Friday, April 30, 2010

Classless Warfare

From the sociopaths on Wall Street who brought you the Great Depression, the subprime crisis and Bernie Madoff, according to the The Reformed Broker, comes this email, quoted in full:

We are Wall Street. It's our job to make money. Whether it's a commodity, stock, bond, or some hypothetical piece of fake paper, it doesn't matter. We would trade baseball cards if it were profitable. I didn't hear America complaining when the market was roaring to 14,000 and everyone's 401k doubled every 3 years. Just like gambling, its not a problem until you lose. I've never heard of anyone going to Gamblers Anonymous because they won too much in Vegas.

Well now the market crapped out, & even though it has come back somewhat, the government and the average Joes are still looking for a scapegoat. God knows there has to be one for everything. Well, here we are.

Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you're only going to hurt yourselves. What's going to happen when we can't find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We're going to take yours. We get up at 5am & work till 10pm or later. We're used to not getting up to pee when we have a position. We don't take an hour or more for a lunch break. We don't demand a union. We don't retire at 50 with a pension. We eat what we kill, and when the only thing left to eat is on your dinner plates, we'll eat that.

For years teachers and other unionized labor have had us fooled. We were too busy working to notice. Do you really think that we are incapable of teaching 3rd graders and doing landscaping? We're going to take your cushy jobs with tenure and 4 months off a year and whine just like you that we are so-o-o-o underpaid for building the youth of America. Say goodbye to your overtime and double time and a half. I'll be hitting grounders to the high school baseball team for $5k extra a summer, thank you very much.

So now that we're going to be making $85k a year without upside, Joe Mainstreet is going to have his revenge, right? Wrong! Guess what: we're going to stop buying the new 80k car, we aren't going to leave the 35 percent tip at our business dinners anymore. No more free rides on our backs. We're going to landscape our own back yards, wash our cars with a garden hose in our driveways. Our money was your money. You spent it. When our money dries up, so does yours.

The difference is, you lived off of it, we rejoiced in it. The Obama administration and the Democratic National Committee might get their way and knock us off the top of the pyramid, but it's really going to hurt like hell for them when our fat a**es land directly on the middle class of America and knock them to the bottom.

We aren't dinosaurs. We are smarter and more vicious than that, and we are going to survive. The question is, now that Obama & his administration are making Joe Mainstreet our food supply…will he? and will they?

The only thing that surprises me is why we're waiting until now to revile and loathe Wall Street as much as we are. It's not as if we didn't know this glorified back alley was full of de-feathered condors such as the one who wrote and distributed this email, perhaps as a reaction to the union rally yesterday.

What I read between the lines is fear and loathing of the working class, the words of a parasite that for years had enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with a host and now is faced with the prospect of dying through disengagement with a pair of tweezers, a Bic lighter and a waiting toilet.

"Kill me, we both die. Get me fired, I'll take your job. If my wife leaves me, I'll move in and fuck your wife."

You know, kind of like the second stage of the aliens in the Alien series that wraps its tentacle around your throat, inserts the egg into your chest but keeps you alive by feeding you oxygen long enough to spawn its young.

OK, like we didn't know heavily moussed, Gucci loafered freakazoids like this didn't exist on Wall Street?

What this sociopath doesn't realize is that when a gambler loses at the gaming tables, they generally lose only their own money. When Wall Street gambles and loses, we all lose and they get to keep their six and seven figure a year jobs. And when they win, as Goldman Sachs and Magnatar proved, we the people lose even bigger while they get outrageous bonuses.

These are the people who are bundling securities such as your mortgage, life insurance, anything they can turn into a cash cow and have actually found a way through some federally-sanctioned alchemy to actually make billions even when these securities go belly up.

They've taken down banks, they've cost us 8-12 million jobs, they've cost us millions of our homes. And putting into prison en masse sociopaths such as the author of this email is going to hurt us... how?

If there really is a God, He can make a believer out of me by rooting out this shaved jackal and impaling him by his ass on the horns of the bull on Wall Street to be spat on by the homeless and destitute they helped create.

By the way, what's a pension? And who in the working class gets to retire at 50?

Happy Birthday, Willie Nelson

OK, so maybe Funtwo's more my speed than Slick Willie's. But it's the spirit that counts, right?

So, happy birthday, Willie and many more to come!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

National Security and Financial Insecurity

Caveat Emptor. Let the buyer beware. The ancient Romans knew what they were talking about.

Let's talk about Xoom for a minute, shall we? is a wire transfer service that's billed as a cheaper alternative to the long-established but more expensive Western Union. I'd intermittently used Western Union until last spring and was always pleased with their service. But Xoom could do one thing that Western Union could not: Transfer funds from Paypal to a bank account or vice versa.

But Paypal already transfers funds, does it not, Master? (or whatever sobriquet you call me when I'm out out of earshot.) True, but as Paypal is quick to point out, they are not a wire transfer service per se. In fact, even in the electronic age, it takes them days to transfer funds from their coffers to your bank's, sometimes as long as four days. Enter Xoom.

I started up a Xoom account about a month or two ago because I wanted the option of being able to transfer money from Paypal to my checking or savings account within minutes if I had to. Xoom will do this, allow people to send money to themselves and, for a small fee of $4.99 (or whatever they feel like charging that day. The rates fluctuate literally daily), it's worth the speed and convenience, right?

After some of you kind folks kicked in with some donations this past week, I tried making something almost like a dummy transfer. I wanted to send a few bucks from Paypal to my checking account much in the same way that employers and payroll companies make dummy transfers the first week of a direct deposit account.

The transfer didn't go through. It had been deducted from my Paypal account but not inserted into my checking account. In other words, it was stuck, or suspended, in transit.

I tried logging on to my Xoom account and found I couldn't. Then I got an email informing me that my Xoom account was revoked because I'd somehow violated their TOS. How did I do this? The response from "customer service" is as follows:
Response (Victor A. Ferrer Moya) - 04/29/2010 05:00 AM
Dear Robert Crawford,

As stated in our previous communication, your Xoom account has been disabled for violations of the Xoom User Agreement. This decision cannot be appealed, and our customer service team is unable to discuss the matter with you. The decision is based on Xoom’s proprietary compliance and anti-fraud policies and procedures, which are mandated by the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA Patriot Act, and other applicable U.S. laws and regulations. Pursuant to the Xoom User Agreement, we have the right to modify or discontinue your use of the Xoom service at any time, and we are under no obligation to share the reasons for our decision with you. Accordingly, no additional information will be provided.

Xoom Customer Service Team

The Bank Secrecy Act? The USA PATRIOT Act?! Anti-fraud policies? "We are under no obligation to share the reasons for our decision with you"?

So, when I try to send $25 to myself from one corner of cyberspace to another, suddenly I'm singlehandedly financing the al Qaida network from my 4 room apartment? This rationale is used every day when people find out at the fucking airport they've been put on No Fly lists. This is the rationale used by the US military at Gitmo.

You broke the law. You don't need to know what laws were broken, how, what evidence there is against you, who's accusing you, blah blah blah. Welcome to the Trial.

So, assuming they'd made a mistake, I decided to open up another account under a different email address. But I couldn't use my checking account information because it was on record with another account. Please log on to that account, they said, even though they'd canceled it just days ago.

Before I knew it, they had sent me another email informing me that that account had been canceled, too, using the same "national security" rationale. By now, I'm assuming that Ephraim Zimbalist, Jr. and Dick Cheney were going to kick down my door for sending money to Mohammed Atta in Prague. As with the first time they sent me the same bullshsit form letter informing me I was basically a terrorist financier, although I had not been permitted to wire even a penny to myself (eventually, I got the money from the first transaction put back in my Xoom account). With the letter was a generic email address to which I could address my concerns that they felt they never again had to broach.

No response.

Finally, I called them up today and killed half my cell phone minutes listening to muzak while some Engrish-speaking CS rep in New Dehli kept putting me on hold without actually doing anything but reading from a script.

This is the transcript of the email I sent them in response:

OK, first off, if you're going to claim there's been an incident, then I, the victim here, have a right to know what "incident" to which you're referring and "unable to discuss the matter with you" be damned. I just wasted about half my cell phone minutes being put on hold time and again and listening to your 70's porn music while waiting for your CS rep to do DICK for me and read me the same script over and over again..

This is like something out of a Franz Kafka novel. "You have violated the law, you will pay the penalty but we don't have to tell you what you did or why we're doing this to you," making my so-called transgression sound as if I violated national security, as if I'm being suspected of single-handedly funding al Qaida from my 4 room apartment here in Massachusetts.

The Bank Secrecy Act? The USA PATRIOT Act? What the fuck are you talking about? If you canceled my account because of something I allegedly did, then I suspect you'd have to do this to all your other account holders because I'm sure they're doing the same thing I'm doing: Using your wire transfer service for humanitarian or legitimate financial purposes.

So, fine. You lost my business, which obviously you don't care about since you've canceled not one but TWO of my accounts. But let me tell you a few things: Working in cahoots with this paranoid government is costing you business. Maybe you don't give a rat's ass about that because you're more interested in being good Americans than you are in making money. But this is exactly how people get put on terrorist No Fly Watch lists. They're told, "You're now on the list and can't fly and we don't have to tell you why you're on it or what you did. It's about national security."

This is what we do to detainees in Gitmo and other places. "You're up on charges but you don't have a right to know what they are, who's testifying against you or what the evidence is. It's about national security."

Now I'm hearing crap from you people about the USA PATRIOT Act and the Bank Secrecy Act as if I'm funneling thousands every week to the Middle East to fund al Qaida. OK, if that was the case, maybe I could understand the interest and see the national security angle. All I wanted to do was to transfer funds from one account to another. I'm not a terrorist financier.

Secondly, when you claim I'm violating your user agreement (which I've read over and over and fail to see how I've violated it) yet refuse to tell me how I have, you're basically setting yourselves up for entrapment. If someone is breaking the law, it's up to you to tell them what laws are being broken to ensure they don't do it again. This is why we have something call "Miranda rights", which allows a suspect to know the charges, why he's being arrested and other useful tidbits of information. Otherwise, "ignorance of the law" suddenly makes for a plausible defense. Run that by your team of ambulance chasers in Legal.

Thirdly, I am a political blogger and a damned good one. I've been doing this for 5+ years and have amassed a loyal and growing following. When news of this hits the blogosphere, that your company is revoking peoples' accounts over nothing, refuse to state why, refuse any appellate process and then stalk these people online through their names and to cancel those accounts before there's a chance of any law being violated, then you're going to have a PR nightmare like you wouldn't believe. Never underestimate the viral power of the internet.

Working in cahoots with the paranoid US government resulted in a lot of lost business and customers for the telcoms who spied on us at the behest of the NSA and the Bush White House, complicity that resulted in Congress having to give them retroactive immunity because they violated the 4th amendment millions of times over. That, too, was done in the interests of "national security."

Fourthly, I've been using Western Union far longer than I had a chance to use you people. I never had the slightest problem with them and they never failed me once, never waved the USA PATRIOT Act or the Bank Secrecy Act in my face and made me think I was going to get a visit from the FBI at any moment for violating national security.

To say that you people, in one short week, have proven to be the bane of my existence, to say that you people suck, to say that you people are willingly losing business because of the paranoia of the gov't at whose beck and call you're at, just doesn't quite say it. And the sooner you and your legal dept. get your noses out of Uncle Sam's rosy red ass, the better off you'll all be.

In the meantime, I'm going to take you people apart one bit at a time telling nothing but the truth and there ain't a damned thing you can do about it.

Have a nice day, assholes.

I await their response with baited breath.

So I go online and start investigating this company (too little, too late, I know). What I found scared the shit out of me and I don't usually scare easily. Time after time, all I'm hearing is horror stories from people who had money rifled from their bank accounts by Xoom without authorizing any transfers.

Xoom knows my account #, my routing #, Paypal account info, street address, phone number and both my email addresses. Alarmed, I went back to their site and requested they erase my banking information since I'm so undesirable, anyway.

Believe it or not, this was the response:
Delete my banking history

Discussion Thread
Response (Dhiraj Relia) - 04/29/2010 09:47 AM
Dear Robert,

Thank you for contacting Xoom Customer Service.

Xoom is committed to maintaining the highest level of security for our customers. Please be informed that due to Xoom standard policy and security reason we are unable to delete any details of your payment sources.

You will always find the most current, safe and secure options available when placing your Xoom money transfers. Xoom apologizes for any inconvenience this service modification may cause you.

Xoom Customer Service Team

Yeah, you read that right. This is what I said in response to that:
OK, let me put it in terms even you fucking zombies can understand:

#1, I am in the process of blocking you thieves from ever again accessing my bank account. #2, You don't delete my bank acct # and routing #, I sic the California Attorney General on you. That would be former Gov. Jerry Brown. You are HQ'd in San Francisco, right? That especially goes if I find even one penny siphoned from my bank account by you people, as this long, long, loooooooong list of complaints alleges. People have had their accounts rifled for as much as $800+ by you jackals.

Now you're telling me, after canceling two of my accounts for bullshit reasons, that you're going to hang on to my banking information for my "security"? Oh, no, no, no, I don't think so, amigo. Your security sucks so hard it can actually replace planetary gravity. How can keeping my banking info on your system be more beneficial to my financial security than simply deleting it?

So you WILL expunge any and all my banking information from your mainframe or I will contact AG Brown immediately and file a criminal fraud complaint against you. I can hire someone to hack into your system whenever I want and if I find my banking info still on your mainframe, you're all out of business.

Comprende, amigo? You want to put me to the fucking ultimate test? Let's dance and we'll see who's still on their feet when that bell rings.

Btw, I'm a political blogger who's very well known and very widely read. I can make your many, many, many crimes go viral in addition to filing criminal fraud charges against you. Do not trust in your ambulance chasers in Legal. They will be no match for Jerry Brown's people.

I've already been in touch with my bank and am in the process of having Xoom blocked from accessing my account ever but that still leaves my Paypal account exposed. After the cancellation of my first account and the creation of the second, I noted that Xoom announced they were ending their association with Paypal as of March 24th. Methinks Paypal ended their association with Xoom, not vice versa.

This is Xoom's contact information:
301 Brannan St # 5
San Francisco, California
United States
Phone: (415) 777-4800

But all their help desk people are either in the Philippines or India so good luck getting someone who can be understood the first time and all they do all day long is read scripts and send the same generic say-nothing emails to people with complaints. Basically, they help nobody and just run interference for the crooks who hang onto other peoples' money as long as they can while collecting interest on it.

Never use this service. Western Union can't help me but perhaps they can still help you if you send money overseas or across the country. It's a fucking miracle these cocksuckers are still in business but if enough of us complain to the BBB, maybe we can put the kibosh on them once and for all.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Michael Moore: Deport Goldman Sachs

Last night, Mrs. JP asked, "Since corporations are now people, how come they can't get sent to jail like real people?"

No one's been able to answer that. In fact, few have even asked. Lloyd Blankfein, in the contemptuous, mangy rat way in which he squeaked at Sen. Carl Levin last Tuesday, certainly gives us the impetus if not the legal means to do so.

Goldman Sachs is one of those banks for whom the meme "too big to fail" was created. In fact, Goldman virtually created the "too big to..." rationale that essentially translates to, "Too big to obey the law and suffer comeuppance. If you fall, we'll take you down with us. And we'll get right back up a lot sooner than you because you're going to help us back up."

And in their congressional "testimony", Goldman basically said three things:

#1, we're market-makers, even if the "market" is based on toxic derivatives known as mortgage-backed securities.

#2, we're not risk-takers, we're risk sellers. Our clients and shareholders wanted to buy risk and that's what we gave them. Sure, they wanted to buy risk as long as they understood the gaming table was tilted in their favor and that the ultimate risk would be secretly assumed by the homeowners and 401(k) holders whose assets were sneaked into these toxic portfolios.

#3, we lost money before we made it back. And then some. And then some more after that. And we may lose again. "So who knows how it will turn out ultimately?"

So I guess we're supposed to feel pre-emptive pity for John A. Paulson, who made $3.5 billion by loading the dice and marked the cards for Goldman's investors who weren't told that they were eventually buying virtually nothing but toxic "tronches" (or levels) but were told they were being picked by an independent hedge fund manager and not a Goldman insider like Paulson.

And in a way, there's some schadenfreude involved because these same banks took a bath in these toxic pools of bonds and were taken in hook, line and sinker just like the people to whom they'd made these risky loans years ago. So if the American homeowner who bought into Bush's American dream of Ownership spiel is responsible for the subprime market blowing up, how responsible does that make the suckered banks who made them those risky loans in the first place?

Defending obscene profits in the middle of a deep recession, after which their losses were socialized and profits privatized was no great surprise to anyone who's been paying even cursory attention. And when one looks at the sheer, barely concealed contempt that Goldman Sachs, oil executives and Erik Prince of Blackwater exudes toward Congress during these hearings, one gets an even more immediate sense of who's really in charge.

And Michael Moore's right about one other thing: If a shaved hyena like Lloyd Blankfein is in favor of Dodd's and Kaufman's bill, that's a klaxxon alarm to do a Quentin Tarantino and kill this fucking bill by yesterday. And let's deport a Goldman Sachs executive into the Mexican drug war for every illegal worker our government nabs, because the illegal worker, unlike the Goldman executive, is at least putting their capital back into the economy instead of hoarding it for the End Times.

Help Needed

Over the last five and a half years, political blogging has proven to be the only constant in my life. Most of the time I don't feel as if the rewards have been worth it. When you care about injustice and unnecessary tragedy inflicted on others as much as I do, it can take a tremendous toll on you. The one thing that's never been explicated at any appreciable length is the psychological and emotional collateral damage that regular political and social blogging inevitably produces.

And despite my occasional snarkiness, there have been times when I've literally cried when looking at pictures or videos of American, Iraqi or Afghani children crying over the caskets of their fathers or other loved ones. I've wept with outrage over the prospect of a friend of mine getting their home repossessed and others dying.

I've taken the side of personal friends and invited the wrath of right wing psychopaths like Hal Turner, who threatened my family and me a little over a year ago. Yet, while it can't be said blogging can't enrich one's life, at how exponentially more efficacious (if not powerful) a single person with a beat-up laptop and an internet connection can be, I see how rewarding blogging can be. And, if nothing else, it offers a personal value through catharsis and learning about our nation's history, the parliamentary process, constitutional law, etc.

And blogging is how I stay engaged and try to effect change by helping people get elected, by imploring others to give where the help is needed, signing petitions and getting others to do so, etc. And, while I have no illusions as to my efficacy as a blogger, I've noted that, over the years, many, many of the injustices of which I'd written had later been reversed. This tells me that I'm usually if not always on the side of the angels.

But this is just part of my life and this is all you see. Just as we tend to imagine our favorite ballplayers always wearing batting helmets and their team's uniform, we tend to judge and imagine those intrepid bloggers by what they read in these narrow columns of glowing phosphors and pixels. Who cares about me taking my cat to the vet or making dinner 6 nights a week or scrubbing out my kitchen sink or tub? Who cares about my finances?

Well, rightfully, no one should. That's usually a personal problem. True, we altruistic liberals and progressives are the antithesis of the despicable Randian philosophy of Objectivism, which essentially is the fine art of saying, "Fuck everyone but me and my own." We tend to pitch in and help those in need. During times when I'm a little more flush than usual, I've given to Truthout, Buzzflash, the Democratic Party, the occasional blog and charities when disaster strikes a poor nation like Haiti.

But this is not one of those flush times for us. In fact, we're going to have a hell of a time paying the rent this Saturday. So far, against all odds, even though it's sometimes taken some tricky financial micromanagement and a little James Bond timing, we've always paid the rent on time without bouncing a check but this month our backs are against the wall.

I know there are many who are worse off than me. I know. I've donated to their Paypal accounts when they were in danger of having to sell their homes to pay for health care or to entire families who already have lost their homes. But is it really selfish for us to insist on not becoming one of those left on the wayside?

On average, Pottersville gets about 500-600 hits a day. If just one of each of my visitors chipped in half a buck, about a third of a price of a cup of coffee, that would result in $250-300 a day. I'm not expecting, nor asking for, nor deserve nearly that much. But I and my own need a little help getting by this month just to pay the rent that got jacked up last summer when my fiancee moved in. Our car died about 9 weeks later and despite being unemployed for a year as of yesterday, there's nothing tangible on the horizon. We'll have to spend what little we get from the IRS later this spring just to pay some pressing debts.

I haven't had to make a public appeal for donations since last summer when my girlfriend hit the road in Florida to make the 1355 mile trip that eventually killed her car. We both need glasses, health insurance and, at 53 and 51 respectively, she and I are getting awfully sick and tired of having to walk three miles round trip just to do our laundry and whatever grocery shopping we can handle because we can't afford a cab.

So whatever you can do will be enormous appreciated by not just me but the both of us. Blogging actually takes up only a small portion of my life. My days are eaten up hoofing it within my very limited striking range job hunting, banking, paying bills, housework, trying to type up from scratch a 450 page novel (I lost the CD's it was on), writing and selling other novels to literary agents and a million other details that make up a human life. But when I have to worry all the time about money, it will understandably have a chilling effect on my desire to write about the things I'd ordinarily write about and that only diminishes the only real relevance and value that I have to most of you.

Not a whole hell of a lot has gone right this past year but I do have some of the most generous and faithful readers a home-made scribe like me can hope for not to mention a great gal here at home. So anything you can do would be appreciated more than even I have the talent to convey.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Legal Holocaust

To put it simply, the last 13 1/2 minutes of this video by John McTiernan (director of Die Hard) is needed to show the names of all the people, overwhelmingly Democratic office-holders, who had been targeted by Karl Rove and the Bush Justice Department. It reads like a roll call of the victims of 9/11.

It wasn't all about former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

If you have about 53 minutes to spare, watch this video, The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove, and prepare to be outraged at not just what Karl Rove and the Bush DOJ had done to countless hundreds if not thousands of families but at how much the mainstream media has not told you about the most massive Democratic witch hunt in American history. That the Democrats were able to still prevail and achieve majorities in both houses of Congress in 2006 and to win back the White House two years later is nothing short of a miracle.

One legal scholar holds out a hope that the new president will go after those responsible, to impeach and remove the Federalist Society judges who had been permitted to hear up to 90% of these bogus cases and to disbar the lawyers involved.

I know of not one who has been prosecuted by the Obama Justice Department.

The final impression one gets is that the DOJ can be used for partisan witch hunts yet cannot be counted on to perform its true function and to prosecute and convict the guilty no matter what party is in charge.

Tourre's Syndrome a psychological malady when banksters blurt out, to the astonishment of everyone within earshot, "We're not guilty!" and "I did not mislead!"

It's a sad condition, really, but wholly expected under the circumstances when Goldman Sachs executives get called before Congress every few months and get barked and growled at by toothless lawmakers on three inch-short leashes.

Joe's Gulag

There are so many things wrong in so many ways, on so many levels about Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signing that Papers-Mein-Herr bill into law that one is at a loss to know where to begin. But the BBC's Greg Palast, writing this week for Truthout, has perhaps hit upon the real reason for this legalized form of racial profiling.

You see, Palast has for years been crisscrossing the country, especially in the American Southwest, looking not for the voter fraud that Republicans have been screaming about for decades but Republican electoral fraud. Not coincidentally, he's found plenty of evidence of that in Jan Brewer's old office when she was the Secretary of State. Ironically, Brewer was put in the Governor's mansion when President Obama tapped then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to be the Secretary of Homeland Security, the same Janet Napolitano who would quickly warn us of the rise of right wing extremism in a now-infamous report April last year.

Because it's Palast's assertion that the new "immigration law," loudly lauded by the mainstream media as "the toughest in the country", isn't predicated so much on illegal immigrants as on legal immigrants who could put the kibosh on the GOP's chances of gaining any ground or even remaining relevant in Arizona in the 2010 midterms.

Latinos, as with African Americans and Native Americans, tend to vote Democratic. All this is a coincidence, we're oleaginously assured by the Republican Party, although one is hard-pressed to find a similar law that specifically targets po' white trash in the Rust Belt and forcing them to produce documentation proving their citizenship. Because, as the GOP and MSM keep reminding us, illegal immigrants are never white, only brown, black or red.

Enter into the fascist fray Sheriff Joe Arpaio, "America's toughest Sheriff" (and one who uses pink handcuffs), as the mainstream media always reminds us, the J. Edgar Hoover of Maricopa County and a man renowned for surrounding himself day and night with dark, swarthy, sweaty, sexually frustrated men wearing pink underwear.

Matt Lauer, never a consistent voice for truth and justice, nonetheless peppered Arpaio a day or two ago about the new "immigration law", asking him if he thought it would, well, color peoples' perceptions about Arizona or distract local law enforcement from going after real criminals. (In fact, late last year ABC News learned that even child rape cases are going uninvestigated, with 85% of crimes not involving illegal immigration receiving short shrift, some for reasons as astounding as suspects not showing up at the Sheriff's office for questioning.)

Of course, Arpaio poo-poohed those notions while admitting some remarkable things. First off, on the pre-emptive charges of racial profiling, Arpaio admitted, "We haven't been doing that in the past three years." So, at the very least, we have Sheriff Joe admitting that even when it wasn't legal, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Dept. was targeting so-called illegal aliens. So why should we think they'd succumb to some Gestapo temptation to ask dark and ethnically-challenged people for their papers now that it is legal?

The other surprising admission was that out of the 8,000-10,000 prisoners housed by Maricopa County, a full half of them are there for misdemeanors, a surprising statistic.

Oddly enough, no one in the mainstream media seems to be screaming about the hypocrisy of a Sheriff who uses illegal immigrants for slave labor, putting men, women and even children in chain gangs to work, forcing them to register for Selective Service regardless of immigration status and quite possibly has an organ harvesting ring going on (The oddly-named Have a Heart Program involves giving a heart on pain of death, not having one.).

When one looks at Arpaio's tent city prisons and hears the touting about how they and chain gangs "saved" Maricopa County $500,000 in the first three years, one thinks about refugee tent cities and war contractors such as Halliburton cutting corners while reaping huge profits from the taxpayers.

But that isn't the extent of Arpaio's controversies. As recently as last month, Attorney General Eric Holder said that charges against Arpaio of usurping the federal government's authority in arresting illegals were "serious and ongoing." (It's worth noting that after initially saying he welcomed the charges and vowed to cooperate with the feds and that "we have nothing to hide", Arpaio then reversed himself and refused to cooperate with the Justice Department as if he does have something to hide.).

Arpaio enjoys his status as a big, ugly old fish in a little pond and, when viewed objectively, one sees more than a passing resemblance to Marlon Brando's Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. He has his own little fiefdom and sycophants and had no problem with violating the 14th amendment rights of pre-trial detainees in his sick but short-lived little reality TV show that was ended with a federal injunction.

And, just a year and a half ago, federal judge Neil Wake condemned the Maricopa County jails as being unconstitutional and violating state and federal health and safety standards for their inmates. Under Arpaio, the county prison system has lost its accreditation for these very same reasons.

In short, Arpaio is a miserable right wing misanthrope (perhaps a tautology) who usurps the federal government's authority and is openly contemptuous of it, blames politics for being called on breaking the law he's sworn to uphold, collects illegals through racial profiling, denies them basic food, medical care, in short, basic human rights, and is profiting off illegal immigrant slave labor so his competitors in the private sector can't. Throw in some organ harvesting and possible kickbacks and you see what this pint-sized J. Edgar Hoover has going on here.

And this new immigration law now gives his lazy Sheriff's department that can't be counted on to clear even 15% of actual crimes involving the rape of children will turn Arizona into the Warsaw ghettos of the 30's and 40's and/or the Soviet gulags.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"If You Can't Stand the Heat, Stay in the Kitchen."

And make me a sandwich while you're in there.

Courtesy of Mrs. JP comes this HuffPo article penned by Congresswoman Betty Sutton (OH-13). Rep. Sutton gets right to the point with this opening (emphasis hers):
Last week a talented, young woman full of promise came to me with a flier her family received in the mail from the Republican Party. As she handed me the mailer, with a sense of disappointment and hurt, she pointed to a line in the flier that read, 'Let's take Betty Sutton out of the House and send her back to the kitchen.'

She then goes on state that the flier was sent out by the Medina County GOP Chairman (a job title that ought to elicit condescending head-shaking and back-patting) Bill Heck on behalf of Tom Ganley, a rich white Republican who apparently has about as much of a problem with this misogynistic flier as Heck, which is to say no problem at all, to judge by Heck's response: "I saw it, but I didn't think there was anything particularly wrong with it."

OK, not only should this defiant bit of misogynism offend all women but it ought to offend all men as well. Because in seeking to send a congresswoman back into the kitchen, it reinforces the male stereotype as men being semi-sentient creatures wearing gravy-stained wife beaters and clutching a remote while sitting on a Laz-E-Boy, neanderthals whose misogynism is motivated by their gut.

Strike a blow for women's rights and sign Congresswoman Sutton's petition.

As a sidebar, Congresswoman Sutton's only "Democratic" rival, Justin Wooden (campaign site here), isn't any great shakes, either. Go to and check out his supporter's blogroll.

In Cold Blood (w/ apologies to Truman Capote and the Clutter Family)

(Update: Considering the seriousness of this matter and the stakes involved, I'm keeping this post at the top of my index page until at least April 26th. Any new posts can be found directly below. If you have a blog, please write about this and shame these people into doing the right thing. This is my political soul sister we're talking about here.)

True crime can take many forms. It can be about serial murder, terrorism, rape, kidnappings. Yet, somehow, either through honest, innocent omission or perhaps by design, white collar crime such as the kind we’ve been seeing on Wall Street, especially in the last several years, never gets included in the annals of true crime. In fact, white collar executive crime hasn’t even been assigned a genre.

Truman Capote’s latter day classic “In Cold Blood”, arguably his best book, was about a mass murder that took place in Kansas when a pair of thrill-seekers named Dick Hickock and Perry Smith senselessly slaughtered the Clutter family in 1959. Is the comparison between this story of white collar crime and Capote’s classic about the Clutter family’s murder unnecessarily dramatizing the situation? Perhaps.

But how is losing your house to foreclosure, even after making your bloated mortgage payments in the wake of a predatory loan, not dramatic? What makes it even more dramatic is that the victim, in this case, is one of our own, Alicia Morgan of Last Left Turn B4 Hooterville.

Not too long ago, Alicia had written and published a too-neglected book entitled, “The Price of Right,” one of the most searing and methodical indictments of how the neocon wing of the Republican Party has led Middle America down the not so merry primrose path to economic, political and social hell. So in a cruelly poetic way, as with the nurse or doctor who finally succumbs to the illness they treat in their patients, Alicia and her family have now become the victim of the same predatory lending and harvesting practices that have become so common they’ve inspired a website called Shame the Banks. It’s a community of people who have horror stories to tell about their experiences with mortgages and Alicia has her own page here.

Long story short, our sister in arms has been living in the same house in Sherman Oaks, CA for nearly 20 years. It’s a house that was first bought by her husband in 1983. Well, some time ago, her husband took out a loan on the house to the tune of $400,000 (far more than the house has ever been appraised).

The deal was, you pay back the loan by making obscenely high mortgage payments for a year and a half ($3500 a month), every month without fail, and we’ll modify your loan and renegotiate your mortgage. To paraphrase Alicia, they pulled the money out of their asses even when they didn’t have it and didn’t miss a payment.

Then a strange thing happened on the way to the Promised Land. Suddenly their lender, which used to be IndyMac but was bought by a consortium called OneWest, didn’t want to negotiate with the Morgans or even their broker. Time after time, they’ve sent out requests to OneWest for RESPA documents through certified mail and have received no documents. What’s RESPA and why does OneWest not want the Morgans to have them?

Well, according to HSH Associates’ website, The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act is simply defined thusly:
The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) is a consumer protection statute, first passed in 1974. One of its purposes is to help consumers become better shoppers for settlement services. Another purpose is to eliminate kickbacks and referral fees that increase unnecessarily the costs of certain settlement services. RESPA requires that borrowers receive disclosures at various times. Some disclosures spell out the costs associated with the settlement, outline lender servicing and escrow account practices and describe business relationships between settlement service providers.

RESPA also prohibits certain practices that increase the cost of settlement services. Section 8 of RESPA prohibits a person from giving or accepting anything of value for referrals of settlement service business related to a federally related mortgage loan. It also prohibits a person from giving or accepting any part of a charge for services that are not performed. Section 9 of RESPA prohibits home sellers from requiring home buyers to purchase title insurance from a particular company.

Bottom line: Alicia, her husband and their three kids will be evicted in less than 12 days with nowhere to go because the bank is going to put the property up for sale on April 26th unless a miracle happens and, frankly, I don’t think its name will be Dianne Feinstein.

But what incentive does OneWest have to do the right thing and to allow homeowners like Alicia and her husband to stay in their houses? Absolutely none and you have the federal government to thank for that, according to the Sacramento Bee:
The FDIC, which seized IndyMac in July 2008, sold the failed institution to Pasadena-based OneWest in March 2009.

As part of the deal, the FDIC agreed to absorb some losses from the troubled loan portfolio. That's after OneWest absorbs the first $2.5 billion in losses, the FDIC said.

But Sacramento bankruptcy lawyer Peter Macaluso claims the shared-loss agreement will reward OneWest for foreclosing on homes. Here's how, he said: The company bought IndyMac's troubled portfolio at a 30 percent discount. It can count on the FDIC eventually reimbursing 80 percent or more of its losses – and also can keep proceeds from the foreclosure sales.

Got that? Uncle Sam isn’t making it worth their while to keep homeowners in their homes even after they successfully jump through one hoop of fire after another. Quite the contrary: The federal government, through the FDIC, is making it more profitable to evict even responsible homeowners like the Morgans. In other words, this responsible family who always paid their debts never had a chance. OneWest never intended to deal with them or their broker in good faith.

There’s something seriously wrong with that. There’s something evil, twisted and wicked about not only someone actually having the cajones to think up shit like that but what’s even more disturbing is that it’s all fucking legal, as legal as vulture funds.

And that’s what this is, essentially. The Morgans' heavily-mortgaged house is a nontoxic asset that’s been swapped and bundled along with thousands of others much in the same way that life insurance policies are bought up literally at hospice bedsides for pennies on the dollar then sold back for obscenely huge profits. In the life insurance scam, the sooner you die, the more money they make. By the same token, the same principle can be applied to every other aspect of business, including real estate. The sooner the Morgans get evicted, the sooner they can reap huge profits over this house that Alicia’s husband’s been paying off for 27 years.

People, we’ve got to get the word out about this. Those ten lawsuits alluded to in that Sacramento Bee article means the Morgans’ story isn’t unique. Far from it. In fact, 10,000 mortgages are getting foreclosed on every single day in this land grab sponsored by the US government. Alicia’s family is a mere recurring symptom of a disease that has not only criminalized insolvency and poverty, it’s also victimized those who have had the decks stacked against them, prevailed against almost impossible odds, only to have that stone on their backs shot with a big-ass lightning bolt so they have to scramble down and start over. It’s like the myth of Sisyphus on steroids.

And we can’t let these cocksuckers get away with this. Alicia’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister. Like me, she’s played a rigged game under bullshit rules imposed on her by psychopaths and sociopaths, emerged victorious and still is the victim of every dirty trick in the book to keep from modifying their predatory, misleading loan. And she’s one of us.

Time’s running out. All the money in the world won’t save them. And we have to shame this bank into doing the right thing and let them renegotiate their loan and keep their house. They have nowhere to go, no one to whom they can turn except for us. If and when the Sheriff comes to evict them, Alicia will fight like hell to stay in that house and I told her to get a video camera and to keep it rolling if it comes to that. Remember the first reel of Capitalism: A Love Story?

Yeah, it’s kind of like that. And not only does it hit too close to home, by the time the Dick Hickocks and Perry Smiths of IndyMac/OneWest are done, home will no longer even exist.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blame Bush

When Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted earlier this month, it grounded more tonnage since Rush Limbaugh's heart attack in Hawaii landed him in a hospital bed. Predictably, Limbaugh went all Pat Robertson and showed how impotently demented he is by blaming the volcano's eruption on the newly-signed health care "reform" bill.

You'd think that would be an isolated lunacy, that no one else out there would conflate a natural geologic phenomena such as a volcano erupting halfway around the world with a divine referendum on liberalism (which didn't even make a cameo appearance during the year-long debate). Sadly, you'd be wrong.

Mrs. JP, a native of Rhode Island and a regular reader of The Providence Journal came upon this breezy and chatty editorial about the Eyjafjallajokull eruption that ended with this open-ended and vague moral: "The forces that shape this planet continue to make themselves felt as people delude themselves into thinking that we can control nature."

...inspiring the comment
"The forces that shape this planet continue to make themselves felt as people delude themselves into thinking that we can control nature."

Hmmm....brilliant! A parting editorial shot at contemporary liberalism. Right on target!

Well, knowing conservatives as well as I do, I decided to look for similar diatribes against the evils of liberalism. I found that that comment at the ProJo was pretty tame compared to what I found at Sodahead's right wing sewer of a blog. Here's just a sample from the first page of a ten page-long comment thread to an article posted by Anthony Leone, who apparently is better-informed than the 350 year-old British Royal Society to whose findings he links:
Eyjafjallajokull is a windfall for the environmentalist wack-jobs. Gore is going to pocket another hundred million, probably receive another Nobel Peace Prize and liberals will orgasim all over the world. I crush my beer cans and recycle, so why did Eyjafjallajokull happen in the first place? Can one of you psychopathic wackos blame this one on Bush, as you did Katrina? Oh, wait a minute, Eyjafjallajokull happened in another country, no blame here! Nah, you're going to blame conservatives no matter what.

Read above. One your own "psychopathic wackos" blamed Obama for this, ascribing a political agenda to a sub-glacial volcano.
Anthony! If it's not global warming, then it has to be Bush's fault!

or maybe all the racism from the tea partiers did it!

or, maybe..just maybe, the Iranian cleric got it right....It's all them sexy ladies!

but it CAN'T just be a volcano doing what volcanoes do best! Can it?

What these mouth-breathers seem to forget is that this particular volcano in Iceland is beneath a glacier, and one that's eroded significantly this past generation due to the effects of burning fossil fuels. But what do a bunch of fuddy-duddy scientists know and why should we listen to them when Sodahead's commenters are more accredited experts? Onward, stalwart readers:
The Volcanos are perhaps warming up the Earth. There is no real evidence for this. The Congress and Oba,ma are going to pas s a global warming bill to flece the American public some more. They are going to tax every breath we take and when we cannot pay the tax our lives will be forefiet. TYou stupid Liberals think you shall escape this fate???? The Obama is a severe Eugenisist. Just like Hitler, but it is us who'll be the JEWS this time. Both black and white Jews.

Urk. Gargle. The stupid is not only actually infectious, it's airborne! Save yourselves!
Jeebus ... are we going to have to take another round out of these monkeys?

When they are caught red-handed gathering bullshit data, faking the evidence, silencing dissent ... and generally behaving like Democrats, that isn't good enough? And ... is that skanky jackass, Obama going to allow the Gore, Goldman, Strong criminals at the CCX to rape our businesses, based on this deception?

I want Jesus down here .... right now.

Uh, no, you don't. You'd be first on his shit list.
Hey Send B.O. he can just order the Volcano to stop!!!! Or we could send the Gorical

Only one voice of reason comes out this entire first page and it's this:
I think you've got it exactly backwards: according to Rush Limbaugh, Obama is such an outrage against nature that he caused the Icelandic eruption. I guess that's as close as rightwing idiots can get to a scientific explanation for natural phenomena. Whatever gets you thru the night...

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone on our side of the tracks who's willing to blame Bush for the Icelandic volcano erupting because the process of global warming began over a century ago when we began drilling for and using fossil fuels at an accelerating rate. You want a better, more scientifically compelling explanation for global warming? Here ya go:

This is what your tree-hugging, arch liberal Barack Obama wants to risk by opening up offshore oil drilling along the east coast.

What I blame Bush for is in politicizing, polarizing and dividing everyone and everything so that even news of a volcano's eruption halfway around the world becomes a political football that invariably gets aimed at the heads of liberals as if this was a psychopathic game of dodgeball.

Obviously, we're wasting our time trying to make sense to these trogs and orcs. If I had my way, I'd round up every Goddamned one of these willfully ignorant, knuckleheaded cocksuckers and drop them into the crater of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano before they force humankind into the evolutionary tipping point of regression.

It's one thing to advance an opinion. It's another thing entirely to try to stitch together completely disparate facts and non facts and to fly in the face of peer-reviewed scientific reason. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has a cruel sense of humor that manifests itself in more than just earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and proves it when she renews the human race's Flat Earthers who, without even being aware of it, are defending oil cartels, polluting industrialists, HMOs and other entities that are laughing all the way to the bank even as they slowly shove them, and us, into the grave.

I expect these Flat Earth freaks were out in full force on Earth Day, making fun of everyone who has a vested interest in keeping our planet habitable and healthy. And no doubt they would have gotten their 15 minutes if the mainstream media actually gave a fuck about Earth Day.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cracker Graham Gets Disinvited by Pentagon

Mikey Weinstein, conservative or no, is my fucking hero and has been for a long time. I've been a big supporter of his Military Religious Freedom Foundation and stories like the one breaking about Franklin Graham being disinvited by the Pentagon from the National Day of Prayer on May 6th is one reason why.

Weinstein had personally appealed to Defense Secretary Robert Gates to consider rescinding their invitation to Graham after his anti-Islamic remarks, especially those made in the first days after September 11th. Up until Thursday, the DoD was only considering disinviting Graham... Then they saw the above interview that Fox had with Graham and decided to make the disinvitation official.

As David Corn recently wrote on Politics Daily, Graham could've extended an olive branch to the Nation of Islam for his past slurs or he could have just STFU and not bring intense scrutiny to the National Day of Prayer, which is the last thing they want. Since Congress made a National Day of Prayer possible through an official act, the press has shown about as much interest in it as watching the First Pooch take a shit on the White House lawn. But that's not his way or that of the right wing God Nazis who always, invariably go double fundie and just wind up alienating even more people.

To get around the Establishment Cause that prohibits the Department of Defense to endorse one religion over another, the annual invitations to appear at the Day of Prayer are extended not through the Pentagon but the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which is based in James "Dogbeater" Dobson's back yard in Colorado. In fact, Dobson, his wife, Franklin Graham and Bill Bright are part of the executive committees as is Michele "Slit Your Wrists" Bachmann and more so-called doctors than Pebble Beach on a Wednesday.

That's not to say the Pentagon doesn't willfully violate the Establishment Clause on occasion. Back in April of 2003, less than a month after the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon directly invited Graham to speak at a Good Friday Prayer service. The Chaplain's Office at the Pentagon was so offended, they wrote and sent this letter in protest:
(W)e are deeply dismayed and disappointed that the Pentagon Chaplain's Office has invited Mr. Franklin Graham, an extremely controversial and divisive figure, to perform the Good Friday Services at the Pentagon on April 18, 2003. Mr. Graham has made recent public statements that are not only insulting and offensive to Muslims but also to those who espouse ecumenism among the faith groups. Mr. Graham's negative statements concerning Islam and Muslims, which he has never recanted, fly in the face of what we stand for as Americans. By sponsoring and promoting a visit to the Pentagon by an extreme fundamentalist like Mr. Graham, the Pentagon Chaplain's Office is sending a message that it and the Department of Defense condone public displays of attitudes and thoughts that contradict not only Department of Defense regulations but also the American ideal of religious tolerance. We hope and pray that the Pentagon Chaplain's Office will reconsider its invitation to Mr. Graham and instead invite a more inclusive and honorable Christian clergyman to perform the Good Friday Services.

So, you'd think the Pentagon would've learned after hearing dissent from the ranks of its own religious hierarchy to stay away from this ideological toxic waste dump going by the name of Franklin Graham. And even after they'd considered pulling back their invitation to him, it's notable that only after public pressure from Weinstein and others and only after actually listening to this Christopathic Nazi speak on Fox did they finally make it official.

The National Day of Prayer is an abomination on so many levels and in so many ways one hardly knows where to begin. But just the very fact that this Sky Wizard ritual is held every year, thanks to an Act of Congress and officially shored up by Barack Obama, itself violates the Establishment Clause that's supposed to be a major pillar in the wall separating church and state. But by openly championing a Christian faith to the exclusion of all others, including Islam and Judaism, they're essentially showing their bigotry while the somnolent mainstream media ignores this ecumenical bigotry.

Of course, the first step toward rebuilding this wall between church and state is to abolish by another Act of Congress the National Day of Prayer. But of course, that's not going to happen because even craven Democrats are loathe to show any kind of opposition to this fringe minority that still believes despite mountain ranges of evidence to the contrary that America was founded on Christian principles.

But getting Graham, son of anti-Semite Billy Graham, disinvited is but one brick toward rebuilding this wall between church and state.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Rethink Afghanistan...

...even if for no other reason than your tax dollars being spent by the bushel to murder innocent men, women, children and even (are you listening, Snowflake Baby Conservatives?) the unborn.

Greenwald is right. The escalating war in Afghanistan isn't making us one bit safer because we didn't need protection from the Taliban until we invaded and occupied it. And even after nearly a decade, even as we're inevitably sliding into the same exact quagmire that bogged down great armies from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union, even after the US death toll had surpassed 1000 and Afghanistan became far deadlier than Iraq, Obama still doesn't see the neverending pattern of defeat and failure and recognizes that it is our turn.

Safer? Hardly. We're not making anything safer for either the native Afghanis or our own country. We're murdering men, women and children, then lying about it and covering it up until the facts can no longer be waved aside.

These are legally actionable war crimes, plain and simple, and bullshit platitudes about the "necessary" and "unavoidable" collateral damage being the cost of war land and shatter like the hollow vessels of propaganda that they are. They're hardly our first and they will absolutely not be our last. But if these war crimes will be repeated in a morally nauseating loop, the least we can expect is justice and not mere compensation and belated, coerced apologies for these people and for the American families who lose loved ones in Afghanistan nearly every day for a plainly losing and unnecessary cause.

These lying, murderous pieces of shit in both the regular military and the Special Forces need to be held accountable under the UCMJ, not to continue flying under the radar and remain well-hidden and covered by their craven commanders who haven't the courage to stand up to the truth in the light of day.

Your tax dollars are paying for this. Sign Brave New Films' petition to demand a UN investigation.

Gimme a "D"! Gimme a "U"! Gimme an "H"!

What's that spell?

This is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard since David Brooks insisted a couple of years ago that Reagan didn’t use race in his campaign kickoff in Philadelphia, MS in 1980. Republicans actually think we’re stupid enough to believe the meme that they weren’t using race as a wedge at all and, like the Nazis with their Enigma code during WW II, they actually think their dog whistle racism is understood only by like-minded people and impenetrable and impervious to decoding by the rest of us. "States' rights", my rosy, red Irish ass.

And it’s just as obvious that the GOP, understandably very thin-skinned about being labeled as racists (while making not the slightest attempt at racial inclusion), knows that if they fire Steele or have him ousted in a special election, their chairman will be the first to pull the race card, no matter how legitimate their reasons for having him ousted.

Steele’s skin color is the only thing keeping him in the chairman’s seat, plain and simple, and they both know it. It doesn’t matter how often he embarrasses them or that he’s burning through money faster than Heath Ledger’s Joker by allowing his underlings to go to lesbian bondage clubs. If he gets shitcanned for any reason, it’ll automatically be about race. And this admission, that the GOP has been using race in their campaign strategy for 40 years, is his way of serving them notice: Fire me, I’ll pull the race card and torch all your ambitions for this year.

Weird Scenes Inside the Teabag, Part II

Maybe you'll have better luck than me. I couldn't get past the first 7 or 8 minutes of this video of the teabagger rally in Washington a few days ago. In fact, I had to hit the backspace key after listening to some nitwit explain why billionaires shouldn't have to pay higher taxes while middle class families like her's are supposed to struggle. If I hadn't, I actually, truly and honestly believe my head would've exploded (in fact, my face was getting hot). Atrios was right: The stupid actually does burn.

It's one thing to drink the Koolaid. It's another to gargle with it, mainline it in an IV and chop the crystals into a powder with a maxed-out credit card and snort like a brain-dead pig.

"Socialist agenda... repeal health reform..." "Get rid of the Dept. of Education, Social Security, the EPA..." "Did you know Obama is trying to ban fishing?" "I'm a middle class family." *gargle*

God bless this young man from New Left Media. He has more tact, diplomacy and patience than I ever did on my best day. Myself, I would've gone all H. L. Mencken on these assclowns and spit on my hands, hoisted the black flag and commenced the slitting of throats.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Above the Law?

What law? What is this "law" of which you speak, stranger?

The recent dustup over Goldman Sachs, the most powerful bank on Wall Street and one of the largest in the country, is one of the very few critical moments in the bank's history. I use "critical" as a double entendre because not only is the SEC's civil lawsuit against Goldman one of the very few times it's been criticized for its business dealings but when news broke of the SEC's lawsuit, Wall Street's most dependable money-maker lost 10% of its stock price.

But this civil lawsuit, which, at most, will end up with the SEC and not the homeowners who'd been destroyed by Goldman's top executives betting against mortgaged-backed securities through its Abacus program getting a huge fine will guarantee business will go on as usual. This is a day and age in which even multi-million dollar federal fines are a mere ancillary cost of doing business, with bankruptcy courts and "too big to fail" federal bailouts as their Plan B's. After all, since Goldman Sachs just reported first quarter earnings of almost $3.5 billion, who cares if they have to dig between their couch cushions and literally pull a few million dollars out of their fat, pasty asses? It's a money laundering scheme, essentially, meaning the government makes a show of acting tough against the occasional corporation, they pay Uncle Sam millions in fines, we don't see a penny of it and we hear days or weeks later another outrageously innovative way that the same corporation has come up with to make money.

But acting tough with civil lawsuits and questioning Chairmen and CEO's instead of going after them with handcuffs and truncheons (Buzzflash editorial) isn't the same thing as being tough. The 1999 repeal of Glass Steagall, arguably Bill Clinton's lowest moment next to NAFTA, handcuffs even federal regulators who might actually have a desire to reign in what Matt Taibbi famously called the "bloodsucking squidmonster."

It's notable that, even as the NY Times reported that Goldman's elite executives, including Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein himself, manipulated those mortgage-backed securities that were almost sure to fail and fraudulently sold them to their investors, none of them were named in the civil suit that still, at worst, would've been a slap on the wrist.

In fact, Fabrice P. Tourre, the Frenchman "who saw disaster looming" and was a pioneer in the "credit-default swaps" that largely contributed to the housing bubble bursting, is the only Goldman executive named in the civil suit.

There are certain people and entities in this country that are simply beyond the law or would be had we any actual laws prohibiting this sort of thing from happening. But Glass Steagall's repeal 11 years ago made possible betting against mortgage-backed securities that were anything but secure. And Blankfein, at most, is occasionally called to Capitol Hill so he can get barked at by toothless Democrats on short leashes. Congressional testimony also gives him another reason to warn Congress about the danger of capping already out-of-control executive compensation.

Hardly a word in the MSM has been said concerning the real victims of this credit default swap that's no better than a massive rigged game of craps, which is the individual homeowner. Homeowners who were suckered into home loans by smooth-talking con men who assured them everything would be alright and that their APR's wouldn't double before the first two years of homeownership.

Homeowners who would then be told pay up twice as much or get the fuck out and, by the way, bail us out to the tune of ten billion dollars and forget about getting any more loans even after we get bailed out, forget about having your loans renegotiated or your mortgages restructured or being able to refinance. The days of you using your house as an ATM machine are long gone.

But not the days of unprecedented profits for places like the corporations that put them out of business and turned them out of their homes because our own government made it more profitable for them to foreclose than it would have been to keep these families in their homes so they could do their part to shore up the economy.

It's never been about shoring up the economy but shoring up parasitic corporations. It has, however been all about socializing losses and privatizing gains, keeping "the dreams of many in the hands of one", as Eugene Debs once defined "investment." And not naming the head vampire squids Blankfein and Cohn and all the top executives under them was not a simple oversight.

A man steals a loaf of bread to feed his family and gets a year in prison. John A. Paulson selling worthless mortgage-backed securities that he knows will fail while swindling investors and helping to get hard-working homeowners evicted makes over $3 billion with utter impunity and all under the radar of the SEC and the mainstream media.

Because there are some people who are simply above the law or would be if there were any actual laws to restrain the Goldman Sachs, Enrons and Worldcoms in our country.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Elmer Gantry in a Dress

"Bailout... crisis moment... shore up... job creation... health care is tied into this somehow... crisis... shore up..." - Sarah Palin to Katie Couric, September 24, 2008

Between peeks at her cross-hatched crotch, Sarah Palin, the world's favorite cognition-challenged Canadian, seemed to be in favor of the bailout, even praising her running mate John McCain for getting everyone together on Capitol Hill to vote on it. This was in keeping with hers and McCain's "maverick" images, in running counter to the wisdom of the toxic GOP leadership that was opposed to the bailout from the start.

Since then, all we're hearing from Palin is how evil the bailout was (she's right, of course, but for the wrong reasons) and she's proven to be more agile in her ethical gymnastics than a double-jointed hooker on a speed jag. And her supporters, who one suspects would be outclassed by a little orange fish that swims in and out of pirate ships, have been so hoodwinked by this woman that they can't even remember Palin's interview with Katie Couric on CBS a year and a half ago when she came out swinging in favor of the bailout bill that she's now denouncing as evil.

And in embodying the destructive myth and cult of celebrity, celebrity based on no accomplishment or erudition, Palin is now the type of celebrity for which she'd denounced Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign. If she has any plans on running in 2012, she's going to have to somehow tone down the celebrity while still remaining visible enough to be a presidential contender. Also, as the gentleman below points out, if she runs for public office ever again, she'll have to reveal how much loot she's hauled since leaving Mooseport, the size of which being treated as a state secret.

Check at 2:48 of this video. It's priceless and the sheer disconnect from reality makes this bubble-brained Palin supporter part and parcel of the people who stand in the rain and get stood up by Palin as they clutch unsigned books and kept from approaching her during one of her $200,000 speaking gigs. Even when provided by an MSNBC reporter with a direct quote from Palin supporting the bailout bill, this stupid, stupid kid still won't accept the truth that her heroine is every bit as much a flipflopper as McCain. Sure, "you could ask her today" and she'd say she was against it all along, just like she was for Don Young's Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it (while still keeping the funds for the road leading to the bridge).

She can think about that some more and her stuffing words into the President's mouth that he didn't say while Palin takes a Lear 60 jet back to her illegally rehabbbed house in Anchorage or a five star hotel room given to her in a secret deal from the CSU, Stanislaus Foundation.

Think it's funny, the notion of Sarah Palin getting elected President? Laugh all you want but let's see if you keep laughing while remembering the boob before Obama who got "elected" almost a decade ago and how well-suited he proved to be for the presidency. Then think about him getting "re-elected" four years later.

After George W. Bush, anything is possible, save for an actual liberal rather than a neoliberal getting elected president.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Madam of the Mediocracy

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

Couric: Well, explain to me why (Russia's proximity to Alaska) enhances your foreign-policy credentials.

Palin: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…

Couric: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

Palin: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state. - Sarah Palin interview with CBS's Katie Couric, September 2008

There are literary and intellectual hoaxes both in the latter day and in the days of antiquity, such as young Thomas Chatterton selling a series of fake medieval poems to Horace Walpole. However, at least the starving teenage scribe showed astonishing talent and a grasp of source material in a body of work that literary scholars consider the seedbed of the Romantic movement that began a generation later at the end of the 18th century.

Walpole may have suddenly grown wary of Chatterton's Rowley forgeries but that does not subtract from their intrinsic beauty and depth of understanding of the medieval poetic forms. Yet the days of antiquity clearly show a morality prizing intellectual and artistic honesty and Chatterton, for all his precocious intellect and talent, was still one of the earliest victims of literature's often perverse morality.

Let's fast forward to present day America.

In late August of 2008, desperate to keep up with a younger opponent who had just named a senior senator and foreign policy wonk named Joe Biden to be his running mate, John McCain made perhaps the greatest blunder since Victor Frankenstein tried to resurrect the dead. Mere days before the GOP National Convention, against his better will, McCain named as his running mate a first term governor so obscure that no one outside of Alaska had heard of her. The move had caught the McCain campaign so off-balance that they found themselves racing to the Klondike before the national media could beat them to it because neither McCain nor his handlers had had the chance to vet her (McCain, in fact, had met his future running mate only once).

The GOP presidential ticket now full, Sarah Palin wasted little time in embarrassing and hamstringing the campaign, even co-opting it in a notorious "Palin-McCain administration" moment. Her interview with Katie Couric less than a week later was the political analogue of the Titanic's maiden voyage. In the five weeks she was attached to the McCain campaign like a tick, she had compiled perhaps more gaffes than George W. Bush in the preceding eight years combined. It would have been easy to blame Sarah Palin for torpedoing the McCain campaign but her subsequent popularity reveals a very different reason.

John McCain lost his campaign. If anything, his reluctantly supportive base was energized by this toothy, earnestly but carefully earthy buckskinned Queen of the Klondike. All John McCain was was a sidekick who had been badly bombing in warming up the audience for the real star attraction. It's notable that while McCain bumbles and dodders his way all over Capitol Hill and is just one more elderly, out of touch Republican Senator fighting for political survival, one embattled by his own party, Palin is the one who whips the Tea Partyers into a frenzy. And she's making a very good living doing so.

And therein lies the seemingly insoluble question: How can such a stupid, misinformed woman who speaks for only a small but vocal minority have so much mainstream appeal that it's resulted in millions made on the rubber chicken circuit, millions more in television deals with two networks, a seven million dollar payday from Harper Collins with yet another multimillion dollar publishing deal on the horizon? How can such a disingenuous opportunist get paid more money than 600 unemployed workers who would kill to make even poverty-level wages?

This woman, this madam of the mediocracy, is no Thomas Chatterton but a self-professed fraud. She had not written her book and the entire thing was based on a few hours of interviews dictated to a racist hack. Yet, unlike the likes of McCain, Bart Stupak and other politicians whose flim-flamming and flip-flopping and contradictions had finally caught up with them, Palin's own neverending series of contradictions not only have not caught up to her, she actually seems to be lapping them.

And Palin's inexplicable appeal and the MSM's obsession with her has to, at some point, be construed as a referendum on the errant stupidity and impenetrable ignorance of the American people. By all rights, Palin should've scuttled back into the shadows of obscurity from which she'd emerged a year and a half ago as had the Jack Kemps and Dan Quayles and Bill Millers of years past.

It ought to be interpreted as an ongoing symptom of the mythical appeal of self-sustaining unearned celebrity on us as a nation because Palin is nothing but a twisted bunch of double standards, falsehoods, outright lies and ravenous greed and ambition wrapped up in bright red, white and blue. In short, Sarah Palin is the very defining synecdoche of everything that is wrong with this country politically and socially as well as what is gravely wrong with the media and publishing business as a whole.

Todd's Freaks

Until a few decades ago, the freaks once showcased in Todd Browning's 1932 movie Freaks were relegated to circus side shows. Now, the commonly obese would put the fat lady out of business, little people are no longer munchkins and some of the discarded prejudice against those who used to be called freaks and who have been mainstreamed into our culture is a good thing. But there are the psychological freaks like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, DSM IVs come to life who fit in perfectly with reality stars John and Kate, Octomom, the Balloon Boy and career car wrecks like Michael Jackson, Lindsey Lohan and Amy Winehouse.

Yet we prize spectacle over substance, with NASCAR drivers assuming their place as deities throughout the Rust Belt and beyond (and, yes, Sarah's handlers were savvy enough to massage that demographic in her post-political career since there's nothing more romantic on Valentine's Day than the chance to see a driver get torn to bits).

And it seems the more contradictions this woman embodies, the more she's beloved. This "pit bull with lipstick" who embodies American courage and fighting patriotism quit her only high profile job halfway through her term to escape allegations of corruption and constantly downsizes her previously-agreed upon times to sign books and give interviews.

This hockey mom of the people is now in such rarified company that she entertains only pre-screened questions, if at all, and no longer mingles with the proletariat that's made her at least $12,000,000 in the nine months since she cut and ran from the Klondike.

Essentially, we're being given Ann Coulter with better curves. But even Ann Coulter gets her facts straight once in a while and always thinks up fresh outrages to titillate her drooling base. It seems the more Palin is exposed to the media from which she was eventually shielded by the McCain campaign, the more we hear the same stale right wing talking points. And her influence is such that her Facebook postings and Twitter tweets actually influenced the health care debate despite holding no public office and no experience or insight into health care.

Yet to this day her fans don't know they're being had because, as with Barack Obama and the liberals who still cling to his pants legs, Sarah Palin is whatever Teabaggers and Republicans want her to be to them. She's a fighter not a quitter, she's a patriot not a separatist, she's a good ole, down-home hockey mom with the common touch not a shrewd negotiator who's not afraid to have a skull session with McCain campaign strategists wearing nothing but a bath towel.

Her TLC show's inevitable failure should in no way be considered a referendum on her popularity's limits. It can be plausibly said that many of the Learning Channel's shows are viewed by liberals, progressives and independents who actually wish to learn new things. It's hard to imagine a very large overlap of common viewers of TLC and Fox "News".

Yet Palin is still chased by publishers, literary agents and television producers who completely ignore others of actual talent and artistic integrity and throwing enormous piles of money at her feet despite her having contributed not a single grain of truth in any of her musings. She's fast becoming the Teabagger's Oprah and perhaps Tina Fey's and SNL's parody of her starting her own network may not be so laughable, after all.

Sarah Palin can likely be considered the Madam of the Mediocracy that would have made extremists, liars and professional provocateurs such as her absolutely unimaginable in a more enlightened age. Thomas Chatterton was rejected and disowned by the very literary establishment that would eventually forgive and lionize him for his fraudulent works of antiquity. Sarah Palin was seemingly rejected by an electorate that said yes to her and her harkening back to an age of McCarthyesque antiquity but no to McCain. Like the phoenix, she has arisen from the ashes of McCain's political career, more terribly beautiful and powerful than ever. Palin is a phenomenon that has conclusively proved that stupidity and ignorance can actually be harnessed as an ever-renewable energy source.

(Here's the cross-post on Daily Kos, with a lengthy poll.)

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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