Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 8:14 pm

Odds and ends for May 27

Back from vacation. Let’s get to work, shall we?

The U.S. government is still good for something — in this case, finally taking on the continuing criminal enterprise that is FIFA. (My daughter has been saying for two years that the organization’s leaders were committing fraud and worse. She’s 16.) I suspect the reason we’re doing it instead of, say, Switzerland, is that we can — because soccer’s popularity here is so low that no one will raise much of a defense of the indefensible.

I love this pope. He has been, in the opinion of this outsider, better for the Roman Catholic church than anything since Vatican II. But he still has a couple of enormous moral blind spots.

Paid Microsoft support for the U.K. government’s many computers still running Windows XP ran out in April 2015. The transition to Windows 7 or 8.1 was supposed to be complete by now, but it isn’t for many government agencies, which will have to negotiate their own, much more expensive service deal with Microsoft. Meanwhile, those machines aren’t getting any more security upgrades and thus could become vulnerable to hacking. (I have a perfectly good XP machine that isn’t powerful enough to run Win7, so when Microsoft stopped providing security updates to consumers a year ago, I turned it into a Linux machine. Still works like a charm.)

My heart and some of my money are going out to the victims of Texas tornadoes and flooding. But I’ve got to point out a couple of things. First, the increasing severity of storms such as this is a direct result of increased mean atmospheric temperature. As we learned in school, the warmer air is, the more moisture it can hold, and the more moisture is in the air, the more severe storms are. So global-warming denialists in Texas, particularly in its government, really need to sit down and shut up now. Second, I assume that all the hot air from Texas politicians about the Jade Helm military maneuvers will now cease while those same politicians ask the federal government for millions in disaster relief. Right?

Quasi-relatedly, as H.L. Mencken observed (sort of), it is difficult to make a man understand something when his bonuses depend on his not understanding it. That’s especially true of climate-science deniers and extraction-industry executives. (Note that the market value of remaining extractable carbon fuel runs into the dozens of trillions, and we’d only need to burn another $1 trillion worth to screw ourselves sideways, climate-wise.)

Related to that, crony capitalism continues in Raleigh as extraction interests continue using their bought-and-paid-for legislature to fight solar energy. They have become more vicious because they are more desperate: They know that solar will become economically feasible for replacing more than half of global electricity generation within the next 10 years.

The Supreme Court ruled debtors’ prisons unconstitutional more than 30 years ago, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of places from jailing people just because of fines and/or fees they couldn’t pay.

Pretty much everyone who isn’t working in the White House or Congress understands that the NSA’s vast warrantless data-hoovering surveillance program isn’t worth what it is costing us in liberty. So, of course, N.C.’s senior senator, Richard Burr, is arguing for more of it.

At what point is N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory going to realize that the person running the state Department of Health and Human Services, Aldona Wosis incompetent?

And at what point will N.C. voters realize that McCrory himself is incompetent? He has staked his re-election on two proposed bond issues, one for highways and the other for other infrastructure — and hoping that voters won’t realize that if not for his misguided leadership and that of his legislative pals, much of this work could have been done through the ordinary state budgeting process, rather than sinking the state $2.8 billion into debt.

North Carolina doesn’t want to kill messengers. It only wants to sue and/or imprison them.

State officials (which is to say, mainly, state Republicans) are now into their fifth year of arguing that climate change isn’t really a thing, apparently not realizing or caring that “the Atlantic isn’t waiting to see who wins the argument.

Speaking of resisting the inevitable, N.C. lawmakers are still trying to stop gay marriage by unconstitutional means.

The chairman of the UNC System’s Board of Governors, John Fennebresque, says he wants a “change agent” to replace politically fired UNC System president Tom Ross. But he won’t say what he wants changed and says the board doesn’t have a job description even as it runs a nationwide search for Ross’s successor. Let’s be real clear here: Fennesbresque and the board wouldn’t come out and say they fired Tom Ross for political reasons because they knew the public wouldn’t stand for it. And they aren’t saying what they want Ross’s successor to do for the very same reason.

Steven Long, vice chairman of the academic planning committee of the UNC System’s board of governors, says regarding program eliminations, “We’re capitalists, and we have to look at what the demand is, and we have to respond to the demand.” No, schmuck. Education is a public good, and the state university system has a duty to provide benefits to the state as a whole, not just students whose preferred  majors happen to be momentarily popular.

So Charter Communications may buy Time Warner Cable, my personal cable/Internet provider. Is there any reason to think this would mean anything but higher prices and crummier service? Thought not.

Whew. I need another vacation.

 

Monday, March 30, 2015 7:23 pm

Odds and ends for March 30

The Klown Kar might have to be a stretch Hummer: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina puts her own chances of running for president at 90%. Fiorina famously crashed HP into the ground (stock price cut 50%, 30,000 workers laid off in five years), then ran an epically inept campaign for governor of California (who among us will ever forget the demon sheep?). She says Hillary Clinton has a “character problem.” Pot, kettle.

#FFS. All the crap that Indiana is getting over its so-called “religious freedom” bill in both the real and the virtual worlds notwithstanding, North Carolina now has its own version, HB 348. When the chairman of the world’s largest corporation tells you that that kind of law is bad for business, perhaps you shouldn’t take him at his word, but you at least should give his word due consideration. Heck, even Republican Gov. Pat McCrory says it isn’t needed, although I hasten to note that that’s not the same as vowing to veto it.

North Carolina’s senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, voted yes on same-sex marriage benefits for Social Security recipients and veterans, which sounds great until you learn that the measure was nonbinding.

At least two great Republicans think SB 36, state Sen. Trudy Wade’s hostile takeover of the Greensboro City Council, is bad for Greensboro: I and retired U.S. Rep. Howard Coble.

We have so little money that some of Guilford County’s worst-off students may get screwed. But God forbid we stand in the way of yet another $1 billion tax cut for the state’s wealthy and corporations. Jesus might love you, legislators, but I’m pretty sure he despises what you’re doing.

I have very little use for the band fun. (yes, the “f” is lower-case, and, yes, there’s a period after the name) — when their songs come on the radio, the word “lugubrious” comes to mind. But member Jack Antonoff’s solo project, Bleachers, is a lot more fun (ahem) to listen to even as the songs tackle some hard subjects.

Here’s “Rollercoaster” …

… and here’s “I Wanna Get Better” …

Saturday, February 7, 2015 11:11 pm

Odds and ends for Feb. 7

“Pro-life” Sen. Richard Burr doesn’t really give a rat’s ass if you or your unborn baby dies.

A British court has found seven years’ worth of surveillance by the UK’s counterpart to the NSA to be illegal. Question: Will anyone be punished? Answer: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA …

So Brian Williams is giving himself a paid vacation while he waits for the stink about his lying about his Iraq experience to blow over. Yes, he should be fired. No, he shouldn’t be the only person to suffer consequences for lying about Iraq.

Rummage in your bedside cabinet; the current condom shortage in Venezuela has boxes going for the equivalent of $755US.

‘Night, y’all.

Friday, May 14, 2010 8:27 pm

Taxation without representation

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:27 pm
Tags: , ,

Some of the less-informed members of the Tea Party movement have argued that our current economic arrangement constitutes taxation without representation. They’re right, but not in the way they think.

Zero Hedge guest poster Chindit13 explains:

Little known to the average taxpayer, the Fed is a public-private entity that not only issues the nation’s currency, but sets interest rate policy and has supervisory authority over the banking system.Its private owners, who are anything but neutral, number the largest banking and finance institutions in the country, the so-called Too Big to Fail banks.

Along with Treasury, the Fed has been instrumental in what SIGTARP Chief Barofsky has estimated has been $23 trillion of bailouts, loans, backstops and guarantees, since the financial crisis struck two years ago.  To put that number in perspective, it represents almost twice the US GDP and 40% of World GDP.  It also represents $75,000 for every man, woman, and child in the US.

Although not all of that money has been created or spent, much has, which means the US taxpayer now carries the responsibility for paying it back.  Oddly, one might even say immorally, the Fed goes out of its way to prevent even the democratically elected representatives of the people from seeing the inner workings of that entity.  The Fed—with help from the Obama White House—has lobbied to block access to information about what the taxpayer has bought, though the taxpayer is still required to pay for it, either directly in taxes or through inflation and a depreciating currency.  If this is not the definition of “Taxation without Representation,” I do not know what is.

Our state’s senators, Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, went along with a minimal audit requirement, and that’s OK for a start. But we need more. Much, much more.

Friday, May 7, 2010 9:32 pm

If you liked 2007-08, you’re gonna love the next few years

The Senate has voted almost 2-1 against ending “too big to fail” banks. (North Carolina’s Richard Burr and Kay Hagan both voted for the banksters.)

Which means more too-big-to-fail banks.

Which means more bank bailouts. (Thanks, Dick. Thanks, Kay.)

Which means more sucking up of middle-class and working-class wealth — what there is left of it — by a very few, very wealthy banksters.

Bonus fun: In addition to owning AIG, GM and some banks, you now own Red Roof Inn. But you’re still going to have to pay to sleep there.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 5:43 am

Symmetry; or, why the banksters are still with us

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 5:43 am
Tags: ,

Liberal democrats think that because Republicans are going to attack Congressional Democrats no matter what they do, they might as well do the right thing on finance reform.

North Carolina’s senior senator, Republican Richard Burr, apparently thinks that because the Democrats are going to attack him no matter what he does — heck, he is up for re-election — he may as well do the wrong thing.

Sigh.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:42 pm

Odds and ends, Nov. 17

  • Our eyes are on Afghanistan, but the prize is energy-rich Uzbekistan. So they boil political opponents alive. Big freakin’ deal.
  • The Special Inspector General of the fed bank bailout program says we need to audit the Fed already. Fine minds agree. So let’s audit the Fed already.
  • Tim Geithner’s pissing away of taxpayer money earlier this month, to the benefit of — surprise!! — Goldman Sachs and AIG —  would’ve been grounds for dismissal, if not execution, in any country that wasn’t already a banana republic. Unfortunately, we’re all now singing the Chiquita song:

This, Mr. Geithner, is what moral hazard is all about. Thanks to your actions you have doomed the U.S.’s formerly free and efficient equity markets to the biggest capital market bubble in history, which, like any ponzi, has only two outcomes: it either keeps growing in perpetuity as greater fools crawl out of the woodwork to keep it growing, albeit at ever slower marginal rates (note, this did not work out too well for Madoff), or it eventually pops. And the longer it takes to pop, the greater the ultimate loss of value: one day Madoff’s business was worth $50 billion, the next day it was $0. And that is precisely the same fate that American capital markets will have at some point in the upcoming months or years. When future historians look back at what specific action caused the biggest crash in U.S. capital markets history, Mr. Geithner’s cataclysmally botched negotiation of the AIG counterparty bailout will undoubtedly be at the very top of the list. In the meantime, just like in the Madoff case where the trustee is trying hard to trace where any stolen money may have been transferred to, to see the fund flows in our ongoing “ponzi in progress”, look no further than the bank accounts of Goldman bankers as they receive their biggest ever bonus this year …

 

  • Relatedly, I’m a lot less bothered about Obama bowing to an Asian leader than I am about his bowing to Goldman Sachs.
  • Question of the day, from Michael Lind: Shouldn’t the government pledge allegiance to the people, rather than the other way around?
  • Nice punking of an anti-immigration crowd. Not-so-nice behavior of the cops on hand, who were shoving around nonviolent counterprotesters rather than the anti-immigration folks who started the fisticuffs.
  • Time to revoke David Broder’s membership in the Wise Old Mainstream Media Pundits’ Club: When you say it’s more important to do something, anything, now than to do the right thing, you’re reckless. When you say that about a decision over whether to start, or expand, a war of choice, you’re just batsh*t insane definitely not supporting the troops.
  • Faith may well complement competent psychiatric care, but it is no substitute, a fact that appears to have escaped the Department of Veterans Affairs. And this is just one facet, albeit a particularly annoying one, of the VA’s utter failure to cope competently with the mental-health problems of veterans of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. My senior senator, Richard Burr, ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a guy with a DSCC bulls-eye on his back this election year, could do himself a lot of political good, in addition to doing a lot of real-world good for a lot of deserving people, if he just rode this issue like a beast across the plains of Mongolia.
  • And speaking of Richard Burr, call the WAAAAmbulance. Apparently, Senate Republicans are concerned that TV commercials about them supporting government contractors who let their employees get gang-raped may engender bad feelings against … um, well, the 30 Senate Republicans who supported government contractors who let their employees get gang-raped. (Here’s the one on Burr:)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 10:46 pm

More odds and ends

  • The Galleon insider-trading case, in which billionaire Raj Rajaratnam was charged and the securities-rating firm Moody’s was implicated? Has been assigned to Judge Jed Rakoff. Yeah, this Jed Rakoff. (I hope the judge is taking extremely good care of his health, if you know what I mean, because he is making life intolerable for some very, very wealthy and powerful people.)
  • Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who got us both into and out of the ’81-’82 recession, thinks we need to kind of restore the Glass-Steagall Act, which kept commercial banks from doing investments (and being dragged under when those investments went south) before its 1999 repeal. But he’s having trouble selling that idea to all the Goldman Sachs alumni on Team Obama.
  • If this hearing in fact happens tomorrow — I read or heard somewhere it could get delayed — it could get real ugly real fast for Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Hell, it might even get ugly for current Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. I’d be OK with any and/or all suffering some consequences, because you don’t have to be a Harvard MBA to know Bank of America shareholders got screwed.
  • Speaking of Hank Paulson, turns out that while he was still secretary, he met in Moscow with the board of Goldman Sachs. But nothing improper happened. Really. Move along; nothing to see here. These are not the droids banksters you’re looking for.
  • Dana Perino, concern troll. Memo: advice on how to conduct yourself from a PR standpoint from someone who used to take money to call people traitors and supporters of terrorists is probably not worth what you’re paying for it.
  • Shorter Congressman Jeb Hanserling (R-Texas): I’m here to protect banks; screw the consumers.
  • Another Republican, this time John McCain, thinks another earmark, this one $325,000 for earthquake study in Memphis, is a waste of money, and once again is wrong. Three words: New Madrid Fault.
  • Shorter Timothy Noah: Whatever happened to, you know, reporting?; or, The public option was always popular, you morons — you just pretended otherwise or weren’t paying attention.
  • More Noah, because this is just so good and so true: “Political reporters are momentum junkies, forever plotting out momentary trends to infinity. If they were meteorologists, they’d interpret 90-degree temperatures in July to predict 160-degree temperatures in December.”
  • John Cole righteously dopeslaps neocon pinhead Pete Wehner.
  • Sure, Sarah Palin’s $29 book can become a bestseller — when you sell it for $9 or give it away with a magazine subscription.
  • The Bush and Obama administrations actually threatened not to share intelligence with the U.K. if it released evidence of our torture of a guy named Binyam Mohammed. (Yeah, let’s stop sharing info with our oldest and most trusted ally. Genius.) Fortunately, Britain’s highest court is calling their bluff.
  • The maker of Tasers, which has long claimed that Tasers aren’t lethal, now concedes that they might be, potentially, well, a little bit, um, lethal. I’m guessing someone finally talked to their lawyer and figured that just maybe they might want to do a little butt-covering.
  • Socialism … and its potential benefits.
  • OTOH, let’s foster competition and innovation, not hinder it.

Finally, a bit of a health-care roundup:

  • The House Judiciary Committee voted 20-9 today to strip the health-insurance industry of its federal antitrust exemption. This is such a good idea that three Republicans even went along with it. I dearly hope my own representative, Howard Coble, was one of them. (thomas.loc.gov hasn’t been updated yet so I don’t know.)
  • You can too get a hip replacement under the Canadian health-care system even if you’re of retirement age. Ignore the urban legends/propaganda.
  • Sen. Richard Burr’s health-care reform plan: fail. Not epic fail, not actual sabotage of what the bill purports to support, but also not enough recognition of certain economic and financial realities.
  • Expand Medicare to include — well, anyone who wants in? That’s a public option even some Blue Dogs can believe in.
  • And even if we choose a real public option, the Congressional Budget Office says it won’t cost as much as opponents have been claiming.
  • Apparently, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter had no idea that some people were unable to start their own businesses, or stuck in jobs they hate or aren’t suited for, because they can’t afford the health insurance costs they’d have to pay if they made those moves. I mean, c’mon, how imaginative do you have to be before that possibility occurs to you?
  • Last but not least, Al Franken humbles a Hudson Institute hack on health-care finance:


Senator Al Franken: I think we disagree on whether or not the healthcare reform we’re talking about now in Congress should pass. And you said that, kind of the way we’re going will increase bankruptcies. I want to ask you, how many bankruptcies because of medical crises were there last year in Switzerland?

Diana Furchtgott-Roth: I don’t have that number in front of me but I could find out and get back to you.

Franken: I can tell you how many it was. It’s zero. Do you know how many medical bankruptcies there were last year in France?

Furchtgott-Roth: I don’t have that number but I can get back to you if you like.

Franken: The number is zero.
…

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 8:13 pm

Linin’ ’em up

A couple of weeks ago I said that auditing the Federal Reserve was a great idea even if it was Ron Paul who introduced the bill that would make it happen. I am delighted to note that that bill, HR 1207, has, as of today, 282 co-sponsors, more than enough to pass if the bill makes it to the floor. I’m less delighted that only one of Greensboro’s three reps, Howard Coble, is among the co-sponsors, although I don’t know whether that means Brad Miller and Mel Watt oppose the bill or just figured that with a majority assured they would turn their attention to other things.

The companion Senate bill, S 604 from Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, has 23 co-sponsors, ranging in political ideology from Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, to Sam Brownback, R-Kansas. (That’s quite a range, actually.) Among them is North Carolina’s Richard Burr but not our other senator, Kay Hagan. I do not know why that is.

But here’s what I suspect.

I suspect that the Fed has been doing things with our tax dollars, largely for the benefit of a few very large financial institutions, that will infuriate people once word becomes public. I further suspect that the wave of outrage that will follow will be something any incumbent and quite a few challengers would want to surf, rather than be swamped by. That wave is coming, and the time to get your board lined up and get up on your feet is drawing to a close.

There’s additional good news on this front: The Bloomberg news organization sued the Federal Reserve Bank of New York last year under the Freedom of Information Act for records on how tax money was spent. On Monday, a federal judge granted Bloomberg’s motion for summary judgment, meaning that both the facts and the law are so clearly on Bloomberg’s side that there’s no need for a trial. The bank has five business days to provide certain records and until Sept. 14 to let the court know how it intends to provide others. Should bank allies manage to kill or stall the Paul or Sanders bills, people could just file more FOIA lawsuits. So one way or another, this stuff’s coming out.

Congresscritters and would-be congresscritters of all stripes, take note.

UPDATE: Arguably another excellent reason to support auditing the Fed: Tim Geithner thinks it would be a bad idea.

Thursday, January 15, 2009 11:36 am

A blog. He haz one.

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 11:36 am
Tags: ,

North Carolina’s senior senator, Richard Burr, has joined blogworld. I hope he finds blogging both useful and educational. I just wish it had comments, as much of a nightmare as they’d be for a U.S. senator to manage.

(h/t: Ed)

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