Month: September 2011

Hoocoodanode? The Frogs, That’s Hoocoodanode

Yes, Wikileaks, the gift that keeps on giving, has yet more beneath the rocks information on just how f%$#ed up Wall Street was.

It turns out that the French were desperately warning the US Treasury Department that a crash was inevitable, because of endemic fraud in our financial system:

In 2007 top US and France officials knew rampant fraud being committed by regulators, rating agencies and Wall Street Banks would soon cause a global financial collapse.

While investors and nations around the world were happily giving trillions of dollars away to crooked Wall Street bankers top officials in the United States and France knew the market would soon collapse and people would be robbed of millions.

While raising the issue that the role of government regulators and rating agencies needed to be reviewed in the wake of the upcoming crisis, US officials ignored calls from the French government to enact necessary regulation to stop the rampant fraud that would soon result in investors losing tens of trillions of dollars they had invested into the markets.

The cable reveals that while discussing the ability of the French banks to survive the crisis, French President Sarkozy was pushing the US to enact regulations to forestall the crisis. Instead, Henry Paulson responded by telling Sarkozy not to overreacted because the” it would take months, not weeks, for credit to be re-priced” telling France this is “not a major crisis.”

Paulson went on to warn that the major problem was with the German banks and which would require a bailout from the taxpayer while warning that the assets held by banks but covered up from investors by being held off-balance sheet presented systematic risk to banks and to sovereign wealth.

The cable clearly reveals that taxpayer bailouts would be needed. Paulson further up sticks up for the Wall Street hedge fund saying they were not to blame for the crisis while acknowledging there were major Wall Street transparency issues.

To summarize, the cable reveals that top government officials in France and the US knew Wall street banks were committing fraud in the origination and packaging of sub-prime mortgage and lying to investors about the resulting securities they were creating and selling. Officials knew banks were also lying about their own liabilities and hiding them from investors by keeping the assets off their balance sheets. The government also knew that both regulators and ratings agencies were participating in the scheme.

So our regulatory apparatus was aware of deep and systemic control fraud on the part of our largest financial institutions over a year before the house of cards collapsed, but decided to do nothing.

This was no Black Swan.  This was a blatant and systemic looting of the system, with implicit taxpayer backstop.

Where are the prosecutions?

As an aside, the most tightly held secrets held by our state security apparatus are not about protecting the nation and its citizens, but rather about protecting the most powerful amongst us from embarrassment and ridicule.

We really need to embed the Swedish concept of Offentlighetsprincipen (openness) into our constitution.

H/t DC on the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Normally, I Don’t Think that a Politician’s Ethnicity Explains Much…

But I think that there are times when they do provide a window into what someone is going to do.

Case in point, all signs indicate that Barack Obama will be singing the praises of a program called “Georgia Works” in his jobs speech on Thursday.

The program is best described as, “sending out jobless Americans on meager unemployment compensation stipends to work for free,” which.”tries to turn unemployment insurance into a kind of sing-for-your-supper ‘workfare” program.”

And there is also the fact that the program does not work:

According to data from the Georgia Department of Labor provided to the Huffington Post, just 16.4 percent of workers who participated in this program between 2003 when the program started and 2010 got hired by the company where they were placed, and only 24 percent got jobs at all. Currently, exactly 19 people are enrolled.

Obama’s characterization sounds more like Danish or Swedish active labor market policy, where government subsidizes serious retraining and then subsidizes wages. But the Georgia program, now run by a very right-wing Republican state administration, is a far cry from that.

Georgia’s top weekly benefit is just $330.

With unemployment stubbornly above 9 percent, and above 15 percent if you count discouraged workers and part-timers seeking full-time work, this program doesn’t make a dent in the problem. It doesn’t create jobs. It simply alters who gets available jobs, while putting downward pressure on wages. As Obama’s suggests, Smith gets his foot in the door ahead of Jones, by offering to work for free.

Why would Obama be interested in such weak tea?

First, there is no additional cost to government.

Second, it has a nice corporate, free-market flavor.

Third, it appeals to Republicans. Obama is fearful that Republicans may block the next extension of unemployment insurance, and this Republican-style embellishment might be part of a bipartisan deal.

Basically, it’s internship as slavery, which is expanding on the private level, and will now appear to have state sanction.

So, how does Obama’s ethnicity factor into this? Well, unlike most Americans of Sub-Saharan extraction, Barack Obama is not descended from slaves, rather, he is descended from slave owners, so he might have a rosier view of slavery as a way of addressing unemployment.

Meet the New Boss, Same As the Old Boss

What can I say, but, “Let’s see some windmill chords”

Obama just killed the EPA’s attempt to make our air cleaner:

President Barack Obama today directed EPA to drop its highly controversial effort to set, under the auspices of the Clean Air Act, more stringent standards for ground-level ozone pollution, a key constituent of smog. Obama cited the need to reduce regulatory burdens and uncertainty among the business community in light of the struggling economy.

“With that in mind, and after careful consideration, I have requested that [EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson] withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time,” the President said.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review the standards for ground-level ozone once every five years. The standards include a “primary” standard for protecting public health and a “secondary” one aimed at safeguarding crops and the environment.

In 2008, the George W. Bush Administration set both standards at 75 ppb. But In January 2010, Jackson proposed tightening the standards to somewhere between 60 and 70 ppb, a range recommended by the agency’s scientific advisory committee.

Obama noted that the current ozone standard is due for review and possible revision again in two years.

It appears that there is not a single bit of Bush administration malfeasance that Obama won’t go to the wall to support.

What’s a few thousand dead kids and seniors over the prospect of a few million dollars in campaign contributions from polluters, after all?

Labor Day News that Will Be Thoroughly Buried

Did you see the story on the news about thousands of nurses lobbying congressmen for a tax on financial transactions fund essential services and infrastructure:

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, an estimated 10,000 nurses and community participants joined actions in 21 states today demanding immediate attention to the economic crisis to heal America.

They called on Senators and Congress members in their local district offices to pledge to “support a Wall Street transaction tax that will raise sufficient revenue to make Wall Street pay for the devastation it has caused on Main Street.”

Did you hear about that on the news?

Neither did I.

(rest of press release after the break)

Events from soup kitchens to feeding the hungry, to community speak outs, to street theater took place from urban centers including Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Orlando, to smaller towns, such as Corpus Christi, TX, Marquette, MI, and Dayton, OH. National Nurses United, the largest U.S. union of nurses with 170,000 members, sponsored the actions.

In Richmond, VA, 120 RNs and allies descended on the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and were greeted by a squadron of police. The RNs responded with singing and a large picket line. Cantor’s office invited a delegation to meet with his chief of staff. Fifteen constituents lead by NNU nurses held the meeting.. Cantor’s staff heard moving testimony and said the congressman would “respond.” The local CBS and NBC stations filmed outside, as they were not allowed in. A “Lady Liberty” character greeted the delegation on Cantor’s office lawn as it exited the meeting, and heard stories of the pain caused on Main Street by Wall Street.

“America’s nurses every day see broad declines in health and living standards that are a direct result of patients and families struggling with lack of jobs, un-payable medical bills, hunger and homelessness. We know where to find the resources to bring them hope and real solutions,” said NNU Co-president Karen Higgins, RN, outside Cantor’s office.

Ringing a bell and shouting “Oye Oye,” a town crier dressed in colonial attire drew a crowd of nearly 200 nurses, activists and passersby as he decried the reckless actions of Wall Street and its impact on the working people of Boston’s Main Street in front of the office of Senator Scott Brown.

Watch a video of the Boston event at this link and see a photo below.

In Pueblo, CO, a pledge delivered to Senator Udall asked “which side is the senator on: Wall Street or Main Street?”

One hundred people attempted to enter Senator Toomey’s office near Philadelphia but were blocked by security guards. At Rep. Peter King’s Long Island, New York office, 50 nurses and supporters entered his office to serve up the pledge but were kept out. See photo below.

Chicago’s nurses sang the blues as hundreds of nurses and others gathered in support of the pledge. See photo below.

The staff of Senator Rubio in Orlando, FL is accompanying nurses to feed local homeless. In downtown San Francisco a soup kitchen was assembled to feed the hungry and drew more than 500.

And outside the office of Rep. Darryl Issa, north of San Diego, a crowd of 300 nurses, including members of other unions and area residents, expressed outrage at allegations of self dealing by the congressman. An RN delegation entered his office and delivered the pledge. Outside, community members shared stories of enduring economic hardships. See picture below.

Nurses visited home offices of Republicans and Democrats throughout the day with a common message – American families are hurting, and they need jobs, healthcare, housing, quality education, nutrition, and a secure retirement.

In addition, the RNs are releasing data where available contrasting contributions the legislators have received from Wall Street with the plummeting economic conditions in their districts that has left substantial numbers of their constituents in crisis.

Rep. Paul Ryan, for example, a Wisconsin Republican, has accepted $2,417,672 in campaign contributions from Wall Street financial institutions the past 12 years, as a champion for Wall Street interests. But the payoff has been small for his district where 69,241 people are uninsured, 22,884 are dependent on food stamps, and 20,394 children and 7,939 seniors live in poverty.

Similarly, Sen. Michael Bennett of Colorado, a Democrat, has collected $2,409,806 in campaign contributions from Wall Street interests while his state languishes in the top 10 in foreclosures, has 184,689 children in poverty, 116,941 people dependent on food stamps, and 13,390 homeless.

NNU will also be calling for the establishment of Main Street commissions to push real solutions for Main Street communities, such as the Wall Street financial tax, in comparison to what NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro calls “the Wall Street ‘super committee’ set up in the recent debt ceiling deal whose main goal seems to be more cuts in programs that help people to funnel more resources to Wall Street and foreign banks and investors.”

A tax on Wall Street trading of stocks, derivatives, currencies, credit default swaps, and futures – which many other nations have now adopted – could raise hundreds of billions of dollars to pay for programs that “are desperately needed to reduce the pain and suffering felt by so many who feel abandoned across this nation,” says NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN.

“It’s time for Wall Street financiers, who created this crisis and continue to hold much of the nation’s wealth, to start contributing to rebuild this country, and for the American people to reclaim our future,” says DeMoro.

The $2.4 trillion in government bailouts to financial and other institutions already spent, noted DeMoro, alone would have funded 63 million jobs at the national median level of about $39,000 a year. “Instead we have over 25 million people who are unemployed or underemployed, and in the past decade U.S. based corporations added 2.4 million jobs in foreign countries while divesting in America, cutting 2.9 million jobs in the U.S.”

“We need to reallocate the money back to our communities, and our actions on September 1 are going to raise the demand to a new level to heal our nation,” said NNU Co-president Jean Ross.

Learn More About the Main Street Contract for America and Get Involved Here

Click here for information on the National Nurses United

Where I’ve Been the Past Couple of Days

Click for full size

My room was on the 1st floor on the front right

The enclosed porch on the back right is new.

For the past two days, I’ve been camping at the Atlantia 30th year celebration, and the site, pretty much across VA route 20 from James Madison’s home in Montpelier, did not have any internet access (voice and text worked fine), so I wasn’t posting anything.

I was also 20 miles from Charlottesville, VA, where I spent the plurality of my youth growing up (6 years), so I checked out the old house on Brandywine Drive.

It appears that my Dad’s planting of ivy on the lower front yard took.

One of his other lawn innovations, a cairn which ran the length of the lawn, has mercifully been removed.

I recall many an unpleasant afternoon removing grass that grew in between the stones.

I hated that pile or rocks about as much as I did the plant to whose roots the flowering plum in Portland (big, long shoe sole puncturing thorns, but that’s another story), so the fact that is gone fills me with some glee.

I also swung by my old elementary school, Greenbriar.

It’s the first time that I’ve seen the old house in more than 35 years, though I was at the elementary school about 20 years ago.

As a measure of how little life I have, this is the first time that I have missed two consecutive days to post since I started blogging in 2007.  (I think that the total number of missed days is less than 10)

If You Think That This is Bad, Just Wait for the AI Toasters

First, they get you to let down their guard, and then they strike!

Neck massagers are not strangling people, as shown by the case of the Shoulderfles (Shudderflex?):

Let’s all be thankful that the pictured woman enjoying her Shoulderflex isn’t wearing a necklace or much in the way of clothing, and also that her hair is tied neatly atop her head. It turns out that necklaces, clothing, and hair have the potential to turn that peaceful look on her face into something else entirely.
(Credit: Shoulderflex)

No, seriously. One person was strangled to death after her necklace became caught in the personal massager’s rotating component, while another was almost killed when a piece of clothing was caught. Still more have been injured when their hair became entangled in the device.

It’s like Rise of the Planet of the Apes in silicon.

When a ‘Phant Calls Another ‘Phant a Stupid Classless Idiot…

You know that a big fat line has been crossed.

In this case, it’s  Brian Miller, former head of the Pima County (Tucson) Arizona Republican Party, calling his successors classless dolts for raffling off a Glock handgun as a fund raiser.

The reason that he’s saying this is because this is Gabrielle Gifford’s district, and she was shot, wait for it, with a Glock:

Eyebrows shot up all over the country Thursday following news that that the Republican Party in Pima County, AZ — home to Tucson and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D) district — is raffling off a Glock similar to the one used to shoot Giffords in the head in January.

In Tucson, the condemnation of the plan was universal and bi-partisan.

“There’s a woman who has a bullet in the brain and who everybody is wishing a full recovery,” Brian Miller, the immediate past chair of the Pima County GOP told TPM. “I don’t think that raffling off a firearm right now is probably the right way to go.”

Miller says the people who took over the party — and booted him from his position after he criticized local law enforcement for shooting a Marine in a controversial raid on his home in May — are from the “my way or the highway” wing of the GOP who don’t pay much thought to the political fallout from their actions.

While he said that raffling off a firearm to raise money is something he did himself when he ran (and lost) in the 2010 Republican primary in Gifford’s district, it’s not something he’d do now.

But it’s the kind of thing the folks in charge of things at the Pima County GOP may become known for, and to the party’s detriment, he said.

“The people who are running the Pima County GOP right now aren’t exactly known for their ability to feel the political pulse,” he said. “Politically, it’s kind of a silly thing to do.”

Anyone who thinks that you can reason with rat f%$#s like this is delusional.