Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 8:53 pm

Shorter GOP: Screw free markets

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:53 pm
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This is a textbook case in which government must intervene in a market — to keep the market competitive:

Just hours after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed expanding the network neutrality authority of the agency Sept. 21, Senate Republicans moved to block the initiative. Using an appropriations bill as a vehicle, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced an amendment that would deny the FCC any funds for developing or implementing new Internet regulations.

“I am deeply concerned by the direction the FCC appears to be heading. Even during a severe downturn, America has experienced robust investment and innovation in network performance and online content and applications,” Hutchison said in a statement. “For that innovation to continue, we must tread lightly when it comes to new regulations. Where there have been a handful of questionable actions in the past on the part of a few companies, the commission and the marketplace have responded swiftly.”

This is a tad subtle, so follow the bouncing ball. The FCC is proposing rules that would forbid Internet carriers from giving some users and uses (applications) better network performance than others. Yes, “FCC rules” are government involvement in the marketplace, but in this case the purpose of the rules is to make free a market that, were the Internet service providers given their way, would NOT be free.

The rules would enforce a policy, known as network neutrality or net neutrality, that would treat users equally and allow the market, not Internet service providers, to decide what applications will succeed.

Now, note that this has nothing to do with the size of the pipe. If you run a T-3 line into your house, you’re obviously going to have greater bandwidth than your neighbor with the DSL connection. The point here is that if you both have DSL lines (or, for that matter, T-3s), you should experience comparable results with comparable equipment and comparable applications. And Time-Warner Cable, say, shouldn’t be able to download its own video to you faster than competitor Netflix, assuming the videos are identical.

This perfectly reasonable and arguably conservative (in an Adam Smith sense) proposal has attracted opposition from Republicans. (What’s worse, rather than tackling the issue directly, they’re trying to get at it through an arguably unrelated amendment to a spending bill.) I don’t know whether that’s because their corporate cronies are bummed about losing a chance at getting an unfair advantage, or because they now reflexively oppose anything proposed by Obama or any other Democrat, or what. But the bottom line is that the FCC proposal is good for consumers, good for small businesses, good for innovation, good for competition and painless for large corporations. There’s no downside for anyone not afraid of honest competition.

Perhaps that’s the problem.

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War without end

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:26 pm
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The minute I saw the headline on this story, I not only knew what it was going to say, I knew who had written it:

McChrystal: More Forces or ‘Mission Failure’

By Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 21, 2009

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict “will likely result in failure,” according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.” …

McChrystal concludes the document’s five-page Commander’s Summary on a note of muted optimism: “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.”

But he repeatedly warns that without more forces and the rapid implementation of a genuine counterinsurgency strategy, defeat is likely. McChrystal describes an Afghan government riddled with corruption and an international force undermined by tactics that alienate civilians.

This leak, no surprise, appears to have been a Pentagon response to Obama’s stated skepticism of the need for more troops in Afghanistan. And it’s also no surprise that Woodward’s the one who got it. Woodward is, of course, the go-to guy for Establishment figures wanting to get their story out with a minimum of critical pushback. It’s a heckuva way to run a career that broke big with Watergate, but Woodward got co-opted a long time ago.

More importantly, although I am no expert, I think there’s reason to believe that McChrystal might be wrong: that “victory,” recognizable as such, may no longer be possible in Afghanistan, if indeed it ever was to begin with.

The good news, such as it is, is that the administration appears to be doing what its predecessor either couldn’t or wouldn’t do: define its goals, THEN decide what resources would be required to achieve them and carry out a cost-benefit analysis:

The president, one adviser said, is “taking a very deliberate, rational approach, starting at the top” of what he called a “logic chain” that begins with setting objectives, followed by determining a methodology to achieve them. Only when the first two steps are completed, he said, can the third step — a determination of resources — be taken.

“Who’s to say we need more troops?” this official said. “McChrystal is not responsible for assessing how we’re doing against al-Qaeda.”

And there’s the rub: Is our goal defeating terrorists? Is it the larger goal of protecting the Afghani populace? If the latter, we’re going to need help from the Afghanis themselves. And that’s where we get what might be the worst news of all:

Training security forces is not cheap. So far, the estimated cost of training and mentoring the police since 2001 is at least $10 billion. Any reliable figure on the cost of training and mentoring the Afghan army since 2001 is as invisible as the army itself. But the U.S. currently spends some $4 billion a month on military operations in Afghanistan.

What is there to show for all this remarkably expensive training? Although in Washington they may talk about the 90,000 soldiers in the Afghan National Army, no one has reported actually seeing such an army anywhere in Afghanistan. When 4,000 U.S. Marines were sent into Helmand Province in July to take on the Taliban in what is considered one of its strongholds, accompanying them were only about 600 Afghan security forces, some of whom were police. Why, you might ask, didn’t the ANA, 90,000 strong after eight years of training and mentoring, handle Helmand on its own? No explanation has been offered. American and NATO officers often complain that Afghan army units are simply not ready to “operate independently,” but no one ever speaks to the simple question: Where are they?

My educated guess is that such an army simply does not exist. It may well be true that Afghan men have gone through some version of “Basic Warrior Training” 90,000 times or more. When I was teaching in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2006, I knew men who repeatedly went through ANA training to get the promised Kalashnikov and the pay. Then they went home for a while and often returned some weeks later to enlist again under a different name.

In a country where 40% of men are unemployed, joining the ANA for 10 weeks is the best game in town. It relieves the poverty of many families every time the man of the family goes back to basic training, but it’s a needlessly complicated way to unintentionally deliver such minimal humanitarian aid. Some of these circulating soldiers are aging former mujahidin — the Islamist fundamentalists the U.S. once paid to fight the Soviets — and many are undoubtedly Taliban.

American trainers have taken careful note of the fact that, when ANA soldiers were given leave after basic training to return home with their pay, they generally didn’t come back. To foil paycheck scams and decrease soaring rates of desertion, they recently devised a money-transfer system that allows the soldiers to send pay home without ever leaving their base. That sounds like a good idea, but like many expensive American solutions to Afghan problems, it misses the point. It’s not just the money the soldier wants to transfer home, it’s himself as well.

Combined with training inappropriate for the nature of the battle, weaponry inappropriate for the dusty environment and the lack of a cause for which Afghanis truly want to fight, this whole thing is shaping up to be a national disaster for the U.S. and a national catastrophe for Afghanistan. And I don’t think a few tens of thousands more U.S. troops are going to fix that.

UPDATE: Which does NOT mean that the correct thing to do is up the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND. But supposedly that might be exactly what the military asks for.

And if they do, it’s time for Congress and Americans to Just Say No.

When government doesn’t govern

Susan Antilla at Bloomberg has some suggestions about what we might do with the Securities & Exchange Commission, inasmuch as it is utterly failing to do its job, i.e., protect the interests of investors:

  • Shoot it like a horse with a broken leg. Problem is, to extend the metaphor, any new colts/fillies sired to replace it likely would have the same orthopedic problem. “There is a reason it is the way it is,” Antilla quotes Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at Consumer Federation of America and a member of the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee, as saying, “and it’s because of the deference that Congress and various administrations have to the financial services industry.”
  • Move the enforcement division to where most other government enforcement is housed: the Justice Department. As Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzalez have shown us, it wouldn’t be completely immune from political pressure there, but it would be better protected there than it is now.
  • Appoint commissioners from the investment community, not the broker/dealer community. But again, you run into “the deference that Congress and various administrations have to the financial services industry.” Even if a president were bold enough to appoint them, the Senate would never confirm them.

And the deference goes even further:

In 2006, the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations actually set up a hotline for firms that were feeling put out about being investigated. Amazingly, the hotline offers regulated firms “senior-level attorneys” to help resolve complaints.

The investing public, in the meantime, is relegated to filling out an online form when it has a complaint. An improved SEC might consider giving investors access to the top people and letting the brokerage firms sit there and fume if they don’t like the way they’re being treated.

Yeah, that’s gonna happen, particularly after our supposedly non-activist Supreme Court overrules 100 years of legislative precedent and lets corporations make unlimited political contributions.

There is one bright side: Current SEC chairwoman Mary Schapiro, in addition to being at best inept, may have a potentially fatal conflict-of-interest problem:

[Schapiro] was in charge of the self-regulators at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority when the organization was staunchly defending the greatest gift ever to the brokerage industry: mandatory arbitration of investor disputes.

It’s worth noting that Finra is a defendant in three lawsuits dating from Schapiro’s tenure. One of them, by Standard Investment Chartered Inc., names Schapiro as a defendant and seeks to make unredacted versions of certain documents public. Those might wind up embarrassing the woman in charge of the SEC if they show that she misled brokerage firm members about the “special member payments” they got when Finra was formed in 2007.

You probably haven’t heard the last on this one: On Sept. 11, Standard and Finra heard from the court that the case had been assigned to Jed Rakoff.

Who, you ask, is Jed Rakoff?

I’m glad you asked. This is Jed Rakoff:

A federal judge on Monday rejected a $33 million settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bank of America and accused the regulators of falling down on the job.

Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rakoff said the proposed settlement – over bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch executives just before the bank took over Merrill – was little more than a sham to “provide the SEC with the facade of enforcement and the management of the bank with a quick resolution to an embarrassing inquiry.”

“The notion that Bank of America shareholders, having been lied to blatantly in connection with the multibillion-dollar purchase of a huge, nearly bankrupt company, need to lose another $33 million … in order to ‘better assess the quality and performance of management’ is absurd,” the judge wrote in a scathing ruling.

The SEC sued Bank of America on Aug. 3, claiming bank bosses lied to shareholders when they asked for permission to buy the nearly bankrupt Merrill Lynch for $50 billion.

The SEC charged Bank of America signed off on a plan to pay up to $5.8 billion in bonuses to the executives who ran Merrill Lynch to the brink.

In statements to shareholders, Bank of America said it had not agreed to such bonuses.

The same day the SEC sued, regulators agreed to a settlement with Bank of America and the $33 million fine.

The SEC claimed such a fine would actually help shareholders – alerting them that bad decisions had been made and enabling them to better assess the quality of bank management.

Rakoff called the SEC’s logic “absurd” and told both sides to be ready for trial by Feb. 1, 2010.

Quoting Oscar Wilde – who once said a cynic is someone “who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing” – the judge said the settlement suggested a “cynical relationship” between the bank and the SEC.

“The SEC gets to claim that it is exposing wrongdoing on the part of Bank of America in a high-profile merger; the bank’s management gets to claim that they have been coerced into an onerous settlement by overzealous regulators,” the judge wrote.

He added that “all this is done at the expense, not only of the shareholders, but also of the truth.”

If I were Mary S., and I’m glad I’m not, I’d be shipping resumes.

Maybe the Cold War really is over

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:13 pm
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The maker of Kalashnikov assault rifles may be filing for bankruptcy.

Oh, goodie.

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:01 pm

Some of the same wonderful people who brought you the current recession now are going to gain control of your news media.

Particularly when combined with an expected Supreme Court strikedown of the ban on corporate political gifts, what could possibly go wrong?

I can’t imagine.

“Values” Voters

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:01 pm
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So there’s this group called “Values Voters.” They claim to want to uphold traditional values. And they just gave Fox News gasbag Bill “Loofah” O’Reilly an award.

The award in question was a “Media Courage Award.”

So O’Reilly demonstrated his media courage by closing his speech to the press.

Monday, September 21, 2009 8:58 pm

Going for it

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:58 pm
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Apparently, at least at the high school level, there’s a statistical case to be made for not punting or attempting a field goal on fourth down — ever:

Pulaski hasn’t punted since 2007 (when it did so as a gesture of sportsmanship in a lopsided game), and here’s why: “The average punt in high school nets you 30 yards, but we convert around half our fourth downs, so it doesn’t make sense to give up the ball,” Kelley says. “Besides, if your offense knows it has four downs instead of three, it totally changes the game. I don’t believe in punting and really can’t ever see doing it again.”

He means ever. Consider the most extreme scenario, say, fourth-and-long near your own end zone. According to Kelley’s data (much of which came from a documentary he saw), when a team punts from that deep, the opponents will take possession inside the 40-yard line and will then score a touchdown 77% of the time. If they recover on downs inside the 10, they’ll score a touchdown 92% of the time. “So [forsaking] a punt, you give your offense a chance to stay on the field. And if you miss, the odds of the other team scoring only increase 15 percent. …”

If some NFL teams went this route, it would be REAL interesting.

Also, I have the impression that players are disproportionately more likely to get hurt in special-teams play than they are in plays from scrimmage. If that were true, this approach also would reduce injuries. But it might not be true.

Why government has a role to play in free markets

Filed under: I want my money back.,Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 8:46 pm

From Satyajit Das, a risk consultant and author of “Traders, Guns & Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives”:

“The (derivatives) industry will argue for self-regulation, which bears the same relationship to regulation that self-importance does to importance.”

Ken Lewis’s remaining professional lifetime may be measurable in minutes …

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:00 pm

… now that, in addition to an SEC investigation, a New York State Attorney General investigation and a U.S. Justice Department investigation, Congress, in the form of Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Edolphus Towns, has demanded information from Bank of America regarding what it knew about Merrill Lynch’s losses before the acquisition and when and how it knew it. Bonus fun: Because of the possible involvement of BofA lawyers in a potentially fraudulent scheme, Towns is warning BofA personnel that they may not rely on attorney-client privilege as grounds for refusing to answer.

Snap analysis from our friends at Zero Hedge:

At this point Lewis is done. Whether it is the judicial track spearheaded by [Judge] Rakoff, the criminal one where Andrew Cuomo shows no signs of relenting, or the Congressional, now that Towns has joined the fray, the CEO is over. The question is will he go down quietly, and be the sacrificial lamb for a confluence of many different interests, or will his fall be one of flames not only for the former Treasury Secretary but also for the current Chairman of the Fed, both of whom have been indirectly implicated in a massive conspiracy to defraud BofA shareholders in exchange for the “greater good” (and Ken Lewis’ job). Maybe the BAC CEO has had enough and is about to squeal. If so, this has been the best coordinated attack against the old guard ever witnessed, which by focusing on the weakest link could easily reach to the very top of the Wall Street oligarchy.

My guess? No way the table gets run — the banksters take too much care of one another for that — but right now Lewis is probably commenting over cocktails about the view from under the bus.

What I want from Pandora …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 7:42 pm

… is more cowbell cello!

Farewell to a great North Carolinian

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 5:55 pm
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R.I.P. Horace Carter, who faced down the Klan when it was literally worth your life to do so.

Do I have to draw you a map? OK, I’ll draw you a map.

Zero Hedge points out illegal insider trading ahead of Dell’s purchase of Perot Systems so clearly even I can see it. The question is, why can’t the SEC?

Bonus: Lots of pretty pictures.

Sunday, September 20, 2009 3:59 pm

Special treatment

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 3:59 pm
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A longtime Wall Streeter explains why the bonuses are only the beginning of the special treatment that banksters at bankrupt firms received … and offers some cogent, logical suggestions on how they ought to be treated going forward. Hint: Just like similarly situated executives at any other bankrupt firm, with an additional proviso that would force them to, in his delicious phrase, “eat their own cooking.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009 7:27 pm

Dang liberal media president

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 7:27 pm
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Shorter Chuck Grassley: How dare you quote me accurately?

Vet this

Speaking (and it pains me to do so) of Rush, one other angle of his racist paranoia is that it leads him to believe our current president won’t be sufficiently tested or held accountable:

Can this nation really have an African-American president? Or will the fact that we have an African-American president so paralyze politically correct people in the media that the natural scrutiny and process through which all of our presidents are put through and vetted do not occur because of the fear in the state-controlled media of themselves being called racist and the desire to be able to call everyone else racist?

Yeah, that vetting really is important. Can you imagine how screwed we’d have been if it had broken down and George W. Bush had gotten to be president?

I mean, granted, that’s a parallel-dimension scenario: After eight years of peace and prosperity and rising incomes at almost all levels on the wage scale, Americans never would have given a majority of their votes to a lobotomized faux-cowboy like Bush, particularly against any smart Democrat who understood the problems inherent in our financial system and our (mis-)use of the Earth’s resources. So we’d have to dream up a scenario that wouldn’t occur to the most amateurish Hollywood screenwriter.

I mean, we’d have to start by assuming a close race, just like in the old joke where you ask an economist how he’d get out of a falling plane and he says, “Assume a parachute.” It’d have to be so close that the outcome depends on who carries a single large state. But to elect George Bush, we’d need a really idiotic scenario, like that the state was one where his brother was governor and had worked with some political cronies in the data-management bidness to purge a bunch of likely Democratic voters from the rolls who shouldn’t have been purged. Now even that couldn’t make Bush president by itself. So we’d have to have the total be so close that the courts have to get involved in counting individual ballots, which is a scenario even the hackiest Hollywood hack would blush to dream up. And we’d kind of have to skip over the details, because in real life there’s no way this would happen, but let’s say the case goes to the Supreme Court, where all of the Reagan appointees and Bush’s father’s appointees vote to give him that state and the presidency. And to make it really ridiculous, we’ll throw in the detail that they did that even though not all the votes had been counted.

Even Michael Bay wouldn’t shoot a script that bad.

But, OK, through this, um, literary device, we’ve put George Bush in the White House. He can’t count, he knows nothing about foreign affairs, he doesn’t know how to pick good people — in fact, he’s such a sociopath that he’d probably start a war illegally just to give himself an occasion to order people tortured — and everything that he has touched in his adult life has turned to poo, from which he has walked away, leaving it to others to clean up his messes.

Man, good thing that didn’t happen. Fortunately, there was no chance it ever could. Between our electoral process, which remains ruthlessly focused on issues and practicalities and priorities and sober cost-benefit analyses, and our national media, who deal with substance and never cover silly things like whether a candidate is taking fashion advice from some woman, there’s no way someone of Bush’s ilk could have won a single delegate, let alone the White House.

Still — I realize it’s a stretch — let’s suppose that through some parallel-universe interlocking of impossibilities Bush got elected. The truth is, between the responsible Republicans and the responsible Democrats, not only could his stupider ideas never even get out of committee, Congress would be on his executive-branch initiatives like white on rice — demanding regular, sworn testimony from agency heads, backed with documentation, and launching the legislative-oversight equivalent of a prostate exam whenever anyone in the executive branch strayed off the financial or constitutional reservation. And if Bush kept on pushing, he’d get a visit from the entire House Judiciary Committee, Democrats and Republicans alike, warning him that if he kept it up, they’d have articles of impeachment on the House floor in a hot minute.

Not only that, but the media would be reporting and assessing his performance in real time, applying objective standards like law and science, and soberly analyzing events in their appropriate economic, social, military and historical contexts and not just as factors in the endless political horse race.

And the beauty part? Is that Bush is a white guy. He and his supporters couldn’t blame everything Congress and the media were doing on racism.

But let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that all those safeguards hadn’t been in place.

Can you imagine where we’d be today?

So, yeah, Rush is right. It really is important to vet and hold accountable presidential candidates, and the presidents themselves. Otherwise? Boy howdy, it would suck to be us.

Rosa Parks? Screw her.

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 2:14 pm
Tags: ,

So says Rush Limbaugh:

LIMBAUGH: I think the guy’s wrong. I think not only it was racism, it was justifiable racism. I mean, that’s the lesson we’re being taught here today. Kid shouldn’t have been on the bus anyway. We need segregated buses — it was invading space and stuff. This is Obama’s America.

But remember, none of the opposition to Obama has anything to do with racism. Nuh-uh. Nope.

(Note to the scarecrow manufacturers: This does NOT mean I think ALL opposition to Obama is race-based. But I am neither stupid enough nor indifferent enough to what I see and hear to think NONE of it is.)

And they thought the SEC and Andrew Cuomo were obnoxious …

Filed under: You're doing WHAT with my money?? — Lex @ 1:53 pm

The feds have been criminally investigating Bank of America for about six months over the Merrill Lynch deal, The Charlotte Observer reports.

Earlier.

Financial ratings

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 1:49 pm
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Shorter Zero Hedge: RealPoint threatens to offer unbiased, objective securities ratings in competition with the better known, and grossly compromised, S&P and Moody’s. For the good of the market, this must not happen.*

*Irony alert. ZH frequently is all about the irony.

Avast, me hearties!

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:35 am
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Once again, it’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day! So go find yourself a saucy wench (or a swarthy deckhand) and rock the captain’s cabin!

Health-care reform isn’t even officially dead yet …

… and Matt Taibbi is already writing its obituary. What’s worse, he concludes that the failure of reform constitutes final proof that the American political system is irretrievably broken:

Almost every single one of the main players — from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Blue Dog turncoat Max Baucus — found some unforeseeable, unique-to-them way to [screw] this thing up. Even Ted Kennedy, for whom successful health care reform was to be the great vindicating achievement of his career, and Barack Obama, whose entire presidency will likely be judged by this bill, managed to come up small when the lights came on. We might look back on this summer someday and think of it as the moment when our government lost us for good.

I disagree.

First, I don’t think Obama’s entire presidency will likely be judged by this bill. I think it will definitely be judged by this bill.

Second, Mr. Taibbi’s gloom notwithstanding, I don’t think we’re there yet.

I think the Supreme Court will actually have to rule in the Citizens United case before we get to that point. But with oral arguments now behind us and the Roberts Court already having exhibited more judicial activism in this one case than we’ve seen from the entire court since Earl Warren died, we can see there from here.

Just when you think there are no more cool stories left about WWII and Monopoly …

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 1:35 am
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… they come up with another cool story about WWII and Monopoly.

(h/t: Ann G. on Facebook)

Wellnow. This IS quite the pickle.

Filed under: Journalism,Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 1:08 am
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Quote of the day, from Paul Grabowicz at Berkeley, snatched off Facebook:

“Believing all content should be free is the ethic of the burglar. Demanding people pay for content is the mindset of the robber.”

You need to hire these people

If you look over to the right, under the “About” label, you’ll see a link called “You need to hire these people.” You need to go click on that link.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:43 pm

It’s late, I’m tired …

Filed under: Ew. — Lex @ 11:43 pm
Tags:

… and I’m going to go have a nightmare now:

An elderly Chinese woman who discovered a snake with a clawed hand protruding from its body was so scared she beat it to death, according to reports.

(h/t thanks for nothing, Maru)

We do not hide our crazy aunts in the attic …

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 11:33 pm
Tags: ,

… no, we put ’em out on the front porch so EVERYBODY can enjoy them. So says Neal Gabler, who may know more about how American media function than anyone else alive:

What is under the radar is something more recent and more terrifying for the health of our political system: The Republican Party has become a small minority of out-of-mainstream people (think Representative Joseph Wilson’s outburst to the president this week) but, by virtue of its history, of the media attention it receives, and, frankly, by default, it still occupies a central place in our political life. In any other Western democracy it might have become a far-right splinter party. In America, we don’t really have splinter parties. When one of our parties goes crazy, it doesn’t slide to the margins.

Now, in all fairness, not all Republicans are crazy. Not even most of them. But the ones who actually hold positions of power and influence in the party at the national level? Well …

Gabler isn’t the first to observe this phenomenon. Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum, back in his “Calpundit” days, posted insightfully in  late ’03 about this phenomenon (and he wasn’t the first, either). (Just go read the whole thing; it ain’t that long.)

I asked several posts down when the smart people were going to get to run things. I also want to know when the SANE people will get a chance. The important choices that have to be made about the future of this country and the survival of humanity on this planet are being unduly influenced, when they’re not being made outright, by geeks, waterheads, nematodes, mouth-breathers and knuckle-draggers, and, please God, if it doesn’t stop we are really screwed.

A win for the good guys

Filed under: You're doing WHAT with my money?? — Lex @ 11:11 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve posted a couple of times about HR 1207, the Ron Paul-sponsored bill to audit the Fed. Good news, and, no, I’m not being snarky: HR 1207 now has 290 votes in the House — a two-thirds majority. That means the House, at least, will pass the bill even over an Obama veto.

The companion Senate bill, Bernie Sanders’ S 604, is still pending in the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee. It has 25 co-sponsors, two more than when last I checked. N.C.’s Richard Burr is one of the 25; our other senator, Kay Hagan, is not.

Why not, Kay?

Remember the good old days?

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 10:51 pm
Tags: ,

You know, back when the bank bailouts were about unfreezing the credit market, not financing takeovers and executive bonuses and other useless garbage?

I do. The government (by which, in this particular case, I mean Tim Geithner) says it does. Unfortunately, the government is, well … how to put this politely? Blowing smoke? Offering statements at odds with the data? Lying out of its most southerly orifice?

It was just yesterday that Tim Geithner was lying that banks are constantly increasing lending to consumers. Well, yet another lie refuted. Banks, and not just any banks, but those receiving government bail outs and subsidies, continued constricting lending in July, with total average loan balance outstanding declining by $54 billion from $4,295 billion to $4,241 billion, a 1.3% decline, following a 1.1% decline in June.

As for the reason why loan originations in July declined a whopping 10% after posting a 12.7% increase in June, the government simply noted that this was due to “decreased demand from borrowers.”

And so the circular lie continues: the government claims lending is increasing, when in fact, it is not, and when confronted with this fact, the government claims this is due to lack of interest.

They’re stealing from you, they’re lying about it, and they don’t think you’re going to do a damn thing to stop them. Just so you know.

Reinforcements

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 10:45 pm
Tags: , ,

Hot dang. Rep. Alan Grayson apparently has a counterpart in the Senate after all, and from the unlikeliest of places. It’s Sen. Ted Kaufman, Democrat of Delaware, where all the cool financial companies are legally headquartered because in terms of having any actual expectations of corporations headquartered there, Delaware won the race to the bottom.

That’s a long post I link to, but just skip down to the actual text of Kaufman’s speech, near the bottom. The man’s bringing serious heat.

UPDATE: An interview with Grayson:

Damien: Congressman, while we are waiting for a Fed audit, does anyone know what the Fed has been doing given that they have not fulfilled their government delegated duties as listed on the Federal Reserve website?

Congressman Grayson: They are performing a truly remarkable, surreptitious transfer of wealth from public to private hands. They are taking their ability to print money and shore up failed banks. They are simply stuffing money into the pockets of private interests.

The interviewer asks whether this isn’t all just a big conspiracy theory. Grayson reminds us that in light of the recent appeals-court ruling in the Bloomberg case, the Freedom of Information Act is going to apply to the Fed soon, so we’ll find out. He doesn’t sound like a man concerned that his version of the story is lacking.

Dang. If I’d known the service was this good, I’d’ve ordered a pony, too.

I suggested a couple of weeks ago that it might be a real good idea if Bank of America execs and/or the company’s lawyers were held responsible as individuals over how much info they withheld from BoA shareholders about what the Merrill Lynch takeover was going to do to their investments.

Wow. Someone listened:

The New York Attorney General’s office is preparing charges against several high-ranking Bank of America executives over the bank’s alleged failure to disclose details about its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office is likely to file civil charges against the executives over their role in failing to alert shareholders to mounting losses as well as accelerated bonus payments at Merrill, said the person, who requested anonymity …

Honestly, I’m a layman and neither a banker nor a lawyer, but it’ s hard for me to see how there isn’t a basis for criminal charges as well. Therefore, I choose, for now, to comfort myself with the notion that civil charges are a necessary first step toward that outcome. Would the real lawyers please give me 30 or so minutes to enjoy this idea before you pour cold water on it in the comments? Many thanks.

UPDATE: Uh-oh, kids, grab your popcorn — it’s subpoena time! Let’s settle in for a snug, cozy period of embarrassing revelations and/or Fifth-taking, shall we? And let us, at least for now, maintain the tiny hope that the people who end up getting socked for this aren’t the investors.

Everyone who thinks Barack Obama’s economic efforts threaten our historical freedoms …

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 10:32 pm
Tags: ,

… should do a little reading on where the real threat lies. Dylan Ratigan is ringing the bell, and school, suckahs, is most definitely in:

The American people have been taken hostage to a broken system.

It is a system that remains in place to this day.

A system where bank lobbyists have been spending in record numbers to make sure it stays that way.

A system that corrupts the most basic principles of competition and fair play, principles upon which this country was built.

It is a system that so far has forced the taxpayer to provide the banks with the use of $14 trillion from the Federal Reserve, much of the $7 trillion outstanding at the US Treasury and $2.3 trillion at the FDIC.

A system partially built by the very people who currently advise our President, run our Treasury Department and are charged with its reform.

And most stunningly — it is a system that no one in our government has yet made any effort to fundamentally change.

There are a lot of people, I understand, who sincerely believe that Obama’s policies threaten our freedoms. (I do not share that view, although I certainly do share their concern about their long-term effect on the economy.) But not everyone who says this is sincere. Some of them are busily stealing as much of your money as they can, all the while pointing at some real or (more likely) imagined sin of Obama’s and hoping you’ll pay too much attention to that to notice what they’re doing.

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