Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Tortured Art of Torturer Protection

There is a queer little dance going on to insure no one is punished for all of the torturing that filled the past decade.
Okay, this last one is a toughie. Partly, you just don't charge the former president for the war crimes he committed because it wouldn't be collegial. Partly, the current president might want to do the same thing or at least use the results of past torture. Partly, there is an old rule in royalty that the current king does not hang the former king lest hanging kings becomes a habit.

Bottom line? John Yoo will not be punished (except by having to hold his Stanford law classes at secret locations) because being he is only an idiot and didn't get any actual blood on his hands. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are found blameless because they were just following the advice of the idiot Yoo. As for the hands-on people connected to torturing people? Hell, they are getting medals.

This doesn't mean nobody is being punished because of the torture. Defense attorneys are still at risk.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Sound of Silence

How did President Obama's Q&A with congressional Republicans go? The best metric is what rightwing websites are saying about it.

Virtually nothing.

You know that if the President had said something stupid or even the least bit non-genius Republicans would have been all over it today like stink on a skunk. Republicans across the Internet are trying to pretend today that yesterday never happened.

The silence is telling. Barack hit a home run.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Dewey, Cheatum, & Howe

You've got to respect people who have the balls to call lawyers dicks, to their faces.

Sure, there are people who will laugh at lawyers, generically, as a class, I'm not mentioning anyone specifically. Heck, lawyers even laugh at themselves, allegedly.

But had the courage to single out five law firms, by name complete with links to their websites, as totally sick bastards. We're talking law firms that specialize in drug charges that uses images of cocaine in their ads and firms that brag about their ability to clear child molesters of charges by attacking the child in court.

I'm not mirroring's article, not showing any of the specific law firms mentioned, because I don't have a death wish. You can go there and read it yourself. But be quick because Cracked is probably going to be drowning in lawsuits in about six minutes.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Revealing the Number of the Beast

Goldman Sachs by the numbers:
  • $8 billion - from the Federal Government due to the AIG bailout.
  • $16 billion - Bonuses to top executives.
  • $1 million - Donation to Haiti relief.
  • $1 million (less $6,000) - Donations to Barack Obama, 2008.
  • $6 million - All political donations, 2008.
  • 133333% - Return on investment - $6 million invested versus $8 billion bailout.
Standard Disclaimer: The wondrous evil that is Goldman Sachs deserves daily worship. Please don't sue me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rules for a Corporatist State

Now that the Supreme Court has made democracy illegal and imposed a Corporatist State on the United States a few new rules are in order.

I have always written that campaign donations are a thinly disguised form of bribery. Obviously, the intent of the Supreme Court is to remove that thin veil and make bribery both legal and respectable for those rich enough to participate. This new Supreme Court reshaping of the nation means that a corporation can invest a couple of million dollars in campaign donations that will directly result in $20 billion in federal contracts. It will be an outstanding return on an investment. So what to do?

Rule #1 - Any corporation which donates over one dollar to any federal election is forbidden to receive any federal contract for 10 years from the date of that donation. Any corporation currently working under a federal contract is forbidden to make donations to any federal election for the duration of the contract.

Rule #2 - No corporation may receive any loan, gift, or bailout from the Federal Government (including the Federal Reserve Bank) under the same restrictions listed above.

Rule #3 - Any corporation which makes donations or membership payments to a collective body (such as a PAC, the Chamber of Commerce, trade associations) and that body, in turn, makes a donation to a federal election will be treated as if the corporation made that donation directly. This is a "no money laundering" rule.

Rule #4 - All publicly held corporations must report annually to their shareholders all donations made in all federal, state, and local elections. Such reports to list the recipient and the amount.

This still won't stop corporations from setting up shell companies to make their donations (the Enron bookkeeping dodge).

Note: With just a little finagling (like in 2012 when Sarah Palin will hire her daughter as a campaign consultant) politicians will be able to move that money into their own pockets. This will quickly make politicians a wealthy class separate from the people and unbeholden to them.

That is why nothing will be passed. Politicians, especially Republican politicians, are already planning the McMansions they will be able to build. Still, there may be a small window if Democrats in Congress want to act now. Aw, who am I kidding?

Saturday, January 23, 2010


This week the Supreme Court ruled (5-4) that democracy was unconstitutional. The question is, what will replace it?
  • Corporatism - Certainly this was the intention of the Roman Catholic conservatives (Kennedy, Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas) on the Supreme Court. Historically, the most successful Corporatist state was Italy in the 1920's and 30's. It is no accident that one of the leading Corporatists of the time was Pope Pius XI and that his disciple is up for sainthood. Corporatism, put simply, is when a country exists solely for the benefit of corporations. The key element is government and large corporations are valued while individual rights and freedoms are sacrificed. Corporate welfare will be widespread while individual welfare is ignored. Labor will be specifically targeted for oppression.
  • Kleptocracy - Government by and for thieves. The most successful in recent history was Indonesia in the latter part of the 20th century. Laws are passed through bribery. The government exists to tax the lower and middle classes so money can flow directly into the pockets of a ruling elite. Think Goldman Sachs.
  • Plutocracy - Rule by the wealthy. This would be a country where Rupert Murdoch and Richard Scaife tell the government what to do and the government meekly complies. The most successful example is New York City under Michael Bloomberg.
Democracy had a nice run and I'm sure we'll miss it. It won't be long now before there is a federal law requiring advertising slogans be tattooed on our foreheads as a condition of employment.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Failure of Change

There is a lot of soul searching, finger pointing, and just plain angst over the loss of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. All of it - the Senate loss, the Tea Party Movement, and current polling results - may be the result of the Failure of Change.
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. ~ Barack Obama, Feb. 5 2008
Corporate management bookshelves are filled with tomes on why change fails and how to overcome the powerful force of organizational inertia. The most striking thing about the Obama Administration is how similar it is to the Bush Administration. The backbeat is certainly different but the song is the same.

The Gitmo Prison crimes continue. The wars not only continue but continue to grow and continue to consume both money and men. Bankers and stockbrokers continue to steal from shareholders and taxpayers with not just the acquiescence but the active help of government. Health Care Reform entered the sausage grinder of Congress and came out a stinking mess. The economy and employment continues to stagger between Depression and stagnation.

This is not to imply that Barack Obama does not want the change he spoke of. What happened is that each time he attempted to implement a change in direction for the country the headwinds were too strong and he was blown back on the wrong course. Examples:
  • Obama Closed Gitmo. He ordered it closed by tomorrow. Yet Gitmo stays open because Newton's Laws of Motion applies to societies as well as physics. The inertia to keep Gitmo unchanged was stronger than then effort to close it.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan. Senior officers need active wars to get medals.
    Businesses need active wars to get their multi-billion dollar contracts. Politicians are infinitely more afraid of being blamed for ending a war than being blamed for starting one. The result is, last month President Barack Obama gave a speech that Candidate Obama would have vigorously condemned. He gave a Nobel Peace Prize speech defending war.
  • TARP. While the rules set in February 2009 were not harsh they were nonetheless rules. Top tier bankers are used to setting onerous conditions on borrowers, they don't like following rules themselves. One by one the rules have been neutered, negated, or ignored. Even the most frivolous corporate outings have been declared vital to economic recovery.
  • Health Care Reform. Don't get me started on what has happened to that except to remember the old saying that anyone who loves sausage or the law should never see either one being made.
  • Economy. Efforts to boost the economy, especially employment, have failed in large part by through concerted Republican efforts to block everything on the theory that four years of Depression will mean a Republican landslide in 2012.
Unlike all those writers and corporate consultants, I don't have any advice on how bring change to a government that seems locked on a course into the rocks. I know what needs to happen. Democrats in Congress, especially in the Senate, need to lock up their egos and shelve their individuality. If President Obama can accomplish that he can skip past any future Nobel prizes and go straight to sainthood.
We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. ~ Ben Franklin 1776

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stupid Arrogance in Football and Politics

The two most similar things in the universe today is Martha Coakley and the San Diego Chargers. Democrat Coakley is running for the safest Democratic Senate seat in the nation, Massachusetts, and it looks like she may lose, perhaps lose big. The Chargers had an 11 game winning streak,were arguably the best team in football, and had a homefield advantage against a New York Jets team that was lucky just to be playing in January. The Chargers lost by three and, frankly, it wasn't that close.

The weird thing is that both Coakley and the Chargers had exactly the same game plan.

Start by Looking Inevitable
Coakley won her primary in a walk, by 19 points; she had a 31 point lead against the Republican in December. The Chargers repeated, and repeated, that nobody, not even the NFL's top defense, could stop their cadre of tall receivers. Every pundit from
David Gregory to Jim Rome agreed that Coakley and the Chargers were both unbeatable.

Jog Through the First Half Decently
As late as January 10, Coakley had a 15 percent lead. Using the old football axiom that mistakes lose games, she was determined to make no mistakes. So determined was she, she hardly showed her face in the state at all.

The Chargers took an early 7-0 lead and, with the Jets barely able to get first downs, the Chargers convinced themselves that all they had to do was avoid mistakes and those seven points would be enough to win.

No Halftime Adjustments
Coakley's "do nothing" strategy seemed such a hit in the polls she saw no need for added energy as the election drew near. She was confident she was running the perfect campaign. Slight movement in the polls toward her opponent, Scott Brown, were dismissed as meaningless. His campaigning was ignored as Coakley pretended Brown didn't exist. Brown, on the other hand, was everywhere. He shook so many hands he probably had to ice down his elbow every evening. If he was going to lose, nobody was going to accuse him of not trying.

The Chargers, at halftime, had a tiny lead that should have been bigger. They concluded their offense would click eventually while their defense would continue to completely dominate the Jets. Why waste time making adjustment when perfect is perfect. The Jets, meanwhile, sweat blood studying the first half. They made major adjustments, especially on offense. If they couldn't run the ball then, by God, they would pass it and if that meant losing then at least they would go down swinging.

Panic Late
As the race tightened in the final fortnight Coakley and her staff started to panic. They didn't have a game plan for a close election and they began to act and overreact without thinking. Panic led to mistakes and those mistakes led to still more mistakes.

In the second half, the Chargers were faced with something unimaginable. The Jets were moving the ball. By passing. The Chargers had no game plan for this and overreacted trying to shut down the pass thus opened up running lanes. The Chargers offense, in turn, still wasn't clicking and panic set in. Panicked players make mistakes that lead to inopportune penalties and turnovers.

The Chargers had a late chance to tie the game but it would have been through luck, not design. Football teams that depend on luck seldom win. Coakley, too, might squeak out a victory tonight but it will take a shitload of luck.

Martha Coakley should have won easily. She had an easy campaign strategy, the great majority of Bay Staters agree with Coakley on the issues and disagree with Brown. If she had run her campaign by addressing issues she would be sitting pretty tonight. But, she was afraid of mistakes and instead ran a risk-free campaign that avoided nasty things like war and health care. She decided to run as "The Democrat" and nothing else. She surrendered the initiative to her opponent and he had the temerity to grab it. Democrats who vote for Brown will eventually regret it. But the sin is that Coakley didn't give those Democrats any reason to vote for her.

If the Chargers played the Jets ten times in the regular season they would win nine. If the Chargers play the Jets ten times in the playoffs they would lose every time. The Chargers shelved their high-risk, high-reward offense. They were afraid of making mistakes and so surrendered the initiative to the team willing to take chances.

Fortune favors the brave in football and politics.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

All Bankers Are Evil

The Transaction Fee Suck-off
I like pointing out that Goldman Sachs is the devil's investment bank but that is unfair to all the other major banking institutions.

Consider the Haiti earthquake disaster. Of the parasites sucking money away from the relief effort the most egregious are the credit card banks. Three percent of every cash donation is going to feed the profit sheets of American Express, Visa, and MasterCard. To put it in terms of blood, for every 100 Haitians who could be saved by the relief effort, three will die to fatten the bankers.

Remembering Woodie Guthrie
Many years ago I heard an old, scratchy recording of Woodie's radio show. He was telling a story about a banker. I can't find a transcript so here is my rendition.
It was the Depression that was a banker in Oklahoma noted for his cruelty. While all bankers are cruel, this man was exceptionally so. He had one glass eye. Nobody knows how he lost his eye but folks thereabouts surmised it had been part of a transaction he had had with the Devil. Anyway, this banker liked to toy with his debtors like a cat does with a mouse. When he went out to foreclose on a farm he would offer the farmer one more month, at interest, if he guessed which was the banker's glass eye and which was the real eye.

One day the banker played this game with an old farmer out past Dill City. The farmer looked at the banker for quite a spell and then confidently said that the right eye was glass and the left real.

"Well," said the banker, "you are right, old man. Almost no one guesses right. Did someone tell you?"

"No one told me," the farmer said. "I just looked at your eyes. One was dead and cold and heartless. The other had the smallest, slightly, faintest reflection of humanity and the milk of human kindness. I knew that eye had to be made of glass. Your real eye was the one that was cold and heartless."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Winter from Hell

January has been a horrible weather month in SoCal. Okay, I realize most of you don't think that moderate temperatures, crystal clear skies, and not a drop of rain is horrible. But, you don't have my body. My seasonal allergies interprets the above weather pattern as a sign of the Apocalypse.

Allergies are really just the body panicking. Expose my body to very dry air and it becomes convinced it is locked in a giant convection oven the brain hasn't noticed and floods the sinuses and lungs with fluids. You can't reason with your body, it won't listen. You're all "come on, it's just a nice day" while the body is screaming "we're all going to die!!!!"

My body's panic when exposed to alternating dry, cool, outdoor weather and warm, even dryer, indoor conditions is to overcompensate. My lungs fill with mucus (not asthma but asthma-like, according to my doctor) so I feel like I'm drowning, my sinuses start running like Niagara Falls (rhinitis) and feel like they are filled with concrete.

If I take enough anti-histamine to sedate a bull elephant I can suppress the symptoms but then about the only thing I am good for is hibernating. The only bright side is, if I am every taken prisoner and waterboarded, it won't be so bad. It can't be worse than what my body does to me.
Remarkably close to what my body does to me every Winter.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Dreams and Reality

The Dream - Last night I dreamt I met the actress Demi Moore. While I was totally out of my league I still managed to be charmingly witty and we shared several good laughs. You can't tell from her photos, but in my dream Demi (I feel I can call you Demi now) has freckles that make her face look a little dirty. And, no potty brain, we did not have sex. Demi Moore is a classy lady and it was our first dream together.

Reality - While I was dreaming about Demi Moore a possum was taking a crap in the small patch of grass in my backyard.
Reality sucks.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Don't Make Satan Angry

Two Goldman Sachs posts in two days. Talk about tempting the devil.

These people are really tempting The Evil One by filing lawsuits against Goldman and its CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Of course they "wholly abdicated their fiduciary duty." That's like saying kittens breath.
Not the Goldman Sachs CEO.

It's what they do and they did it with a song in their hearts. The question is not whether or not Blankfein cheated his shareholders. He cheats the Feds, why should he balk at stealing from shareholders? The question is what will Blankfein do if he becomes angry.
Possible view of Goldman Sachs CEO
testifying before Congress.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Devil's Minion

When the credit-default swaps shit hit the fan a couple of years ago the Devil's own investment bank, Goldman Sachs, had a problem. They had insured their insane investments through AIG using their insane investments a collateral and AIG was busted.

If the natural course of free enterprise was followed then Goldman Sachs would have had to write off their bad debts and all of their executives that had come to expect massive Christmas bonuses as well as those elaborate parties where the still warm blood of virgins was drunk would have had to tighten their belts for a season or two.

Fortunately for Goldman Sachs they had an obsequious minion named Timothy Geithner at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The Fed put up the money so virgin blood could continue to flow and conspired with AIG to cover up the transactions because satanic covens are best held in secret.

Standard Disclaimer: Goldman Sachs is the most wonderful, most perfect company in history. I worship Goldman Sachs as I would only the greatest demon spawn of Hell.

Bristol Palin - Consultant (??)

What does a nineteen year-old who previous political experience consists of being pregnant during mummy's national election bring to the table that professionals with twenty and thirty years of experience in politics and public relations lack? The answer is, nothing useful. So what good is Bristol Palin's new consulting firm?

That answer is that mummy Sarah plans to begin running for President. Sarah will need a conduit for the bribes and under-the-table cash Sarah wants to collect that immunizes her from charges of corruption. Anyone who questions Bristol's activities will be immediately attacked for the vile act of being mean to Sarah's family.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Lost Decade

HuffPost is calling the '00s "The Lost Decade" and that is as appropriate as anything to describe the decade dominated by George Bush Jr. Perhaps most telling is that rightwing blogs are just ignoring the whole change of decade thing and pretending the past ten years never happened at all.

According to, as decades go the '00s were worse than most but not the worst ever. They are right that the 1930's (the decade-long Great Depression, rise of Adolf Hitler) and the 1910's (World War I, rise of Communism, and the Spanish Flu that killed 100 million world wide) were worse. They may even be right that the 1960's (Vietnam War, assassinations galore) was a worse decade than the '00s but I believe the good of that decade (the successes of the Civil Rights struggle, a fairly good economy, and the music) counterbalances the bad and made the 1960's tolerable.

The trouble with the '00s is that there is almost nothing good you say about the decade. I mean, the best part was the communications revolution (cell phones, iPods, and the blossoming of the Internet) and in no way outweighs the horrible parts (the Lesser Depression, the Great Tsunami, Katrina, radical Islam, radical Republicanism, George Bush Jr.).

The 2010's may turn out well, I hope so. Or it may be the decade when global climate change becomes irreversible. If so, then the 2010's may be remembered by our posterity as the worst decade in the history of mankind.