August 31, 2009 archive

Aug 31

Four at Four

  1. Bloomberg News reports the Wall Street stealth lobby defends the $35 billion haul in derivatives. Five U.S. commercial banks (JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup) “are on track to earn more than $35 billion this year trading unregulated derivatives contracts.”

    The $592 trillion over-the-counter derivative market is one of Wall Street’s “richest fiefdoms”.

    The Washington fight, conducted mostly behind closed doors, has been overshadowed by the noisy debate over health care. That’s fine with investment bankers, who for years quietly wielded their financial and lobbying clout on Capitol Hill to kill efforts to regulate derivatives…

    In recent months, Wall Street firms have embarked on a lobbying campaign to influence the media and legislators.

    Goldman Sachs held an off-the-record seminar for reporters in April to explain how credit-default swaps work…

    JPMorgan has mobilized some corporate clients, advising them that the proposed changes could hurt their ability to hedge against losses, according to a person familiar with the matter…

    Health-care reform may make it unlikely any derivatives legislation will be enacted in the near future… For Wall Street, the longer it takes to get legislation passed the better. As stock market values and the economy improve, anger at banks is likely to subside.

    Outside of Wall Street, The Hill reports the AFL-CIO and some Democrats push for new tax on Wall Street transactions. They propose assessing “a small tax – about a tenth of a percent – on every stock transaction. Small and medium-sized investors would hardly notice such a tax, but major trading firms, such as Goldman, which reported $3.44 billion in profits during the second quarter of 2009, may see this as a significant threat to their profits.”

    “It would have two benefits, raise a lot of revenue and discourage speculative financial activity,” said Thea Lee, policy director at the AFL-CIO.

    A tenth of a percent transaction tax “could raise between $50 billion and $100 billion per year”.

Four at Four continues with an update from Afghanistan, Blackwater hired foreigners for CIA death squad contract, and India says ignore population during climate talks.

Aug 31

Capitalism, Socialism, and health care reform

This diary will attempt to bring the Cold War ideological conflict between “capitalism” and “socialism” into focus.  Here I conclude that capitalism is about profit, and socialism is a vague word which could mean a number of things.  As we define capitalism and socialism, we can see that the flaws and virtues of each can be understood for the sake of struggling to create our own system of political economy, one which actually serves us.  Finally, I will comment upon the relevance of this discussion to the matter of “health care reform” currently being contested in Congress.

(crossposted at Big Orange)

Aug 31

Torture is Good …..for Morale

Mr. Cheney said the legal review set a “terrible precedent” that would shatter morale at the CIA and increase the likelihood of future terror attacks. He accused President Obama of using the threat of criminal charges to score political points with the left wing of the Democratic Party.

Ordering the CIA and Army interrogators and private contractors to wire people to car batteries, slam them against walls, put them in diapers and stick them in freezing rooms for days, pile them into shit smeared pyramids, beat them to death, waterboard them until their brains ares starved for oxygen, rape them with lighsticks and billy clubs, threaten them to have their mothers raped in front of them, threaten to have their children killed…..All that is GOOD for morale.

Yes Virginia, turning soldiers, contractors and CIA agents into torturers…having them live the rest of their PTSD lives with the knowledge that they committed heinous and illegal and immoral acts of torture is good …for morale.

Having the CIA being branded as torturers is GOOD…for morale. Ordering them to torture people and threaten Mom-rape and child-killing, is good for morale. Forcing them to obey illegal orders is good for morale. Tarnishing the reputation of the entire Agency as torturers is the bestest Morale Builder ever.

But having investigations to find out who ordered them to besmirch their reputations and turn them into haunted torturers for the rest of their life?

Finding out who ordered an entire network of Secret Torture Prisons to be built, who ordered an organized, (badly) researched, planned, funded, and years long Official Policy of Using Torture…..

Going right to the top and holding accountable the sick minds who made the decision to torture, and gave the orders to torture and INSISTED on using more and more torture? In order to show that the CIA WAS “just following orders?” In order to tell the world that it was NOT The CIA’s decision to torture. In order to pin the blame on the one person who ordered them to to torture again and again and again, all coming from, ultimately, one man?

Photobucket

Is BAD for morale.

Got it….Dick.  

Aug 31

Afghan youths are seeking a new life in Europe

According to an article and accompanying photo essay, “The Lost Boys of Afghanistan“, in The New York Times, thousands of Afghan minors have come to European Union countries seeking asylum.

“The boys pose a challenge for European countries many of which have sent troops to fight in Afghanistan but whose publics question the rationale for the war.”

Thousands of lone Afghan boys are making their way across Europe, a trend that has accelerated in the past two years as conditions for Afghan refugees become more difficult in countries like Iran and Pakistan. Although some are as young as 12, most are teenagers seeking an education and a future that is not possible in their own country, which is still struggling with poverty and violence eight years after the end of Taliban rule.

Estimates by the Separated Children in Europe Program have about 100,000 unaccompanied children from non-EU countries living in the EU. Many of the minors are not asking for “protection in any form.”

Aug 31

We Must Fill the Void Ourselves

Photobucket

The topic below was originally posted yesterday, on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Like millions of my fellow citizens, I am reflecting after the death of Ted Kennedy. Death is an egocentric experience for the survivors. Indeed, rituals such as funerals, wakes or in the Jewish religion “sitting Shiva,” is really about nurturing the souls of those left behind. That is also true when it is a public figure or celebrity that has died. We may never have met them or knew them yet they touched us nonetheless. The Kennedy family understands this better than anyone and is well practiced in rituals that not only honor the dead but comfort the living.

Aug 31

California State Parks will close after Labor Day. Take action.

KuangSi2

The California state budget crisis lead to a sharp funding reduction for the State Park system — a proposed total of more than $143 million from a budget already operating on a shoestring. One hundred or more California State Parks are expected to close after Labor Day weekend, and the list of parks on the chopping block has not yet been announced.

Today I want to share one of my favorite places threatened by the budget crisis — that is Calaveras Big Trees State Park. It contains a stand of Giant Sequoia, the rare and famous Sierra Redwood, and holds a telling history about our approach to the natural world. The Sequoia are the biggest living creatures on the earth today, and some of the trees in these small groves are more than 3000 years old.

Aug 31

AIG: the surreal corporation

It is a strange characteristic of modern journalism that it is so consensus driven that huge stories are completely missed. Such is the case with the surreal resurrection of AIG corporation. Not content with caretaker management intending to quietly sell off the remnants of AIG, the cancer men behind the Obama administration have chosen a pompous retired CEO, Bob Benmosche, to “revive” this zombie corporation.

Recall that the US taxpayers have pumped about $180 billion dollars into AIG, and that the current (highly inflated) market capitalization of the company is only $6 billion. There is not the ghost of a chance that the taxpayers will ever get their money back, because most of it was paid out to back crazy casino bet derivatives. But none of this matters, because the Obama administration does not believe in running corporations financed by the taxpayers. No, this would suggest that the Government could actually manage an organization better than the people who wrecked it.

Thus, we now enjoy the surreal spectacle of a bankrupt organization supported by taxpayer funds hiring a CEO who tells the government to back off and let him run the company according to his whims. We, the US taxpayers, are paying the salary of an arrogant blowhard who insists that he has the right to do with our funds as he pleases because he is a member of the CEO caste.

How many more companies will turn into Federally funded zombies run by loose-cannon CEO’s? How can one even predict the actions of managers who are completely untethered to any financial reality? It is as though the US economy is slowly turning into a comic-book caricature of itself, a Bizarro world of incongruity and excess, with the only constants being corruption and unaccountability.

Aug 31

Weekly Torture Action Letter 21 – President Clinton, Time To Get Involved

Happy Monday and welcome the Dog’s on-going (never ending?) letter writing campaign series. This series, for those new to it, is all about getting accountability to the rule of law for the apparent Bush Administration state sponsored torture program. The basic premise is the Dog writes a letter each Monday to decisions makers, urging them to take action on this issue. How you get involved is by either cutting and pasting the letter so it goes out under your own name, or using it as a jumping off point for your own missive. Then you just use the links the Dog provides to send it around. It is, admittedly, a small thing, but it by being consistent and getting as many people as possible to write weekly we keep this issue alive when other things like Health Care reform are taking up most of the news.

Originally posted at Squarestate.net

Aug 31

Missing from the Progressive Political Eco-System – An Org’n for Completely Dissafected Democrats

(cross-posted at openleft.com)

I read a diary over the weekend (“So You Want To Form A New Party? Hmmm, Come With Me”) that, together with the comments, illustrated the dilemma facing progressives who have had it with the Democratic Party. There are, of course, good reasons for progressives to take the ‘leave it’ option, as well as good reasons to take the ‘fix it’ option. Reading the diary made me think about another element missing from the Progressive political eco-system that can deal more constructively with this dilemma.

Aug 31

-196%

Rise & Fall Of The US Dollar: 1800 – 2008

Sean W. Malone, Saturday, August 29, 2009 at Logicology



click the image to view full size

so you can read the notes on it

(you may have to click it again to magnify it once you have the large image open)

Aug 31

It’s Time to Bring the Hammer DOWN on Harry Reid!!!!

(wow! back to back Front Pages! I am honored, and getting verklempt! Talk amongst yourselves! : )

Are you frigging fed up with Senator Reid yet? If so, tell him so.

Crossposted at Daily Kos

    It is time to Yell Louder, and let Harry Reid know EXACTLY how you feel.

    It is time to Lead, Follow or Get Out Of The Way, Harry!

    At slinkerwink’s  request and with great pleasure I am asking everyone in this community to contact Sen Majority Leaner Harry “Punt on First Down” Reid and let him know how you feel about a Robust Public Option, and how you feel about his proposed privatized public option idea.

    I am also strongly urging you to keep your e-mails and calls to Harry Reid respectful, but to let him know how strongly you feel.

    Please, share your e-mails and calls with us in the comments below, and Recommend this diary so others can use the contact info here throughout the day.

    More info plus contact info for Sen. Reid can be found below the fold.

Aug 31

Renaissance I: Escape from the Dark Ages

Welcome to the new Dark Ages.

Travel is expensive and newly dangerous, and thus only available to the wealthy. Bands of mercenaries vie with robber barons for control of our world. Borders and nations do not matter half as much as the machinations of secret societies, dynasties, and political factions. We have an upper and a lower class, and not much in between. The rich build corporate fortresses and congregate their vassals around them, which they use to control their other resources. The warrior class has resumed it’s role as protectors of those with money and power. Human rights like privacy and affordable health care are purchasable commodities. Your skin color, your gender and what religion you practice still matters a whole lot more than it really should.

This is the America that Bush and Cheney left us with – a corporate feudal state; a sick, twisted car accident between multinational corporations run amok and a fascist government to support them. A moronarchy, if you will.

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