I’m as terrified as you to learn that I apparently agree with Sarah Palin

by lestro

So let’s just get this out of the way: Sarah Palin is not only one of the Dumb, but Dumb Royalty. She’s a Queen of Dumb, with her folksy aw shucks-isms and half-misremembered facts and pure unadulterated bullshit, all in front of reality tv cameras that few seem capable of turning away from.

I mean, I really don’t see her appeal.  And I’m from “Real America,” straight down to the three dairy farms on the road where I grew up.

Because she is Dumb.  Not just willfully, but straight-up Dumb.  (As opposed to Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry, who appear to be more willfully Dumb than actually Dumb.)

So imagine my surprise to find out that when you set your decoder ring on ‘guano,’ Sarah Palin is actually saying some of the same things I have been saying about politics.

She made three interlocking points. First, that the United States is now governed by a “permanent political class,” drawn from both parties, that is increasingly cut off from the concerns of regular people. Second, that these Republicans and Democrats have allied with big business to mutual advantage to create what she called “corporate crony capitalism.” Third, that the real political divide in the United States may no longer be between friends and foes of Big Government, but between friends and foes of vast, remote, unaccountable institutions (both public and private).

That’s, um, difficult for a progressive punk rocker to disagree with.

“Do you want to know why nothing ever really gets done?” she said, referring to politicians. “It’s because there’s nothing in it for them. They’ve got a lot of mouths to feed — a lot of corporate lobbyists and a lot of special interests that are counting on them to keep the good times and the money rolling along.”

I mean, fuck; she’s not wrong.  That is EXACTLY why nothing gets done.

I mean:

“This is not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk,” she said of the crony variety. She added: “It’s the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest — to the little guys. It’s a slap in the face to our small business owners — the true entrepreneurs, the job creators accounting for 70 percent of the jobs in America.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s difficult to not read those quotes in her overwrought squeak-accented cheerleader cadence and  then simply dismiss it as sarcastic pandering to the downtrodden, but somehow reading it on the page…  I mean, if I didn’t tell you it was Sarah Palin, you’d have never guessed.  Never.

You’d have probably guessed I was throwing a curveball and trying to trip President Obama up with something Candidate Obama said.

But it’s Sarah Palin.  The candidate who invented “death panels,” is qualified to be president because Russia is right over the border and can’t name a Supreme Court case other than Roe v. Wade with which she disagrees.

Go ahead, go back and re-read those quotes in your best Zach de la Rocha voice instead of Tina Fey’s, and they sound, you know… like the change we kind of hoped for.

Now, obviously I disagree greatly with Sarah Palin on the solutions to these issues and can never, ever support her to be anything more than a guest at the White House, but the idea that she could consider this whole anti-corporate thing an issue worth talking about puts her ahead of most of the candidates on either side.

So something tells me there is a wire crossed here, a context or something that is missing.  I mean, there’s no way Sarah Palin is out there waving one of those Adbusters corporate america flags, especially given the policies she has supported – a much more realistic indicator of the type of Dumb she would unleash across this great nation.

But maybe that’s a language difference and there is common ground that can be found.

Then again, maybe the reporter is simply over-thinking Palin, with the hope of finding something more than the empty-headed celebutard she appears to be, and thus justifying all the attention we pay her.

Personally, I think this only further proves the theory that “Sarah Palin” is a performance artist a la Andy Kaufman or Borat, just fucking with us to see how far she can push it before we call her on it.

Now more than ever, it’s the only logical explanation.

Right?

Dumb Fighting: Social Security is NOT a ponzi scheme

by lestro

So at the debate the other night Rick Perry repeatedly called Social Security a “ponzi scheme.”

He didn’t say it was like a ponzi scheme or that it resembled a ponzi scheme.  He said it is ponzi scheme.  Twice.

Perry: ”[I]t is a monstrous lie. It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’re paying into a program that’s going to be there.

and:

Perry: You cannot keep the status quo in place and not call it anything other than a Ponzi scheme. It is. … [T]hat’s provocative language — maybe it’s time to have some provocative language in this country.

It’s a political choice, of course, but what it means is that either he is Dumb or he thinks we are Dumb.  Either way, he is wrong and frankly, saying such a thing is not only a lie, it’s a damn dirty lie and the type of thing that only a world-class Asshole would say with a straight face.  Because Social Security, though flawed, works.  It does what it is supposed to do.

But the Dumb hate that because it ruins their whole “government is the problem” vibe.

Yes, it is a system in which the payments are used to help beneficiaries other than the people paying, giving it a structure that from 30,000 feet looks remarkably similar to a ponzi scheme, but that does not make it a ponzi scheme.  The difference is in things like transparency, the lack of someone stealing the profits, the continuing mechanism of taxes to provide benefits, and most importantly, it is not criminal and it is not a fraud.

But despite the fact that a simple google search will reveal the difference – and a Factcheck piece that also points it out (and uses reality to debunk the idea that Social Security will simply disappear anytime soon), many on the right have tried to seize on this like the “death tax” and have started repeating it on Facebook.

After all, as Reagan said, “facts are stupid things.”

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it wasn’t gamesmanship, it was a matter of great national business

by lestro

We can keep telling ourselves that all we want, but once again, John Boehner pulled one over on President Obama and Obama rolled right the fuck over for it without even asking why…

There was in fact one roll call vote Wednesday night: “Authorizing the use of the Capitol Grounds for the District of Columbia Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.”

Well thank fucking christ we put off a talk by the President of the United States on the single most important topic facing the nation right now so that we could make sure that the Special Olympics torchrun can go on.  That must be something they had to pass immediately, right?  So important it couldn’t wait.  It has to be, like this weekend, right?

Quick!  To the bill summary!

Authorizes the use of the Capitol grounds for the 26th Annual District of Columbia Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run on September 30, 2011.

Hm.  That, uh, doesn’t seem all that important.  Perhaps there was something more that prevented the House from having the leader of the free world in to talk about the nation’s struggling economy and what to do about it…

The House did do a little more business than give its nod to the torch run (which will begin from the west terrace of the Capitol and continue along the grounds). Members discussed trade and unemployment and gave hearty congratulations to the girls all-stars team from North Carolina, which has made the Little League World Series. The House met at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, and adjourned at 9:36 p.m.

Oh.  Then I suppose the President of the United States can wait…

Language is Important

by lestro

You’d think the guy who as a candidate ran such a successful media campaign based around the words ‘change’ and ‘hope’ would recognize the importance of language and phrasing, but sometimes I wonder about this guy.

For example, I am reading over the text of the president’s labor day speech from yesterday and this jumped out at me:

And everywhere I went while I was running for this office, I met folks who felt their economic security slipping away, men and women who were fighting harder and harder just to stay afloat.  And that was even before the economic crisis hit, and that just made things even harder.

The problem is not that it isn’t true, the problem is that it makes it sound as though the ‘economic crisis’ hit on his watch, when the FACT is that it did not.

By telling people that when he was a candidate times were hard, but that’s nothing compared to what happened since, he is essentially telling people “no, you are not better off than you were when I was elected.”

and that is NO way to keep the White House.

I mean, I agree with much of what he said – and a lot of it is good, important stuff – but if I were him, I would still be constantly reminding people that he is still trying to clean up someone else’s mess, instead of essentially telling them – reminding them “yeah, it’s only gotten worse since you gave me the keys…”

The public generally still blames the Republicans – especially President Bush – for the current mess, yet the Republicans are still pushing the exact same plans that got us into this mess as the solutions to get us out.

That’s Dumb.

But what’s even Dumber is that the president doesn’t seem to be trying to counter them by saying things like “and that was before we recognized the depth of economic troubles were were in” or “when I started running for office I met people who felt security slipping away, and by the time I took office, things were even harder thanks to the economic policies of the right wing…”

I mean give me something here, Mr. President.  Don’t just roll over and take it.

It’s like the president has Stockholm Syndrome or something.

maybe someday we’ll elect a democrat

by lestro

We did?  Who?

Certainly you can’t mean President Obama:

President Obama abruptly pulled back proposed new national smog standards Friday morning, overruling the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to compel states and communities nationwide to reduce local air pollution in the coming years or face federal penalties.

The move represented a win for the business community, which had lobbied to postpone new restrictions on ground-level ozone — known as smog — until 2013 in light of the economic downturn. It also raised questions about the fate of several other air quality regulations the EPA is preparing to finalize this year.

Well there has to be a good reason, right?  Surely it can’t be that same old bullshit about how investing in the environment has to wait for financial reasons, especially at a time when corporate profits are literally at record highs, right? Let’s go right to the source, the White House press release:

At the same time, I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover. With that in mind, and after careful consideration, I have requested that Administrator Jackson withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time.

goddammit.

Ozone, for the record, is a greenhouse gas (which means that even if you don’t believe in such things it traps heat in atmosphere, warming the planet) that is the principal component in smog formation. It harms lungs, causes respiratory distress and is linked to asthma, bronchitis, heart attacks and premature death.

And how can you be sure this is a terrible, terrible move?

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) identified several of these regulations as targets for a regulatory rollback the House will vote on this month, and House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) spokesman Michael Steel hailed Obama’s decision Friday as “a good first step.”

“If you’re serious about a jobs agenda, the last thing you want to be doing is adding tens of billions of dollars in costs every year,” said Upton, who added that under stricter smog standards communities in his district and across the nation “will lose these jobs, and they will never come back.”

But maybe I am overreacting.  I admit, it happens.  I am a hot head sometimes.  Maybe I am seeing this wrong.

“Obama utterly caved,” said Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity, an advocacy group.

Daniel J. Weiss of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said, “It’s unfortunate that the administration is siding with big oil over the health of children, seniors, and the infirm.”

Nope, I’m dead on.  So let’s be very clear, this is the Democratic president once again choosing business interests over people.

According to the EPA, depending on what standard it adopted, the compliance costs for industry could range from $19 billion to $90 billion a year by 2020. The tougher standard would yield health benefits worth $13 billion to $100 billion, the agency said.

Did you catch that?  The health benefits would save us more money than this would cost industry (which, again, is seeing record profits again this year).

Now let’s take a look at the 2008 Democratic Platform, the one that got Obama elected with a huge majority and gave him supermajorities in both houses of Congress:

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an inauspicious start

by lestro

The three-day Labor Day weekend is here again (thank you, Liberals), with its annual reminder of the last gasp at summer with its barbecues and parades and even a free day off for those of us who have spent the best months of the year trapped in windowless rooms.

But along with signifying the end of summer, Labor Day weekend traditionally signifies the beginning of the Political Season. It is the final, downhill push for candidates running in November’s general election and now that (the theory goes) people are back from the annual physical and mental break summer provides us, they are ready to pay attention again.

This year, as in 2007 and 2003, the Political Season also includes the final primary pushes as we head into January’s Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

Also this year, the Political Season means a return to the ridiculous arguments and stalling tactics that have dominated the politics in this country since President Obama was elected and the opposition literally made their top priority not fixing the problems they caused, but instead doing everything they can to make Obama a one-term president, even if it means further tanking the economy and/or keeping the country in the ditch they so recklessly drove us into (to borrow one of the president’s metaphors that really is very apt).

The top issue? Once again, it’s the economy, stupid.

More specifically, it’s jobs. There don’t seem to be any. In fact, today’s jobs report shows the US job market absolutely stagnating. They say it is the worst showing in nearly a year.

And “seem” is, in fact, the right word.

When you look past the headline, once again the private sector added jobs, just not enough to counteract the public sector jobs that had to be cut, due to the cuts-only method of budgeting demanded by one party (which happens to be a party that ran up this ridiculous debt situation with two unfunded wars, giant tax cuts for the wealthy that did exactly the opposite of what they promised they would do, and the largest unfunded government program expansion in history). The results were also a bit skewed by 45,000 workers on strike when the count was done; workers that are technically employed, but not on that day, which took an additional 45,000 jobs off the books, inflating the jobless numbers for August…

But let’s be very clear about this: The Republican party is directly responsible for those 20,000 or so government employees being out work. They are literally increasing the unemployment rate and slashing services even as they do everything they can to force more people onto the state’s dole. This is their plan: keep slashing government at a faster rate than the economy can add jobs, which makes it look as though the President is failing.

It’s genius because, of course, the President gets the blame because no one pays attention to anything except the headline.

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Why The President Is Probably Going To Lose

by lestro

Once again, President Obama is pulling a 180 on Candidate Obama’s promises. In this case, he promised that he would punish  those responsible for intentionally tanking the economy in 2008. Now, it seems, the president is doing everything he can to make sure everything works out in Wall Street’s favor while the good folks on Main Street who got totally and completely fucked will be left to pick up scraps and continue to slave away for our corporate overlords.

On the one side is Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, who is conducting his own investigation into the era of securitizations – the practice of chopping up assets like mortgages and converting them into saleable securities – that led up to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

On the other side is the Obama administration, all the banks, and, now, apparently, all the other state attorneys general.  [...]

This deal will also submarine efforts by both defrauded investors in MBS and unfairly foreclosed-upon homeowners and borrowers to obtain any kind of relief in the civil court system. The AGs initially talked about $20 billion as a settlement number, money that would “toward loan modifications and possibly counseling for homeowners,” as Gretchen Morgenson reported the other day.

The banks, however, apparently “balked” at paying that sum, and no doubt it will end up being a lesser amount when the deal is finally done.

To give you an indication of how absurdly small a number even $20 billion is relative to the sums of money the banks made unloading worthless crap subprime assets on foreigners, pension funds and other unsuspecting suckers around the world, consider this: in 2008 alone, the state pension fund of Florida, all by itself, lost more than three times that amount ($62 billion) thanks in significant part to investments in these deadly MBS.

So this deal being cooked up is the ultimate Papal indulgence. By the time that $20 billion (if it even ends up being that high) gets divvied up between all the major players, the broadest and most destructive fraud scheme in American history, one that makes the S&L crisis look like a cheap liquor store holdup , will be safely reduced to a single painful but eminently survivable one-time line item for all the major perpetrators.

I love the line “the ultimate papal indulgence.”  That’s genius.

This is the essential problem facing Obama next year: the failure to even TRY to deliver on the promises he made as a candidate.

I’ve been wracking my brain; what part of his platform has he succeeded in passing?

Healthcare? nope.  He buckled and we got Hillary’s plan instead of the public option we voted for.

Closing Gitmo? nope.

Out of Iraq? not quite.

Afghanistan? still there, though we did get Bin Laden and Obama should be commended for that.

Certainly we haven’t seen the ‘change’ we were promised and frankly, I am yet to see him even try.  I expect the youth vote to stay home, once again convinced that their vote don’t mean shit, and when you remove those votes, shift the independents around and factor in a fired-up right wing, you get a mix that spells doom for the president in a race where turnout is going to be the key component…

Mark my words, this is turning into the theme song of the 2012 election:

How to beat a recession

by lestro

As the rest of the country struggles with high unemployment and stagnant job creation, Texas has surged ahead.  Rick Perry has found a way to beat the system.  He has figured it out.  How’d he do it?

Simple: Rick Perry created more government jobs.

With a young and fast-growing population, a large and expanding military presence and an influx of federal stimulus money, the number of government jobs in Texas has grown at more than double the rate of private-sector employment during Perry’s tenure.

The disparity has grown sharper since the national recession hit. Between December 2007 and last June, private-sector employment in Texas declined by 0.6 percent while public-sector jobs increased by 6.4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, government employees account for about one-sixth of the workforce in Texas.

Which of course, stands in direct contrast to exactly what he says on the stump, in speeches that tout his ability to create jobs.

“The fact is, government doesn’t create jobs, otherwise the last 21 / years of stimulus would have worked,” Perry said this month in a speech to the National Conference of State Legislatures. “Government can only create the environment that allows the private sector to create jobs. The single most important contributor to our jobs-friendly climate here in Texas is our low tax burden, because we know dollars do far more to create jobs and prosperity in the people’s hands than they do in the government’s.”

Given that we know that the Republicans need to perpetuate a recession in order to have something to hang on Obama and have therefore been literally doing everything they can think of to keep us in this rut (including laying off large enough numbers of government workers to counteract any positive response the president’s attempts at stimulus might have made), this is something the right better hope the general electorate never, ever learns.

Thankfully, no one in the Obama administration will even attempt to point this out. Because they don’t want to be associated with government jobs either.

Go team.

How to perpetuate a recession

by lestro

Let’s say you are a political party interested not in, you know, fixing the problems in the country, but instead states its goal as “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Now, let’s say the recession in which you’ve mired the country might be starting to recede before the next election, so the main negative you were going to try and saddle the president with was diminishing, meaning you’d actually have to come up with an idea or two on which to run instead of the trotting out the same bankrupt ideology that got us into this mess.

Let’s say things are starting to turn around on the employment front and considering your campaign is going to be about how the president hasn’t yet fixed the economy you destroyed.

What do you do in order to make the president look ineffective?

Well, first, you do everything you can to block any and all economic recovery efforts that are not the same policies that killed it in the first place, demanding instead that in order to get out of this, we have to KEEP DIGGING.

Then, to ensure that the numbers stay bad, you purposefully and willfully lay off thousands and thousands of workers across the country by slashing government spending and forcing them to shed jobs, meaning all of those people who were productive contributors to the economy are now all on the public dole and therefore only making the deficits bigger by demanding the service you just cut.

Voila! instant continuing recession! even if private sector hiring is up 1.7 percent in the past year..

I have been thinking about this for a month or so now, but today, there were numbers that absolutely prove I was right.

Dig this graph:

That’s a tough hole to dig out of.

And if I were president, especially one running for re-election at a time when the top concern is jobs, I would be goddamn sure to point these things out.

Unless, of course, I didn’t want to win anyway.

What Tyranny Actually Means

by lestro

Dear Tea Party,

I couldn’t help but notice that you spend a  lot of time and energy making lots and lots of misspelled signs talking about tyranny, with little to no regard for what the word actually means or whether it could even be remotely applicable to a government made up of elected representatives making votes on potential laws and then having to face voters again, including this year.

Here is a tip: It’s not tyranny. It’s not taxation without representation. It’s absolutely nothing like the circumstances that prompted the original Boston Tea Party, whose name and legacy you are constantly maligning with your idiocy.

I realize that you have no use for history and a total contempt for any facts that might possibly cause you to question or challenge the bullshit, half-truths and lies that Fox News feeds you, content in the knowledge that you will just accept what they say without checking it or even doing a simple Google search to see if it makes any damn sense at all.

Luckily (for our purposes), there is still actual tyranny in the world we can compare our situation to. This is what it looks like.

First, power is consolidated, usually in a non-elected executive position.

Taking the unusual step of limiting its own authority, Iran’s parliament on Wednesday adopted a law that would curb its ability to review regulations issued by the most powerful, un-elected institutions of the state.

It was not immediately clear what forces propelled the parliament to adopt a measure that would formally undermine powers granted to it under the constitution. But the decision seemed to acknowledge the reality that the elected parliament was often blocked from fulfilling its role as a watchdog over the elected and appointed institutions of state.

The legislation did, however, appear another to represent another step in the political evolution of Iran to a state where appointed officials and allies of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wield far more authority than do the elected institutions. That tension between appointed and elected branches has existed since the founding of the Islamic Republic, but the balance lately has tipped steeply in the favor of the Supreme Leader and the appointed institutions.

Next, political opponents are maligned as being unpatriotic and traitorous:

Their regulations now will not be subject to parliamentary oversight but will have to go through another committee — the Supreme Council for Revising Laws — made up of several allies of the leader, as well as the speaker of the parliament.

Since Iran’s disputed presidential election in June, Ayatollah Khamenei and his allies have labeled those who challenge their decisions as enemies of the state. By voting to limit their own powers, members of parliament might have been signaling a desire to avoid confrontation with Ayatollah Khamenei.

Finally, political dissent is outlawed.

Which, as you can tell by the large group of fellow poor spelling demonstrators around you, is not happening at all here.

Now that you know what tyranny is, you can watch for it.   To find further examples, you could begin digging through the past decade worth of bullshit.  Perhaps you’ll be surprised as to what sort of undemocratic and potentially tyrannical bits you might find in the guy the vast majority of you blindly supported for eight years…

Any questions?

Good.

Love and kisses,

Lestro

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold

by lestro

I was just reading the NYT article about how Hoosiers (one of the oddest demonyms ever) are responding to the announcement that Evan Bayh is not seeking re-election, and the collective “what the fuck?” reaction mirrors my own. The guy pulled a half-Palin.  He copped out.  He bailed.  The Republicans weren’t playing nice so he took his senate seat and went home.

Now, he’ll serve his full term, which is why it’s a half-Palin as opposed to full, but still, when the going got tough, Evan Bayh turned tail and ran. And his constituents are confused.

“This is a Republican state and he’s a Democrat, so that tells you what people think of him,” said Mr. Kruse, 69. “He’s been a very good man for this state, and I do wish he had stuck it out.” …

“This shocked me. Honest to God, it did,” Mr. Kruse said. “I did not see it coming. And every time we lose a good Democrat, it hurts the system as far as getting anything done.” …

“It’s very disappointing that someone so dedicated has reached the point that he’s disenchanted with politics,” said Vivian Sallie, 59, a television executive in South Bend, who described herself as a longtime supporter of Mr. Bayh. “I feel let down by the situation our country is in. I feel that it’s our state’s loss and a loss for the country.”

JoAnna Clay, a homemaker in South Bend, added: “It’s a really sad situation. He was the voice for a lot of us, and you got the feeling that he really cared. I think there are not many people in Washington who really care, and that’s the problem. They’d rather fight. But he got tired of fighting.”

“There’s definitely some discouragement here,” she said. […]

For her part, Ms. Clay, 22, said she used to see Mr. Bayh as part of the solution, but not anymore.

“True enough, if he felt like nothing was getting done,” she said, “then he should have stayed to get things done.”

I don’t have a problem with someone saying they are not running again because they want to be with family, or even because they can’t win, but Bayh’s “it’s too hard” response is just icky.  It makes me feel dirty.

Not to mention it gives his kids the perfect reason to drop piano lessons or calculus if they decide it’s too hard for them.

but through it all, my favorite Yeats refrain keeps echoing in my head:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

it’s from “The Second Coming,” one of Yeats’ most powerful and popular poems, which he wrote in the shadow of WWI.

Bayh is generally respected as one of the “best” and yet, he lacks all conviction.  Meanwhile, the tea party is full of passionate intensity, despite being morons who don’t even have their facts straight, let alone their ideas.

Bayh’s replacement? we’ll have to wait and see. but me and Yeats are not particularly optimistic.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

turnabout is fair play

by lestro

In a column about “The folly of Palin’s high-priced populism” in today’s WaPo, there’s this bit from Senator John Cornyn about how Wall Street is now donating money to Republicans instead of Democrats because they don’t like the way the president is talking about them anymore.

Which, by the way, if I was the president I would be crowing about: “Look at this! I got more money from Wall Street than any other industry, yet I am not beholden to them and do what is best for the American people, not Wall Street, and they’ve noticed, so now they are donating money to the Republicans in an attempt to stop me from getting YOUR money back and creating regulations to prevent them from destroying the economy AGAIN in the future…”

But I digress.  Back to the quote, which I think is the exact question the Republicans should be asking themselves:

Meanwhile, John Cornyn, the head of the committee in charge of raising dough for Republican Senate candidates, has been making regular trips to New York. “I just don’t know how long you can expect people to contribute money to a political party whose main plank of their platform is to punish you,” Cornyn told the New York Times.

Meanwhile, Republicans wonder why they don’t ever get the middle class vote, the gay vote, the black vote, the hispanic vote or the labor vote and have to rely on the rich and the gullible (including the exceedingly religious, who believe that two people who had two sons somehow populated the entire planet) to fill out the party ranks…

I mean come on, you idiots.  Not only is sucking up to Wall Street to get their money not exactly a smart maneuver in today’s political climate, but at least listen to your own advice when it comes to your party…

The old ways are the best ways

by lestro

On June 17, 1972, five guys working for then-president Richard Nixon’s political henchmen (known as “the Plumbers” because they “plugged leaks”) broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. and fix the taps the Republicans had put on the Democrats’ phones during a previous break-in. The burglars were wearing blue surgical gloves and had their pockets stuffed with hundreds…

This time, however, a security guard noticed the tape the burglars had put across the latches of the locks on the doors and called the police.

The resulting scandal eventually forced Nixon to resign the presidency and slink back to California bathed in the stench of shame and flagrant assholery. It also gave rise to the now ubiquitous “-gate” ending for any and every political scandal and reinforced the journalist’s role as a watchdog for the people (thank you Woodward and Bernstein).

So?

Well, here we are 37 years later and the right wing still hasn’t learned a goddamn thing:

Four people were arrested on Monday for allegedly posing as telephone technicians and trying to tap the phones of Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, in her New Orleans office.  [...]

All four of the people arrested in New Orleans were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony. At least two of the four people were dressed in telephone company work clothes and construction hats when they were arrested.

go team! I guess those who fail to learn from history ARE doomed to repeat it.

Among those arrested was James O’Keefe, most known for his law-breaking, vigilante-style videos at offices of the organization formerly known as ACORN, with himself dressed as a pimp trying to get some financial advice with one of his whores (Hannah Giles) and appearing to depict ACORN workers “giving advice about tax evasion, human smuggling and child prostitution.”

His disguise in the first video was definitely better though.

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Space from the cheap seats

by lestro

A couple of students over at MIT apparently took this picture with a rig that cost them less than $150 total:

The two students (from MIT, of course) put together a low-budget rig to fly a camera high enough to photograph the curvature of the Earth. Instead of rockets, boosters and expensive control systems, they filled a weather balloon with helium and hung a styrofoam beer cooler underneath to carry a cheap Canon A470 compact camera. Instant hand warmers kept things from freezing up and made sure the batteries stayed warm enough to work.

Of course, all this would be pointless if the guys couldn’t find the rig when it landed, so they dropped a prepaid GPS-equipped cellphone inside the box for tracking. Total cost, including duct tape? $148.

Ridiculous.  So that shot above, what’s the deal with that?

The picture you see above was shot from around 93,000 feet, just shy of 18 miles high. To give you an idea of how high that is, when the balloon burst, the beer-cooler took forty minutes to come back to Earth.

And just in case you want to try this at home, they will be posting instructions here.

Amazing. Who needs NASA anyway?

“did you really think you could eat that much garbage without any side effects?”

by lestro

One has to believe that the muscle fatigue is the LEAST of their problems.

In people with hypokalemia, a drop in blood potassium levels results in problems with vital muscle functions. Symptoms can range from mild weakness to serious paralysis, say Greek researchers who conducted a review of people who drank between two to nine liters of cola a day.

Two to nine liters? per day?

are you kidding me? did they expect there to be no side effects of that?

“We are consuming more soft drinks than ever before, and a number of health issues have already been identified including tooth problems, bone demineralization and the development of metabolic syndrome and diabetes,” and there’s increasing evidence that excessive cola consumption leads to hypokalemia, Dr. Moses Elisaf, of the University of Ioannina, said in the news release.

This Memorial Day, why don’t we honor the Nazi dead while we’re at it?

by lestro

UPDATED! SEE BELOW!

There’s a column in Sunday’s Washington Post about something I am afraid to admit I did not know existed.

Apparently, somewhere in Arlington National Cemetery, there is a monument honoring the dead of the Confederate States of America. The monument was dedicated in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson and according to the article, presidents  have since honored the Confederacy’s dead along with those of the United States by sending a wreath on Memorial Day.

The question in the column is whether President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, will and should continue the tradition honoring a nation whose very founding was based on keeping blacks as subservient slaves.

Although it is tough to tell exactly where the author stands on the main issue of honoring Confederates, he expects the president to send a wreath because it is tradition:

Many of my colleagues in academia are urging President Obama to pull the plug on this tradition. I doubt that he will, for the simple reason that the men buried around the Confederate memorial sacrificed, suffered and died just as the black and white soldiers of the Union did. Most of the descendants of those Confederates, whatever their political stripe today, would be loath to deny their ancestors a simple gesture of recognition.

The author goes on to say that the president should send a wreath to the memorial as well as one to the African American Civil War Memorial as a sort of reconciliation.

But I disagree. The president should under no circumstances feel pressure to honor the dead of the enemies of the United States on the holiday designed to honor those who gave their lives for this great nation.

It is also important to note that this is NOT a tradition that goes all the way back. According to the Arlington Cemetery Web site,  (warning: music will play when the page opens. the player is all the way at the bottom of the page) the first President Bush ended said tradition in 1990 and it was not re-instated until the second President Bush started sending wreaths again.

Therefore, President Obama should feel no pressure in having to honor these traitors. It is shameful that President Bush restarted this tradition in the first place.

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Negative attention is still attention

by lestro

Well, the GOP’s 2012 VP nominee-in-waiting, Newt Gingrich, is out waving his arms and and yelling at the top of his lungs, hoping to draw the spotlight of relevance back to himself.

This time, he is attacking the Speaker of the House, his old post, as a “trivial politician” and saying she has disqualified herself from the office she holds.

But I am not quite sure how. Dig:

“She charged that the CIA, deliberately and as a matter of policy, violated the law by lying to Congress,” Gingrich writes in the column. “And with that allegation, Speaker Pelosi disqualified herself from the office she holds.”

“Speaker Pelosi has damaged America’s safety,” Gingrich also writes. “She’s made America less secure by sending a signal to the men and women defending our country that they can’t count on their leaders to defend them.”

The second graph is the same old bullshit song and dance the Republicans have been doing since they ran out of ideas (and hasn’t worked at all in the past two election cycles, by the way), but the first doesn’t even make sense.

I mean, if the CIA did deliberately and a matter of policy lie to Congress – and frankly, it looks like they did. Repeatedly. At the behest of the Bush Administration, which deliberately and as a matter of policy lied not only to Congress but the American people and even each other.  – then Pelosi did her duty (albeit late) in informing the public of said lies.

The problem here is not that she is accusing them of lying, but THAT THEY LIED ABOUT TORTURING PEOPLE.

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Family friendly?

by lestro

Yesterday, on The Commentators on KOMO radio in Seattle, they were discussing the law signed today by the Governor, which gives all of the rights and privileges of marriage to domestic partners that spouses automatically get (once again proving my point that not allowing gays to marry in this state is UNCONSTITUTIONAL, as these are rights and privileges granted to one class of people that were denied another) and John Carlson, the show’s right-wing voice (and former Republican candidate for Governor) made reference to states becoming less “family friendly” as they become more “gay friendly.”

And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how those two things were opposites, but I didn’t have time to call in to the station and ask.

Then, this afternoon, as if to prove that “family friendly” and “anti-gay” are not the same thing (as well as providing a perfect example of Washington State’s shiny new “separate but equal” law will fail like every Plessy v. Ferguson before it), the New York Times ran a story about a gay family who had a medical emergency while on vacation.

One woman, part of a longtime couple in Washington state suffered an aneurysm while the family was vacationing in Florida. Essentially, the woman’s partner of 18 years (longer than most “opposite marriages” last) was denied access to see her before she died – as were the couple’s adopted children – and the hospital denied her information about partner’s condition because she was not “real family.”

The details are ugly:

Ms. Langbehn says that a hospital social worker informed her that she was in an “antigay city and state” and that she would need a health care proxy to get information. (The worker denies having made the statement, Mr. Alonso said.) As the social worker turned to leave, Ms. Langbehn stopped him. “I said: ‘Wait a minute. I have those health care proxies,’ ” she said. She called a friend to fax the papers.

The medical chart shows that the documents arrived around 4:15 p.m., but nobody immediately spoke to Ms. Langbehn about Ms. Ponds’s condition. During her eight-hour stay in the trauma unit waiting room, Ms. Langbehn says, she had two brief encounters with doctors. Around 5:20 a doctor sought her consent for a “brain monitor” but offered no update about the patient’s condition. Around 6:20, two doctors told her there was no hope for a recovery.

Despite repeated requests to see her partner, Ms. Langbehn says she was given just one five-minute visit, when a priest administered last rites. She says she continued to plead with a hospital worker that the children be allowed to see their mother, even showing the children’s birth certificates.

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Eight years wasted

by lestro

Today, the president announced plans to change the mileage standards on American cars, increasing them 30 percent in the next eight years.

Which, I admit, is a lot.  It’s going to take some serious work.  But it will be worth it on many fronts.

Here’s what the pres said today:

And that’s why, in the next five years, we’re seeking to raise fuel-economy standards to an industry average of 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016, an increase of more than eight miles per gallon per vehicle.  That’s an unprecedented change, exceeding the demands of Congress and meeting the most stringent requirements sought by many of the environmental advocates represented here today.

As a result, we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years.  Just to give you a sense of magnitude, that’s more oil than we imported last year from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya, and Nigeria combined.  (Applause.)  Here’s another way of looking at it:  This is the projected equivalent of taking 58 million cars off the road for an entire year.

That got me to thinking: that’s a whole lot of foreign oil we would no longer be dependent on. And the sooner we start, the more we save. And it’s not only as individual consumers when our cars go further on the same amount of gas (for you American car owners, ask a foreign car owner what that’s like…), but also as a nation when we reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and maybe we can stop wasting so much blood and treasure fighting over sand dunes that happen to have oil deposits below them.

It got me to thinking about how this administration actually doing something about it. That’s a tremendous change from any prior administration since Jimmy Carter, who was laughed at for telling us to conserve energy (and wearing the sweater) and invested heavily in alternate energy until Reagan and his oil money knocked the whole thing down, setting us back about 28 years.

Within 130 days of taking office, Obama actually set new standards, which will work to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Bush never did that, despite talking about it until his fool head nearly fell off.

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Making up for lost ground

by lestro

Don’t get me wrong, I am supportive of raising the mpg standards in this country.  It’s something we should have done a long time ago.

Who knows, American cars might have even been competitive if we had.

But no matter, President Obama is on it and like everything else his administration has had to do, boy howdy is he making up for lost time by going big.

WASHINGTON – New cars and trucks will have to get 30 percent better mileage starting in 2016 under an Obama administration move to curb emissions tied to smog and global warming, sources said Monday…

While the 30 percent increase would be an average for both cars and light trucks, the percentage increase in cars would be much greater, according to the New York Times, rising from the current 27.5 mpg standard to 42 mpg starting in 2016. The average for light trucks would rise from 24 mpg to 26.2 mpg.

Wow. Like I said, I am all for increasing the standards, but that’s a HUGE jump is a relatively short time.

Good thing the entire American auto industry is in the shitter and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up because this is a serious redesign.

Unless it’s not and they’ve been able to do this all along.  Then fuck them, jack it up to 60.

According to the NYT, however, the industry is not expected to complain:

The auto industry is not expected to challenge the rule, which provides two things they have long asked for: certainty on a timetable and a single national standard.

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The inherent “conservative” hypocrisy

by lestro

One of the main tenets of the “conservative” movement is supposed to be limited government and more individual rights and responsibility.  It is supposed to be about the pure American spirit of liberty: this is my land and ain’t nobody gonna tell me what I can and can’t do.

They want strict readings of the U.S. Constitution, a document that was written with the sole intent of hemming in government power and protecting personal rights of the individual.  It’s all right there in the preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Constitution is the rule structure for our government.  It dictates the limits of what the federal government can do.

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Crying wolf?

by lestro

So Pelosi held a press conference yesterday to discuss what she knew about torture and when she knew it.

Turns out she was briefed in 2003.  I think.  It’s tough to really tell.

At a tense press conference, Ms. Pelosi said for the first time that a staff member alerted her in February 2003 that top lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee had been briefed on the use of tough interrogation methods on terror suspects.

Her excuse is somewhere between stupidity and Bush, which, I admit, is not that great a distance.

But she said the fact that she did not speak out at the time due to secrecy rules did not make her complicit in any abuse of detainees. She accused the C.I.A. and Bush administration of lying to Congress about what was actually transpiring with the detainees.

“I am saying that the C.I.A. was misleading the Congress and at the same the administration was misleading the Congress on weapons of mass destruction,” Ms. Pelosi said.

Link it to other lies. Beautiful. The Bush Admin obviously, 100 percent misled Congress and the American People about WMD and the Iraq-al Qaida link during the run up to the Iraq war.  It only makes sense they’d do the same thing about torture.

Boehner, however, was right on top of her, though he is arguing her point…

Republicans immediately took issue with the speaker’s comments, saying that she was in essence blaming the intelligence professionals for misleading her.

Why is that so tough to believe, considering the nation’s top intelligence official told the president that WMD in Iraq was a “slam dunk” and helped mislead the entire country into war?

That is what happened, Johnny my boy, keep the fuck up.

The Republican-driven furor over what Ms. Pelosi knew about waterboarding and other techniques has put the speaker on the defensive. She repeatedly referred to a carefully prepared statement to respond to multiple questions at the session with reporters.

Ms. Pelosi blamed the dispute on Republicans and others, saying they are trying to shift attention from those who authorized the interrogations and other tactics now found to be questionable.

Republicans have said the speaker was now criticizing the Bush administration for abusing terror suspects when she herself was aware of it at the time.

“This is a diversionary tactic to take the spotlight off of those who conceived, developed and implemented these policies, which all of us long opposed,” Ms. Pelosi said.

I love the “Republican-driven” bit in there because it really shows that if anyone wants it both ways, it is Boehner.

Shit, in 2003 Pelosi wasn’t even the speaker, Denny Hastert was. Shouldn’t they be all over his shit?

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There’s got to be a better way

by lestro

From the Seattle PI on May 14, 2009:

The nation’s new drug czar looks like he has no interest in being the commanding general of a war on drugs.

Gil Kerlikowske, Seattle’s former police chief, says in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he wants to end using the phrase “war on drugs.”

“Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them,” Kerlikowske said in his first interview since being confirmed for the federal post. “We’re not at war with people in this country.”

Damn right.

We are never going to “defeat” drugs and Kerlikowske is right about it being a war on the American people. We should change our language to reflect that we are trying to reduce abuse and help those locked in a cycle of addiction.

I don’t know what that word is, but I am 100 percent sure it is NOT “war”…

Make Trek, Not Wars

by lestro

I love this:

Inside the White House, a tight circle of advisers has already been selected and office space has been set aside in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. But aides said their surroundings would purposely not be called a “war room,” because of the combative image that the term suggests.

“We would like to put the confirmation wars of the past behind us,” one White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the confidentiality of the selection process, “and have signaled that with our consensus-oriented, non-confrontational approach to appellate court nominations.”

LOVE it.

I absolutely hate all of the war metaphors we use in this country.  Everything is a war: war on drugs, war on terror, war on poverty, etc.

This creates an adversarial tone and belittles what an actual war is.  Besides, the government is losing the war on drugs and the war on poverty.  Which means stoners and the starving are winning!

That’s bad.

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Rights and benefits denied

by lestro

After reading this article in today’s New York Times, it is literally impossible to continue saying that marriage does not provide certain rights and benefits that are being denied to an entire class of people (to use the legal term) while being bestowed on another.

And that is wholly unamerican and unconstitutional.

Today’s article is about health care and how difficult it is for gay couples to get the same benefits married couples get simply by signing a legal contract denied to a certain percentage of the population:

Same-sex couples have been making headlines; Maine followed the lead of Iowa and Vermont this week in legalizing same-sex marriage, and several other state legislatures are now considering it. But Ms. Hudson says that fairer and more comprehensive health care coverage for partners — whether they are legally married or not — is not necessarily part of the package.

“For the vast majority of gay couples,” she said, “getting health insurance for a domestic partner is still a challenge.”

[…]

Even if the relationship is formalized with the state in a marriage or union, that does not always obligate the employer to cover a same-sex spouse. For one thing, self-insured employers are not regulated by the states.

And other benefit-providing employers that choose not to offer such coverage can sometimes use the Defense of Marriage Act — a law that forbids the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage — to trump state laws, said Ilse de Veer, a principal with Mercer.

Let’s review the 14th Amendment while we’re at it, just to make sure we understand why all this is illegal:

…No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws…

Without a doubt, gay people are not getting equal protection under the laws, especially in health care.

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This week in hypocritical bullshit

by lestro

The Republican Party and the Republican leadership is full of shit and every day they find new ways to highlight their own hypocrisy and bullshit.

Today, it was over the announcement that the president and his budget team had scrubbed an additional $17 billion from the federal budget as part of the line-by-line examination Candidate Obama promised last year.

The savings for the budget year starting Oct. 1 represent the sum of Mr. Obama’s promised “line by line” scrubbing of the federal budget, and the the proposed cuts amount to about 1.4 percent of the $1.2 trillion deficit that is projected for the fiscal year 2010…

The $17 billion would be saved by ending or reducing 121 federal programs.

True, it’s not a big percentage, but it is something.

Republicans, on the other hand, were snippy and snide about the whole thing:

“While we appreciate the newfound attention to saving taxpayer dollars from this administration, we respectfully suggested that we should do far more,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader.

Considering they had eight years to do something, forgive me if I can’t possibly take Boehner seriously in the least.

Sure, the president’s budget is HUUUUUUGE, and we can talk about that, but it sure seems hypocritical for Republicans to be complaining that the president isn’t cutting enough out of a government that their ex-hero, George W. Bush grew at levels we haven’t seen since Reagan and left a giant, bloated useless pile of money-sucking crap.

Where were you last year Johnny, you piece of shit? Where were your small government ways back then when you were holding the purse strings?

No wonder no one takes you seriously.

Bessie made it! There’s hope for us all!

by lestro

or “headline of the day

The news came over the radio in the clipped jargon of police officers:

Queens. Loose cow. 103 Precinct. 109 Avenue. E.S.U. reporting a loose cow at the location.

And, by getting loose in Jamaica, Queens, on Wednesday afternoon, this cow may have earned herself a reprieve from the slaughterhouse from which she escaped, officials said…

It seems due to her quick thinking escape, she is now going to be transported to a vegan farm Upstate that takes in animals found running loose in the City (something I thought was simply a story you told kids when their dog had to be put down…)

The spokesman confirmed that officers handed the cow over to Animal Care and Control officials.

“The cow did not go to the slaughterhouse,” said the police spokesman, who said the details of the capture were still being analyzed.

The police spokesman — apparently as uplifted as anyone about the cow’s new lease on life — said he suspected the cow, by escaping, had acted to save its own life.

“I think it’s because it made it out,” he said.

Let that be a lesson to us all. Just because it has been determined that we are to be slaughtered and fed to the masses does not mean we can not all change our destinies by trying to break free from our bondage.

All those other cattle who didn’t bother to question the bloody grate under their feet are now burgers, but this one – this radical cow who refused to do what she was told –  will live out her days in peace.

We can all learn something from that.

did I mention “suck it?”

by lestro

It’s a little early to be truly celebrating, I realize, but so far everything the Haters warned about has failed to materialize and just like with their economic programs, the economy has gone in exactly the opposite direction as they predicted.  Funny how that works out.

so, uh, SUCK IT YOU REPUBLICAN FUCKS!

The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, a key gauge of the broader market and the benchmark for many investors’ index funds, erased all its 2009 losses just before the close.

Stocks catapulted higher following reports that government stress tests of major banks would offer more cause for cheer than fear about the health of the financial system. Investors also gleaned some hope from signs of improvement in the housing market and the construction industry. And jitters about a swine-flu pandemic seemed to be easing.

The S.&P. 500 jumped 29.72 points, or 3.4 percent, to close at 907.24 points on Monday. This jump finally gave the index a 2009 gain of 0.44 percent after a grinding start to the year.

In contrast, the Nasdaq composite index is up 11.8 percent since the beginning of January, buoyed by gains in technology companies. On Monday, the Nasdaq rose 44.36 points, or 2.6 percent, to 1,763.56.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 214.33 points, or 2.6 percent, to 8,426.74. Still, the Dow remains down nearly 4 percent for the year to date.

Also, this week in my paycheck I noticed my Obama Tax Cut – that’s right, a TAX CUT TO THE MIDDLE CLASS YOU TEA PARTYING MORONS – an extra $15 A WEEK thanks to the fact that I make less than $200,000 per year.

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But the Republicans, of course, disagree.

by lestro

He talked about it during the campaign, but who knew he’d actually do  it?

President Barack Obama will flesh out a proposal included in his February budget blueprint seeking to curb the practice of parking foreign earnings in offshore tax havens indefinitely.  By some estimates, $700 billion or more in U.S. corporate earnings have accumulated in overseas accounts in recent years.

The plan to be announced Monday will go further. It aims to change the legal treatment of offshore subsidiaries and structures that companies have used to avoid not only U.S. taxes, but taxes in other developed countries as well. In addition, the administration will strive to tighten rules that have encouraged thousands of Americans to open offshore bank accounts in an effort to duck U.S. taxes.

The plan would increase information reporting and tax withholding as well as penalties, and make it harder for foreign account-holders to win cases in court. The administration promised new enforcement tools to crack down on tax-haven abuse.

For too long companies claiming to be “American” have avoided paying taxes and that has to stop.

But the Republicans, of course, disagree.

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The Hawkeye State gets it

by lestro

There was a great article in Sunday’s New York Times about Iowa and the reaction of the citizenry to the Iowa Supreme Court’s allowance of gay marriage. I’ll be honest with you, it was not what I expected, but it really sounds like Iowans get it; they understand the whole idea of America.

I am not sure of the history of Iowa and have only been through there once (I spent a great night in the Quad Cities where I attended a BYOB strip club where I was actually told by the stripper to “grab some titty, boy”), but there seems to be a real libertarian streak that runs through the countryside.

Take this woman, for example, from the town portrayed in the painting “American Gothic.”

“To be honest, I would rather not have it in Iowa,” said Shirley Cox, who has spent most of her 84 years in this old railroad town. Ms. Cox said she had always been proud to tell people what state she was from, but now was not so sure.

“But the thing is,” she went on, “it’s really none of my business. Who am I to tell someone how to live? I live the way I want, and they should live the way they want. I’m surely not going to stomp and raise heck and campaign against it.”

Because I think the visual only adds to it, this is Shirley:
isn’t she great?

What a truly American view on life: it’s not right for me, but what business is it of mine?

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Systemic risk in the American Dream

by lestro

Today, the NYT profiles a bank in Georgia that has been there for 104 years but went under last week.

Here is the key graph, in my opinion:

To Glascock residents, it now seems as if the crisis has extended a slimy tentacle from Atlanta to their quiet community of farms and sawmills 120 miles to the east, where “sprawl” is something one does in the den after work. “It wasn’t the loans at this bank,” said J.H. Usry, 74, a retired hairstylist. “But we’re part of it and that’s brought us down too.”

It was a small town bank;  real “It’s a Wonderful Life” type stuff.  According to the story, for a long time, people didn’t even have account numbers and folks just knew each other.  It’s all very quaint.  So what went wrong?

But in 2000, the Griffin heirs decided to sell the bank — a decision opposed by Lee Griffin and his brother, Skip (Erasmus Eggleston III), who worked at the bank. At the time, the bank had only about $11 million in assets, but it had a charter, and to lenders in a hurry to cash in on the expanding real estate market, that was its most attractive possession.

The bank was bought by an Atlanta-area mortgage lender, who changed the name to FirstCity and moved the headquarters to Stockbridge, an Atlanta suburb where 20 other banks have offices. FirstCity proceeded to focus on real estate, which ultimately made up more than 90 percent of its loans.

Most of the bank’s money came from “brokered deposits,” investments obtained from third parties that shop around for the highest rates, rather than more reliable “core deposits,” which come from local customers. Of the bank’s three branches, where core deposits are typically made, the one in Glascock had the most money.

When historians look back, it will be this era in which they determine America died.  This story is a fantastic metaphor about what we are losing in our small towns as giant corporations chew up and shit out what we used to refer to as “the American dream.”

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They’re kidding, right?

by lestro

So apparently, the Republicans today released their budget proposal, which is very funny.

Almost as funny as this:

“Two nights ago, the president said we haven’t seen a budget yet of the Republicans,” said House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio). “Well, it’s not true, because here it is Mr. President.” He waved a thin document called “The Republican Road to Recovery” that describes the GOP proposal.

That’s funny because Boehner is trying to do a bit of a Ha-Ha on the pres, making it out as though the president is out of touch and didn’t know the Republicans had a proposal, when the truth is, THEY DIDN’T WHEN HE SAID IT.

How dumb do these guys think we are? oh, right:

Republican lawmakers refused to offer details of how much their alternative budget proposal would cost or how much it would increase the deficit, saying they would release overall numbers next week. Instead, they provided a general outline of proposals that included cutting overall government spending except for defense, banning any additional spending for bailouts of financial companies and a huge income tax cut that would make the maximum tax rate 25% instead of 36% as under current law.

They’re joking, right?

First of all, to complain about the president’s budget and then provide no specifics in what you are touting as the Republican counter-proposal is just fucking dumb.

But beyond that, at a time when government revenues are dropping and spending is increasing to fix the fucking messes created over the past eight years by Boehner and his buddies (who had no problem running up huge deficits and borrowing, borrowing, borrowing when Bush (who never once saw a spending bill he didn’t like) was in office), their plan is to cut taxes for the wealthy AGAIN, putting even more of the tax burden on the backs of the middle class?

Even Michael “Humpty” Steele is more together and sane than this.

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Making the case for newspapers

by lestro

Today, the Seattle Times reaffirms exactly why newspapers are important and necessary with an in-depth, investigative report of the city’s response to the snowpacalypse.

West Seattle, home to the mayor and transportation chief Grace Crunican, received an inordinate amount of attention right before Christmas, records show. Ten employees spent a total of 76 hours over two days clearing sidewalks, landings and bus stops in West Seattle, with the largest crew dispatched to the Admiral district where Mayor Greg Nickels and Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis live.

No such emphasis was accorded other neighborhoods, although special attention was given to the private Lakeside School in Northeast Seattle, where a truck sprayed de-icer around the grounds, and a loop of streets in Laurelhurst that were plowed even though they’re not among the city’s list of priorities for snow cleaning, according to department records…

Transportation crews described confusion and delays in dispatching plows when the snow first began falling, making it harder to stay on top of the game. Meanwhile, the records show trucks hopscotching around the city, attending to special requests or remaining idle while the city announced it was plowing “aggressively” and clearing main routes that residents swore had yet to see a plow.

The story is fantastic and complete and a serious indictment of the wastes, excesses and abuses of government that only a newspaper can provide.  Reporters reviewed more than 2,000 documents in order to put together this piece. Let’s see a blogger or TV station pull that off.

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The Bracketologist-In-Chief

by lestro

The greatest American sporting event of the year tips off this week as the NCAA 64-team, anything-can-happen-and-often-does-happen men’s college basketball tournament gets underway.

For the next few weeks, every idiot in the country – including me – gets to be a basketball expert and brackets will be studied and analyzed everyday, costing the American economy billions of dollars in lost productivity as everyone ponies up their $5 to get into their office pool and then spends a few days huddled around a radio or television hoping to win their money back and hoard over winning brackets over their co-workers.

It’s also the time of year in which uninterested girlfriends or quiet, mousy officemate nerds tend to piss off sports fans by out-picking us based on the color of the teams’ uniforms or strength of the cities’ symphonies (shout out to “Cheers!”). There really is nothing more annoying than losing the office pool to someone who happily admits to not knowing shit about shit while picking up their winnings.

But that’s part of the fun: Damn near everyone gets involved this time of year. Including the president, whose brackets were officially released today by the White House.

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Newspapers are not dead yet, they have just forgotten how to be newspapers

by lestro

In an article about the demise of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, as well as other prominent newspapers leaving their cities as one-newspaper towns, the New York Times continues the industry doomsaying with a prediction of no-newspaper towns.

But even in this incredibly pessimistic piece, the Times stumbles across the great truth, but still somehow misses the main point:

The Tribune Company, for instance, owner of The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and other papers, filed for bankruptcy in December, largely because of its debt load. The reality is that even though the economic climate is hard for newspapers, without their debt payments the publishers in bankruptcy would still make money, as do most newspapers around the country.

Now the outlook is by no means good, as the next couple paragraphs point out, but the general problem is not the business model itself, but the fact that it was being run by greedy screwheads who just kept gobbling up all the little profitable city papers and lumping them under one giant multi-national media empire run not by newspaper people, but bean counters more interested in lining their pockets and keeping the giant beast fed.

So they trimmed the newsroom and started sharing content among the whole chain.  No need for every paper to cover an event when one guy can do it for the whole company.

Then, with the total homogenization of news and the newspapers’ fear of television, combined with the constant attempt to copy the TV news style of more headlines with less news, readers began to realize that their paper offered them very little that they couldn’t get from other sources.

When newspaper people stopped running the industry, the newspapers lost focus and forgot how to be newspapers.

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