Saturday, February 28, 2009

6 scary words

If you are trying to foreclose a mortgage these days, the words "where’s the note" and "who’s the holder" can be enough to give you heartburn.
WE are all learning, to our deep distress, how the perpetual pursuit of profits drove so many of the bad decisions that financial institutions made during the mortgage mania.

But while investors tally the losses that were generated by loose lending so far, the impact of another lax practice is only beginning to be seen. That is the big banks’ minimalist approach to meeting legal requirements — bookkeeping matters, really — when pooling thousands of loans into securitization trusts.

Stated simply, the notes that underlie mortgages placed in securitization trusts must be assigned to those trusts soon after the firms create them. And any transfers of these notes must also be recorded.

But this seems not to have been a priority with many big banks. The result is that bankruptcy judges are finding that institutions claiming to hold the notes that back specific mortgages often cannot prove it.
There is a reason for all that paperwork and the law can be really cranky when it is missing.

R.I.P. Paul Harvey

Now, we will never know the rest of the story.

Is something bothering you, bunky?

Then you need the GOP Problem Solver. Safe for work unless your boss is a bigger idiot that Rush.

h/t to Kiss My Big Blue Butt

Which one of these statements is true

This one about Sen. Judd Gregg's reward for helping get federal money for one of his investment's.
Judd Gregg has collected at least $240,017 to $651,801 from his investments there, Senate records show, while helping to arrange at least $66 million in federal aid for the former base.
Or this one from Sen. Gregg's explanation.
"None of these in any way have benefited me personally," Gregg said.
Obviously, both are true because as a senior Senator from NH, $651K is hardly worth his notice. Of course, normal Americans might have a different opinion.
Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Gregg's actions have the appearance of a conflict of interest, even if they did not fall under the Senate's narrow definition of an actual conflict.

"He increased the value of property, which caused his own investment to increase in value," she said. "So, it appears that he earmarked and then financially benefited from his own earmark." Sloan noted that Gregg secured earmarks for Pease beyond those sought for the National Guard and city.
But not to worry for poor old Judd's future, IOKIYAR.

There are good nursing homes and bad ones

The operators of bad homes are reprehensible scum and as such it should have been anticipated that they would receive last minute protection from the Bushoviks.
The Bush administration shut off a source of information last fall about abuse and neglect in long- term care facilities that people suing nursing homes consider crucial to their cases.

The change that affects the $144 billion nursing-home industry occurred with no public notice or attention, perhaps because of the array of last-minute rules that President George W. Bush’s appointees rushed out before leaving Washington last month.

“This is pretty stunning,” said Mark Kosieradzki, a plaintiff attorney in Plymouth, Minnesota. “Nobody was told. It was just done.”

The rule designates state inspectors and Medicare and Medicaid contractors as federal employees, a group usually shielded from providing evidence for either side in private litigation.

The restrictions affect about 16,000 nursing facilities in the U.S. and 3 million residents. The practical effect is to force litigants to go to greater lengths, including seeking court orders, to get inspection reports or depositions for cases they are pursuing or defending.

“This change hurts nursing-home residents and their families by allowing bad practices to be kept in secret by nursing homes and inspectors,” said Eric M. Carlson, an attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center in Los Angeles. “Government inspectors have the right to go into nursing homes and investigate, and they learn things that residents and families otherwise could never find out.”
I knew a fellow who worked in the kitchen of one dump. The food was mediocre at best except once a quarter when the owners met for their business dinner meeting. Then the best steaks, lobsters and what-all arrived in the kitchen, but just for the owners. The owners were a group of local doctors profiting from the misery of others. Sadly, none of them received any professional censure when the state finally had to close down their shithole.

Progressive America is on the rise

You may have seen or read news about the new PAC in town, formed to push for progressive members of Congress. Their web site is now up and running so what are you waiting for. Go visit, read the news, sign up and donate for a better America. To fix the damage we must work together.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mitch McConnell's time has come.

The time to pin a note to his sweatshirt and leave him at the bus stop, hoping a kind stranger will take care of him. From Tapped by way of Krugman.
In his CPAC speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted that conservatives are more “interesting” and “fun” than liberals. Here’s his proof: “who wants to hang out with guys like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich when you can be with Rush Limbaugh?”

National Guard will end its presence in NOLA on Sunday

Not as exciting as President Obama's announcement on Iraq, but they probably did more good.

America won't take no for an answer


There is a school called Governor Dummer

And the is a school of thought among the dumber governors that because they are personally well off, they need not accept stimulus money that will help their citizens who are not doing so well. And now those people are getting angry that they live in a state with a governor dumber than a stump.
Mr. Kight, who worked for more than three decades as an engineering technician, discovered in September that because of complex state rules, he was not eligible for unemployment insurance after losing a job at a major electronics manufacturer he had landed at the beginning of the year.

Unable to draw jobless benefits, he and his wife have taken on thousands of dollars in credit-card debt to help make ends meet.

It is precisely these kind of regulations, involving such matters as the length of a person’s work history or reason for leaving a job, that the federal government is trying to get the states to change. Such a move could extend benefits to an estimated half-million more people, according to the National Employment Law Project, a liberal group in New York that supports the changes.

Mr. Kight and other unemployed workers said they were incensed to learn they were living in one of a handful of states — many of them among the poorest in the nation — that might not provide the expanded benefits.

“It just seems unreasonable,” Mr. Kight said, “that when people probably need the help the most, that because of partisan activity, or partisan feelings, against the current new administration, that Perry is willing to sacrifice the lives of so many Texans that have been out of work in the last year.”
Hm-m, what was it Leona Helmsley said about "little people"?

You know it's a bad plan

When the President's plan for partial withdrawal from Iraq draws more GOP support than Democratic support. There is something about hanging 50,000 Americans out to dry at the end of the partial withdrawal that is troubling. As I said before, Obama needs to get his own people in the Pentagon. These stay behind Bushies aren't doing him any good.

He likes it

Paul Krugman approves of the budget. If only that was all it needed.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back to the land

Or the New Beverly Hillbillies.
They bid farewell to their beloved trips to the opera and museum, the beach and Buddhist temples. They ate one last time at their favorite restaurants serving Indian curried chicken and warm bowls of Vietnamese pho.

Leah Bird and her husband, Ed Wright, have traded their comfortable two-bedroom apartment and jobs in Beverly Hills, California, for life in a trailer on a five-acre Oregon farm.

No longer do the couple hear roaring fire trucks in the street or chatter from patrons dining at outdoor cafes. On this farm, the dominant silence is occasionally interrupted by the sounds of frogs and crickets.

"It's not necessarily a lifestyle that has ever seemed attractive to me," says 28-year-old Bird, between tending to the farm animals: two sheep, two Nubian goats, miniature horses and geese. "I always saw myself as more of a metropolitan person, but you know, without money, this was our best option."
It's really just a case of moving back in with Mom and Dad.

What a refreshing idea

From Froomkin:
Obama's budget would dramatically increase taxes on the wealthy, while cutting payments and subsidies to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and defense contractors -- and mandating a system to charge polluters for their carbon emissions.

It would, in short, reverse the redistribution of wealth that took place during the Bush era. This time, the rich will be subsidizing the poor, not the other way around.
Feeling better already.

But they have great barbecue in KC

Their medical examiners are not so good, no matter what you use for a rub.
Police and medical examiners who thought a man died of natural causes changed their minds after funeral-home workers found bullet holes in his head.

The Kansas City Star reported Thursday that three bullet wounds - two of them in Anthony Crockett's head - were noticed after the man's body was embalmed Friday. The funeral home returned the 49-year-old Kansas City man's body to the Jackson County medical examiner's office, and police counted the death as a homicide.

Detectives and Jackson County medical examiners never visited Crockett's home to inspect his body. A paramedic told police he believed the death was natural after finding prescription containers for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes in the home...

...It was the second time in 17 months that a Kansas City funeral home returned a homicide victim's body mistakenly ruled a natural death by the medical examiner's office.
Maybe the cops should bring the bodies to the funeral home first.

Focusing in on the problem like a laser

The TSA has once again displayed their awesome competence. This time it is in the area of background checks for transportation workers. Not just longshoremen, truckers and such as you would expect, but even lowly mule skinners.
Yes, so-called mule skinners -- in this case, seasonal workers who dress in colonial garb at a historical park in Easton, Pa. -- must apply for biometric Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC), according to the Transportation Security Administration, which says it is bound by federal law.

The requirement has officials of the Hugh Moore Historical Park perplexed.

"We have one boat. It's pulled by two mules. On a good day they might go 2 miles per hour," said Sarah B. Hays, the park's director of operations.

The park's two-mile canal does not pass any military bases, nuclear power plants or other sensitive facilities. And, park officials say, the mules could be considered weapons of mass destruction only if they were aimed at something resembling food.
Never know where those pesky terrists will pop up.

Thursday toon

From the pen of Pat Oliphant



Click pic to big

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The secret is out



Click pic to big

MoDo unleashes her Fury on the banksters.

And she gets off a few good lines.
The bank cloaks itself in a philanthropic glow while wasting our money, acting like the American Cancer Society when in fact it’s a cancer on American society.
And this
the golf scandal was just one more sign that the bailed-out rich are different from you and me: their appetites are unquenchable and their culture is uneducable(sic).
And my favorite.
“He refused to answer questions on the basis that ‘the Bank of America didn’t want me to.’ You can take the Fifth Amendment or you can answer questions. But there’s no Bank of America privilege. The Bank of America doesn’t substitute for the Constitution. And who’s the Bank of America, by the way?”
Enjoy.

Your mother and I spend all that money

To send you to MIT and what do we get for it? Shock absorbers?!?
According to the article, the students invented a shock absorber that harnesses energy from small bumps in the road, generating electricity while it smoothes the ride more effectively than conventional shocks. The students hope to initially find customers among companies that operate large fleets of heavy vehicles. They have already drawn interest from the U.S. military and several truck manufacturers.

There is a 10% improvement in overall vehicle fuel efficiency by using the regenerative shock absorbers.

They calculated that a company such as Wal-Mart could save $13 million a year in fuel costs by converting its fleet of trucks.
See Mom, it wasn't all beer pong and babes.

Jackson Browne suing McCain & GOP

For copyright infringement from their use of his song "Running on Empty" in a campaign commercial. As expected, McCain is using the Sgt Schultz defense, he knew nothing! In his case it is probably true.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Barack W Bush?

So despite his promises to leave behind the damage of Li'l Georgie, we have been treated to President Obama embracing the discredited rendition policy, agree with Bushovik secrecy positions on e-mails and "evidence" against Guantanamo prisoners and now we get this.
President Obama is nearing a decision that would order American combat forces out of Iraq by August 2010 as he seeks to finally end a war that has consumed and polarized the United States for nearly six years, senior administration officials said Tuesday.

The timetable would give the military three months more to withdraw than the 16-month pullout Mr. Obama promised last year on the campaign trail, a compromise that could assuage the concerns of ground commanders who want to cement security gains, strengthen political institutions and make sure Iraq does not become unstable all over again.

Even with the withdrawal order, Mr. Obama plans to leave behind a “residual force” of tens of thousands of troops to continue training Iraqi security forces, hunt down foreign terrorist cells and guard American institutions, just as he said he would during last year’s campaign.
And no, there is no good reason to leave any American in Iraq at that late date. Sadly we are seeing the result of Obama's failure to put his own men in the Pentagon. Gates, Betrayus and the others are not serving the current president.

They're kinda slow, they won't know

They being the mentally disabled workers at an Iowa meatpacking plant, living in substandard housing, owned by the town, who had most of their wages diverted to "living expenses".
Iowa's social-services agency acknowledged Tuesday that it looked into a company's treatment of its mentally disabled meatpacking workers as early as the 1970s, but decided it lacked the jurisdiction or enough evidence to act.

State officials say the 21 Texas men lived for decades in a battered house in the tiny eastern Iowa town of Atalissa and were paid little for their work. The fire marshal closed the living quarters Feb. 7, the men were placed in state custody and a state agency is considering criminal charges.

Social workers, however, had looked into the workers' housing situation twice before without taking action: once in the 1970s and again in 1997, according to a 38-page file discovered about two weeks ago at the Human Services Department's Muscatine County office.

The men lived at a 106-year-old house that locals called the bunkhouse. The city of Atalissa owned the home, and city officials recently acknowledged that some of its doors were padlocked, windows were boarded up and the heating system was broken, leaving only space heaters.

The men worked for Henry's Turkey Service, a Texas company that provided labor for a meatpacker near Atalissa in West Liberty. Recent inquiries showed the company diverted much of the mentally disabled men's paychecks and government payments to living expenses, leaving them about $65 a month in wages.
Going all the way back to the '70's. I guess it was some kind of local tradition.

One Republican with a few living brain cells.

Sen. Richrad Lugar is finally calling for an end to one of the great stupidities of our time and a shameless pander to the worst element to reach our shores.
The US economic embargo on Cuba "has failed," top Republican lawmaker Richard Lugar has said in a report likely to fuel momentum for a shift in US' decades-old policy toward the island.

"After 47 years ... the unilateral embargo on Cuba has failed to achieve its stated purpose of 'bringing democracy to the Cuban people,' said the senator from Indiana -- a senior member or the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "it may have been used as a foil by the regime to demand further sacrifices from Cuba's impoverished population."
The embargo is a failure that serves no purpose. To those who don't like Castro, tough shit, get over it.

Make this man a saint

From Raw Story:
During a press conference Monday morning in San Francisco, Ammiano introduced "The Marijuana Control, regulation and education act." The far-reaching bill would go well beyond decriminalization of marijuana to actually legalize the cultivation, sale, purchase and possession of the plant.

“With the state in the midst of an historic economic crisis, the move towards regulating and taxing marijuana is simply common sense," Ammiano said. "This legislation would generate much needed revenue for the state, restrict access to only those over 21, end the environmental damage to our public lands from illicit crops, and improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to more serious crimes."
And
The bill would remove "all penalties under California law for the cultivation, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, and use of marijuana, natural THC and paraphernalia by persons over the age of 21"; would "prohibit local and state law enforcement officials from enforcing federal marijuana laws"; and would create a $50 state fee for each ounce of marijuana sold, beyond whatever pot will cost once it becomes legal, the newspaper reported.

"Marijuana arrests actually increased 18 percent in California in 2007 while all other arrests for controlled substances fell," Steve Gutwillig, California's director of Drug Policy Alliance, said during the press conference. "This costs the state a billion dollars a year and taxpayers are footing the bill. Meanwhile, black marketers are laughing all the way to the bank."
Smart man, may he be blessed with success.

According to Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com, his timing might be right.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Buffalo blanks the hatemongers

Supporters of the gay and self loathing hatemonger Fred Phelps tried to interrupt a memorial service for one of the Flight 3407 victims with their evil spew.
At about 1:45 p. m., when the service had been scheduled to begin, the three Westboro pickets started walking along Main Street from Allenhurst Road.

In a matter of minutes, they were surrounded by dozens of the more than 150 counterdemonstrators, who came armed with the plain white cloths to hide the Westboro group’s signs.

Just before 1:50 p. m., the three Westboro members walked back to their car with two of at least a dozen Buffalo police officers monitoring the situation.
Well done!

Boycott McDonalds!!

Any business that would do this kind of shit deserves to lose all the business it can.
Fast food giant McDonald's has denied workers compensation benefits to a minimum wage employee who was shot when he ejected a customer who had been beating a woman inside the restaurant.

A representative of the administrator for McDonald's workers compensation plan explained that "we have denied this claim in its entirety as it is our opinion that Mr. Haskett's injuries did not arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment."

Nigel Haskett, then aged 21, was working at a McDonald's in Little Rock, Arkansas last summer when he saw a patron, later identified as Perry Kennon, smacking a woman in the face. A surveillance video of the incident, which had been posted to YouTube, was taken down after McDonald's charged copyright infringement, but according to written descriptions of the video, Haskett tackled Kennon, threw him out, and then stood by the door to prevent him from reentering.

Kennon went to his car, returned with a gun, and shot Haskett multiple times. Haskett staggered back into the restaurant and collapsed.
Not another burger, fry or muffin until these cheap bastards do what's right!


Quote of the Day

I'm more than happy to take [Sanford's] money or any other governor in this country that doesn't want to take this money,...because we in California can need it.
Gov. Ahnold, responding to SC Gov. Sanford and others who would refuse stimulus money.

Proving that old movie plots never die

A manhunt was under way Sunday for two inmates who escaped a maximum-security prison when a helicopter plucked them from the roof, Greek officials said.

The escape played out like a Hollywood action film and was the second such flight to freedom by one of the men.

Monday Music Blogging

"Lola Albright performs "How High the Moon." From the television series Peter Gunn (Season 1, Episode 5, entitled "The Frog") Featuring Shorty Rogers on the flugelhorn. "


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Terry Jones finds a new career.

And he has done his research, he will probably be a smashing success.


Soldiers don't need no aid

Maybe there will be more later, but that is no reason to give short shrift to the current needs.
As soldiers stream home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the biggest charity inside the U.S. military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, an Associated Press investigation shows.

Between 2003 and 2007 - as many military families dealt with long war deployments and increased numbers of home foreclosures - Army Emergency Relief grew into a $345 million behemoth. During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid, according to an AP analysis of its tax records.

Tax-exempt and legally separate from the military, AER projects a facade of independence but really operates under close Army control. The massive nonprofit - funded predominantly by troops - allows superiors to squeeze soldiers for contributions; forces struggling soldiers to repay loans - sometimes delaying transfers and promotions; and too often violates its own rules by rewarding donors, such as giving free passes from physical training, the AP found.

Founded in 1942, AER eases cash emergencies of active-duty soldiers and retirees and provides college scholarships for their families. Its emergency aid covers mortgage payments and food, car repairs, medical bills, travel to family funerals, and the like.

Instead of giving money away, though, the Army charity lent out 91 percent of its emergency aid during the period 2003-2007. For accounting purposes, the loans, dispensed interest-free, are counted as expenses only when they are not paid back.

During that same five-year period, the smaller Navy and Air Force charities both put far more of their own resources into aid than reserves. The Air Force charity kept $24 million in reserves while dispensing $56 million in total aid, which includes grants, scholarships and loans not repaid. The Navy charity put $32 million into reserves and gave out $49 million in total aid.
Loans are not bad, per se, it is when you strong arm the borrower to repay that you cross the line.
- Superior officers come calling when AER loans aren't repaid on time. Soldiers can be fined or demoted for missing loan payments. They must clear their loans before transferring or leaving the service.

- Promotions can be delayed or canceled if loans are not repaid.
But even then, they were stingy with what they put out. Makes you wonder what they were there for.

Musical accompaniment for your Bush Depression



From the folks at Versus

Tom Toles Today



Click pic to big.

Not enough lightbulbs to pull these assholes out of the dark.

From the Arkansas Leader:
Some 100 workers from Pennsylvania, about a third of them African Americans, came down to help the local electric cooperative restore power after the devastating ice storm last month took down just about every power pole in the county. They worked tirelessly clearing trees and putting up poles and lines in the ice and freezing rain to try to speed power to people.

For their trouble, they were harassed and threatened by roving groups of young men shouting racial epithets and pointing guns at them. The county sheriff said the young men would drive around the work teams waving Rebel flags and cursing the blacks. The workers were frightened enough to contact the sheriff’s office in nearby Washington County.

Madison County is all white.
Sick bastards.

Rahmbone

Want to know what Obama's chief of staff is all about? The New Yorker has a profile of the man who guards Obama's door.

Richard Perle does not exist, says Richard Perle

Dana Milbank, in one of his occasionally intelligent columns, flays the efforts of Richrad Perle, noted neo-con warmonger and philosophical septic pit, to deny himself three times before the cock crows.
In real life, Perle was the ideological architect of the Iraq war and of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack. But at yesterday's forum of foreign policy intellectuals, he created a fantastic world in which:

1. Perle is not a neoconservative.

2. Neoconservatives do not exist.

3. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn't be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.

"There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy," Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. "It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy."

So what about the 1996 report he co-authored that is widely seen as the cornerstone of neoconservative foreign policy? "My name was on it because I signed up for the study group," Perle explained. "I didn't approve it. I didn't read it."

Mm-hmm. And the two letters to the president, signed by Perle, giving a "moral" basis to Middle East policy and demanding military means to remove Saddam Hussein? "I don't have the letters in front of me," Perle replied.

Right. And the Bush administration National Security Strategy, enshrining the neoconservative themes of preemptive war and using American power to spread freedom? "I don't know whether President Bush ever read any of those statements," Perle maintained. "My guess is he didn't."
Dana is right on in his mockery of Perle's attempt to write himself out of one of history's greatest failures. To bad he didn't do this eight years ago.

Our Little Match Girl

That is what Hillary Clinton has become as she piteously goes from one customer asking them to buy her matches.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged China to keep buying U.S. debt and to work with Washington in combating the global economic crisis.

The top U.S. diplomat says Washington must incur more debt to China to boost the ailing U.S. economy and stimulate demand for Chinese products. She says it would not be in China's interest if the U.S. is unable to get its economy out of a recession.

China is the largest holder of U.S. Treasury bonds. Clinton says China's continued investment in U.S. Treasuries is a recognition of the interconnection of the U.S. and Chinese economies.
Such is the result of 8 years of Busho-Republican economics. We have no money left and our debt is suspect with our major creditors. Heckuva job, Bushie!

Bill Maher has a great plan

To turn bankers into heroes, at least two of them.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

"a line that separates fair compensation from stealing from shareholders"

Gretchen Morgenson takes a look at executive compensation and where that line may be. But the one thing she makes clear, even when they know where the line is, shareholders have no recourse for recovery.

Imagine what they can do with adequate staffing.

One contractor was forced to pay more than $9 million in fines after being convicted of improperly testing and manufacturing critical filters for M1 Abrams tanks.

Another contractor, who lied about air-shipping equipment to military installations when in fact it was trucking it and pocketing the savings, has paid the government $20 million in fines and penalties.

These and more than 500 other major fraud cases like them, involving millions of dollars at home and overseas, have kept a team of Army Criminal Investigation Command special agents so busy that their commanders are asking for more money for more agents to combat a seemingly rampant problem.

CID has conducted 215 fraud investigations involving Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait, said Dan Quinn, a retired colonel who serves as the chief of staff for CID. Of those cases, 117 are still open. In addition, the fraud unit is working on more than 400 cases in the U.S.
Surprising that this was allowed at all before now.

From the folks who have been there

A critique of the Massachusetts plan for universal health insurance.
Massachusetts members of the Physicians for a National Health Program released a report today faulting the state's experiment with health reform for failing to achieve universal coverage, being too expensive and draining funds away from safety-net providers.

The doctors' punch line is that the reform has given private insurance companies more business and power without eliminating vast administrative waste. In fact, it says, the "Connector" in charge of administering the reform adds about 5 percent more in administrative expenses.

In summary, nothing less than single-payer national health reform will work, according to authors Drs. Rachel Nardin, David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, all professors at Harvard Medical School...

...The PNHP doctors' report says health plans people are forced to buy are not affordable and often skimp, making the mandate that individuals buy them regressive. And moreover, it says, peoples' experiences have shown that insurance does not guarantee access to care. The Boston Globe chronicled the long wait for primary care last September.

A final criticism the 19-page report offers is that the reform is financially unsustainable, as it does "nothing about a major driver of high health care costs, the overuse of high-technology care such as CT scanners and surgeries, and the underdevelopment of primary care."
Save money, call Congress and support H.R. 676.

A tip of the hat to Suburban Guerilla.

Jindal scores Republican cred

By refusing funds to help the unemployed in Louisiana. Nothing says Republican like turning your back on others in their time of need.

Now they worry about it

Our faithful defenders at the Pentagon, with the blessing of the political side of DC, have long had a habit of giving surplus weaponry to lesser governments around the world. All of a sudden, they are worried about the degree of control these governments have over what they are given.
Between October 2001 and March 2006, the Department of Defense either gave or sold surplus items with an original acquisition value of $2 billion to 57 different foreign governments. In most cases, no control weaknesses were found. However, 7373 items with an acquisition value of $296 million came under question in the study.

According to the report, these deficiencies "increased the risk of providing foreign governments unauthorized property that could be used to threaten our national security."

The majority of the questionable items -- which included M-16 rifles, M-60 machine guns, and armored personnel carriers -- "were not properly tracked, safeguarded, accounted for, or reconciled."
Wasn't someone supposed to think about this before shipping?

Freedom of Speech can be a heavy cross to bear

When it allows evil perverted bastards like Fred Phelps and his devil minions to spew their trash on someone's grief.
A religious fringe group from Topeka, Kan., is coming to Clarence Center and Buffalo on Sunday to picket church services to remember victims of Continental Connection Flight 3407.

Westboro Baptist Church has long been associated with virulent anti-gay views and has picketed the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Members contend that the deaths it pickets are God's punishment for what it considers the nation's permissive attitude toward homosexuals.
If Fred Phelps would just come out of the closet and accept what he is, none of this would happen.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Joe G smells something familiar

But not something he likes. Looking at the situation on the ground, Mr Galloway thinks that Afghanis Nam smells a lot like Viet Nam back in '65 as the shit was just beginning to hit the fan.
Meanwhile, U.S. commanders are stuck fighting a losing war in a landlocked country with long and insecure supply lines through Pakistan, where rebels and thieves pounce on the vulnerable convoys almost at will — and more troops will need more supplies.

To put it bluntly, Afghanistan today has the smell of South Vietnam in early 1965, just as the U.S. began ramping up for a war that would last a decade and cost the lives of more than 58,000 Americans and as many as 2 million Vietnamese before it ended in our defeat.

It's just one more incredible mess that President Obama has found waiting on his desk, and he understandably appears to want to tread very, very cautiously into this uncharted minefield.
We can't afford it and even if it is winnable, why should we pay that price, again?

Support your local food bank

The good they do is hard to match.
Once a crutch for the most needy, food pantries have responded to the deepening recession by opening their doors to what Rosemary Gilmartin, who runs the Interfaith Food Pantry here, described as “the next layer of people” — a rapidly expanding roster of child-care workers, nurse’s aides, real estate agents and secretaries facing a financial crisis for the first time.

Demand at food banks across the country increased by 30 percent in 2008 from the previous year, according to a survey by Feeding America, which distributes more than two billion pounds of food every year. And instead of their usual drop in customers after the holidays, many pantries in upscale suburbs this year are seeing the opposite.
If you can't give money, start a food drive. A few cans each from a lot of friends can make a difference

Krugman wonders

Just what will pull the economy out of the Bush Depression? What will provide enough demand to restore production? Paul identifies a few possibilities, but doesn't see them coming any time soon.

What! What!, What!

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) issued its annual report today ant there were a couple of confusing points in it. The first one is:
"In spite of all these facts, the use of cannabis is often trivialised and, in some countries, controls over the cultivation, possession and use of cannabis are less strict than for other drugs," the INCB said.

Indeed, many countries allowed the "recreational" use of cannabis, and public perceptions of the so-called "medical" uses of the drug and its recreational use "are overlapping and confusing," it said.
A reasonable stand for an anti drug agency, that is their bread and butter. And then there is this:
It also urged governments to "stimulate" the controlled use of opiate-based painkillers to help "alleviate unnecessary suffering of millions of patients."

"Although the access to controlled medicines, including morphine and codeine, is considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be a human right, it is virtually non existent in over 150 countries," the report said.
So marijuana is bad but access to morphine and codeine is a "human right". Just slap my ass and call me Sally.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The NY Post apologizes

For that shitty cartoon they ran yesterday. It's a pretty poor excuse for an apology, but a major break from the usual NY Post policy of never apologizing for anything.
Wednesday's Page Six cartoon - caricaturing Monday's police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut - has created considerable controversy.

It shows two police officers standing over the chimp's body: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," one officer says.

It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.

Period.

But it has been taken as something else - as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.

This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.
Rumor has it that Rupe the Poop was livid over the publication of the cartoon, (watch KO here)

Why Single Payer?

Jonathan Cohn wrote about single payer and The Great Orange Stan quoted a simply marvelous argument for it.
Advocates of single-payer systems complain frequently that the mainstream political debate doesn't give their idea the attention it deserves. They are right. Public insurance programs enjoy huge economies of scale; they don't fritter away money on profits or efforts to skim healthier patients from the population. When it comes to billing, they tend to be a lot simpler than, say, a system with dozens of competing insurance plans. All insurance systems require providers to file a lot of paperwork; single-payer systems, though, require just one set. The centralized power of single-payer systems also gives them unparalleled sway over not just the amount of money they pay but how they dole it out; with that kind of leverage, they can push the medical system toward making key improvements in quality.

Conservative critics of single-payer raise the perfectly respectable question of whether a government program could really wield such power judiciously. But it's telling that, when Taiwan set out to create a universal coverage system for its newly prosperous society a few years ago, it carefully studied schemes from around the world--and settled on a single-payer system, because it seemed to deliver the best, most equitable medical care at the lowest price. Today, experts say Taiwan has one of the world's most efficient, convenient, and effective health care systems.
I work for a large corporation that has sought to contain its medical benefit costs every year. This year they went for a single payer plan and eliminated all the competing plans, where possible. I won't say my bosses are great business people, but they know cost. And I am willing to bet that most corporations would love the opportunity to shed the support costs of medical plans while having covered workers at the same time.

California lives!

Thanks to the ambition of a Republican broccoli farmer from the Inland Empire (how Republican!)named Abel "Banana Nose" Maldonado.
Finally, in the witching hours of Thursday morning, lawmakers caved to some of the demands of State Senator Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria, a Republican who wanted state constitutional amendments banning legislative pay increases during deficit years, and the elimination of a 12-cent increase in gasoline taxes from the plan.

Mr. Maldonado also won legislative approval for an amendment that would make California political primaries open and nonpartisan, a measure that many Democrats resisted to the bitter end.
So being able to run his tractors for a little less money and fulfill his ambition to be Comptroller, Banana Nose turned his back on noted Anarchist Grover Norquisling and his No Tax Taliban. And California lives another day, with a little less than before for the people who have almost nothing now.

The New G O P


After they all voted NO

And the stimulus bill was passed and signed, it is time to get out of the way.
House Republicans, as a group, may take great pride in the goose egg they offered President Obama's stimulus package. But now the unanimous opposition is struggling to bring that money home.

Republicans will be working hard to make sure the money they opposed ends up benefiting their home districts, highlighting the political tightrope they walk in this economic crisis. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is watching House Republicans -- and reading local media -- closely and is only too happy to highlight any happy talk about a stimulus Republicans voted against.
God help you if you come between a Republican and his stimulus money.

Swiss bank to give up names

In this case, UBS is giving up the names of US customers that the bank had lured into offshore activities with the explicit aim of avoiding taxes.
UBS, the largest bank in Switzerland, agreed on Wednesday to divulge the names of well-heeled Americans whom the authorities suspect of using offshore accounts at the bank to evade taxes. The bank admitted conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and agreed to pay $780 million to settle a sweeping federal investigation into its activities.

Of the $780 million that UBS will pay, $380 million represents disgorgement of profits from its cross-border business. The remainder represents United States taxes that UBS failed to withhold on the accounts. The figures include interest, penalties and restitution for unpaid taxes.

The bank will not have to pay additional fines and penalties, which could have brought the deal to more than $1 billion. People briefed on the issue said the banking crisis and the recession were factors in this decision by prosecutors.
The Swiss are a simple, direct people. They sold out their customers to save a quarter of a $Billion.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Home is not a hotel

As our favorite frozen governor has discovered.
Gov. Sarah Palin must pay income taxes on thousands of dollars in expense money she received while living at her Wasilla home, under a new determination by state officials.

The governor's office wouldn't say this week how much she owes in back taxes for meal money, or whether she intends to continue to receive the per diem allowance. As of December, she was still charging the state for meals and incidentals.

"The amount of taxes owed is a private matter," Sharon Leighow, Palin's spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. "If the governor collects future per diem, those documents would be a matter of public record."
No mention if Governors pay interest and penalties like the little people.

Drugs are bad, Mm-kay?

From the pen of Stuart Carlson


MoDo looks back at the Bushovik years

By way of Will Ferrell's one man show, “You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush”. Along the way, the line between DC and Broadway blurs considerably.
reveals that he did walk in on Cheney once in the basement of the White House locked in the amorous arms of a giant goat devil in a room full of pentagrams.

“He looked at me with solid silver glowing orb-like eyes, and his breath had a strong ammonia scent to it,” Ferrell’s W. said. “And he told me in a language that I knew in my heart hadn’t been spoken in a thousand years ‘Pariff Go Lanerff!’ And I just ran.”
If MoDo hadn't attributed that to "Ferrell’s W." you could easily assume it was a real event from the last eight years.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Phil Ochs got it


Pat Robertson says something intelligent

Must be about time for my century plant to bloom, they cycle about the same.
In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, conservative Christian leader Pat Robertson denounced talk show host Rush Limbaugh for saying he wants President Obama to fail.

"So you don't subscribe to Rush Limbaugh's "I hope he fails" school of thought?" asked interviewer Dan Gilgoff.

"That was a terrible thing to say," Robertson responded. "I mean, he's the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn't, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally."
Granted, Pat is pissed that no one named him as the new leader of the Republicans, but we will take this pearl of wisdom, regardless of where it comes from.

Sixty five years later

The government of France has finally, publicly admitted their guilt in the arrest and transportation of French Jews to the Nazi death camps.
The ruling, which will be recorded in the official state legislative journal, marks the first time any French judicial body has acknowledged in such stark terms the government's role in Nazi-era atrocities.

Calling for a "formal admission of the state's responsibility and of the prejudice collectively suffered", the court said it had concluded that acts such as the arrest, internment and dispatching of Jews to transit camps were clear indicators of the government's guilt. "As they led to the deportation of people considered Jewish by the Vichy regime, the acts and activities of the state ... became its responsibility," it added.
Is this how long it will take to admit our guilt for Bushovik torture camps?

Living like a drug lord

I guess it's only natural that, having spent so much time studying and following the drug lords, the DEA agents would start acting like them.
The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration spent more than $123,000 to charter a private jet to fly to Bogota, Colombia, last fall instead of taking one of the agency's 106 planes.

The DEA paid a contractor an additional $5,380 to arrange Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart's trip last Oct. 28-30 with an outside company.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

Truer words were never spoken, as a chinese business man found out to his cost.
A married Chinese businessman who could no longer afford five mistresses held a competition to decide which one to keep.

But the contest took a fatal turn when one of the women, eliminated for her looks, drove the man and the four other competitors off a cliff, Chinese media reported.
And in the end, perhaps justice was served.
The spurned mistress died and the other passengers were injured, the reports said.

Fan shut down his company after the crash and paid Yu's parents 580,000 yuan ($84,744) as compensation for her death.

The four other women left him, as did his wife when she learned of the affairs.
Breaking up is hard to do.

Twosday toons

Pat Oliphant



TomToles



Click pic to big

Monday, February 16, 2009

Quote of the Day

Both Republicans and Islamic militants are in a roughly similar position: A fanatical fringe committed to irrational Dark Age doctrines with no purpose and horrific human consequences, discredited by modern society and left with no recourse but to impose their will by naked power and insurgent sabotage.
Troubadour, in the introduction to his diary at the Great Orange Stan, explaining Republican economic theory.

Paul Begala has a good idea

But in the real world it won't ever happen.
If Republican politicians are so deeply opposed to President Obama's economic recovery plan, they should refuse to take the money. After all, if you think all that federal spending is damaging, there are easy ways to reduce it: Don't take federal money.

Gov. Sanford can lead the way. South Carolina should decline to accept any federal funds for transportation, education, health care, clean energy or any of the other ideas President Obama is advocating to fix the economy. And the rest of the GOP can follow suit.

Justice Louis Brandeis famously called states "laboratories of democracy." So let's experiment. Gov. Sanford can be the guinea pig. His Palmetto State already gets $1.35 back from Washington for every dollar it pays in federal taxes, according to 2005 numbers, the latest calculated by the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit tax research group.

South Carolina is a ward of the federal government. It's been on welfare for years. If Gov. Sanford is so all-fired opposed to federal spending, let's start by cutting federal spending in South Carolina. Otherwise, he's got about as much credibility on fiscal conservatism as A-Rod has on steroids.
Republicans like to blow a lot of gas about how they stand on principle. This would be a perfect opportunity for one such Republican to put his money where his mouth is. But you know it won't happen, It's easier to get a leopard to ditch the spots than it is to get a Republican to refuse money, especially someone else's money.

Krugman can be very depressing

Like today when he says things like
Last week the Federal Reserve released the results of the latest Survey of Consumer Finances, a triennial report on the assets and liabilities of American households. The bottom line is that there has been basically no wealth creation at all since the turn of the millennium: the net worth of the average American household, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was in 2001.
And
as the great American economist Irving Fisher pointed out in the 1930s, the things people and companies do when they realize they have too much debt tend to be self-defeating when everyone tries to do them at the same time. Attempts to sell assets and pay off debt deepen the plunge in asset prices, further reducing net worth. Attempts to save more translate into a collapse of consumer demand, deepening the economic slump.

Are policy makers ready to do what it takes to break this vicious circle? In principle, yes. Government officials understand the issue: we need to “contain what is a very damaging and potentially deflationary spiral,” says Lawrence Summers, a top Obama economic adviser.

In practice, however, the policies currently on offer don’t look adequate to the challenge. The fiscal stimulus plan, while it will certainly help, probably won’t do more than mitigate the economic side effects of debt deflation. And the much-awaited announcement of the bank rescue plan left everyone confused rather than reassured.
It just makes you realize we are in way deep doo-doo and we are counting on people that we can only hope have the skill and balls to get us out.

They do drive on different sides of the road

But you would expect that out in the great expanses of the open sea they would find a way to miss each other.
Britain's HMS Vanguard and France's Le Triomphant were both damaged in the crash in the early hours of February 4, but there were no reports of damage to the nuclear parts, said the Daily Telegraph and The Sun newspapers.

France's defence ministry said on February 6 that Le Triomphant, a ballistic nuclear submarine, was damaged when it hit an object under water earlier that week. It did not identify the object.

The British sub has now been towed to its Faslane base in western Scotland for repair, reports said.

The two submarines are equipped with sonar to detect other vessels. Both vessels -- between them carrying about 250 sailors -- were reportedly submerged and on separate missions when they crashed.
Seems like someone's sonar operator needs a little more training before going out to sea.

TurdBlossom got no privilege

In Re: Turd v Siegelman it has been been determined that, wonder of wonders, Mr. Blossom has no executive privilege.
Representatives of the Bush White House are no longer advising former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove that he is protected by executive privilege as regards testimony about the alleged political prosecution of an Alabama governor.

In an exchange with Raw Story, Rove’s Washington, D.C. attorney, Robert Luskin, also said Rove won’t invoke his Fifth Amendment right to protect himself from self-incrimination, if and when he testifies about the firing of nine US Attorneys and the prosecution of the former governor.

There's “been speculation that he would decline to answer questions on Fifth Amendment grounds,” Luskin said. “That's a personal privilege; he will not assert it.”
What is curious is the "if and when" part. Seems to me a diva like TurdBlossom could hardly refuse a command performance. John Conyers could hardly ask for less, unless a dirty deal was done somewhere.

Monday Music Blogging

An offering from one of our great singers and songwriters.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Another witness for the Bush-Cheney trial

Scott Horton tells us about the personal account of one of the original guards at Guantanamo Bay.
Neely and other guards had been trained to the U.S. military’s traditional application of the Geneva Convention rules. They were put under great pressure to get rough with the prisoners and to violate the standards they learned. This placed the prison guards under unjustifiable mental stress and anxiety, and, as any person familiar with the vast psychological literature in the area (think of the Stanford Prison Experiment, for instance) would have anticipated produced abuses. Neely discusses at some length the notion of IRF (initial reaction force), a technique devised to brutalize or physically beat a detainee under the pretense that he required being physically subdued. The IRF approach was devised to use a perceived legal loophole in the prohibition on torture. Neely’s testimony makes clear that IRF was understood by everyone, including the prison guards who applied it, as a subterfuge for beating and mistreating prisoners—and that it had nothing to do with the need to preserve discipline and order in the prison.
This is only part of Scott's take on the account. You can read the whole Neely statement here. There is no way to understate the full corruption of American values under the Bushoviks. We need trials and we need them now.

Just like the Bushoviks did

Marc A. Thiessen, noted apologist for the Bush Mob crime syndicate, has taken the time to warn us all of the intentions of Osama not-bin Caughtyet and al-Qaeda to attack and destroy America's financial centers and economic infrastructure. Sadly, he fails to mentions that Bushie and his Reaganite allies have beaten Osama to it. I guess that's what an apologist is supposed to do.

Headlines we like to see

'Lieberman weakens Israel's cause in US'
For the record, this is about the other Asshole Lieberman, the one in Israel, but what the hell! Neither one is worth an arse full of ashes.

Frank Rich weighs the two realities

You know, the one in Washington DC and the one in the rest of the country. His conclusion is one we can all agree with. The Party of Hoover should stay the course and we will all win.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Music to my ears

You have absolutely no reason, none, to trust our word or our actions at this point.
Michael Steele, RNC chairman, to Glen Beck, proving that once in a blue moon Republicans can speak the truth.

You give bribes to the people in power

So when all that hanky-panky was going on in Iraq as our national treasure circled down the bowl, it wasn't Iraqis who were being bribed and it wasn't those fresh faced young neo-con things in the Green Zone that were getting the big bucks. Nope, it was the US military where all the power sat back then. And now the takers are under investigation.
Federal authorities examining the early, chaotic days of the $125 billion American-led effort to rebuild Iraq have significantly broadened their inquiry to include senior American military officers who oversaw the program, according to interviews with senior government officials and court documents.

Court records show that last month investigators subpoenaed the personal bank records of Col. Anthony B. Bell, who is now retired from the Army but who was in charge of reconstruction contracting in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 when the small operation grew into a frenzied attempt to remake the country’s broken infrastructure. In addition, investigators are examining the activities of Lt. Col. Ronald W. Hirtle of the Air Force, who was a senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004, according to two federal officials involved in the inquiry.

It is not clear what specific evidence exists against the two men, and both said they had nothing to hide from investigators. Yet officials say that several criminal cases over the past few years point to widespread corruption in the operation the men helped to run. As part of the inquiry, the authorities are taking a fresh look at information given to them by Dale C. Stoffel, an American arms dealer and contractor who was killed in Iraq in late 2004.
I wish the investigators every good fortune.

But what I really want to know....

McClatchy examines our course of action in Afghanistan and wonders if we are making the same mistakes the Soviets did when they were there.
Some Afghan experts are worried that the United States and its NATO allies are making some of the same mistakes that helped the Taliban's forerunners defeat the Soviet Union after a decade-long occupation that bled the Kremlin treasury, demoralized Moscow's military and contributed to the Soviet Union's collapse.

Among the mistakes, these experts said, are relying too heavily on military force, inflicting too many civilian casualties, concentrating too much power in Kabul and tolerating pervasive government corruption.

Violence and ethnic tensions will worsen, they warned, absent a rapid correction in U.S.-led strategy that improves coordination between military operations and stepped up reconstruction, job-training and local good governance programs.

"We have not justified democracy. We have not justified human rights. We have not justified liberalism," said Azziz Royesh, a political activist, educator and former anti- Soviet guerrilla. "Afghans don't like the Taliban. But we haven't shown them a better option."
But what I really want to know is why, whether we are in VietNam, Iran, Israel, Iraq, Guatamala, Haiti or any other third world coutry, we always end up supporting the the criminal elements whose only goal is to steal as much as they can?

Today is Valentine's Day

No longer a saint but more valuable to the world than most who are.



Guggenheim Grotto "Her Beautiful Ideas"

The Inventor of the Taser is dead

Jack Cover, who invented the Taser stun gun now used by thousands of police agencies as a better way to subdue suspects, has died. He was 88.
Another one of those inventive minds that sought to improve the world by developing a better way, he takes his place in history some steps below Hiram Maxim, Dr. Richard J. Gatling and Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. While he doesn't have the impressive numbers of the others, it may only be a matter of time before Jack Cover catches up.

The heart of America beats strong

Shawnee Mission East High School Students Tell Westboro Church its Hate isn't Welcome in Prairie Village, KS



God did bless America with these students

Arkansas, the "Special" State

You just have to wonder what they are thinking.
Arkansas pastors may soon have to worry about more than their flocks' spiritual battles. After a number of shootings in churches nationwide, should congregants be allowed to bring concealed weapons into their sanctuaries?

Under current Arkansas law, holders of concealed weapons permits can take their guns anywhere they want except bars and houses of worship. A bill in the state Senate would let churches decide for themselves whether weapons should be allowed.

Enough of this "house arrest" shit

Bernie Madoff's $50 Billion Ponzi scheme has claimed another life, it is time to throw his thieving saggy old ass in jail where it belongs.
A retired British army major killed himself after losing his life savings in the alleged fraud perpetrated by U. S. financier Bernard Madoff, his son said Friday.

Willard Foxton told the Associated Press that, at first, he felt so angry after his father William Foxton’s death he wanted to attend Madoff’s possible trial in the United States to fling the veteran’s medals in his face. Now he just wants Madoff to know what happened to his father.

“I’m sure Mr. Madoff thinks it was just a con got out of hand. He thinks it’s all about money — I’m sure that’s what he feels,” Foxton said in a telephone interview. “I want him to see that people have died as a result of what he’s done.”
Stealing $50 would get most of us in jail, it is time to stop pretending that the word Billion makes Bernie the Goniff someone special. When people die because of his actions, he must face the consequences.

Friday, February 13, 2009

New Hampshire is so lucky

That they got rid of that Bozo Sununu, as John Stewart is nice enough to point out.


Quote of the Day

Given Mr. Rove's public statements that he does not intend to comply with the subpoena, I am puzzled as to why Mr. Rove needs a mutually convenient date to fail to appear.
Rep John Conyers, in his notice to Karl Rove's lawyer requiring Turdblossoms presence on Feb 23.

Stewart Parnell, another Bush standard bearer

And in his Peanut Corp of America we can see the standards he was happy with. Even the state of Texas noticed.
The Texas Department of State Health Services on Thursday ordered the recall of all products ever shipped from the Peanut Corporation of America's plant in Plainview, Texas, after discovering dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers in the plant.

The order, which applies to products shipped since the plant opened nearly four years ago, came a day after the discovery of filth in a crawl space above a production area during a health services inspection, Texas Health Department Press Officer Doug McBride told CNN in a telephone interview.

The plant's ventilation system pulled debris "from the infested crawl space into production areas of the plant resulting in the adulteration of exposed food products," a health department news release said.
The plant was only 4 years old. That is some standard that will be hard to beat.

Another Taser, another death

A man in the northern California city of San Jose died after being jolted with a Taser, police said Thursday, apparently the sixth such death since the department began using the stun guns in 2004.

The man, who police said appeared to be in his 20s, got into a struggle with two officers when they tried to arrest him in the backyard of a home late Wednesday.
Six times in 5 years deserves a review. Betcha the manufacturer will stop that from happening.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Majority wants inquiry into Bush crimes

Based on the ancient Anglo-Saxon legal principle that if you try to steal my country I want your ass in the slammer. Ok, OK, in the old days that was "Head on a platter", but we are a nicer country now.

When someone gets laid off

Their former employer saves the salary and benefits costs, but their bill for the unemployment pool gets a little bigger. In the grand tradition of the Party of Hoover, some companies have decided to pull a fast shuffle on their ex-workers.
The proportion of claims disputed by former employers and state agencies has reached record levels in recent years, according to the Labor Department numbers tallied by the Urban Institute.

Under state and federal laws, employees who are fired for misbehavior or quit voluntarily are ineligible for unemployment compensation. When jobless claims are blocked, employers save money because their unemployment insurance rates are based on the amount of the benefits their workers collect.

As unemployment rolls swell in the recession, many workers seem surprised to find their benefits challenged, their former bosses providing testimony against them. On one recent morning in what amounts to one of Maryland's unemployment courts, employees and employers squared off at conference tables to rehash reports of bad customer service, anger management and absenteeism.
Times are tough but there is reason to be heartless as well, unless you are a Republican.

From the pen of Pat Oliphant



Click pic to big

The Great Afghan Weapons Bazaar

Courtesy of Uncle Sam and he isn't even making them pay for all those goodies.
In a study to be released on Thursday, the Government Accountability Office found that the U.S. shipped some 242,000 weapons to Afghanistan during a nearly four year period before June 2008. The weapons included rifles, pistols, machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Despite policies to the contrary, the Defense Department did not maintain a complete inventory on more than a third of those weapons, according to the GAO.

Many weapons could not be linked to serial numbers, making it nearly impossible to verify receipt. And of the 41,000 with serial numbers, none could be tied to records confirming their location. The military also would forgo routine inventory checks because of staffing shortages and a lack of direction, GAO concluded.

Similar findings accompanied a review of some 135,000 weapons provided by foreign donors and managed by the U.S. military.
If we can not track the stuff we give away, how are we supposed to keep track of the bad guys?

Another dubious first for mankind

The very first collision of man made satellites in earth orbit.
A satellite crash that occurred on Tuesday was the first of its kind, NASA reported Wednesday. Two communications satellites, a privately owned US machine and a presumably defunct Russian Cosmos orbiter, collided over northern Siberia around noon ET.

The crash between the Iridium Corporation's satellite and the Cosmos orbiter resulted in 500 to 600 new pieces of debris going in every direction, crossing the orbits of other satellites. Nicholas Johnson of NASA reported to Reuters, "It takes a while for the debris to spread out and for us to get an accurate head count."

The only manned object constantly in orbit is the International Space Station, at an altitude of 218 miles above Earth. The speed at which a satellite travels means that debris is flung far and wide. Tuesday's collision occurred at 490 miles; Johnson told the New York Times today that he believes there are already objects from the collision that have passed through space station altitude.
Got to do some cleanup out there.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ruth Madoff can see into the future

And her gift allowed her to see that she and Bernie would be needing cash in the near future.
The day before the disgraced financier Bernard L. Madoff was arrested, his wife, Ruth, withdrew $10 million from an account at a brokerage firm with close ties to her husband, according to records released on Wednesday by state securities regulators in Boston.

That day, Dec. 10, was the same day that federal prosecutors say Mr. Madoff confessed to his sons in a midday conversation that his apparently thriving investment advisory business was a Ponzi scheme with losses as high as $50 billion. The sons reported the conversation to the prosecutors late in the afternoon, and Mr. Madoff was arrested the next morning.

Mrs. Madoff also shows up in the records of Cohmad Securities, the firm tied to her husband, with a withdrawal of $5.5 million on Nov. 25, less than three weeks before the arrest.
Wow! The very day before "Pops" is popped she replenished the cash drawer. That Bernie sure is a lucky man.

Quote of the Day

"It is not unusual for Deibel Labs or other food testing laboratories to find that samples clients submit do test positive for salmonella and other pathogens, nor is it unusual that clients request that samples be retested. What is virtually unheard of is for an entity to disregard those results and place potentially contaminated products into the stream of commerce."
Charles Deibel, president of Deibel Laboratories Inc., explaining why Peanut Corp. of America owner Stewart Parnell had a very bad day despite wearing his favorite dead raccoon on his head.

Stop me if you heard this before

"For policymakers and regulators, it should be clear that self-regulation has its limits," Blankfein wrote in the Financial Times on Monday. "All pools of capital that depend on the smooth functioning of the financial system and are large enough to be a burden on it in a crisis should be subject to some degree of regulation."

Blankfein, whose firm received $10 billion in the bailout, also called for limits on executive compensation that could be more stringent in some circumstances than President Obama has proposed. Blankfein said senior executives should be paid a large portion of their bonuses in equity that they must retain until they retire. He also said it was critical that companies put a priority on reducing the risk of losses, arguing that it is necessary to prevent another crisis.

Mark T. Williams, an expert on risk management and a former Federal Reserve Bank examiner, said Wall Street has recently begun to elevate the importance of risk management as a good business practice, a trend that is typical once banks sustain enormous losses. He cited the increasing number of chief risk officers in financial firms.

"I call it the return of the nerds," said Williams, a professor at Boston University's School of Management and a consultant for Deutsche Bank. "We used to be the nerdy group that was just pushed aside into the back offices to crunch our numbers. Now risk managers are really at the tops of these banks."

Bank executives hope their adoption of risk management will soften the anger from lawmakers, according to Williams. He said it is similar to a move by J.P. Morgan in the early 1990s to develop a risk-management approach for the industry before the government did. "They were very proactive in anticipating and heading off additional regulation," he said. "They realized if they didn't develop it then regulators would."
It only lasts as long as the lights are on.

We cheered them at the time.

From the pen of Tom Toles



Click pic to big

A statesman or one more politician

KO & Turley discuss our national obligations


It's all in the price

No matter how you set it up, Geithner's Bad Asset Relief Fund* is going to be ugly and some group will lose badly in the deal. And until the government decides who wins and who loses, even the Wall St. dung beetles are holding back.

*h/t to Krugman and Galbraith.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Whoopee! Seeing eye tank shells

An Army Abrams 120mm cannon destroyed a T-72 tank more than 5,000 meters away using a next-generation guided tank round able to find its own way toward a target, service officials said.

The December test at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., was staged to prove that the guidance system of the Mid Range Munition (MRM) would work when fired.

The MRM has two guidance modes.

The first is laser designation, in which the round follows a laser spot generated by some other target seeker to the target, or in so-called offset mode, near the target.

The second is with its 3-inch infrared camera. The guidance system compares the IR images to a target library stored in electronic form.

“The algorithm running through the round is looking at the environment and differentiating the target from items that might be in range in a normal desert environment,” said Jeff McNaboe, Army MRM program manager.
So we spend a fortune on a stable platform and all manner of external guidance and now this! How much will this cost per round? Probably too much to practice with live ammo.

I might be a porn star, but I haven't done anything illegal

Stormy Daniels on CNN



The Great Orange Satan has more.

R.I.P. Blossom Dearie

You were always Hip


A glimpse of the future?

The New York Times takes a look at how people have fared since one Ohio business closed its doors a year ago. The results are not encouraging.
With more education and skills, the approximately 35 salaried employees at Manchester, including engineers, accountants and other office workers, appear to have fared better than their hourly counterparts. About a third were asked to stay on at least several more months with Kennametal; several remain with the company. In all, some 40 percent of them appear to be earning a regular paycheck, according to interviews.

Among the hourly workers, at least four who did manage to find jobs were laid off a second time recently because of the slowing economy. Even the lucky few who are still working typically found they had to accept a significant decrease in pay.

Unemployment insurance has proved to be a critical bridge for those who remain jobless. But the regular checks also prevented many from considering lower-paying jobs, once they calculated that they would be earning roughly the same amount.

Nonetheless, it is slowly sinking in that the middle-class lives they constructed at Manchester, in this suburb of Akron, may now be slipping from their grasp.

“I think it’s gone forever for a lot of people,” said John Foss, 50, who worked at the plant for 13 years, most recently as a stockroom clerk, and remains jobless.
After thirty years of Reaganite destruction, this country faces a long hard path to rebuild.

Pat Leahy calls for investigation of Bush crimes

Current President Barack Obama is cool to the idea

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Seems like a good idea

A federal contractor plans to begin searching next month for unexploded munitions thought to be spread across 14,000 acres of East Texas.

That now-privately owned land was once part of a World War II infantry training center called Camp Fannin.

Officials say the cleanup by Zapata Inc. could find small-arms ammunition, mines, grenades, rockets and mortars - all used when Camp Fannin was an active military facility from 1943 to 1946.

The camp was returned to private landowners when it was deemed unnecessary after World War II, leaving unexploded ordnance across the area.
Save the expense of a cleanup, just make it a retreat for Republican congressmen.

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse

There is another asshole Lieberman loose in the world and bound to cause a great deal of pain and suffering.
Last year, he suggested publicly that Egypt’s president “go to hell.” In the Israeli parliamentary elections, to be held Tuesday, he is running on a vow to require Arab citizens to sign a loyalty oath. As his campaign slogan asserts with a sly wink at Jewish voters, Avigdor Lieberman “knows how to speak Arabic.”

Mr. Lieberman does not know Arabic and will not, by all polls and predictions, become the next prime minister. But his popularity has been climbing so steeply that his party is now expected to come in third, making him a likely power broker with an explosive and apparently resonant political message: Israel is at risk not only from outside but also from its own Arab population.
And just like our asshole Lieberman, he looks like he will be in the position to make a winner or a loser. Does anyone need anymore proof that there is no God?

A center with no comfort

Dr. Krugman asks a question at the beginning of his column today.
What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?
By the end of his column, you know why the answer, "A proud centrist", should not be spoken but instead spat out as you would the vilest epithet.
All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering.

Congratulations Jennifer Figge

Though it remains beyond our understanding why anyone would want to swim across the Atlantic Ocean.

Monday Music Blogging

Happy Birthday Carol King


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Get a Nobel Prize winner to crunch the numbers

And what you get is not very pretty, unless you are a dyed-in-the wool Hooverite. According to Dr Krugman:
Now the centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out.

My first cut says that the changes to the Senate bill will ensure that we have at least 600,000 fewer Americans employed over the next two years.
It's like the Republicans have added another full month to the unemployment report.

Oh look! Voter fraud.

The Party of Hoover has always been big on voter fraud so it makes sense that it is Ann Coulter under investigation for said crime.
Ann Coulter is being probed. Following our Jan. 11 column, Connecticut’s Elections Enforcement Commission is making a “thorough investigation” of whether the conservative pundit broke the law by voting in the Nutmeg State while living in New York City, according to a commission spokeswoman.
Officials are responding to a formal complaint filed by Coulterwatch.com blogger Dan Borchers. “For over 10 years, Ann Coulter has gotten away with illegal, immoral and unethical behavior, ranging from plagiarism to defamation, perjury to voter fraud,” claims the conservative Borchers.
No doubt the election judges remember her, who else wears her little black dress to the polls at 6:00 in the morning? I hope the judges were old folks whose sense of smell didn't work anymore.

The true cost

Of all that Republican effort to bring down this country to their preferred third world status. Susie Madrak has a link to some of the real world hurt that the Party of Hoover enjoys so much.
They include people like Joan, a 52-year-old Warren County resident who applied for public assistance in December, after years of holding white-collar and part-time tutoring jobs. County workers told her to come back in January because they were “so overloaded,” she said.

Joan, who declined to reveal her full name to protect her son’s privacy, said she doesn’t blame the county workers — “good people doing the best they can. But I have always been a taxpaying citizen. I am playing by the rules and I can’t get help.”
Look Ma, no net!

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