Archive for the ‘corruption’ Category

Guess the Party!

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Hey, gang, let’s play a game. It’s called “Guess the Party!” Oh, come on! It’ll be fun! The rules are simple. You read the story of a politician in legal trouble and try to guess whether said politician is a “culture of corruption” Republican or of some other party that is not the “culture of corruption” Republican Party. Okay, let’s play!

The young mayor of Detroit has been trying hard to take out of the news the sexual pecadillos and subsequent difficulties of New York governors. Apparently, he’s had an affair and he’s been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice regarding it. I am no more concerned about mayor Kilpatrick’s alleged sexual conquests than I’ve been with those of the various governors of New York or past presidents of the United States. My interest here is this: Corey Williams of Associated Press has written a 300 plus word article chronicling the issue and not once mentioned the party affiliation of Mayor Kilpatrick. Has AP ever written a story about a Republican in legal trouble without identifying the party affiliation in the lead paragraph?

Why is it that, when a politician who is not a “culture of corruption” Republican get’s into legal trouble, reporters lose all interest in party affiliation but when “culture of corruption” Republicans do, it is the first and most vital piece of information about which the reader must be informed? I’m stumped.

By the way, mayor Kilpatrick is a member of one of the two major political parties but is not a “culture of corruption” Republican…but you’ll have to look somewhere other than this article to find that out.

Now wasn’t that fun?

Why Spitzer Had to Go?

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Here’s another one sent to me by Chris – this time by my son Chris rather than my friend-since-ninth-grade Chris: http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/291.html As the link points out, the takedown of Elliott Spitzer for admittedly sleazy behavior, using what should have been confidential FBI information, took place shortly after he publicly pointed out the role of the Bush administration in creating the subprime mortgage mess by blocking the efforts of the state attorneys general to regulate lenders and investigate predatory lending. It sort of reminds me of the way Nixon used the IRS as his personal political hit team against people that made his enemies list.

Fox News: Tool of The Devil, Tool Of The Right

Friday, March 21st, 2008

News? You be the judge:

“Icky?” Karl Rove is a happy man every time he has lunch with Rupert Murdoch.

Charlie Rose: Paul Volker On Bear Stearns Bailout

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volker appeared on the Charlie Rose show last evening to discuss the recent actions to bailout Bear Stearns. Volker points out that the actions were unprecedented and he cautions that doing so may be an argument for greater regulation of investment houses like Stearns.

Volker’s remarks were focused on his concern that we are witnessing a transformation in the financial market. As such, he argues that it is time to review the mechanisms we have in place to insure that the economy is being protected from the bad decisions of these newly emerging financial players.

Volker doesn’t believe that the Federal Reserve should play a larger part in the regulatory process; rather he contends that they were forced to step into the void with regards to Bear Stearns. Volker suggests that the regulatory process should originate with our elected representatives.

The problem with that equation (even though I agree with Volker) is that the influence of the players in the financial market is daunting…and nothing provides better evidence of this influence than the recent rewriting of bankruptcy laws making it far more difficult for individuals to walk away from debt. Unfortunately, it appears that our government is on the precipice of bailing out the same financial institutions that sought to limit the options for relief by financially strapped citizens.

Yes, the GOP likes to be seen as opposing handouts and welfare…except when it is directed to those corporations that ante up each election cycle. The welfare reform enacted under the Clinton administration was one of the first steps in this shift towards escalating corporate welfare. If this trend continues, be prepared for further financial calamities of greater proportion…with astronomically more acute consequences.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

A People’s History of the United States

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

This book by Howard Zinn is packed with fascinating information. If you want to know what really happened — blemishes and all — this book offers an unabridged no-holds-barred history of our country, starting in 1492.

The only reason I even know about the book is because of a column by neocon spewbag Dennis Prager. He was ranting and foaming at the mouth about it in this column which appeared in our local paper. Anyone who reads this evil book will be “manipulated into believing that America is a bad country, certainly no better than others.” He describes the book as “essentially a proctologist’s view of American history.”

I assume the website doesn’t contain the entire book, but there are some huge excerpts here. Columbus’ first encounter with Native Americans (it wasn’t pretty); a chilling description of the first slave ship unloading its cargo at Jamestown in 1619; the “other civil war” in the early 1800s; new insights into our Vietnam invasion. There are 24 chapters in all.

If you don’t purchase the book, bookmarking the website is the next best thing.

I already knew a lot of this information from reading Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. This is an excellent world history book. It’s probably less detailed about American history than the Howard Zinn book since it’s more of a world overview. Both books are excellent antidotes to the whitewashed sanitized “history” we’ve all been taught.

I’ve never understood why it’s supposed to be “negative” or “anti-American” to teach history the way it really happened, warts and all. Every country — including this one — has a history of violence, war and unimaginable cruelty. What’s the purpose of suppressing this information? It seems pointless to take a vibrant living multi-layered history and condense it into a squeaky-clean feelgood Leave It To Beaver episode.

These two books are a big 180 from the condensed simplified “America to the rescue!” tripe we all studied in school. And we have the same contrast with today’s current news coverage. Listen to a scripted sanitized story on the evening news. Then check out the same story on one of the “alternative” news websites, or a foreign news source. Even in Canada and Europe, their coverage of American issues is much more complete and objective than anything you’ll get from our own mainstream “media.”

Generations from now when historians are writing about this era, what will they write? The bland sterile news we’re getting today from the mainstream media is probably what future generations will read in their “official” history textbooks. Hopefully there will also be a few authors like Howard Zinn and James Loewen who will tell what really happened.

George Bush (Brillant Master Of The Obvious) Says, “In The Long Run, Our Economy Is Going To Be Fine”

Monday, March 17th, 2008

No one ever claimed that George Bush has a powerful intellect. Certainly, you can’t expect more from the man who claimed a while back that we should “not misunderestimate” him. I cannot help but hearken back to that wonderful scene in the classic movie Animal House - where with the hoards roaring at him, the ROTC cadet yelling “all is well, remain calm” while getting flattened by the onrushing mob.

George Bush is so insignificant to the economy except for the inexcusable abuse of his administrations authority to get our country into this situation. His recent one minute speechifying is proof that he is irrelevant at this point in time:

9:40 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for coming by today to talk about the economic situation — we’ll be meeting later on this afternoon with the President’s Task Force on Financial Markets.

First of all, the Secretary has given me an update. One thing is for certain — we’re in challenging times. But another thing is for certain — that we’ve taken strong and decisive action. The Federal Reserve has moved quickly to bring order to the financial markets. Secretary Paulson has been — is supportive of that action, as am I. And I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for working over the weekend. You’ve shown the country and the world that the United States is on top of the situation.

Secondly, you’ve reaffirmed the fact that our financial institutions are strong and that our capital markets are functioning efficiently and effectively. We obviously will continue to monitor the situation and when need be, will act decisively, in a way that continues to bring order to the financial markets.

In the long run, our economy is going to be fine. Right now we’re dealing with a difficult situation and, Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you very much for your steady and strong and consistent leadership.

Thank you very much.

END 9:41 A.M. EDT

So, in the one minute it took George Bush to deliver his comments, has he been able to restore your faith in his leadership to deliver us from the mess he helped cultivate? Right, of course our economy will be fine in the long run. We recovered from the Depression right? It’s what’s happening right now that hurts.

Pretty soon, they are going to foreclose on the undelivered FEMA trailers and then what? Too bad George can’t think past saving his pals in big business. If he was so keen to screw the little guy by routing the Chapter 11 laws, why wouldn’t they have let Bear Sterns sink in it’s own sauce?

When it gets right down to it, we see the President and his staff doing the time honored W, Rove and Co thing, saving their friends asses, screwing the little guy, and then blaming some one else for the economy they delivered.

Q For people who are losing their homes, or losing their jobs, and then they see the government helping engineer this $30 billion line of credit for Bear Stearns, and help for other financial investment firms on Wall Street, how do you reconcile the two?

MS. PERINO: Well, the way I would answer that question is in two parts. One, this isn’t about bailing anyone out. These actions are intended, as I said earlier today, to minimize financial market disruptions. And investors in Bear Stearns are taking large and significant losses in this transaction. And that’s not what happens in a bail-out. They bought into a company, they took a financial risk — and it had paid off quite well for them a while ago, but today they’re looking at a stock that’s only worth $2. And the Fed, what they did last night, is try to provide liquidity to the markets so it would stabilize, and we could have orderliness in the system.

But I would also say that a major market disruption would have very damaging consequences and be very painful for everybody, from the small business owner to the homeowner, for everybody all the way up and down the economic food chain. And the goal here is to prevent a major disruption in financial markets. And the Fed is taking decisive action when necessary, and that is what they saw last night.

In addition to that, homeowners and small business owners and everyone across America needs to know that we’ve acted on multiple fronts, starting back in August — that was when the President recognized that we might be heading into some headwinds in the economy, with several different aspects of it. And if you look back consistently over those past several months, he has said that we needed to take some action. And over time, we proposed legislation, dealing with the housing market. We also worked with the private sector to help homeowners, through HOPE NOW, and then Project Lifeline. We supported legislation that would not penalize people for writing down mortgage debt when they did a refinancing. And that finally became law.

We haven’t had Congress act on one of the most important things they could do, which is Federal Housing Administration — changes in reforms that we’ve asked for. It’s been about seven months since the President first announced that, and Congress is now and again on a two-week recess, and nothing is going to happen.

But at the same time, back in January, the President said, when we worked on the stimulus package, that the reason that we’re doing that is because we could see in the future there could be a potential downturn in the economy. And so if things were to get worse, we would have a stimulus package in effect. We called that, remember, an insurance policy, a booster shot, that we said would take effect and have impact later in the summer. And the President and Congress were right to work together on that bipartisan package, because those tax rebates will be going out to people all across the country, including the homeowners that you talk about.

Q But, Dana, how does this square with sort of traditional conservative economic principles of limited government involvement in terms of, sort of, maybe culling the herd a little bit, letting the firms that are going to fail, fail, and thus more can sort of live on the back end?

MS. PERINO: Well, I would point out again that, remember, investors — Bear Stearns basically went from a company that was doing quite well to failure, and at $2 a share, I should think that those investors are seeing — feeling today the consequences of that risk in a marketplace. But I would remind you that what’s right for the markets and stability for the financial system had to be taken into consideration. And that’s what the Fed decided to do, is to act quickly, to act decisively, to make sure that we could provide what’s needed right now, which is stability and liquidity and orderliness.

And the Treasury Department is able to answer lots more of detailed questions, and the Fed certainly on historical questions in this matter.

Q But people who are facing, say, foreclosure, the individuals, the little guys who are facing a foreclosure are looking at the big guys getting government, if not brokered, certainly they’re overseeing deals that are engineered to sort of keep the big picture financial community afloat, and they’re saying, well, where’s my boost of liquidity?

MS. PERINO: They’re going to get that boost of liquidity in the form of a stimulus package and a tax rebate that’s coming to them the second week of May.

Q But that’s not going to save their houses.

MS. PERINO: The other way to help work on the housing issues is to take advantage of some of the programs that we have in place, to talk with HOPE NOW or Project Lifeline, for those who are in more serious dire straits, and also to work — for us to continue from the administration to call on Congress to finally take action on Federal Housing Administration reforms, which we think are necessary to help homeowners across-the-board.

But I would remind you, and remind consumers all across America, that the decisive action taken by the Fed yesterday was precisely to prevent long-term economic harm to everybody in the United States, including, as you said, the little guy.

Right, so they are suggesting the 300 or 800 so dollars you and I get are the equivalent of the multi-billion dollar bail out of the investment industry? Right. When was the last time Reagan applied strategy of “trickle down economics” actually worked to help leverage the little guy up out of an economic hole she or he didn’t create?

Uh Oh!

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Sure fire way to get the market to tank even further? Add President Bush’s sharp intellect to solving the fiscal woes of our country:

President George W. Bush plans to meet on Monday with top U.S. financial policymakers, the White House said, at a time of increased strains in credit markets and fears of a recession.

What’s that sucking sound? That’s the market drowning in corporate bail outs (read: corporate welfare) for the already rich (Bear Sterns ring a bell any one). Any one taking bets on if Bush will be able to fix this situation like he’s fixed Iraq?

The House That Wouldn’t Bend Over

Friday, March 14th, 2008

You Go Democrats! For the next two weeks at least, America’s telecom executives will be just as accountable to the law as the other 300 million of us. What a concept! Why should a few VIPs have a law that specifically prevents them from ever being sued? I don’t know anybody who has that kind of permanent protective cocoon wrapped around them. Do you? We’re a nation of laws; well, for two more weeks anyway.

It didn’t exactly take an act of blind courage for Congress to stand up to a cerebrally-challenged alcoholic president with single-digit approval ratings. But still, with all the bending and gyrating this Congress has been doing, it’s a huge relief that, for one fleeting moment, they actually stood up and said “No!”

Savor the moment. There’s no doubt, our petulant child king will be bringing this subject back for another vote, and another vote, again and again and again until he gets his way. You can’t say “No” to a scion of the Bush Crime Family. It’s just not done.

I forget where I read this, but somebody was making an excellent point: there’s something huge going on behind the scenes that’s making these Conservatards keep pushing and pushing and pushing and grandstanding and pleading and shouting for retroactive telecom immunity. Our bribery system doesn’t usually work like this. Generally, a congressperson gets a bribe from a certain industry, and he/she is instructed to vote accordingly. And that’s all.

Getting bribed isn’t supposed to require months and months of pleading and threatening and foaming at the mouth every time a TV camera appears. WTF is going on here? Probably a lot more than we’ll ever know.

This other story is sort of along those same lines — government secrecy, things we’re not supposed to know, etc. The Pentagon has completed a study which shows there was no connection whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Uh, that was one of our main reasons for invading Iraq five years ago (along with those non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction). For a full year before the invasion we heard nothing but “Saddam al Qaeda Hussein bin Laden 9/11 Iraq Saddam bin Laden Iraq al Qaeda…”

And now that there’s a Pentagon report showing that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the Reichstag Fire September 11th attacks, we the lowly peons — whose tax dollars paid for this invasion — are not entitled to know about it. The Pentagon has been instructed not to release this report, and the report is not available online.

Move along. Nothing to see here.

What? Nothing yet on the Spitzer scandal? [Edit: I see I’m not the first]

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Very well then, allow me to be the first [Edit: I see someone beat me to posting on this.]. It is being reported that Eliot Spitzer, Democratic Governor of New York, has been ‘caucusing’ with some pretty high class and expensive prostitutes. When I say expensive, I mean in the $1,000 and $5,500 per hour, $50,000 per week-end range. He at least has the decency to avoid the “wide stance” style defense and is considering resigning. He’s made his apologies. Spitzer hasn’t been charged with a crime, yet, although, depending upon how he paid for the services, he could be charged with a crime worth up to five years in prison if he attempted to conceal the source and purpose for the payment, which I think it likely that he almost certainly would have done. The question is, what now?

Can he — should he — stay in office? Of course if he committed a crime, even if he’s not indicted for it, he probably will have to resign. After all, as chief executive for New York, he’s the guy at the head of setting policy for prosecutions and the administration of justice in the state. How would it look to have someone who committed a crime while in that position to stay in office. And, of course, if he’s convicted of a crime, he’ll be forced to resign or be impeached as I doubt he can run the state from his prison cell.

But what if he committed no crime? After all, presidents have engaged in sexual daliances while in office — Kennedy and Clinton spring immediately to mind but they certainly don’t exhaust the list — why should governors resign just because they’ve been caught in extra-curricular activities? Spitzer isn’t even splitting hairs over what the definition of ‘is’ is.

This also raises the question, peripherally, of whether prostitution should be illegal at all? The Libertarian in me says “No” but the Christian moralist in me says “Yes.” The ‘we mustn’t enact Christian morals into law in a secular nation’-ist in me says “I’m not sure that there aren’t sufficient societal harms involved in prostitution to keep it illegal even without questions of religious scruple but it’s possible that those societal harms aren’t mostly the result of its being illegal” so I just don’t know.

Anyway, what do you all think?

Eliot Spitzer & WR 104: Lessons In The Life & Death Of Stars

Monday, March 10th, 2008

They say it’s written in the stars…and today’s news seems to have been all about the rise and fall of stars…those that occupy a distant point in space that we can barely fathom…and one that occupies a pivotal political office in the state of New York.

Whether it’s a quirky cosmic alignment or a karmic calamity, the death of a star can be menacing…or it can simply be messy. Either way, it is bound to draw some attention. The time it takes a star to explode or implode varies. In the case of the cosmos, it’s apt to be millions of year; in the case of Governor Spitzer, it appears to be a matter of days.

Let’s have a look at the trajectory of both.

From USA Today:

A beautiful pinwheel in space might one day blast Earth with death rays, scientists now report.

The pinwheel, named WR 104, was discovered eight years ago in the constellation Sagittarius. It rotates in a circle “every eight months, keeping precise time like a jewel in a cosmic clock,” Tuthill said.

Both the massive stars in WR 104 will one day explode as supernovae. However, one of the pair is a highly unstable star known as a Wolf-Rayet, the last known stable phase in the life of these massive stars right before a supernova.

“Wolf-Rayet stars are regarded by astronomers as ticking bombs,” Tuthill explained. The ‘fuse’ for this star “is now very short — to an astronomer — and it may explode any time within the next few hundred thousand years.”

When the Wolf-Rayet goes supernova, “it could emit an intense beam of gamma rays coming our way,” Tuthill said. “If such a ‘gamma ray burst’ happens, we really do not want Earth to be in the way.”

Unfortunately for us, gamma ray bursts seem to be shot right along the axis of systems. In essence, if this pinwheel ever releases a gamma ray burst, our planet might be in the firing line.

From The New York Times:

It was after 9 p.m. the night before Valentine’s Day when she arrived, a young brunette named Kristen. She was 5-foot-5, 105 pounds. Pretty and petite.

This was at the Mayflower, one of Washington’s finer hotels. Her client for the evening had booked Room 871. He was a return customer. The hundreds of dollars he had promised to pay would cover all expenses: the room, the minibar, room service should they order it, the train ticket that had brought her from New York and, naturally, Kristen’s time.

A 47-page federal affidavit from an F.B.I. agent investigating a prostitution ring lists the man at the hotel as “Client 9,” and includes considerable details about him, the prostitutes and his methods of paying for them. A law enforcement official and another person briefed on the prostitution case have identified Client 9 as Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York.

So as this day comes to an end, one star has been fully exposed and is almost certain to crash. The other star lurks beyond our view…but it too will one day crash. The former is a spectacle we watch with unflinching amusement; the latter is a hypothetical we’ve barely begun to consider. The former will end the political life of one politician; the latter may bring an end to us all.

Regardless, the world goes round and round. How’s that for an illuminating astrological forecast?

Eliot Spitzer: Hittin’ The Sheets Of New York:

elliottspitzer.jpg

Cross-posted at Thought Theater


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