Obama come out and make a statement: "We deplore everything about this situation, and we call for a complete investigation with 100% transparency, immediately. But we will not take part in the investigation, we will not be involved in any way. Any of my staff who attempts to influence this investigation in any way
will immediately be fired. That is all we will have to say about the matter until further notice."

The police are upset at being played. The media will go after this hard; even in the most friendly environment (not applicable here) news organizations don't like being treated as suckers or fitted for clown shoes. All the facts and circumstances will come out, and the best thing Obama can do is steer clear and cut off any perception that he is trying to use the situation for his own gain. But it looks likely that he will gain significantly because even in the best-case scenario here, McCain is going to take a big hit.

And in the worst case, he is done as a candidate. This post from earlier today points to a blog item from the V.P. in charge of Fox News, John Moody, stated baldly that "If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting". Note that this was before it was understood that there actually was a hoax, and certainly before it was known that a McCain spokesman had been pushing a sensationalized version to the local tv stations. This statement from the Fox News guy clearly -- to me anyway -- implies that someone in the McCain organization also contacted Fox News to push a sensationalized version of the story. And the VP in charge of Fox News doesn't take calls from state-level communications directors. Someone higher in the organization would have been contacting Fox News. Which, as the guy says, spells doom for McCain.

So, to sum up: (1) If, as appears to be proven, someone on McCain's Pennsylvania staff was pushing this fake race-baiting story to local media in Pennsylvania, McCain looks very bad, but (2) if, as appears reasonably likely, someone higher up -- in McCain's national organization -- was pushing this fake race-baiting story to national media (Fox, CNN, NBC, Drudge, among others), then McCain is done for good, and for the rest of the campaign -- when not being ignored (shunned) by national media -- will be held up to severe ridicule and scorn.

I wonder if McCain wants a do-over

First, we have Kathleen Parker, conservative columnist of the Washington Post and National Review, checking in today with her view that the single most important decision of John McCain's life was made while thinking with his dick rather than his brain. No, I'm not making that up. She says it somewhat less crudely, but nonetheless that is the entire point of her column today in the Washington Post. See for yourself.

Parker borrows somewhat from the fascinating blockbuster behind-the-scenes article on the McCain campaign appearing this week in the NYT's Sunday Magazine. Here's how she begins her characterization:
ad_icon

McCain didn't know her. He didn't vet her. His campaign team had barely an impression. In a bar one night, [Robert] Draper asked one of McCain's senior advisers: "Leaving aside her actual experience, do you know how informed Governor Palin is about the issues of the day?" The adviser thought a moment and replied: "No, I don't know."

Blame the sycamore tree.

McCain had met Palin only once -- in February, at the governors' convention in Washington -- before the day he selected her as his running mate. The second time was at his Sedona, Ariz., ranch on Aug. 28, just four days before the GOP convention.

As Draper tells it, McCain took Palin to his favorite coffee-drinking spot down by a creek and a sycamore tree. They talked for more than an hour, and, as Napoleon whispered to Josephine, "VoilĂ ."

One does not have to be a psychoanalyst to reckon that McCain was smitten.
And it only goes downhill from there, with Parker essentially saying that McCain had a hard-on for Palin and couldn't resist the idea of having such an attractive woman follow him around the country and sing his praises day after day.

Which brings us to this: New York Times endorses Obama. Money quote:
Senator John McCain of Arizona has retreated farther and farther to the fringe of American politics, running a campaign on partisan division, class warfare and even hints of racism. His policies and worldview are mired in the past. His choice of a running mate so evidently unfit for the office was a final act of opportunism and bad judgment that eclipsed the accomplishments of 26 years in Congress.
That, my friends, is, as Mickey Knox might say, a harsh indictment.

I completely agree, of course. Foisting (or, attempting to foist?) Sarah Palin on the public was bad enough to soil everything he has done in his entire political career. This is what history will remember of John McCain.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

EPIC (FASHION) FAIL

Via Sullivan, I see that the McCain campaign in its desperation wants to launch one last salvo of character-assassinatory slime at Obama by playing the "Wright Card". Sadly, they are prevented from doing so because they lack the money.

And surely the finances of the McCain campaign will not be helped by the disclosure that previous donations were spent wrapping Sarah "Hockey-Mom-of-the-People" Palin in designer finery from Neiman Marcus. How likely is it that Wal-Mart denizens -- Sarah Palin's primary constituency -- will be willing to fork over their hard-earned paychecks to finance McCain's slow-motion train wreck of a campaign?

And by the way... I have nothing against nice clothes. If I were, say, a hedge fund manager or a professional athlete or had married a fabulously wealthy beer heiress, I would probably do quite a bit of shopping at Neiman's myself. But how incredibly stupid is it that the McCain campaign would spend an amount roughly equivalent to what most Americans spend on their homes to dress up Sarah Palin, knowing full well that her one and only positive political attribute is her ability to connect with "real Americans", knowing quite well also that such spending would certainly, as required by law, be reported to the public prior to the election? Aside from any abstract notion of the morality, fairness, or desirability of having such a fantastically expensive wardrobe, and considering only the monumental political stupidity and tone-deafness of such a thing: what does this incompetence say about the way a President McCain would govern the country? I mean, shit, even Bush in all of his incompetence would have immediately seen the error in doing such a thing.

Contrast: Michelle Obama got a decent amount of press for appearing on The View in a dress that cost less than $150 dollars. Notice that I'm not saying this means that Ms. Obama is to be revered as some kind of middle-class saint (surely the income level of the Obama household has been used to purchase far more expensive clothing than this -- and no problem there, either), but simply that it shows a remarkable difference in the competence of the competing campaigns and their respective candidates.

populism punctured: Palin's privilege problem

Ouch. This one's gonna leave a mark.

Over the span of a week or so, the McCain campaign treated Sarah Palin to a shopping spree -- at Neiman's and Saks Fifth Avenue, among other high tone outfitters -- to the tune of over $150,000, which is almost three times the median household income, at a time when Americans are facing extreme economic hardship and anxiety, apparently undertaken so that she can look splendorific while parading around "real America" practicing her patented brand of "she's one of us" identity populism politics.

Plus, on the same day, this story comes out, wherein it is revealed that Sarah Palin carted her human political props (her children) around the country on the taxpayers' dime, only later to "amend" her expense reports to reflect that these children were somehow "conducting official state business".

As they say in my weekly staff meetings, the "optics" of this are nothing short of horrific. In other words, this won't exactly go over well with the barking mass of $30k/year millionaires who have miraculously been duped into supporting Republicans despite the rather obvious fact that their regressive tax policies: (1) only benefit people who can actually afford to buy their Vera Wang purses at Neiman Marcus, while (2) harming those unfortunate people (i.e., the barking mass) who must charge such things on their over-extended credit cards and then struggle to make the minimum payments once they realize that their HELOC privileges have mysteriously been revoked.

I suggest that these stories may go some way toward driving these points home, even through the rotten protein-muck that stands in for these people's brains.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

what color is the sun in your world?


When Sarah Palin was nominated to be Vice President of the United States by John McCain most people had never heard of her. I had. In following the Ted Stevens corruption investigation over at TPMMuckraker early in the summer, there had been an item speculating that the GOP might want to replace Ted Stevens in the upcoming election for his Senate seat with a candidate who wasn't, you know, being investigated by the FBI for corruption.

One such possible replacement mentioned was then-popular Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, but this was seen by Josh Marshall as improbable because, even then, her approval ratings were plummeting in Alaska because she too was under investigation -- not for accepting bribes, but for abusing her power as Governor to wage a vicious, all-out campaign to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from his job as an Alaska state trooper.

But, of course, this state of play didn't stop John McCain from picking her as his VP running mate. After all, McCain once shook hands with her at an event, and then had a 15 minute telephone conversation with her; enough, apparently, to convince him that she would make a fine VP and potential president if he were to become dead or incapacitated as a result of one of his many serious lingering health problems.

But despite the McCain campaign's subsequent no-holds-barred legal assault and outright attempts to obstruct justice, the investigation rolled on and the Republican-dominated Alaska legislature released its report as scheduled. The report -- which I've read -- unsurprising concluded that Sarah Palin had indeed violated state ethics laws and abused her power, pretty much exactly as had been described all along in news accounts.

Prominently featured in the report are its "Findings". And under the heading of "Finding I" the report states: "For the reasons explained in Section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act." This could not be more clear or unambiguous. She "abused her power" and violated an ethics statute.

Again, this is not surprising. That someone like Sarah Palin -- an ambitious, though small and petty, uneducated, unsophisticated backwoods Christianist autocrat -- would do such things is not exactly shocking to a person like me. After all, I grew up in a small town in the bible belt. Such things are taken for granted in such places.

But what is astounding -- even to me -- is Sarah Palin's reaction to this report. There are a lot of possible responses, none of them very good, but nonetheless par for the course with prominent people who have been caught out in some type of wrongdoing. The investigation was a partisan witchhunt. The investigator was biased. The investigator was incompetent. The report's conclusions are not logical, ignore the facts, or give emphasis to the wrong facts. The witnesses lied or were biased. I wasn't afforded the proper opportunity to give my side of the story. Etc, etc.

These responses, while inaccurate, legalistic, obfuscatory, and bordering on dishonesty, are what we have come to refer to as "spin". This means taking bad facts and putting them in the best possible light through some degree of specious defense-lawyer-type argumentation. It is what Bush and his minions have been doing for 8 years now.

But this is not what Sarah Palin did. Sarah Palin said the following: "Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing, any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that."

This is not spin. This is stating what is verifiably, absolutely untrue.

This is like Clinton coming out and saying: "I am pleased that the House of Representatives voted not to impeach me." What if Fred Goldman had gone in front of television cameras and stated: "I am pleased that the jury found O.J. Simpson guilty of murder, and I'm looking forward to him being sentenced to life in prison."? Or maybe, back in February, Bill Belichick could have met the post-game media and said: "I am very pleased to have won this game, and our players deserve a lot of credit for the Patriots being crowned the 2008 Super Bowl Champions."

Henry Wade: "It is very pleasing to me to have the Supreme Court accept my position and rule that there is no constitutional impediment to the power of states to prohibit abortion."

King George III: "I was pleased to read the declaration by the American colonists, and I wholeheartedly agree with their conclusion that they have no cause or desire to dissolve the political bands which connect the colonies to Great Britain."

Maybe in a couple of weeks Sarah Palin can hold her very first press conference, in which she might be asked: "How disappointed are you with the election results, with being part of a ticket that will be remembered for losing in such a historic landslide?" To which she will perkily and confidently answer: "Well, I am very very pleased to have been elected Vice President of the United States, and I feel strongly that also, this validates the good judgment of the electing people, decent pro-Americans too, those people, there, who voted. And can vote, for elections. Youbetcha. Also, I am looking forward to being inaugurated in January, there, for America, the job creation, and supporting of its values, inaugurating me."

And maybe then people will point and laugh, and some men in tidy white coats and clear plastic gloves will surround her and gently escort her away.

Friday, October 17, 2008

TUPAC Friday

[PARENTAL WARNING HERE]

Still on parole and I’m the first nigga servin’
pour some liquor on the curb for my niggas that deservit.
But if I want to make a million, gotta stay dealin’.
It’s kinda boomin around the way: and today I’ll make a killin’.
Dressin’ down like i’m dirty’, but only on the block.
It’s a clever disguise to keep me (from) runnin’ from the cops.
Ha, I’m gettin’ high. I think I’ll die
...if I don’t get no ends.
I’m in a bucket, but i’m ridin’ it like it’s a Benz.
I hit to strip let my music bump,
Drinkin’ liquor, and I’m lookin’ for some hoes to fuck.
Rather die makin’ money than live poor and legal
As I slang another ounce, I wish it was a kilo.
[...]
Damned if I don’t, and damned if a nigga do.
So watch a young mothafucka pull a trigga just to RAISE UP!
But don’t let 'em see you cry, dry your eyes
Young nigga: time to do or die.
I keep a pistol in my pocket,
Ready on my block.
Ain’t no time for a nigga to even cock shit.
And now they see that mothafucka peep pain,
At point blank range cause he slackin on the game.
Ain’t a damned thing changed
Shakin’ the dice, now roll ‘em,
If you can’t stand pain better hold ‘em.
Cause ain’t no tellin’ what you might roll.
You might go catch AIDS from a slight cold.
Nigga, better live your life to the fullest,
I'm equipped to kill a bull,
got a pistol, mothafucka better pullit.
Cause even when they kill me,
they can never take the game from a young G.

We straight ballin'

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law


Everyone should watch this. It should be shown to every student in every high school:

Taxi to the Dark Side.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SMACK!

For those who appreciated my post last week on the mendacious and despicable attempts of prominent wingnut bloggers to lay the entire blame for the country's economic mess at the feet of poor minority homeowners, I highly recommend reading this transcript of an online chat in which a guy named Matt Taibbi (author of this awesome Rolling Stone article on Sarah Palin) absolutely fucking obliterates one of the very same wingnuts I was referring to on the very same issue which was the subject of my post.

It really gets going about 1/3 of the way through when the hapless, transparently racist wingnut cites "the Democrats' desire to give mortgages to people, particularly minorities" as the primary source of all the trouble. This guy clearly had not the slightest clue what the fuck he was talking about, and as became even more clear had no idea what he was in for or what kind of person he was talking to.

This is the kind of thing that would be pity-inducing if it weren't for the fact that the victim is obviously an ignorant, vicious bully who spends his time looking around for smaller and less powerful people upon which to inflict his impotent hatred.

(Via John Cole, who follows up with some incisive "larger context" commentary on what this says about the modern "conservative" movement)

The short, (relatively) happy political career of Sarah Palin

The discussion at this post is about the future political prospects of Sarah Palin. Will she or won't she be a serious candidate for President in 2012?

Please.

Sarah Palin is finished in politics. As I posted anonymously in the comments, my prediction is that after losing her campaign for reelection as Governor of Alaska, she will accept a slot hosting a Nancy Grace-style current events/gossip talk show at Fox News. That is what she is fit for, and nothing else.

Sarah Palin is a vacant, vacuous, semi-good-looking talking head -- in short, a cheerleader -- who utterly melts down in the face of any well-reasoned opposition -- unless, of course, empowered with the ability to cut off the mic of her opponent. She was only able to become governor of Alaska (Alaska!) through pure serendipity. My guess is that the good folks of Alaska simply needed a little help from the national spotlight in coming to these same conclusions.

Good riddance.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Texas 45, OU 35



Witness the awesome spectacle of #5 Texas crushing the hopes and dreams of #1 Oklahoma. Sooners, nice of y'all to stop by, now take your big-ass trucks with the "nobama" stickers and go the hell home.

Look for Texas to be ranked #2 this week.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jay Rockefeller: corrupt, incompetent, anti-American


Gee, I know it is really just shocking... but some former NSA employees claim they were routinely ordered to record and transcribe the personal phone calls of U.S. citizens who were suspected of no crime and who had no conceivable connection to "terrorism", including journalists, aid workers and others.

We all knew this was going on. Anyone who didn't is mentally feeble or not paying attention. Which is why it was such a disaster to legally immunize all the people responsible for this with that abortion of a FISA amendment earlier this year, (without, of course, even bothering to investigate or otherwise determine anything about the crimes and malfeasance that it was intended to immunize).

And the person most responsible for the FISA amendment and for enabling the blatantly illegal surveillance in the first place? That would be Jay Rockefeller. Contacted for comment, Jay Rockefeller states that these revelations are "extremely disturbing" to him. Right.

You, sir, are a disgrace to your country. You have utterly failed to uphold your oath of office and have knowingly violated your duty to your constituents and to the nation. You should shut the fuck up, resign your post, and go find a nice quiet place to die. Thomas Jefferson would have had you hanged in the public square.

"The public's out there throwing darts at a board, sport...


I don't throw darts at a board."

Wow, this is truly a bloodbath.

Me, most of my assets are in cash money dolla bills, y'all. (although, as a buddy of mine likes to say, I'm also heavily invested in the used car market.) Time to start buying stocks? Or have we yet to hit bottom here?

During the most recent of my occasional wades through the muck of the wingnut blogs I learned that the present economic, uh, downturn is mostly due to poor (ignorant, perfidious, deviant) minority-type individuals failing to live up to their obligations. (Who knew those folks had so much economic power over the rest of us? Truly a revelation.)

So, yeah, your 401k got eated by all those ungrateful brown people. It's all their fault, to be sure. And Clinton. Can't forget about Clinton, obviously. He had a major hand in it. Because of his blowjob that he got. Or something.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Some stuff about whatever. yawn.

Since I (re)started following politics closely 2 years ago, there have been a lot of bizarre and interesting things that have happened. Helping to up the Are You Fucking Kidding Me? Factor (let's call it AYFKM Factor for short) has, of course, been the only positive contribution of the Bush/Cheney faction. Granted, most everything they do, large and small, tends to be bad and terrible for the world, the country, and me personally, but let no one say that they don't make the world a more interesting place, news-wise.

And a black man named "Hussein" makes a seemingly successful run for the presidency? In the day and age of Terrorist Bedwetter Ascendancy? That'll ramp up the AYFKM Factor. As will the spectacle of a mudbrain ignorant beauty contestant being nominated for the office of Vice President on a major party ticket.

And of course who could forget the saga of the public's exposure to the true nature of modern Wall Street as being nothing more than a reckless, irrational, gigantic pyramid scheme requiring a gargantuan injection of funds from the taxpayer (i.e., the folks on the bottom of the pyramid) to prevent the entire Ponzi Structure from toppling into the abyss, in turn wreaking unimaginable destruction on the global economy? Boy, that was a doozy. Glad we got through that whole mess. (Oh, wait... yeah... that's right, it's still going on!)

So, I guess my point is: it seems like a really long time ago that, for example, our primary concern here at Hick Town Rap Star was the possibility that Alberto "Judge" Gonzales might get away cleanly with lying to congress and the public. The AYFKM Factor has -- in my estimation -- increased steadily over the last half-year or so, and, as a result, now only the most outrageous or bizarre news captures my interest (at least to the point where I'll take the time to blog about it).

And I guess the further point being... nothing fitting that description has happened so far this week. So instead I'll treat you to a quote from today's edition of IOZ, who in describing last night's "debate" sez:
On foreign policy, McCain continued to insist that he "knows how to get Osama bin Laden." (McCain foreign policy statements, like fortune cookies, usually benefit from the addition of "in bed", by the way.) This plan appears to consist of figuring out where Osama bin Laden lives and sending people there to capture or kill him, which seems more like the treatment than the screenplay, if you know what I mean.
To which I would only add one point (that I think I've made here before, and recently), which is that if McCain knows how to get Osama bin Laden -- something he's been saying for many months now, by the way -- then isn't it the height of selfishness for him not to have told someone his secret plan before now? Or maybe he's just making shit up in a desperate attempt to come up with something -- anything! -- that might make it even remotely more likely that he will get elected president. But it can't be that, of course, because as we all know McCain is an honorable man with unchallengeable integrity etc etc.

Yawn.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

They could've called it "Capital Decimation Partners", but oh well

Interesting new hedge fund here.

One of their "competitive advantages":
We are not limited to looking for opportunities with positive expected returns and so can cast a broader net across the investment universe, thus extending our efficient frontier beyond what other hedge funds can offer.
Here's their note to prospective investors:
If you are interested in investing... you are in luck. The elegance of our approach is we do not need the high cost of marketing or investor relations departments. Rest assured that your capital and assets will be discreetly seized on your behalf.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We won't have Palin to kick around much longer...?

I may have gently alluded to this before, but it looks like Andrew Sullivan may know something about Sarah Palin that we don't.

Brief backstory: Soon after Palin's nomination, Sullivan posted several times with questions about the Trig-baby and whether it was actually Palin's biological child. He made no factual assertions that weren't already in the public record, only questions. He was then viciously attacked by the wingnut brigade. After which, he went incommunicado for two days. Here's a post where he relates this series of events.

Then for three weeks he didn't mention the Trig-baby explicitly, but frequently dropped subtle hints that something was amiss with Palin's candidacy (beyond the obvious things that are amiss). One of his posts was a long and sickeningly sweet ode to Palin's bravery, nobleness, and altruism in choosing to give birth to the Trig-baby and attend to its special needs for a lifetime. Odd, to say the least.

Also over the three weeks, Sullivan continually (and rather weirdly) urged the Obama campaign to demonstrate "patience and steel", the clear implication being that Palin/McCain would self-destruct before the election.

Then a week ago Sullivan wrote the post linked above, which revolves around him privately contacting the McCain campaign in an effort to get an on-the-record statement that Palin is in fact the Trig-baby's biological parent. (They later made such a statement to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post.)

So... with all that in mind, I've been reading between the lines and my working theory at this point is that Andrew Sullivan knows something -- either has evidence, or believes he is on the point of getting evidence -- about this Trig-baby situation; something that will cause Palin to go down in flames, and that he has been carefully setting up "the reveal" for weeks now.

I mention all this because these two short posts from today are the latest -- and maybe the strongest yet -- to support my theory. Check them out... and let me know if this is simply wishful thinking.

[UPDATE] For those of you who won't click through...

In the first post, he says she fails so badly in interviews either because "she's out of her depth" or because "she's panicked about something else that's hanging over her head", concluding "If I were her, I'd quit now, blame the media and hand the reins to Romney."

In the second, he first invokes Eagleton in the post title, then quotes another blogger saying that McCain can't kick her off the ticket for fear of it looking like "appeasement of the enemy". Which Sullivan then follows with this rather opaque prediction: "I don't think she'll be on the ticket in November. And it won't be appeasement."

Admittedly, this is like reading tea leaves... and maybe I'm merely fantasizing about what would be a perfect conclusion to Sarah Palin's political career... But I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How low is the bar?



Poor Sarah Palin. It appears that Katie Couric (who knew?) has yet again been practicing some of that "gotcha journalism" you hear so much about. She pulled the dirty trick of asking little Sarah what newspapers and/or magazines she regularly read before being nominated to be Vice President of the United States of America.

Sarah, alas, was not able to name a single one. Such a tricky bitch, that Katie Couric.

Of course, if that question had been asked of me, it would have been kind of a trick question. I haven't bought a dead-tree copy of a newspaper in years. I don't know that I've had a magazine subscription since Mad. But... just checking here... opening up the "history" pane in Firefox.. this is a sampling of some of the news sources I've informed myself with over the last 4 days:

Bloomberg
NBC
CBS
ABC
CNN
MSNBC
FOX
New York Times
Washington Post
L.A. Times
The Economist
Chicago Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle
Wall Street Journal
Newsweek
Dallas Morning News
Reuters
New York Post
AP
Time
Boston Globe
The Guardian
The Daily Mail
BBC News
Financial Times
New York Magazine
Alaska Daily News
Miami Herald
International Herald Tribune
Xinhua
Al Jazeera
Seattle Times
The Politico
Denver Post
The Atlantic
Congressional Quarterly
The New Yorker
National Review
The Nation

Not to mention dozens of blogs and opinion sites. Just in the last 4 days.

But being well-informed about politics and national and world news is my hobby. Not my job. In fact, it is antithetical to my job. Imagine how well-informed I would be if I were actually employed in politics? My guess is that prior to being nominated to be Vice President of the United States of America Sarah Palin rarely read anything other than the local bumfuck Alaska daily, plus maybe People and US Weekly.

And I guarantee -- in fact I would bet my life savings -- that I could tear Sarah Palin to tiny shreds in a debate on just about any topic under the sun (excluding, of course, the proper christianist methods of witch hunting).

And so does this qualify me to be a candidate for the Vice Presidency of the United States of America? Unfortunately, no. I'm no good at glad-handing, back-slapping, small talk, schmoozing, pandering, or any of the other happy shit that politics so often requires. In fact, I am abrasive bordering on antisocial bordering on sociopathic. So that, apparently, disqualifies me. As it probably should.

But yet is this what our national politics have come to? We find some unknown person, who fits the proper demographic profile, who looks good on camera, who holds the right views on god, gays, and guns, and who isn't, as of the exact date of nomination, under indictment for any serious felonies, and place that person in a position to be running the entire fucking country at a moment's notice, simply because she loves god, hates gays, and shoots a bunch of babies out her vagina, but despite the fact that not only is she supremely ill-informed about history, science, politics, and the world in general, but also that she wears her ignorance as a badge of honor, hates, despises, fears, and denounces people who are educated and informed, and to top it all off not only has never bothered to read any news but is also too stupid to be able to fake any good answer or indeed even name a single news source in service of propagating a credible lie to at least mollify and provide the slightest bit of cover for her compatriots in idiocy that insist on supporting her no matter how incredibly fucking stupid she proves herself to be???

These Republican dumbfucks have set the lowest of low bars here. I am embarrassed to live in a country that even pretends to take shit like this seriously.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A boondoggle by any other name...

In case anyone was wondering, the Wall Street bailout legislation which failed today was the same thievery proposed by Bush and Paulson over a week ago, just dressed up in some happy-happy language that congressional Democrats thought would save them from being hauled out of their cushy offices and lit on fire.

Limits on executive pay? Sounds great to the hoi polloi when you go in front of teevee cameras to explain how you are really teaching those greedy Wall Street fuckers a lesson in exchange for allowing them to loot the treasury. (Here, note, "looting the treasury" being merely a metaphor, since the treasury has no money and all these ill-gotten gains must be borrowed.)

But when you see it in print, eh, not so much, buddy. First, it is all "at the discretion of the Secretary". The same Secretary, you'll remember, who didn't want any of this language in there in the first place. Second, even if required by the Secretary, it only does the following: (a) limits "golden parachutes" being put into new exec contracts, (b) discourages exec bonuses which incentivize "excessive" risktaking -- which is obviously a crock, because (1) bonuses are never explicitly based on excessive risktaking, and (2) if your bonus is achieved and actually paid out... then how in the hell can you, looking backward, ever possibly say that any risk was "excessive", since the risk, obviously, paid off!), and (3) allows a "claw back" of bonuses paid out which are later determined to have been based on "incorrect" earnings statements -- in other words, stock fraud, which, last I checked, was already a felony resulting in civil asset forfeiture and, uh, imprisonment.

So, there's your limits on executive comp.

And as for the $700,000,000,000 being broken up into "tranches" so that congress can monitor how it is being spent and whether this "rescue" is working? Heh. You didn't think Henry Paulson was a dummy, did you? Goldman Sachs used to pay this guy tens of millions of dollars to cook their books. You don't think they'd let just any moron off the street do that, do you?

No. Whatever else Henry Paulson may be, he's no dummy. Read for yourself. Sure, the bill starts out by appropriating only $250,000,000,000. Um, but then, "[i]f at any time, the President submits to the Congress a written certification that the Secretary needs to exercise the authority under this paragraph, effective upon such submission" the amount will be increased to $350,000,000,000. [My emphasis] So, another $100,000,000,000 on merely the President's say-so alone.

But what about the other $350,000,000,000? you may ask. Well, either these people are a whole lot smarter than congress, or congress thinks the public is a bunch of shit-for-brains dumbfucks. Because the next $350,000,000,000 may also be requested by the President at any time, and such request will be granted unless congress jumps through a whole lot of hoops with really tight deadlines and passes a law within 15 days rejecting the request. So, ok, well... not entirely impossible, I guess... BUT WAIT, there's MORE! The President may then veto such rejection. In which case, you guessed it, the additional $350,000,000,000 will be appropriated. Unless, of course, congress is able to override the veto with 2/3 majority in both houses before the end of the aforementioned 15 day period. Heh.

Put simply, this bill is and was a complete crock of shit. And just to drive home the point, Paulson's minions at Treasury held a conference call with 800 Wall Street fucks telling them about the toothlessness described above, plus some other toothlessnesses that I'm don't have the energy to blog about right now (oversight? Hah, you mean from this congress? Please. Transparency? In the Bush Administration? You've got to be fucking kidding me.). Suffice to say, all this bullshit touted by assholes in congress over the last several days as "protections for taxpayers" is no more than window dressing to assuage the righteous anger of the taxpayers who were (or, are still) to be stolen from.

Of course, the press was not invited to this conference call. Some bloggers, however, crashed the party. The "Treasury Boys" (you know, those folks putting in their time playing at government before moving to Wall Street to cash in) more or less baldly stated that the exec comp provisions had no teeth (why limit your future paychecks!?) and that the "tranching" was a mere formality, as the whole $700,000,000,000 could be requested pretty much immediately.

The story of this bailout is not that investment bankers want to steal the public's money. That's a "dog bites man" story if ever there was one. No, the real story is how our representatives (yes, OUR REPRESENTATIVES) in congress lined up like whipped curs to help these fuckers loot the treasury.

Well, they have failed. So far.