Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A word of caution for tonight

For those who will drink too much tonight, planned or otherwise, consider the plight of Miss O'Brien. She did it so you won't have to, but you probably will anyway.

Did I Get Stinkin' At The Club Savoy - Virginia O'Brien

Israel considers pause in its ghetto clearing operation.

No, not really, but they had you going there for a minute. So many bombs, so many Palestinians, so little time.

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Bush legacy building.

click pic to big

Texicans may not eat shit

But some of them will drink it.
An estimated 9 million gallons of untreated sewage leaked over the last two weeks from a Frisco pipe into a creek feeding Lewisville Lake, a recreation hotspot and key source for drinking water in North Texas.

State environmental inspectors expect no health risks from the spill, which originated from a broken sewer line under the Dallas North Tollway near Main Street.
Nothing to worry about, same shit, different day.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Alleged girlfiend of John McCain

Is suing the actual New York Times because of the story it published alleging that Vicki L. Iseman may have been involved with the erstwhile presidential candidate. Ms. Iseman's position is that this is false, allegedly.

Failure as a badge of "honor"

First thing to note is the kind of people this article. Among them honor is quantifiable, how much did you get to keep. And if the number is large enough, you are treated with respect.
Dick Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman -- whose collapse in September directly ushered in the broader panic -- is already plotting a comeback. According to the Financial Times, he's thinking about starting a "small advisory boutique to help companies with strategic and financial issues." The venture would "harness [Fuld's] contacts in US companies," says the paper.

Meanwhile, two former Wall Street honchos appear to be living the high-life after seeing taxpayers step in to rescue their troubled firms.

The New York Post reports today that Peter Kraus, a former top executive with Merrill Lynch, just bought a $37 million Park Avenue apartment -- "featuring 11-foot-high ceilings, three fireplaces, three maid's rooms, a library, a gallery and a family room/gym." In September, Kraus got a $25 million golden parachute from Merrill when it was sold to Bank of America, even though he had only started work there that month. B of A received $25 billion in taxpayer money as part of the bailout.

And back in March, Jimmy Cayne, the ousted CEO of Bear Stearns, bought two adjacent apartments at the Plaza, perhaps New York's swankiest locale, worth $28.24 million. That same month, his collapsed former firm was bought by JP Morgan Chase, with major government backing. Cayne reportedly spent much of his time playing golf and bridge while Bear Stearns was reeling last year.
The salt of the earth and,as he was fond of telling us, George W Bush's base.

Name Your Poison

In hard times people have always sought something to help them escape, if only for a short time, their own miseries.
During the Great Depression, Kansans chased away the blues with palliatives like Crawford County Deep Shaft — moonshine, that is.

Today, in what may be the worst economy since, they’re reaching for a vast array of prescription medications.

“We’re seeing an extreme uptick in the abuse of pharmacological drugs,” said Jeff Benz, a founder of Mainstream Kansas City Inc., an alcohol and drug rehabilitation and residential treatment center in Wyandotte County. “We have noticed it for several years, but it really became more pronounced in the last few months.”

Benz’s experience is backed by figures showing increased availability of such drugs in Missouri and Kansas.

Some abusers rely on street narcotics, others on alcohol — “the poor man’s drug,” legal since 1933 and virtually recession-proof.
There is always something to get you through the day.

Bob Herbert has a good idea

As George W. Bush prepares to hand over the keys to the White House and quietly slip out of town, Bob Herbert thinks we should do something about that.
When Mr. Bush officially takes his leave in three weeks (in reality, he checked out long ago), most Americans will be content to sigh good riddance. I disagree. I don’t think he should be allowed to slip quietly out of town. There should be a great hue and cry — a loud, collective angry howl, demonstrations with signs and bullhorns and fiery speeches — over the damage he’s done to this country.

This is the man who gave us the war in Iraq and Guantánamo and torture and rendition; who turned the Clinton economy and the budget surplus into fool’s gold; who dithered while New Orleans drowned; who trampled our civil liberties at home and ruined our reputation abroad; who let Dick Cheney run hog wild and thought Brownie was doing a heckuva job.

The Bush administration specialized in deceit. How else could you get the public (and a feckless Congress) to go along with an invasion of Iraq as an absolutely essential response to the Sept. 11 attacks, when Iraq had had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks?
Li'l Georgie doesn't do history,but the rest of us should make sure that history has all the details. It's a pity the SS won't let us give a damn good thrashing that he deserves.

Monday, December 29, 2008

As Florida goes, so goes the nation

We can only hope not but the latest information coming out of the Sunshine State does not bode well for the rest of us.
In the last two years, the number of Floridians on food stamps has increased more than 40 percent to 1.7 million. That increase is the highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And it's the second-largest jump in the state's history, surpassed only during the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, said an analyst at the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based think tank.

Almost one in 10 Floridians is now on food stamps, and state managers say many more qualify.
1 in 10 and they don't have to pay for heat.

A piggies tale

h/t to the Suburban Guerilla

And the ratio today is

91 to 1

In the neverending battle between Israel(4) and the Palestinians(364), the Iraelis have achieved a kill ratio of 91 to 1. A clear message to the rest of the world of how cruelly victimized the Israelis have been by the evil Palestinians.

The Laureate Speaks

On Face The Nation yesterday

Watch CBS Videos Online

And no, he didn't say if his envelope numbers include the 50 Herbert Hoovers he wrote about today,

A safe workplace is for sissies

If you haven't heard anything about OSHA these last 8 years, it's not your fault. Thanks to the usual gang of Bushovik political idiots, that once effective department has been rendered toothless whenever it was even allowed to act.
"The legacy of the Bush administration has been one of dismal inaction," said Robert Harrison, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco and chairman of the occupational health section of the American Public Health Association. It has been "like turning a ketchup bottle upside down, banging the bottom of the container, and nothing comes out. You shake and shake and nothing comes out," Harrison said.

More than two dozen current and former senior career officials further said in interviews that the agency's strategic choices were frequently made without input from its experienced hands. Political appointees "shut us out," a longtime senior career official said.

Among the regulations proposed by OSHA's staff but scuttled by political appointees was one meant to protect health workers from tuberculosis. Although OSHA concluded in 1997 that the regulation could avert as many as 32,700 infections and 190 deaths annually and save $115 million, it was blocked by opposition from large hospitals.

In the summer, the agency decided against moving further toward the regulation of crystalline silica, the tiny fibrous material in cement and stone dust that causes lung disease or cancer. OSHA promised a scientific peer review of the health risks by early 2005 and then by early 2007, but it never acted. Regulating silica exposures would have prevented an estimated 41 silicosis deaths and 20 to 40 lung cancers annually, according to OSHA.

In the spring, political appointees quietly scrapped work on another long-pending regulation of hazardous exposure to ionizing radiation in mailrooms, food warehouses, and hospitals and airports. It cited "resource constraints and other priorities" -- the same reason officials gave for withdrawing more than a dozen regulatory proposals in 2001.
Workers die, that's part of nature. Why should business have to limit their profit to change that? Besides with all the people now out of work, there are plenty of replacements.

Quote of the Day - Part 2

But if we must have an officiating priest, let it be some dignified old hypocrite with no factional allegiance and not a tree-shaking huckster and publicity seeker who believes that millions of his fellow citizens are hellbound because they do not meet his own low and vulgar standards.
Christopher Hitchens, commenting on Obama's inauguration and putting thr presence of Pastor Pigwhistle in perspective.

Quote of the Day

Why am I here? It's because of poverty. Here, they have money to build. There, he added, looking toward Gaza, they have only God to protect them.
Alah Qarariya, a West Bank Palestinian building bomb shelters for Israeli border town residents.

Please Condi, hold your breath until it happens

I think generations pretty soon are going to start to thank this president for what he's done. This generation will.
Condoleeza Rice, on CBS trying to polish up the turd and hoping we forget it's still a turd.

Monday Music Blogging

Todays offering was first noticed for her deadpan expression while singing. At the time this clip was done her expressions had moved up a notch to minimalist, but as you will see, that was all Virginia O'Brien needed.

Virginia O'Brien - - Salome

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Around here please avoid drinking and driving for New Years

In Australia the warning is a little different.
Surf lifesavers and police are warning people not to swim at night after drinking alcohol.

Stuart Hogben, lifesaving services coordinator for the Gold Coast, said it was not uncommon for people to want a swim late at night or early in the morning after a summer party,

But that meant a greater risk of diminished reflexes, as well as rips and gutters and increased shark activity.
I don't know what a gutter is, but feeding the sharks can really ruin your New Year.

Got no job, got no money, got no prospects

Have you thought about the Army?
Given the current state of the U.S. economy — the unemployment rate was at 6.7 percent in November, with 533,000 jobs lost, and rising — and given other factors, such as a marked decrease in the overall wartime casualty rates, military recruiters should be enjoying a seller’s market.

So far, they are. All four active services have met 100 percent of their recruiting goals during the first two months of the new fiscal year. And the Army and Marine Corps, carrying the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are off to very hot starts. The Army brought in 101 percent and 106 percent of its October and November goals, respectively, while Marine recruiters enlisted 104 percent and 105 percent.

The six reserve components are doing just as well — all were at or above 100 percent of their goal for October and November, the Pentagon said.
But it's not all beer and skittles for the military.
Of equal or greater concern than the raw numbers, however, is the quality of recruits. And the jury’s still out in fiscal 2009’s early stages on whether the services, particularly the Army, are signing up enough of the smartest recruits and minimizing the number of enlistees for whom official waivers are required.
The never ending battle of quality vs. quantity.

A Bushoviks wet dream

Things are getting so bad in some states, due in part to Republican reduction of federal revenue sharing, that they are seriously considering selling off public assets for short term gain.
Like families pawning the silver to get through a tight spot, states such as Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Illinois are thinking of selling or leasing toll roads, parks, lotteries and other assets to raise desperately needed cash..

..GOP lawmakers are pushing to privatize the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the state lottery. Both steps require a higher authority — federal legislation in the case of the airport, a voter-approved constitutional amendment for the lottery. But one lawmaker estimated an airport deal could bring in at least $2.5 billion, and the lottery $500 million.

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering putting the Massachusetts Turnpike in private hands. That could bring in upfront money to help with a $1.4 billion deficit, while also saving on highway operating costs.

In New York, Democratic Gov. David Paterson appointed a commission to look into leasing state assets, including the Tappan Zee Bridge north of New York City, the lottery, golf courses, toll roads, parks and beaches. Recommendations are expected next month.
So the states get a windfall today in return for significant reductions in cash flow which is needed every year. And you just know these public assets will go for fire sale prices to companies more interested in profit than service. This will lead to the now famous corporate bust out where the companies will strip out all salable assets, load up the debt ledger and declare bankruptcy, walking away with all the value as the states will be left to rebuild what they sold off. All in all a worse idea than allowing deficit spending.

Bernie the Chin?

Rumor has it that Bernie Madoff may try an insanity defense for his indefensible Ponzi scheme. Since he hasn't begun shuffling around New York in his bathrobe and slippers yet, perhaps he should remember where Vinnie The Chin ended up.

Muharram, the holiest month of the Shiite religious calendar, begins Monday

So here come the car bombs wherever they can find enough Shiites to blow up.
A car bomb killed at least 24 people, many of them Shiite pilgrims, and wounded 46 others when it exploded Saturday on a busy road in Baghdad that leads to the revered shrine of Kadhimiya, according to the Ministry of Interior.
A failure to protect the religious crowds by the Baghdad government will give the stay-behinds more reason to drag their heels and try to keep us in Iraq.

R.I.P. Delaney Bramlett

You had so many friends, you couldn't help but make the music

Delaney, Bonnie & Friends & Eric Clapton - Poor Elijah 1969

Health care costs don't go up from necessity

Consider this long look at the prime movers in the cost of health care in Massachusetts.
It was the gentleman's agreement that accelerated a health cost crisis.

And Dr. Samuel O. Thier, chief executive of Partners HealthCare, and William C. Van Faasen, chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, weren't about to put it in writing.

Thier's lawyers cautioned that a written agreement between the state's biggest hospital company and its biggest health insurer that would make insurance more expensive statewide might raise legal questions about anticompetitive behavior, according to officials directly involved in the talks.

And so, in May 2000, the two simply shook hands on this: Van Faasen would give Partners doctors and hospitals the biggest insurance payment increase since Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's hospitals agreed to join forces in 1993.

In return, Thier would protect Blue Cross from Van Faasen's biggest fear: that Partners would allow other insurers to pay less. Those who helped broker the deal say Thier promised he would push for the same or bigger payment increases for everything from X-rays to brain surgery from Van Faasen's competition, ensuring that all major insurers would face tens of millions in cost increases. Blue Cross called it a "market covenant."

The deal, never before made public, marked the beginning of a period of rapid escalation in Massachusetts insurance prices, a Spotlight Team investigation has found, as Partners repeatedly used its clout to get rate increases and other hospitals tried to keep up. Individual insurance premiums have risen 8.9 percent a year ever since the "market covenant," state figures show, more than twice the annual rise in the late 1990s...

...As the state slashed oversight of healthcare, no private company was able and willing to moderate Partners' ambitions. Blue Cross, which now controls 60 percent of the health insurance market, was best positioned to do so but flinched at the possibility of a public tangle. As former Blue Cross executive Peter Meade said at a meeting of company executives in 2000 at which some urged a tougher stand against Partners: "Excuse me, did anyone here save anyone's life today? We are a successful business up against people that save people's lives. It's not a fair fight."

In this laissez-faire environment, Partners has been free to use highly aggressive tactics with hospitals and insurance companies, especially those that don't accede to its demands. In 2007, Partners expelled 290 doctors at Beverly Hospital from its system, exposing them to substantial pay cuts, because they were sending some patients to teaching hospitals outside of Partners
It's a sordid story with Hippocrates easily forgotten in the lust for money and power. Can you say "Universal, single payer health insurance through Medicare"? If you can't, just consider this the beginning of "health care" to come.

Congratulations to Israel

While the usual whining of "he hit me first" rings out over Gaza, the Israeli military deserves kudos for achieving a new record. While your textbook oppressor usually shoots for a 10 to 1 or 20 to 1 ratio of retaliation killings, the Israeli air force appears to have set a mark or 46+ to 1. With a little more application they should hit 50 to 1 before the end of the day. From there it should be easy to raze all the buildings, complete the cleansing of the population and salting the earth to eliminate any future problems.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The New York Times profiles WaMu

And if the reporting is accurate, it is simply amazing that WaMu lasted as long as it did.
As a supervisor at a Washington Mutual mortgage processing center, John D. Parsons was accustomed to seeing baby sitters claiming salaries worthy of college presidents, and schoolteachers with incomes rivaling stockbrokers’. He rarely questioned them. A real estate frenzy was under way and WaMu, as his bank was known, was all about saying yes.

Yet even by WaMu’s relaxed standards, one mortgage four years ago raised eyebrows. The borrower was claiming a six-figure income and an unusual profession: mariachi singer.

Mr. Parsons could not verify the singer’s income, so he had him photographed in front of his home dressed in his mariachi outfit. The photo went into a WaMu file. Approved.
Call me old fashioned, but this was simply bank fraud sanctioned by the bank itself.

Frank Rich is not happy with Obama

And as it has been with so many people lately, the cause is that greasy hustler, Rick Warren.
When Obama defends Warren’s words by calling them an example of the “wide range of viewpoints” in a “diverse and noisy and opinionated” America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a “viewpoint” defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable.

It is even more toxic in a year when that group has been marginalized and stripped of its rights by ballot initiatives fomenting precisely such fears. “You’ve got to give them hope” was the refrain of the pioneering 1970s gay politician Harvey Milk, so stunningly brought back to life by Sean Penn on screen this winter. Milk reminds us that hope has to mean action, not just words.

By the historical standards of presidential hubris, Obama’s disingenuous defense of his tone-deaf invitation to Warren is nonetheless a relatively tiny infraction. It’s no Bay of Pigs. But it does add an asterisk to the joyous inaugural of our first black president. It’s bizarre that Obama, of all people, would allow himself to be on the wrong side of this history.
We can only ask that at the actual inauguration, when the invocation is given, everyone turns their back on Pastor Greaseball as he has turned his back on the teachings of Christ.

Isn't this interesting

While one candidate, Ken Blackwell, noted member of the colored persuasion, tried to Uncle Tom his way to the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee by defending the indefensible CD sent out by Chip "Shithead" Saltsman, the current head of the RNC, Mike Duncan, reveals himself to be a member of the reality community. His statement about Shithead's action reads in full.
"The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party. I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction."
Looks like Mike's days as a Republican are not much greater than his days as chairman, as well they should be. The Republican Party has no place for people who think like Mike Duncan.

Sen. Col. Gomer Graham

McClatchy has a report that appears to be an attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Sen. Linseed Graham. Only two things really stand out, one is his picture and the other is this.
During five active-duty tours totaling six weeks since August 2006,

Wow! Five tours!

And Jeb worked so hard

To make Florida a state that welcomed his kind of real estate swindler. Now the Florida government is working to reverse all the deregulation of those glorious Bush years.
After months of stinging criticism for letting crooks and con artists prey on Florida borrowers, regulators have proposed sweeping changes in state law that would make Florida one of the most tightly regulated mortgage markets in the country.

The provisions call for annual criminal background checks for everyone selling mortgages in Florida, a ban on the most toxic types of loans and reviving a state fund that used to compensate victims of mortgage fraud.

The fund would provide up to $50,000 for people who can prove they were scammed by rogue brokers. Regulators quietly killed a similar fund more than 10 years ago, then used the money to pay for operating expenses, like salaries and conferences at five-star hotels, The Miami Herald reported in September.
Imagine that, running background checks every year. Then maybe they will find what the Miami Herald was able to uncover.
Under current state law, brokers are screened only when they apply for the first time. Their license can be revoked if they get convicted of a crime after that, but the state relies on the brokers to report their own arrests.

''This will give us a shot to look at everybody's background once a year,'' Straub said.

The Miami Herald found 564 brokers who were convicted of crimes after getting their licenses -- including at least 20 convicted of mortgage fraud. All were allowed to keep selling loans.
I hope the Herald keeps digging, Jeb is planning on a Senate run in 2010.

This is one bad mofo'

Remember the guy who bid against the oil & gas companies at the latest Bush lease giveaway? The one that was arrested for causing the companies to bid more than they were promised by the Bushies?
"The federal officials who took me into custody said that I cost the oil companies in the room hundreds of thousands of dollars and prevented 22,500 acres of land from being sold for fossil fuel development,"
He has a legal defense fund and an easy defense. You see, they want to charge him with making false statements to get into the auction. If he can pay for the $1.7 Million in leases he won, there is no crime.
Paying for the leases could keep DeChristopher out of legal trouble. The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah told the Deseret News earlier this week that it is still screening the case against DeChristopher to determine whether it will seek a federal grand jury indictment. The charge being considered is likely one of making a false statement.

DeChristopher, 27, has admitted to bidding to run up the value of some parcels. He won 13 parcels of land but said he had no intention of paying for them. When other bidders became suspicious, he was taken into custody by federal authorities.
Send him some love this holiday season and help keep part of our country free and clean.

Her ethics outweigh her ego

And that makes Rachel Maddow a jewel beyond price in the world of TV journalism. This occurred on Mon & Tue of this week, posted on the Huffington Post on Christmas Eve so it deserves another view.

If there was a God in heaven

His arm would be ragged out from throwing lightning bolts at the unrepentant sinners, chief of whom is Pat Robertson. Sadly, He isn't home and we have to view the pitiful spectacle of Old Patsy dumping on his former favorite and sucking up to Obama.
Pat Robertson is "remarkably pleased" with President-elect Barack Obama, the conservative leader told CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux – and believes President Bush’s administration has not dealt with the nation’s economic crisis in a “professional manner.”

“Well, it's hard to assess blame, but I, over the years — I hate to be critical, I mean I am a Republican, and this is the president of the party that I'm a member of — but I think we've had some serious goofs along the way,” he said on the Situation Room Tuesday.

“The Katrina matter was terrible. The rebuilding of Iraq has been terrible. The [handling] of the economy right now has been terrible. It hasn't been handled in what I would consider a professional manner.”
So Old Patsy doesn't think the economy was handled in a professional manner, I guess if anybody knows about money it's Old Patsy.

Israel seeks to close Gaza ghetto

But they can't seem to find a proper venue for their relocation camps so they have settled for disposing of the inconvenient Palestinians in situ.
Israel hammered Hamas targets in Gaza on Saturday, killing at least 205 people in retaliation for ongoing rocket fire in one of the bloodiest days of the decades-long Middle East conflict.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said "Operation Cast Lead," which has also left some 300 wounded, would continue "as long as necessary."

"The battle will be long and difficult, but the time has come to act and to fight," he said.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world waits, like the Red Army once did, "on the other side of the Vistula".

Hand held "Old Sparkys"

Do police also get a charge from using Tasers? This time it is the Houston PD that offed a troubled soul, with 4 Taser shots. The poor soul in question, while naturally or pharmaceutically unhinged, was naked and unarmed. That is a capital offense in Houston, it would seem.
A naked man wandering around an apartment complex near Houston, Texas died after police shocked him with a taser four times...

..."Torturing and killing the mentally ill with tasers is becoming commonplace," Hullabaloo's Digby blogs,"There must be a better way."

Tasers have have killed more than 400 people in the United States and Canada since 2001, according to a recent study.
Whatever happened to Mace?

Coincidence or...?

Funny how within a week after Sean Hannity declares himself part of the Conservative Underground, Oahu, where the president elect is vacationing, suffers an island wide blackout. Was this a first assault that failed or just a warning of what they are capable of. We will never know until we arrest a few of these scurrilous dogs, ship them to Guantanamo and let them enjoy the "water cure" and maybe a few "telephone calls". If they are smart, they will start singing on their own after a few hours of Joan Baez at full volume. God bless George W Bush for making this possible.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Did you have a good Christmas?

Some folks had to make the best of what they had.

Dr. Paul's prescription

Today he takes a look at the big picture for the restoration of the economy and the country, and here is where the comparisons to the New Deal work best.
The Obama administration, on the other hand, will find itself in a position very much like that facing the New Deal in the 1930s.

Like the New Deal, the incoming administration must greatly expand the role of government to rescue an ailing economy. But also like the New Deal, the Obama team faces political opponents who will seize on any signs of corruption or abuse — or invent them, if necessary — in an attempt to discredit the administration’s program.
But the Dr. has a remedy.
First, the administration of the economic recovery plan has to be squeaky clean. Purely economic considerations might suggest cutting a few corners in the interest of getting stimulus moving quickly, but the politics of the situation dictates great care in how money is spent. And enforcement is crucial: inspectors general have to be strong and independent, and whistle-blowers have to be rewarded, not punished as they were in the Bush years.

Second, the plan has to be really, truly pork-free. Vice President-elect Joseph Biden recently promised that the plan “will not become a Christmas tree”; the new administration needs to deliver on that promise.

Finally, the Obama administration and Democrats in general need to do everything they can to build an F.D.R.-like bond with the public. Never mind Mr. Obama’s current high standing in the polls based on public hopes that he’ll succeed. He needs a solid base of support that will remain even when things aren’t going well.
Paul does seem a bit touchy about Obama's choice of vacation spot, as if a luxury rental should be a problem for a prosperous couple . He seems to forget that at the height of the Depression, the public was notdisturbed that FDR called Hyde Park home.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

When a giant snowman

Causes the city government to get medieval on the residents who built it, you know someone at City Hall has too much time on his or her hands, especially if it is in Alaska. Check out the sad tale of Snowzilla, with picture.

Something smells very good in Ashland Ohio

Somewhere just this side of hell was a private equity firm that thought it had sucked all the value from its Archway cookie company so it shut it down in October. 300 workers in Ashland Ohio thought they were left up the creek without a paddle.
But then Lance Inc., a Charlotte, North Carolina-based snack food company, purchased Archway at a bankruptcy auction. And last week 60 workers were asked to return immediately, with perhaps more coming back in the months ahead.
Ah, but there is more to this Christmas story.
When it promised to reopen the bakery, Lance gave all 300 former Archway workers a $1,500 prepaid debit card.

David Singer, CEO of Lance, says the gift cards were a way of letting Ashland know the new owners are different. "We wouldn't do it willy-nilly," Singer says. "We do want to make money. But this is the pool of folks that we intend to hire. We just wanted to let them know who we were."

The 60 workers rehired so far are earning their previous salary and retained their seniority. They also were provided health insurance from day one.

The bakery now produces Lance cookies that are sold to big chains like Target and Wal-Mart. But production of Archway cookies is scheduled to resume soon. Lance has told the employees that it hopes to have the plant fully operational by the end of 2009 -- that is, five lines of cookies being produced simultaneously.
So, all you folks out there who buy cookies in the store, remember the brand names Lance and Archway when you buy. It is one way to support good corporate management.

You don't have to be blond

To have a pretty face with an echo chamber between your ears.
Mexicans awoke this holiday morn to see the reigning Miss Sinaloa 2008 on the front page of almost every newspaper in the country. But it wasn't the cheesecake photo of the beauty queen Laura Elena Zúñiga in a red bikini that was so startling on Christmas Eve. It was the photograph that ran beside it: Miss Sinaloa was busted.

Zúñiga was arrested with a group of seven suspected gunmen and cartel associates, who were riding in a couple of trucks that got stopped at a military checkpoint around midnight Monday just outside the colonial city of Guadalajara. The headline in El Universal almost translates itself: "Detienen a Miss Sinaloa y 7 narcos."

The newspapers had more details. Zúñiga was arrested with her boyfriend, Angel Orlando García, a top capo in the Juarez drug cartel, according to police. He is the brother of a former leader of the Juarez drug cartel, Ricardo García, known as "El Doctor," who was jailed in 2005.
Fortunately they were still together.
On the front page, Reforma also included a short news item next to its Miss Sinaloa piece. It reported that the former girlfriend of the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, was found dead stuffed in a car trunk. Her assailants had carved the letter "Z" on her body.

R.I.P. Eartha Kitt

Ce n'est pas si bon.

Eartha Kitt - C'est Si Bon

Famous names can be a pain in the ass

But with some hard work, patience and family you can make it work. Just ask the Trapp family.

The Divine Ms. Rachel sums it up

Christmas Day may not be the best time to bring up that gluttonous, lying, used car salesman in a pulpit, Rick Warren, but this segment from Rachel Maddow's show should not be ignored.

Nice to see someone else cares.

It looks like Sens. Di-Fi and O-Snowe are upset by the cavalier responses of the banks that received TARP money to the AP survey of what they did with it.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said Tuesday that they will propose legislation next month to force companies that receive money from the fund to report how they've spent it.

The legislation would also prohibit them from spending the taxpayer dollars on lobbying or political contributions. It would also apply to some recipients of the Federal Reserve's emergency lending programs.

The legislation was introduced earlier this year, but the Senate did not take it up. The sponsors have long said they plan to pursue it when the 111th Congress convenes Jan. 6.

“At present, we don't know whether these companies are using these funds to fly on private jets, attend lavish conferences or lobby Congress,” Feinstein said in a statement.
They are talking the talk and we have to wait until next month to see if they will walk the walk.

One problem with guns

You never know who will be stupid enough to drop his bullets on the escalator.
Christmas shoppers were evacuated from a North Carolina store after a customer dropped several bullets onto a moving escalator and a round went off.

The Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday that a customer accidentally dropped the .22-caliber bullets on the escalator at Dick's Sporting Goods at Northlake Mall in Charlotte.

Police spokesman Bob Fey said the customer had just bought a box of bullets Tuesday and dropped them on the moving stairs. He said the back of one bullet was compressed by the escalator and fired.
What more can you say?

One final song for Christmas

To end on a note of high celebration

Luciano Pavarotti & Trisha Yearwood - Adeste Fideles

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

While you are tracking Santa on NORAD

Here are two songs to remind you why this day is special.

Pavarotti Domingo Carreras - Silent Night

What Child Is This - Tanya Tucker

From the pen of David Horsey

Click pic to big and a h/t to AmericaBlog

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Some people get snow for Christmas

And some people get sludge, like the good people of Kingston TN.
A wall holding back 80 acres of sludge from a coal plant in central Tennessee broke this week, spilling more than 500 million gallons of waste into the surrounding area.
Environmental Protection Agency officials are on the scene and expect the cleanup to to take four to six weeks.

Environmental Protection Agency officials are on the scene and expect the cleanup to to take four to six weeks.

The sludge, a byproduct of ash from coal combustion, was contained at a retention site at the Tennessee Valley Authority's power plant in Kingston, about 40 miles east of Knoxville, agency officials said.

The retention wall breached early Monday, sending the sludge downhill and damaging 15 homes. All the residents were evacuated, and three homes were deemed uninhabitable, a TVA spokesman told CNN.

The plant sits on a tributary of the Tennessee River called the Clinch River.

"We deeply regret that a retention wall for ash containment at our Kingston Fossil Plant failed, resulting in an ash slide and damage to nearby homes," TVA said in a statement released
And the TVA says, Oops!

SEC head Chris Cox says " But I was cool!"

Chris Cox gave an interview to try and excuse his failure to do anything useful in the current economic collapse.
During his tenure, the SEC has watched as all the investment banks it oversaw collapsed, were swallowed up or got out of their traditional line of business. The agency, meanwhile, was on the sidelines while the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve worked to bail out the financial sector. And the SEC, by its own admission, failed to detect an alleged $50 billion fraud by Bernard L. Madoff that may be the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

But in his first interview since the Madoff scandal broke, Cox said he was not responsible for the agency's failure to detect the alleged fraud and that he had responded properly to the broader financial crisis given the information he had. Confronted with a barrage of criticism from lawmakers, former officials and even some of his staff, Cox said he took pride in his measured response to the market turmoil.

"What we have done in this current turmoil is stay calm, which has been our greatest contribution -- not being impulsive, not changing the rules willy-nilly, but going through a very professional and orderly process that takes into account unintended consequences and gives ample notice to market participants," Cox said. This caution, he added, "has really been a signal achievement for the SEC."
They were cool and sharp dressed, too. But while they put the fininshing touches on their hair, the last horses were bolting out of the barn.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Such interesting times

According to the news today, house prices are going down faster than your fat kid on a waterslide.

Bernie Madoff has his first death to atone for, if he does atonement.

A federal appeals court has reinstated a Bushovik Clean Air rule (Stop That Laughing, Now!), stating that a bad rule is better than none.

The report on the Obama team's contact with Blago shows nothing to see here, let's move along.

And the Yankees one team economic stimulus package continues to grow with the signing of Mark Teixeira. They're spending like a drunken Steinbrenner.

From the pen of Pat Oliphant

Click pic to big

The Bushes favorite screw-up

A senior federal regulator of the Office of Thrift Supervision has been removed from his position, again, for failure to regulate banks.
A senior federal banking regulator approved a plan by IndyMac Bank to exaggerate its financial health in a May federal filing, allowing the California company to avoid regulatory restrictions only two months before it collapsed, a federal inquiry has found...

...The regulator named in Thorson's letter, Darrel Dochow, was removed from his position yesterday as director of OTS's west division, which supervised Washington Mutual, Countrywide, IndyMac and Downey Savings and Loan, among other banks that have been seized or sold this year.

It is the second time Dochow has been removed from a position as a senior thrift regulator. He was demoted in the early 1990s after federal investigators found that he had delayed and impeded proper regulation of Charles Keating's failed Lincoln Savings and Loan.
When you do a good job for the Bush family, they make sure you stay emplyed.

The letter of he law says he was wrong

But you make your own decision about the spirit of the law in the case of this British milkman.
A milkman supplied cannabis to pensioners to ward off their aches and pains, a court heard.

Robert Holding, 72, delivered the drug while doing his rounds to 17 customers he had built up through "word-of-mouth", Burnley Crown Court was told.

Judge Beverley Lunt said Mr Holding said in his police statement that the cannabis was for "elderly people who had aches and pains".

Mr Holding, of Fair View Road, Burnley, admitted supplying cannabis.
Just another case of no good deed goes unpunished.

Christmas Music Blogging

This song came out in 1943 and immediately struck a chord with the millions of people apart from their families during the war. It remains a beautiful expression of longing for the warmth and love of family at Christmas.

Doris Day - I'll Be Home For Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why we can't get out of Iraq fast enough

From McClatchy, we get the news that some Iraqi families are trying to sue under the terms of the recently adopted SOFA before it takes effect.
The families of three men who were killed last week during a search of a grain warehouse want to press charges against American soldiers under the terms of a new security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq.

The security document protects American soldiers so long as they're on U.S. bases or on missions, so it's unlikely that the families can base their claims on it, though they plan to press their case with the help of international lawyers.

Nonetheless, their charges are a preview of some of the nettlesome questions that are likely to arise as the U.S. yields more authority to Iraq under the terms of the pact, which takes effect Jan. 1.
The simple fact is that, beginning Jan 1, the Iraqis will be acting in the belief that they have their own country back. If Sec Def. "Swinging" Gates or Gen Odie Colognie thinks differently, there will be lots and lots of unneeded trouble. Far better to leave and let them sort thing out on their own, after all, it is their country.

I'm thinking of changing the name

With the deposition of 18 inches of snow this weekend, at least half of it blowing in from the lake last night, I am thinking I might change the name of this blog to the Snowed Over District, on a seasonal basis. Mind you, this is not all that unusual but at times the snowfall was quite impressive.

One positive note is that unlike Mr. Crosby, I won't be dreaming of a White Christmas. It's guaranteed.

Toyota in the red

On Monday, Toyota said it expected an operating loss in its auto operations of 150 billion yen, or $1.7 billion, for the fiscal year ending March 31. That would be the company’s first annual operating loss since 1938, a year after the company was founded, and a huge reversal from the 2.3 trillion yen, or $28 billion, in operating profit earned last year.
Does this mean Toyotas non-union workers will have to make wage concessions to bring their pay below union workers to remain competitive?

Krugman takes the long view

So after the economic stimulus stabilizes the country's economy, how do we grow it with out continued massive government support.It's not a good idea to look for another bubble. Dr. Paul has a few ideas but when all is said an done.
In short, getting to the point where our economy can thrive without fiscal support may be a difficult, drawn-out process. And as I said, I hope the Obama team understands that.

Right now, with the economy in free fall and everyone terrified of Great Depression 2.0, opponents of a strong federal response are having a hard time finding support. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, has been reduced to using his Web site to seek “credentialed American economists” willing to add their names to a list of “stimulus spending skeptics.”

But once the economy has perked up a bit, there will be a lot of pressure on the new administration to pull back, to throw away the economy’s crutches. And if the administration gives in to that pressure too soon, the result could be a repeat of the mistake F.D.R. made in 1937 — the year he slashed spending, raised taxes and helped plunge the United States into a serious recession.

The point is that it may take a lot longer than many people think before the U.S. economy is ready to live without bubbles. And until then, the economy is going to need a lot of government help.
Be prepared for some big changes or a long time down.

All dollar bills look alike

All those $Billions handed out to the banks by Hank "Father Christmas" Paulson are in the system, somewhere but you won't find it. And the banks won't tell you where it went. The AP went looking and found a hall of smoke and mirrors with no real answer from any of the 21 banks questioned.
Nearly every bank AP questioned - including Citibank and Bank of America, two of the largest recipients of bailout money - responded with generic public relations statements explaining that the money was being used to strengthen balance sheets and continue making loans to ease the credit crisis.

A few banks described company-specific programs, such as JPMorgan Chase's plan to lend $5 billion to nonprofit and health care companies next year. Richard Becker, senior vice president of Wisconsin-based Marshall & Ilsley Corp., said the $1.75 billion in bailout money allowed the bank to temporarily stop foreclosing on homes.

But no bank provided even the most basic accounting for the federal money.

"We're choosing not to disclose that," said Kevin Heine, spokesman for Bank of New York Mellon, which received about $3 billion.

Others said the money couldn't be tracked. Bob Denham, a spokesman for North Carolina-based BB&T Corp., said the bailout money "doesn't have its own bucket." But he said taxpayer money wasn't used in the bank's recent purchase of a Florida insurance company. Asked how he could be sure, since the money wasn't being tracked, Denham said the bank would have made that deal regardless.

Others, such as Morgan Stanley spokeswoman Carissa Ramirez, offered to discuss the matter with reporters on condition of anonymity. When AP refused, Ramirez sent an e-mail saying: "We are going to decline to comment on your story."

Most banks wouldn't say why they were keeping the details secret.
Trust us, we know how to handle money. Sounds like a plan we have heard before.

Moles, werewolves and stay-behinds, Oh My!

Nat Hentoff, writing in the Village Voice, is worried. His worry is about the ability and determination of President-elect Obama and his new crew to winkle out all the Bush sympathizers and others who have developed a taste for subverting the Constitutional rights of Americans fostered by the outgoing Bushoviks.
"Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have so deeply embedded tacit approval for illegal acts in government agencies that wrongdoing by their philosophical sympathizers will continue in shadow operations for years to come."

How many of those shadow sympathizers will remain deep in the CIA, the FBI, Homeland Security—and, as I shall later emphasize, in the omnivorous National Security Agency, with its creatively designed submarine that, on the bottom of the ocean floor, will be tapping into foreign cables carrying overseas communications, including those of Americans?

Back at home, will President Obama order the countermanding of the FBI's return to the unbounded surveillance practices of J. Edgar Hoover? In an order implemented as recently as this December—by FBI Director Robert Mueller (who says he'd like to stay on) and Attorney General Michael Mukasey—the FBI can start an investigation without requiring any evidence of wrongdoing
Will these otherwise decent people be able to return to the restraints of the Rule of Law or have the Bushoviks irrevocably released the nemeses of a constitutional republic? And more importantly, does Obama have the will and the wherewithall to restore the Republic?

My school only had milk and cookies

Afghan and coalition troops found and destroyed 2.5 tons of marijuana in an abandoned school in southern Afghanistan, while coalition troops killed four militants elsewhere in the south, officials said Sunday.

The marijuana, which was stored in 2-feet tall stacks, filled several rooms of a school in the Arghistan district of the southern province of Kandahar, a statement from U.S. forces in Afghanistan said.

It was good while it lasted

In what looked like the perfect way to make money, the partners of Fairfield Greenwich Group made a ton of money by steering money to Bernie Madoff and taking a healthy piece of the action for their financial skilz.
Clients of Fairfield, a secretive hedge fund advisory company based in Connecticut, lost $7.3 billion to Mr. Madoff’s fund. But for Fairfield, working with Mr. Madoff was hugely profitable.

Internal documents from Fairfield show that the firm has taken more than $500 million in fees since 2003 alone from the money it placed with Mr. Madoff. Nearly all those fees went to a handful of Fairfield executives, including Walter M. Noel, Fairfield’s founder, who used the money to build a glamorous life, splitting his time between homes in New York, Connecticut, Florida and the Caribbean.
Sell people on the deal, make a few promises that you don't keep and let Bernie keep cranking out his fantastic returns. What could possibly go wrong?

Monday Music Blogging

Chose this song because Christmas is celebrated around the world, even in Brazil where they don't do snow and cold.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Is there a new trial in Ted Stevens future?

Can't say for sure yet but accusations of illegal conduct on the part of investigators for the prosecution might make that happen.
A whistle-blower inside the Justice Department has accused members of the team investigating public corruption in Alaska of official misconduct, according to the judge who presided over Sen. Ted Stevens' trial in Washington, D.C.

The whistle-blower's complaint, dated Dec. 2, is now the subject of an internal investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, according to a memorandum and order signed Friday by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia.

Sullivan revealed the existence of the complaint, and three secret hearings about it last week, in his 29-page order.

Sullivan said little about the nature of the alleged misconduct. Among the allegations was that a government employee accepted "multiple things of value" from sources cooperating in the investigation, Sullivan said.

The judge also reported that the whistle-blower accused at least two federal employees of intentionally violating government policies in the corruption investigation in Alaska and in connection with material that was supposed to be provided to Stevens for his defense, Sullivan said.
In Alaska the fun just keeps on coming.

How a good bank goes bad.

From McClatchy:
In front of a ballroom full of N.C. bankers in January 2006, Wachovia chief executive Ken Thompson warned of the dangers of “toxic” home loans.

A problem with so-called option adjustable-rate mortgages, he told the group, was that homeowners can end up owing more at the end of the month than the beginning, which can be a “tough situation” for customers and lenders.

“I have literally been amazed at the terms offered by some mortgage lenders, thankfully not at Wachovia and thankfully not so much in North Carolina,” he said.

Four months later in May 2006, Thompson took a $24 billion plunge into the mortgage business by buying Oakland, Calif.-based Golden West Financial. Its specialty? The same loans he had cautioned against: option ARMs.
And those who created the pile of crap known as Golden West got a huge payout from their sale and Ken Thompson enjoyed 2 years of bloated salary and bonus for his sharp deal and now lives in Florida with his unearned bonuses. Rick Rothacker writing in the Charlotte Observer shows just how unearned thsat salary and bonuses were.

To foster the Christmas spirit

Now that we have all the snow and cold we need to replicate Yogi's results.

Yingle Bells- Yogi Yorgesson

Dickwahd al-Cheney channels an earlier Dick.

Dick Nixon that is.
All of President Bush's actions during his years as a wartime leader were done with full legal authority, Vice President Dick Cheney said on Fox News Sunday.

Asked by Chris Wallace if it's legal when the president makes a decision to help the country when it's fighting a war, Cheney said, "As a general proposition, I'd say yes."
Naturally, the semi-capable Wallace lad failed to follow up and ask if the president needed a war to make everything legal. I just can't imagine Dickwahd saying yes to that one.

Does Rick Warren want to eat gays?

It seems that our latest high profile god-fraud has spoken in defence of his choice to give the Obama invocation. To do so he opined that he and Obama have much in common. He and Obama both pray to God, so what if Warren's god is a false god. Obama is skinny and Warren is fat and greasy. But the most startling statement came from an interview on Dateline.

"Just because I like pizza it doesn’t mean I should marry it. Biologically, I am predisposed to enjoy the immaculate melding of mozzarella cheese, red sauce and thick crust baked to tasty perfection.

"But that doesn’t mean I should enter into a lifelong commitment with Sicilian or plain, nor bed it down, nor bring children into the world and have them have to explain to their classmates why their mom’s crust is not a crisp as it once was.

"Does any child deserve to have their friends tossing Monday 2 for 1 coupons in his face? Not in my world they don’t. Yet, to say that I am against pizza-eaters or gays is absurd. Our Saddleback Church offer more weight-watchers meetings to overeaters than any other evangelical megachurch on the west coast."
So I think he is saying that gays are like pizza, you can eat them but you can't marry one. It won't last, especially when the game starts. Still, it would be fun to see Rick stick his little winky in a double cheese deep dish pizza fresh from the oven.

While the execs keep their bonuses and perks

You will be lucky to keep your job. And remember when they took away your pension and said the 401k is a much better idea because you can control it and stocks always go up? Well now we know that stocks can go down very far and very fast, but if you don't need it now it will still grow with that company match, right? WRONG, Dogbreath! As the economy tightens up, that match is disappearing.
When the FedEx Corporation slimmed down its pension plan last year, it softened the blow by offering workers enriched 401(k) contributions to make up for the pension benefits some would lose. But last week, with Americans sending fewer parcels and FedEx’s revenue growth at a standstill, the company said it would suspend all of its contributions for at least a year...

..FedEx is not the only one. Eastman Kodak, Motorola, General Motors and Resorts International are among the companies that have cut matching contributions to their plans since September, when the credit markets froze and companies began looking urgently for cash. More companies are expected to suspend their matching contributions in 2009, according to Watson Wyatt, a benefits consulting firm.

For workers, the loss of a matching contribution heightens the pain of a retirement account balance shriveling away because of the plunging stocks markets.
So you get to keep working a little longer and when retirement comes around you still need a job to afford the heat and food. As we say at my office, we can always be greeters at Wal-Mart where we will aspire to be like Jeff Dunham's Walter.
"Welcome to Wal-Mart. Get your shit and get out"

The AP studies executive compensation at bailout banks

And what they find is appalling and across the board.
Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.
Lord knows these poor folk could not exist without all the bonuses and perks lavished on them and it would be cruel beyond belief to make them pay for anything. Still, I think Barney Frank has hit on a crucial point.
Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services committee and a long-standing critic of executive largesse, said the bonuses tallied by the AP review amount to a bribe "to get them to do the jobs for which they are well paid in the first place.

"Most of us sign on to do jobs and we do them best we can," said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. "We're told that some of the most highly paid people in executive positions are different. They need extra money to be motivated!"
Well yes Rep Frank, everybody knows that CEO's would be a lazy shiftless bunch if they didn't get enough compensation to support their self esteem. And besides, it's not like they are a bunch of overpaid autoworkers.

The AP study does fail to examine one point of interest. Every compensation committee swears on a stack of bibles that these huge payouts are necessary to attract and keep their execs. The AP study fails to tell us where these guys would go if they had to work for what they are really worth.

What a sweet deal

Everybodys favorite dotard and Kentucky senator has a charitable foundation that he supports with funds he gets from signing autographs and memorabilia. Before you say gee what a nice guy, consider the record of payouts by the foundation.
The non-profit Jim Bunning Foundation, which collects the money the former pitcher gets from autographing baseball memorabilia, has taken in more than $504,000, Senate and tax records show.

Of that, Bunning has earned $180,000 in salary for working a reported hour a week.

By contrast, the foundation has given $136,435, or about one-fourth of its income, to churches and charitable groups around Northern Kentucky. The largest sums went to local Catholic churches Bunning has attended.

Records show that Bunning is the foundation's sole employee and the only person to draw a paycheck from it.
But that is OK with the foundation board, not that any of them are likely to disagree given their relationships with Sen. Senile.
The foundation is overseen by a three-member board: the senator's wife, Mary Bunning; an old friend, Cincinnati tire dealer Bob Sumerel, whose family has given about $25,000 to Bunning's campaigns; and Robinson, a former congressional aide to Bunning whose lobbying clients in recent years have received budget earmarks from the senator.
In this time of economic hardship, it might be a good idea for the old bastard to adjust his payout ratio. The churches he gives to will need more assistance and his soul will need all the help it can get, probably sooner than he thinks.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

CEO pay and you

The Washington Post takes a look at executive compensation and makes two things perfectly clear. You aren't going to get it and you can't do anything about it. Kind of makes a fellow long for the days when the guillotine was a working mans friend.

Joe Galloway says his goodbyes to Shithead and Dickwahd

And what he says needs no commentary:
The president and his spinmeisters keep talking about how, with the passage of time, historians will come to judge his presidency a huge success, much as history has come to judge the administration of Harry S. Truman.

Balderdash. Or as I much prefer to say in situations like this: Bullshit!

Historians are more likely to rank George W. Bush as the worst president this nation has ever had in the 232 years of its existence.

While I'm at it, George W. Bush shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence as Harry Truman. Harry Truman was a friend of mine early in my career, and George W. Bush is no Harry Truman. Not even close.

Truman kept a little wooden sign on his Oval Office desk that declared: "The Buck Stops Here."

The buck never stopped anywhere in the Bush administration. It just circled the Capitol Beltway at ever-increasing speeds.

Bush kept us safe at home. Yes he did, by delivering nearly 200,000 American soldiers and Marines to Iraq and Afghanistan where they were much more accessible targets. Some 4,500 Americans have been killed in those ongoing wars, and more than 75,000 have been wounded or injured. Hundreds of thousands more have come home suffering mentally for what they've seen or done in these brutal wars.

Bush told his War College audience that of all the things he loved about the job, he was proudest of all of his role as their commander-in-chief.

Why then did he and his minions oppose virtually every attempt to reinforce their numbers and shorten the time they spent in Hell? Why did they oppose virtually every attempt to increase their pay and their benefits, and those of millions of American veterans of these and other wars?

How could so proud a commander sit idly by while soldiers and Marines were sent off to war without the armored vehicles and body armor they so desperately needed in this new kind of war?

How could his administration pinch pennies when it came to funding and manning the military hospitals that treat the thousands of wounded troops flowing home from his wars?

How can this man talk about making the world a safer and freer place by his actions when so much innocent blood has been shed by civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan? When millions have been turned into homeless refugees inside and outside Iraq? When America is left with far fewer friends and allies among the nations of the world?

The only good news left to us this gloomy, cold December is that we only have to put up with this wretched spectacle for another 30 days or so.

The NY Times does Madoff

And in a very long article looks at what is known about the history of the wold's largest Ponzi scheme.

An idle thought from an idle mind

If the UAW is required to give up the Job Bank to satisfy the foreign auto makers and their attack dogs in the Senate, will the Republican party have to close down the American Enterprise Institute and other forms of right wing welfare?

Bob Herbert looks at the War on American Workers

And he hopes that the election of Barack Obama and his choice of Hilda Solis as Sec. of Labor will bring an end to this.
From Ronald Reagan’s voodoo economics to Henry Paulson’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, we’ve put the mighty resources of the national government overwhelmingly on the side of those who were already rich and powerful.

Ordinary workers have suffered. It took years to get a lousy little boost in the minimum wage for the working poor. Attempts to expand health insurance coverage were fought almost to a standstill. Guaranteed pensions vanished. And the maniacs who set fire to the economy with their incendiary financial instruments (yet another form of voodoo) were hot to privatize Social Security.

As Andy Stern, president of the huge Service Employees International Union, told me on Friday: “We’ve had a 25-year experience with market-worshipping, deregulating, privatizing, trickle-down policies, and it has ended us up with the greatest economy on earth staggering, and with the greatest amount of inequality since the Great Depression.”
I share his hopes for a change but I doubt he is aware of how many Americans have come to believe that working against their own best interests is good for this country.

And high up the news chain, we learn

The alleged* future mother in law of Bristol Palin was busted yesterday for drug dealing. Today we find out it was "Hillbilly Heroin" she was dealing. And the bust was executed by the Alaska state police, showing once again it is not wise to piss off a large and organized group of armed people.

* I say alleged because we still don't have a date for the wedding. I guess Todd's shotgun ain't back from the dry cleaners yet.

Non lethal Taser kills another one

If law enforcement killed as many with their pistols as they do with Tasers, there would be a lot of ex-cops on the streets.

And in related cop stuff, this girl and her father should be damn glad they weren't Tasered, they are still alive to sue. Not that they will win, everybody knows that 12 yr old black girls in their front yards are being turned out by their fathers.

Friday, December 19, 2008

How I know there is no God

All the news syndicates and the blogiverse have been a twitter with the news that America's most prolific baby machine has whelped again. In his now standard pusillanimous manner, old Jim Bob the Prick has said "The ultimate Christmas gift from God,". The poor fool does not realize that his wife's compliant acquiescence is proof that God does not exist. If the merciful God that Jim Bob thinks is always telling him to stick it to Michelle really did exist, rather than talking to Jim Bob He would be talking to Michelle. And what would He tell her?
All you have to do is cut it off while he sleeps

Funny how that works

In the recent news about Madoff's Ponzi Scheme, we have been presented with the picture of SEC chairman Chris Cox bemoaning the many failures of his commission to catch Bernie before he stole again. TPM Muckraker has a post with links to many informative articles which all point to Chris Cox being the one who broke the ground and set up all those failures. Good reading. Now, who would have expected that from a Republican?

Well slap my ass and call me Sally

George W Booger actually went ahead with a loan to the automakers. Of course he did all he could to have the terms smack down the workers and preserve the "quality folks" in management and shareholders. Barack Obama gave carefully circumspect support for the action with one interesting addition as he prepares to deal with this next month.
The auto companies must not squander this chance to reform bad management practices and begin the long-term restructuring that is absolutely necessary to save this critical industry and the millions of American jobs that depend on it, while also creating the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow."
Shows he's looking in the right places.

Krugman looks at Wall St & Madoff

And he doesn't really like either model.
Consider the hypothetical example of a money manager who leverages up his clients’ money with lots of debt, then invests the bulked-up total in high-yielding but risky assets, such as dubious mortgage-backed securities. For a while — say, as long as a housing bubble continues to inflate — he (it’s almost always a he) will make big profits and receive big bonuses. Then, when the bubble bursts and his investments turn into toxic waste, his investors will lose big — but he’ll keep those bonuses.

O.K., maybe my example wasn’t hypothetical after all.

So, how different is what Wall Street in general did from the Madoff affair? Well, Mr. Madoff allegedly skipped a few steps, simply stealing his clients’ money rather than collecting big fees while exposing investors to risks they didn’t understand. And while Mr. Madoff was apparently a self-conscious fraud, many people on Wall Street believed their own hype. Still, the end result was the same (except for the house arrest): the money managers got rich; the investors saw their money disappear.
But thanks to the corrupting influence, not only of money but also the awe we have for those who "earn" lots of it, nothing gets done.
At the crudest level, Wall Street’s ill-gotten gains corrupted and continue to corrupt politics, in a nicely bipartisan way. From Bush administration officials like Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who looked the other way as evidence of financial fraud mounted, to Democrats who still haven’t closed the outrageous tax loophole that benefits executives at hedge funds and private equity firms (hello, Senator Schumer), politicians have walked when money talked.
So much to do, so little time in the day.

Condi takes one for the boss (sort of)

Sec of State Condi Rice took the blame for 9/11 in an interview with CNN before throwing in a few weasel clauses to show she didn't really mean it.
"The worst breach of national security in the history of the United States came under your watch," Verjee persisted.

"Absolutely," Rice agreed.

"Did you ever consider resigning?" asked Verjee. "Taking responsibility?"

"I do take responsibility," Rice finally acknowledged, "but this was a systemic failure. ... We, the administrations before us, had not thought of this as the kind of war against the terrorists that we were going to have to wage."
Who could have imagined?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Thanks to Der Bingle and the snow outside, lots more on the way.

al-Hobson's choice

Poor Maliki of Iraq, stuck with a very public and very difficult decision as elections approach. To prosecute Muntazer al-Zeidi to the fullest for assaulting a head of state or release him to the heros welcome he would get.
Iraq and the entire region is watching what happens next to this formerly little-known Iraqi journalist. That leaves Maliki with few good options. The prime minister has worked hard in the past year to cultivate his nationalist bona fides, increasingly pushing back against Washington and driving a hard bargain on a recently approved bilateral security pact with the U.S. Yet those finely honed patriotic credentials could crumble if Maliki deals harshly with Zeidi.

Still, it's doubtful that Zeidi will be released without trial, despite the intense public pressure, merely because such public affronts to leaders are extremely rare in the Middle East and unlikely to go unpunished. Justice must not only be done but be seen to be done and so Zeidi will most likely be tried and then either released with a fine or a muted sentence, according to several parliamentarians. Few doubt that he will not be convicted. "It's about what happens after the conviction," says Othman. "Maliki could do something about it then, pardon him or release him with a fine. Many people support Zeidi." Othman adds: "People will blame Maliki if he is sentenced, or if he's been tortured... and we are in an election year." Maliki must tread lightly, to make sure that most disdained item of clothing in the Arab world, the shoe, doesn't trample his ambitions at the ballot box.
Convict him and let him go out the back door of the court house seems to be the best idea available. Whatever he does will not happen until Zeidi heals from the requisite police beating he received at his arrest.

Hey, it's Iraq, who's going to notice?

At least that was what a group of FBI agents in Iraq thought, so far away from the close oversight of their bosses in DC.
FBI agents temporarily deployed to Iraq received an average of about $45,000 in excessive overtime because they billed the government for 16 hours a day throughout their 90-day assignments, according to a Justice Department audit.

The audit, released Thursday by Inspector General Glenn Fine, found the agents routinely submitted the overtime with the blessing of their managers from 2003 through 2007. The report says the excessive overtime totaled $7.8 million.

"The FBI inappropriately permitted employees to regularly claim overtime for activities that are not compensable as work, such as time spent eating meals, exercising more than 3 hours per week, and socializing," the report said. The socializing included going to movies and cocktail parties.
These lads are lucky old J Edgar is long dead. In his day, he and Clyde would have had a fresh stable of buttboys after something like this.

Obama explains the Warren pander

What I've also said is that it is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.
All well and good Barack, old boy, but no one is contesting your plans, or pipe dreams, if you will, to work with people like that. The problem is when you throw a party to celebrate your efforts and those of all who supported you, you should have the decency to leave the big stink outside. There will be plenty of time to pat his great belly and pomaded hair later.

Can you say Bonus?

Probably not if you work for a living. But if you are one of the hot shots of Wall St., you have an intimate relationship with those O so extravagant creatures.
For Dow Kim, 2006 was a very good year. While his salary at Merrill Lynch was $350,000, his total compensation was 100 times that — $35 million.

The difference between the two amounts was his bonus, a rich reward for the robust earnings made by the traders he oversaw in Merrill’s mortgage business.

Mr. Kim’s colleagues, not only at his level, but far down the ranks, also pocketed large paychecks. In all, Merrill handed out $5 billion to $6 billion in bonuses that year. A 20-something analyst with a base salary of $130,000 collected a bonus of $250,000. And a 30-something trader with a $180,000 salary got $5 million.

But Merrill’s record earnings in 2006 — $7.5 billion — turned out to be a mirage. The company has since lost three times that amount, largely because the mortgage investments that supposedly had powered some of those profits plunged in value.

Unlike the earnings, however, the bonuses have not been reversed.
Kind of like the bank robber getting to keep all the money he can hide before the cops arrest him.

Frank Gaffney needs to be horsewhipped

Watch what this asshole says as he tries to resell Our Dear Embarrassing Leader's Glorious War in Iraq.

And Dickwahd al-Cheney could use a taste of the cat himself.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Quote of the Day

What matters to me is I didn't compromise my soul to be a popular guy.
Our Junior Varsity Hoover, talking about something he never had.

$900 Billion for a war

With a tin pot dictator in his personal sand box. 4209 Americans dead, many thousands more wounded and maimed and no one knows how many Iraqis died. And we still don't know why Li'l Georgie started his glorious clusterfuck.

AmericaBlog has a link to the report.

Obama goes with jumped up stump preacher

To give the invocation, an ancient and once honorable call to mystical sky hoo-doos, at his inauguration, Barack Obama has chosen a man who stands opposed to the values of most of the President-Elect's supporters. The gay community is rightfully outraged at the choice of a supporter of Prop 8. What better way to say Hey you queers get off my lawn! He has chosen an opponent of abortion. What better way to let women know their place in the world. And for those who truly believe in the Gospels of Jesus, please ask yourself this question. Why would your Jesus listen to an overdressed and grossly overfed man like Mr Warren so long as there was an American who is ill-clothed and hungry?

Two Tuesday Toons

Tom Toles

Pat Oliphant

Click pic to big

Some Biig Gonstermachers

Those hot shots on Wall St who had the secret to riches beyond your dreams were just phoning it in. That is, until Bernie Madoff confessed.
The Fairfield Greenwich Group charged clients an annual fee of 1 percent of assets invested for providing access to exclusive hedge funds and performing due diligence on them, in addition to a fee of 20 percent on investment gains each year, according to people close to the fund’s operations. At that rate, an investment of $7 billion paid Mr. Noel’s company $70 million annually, and then $140 million more in a year in which Mr. Madoff reported a 10 percent gain (he steadily reported returns of 10 to 12 percent).

Other middlemen for Mr. Madoff’s vehicles — like J. Ezra Merkin and his Ascot Partners fund and Gerald Breslauer, a financial adviser in Los Angeles who invested with Mr. Madoff on behalf of Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg — also collected millions in fees, though they may have had different arrangements.

Mr. Merkin and his Ascot fund took 1.5 percent of assets.

The Tremont Group, a unit of Oppenheimer that is in turn owned by MassMutual, had $3.3 billion with Mr. Madoff, while Optimal Investment Services of Geneva, a unit of Santander of Spain, puts its exposure at $3.1 billion. Other big investors include Kingate Management at $3.5 billion, Union Bancaire Prive of Geneva at $1 billion and Bank Medici of Vienna at $2.1 billion, demonstrating the worldwide reach.
Why do the work yourself if Bernie was doing such a good job? Besides, Bernie's a mensch, a man you can trust to the end. Perhaps they should have bought the Eiffel Tower instead.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The Secret Service admits they were taken by surprise by Muntathar al Zaidi and his shoes.

Rachel Maddow interviews Thomas Tamm

A real American.

Dickwahd must be very secure

In the knowledge that the Democrats and incoming President Barack Obama are a bunch of pussies, too scared of their own shadows to do the right thing. Why else would he admit to enabling the use of torture?
When asked by ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl whether he approved of interrogation tactics used against a so-called "high value prisoner" at the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison, Mr. Cheney, in a break from his history of being press-shy, admitted to giving official sanctioning of torture.

"I supported it," he said regarding the practice known as "water-boarding," a form of simulated drowning. After World War II, Japanese soldiers were tried and convicted of war crimes in US courts for water-boarding, a practice which the outgoing Bush administration attempted to enshrine in policy.

"I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do," Cheney said. "And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it."
Dickwahd goes on to say it was a successful effort which begs the question, what does he mean by success?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Will it make #1 again?

Al Jolson - Brother can you spare a Dime

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.
They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

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