Saturday, January 31, 2009

Qu'ils mangent de la brioche! (Let them eat cake!)

Wall Street Paid Hefty Bonuses

Despite crippling losses, multibillion-dollar bailouts and the passing of some of the most prominent names in the business, employees at financial companies in New York, the now-diminished world capital of capital, collected an estimated$18.4 billion in bonuses for the year. (NY Times)

"Outrageous." President Obama

Outrageous Fortune
Owning and maintaining a house the size of the Taj Mahal is expensive. Kerry Delrose, director of interior design ... walked me through the cost of decorating a mansion appropriately. “Carpeting is very expensive,” he said, mentioning a $74,000 broadloom carpet he had ordered for a client’s bedroom. ... So far, the curtains for just one room have come in at $20,000 to $25,000. Let us assume that our hedge-fund manager has a dozen rooms requiring drapery with puddles and bell-shaped tassels and fringes; in that case he’s spending between $360,000 and $420,000 on curtains alone. ...Total cost: $420,000 to $560,000 for lighting. That doesn’t include the light switches. He added, “You can spend $200,000 on the lighting-control system.”
(Nina Munk, Vanity Fair)
The $18.4 billion in taxpayer funded bonuses is over twice the funding for mass transit in President Obama's stimulus package. Having leveraged the global economy right into the shitter, you'd think the Wall Street aristocracy would return the billions in bonuses earned by pawning our futures. As thousands of middle-class American families lose their homes and while our brave men and women continue to die in Dubya's endless war, we look for a sign from these Wall Street aristocrats that they're willing to share in the pain they've caused. Not bloody likely. Will it take the threat of tumbrils lumbering down Wall Street to reform these soulless bastards.

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." Winston Churchill

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Unemployment Blues

How many of us can now claim family members and friends among those no longer employed? The generation that bankrolled their adult kids and provided a caring home for a widowed parent just saw their retirement savings lose 20 years of dividends practically overnight. Most of us will not live long enough to see our savings recover. And what's the major assburn with our fiscally-responsible Republicrats? Chump change for a condom distribution program. I think it best that if we agree to help our young women that find themselves with child, it makes financial sense to spend $1 dollar on birth control to avoid spending thousands on AFDC.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Money for Shove-Ready Projects Only!

Our economy is on life-support and our politicians can't agree on spending plans that are already too late to provide fiscal stimulus for 2009. I bet we can both agree that all state infrastructure grants at shovel-ready status should be fully funded from federal monies. After all, shovel-ready states were already budgeting for these projects. This goes a long way in confirming that the state projects are valid expenditures. States don't raise taxes in order to lure pork.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama Lifts Restrictions on Family Planning Aid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Friday lifted restrictions on U.S. government funding for groups that provide abortion services or counseling abroad, reversing a policy of his Republican predecessor George W. Bush.

When the ban was in place, no U.S. government funding for family planning services could be given to clinics or groups that offered abortion services or counseling in other countries, even if the funds for those activities came from non-U.S. government sources. The Washington Post

Under Duyba's 8 year reign of ignorance, the religious conservatives' sole strategy to reduce unplanned pregnancies and to reduce the spread of AIDS/HIV has been through abstinence-only education programs that purposely avoid any mention of modern birth control methods, including the use of condoms to prevent the spread of STDs. In forcing their puritanical morality on the world's poor, these conservative scolds have condemned countless thousands of needy women to untimely deaths from back-alley abortions and AIDS/HIV.

Stephen Lewis, the UN secretary general's special envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa, said US cuts in funding for condoms and an emphasis on promoting abstinence had contributed to a shortage of condoms in Uganda, one of the few African countries which has succeeded in reducing its infection rate. "There is no doubt in my mind that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven by [US policies]," Mr Lewis said yesterday. "To impose a dogma-driven policy that is fundamentally flawed is doing damage to Africa."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Don't Ask - Don't Tell. It's Time to Go!

You can always assess your real power by measuring your enemies’ growing concern over your developing strategy. President Obama’s direction to end the military’s embarrassing “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell” policy has enraged (strong but Factual) the Christian conservatives.

Sen. Barack Obama said, if elected, he foresees eliminating the military's "don't ask, don't tell policy" and passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, opposed by many faith-based groups that argue it would force them to accept homosexuals in leadership.

Barack Obama believes we need to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. His campaign literature says, "The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve."

After 8 years of Bush’s malfeasance, odds are good that these bigots could palate a “homo” in a position of effective leadership in extricating ourselves from the quagmire of Iraq. The Christian conservatives would have you believe that gays in the military would become predators stalking our innocent children, much like they believe gay teachers (always male) would somehow poison the minds of America’s pre-pubescent young lads with homoerotic tales of ancient Greece.

Honestly, I think we can agree that the last thing we want in our classrooms or in our barracks is a sexual predator – regardless of their sexual orientation. On active duty from 1968 to 1972, I can tell you from first-hand experience we knew there were gays and lesbians serving alongside us – and were included among friends. Having roomed with a racist and a homo at various times in barracks both large and small -were I called upon to select another roommate, you can be sure whom I’d choose.

Elizabeth Alexander: The Inaugural Poet

The selection of Yale professor and poet Elizabeth Alexander to write and deliver a poem at the inauguration of Barack Obama marks not only the return of poetry to a place of prominence in presidential history (she is only the fourth to read at a presidential swearing-in), but represents a true mind-meld between the president-elect and his chosen bard. Professor Alexander is a virtuosic writer and a shrewd analyst of American letters, a polyglot who moves fluently from essay to sonnet, from free verse to drama—and in her teaching, traces equally diverse themes. The Root
"I do know that when [Sen. Obama] was photographed a few days after the election, he was holding a copy of Derek Walcott’s collected poems. And let me tell you, an audible collective whoop rose up from the poetry world. It was so wonderful to see that three days after he was elected leader of the free world that he would literally model for us a book of poetry, show the value of taking a moment to see what wisdom could be found in a poem. And with a great poet like Walcott, who, of course, doesn’t shy away from politics and serious sociological thinking."

Infamous Senators: Phil Gramm (R) Texas

When the complete history of Wall Street's financial meltdown is finally written, we'll find that former Texas Senator Phil Gramm and his wife Wendy will both bear significant culpability in creating the conditions that allowed this credit meltdown to occur.

As a Senator, Professor Gramm chaired the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (1995 to 2000), stripping safeguards from the U.S. financial system through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in (1999) while receiving $1 million in campaign contributions from the securities industry. He was a master of the shopworn but effective ploy of yammering about “deregulation” in order to enrich oligarchs through the pretense of populism. Mike Licht; NotionsCapital
As chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission ( CFTC, 1988-93), Dr. Wendy Gramm ....
exempted energy futures trading as requested by Enron, a major source of campaign funds for her husband. A week later, Dr. Wendy Gramm resigned from CFTC, and five weeks later she was on the Enron Board of Directors, paid between $915,000 and $1.85 million in salary, fees, stock option sales and dividends. Wendy Gramm’s Enron stock options, valued at $15,000 in 1995, were worth $500,000 by 2000 (source: Public Citizen).
Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young referred to the government's monetary policies as, "Socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor."
What financial toilet is our government trying to flush us out of? Here's the best explanation I've read of the cause of our trouble -- toxic mortgage-backed derivatives
by independent trader Jeffrey Carter at 3QuarksDaily

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Today's Moment of Ignorance

Red State Strike Force members have taken to sporting a new icon. Much like the ubiquitous "We Support Our Troops" stickers that allow citizens to feel good while contributing absolutely nothing, Strike Force members may now show their unwavering support for an Israeli policy that effectively states that 1 Israeli life is equal to 100 Palestinian lives. The policy of Disproportionate Response invalidates Israel claim to the moral high ground and gives truth to the claims of radical Islamic states that Zionist Israel will never accept a two-state position.

The key to achieving this is to inflict massive pain on the Palestinians so that they come to accept the fact that they are a defeated people and that Israel will be largely responsible for controlling their future. This strategy, which was first articulated by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s and has heavily influenced Israeli policy since 1948, is commonly referred to as the “Iron Wall.” What has been happening in Gaza is fully consistent with this strategy. John Mearsheimer, The American Conservative.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Jan 20, 2009: The End of an Error