The River

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Speak up

Use the petition to let congress know your views on the bailout.

Then call your congresspeople. MoveOn will provide their numbers on the page confirming your signature.

I did, hoping at least one Bush catastrophe could be averted, or at least mitigated.

Note to Wall Street financiers

There is no escape velocity. You just end up doing more damage. You should have learned that in college.

Monday, September 29, 2008

House Rejects Bailout Package, 228-205; Stocks Plunge


In a moment of historic drama in the Capitol and on Wall Street, the House of Representatives voted on Monday to reject a $700 billion rescue of the financial industry.

Mainstreet ain't buyin it, either.

Check out the comments on this NYT article. This one is from my neighborhood, and you can't get much more mainstreet than that:

Bailout shreds our first principles of equality and fair play. The innocent of limited means are to repair the greed and recklessness of the perpetrators, many of whom possess staggering wealth. If anything trumps the notion that some institutions are "too big to fail," it ought to be that some principles are too basic to be pushed aside.
— EW, Tucker, GA

And this one is very perceptive:

This plan is indefensible using reason. That's why all they have resorted to is fear mongering. Disgusting. Shameful. Irresponsible and insulting.

"...this sucker could down!" "Financial Armageddon"

"A once in a century event" "Unthinkable catastrophe" "3-4 million Americans will lose their jobs in the next 6 months" "A meltdown on Wall St. that will IMMEDIATELY cause a meltdown on Main St."

Pelosi's statement was priceless- "All of this was done in a way to insulate Main St. and everyday Americans from the crisis on Wall St."

Insulate? Then why no bankruptcy reform? Why no money for investigators and auditors to provide transparency of the web of toxic practices that got us into this mess? Why no commitment to shut down the CDS casino going forward? What you sold to everyday Americans is the most expensive blanket ever made while neglecting to fix the heat.

The fundamental principle of this bi-partisan plan is a $700 billion dollar tax increase on Joe six-pack and his family to pay the gambling debts of multi-millionaires. That's just a fact. The bogus possibility of taxpayers recouping their losses on those worthless credit derivatives is dependant on the housing bubble re-inflating, which we should all be hoping will not happen! If it does, it will only be brief before it bursts again because bubbles must burst by definition. Inflated price/household income ratios are dangerous. Get it? Talk about voodoo economics. This is the equivalent of bloodletting to treat AIDS.

200 economists wrote to Barney Frank and Co. urging them to wait and study alternatives. He told them to take a hike. The public, screaming in fury at their representatives in polls and thousands upon thousands of phone calls, letters and e-mails were told to take a hike.

Exactly WHY there isn't more time has never, I repeat, NEVER been laid out in unambiguous terms. All we've been fed is a revolting diet of the politics of fear. "You won't be able to get a mortgage! Credit card rates will skyrocket! Businesses will be unable to expand and grow. Unemployment will rise!" They think we're idiots. All these things have temporarily happened before without cries of Armageddon.

Sure, if you got bad credit, you won't get a sub-prime mortgage, which is a really good idea. But mortgages make banks money, they're not going to disappear. Credit card rates going up might cause people to stop living beyond their means, also not a bad idea. Businesses with good products and good models will grow because they are profitable, worthy of investing in. Those with no profits, when you take away the deceptive accounting tricks derivatives facilitate, will fail. And a jobs program would cost a lot less than $700 billion dollars.

The policy makers on both sides of the aisle who accept this deal are lying to us and bowing to fear, subservient to financial industry lobbyists. This bill is a big, fat ugly mistake that must be stopped.

— joe (new york), New York

UPDATE: McCain and Republican leaders are saying it failed because of a childish fit by Republicans over a Pelosi speech! Unbelievable.

Good questions

About the $700 billion looting bill

Joe Bageant:

What if we took the bail-out money and paid off every college loan, every credit card, every pending foreclosure and every mortgage in arrears, and every unpaid hospital bill? Wouldn't that free up a lot of income to stimulate our economy, 70% of which is based on Americans consuming good, services and commodities? Wouldn't it be better to have the money circulating, stimulating the U.S. economy than stashed in overseas as accounts? If Bush's little $250 rebate propped up the national economy for a couple of months, wouldn't distributing the $700 billion push the economy into the stratosphere? What if we used it to pay down the national debt? Wouldn't the American dollar reverse its plunge? At the very least for the first time in 80 years Americans would actually owe the debt to themselves, not the unseen financial lords.

Congratulations! We Just Spent $700B On Toxic Waste

By Winter Patriot


[when the bailout bill passes, we will be] proud owners of $700 billion worth of toxic waste, none of which we need and none of which we can afford to pay for.

If you read the mainstream media, you will learn that the bipartisan bailout effort was hampered by political bickering. This is politically acceptable code for the fact that the swindle was opposed by people taking firm, principled stands, on both left and right.

From the right, the bailout is seen as a case of government interference in a private sector issue. From the left it is seen as another instance of the government robbing from the poor to give to the rich. Both points of view are valid, and the combination tells a tale: the bailout is in fact a case of government interfering in the private sector to rob from the poor to give to the rich.

And that's why, to the extent that it was supported at all, the support for the bailout has been generated through the manipulation of fear, and fear, and more fear, and the dissemination of lies, and lies, and more lies.

Speaking of lies, how much does it matter that the firms about to be bailed out are under investigation by the FBI for securities fraud? None at all, apparently; and this is reality reversal at its finest. In normal cases of securities fraud, the government confiscates the ill-gotten gains from the criminals. But this time the criminals have been holding the entire country for ransom.


Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, The Pentagon Bailout Fraud

As Chalmers Johnson, author most recently of Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, the final volume of his Blowback Trilogy, has pointed out for years, the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, and America's wars are in the process of bankrupting us. How strange then that, as he indicates below, no one in the mainstream even blinks when a staggering new Pentagon budget sails through the House of Representatives and then, by voice vote, through the Senate just as negotiators in Washington are scrambling to find a similar sum to deal with a catastrophic financial meltdown; nor does anyone in the mainstream bother to make any connection between that budget and the funds we don't have available to use elsewhere, or between the looting of Iraq and the looting of our financial system (and, in both cases, of course, the looting of the American taxpayer). Tom

We Have the Money
If Only We Didn't Waste It on the Defense Budget
By Chalmers Johnson

There has been much moaning, air-sucking, and outrage about the $700 billion that the U.S. government is thinking of throwing away on rich New York bankers who have been ripping us off for the past few years and then letting greed drive their businesses into a variety of ditches. In fact, we dole out similar amounts of money every year in the form of payoffs to the armed services, the military-industrial complex, and powerful senators and representatives allied with the Pentagon.

On Wednesday, September 24th, right in the middle of the fight over billions of taxpayer dollars slated to bail out Wall Street, the House of Representatives passed a $612 billion defense authorization bill for 2009 without a murmur of public protest or any meaningful press comment at all. (The New York Times gave the matter only three short paragraphs buried in a story about another appropriations measure.)


Good stuff as usual from Johnson, but there were murmurs here at The River. I protested this obscene waste , and told you why it's not an issue: the internally manufactured War on Terror was designed to head off debate, as even a slight murmur of doubt as to the wisdom of such appropriations opens one to the charge of being "soft on terrorism," which is political suicide.

WaMu goes down!! Wall Street vs. Your Street.

By Reconstitution 2.0


the problem is not liquidity, the problem is trust. If the problem were liquidity, all of the money the FED and Treasury have pumped into the markets over the past six months would have been sufficient to cure any problems. Let’s look at the list:

Bear Stearns takeover and fold into JP Morgan. Cost to FED = $29 billion.

28 Day Term Auction Facility. Cost to FED = $100 billion.

28 Day Term Repurchase Agreements. Cost to FED = $150 billion.

28 Day Term Securities Lending Facility. Cost to FED = $200 billion.

Overnight Primary Dealer Credit Facility. Cost to FED = $262 billion.

28 Day TSLF Option Auctions. Cost to FED = $50 billion.

84 Day Term Auction Facility. Cost to FED = $25 billion.

Federal Housing Finance Agency (Fannie/Freddie nationalization). Cost to Treasury = $500 billion.

AIG nationalization. Cost to FED = $85 billion.

MBS purchases. Cost to Treasury = $200 billion.

Swap line with European Central Bank. Cost to FED = $120 billion.

Swap line with Swiss Central Bank. Cost to FED = $30 billion.

Swap line with Bank of Japan. Cost to FED = $60 billion.

Swap line with Bank of England. Cost to FED = $40 billion.

Swap line with Bank of Canada. Cost to FED = $10 billion.

Asset Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Liquidity Facility. Cost to FED = $73 billion.

Conversion of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to banks. Cost to FED = unknown.

Swap line with Reserve Bank of Australia. Cost to FED = $10 billion.

Swap line with Sveriges Riksbank (Central Bank of Sweeden). Cost to FED = $10 billion.

Swap line with Danmarks Nationalbank (Central Bank of Denmark). Cost to FED = $5 billion.

Swap line with Norges Bank (Central Bank fo Norway). Cost to FED = $5 billion.


That totals $1.964 TRILLION of liquidity that has already been pumped into the system, so why would anyone think another $700 billion will make any difference in making lenders lend again?? The short answer is: It won’t!!

If the real problem is that lenders refuse to lend because they can’t figure out what the true value/risk of any security issued over the last five years is, then the Paulson outline is doomed to failure because it does nothing to add transparency or clarify the true value of any “product”. What needs to happen is every MBS and CDO must be pulled apart, each individual mortgage evaluated to determine if the account is current or in default, then regrouped and re-rated properly. But that is a lot of work and Paulson’s bunch of Wall Street “consultants” will never do it.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sign the Petition

Senator Bernie Sanders proposal to force taxpayer protections in the bailout:

Dear Secretary Paulson:

As a representative of the Bush Administration, you have proposed a financial bailout program of $700 billion – over $2,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. We are appalled that your proposal puts the cost of this bailout on average Americans; that it contains no provisions reversing failed deregulatory policies; that it allows executives at these failed institutions to continue to make exorbitant salaries and bonuses, and that your proposal contains no help for average Americans who themselves are facing severe economic hardships.

While the Administration has quickly rallied to help Wall Street, it has ignored the needs of the declining middle class. Since President Bush has been in office the wealthiest people in this country have made out like bandits and have not had it so good since the 1920s. The top one-tenth of one percent now earn more income than the bottom 50 percent of Americans and the top one percent own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Incredibly, the richest 400 people in our country saw their wealth increase by $670 billion during the Bush presidency.

Having mismanaged the economy for 8 years while continually insisting that, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong,” the Bush Administration, six weeks before an election, wants the middle class of this country to bail out Wall Street to the tune of one trillion dollars. Meanwhile the wealthiest people, those who have benefited most from Bush’s policies and are in the best position to pay, are being asked for no sacrifice at all. This is absurd.

Any plan to clean up the mess on Wall Street must:

1. Ensure that middle income and working families are not the ones who are paying for this bailout by
Imposing a five-year, 10 percent surtax on income over $1 million a year for couples and over $500,000 for single taxpayers. That would raise more than $300 billion in revenue over five years;

Ensuring that assets purchased from banks are realistically discounted so companies are not rewarded for their risky behavior and taxpayers can recover the amount they paid for them; and

Requiring that taxpayers receive equity stakes in the bailed-out companies so that the taxpayers’ assumption of risk is rewarded when companies’ stock goes up.

Taken together these three provisions will substantially reduce the likelihood that this bailout will end up on the backs of average American taxpayers.

2. Include a major economic recovery package which puts Americans to work at decent wages. Among many other areas, we can create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and moving our country from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Further, we must protect our must vulnerable families from the very difficult times they are experiencing.

3. Repeal the disastrous de-regulatory legislation that facilitated this crisis.

4. End the danger posed by companies that are “too big too fail,” that is, companies whose failure would cause systemic harm to the U.S. economy. If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. We need to determine which companies fall in this category and then break them up.
In closing, we believe it is appropriate to act quickly to address any systemic danger to our economy. But that does not mean that we need to give a blank check to the financial sector.


Senator Bernie Sanders

Citizen Co-Signers

Add your signature.

Jonathan Schwarz has more recommendations for today's to-do list.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Wednesday, September 24, 2008 7:20 a.m.

Washington -- Five military veterans, all members of Veterans For Peace, are breaking camp from their perch on the National Archives building this morning, taking with them their 22x8-ft. banner demanding "DEFEND OUR CONSTITUTION. ARREST BUSH AND CHENEY: WAR CRIMINALS!" that has overlooked their 24-hour action on a narrow ledge 35 feet above Constitution Ave.

Tarak Kauff, 67, former Army Airborne, who provided ground support throughout, said in a phone interview, "We're always told to 'write your Congressman,' and we have. Only this time we brought a letter they couldn't miss. We've made our point writ large that Bush and Cheney are war criminals and must be arrested and prosecuted. Impeach them if we can, but we're not holding our breath for Congress to act. The kingpins of this criminal administration will be brought to justice, along with many of their lieutenants."


via Buzzflash where a comment notes:

"We take this action as a last resort," their statement added. "For years we have pursued every avenue open to good, vigilant citizens to bring these men to justice, to re-establish the rule of law, and to restore the balance of power described in our Constitution. We are not disturbing the peace; we are attempting to restore the peace. We are not conducting ourselves in a disorderly manner; our action is well-ordered and well-considered. We are not trespassing; we have come to the home of our Constitution to honor our oath to defend it."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Disaster Capitalism

cruxpuppy on Mike Whitney's Mushroom Cloud over Wall Street (the two make an excellent team)

Yes! Heartfelt indignation is a tonic for us all, and Mike Whitney knows how to lay it down!

The picture is muddled, though, as it tends to be in moments of traumatic shock, as described by Naomi Klein. We are not seeing the nationalization of the banking system. We are witnessing the mother of all privatizations.

The Fed was created, ostensibly, to make monetary policy independent of passing political humors. The august men of wealth know money best and are capable of administering the wisest monetary policies.

Surprise! The Fed is the Trojan horse of the oligarchs. The Treasury is the Fed's sock puppet. Paulson is Bernanke's main man. The private monetary system, called the Federal Reserve, is the control arm of the corporate oligarchy designed to promote an anti-democratic political agenda.

"Nationalization" is a meaningless term when the government has been privatized. The Bill of Rights has been mortally wounded, the separation of powers overwhelmed by the Executive, the Congressional eye blinded, and now the power of the purse stripped away.

The corporate oligarchs have launched the surge that will consolidate their power in the long war against the people that was launched on 911. It is not reviewable.

These same oligarchs tried an old fashioned banana republic style coup in the 30's against FDR. It was defeated by the patriot Marine Major General Smedley Butler. The names of the coup plotters were hushed up and they lived to fight another day.

Welcome to the neo-national socialism. And if one is inclined to foresee economic ruin in this privatized government, bear in mind the economic miracles wrought by the Third Reich.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mission Accomplished: The 2001 Military Coup

The "Rebuilding America's Defenses" docmument put out by the Project for the New American Century in 2000 lamented the lack of growth in defense spending (aka contracts for cronies), which was about $275 billion in 1999.

The stated goals of this group, who became our military and foreign policy leaders in 2001, was to:

ESTABLISH FOUR CORE MISSIONS for U.S. military forces:
• defend the American homeland;
• fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars;
• perform the “constabulary” duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions;
• transform U.S. forces to exploit the “revolution in military affairs;”

And it coyly noted, "To carry out these core missions, we need to provide sufficient force and budgetary allocations."

It yearned to effect regime change in Iraq, regardless of the presence of Saddam Hussein as its leader.

It lamented that if we don't meet the defense requirements, discussed in loving detail, then the cost "will be a lessened capacity for American global leadership and, ultimately, the loss of a global security order that is uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity."

"Security" in this context is the same as "security" in Iraq, i.e. the threat of violence, armed occupation, and warfighting. And "uniquely friendly" to these people means no one complains about resource theft when you are threatening to blow shit up.

Mostly, it is a document of warmongers and profiteers concerened about the end of the Cold War, concerned about talk of a peace dividend. Or in their words:

"In short, anything less than a clear two-war capacity threatens to devolve into a no-war strategy." And, "At current budget levels, a modernization or transformation strategy is in danger of becoming a “no-war” strategy."

Concerend about no wars. Peace as threat. Concerned about "sharp reductions made by the Clinton Administration from the amount projected in the final Bush defense plan." Concerned, when all is said and done, about their market -- fighting/corpse production -- the type of "world order" they desire.

Finally, there are the famous lines all-but-welcoming a terrorist attack of massive, spectacular proportions:

"The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor."

Mission accomplished: The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a $612.5 billion defense spending bill for fiscal 2009, including $70 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No-war threat averted. Two wars undeway. Defense spending skyrocketing.

The country they're "defending"? Never actually part of the equation. That should be obvious to almost everyone by now.

1997 PNAC signatories:

Elliott Abrams, Gary Bauer, William J. Bennett, Jeb Bush

Dick Cheney, Eliot A. Cohen, Midge Decter, Paula Dobriansky, Steve Forbes

Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Fred C. Ikle

Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Norman Podhoretz

Dan Quayle, Peter W. Rodman, Stephen P. Rosen, Henry S. Rowen

Donald Rumsfeld, Vin Weber, George Weigel, Paul Wolfowitz

Thursday, September 18, 2008

100 Year Crash: McCain advisor spurred $62 trillion derivatives market that will swamp global markets

Posted Sep 15th 2008 9:09AM by Peter Cohan

Lurking in the background of this weekend's collapse of two of Wall Street's biggest names, is a $62 trillion segment of the $450 trillion market for derivatives that grew huge thanks to John McCain's chief economic advisor, Phil "Americans are Whiners" Gramm. That's because in December 2000, Gramm, while a U.S. Senator, snuck in a 262-page amendment to a government re-authorization bill that created what is now the $62 trillion market for credit default swaps (CDSs).

I realize it is painful to read about yet another Wall Street acronym, but this is important because it will help you understand why the global financial markets are collapsing. And it will give you information to consider when you vote in November. CDSs are like insurance policies for bondholders. In exchange for a premium, the bondholders get insurance in case the bondholder can't pay. As I posted, in the case of the $1.4 trillion worth of Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE) bonds, the government's nationalization last Sunday triggered the CDSs on those bonds. The people who received the CDS premiums are now obligated to deliver those bonds to the ones who paid the premiums.

Gramm's 262-page amendment, dubbed "The Commodity Futures Modernization Act," according to Texas Observer, freed financial institutions from oversight of their CDS transactions. "Prior to its passage, they say, banks underwrote mortgages and were responsible for the risks involved. Now, through the use of [CDSs]-which in theory insure the banks against bad debts-those risks are passed along to insurance companies and other investors," wrote Texas Observer.

How does this relate to Lehman's bankruptcy? "[CDSs] were a key factor in encouraging lenders to feel they could make loans without knowing the risks or whether the loan would be paid back. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act freed them of federal oversight," according to Texas Monthly. And it was due to these CDSs that Wall Street held an emergency session yesterday to try to minimize the damage of Lehman's CDSs and other derivatives. Unfortunately, this session did not produce much thanks to the built-in lack of knowledge of the risks in these transactions that Gramm's legislation ensured.

You are going to be reading more and more about CDSs over the months ahead -- it will become as familiar as the phrase subprime mortgage was in 2007. Unfortunately, there were "only" $1.3 trillion worth of subprime mortgages and the CDS market is 48 times bigger than that -- and more than four times bigger than U.S. GDP. And since nobody has ever had to deal with this volume of CDS unwindings, it is impossible to calculate how much they will cost.

One thing is clear. If you think America is a nation of whiners and this is a mental recession, I strongly urge you to vote for McCain. But if you take a look at how much you are paying at the gas pump, how much of your retirement will be wiped out in the months ahead, and how you will pay all those bills as the unemployment rate climbs higher, it might be worth considering whether you can afford to elect a man who relies on Phil Gramm for economic advice.

Peter Cohan is President of Peter S. Cohan & Associates. He also teaches management at Babson College and edits The Cohan Letter. He has no financial interest in the securities mentioned.

See original for embedded links.

Barack Obama Addresses Economic Crisis

Press Conference Sept. 16, 2008 Part 1

Barack Obama's Plan for Change ad

Obama's economic proposals

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"House of Palin" Finale Breaks Records

The season finale of Fox's smash hit "House Of Palin" garnered a record 58 million viewers Thursday evening, becoming the most watched television show in American history. The wildly successful reality program, which chronicles the foibles and follies of Vice President Sara Palin and her whacky family, became an instant sensation when it debuted shortly after Mrs. Palin took office last year.

Last night's episode resolved several cliffhangers and closed with surprise appearances by President McCain and Lindsay Lohan. An overnight New York Times-CBS poll found that 77 percent of viewers were pleased that Bristol Palin quit her job as an Applebee’s waitress and decided to finally pursue her dream of becoming a Formula One racecar driver. Warrior, her rambunctious two-year old son, will make the move to North Carolina with his mother. But his father Levi will continue to live in the Naval Observatory basement. Bristol and her husband have not been on speaking terms since he was caught selling the Vice-President’s undergarments on Ebay.

The poll also found that Track Palin’s approval rating plummeted from 70 to 6 percent overnight. Viewers were outraged that the brooding Iraq War veteran, in a fit of rage, killed a neighbor’s barking dog with a surface to air missile, producing a dangerous, half-acre blaze that took the fire department over 24 hours to extinguish. Police officers arrived at the Naval Observatory to arrest Mr. Palin, but President McCain, citing the Country First Act, immediately exonerated Track and ordered DC police to leave the premises. As the police were leaving, Mr. Palin stood bare-chested in the driveway, raised a middle finger and shouted, “suck this” while clutching his genitals.

Willow Palin embarked on a solo-hunting trip in Alaska, where the 14-year-old continued to impress viewers with her grit and resourcefulness. In a dramatic, tense moment, Ms. Palin climbed an snowy embankment and came face to face with a 700 pound buffalo. When the beast approached, Ms. Palin let out a high-pitched warrior shriek and charged the buffalo, driving a knife made of stone deep into its chest. She then devoured the animal raw, reducing it to bones in less than five minutes.

Vice President Sara Palin has moved her approval rating amongst women from an already stratospheric 88 percent to an unprecedented 100 percent with her decision to file for divorce from her husband Todd. The Sara-Todd saga has captivated and divided viewers ever since Mr. Palin announced his plans to undergo a sex change operation and change his name to Destiny.

After the shocking news, the Vice President fell into a deep depression and spent nearly every day in bed, watching Passion of the Christ, eating moose paws and receiving pedicures from a rotation of secret service agents. In the months leading up to the operation, Destiny started wearing Jordache jeans, purple glitter and sassy half-shirts. He enrolled in beauty school part-time, but continued to discharge his duties as Second Gentleman. The Vice President felt conflicted over the decision to leave Destiny, struggling between her religion’s opposition to both divorce and sex change operations. But public opinion turned sharply against Destiny when he/she started openly dating the troubled actress Lindsay Lohan.

President McCain made a dramatic appearance last night when he and Vice President Palin boarded Air Force One and flew to Los Angeles, where they confronted Destiny and Ms. Lohan at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. With the rapper Snoop Dogg performing onstage and Ms. Palin trailing behind, the President strode purposefully through the crowd and into the VIP section, where Destiny and Ms. Lohan were ensconced in private booth, tongue kissing behind a wall of champagne. The President stormed up to Destiny and knocked all the champagne bottles from the table, while Ms. Palin stood behind him with her arms crossed. Then the President reached into his breast pocket and retrieved a thick packet of divorce papers. Snoop Dogg stopped rapping and the whole crowd turned and looked on in stunned silence. Once President McCain had everyone’s full attention, he slammed the divorce papers down on the table and said, “You’ve been served!” Vice President Palin kissed her index finger, touched her backside and made a “sizzling” sound. The crowd roared, cheering and shouting insults at Destiny and Ms. Lohan.

The ground-breaking finale closed with Snoop Dogg, President McCain and Vice President Palin performing several rap songs from Mr. Dogg’s platinum-selling album “Doggystyle.”

-- K.M. Breay, Open Salon, Editor's Pick

The world's verdict will be harsh if the US rejects the man it yearns for

An America that disdains Obama for his global support risks turning current anti-Bush feeling into something far worse

By Jonathan Freedland The Guardian, Wednesday September 10 2008


If Sarah Palin defies the conventional wisdom that says elections are determined by the top of the ticket, and somehow wins this for McCain, what will be the reaction? Yes, blue-state America will go into mourning once again, feeling estranged in its own country. A generation of young Americans - who back Obama in big numbers - will turn cynical, concluding that politics doesn't work after all. And, most depressing, many African-Americans will decide that if even Barack Obama - with all his conspicuous gifts - could not win, then no black man can ever be elected president.

But what of the rest of the world? This is the reaction I fear most. For Obama has stirred an excitement around the globe unmatched by any American politician in living memory. Polling in Germany, France, Britain and Russia shows that Obama would win by whopping majorities, with the pattern repeated in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. If November 4 were a global ballot, Obama would win it handsomely. If the free world could choose its leader, it would be Barack Obama.

The crowd of 200,000 that rallied to hear him in Berlin in July did so not only because of his charisma, but also because they know he, like the majority of the world's population, opposed the Iraq war. McCain supported it, peddling the lie that Saddam was linked to 9/11. Non-Americans sense that Obama will not ride roughshod over the international system but will treat alliances and global institutions seriously: McCain wants to bypass the United Nations in favour of a US-friendly League of Democracies. McCain might talk a good game on climate change, but a repeated floor chant at the Republican convention was "Drill, baby, drill!", as if the solution to global warming were not a radical rethink of the US's entire energy system but more offshore oil rigs.

If Americans choose McCain, they will be turning their back on the rest of the world, choosing to show us four more years of the Bush-Cheney finger. And I predict a deeply unpleasant shift.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Country Fried

The Narco News Bulletin: "One of Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin’s First Actions as Alaska Governor Was to Equip the State Building with a Tanning Bed."

"Tanning salons are an absolute fad, especially popular among high school and college students, most of whom can’t afford to own such a machine – which can cost upwards of $35,000 – at home."

-- more

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 Anniversary

One of the best ways I know to honor the victims of 9/11 is to question the Bush administration's conspiracy theory.

They have a clear track record of lying and hiding the truth. Why should something as important as 9/11 be any different?

Neocons wanted to start wars in Afghanistan and Iraq before 9/11, but lamented in Project for a New American Century documents that they needed a catalyzing event, a "new Pearl Harbor," to sell them to the public.

Coincidentally, nine months into their administration, they got their event.

If I were a criminal investigator, I would chalk up motive and opportunity to the Bush-Cheney Neocons.

And they certainly appear guilty. Bush and Cheney have so much to hide that they would only talk to a non-independent, serioulsy compromised investigative commission off the record and only for one brief "cordial" chat. And that was in April, 2004, two and a half years after 9/11, due to obstruction and foot dragging. That's longer than it took to launch two defense contractor, oil speculating projects, also known as wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

CNN, April 30. 2004:

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney answered questions from the commissioners for more than three hours.

The president dismissed suggestions that he appeared before the panel with Cheney to coordinate stories.

"If we had something to hide, we wouldn't have met with them in the first place," Bush said. "We answered all their questions."

Bush said it was important for him and Cheney to appear together so that commission members could "see our body language... how we work together."

If you were writing a dime-store crime novel you couldn't create a more obviously guilty character than George W. Bush.

UPDATE: Thank you, Mike, for your post on 9/11. The South African blogger -- and astute observer of world affairs -- points to an Alternet article that tells us:

outside the United States, many are skeptical that al Qaeda was really responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Sixteen thousand people in 17 countries -- allies and adversaries in Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East -- were asked the open-ended question: "Who do you think was behind the 9/11 attacks?"

On average, fewer than half of all respondents said al Qaeda (although there was significant variation between countries and regions). Fifteen percent said the United States government itself was responsible for the attacks, 7 percent cited Israel, and fully 1 in 4 said they just didn't know.

Seems Bush isn't credible.

Even our own FBI claims there isn't enough evidence to make a case against Bin Laden. The confession tape? The one they supposedly just happened upon in a house in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in late 2001? The one with the fat Osama? Great for fooling the people, but criminal investigators aren't paid to be gullible patsies.

Lipstick, Pit Bulls & Pigs: The Campaign to Nowhere

By Michael Colby,
September 10, 2008


Now the nation is in that self-inflicted torture zone known as campaign season, whereby logic is seemingly forbidden, the issues are apparently off limits and activism is seen as simply impolite to the process – never mind, of course, that the process is masquerading as democracy. Shut up and watch, you fools.

Because it’s now all about pigs, pit bulls, lipstick and – yep – kindergarten sex-education. Thus replacing the war, gas prices, health care, energy policies, the economy and global warming. Fuck it, can’t someone just put lipstick on the planet and bring it into the discussion?


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Renewable energy, green technology

Should be a defining issue for Obama

Lifting the U.S. out of the Great Depression was a mighty task and the shift to renewables is to be a similar struggle. The tremendous costs and efforts required to build the infrastructures needed should be compared to the Works Projects that, among other things, built many dams that provided hydro-electric power plants while providing employment to willing workers in need of income. Rather than spending the country's wealth on the destruction of warfare in order to control as much as is possible of the dwindling and increasingly expensive oil the world is competing for, investment in the technologies now available and those in development should be seen to be as important for the country as was the building of the railroads and the highway systems - renewable energy IS the road to the future and the U.S. can be a world-leader in it's development. THAT is a winning proposition all around. As CwV notes, there are and will be those who stand to lose - the oil and coal industry and the military-industrial complex and their cronies - who must be contended with. Were it possible that a thoughtful President could nationalize those industries as Roosevelt did during WWII and mandate their conversion it would be a certainty that history would mark the move as the beginning of a new epoch - out with the coal and oil age and in with the era of renewable energy - it's a do-or-die situation that's time must come, better sooner than later or too late.

-- Nomen on BuzzFlash

Sarah Palin's Alaskonomics

Tue Sep 9, 2:55 AM ET

Sarah Palin thinks she is a better American than you because she comes from a small town, and a superior human being because she isn't a journalist and never lived in Washington and likes to watch her kids play hockey. Although Palin praised John McCain in her acceptance speech as a man who puts the good of his country ahead of partisan politics, McCain pretty much proved the opposite with his selection of a running mate whose main asset is her ability to reignite the culture wars. So maybe Governor Palin does represent everything that is good and fine about America, as she herself maintains. But spare us, please, any talk about how she is a tough fiscal conservative.

Palin has continued to repeat the already exposed lie that she said, "No, thanks," to the famous "bridge to nowhere" (McCain's favorite example of wasteful federal spending). In fact, she said, "Yes, please," until this project became a symbol and political albatross.

Back to reality. Of the 50 states, Alaska ranks No. 1 in taxes per resident and No. 1 in spending per resident. Its tax burden per resident is 21/2 times the national average; its spending, more than double. The trick is that Alaska's government spends money on its own citizens and taxes the rest of us to pay for it. Although Palin, like McCain, talks about liberating ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, there is no evidence that being dependent on Alaskan oil would be any more pleasant to the pocketbook.

Alaska is, in essence, an adjunct member of OPEC. It has four different taxes on oil, which produce more than 89% of the state's unrestricted revenue. On average, three-quarters of the value of a barrel of oil is taken by the state government before that oil is permitted to leave the state. Alaska residents each get a yearly check for about $2,000 from oil revenues, plus an additional $1,200 pushed through by Palin last year to take advantage of rising oil prices. Any sympathy the governor of Alaska expresses for folks in the lower 48 who are suffering from high gas prices or can't afford to heat their homes is strictly crocodile tears.

As if it couldn't support itself, Alaska also ranks No. 1, year after year, in money it sucks in from Washington. In 2005 (the most recent figures), according to the Tax Foundation, Alaska ranked 18th in federal taxes paid per resident ($5,434) but first in federal spending received per resident ($13,950). Its ratio of federal spending received to federal taxes paid ranks third among the 50 states, and in the absolute amount it receives from Washington over and above the amount it sends to Washington, Alaska ranks No. 1.

Under the state constitution, the governor of Alaska has unusually strong powers to shape the state budget. At the Republican Convention, Palin bragged that she had vetoed "nearly $500 million" in state spending during her two years as governor. This amounts to less than 2% of the proposed budget. That's how much this warrior for you, the people, against it, the government, could find in wasteful spending under her control.

One thing Barack Obama and McCain disagree on is an oil windfall-profits tax. McCain is against it, on the theory that it is a tax and therefore bad and also on the theory that it would discourage domestic production. Obama is for it, on the theory that if oil companies can make a nice profit when oil sells for $50 per bbl., they can still make a nice profit when it sells at more than $100, even if the government takes a bit and spreads the money around to those who are hurting from higher oil prices.

Although Palin's words side with McCain in this dispute, her actions side with Obama. Her major legislative accomplishment has been to revamp Alaska's windfall-profits tax in order to increase the state's take. Alaska calls it a "clear and equitable share" tax. The state assumes that extracting oil from the tundra costs about $25 per bbl. and takes as much as 75% of the difference between that and the sale price.

Why is a windfall-profits tax good for Alaska but not for the U.S.? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? People in Alaska are better than people in the rest of the U.S. They're more American. Although there are small towns and farms and high school hockey teams in the lower 48, there are fewer down here, per capita, than in Alaska. And there are many more journalists and pollsters and city dwellers and other undesirables who might benefit if every American had the same right to leech off the government as do the good citizens of Sarah Palin's Alaska.

Sarah Palin is the queen of pork. With lipstick.

Alaskans overlook her creationist beliefs and vindictive power games because she is writing them checks.

By the way, the other day I tried to walk out of a store without paying. I got caught and was told I would have to pay for the item if I wanted to keep it. I said "thanks, but no thanks" and left.

That shows how virtuous I was.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Country Last

By David Michael Green, ICH


I've seen Barack Obama reacting to the allegations and smears coming out of the Republican convention, and I've seen some of the ads he's running. The latter are pretty good, but the former is pathetic. This dude better freakin' cowboy up, and fast, or he is going to get consumed by the Rove machine, just like Dukakis, Gore, Kerry and the rest. Obama needs to show some anger, he needs to stop speaking so hesitantly in his delivery, he needs some sharp pithy lines to trot out, and he needs to go on the attack. In short, he needs to bare some teeth.

Most of all, while he still barely has a chance to do so, he needs to inoculate himself from what is surely coming. Now is the time to runs endless ads associating McCain with Rove with Bush with dirty politics and to scream out foul play, especially along the lines of not putting country first. Such inoculation will prove invaluable when the pond scum in the McCain camp want to start going very, very low, as the campaign nears election day. Obama can then fit such attacks into the frame he's created, shake his head in ‘sadness' at the ‘desperation' of the McCain campaign, and take away the single thing the Republican has going for him -- the false perception that he is a patriot and an honorable man. But if Obama waits until Schmidt really gets going, without paving the way in advance for an accurate perception of what they're actually doing, it will be too late.

Aren't they smart enough to get this?!?! The thought of another weak-kneed Democratic presidential candidate getting rolled by a GOP dirty politics machine is too much to possibly stomach, especially in 2008, when a candidate pretty much just needs to show up in order to win.

I have tentatively supported Obama so far in large part because I liked what I saw as some fighting instincts during the primary season. But if he can't attack McCain for picking someone who doesn't meet McCain's own definition of what the country needs in a president, if he can't show enough intelligence to put this patriotism crap off limits after the swift-boating experience of 2004, if he can't show some grit to the voting public who longs to see it, then he won't win and doesn't deserve to.


What Is Obama's Story?

By Dave Johnson, Seeing the Forest

Almost every single thing Palin said in her speech the other night turns out to be just a lie -- and it doesn't matter. She now has 58% favorability among the public. And she has a story. Within a day of the Palin announcement a well-informed, liberal, Democratic, pro-choice friend told me that Palin is "a reformer" -- "just like McCain."

Here is what the Republicans understand: facts don't matter, stories do. So knowing this, they just lie and say anything they want as long as it reinforces the story. How do you fight this? Getting bogged down refuting the lies can never work because they'll just make up a ton more lies for you to refute and you can't keep up. Meanwhile, they keep reinforcing the story while you're mired in the refutation. This is why almost every single thing Palin said in her speech turns out to be just a lie. But look how her STORY has taken hold! The story overcomes all the lies, even though the entire story is based on the lies.

The Obama campaign was the beneficiary of just such a story during the primaries. Obama became the great progressive transformation that we all want, while Hillary came to represent the past. She became NAFTA and DLC and lobbyists. Once these stories took hold there was nothing at all Hillary could do about it. Everything started to reinforce it. "Experience" came to mean "Bill" which meant the past.

THAT is how a story works. Facts just get in the way. (NOTE I am not saying that Obama's story was based on lies, I am saying the power of a STORY took over and swamped Hillary.)

This is the power of - and the reason for - the "elite" storyline they are trying so hard to establish. If it can take hold there is nothing that can be done about it. So far it is just a little bit too unbelievable. But we have seen how they have tried to tell one story after another, to see if one sticks.

So what IS Obama's STORY today? The FISA swing and a few things like that got rid of the "great progressive transformation" story that won the primaries. What does he represent and how do we drive the new story? How do we establish a negative story about McCain that sticks?

Remember how at the end of the Kerry campaign people still were saying that they didn't understand what Kerry and the Democrats were about, were for, etc? They were saying that there was no story.

What is the Obama story, in a sentence? McCain is the maverick who will change Washington, and so is Palin-the-reformer. That is a story. It is a story because they said it is.

What is the Obama story?

How about: Tough, smart leader who will energize America through innovation and economic opportunity for hard-working Americans of all classes and backgrounds.

Secondary story: The candidate who understands the need to promote sustainable practices and environmentally sound policy.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Anti-Obama Hate-Fest

By Robert Parry
September 4, 2008


Beyond the GOP's reality-challenged speeches, there was the startling image of a nearly all-white convention – where only 36 of the 2,380 delegates were black, the smallest number in at least 40 years – rollicking in ridicule and bristling with animosity toward Obama, an African-American.

With their loud chants of “drill, baby, drill” regarding energy policy and boisterous shouts of “USA, USA” about “victory” in Iraq, there was a sense that St. Paul was hosting a convention of American Falangists, rather than that of a modern national party.

The whiff of authoritarianism extended to outside where demonstrators and journalists were swept off the streets in indiscriminate arrests.

What’s less clear about the GOP convention is whether the Republicans are on to something, that perhaps the United States has crossed over into a post-rational society that cares little about facts and reality or serious policy ideas and respectful debate, but rather is a nation moved by anger and ridicule, fear and nationalism.


On those last two paragraphs: it's more than a whiff of authoritarianism and they are definitely on to something. Can you name one rational thing about the "war on terror"?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Palin all along?

I tend to give too much credit to the Republican/NeoCon Machinery. I know this. I regularly break the tried and true axiom of not attributing to Malice that which can be easily attributed to Incompetence.

All the same . . .

As I look at Palin's relatively meteoric rise to power, her creepy totalitarian world view, her terrifying fundamentalism, her dangerous ties to big oil and the media frenzy that is surrounding her, I can't help but wonder if she was the plan all along.

Consider the media smokescreen that is brushing the Police Actions in Minneapolis under the carpet. This whole tired soap opera is allowing the government to flex new and dangerous muscle when it comes to muzzling dissent with barely a hint of media attention. What little time and resources the media can focus are only sufficient to swallow the official line about the "anarchists" who are there to fuck shit up.

Meanwhile, legitimate organizations get raided and intimidated, have their video equipment, computers and files confiscated etc.

We can thank Palin and the Media Circus for a lot of this.

Now consider what she will do in office. She likes a firm totalitarian government but only has eyes for social issues and the borrow and spend nuts and bolts of domestic policy. She loves brandishing an AK-47 but would clearly defer to more experienced hands on military matters and foreign affairs.

Hell, she sounds like a dream President for the Neo-Cons in power. McCain sold his soul, but may still have some glowing embers in his gut that could one day become the proverbial fire in the belly for which he was once known. Do the Neo-Cons trust him?

Who do they trust more?

Who will be tasting President McCain's soup if he manages to bring this Fundamentalist NutJob to the White House? We need to vet her, not only for small time state level corruption and cronyism. We need to see whose crony she is.

Her narrative tells us that she just rose up from her kitchen table one day and took on the "old-boys establishment" in Alaska. I call shenanigans. Who was her mentor? Her sponsor? Who taught her the secret handshake, and taught her about the creepy Autocratic tactics that marked her first taste of "executive experience"

She seems a nonsense choice until you remember that the Neo-Cons want someone sympathetic to their lunacy (and anyone who thinks the Iraq war is a "Mission from God" fits that description all too well) who is also malleable and easily controlled.

Unless McCain is a legit Manchurian Candidate and the Neo-Cons have been handed his keycodes, Sarah Palin seems far more useful to the men behind the curtains.

-- EMStoveken

Like this poster commenting on a Glenn Greenwald piece at, I tend to attribute malice aforethought to Republican political moves, rather than incompetence.

Thug life

I've watched a good bit of the Republican convention so far. And beyond their disdain for government (unless it's fighting wars or serving the ultra wealthy), I've taken away the following messages:

Drill, baby, drill (on engergy policy)

Kill, baby, kill (on foreign policy)

Burn, baby, burn (on environmental policy)

Loot, baby, loot (on economic policy)

The party of the extreme right has fully embraced its well-established track record: thuggish, ignorant, uncaring, shallow, immature, and nihiistic.

Sarah Palin's Speech to Nowhere

By Will Bunch,

Sarah Palin delivered a great speech tonight -- for her party, for John McCain, for herself, for what she set out to accomplish. This was America's first real glimpse at the Alaska governor, and what we saw was a boffo politician who speaks in a plaintive prairie voice that channels America's Heartland like a chilling breeze rippling a field of wheat, who knows how to tell a joke, how to bring down the house and bring a tear to a few eyes. She is proud of her family, as she should be, and there is much to admire in her own "personal journey of discovery" (don't we all have these, by the way?) including her efforts to raise her son Trig. It is indeed nice to think that there would be an advocate for such children inside the corridors of the White House, although I'd surely like to hear what -- if anything -- she's done for special needs kids as governor of Alaska. was a great speech -- written for someone else, a male in fact, days before the Palin selection was even a gleam in John McCain's eye, but a great speech nonetheless. The pundits are fawning over it as I write this -- Tom Brokaw said she could have been "more winning and more engaging" -- and in a world that is dominated by horse race journalism I can understand why, because I agree that Palin's one-of-a-kind story has given her long shot running mate a decent chance now of pulling this one out at the finish line.

It's a good metaphor, a horse race, because in the end it finishes right near where it started -- just as it will be for America if John McCain and Sarah Palin are sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009. Yes, it was a great speech politically, and a great night for her family, but an empty speech for America -- and for America's families. It was defined by its lowest moment, Palin's shameless lie about "the Bridge to Nowhere."

This was a Speech to Nowhere.

It was a Speech to Nowhere when Palin said that "I told the Congress 'Thanks but no thanks' on that Bridge to Nowhere, because that was a lie, and the worst kind of lie in American politics, a blatant falsehood that showed utter contempt for the American people that Palin pledged to serve, assuming we are too stupid to look up or know that truth, that she pushed for those funds in Congress and while she got great political mileage out of announcing that she was killing the project, she still has not returned the funds to American people.

It was a Speech to Nowhere because Palin also boasted seconds before her lie of fighting against wasteful earmarks in Congress, even though she pushed for and accepted $27 million of such grants when she was mayor of Wasilla.

It was a Speech to Nowhere because Palin said that "we've got lots" of oil and gas this country, and while one supposes that all depends upon what you definition of the words "lots" is, the production of oil in the United States has been irrevocably on the decline since 1970, and with her words she showed this nation that she and John McCain will perpetrate the dangerous myths that began with Ronald Reagan at his acceptance speech in 1980, that sunny optimism is the solution to all our energy woes, and not a posture that put energy research on a war footing, or requires moral leadership on conservation, mass transit, or any other common sense answers whatsoever.

It was a Speech to Nowhere because Palin boasted that "I stood up to the special interests, and the lobbyists, and the Big Oil companies," and the audience cheered -- after eight brutal years of the same crowd's cheering two oilmen in the White House who fiddled while $4-a-gallon gas burned and while American men and women died in a needless war fought on top of an oilfield, and while lobbyist friends like Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed got rich at the same time.

It was a Speech to Nowhere because Palin had the nerve to talk at length about John McCain's "torturous interrogations" in the very same speech when she all but condoned the continuation of similar, abhorrent practices that have been directed for eight years by our own U.S. leaders, when she stated that Democrats are "worried that someone won't read them [terrorism suspects] their rights."

It was a Speech to Nowhere because Palin belittled "community organizers" -- thousands of Americans who work long hours for little pay in some of the toughest neighborhoods, trying to assist the American Dream that even the poorest among us can pull themselves out of the muck with a helping hand. Palin and other GOP speakers have turned a noble job into a dirty word tonight -- shame on you! Listen to what CNN's Roland Martin said after Palin's speech was over.

My two parents are sitting home in Houston, Texas and they are both community organizers and the GOP and Sarah Palin might have well have said "being community organizers doesn't matter" to my parents face. I'm disgusted. Community organizers keep people in their homes, keep their lights on, keep food in the fridge.

It was a Speech to Nowhere because it made no mention of the men that Sarah Palin and John McCain are running to replace -- their names are Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, in case you've forgotten this week -- and no acknowledgment that as many 80 percent of Americans believe this country is on the wrong track, or that you can't solve a nation's problems when you deny they exist.

It was a Speech to Nowhere because...well, I urge everyone to read the text, without Palin's sharp delivery or her adoring fans in the crowd and in the press box, and tell me where there is any kind of policy at all -- except for the short boilerplate passage on energy -- or any mention of the issues that concern everyday Americans, including the No. 1 issue of the economy. Show me the part where this "grand slam" of speech touches on how citizens can afford health care or sending their kids to college.

But more than anything else, it was a Speech to Nowhere because for all the acclaim, the great bulk of it was devoted to one thing, and that is the one thing that millions of Americans are talking about in 2008 when we talk about "change" -- to the ugliest kind of "pit bull" politics, to use Palin's words, that tear down the other side with cheap ad hominem attacks, surrounded by a cloud of half-truths (uh, those "Greek columns"...did you actually even watch Obama's speech? Because there weren't any) and ridiculous innuendo about "parting the waters" which means nothing but fires up a big hockey rink full of Dittoheads. These kind of vicious attacks -- without having the grace to acknowledge that, despite some real differences on issues with Obama, that he has already accomplished something impressive that says something positive about America and the progress we've made -- were utterly lacking in class. And this is what Tom Brokaw considers "winning" -- have we really sunk that low as a nation?. The people of America want and deserve a real debate, now trash talk from the basketball point guard who was once called "Sarah Barracuda."

I hope America wakes up tomorrow and realizes that Sarah Palin's words were rousing -- and completely empty, that they offered no road map (let alone bridge) for America other than more of the bogus partisan name-calling that has gotten us into the mess that we're in now.

Actually, let me rephrase that.

I hope America wakes up tomorrow.

See original for embedded links.