February 27, 2009

We Need A Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Although mostly, we need truth. Senator Patrick Leahy explains:

I have proposed the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate abuses during the Bush-Cheney Administration -- so they never happen again. These abuses may include the use of torture, warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, and executive override of laws.
Please consider signing Leahy's petition here.

February 24, 2009

Baby Slippers

Too great.

(From Gizmodo via Ben -- thanks!)

February 23, 2009

Let's Be Clear; There Are Two Kinds of Bailouts:

(1) Those that actually buy something for the money; and

(2) Those that throw good money after bad.

As an e.g. of (2), see this from a CitiBank employee:

I'm involved with a $300 million condo-hotel development in the Caribbean. Citi has the whole loan (i.e., they didn't securitize or otherwise sell participations in the loan). Even now, we expect the hotel needs at least another $100 million to finish construction and open . . . . Hence, one might plausibly value this $275M loan at zero (i.e., a complete write off). I cannot imagine any stress test would uncover what a huge loss is on the way in the next 12 months. In fact, this loan has not even been pawned off to the nonperforming/distressed debt/workout section of Citi because the interest reserves make it "seem" like the loan is still performing, not to mention that completely out of date pro formas make it "seem" like (i) equity will come in to finish the project and (ii) condo sales will pay down a huge part of the principal once construction is complete. This scenario must be present in a large number of Citi loans, especially in their somewhat active foreign development divisions. Citi must be so far from solvent that it's not even funny. Only hyperinflation in the dollar could ever make it possible for the borrowers to pay back some of these loans. I'd bet that the sooner we face reality on some of these loans and just halt future fundings, the less money the taxpayers are going to lose. As it is, it's almost too late. Too bad for the US taxpayer.
(Emphasis supplied.) Full text here.

The (1) kind would be the kind that actually helps us plebes.

February 22, 2009

We Can't Fix the Economy Without Knowing What Broke

Really great article at HuffPo. Among other highlights:

Fact Checking Time's List of 25 People to Blame

* * * * *

2. Phil Gramm Bottom Line: He deserves to be at the top of the list. It's hard to overestimate the damage he caused.

Unmentioned by Time: Gramm slashed the SEC's budget, stacked the CFTC with his cronies, helped emasculated investor protections under the SEC acts. [E.g., Gramm led the charge to repeal Glass-Steagall, among other things, which, during the decades since the '29 Crash until repealed, had worked to protect against losses by prohibiting banks from engaging in the kinds of excessively risky investments that caused the 1929 crash.]

3. Alan Greenspan Bottom Line: Time sanitizes Greenspan's record.

Greenspan recklessly ignored parts of his job description, which included correcting the regulatory loopholes that allowed predatory lenders like Ameriquest to flourish. And he recklessly ignored evidence of the risks. After the S&L crisis of the early 1990s, everyone knew the hazards of unregulated mortgage lending. (Greenspan had championed S&L deregulation and was a big booster of Charles Keating.) Everyone knew that subprime mortgage lending was fraught with peril and could lead to financial disaster by June 2000, when First Union wrote down its entire $2.8 billion investment in The Money Store, a subprime lender acquired two years earlier. But Time gives it all a "mistakes-were-made" spin, merely noting that "his long-standing disdain for regulation underpinned the mortgage crisis."

Time's Conspicuous Omission: The Republican Congress.

"Federal lawmakers didn't pose much of a threat to the subprime industry in recent years. Members of Congress received at least $645,000 in donations from Ameriquest and large sums from other big subprime lenders, Federal Election Commission records indicate. They debated new oversight of the industry, but took no action." The Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2007

* * * * *

5. American Consumers Bottom Line: Part of the phony "plenty-of-blame-to-go-around" narrative.

"We really enjoyed living beyond our means... Household debt in the U.S.--the money we owe as individuals--zoomed to more than 130% of income in 2007, up from about 60% in 1982... Now we're out of bubbles." Time neglects to mention how those bubbles were inflated with artificially low interest rates and a new tax exemption on dividends during the run up to the 2004 election.

Time's Conspicuous Omission: Republican Tax Cuts. In terms of living beyond our means, consider this. In 2000 Federal revenues (excluding social security) were $1.54 trillion versus $1.46 trillion in outlays. In 2003, long past a recession that ended in November 2001, Federal revenues were $1.26 trillion (an 18% decline) versus outlays that were $1.8 trillion. Revenues had declined three years for three years in a row, something unprecedented since the Great Depression. And this was before we started tallying the cost of the Iraq war.

6. Hank Paulson Bottom Line: Time gets it right, though Paulson should be in the top 3.

February 21, 2009

Stimulus v. Iraq

Stimulus Bill Requires RSS Feeds of How the Money Is Spent

Re-blogged from boingboing.

As one commenter not entirely unknown to you observes,

Any step toward transparency is helpful -- if info given turns out to be false, at least someone can be embarrassed by it, if not prosecuted. The next challenge is to get someone who knows what they're doing to actually read it.
I think we can count on the Republicans to scrutinize Dem expenditures; not so sure that'll be reciprocated.
Note: The same IT our fearless leaders are using to mine all our e-mails, etc. for items of interest [terrorism/peace activism] can theoretically be used by us plebes to monitor our gummint (would someone pls DO this; otherwise, impt. info could easily be buried in mountains of less useful data).
I also liked Comment #13: "US$1,200,000,000.00 . . . Poof!" [most of you should probably skip to 1.52 min., although the video starts with a more successful take-off, which I enjoyed, since to me Stealth bombers are the best thing next to Batman]:

Who Says Guys Can't Dance.

(Via boingboing.) Can't wait to hear him 10 yrs. from now. (Thanks, Ben!)

February 20, 2009

Juan Enriquez on Homo Evolutis

I liked this talk. As I wrote in 2000, "We may already have commenced our greatest creation, the species that will succeed us and carry on." I wish we could hurry up and engineer better bankers and Congresscritters.

Symposium at CentralTrak: Revisiting the Cyborg Manifesto

Organizer Charissa Terranova explains,

In 1985, Donna J. Haraway published "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the late Twentieth Century." Haraway distilled a new paradigm pf subjectivity that moved beyond traditional paradigms of gender duality and classical humanism. The Manifesto called for an honest embracement of the psycho-corporeal transformations that ensue from technology, the way in which those technologies emancipate us from old mythologies of "human nature" and interpolate into patterns of ecological destruction and the violent matrix of the military industrial complex." [The symposium,] Woman Body Image: Half-lives of the Cyborg Manifesto 25 Year After . . . will revisit the Manifesto as we approach its 25th anniversary.
A main draw for me is Kristin Lucas (see prior post here re- her show at and/or gallery; her work was also included in The Program); the other participants sound interesting, too.

More on CentralTrak's calendar.

February 19, 2009

World Toilet Info

One project I've had in mind for years would involve a series of vaguely-toilet-like ceramic vessels that look like they should have to do with whisking away bodily debris but that don't look like they'd actually work (e.g., after scrutinizing a piece, you'd remain unsure: in which part of it were you actually supposed to go? or if you did, how would said debris actually be evacuated?)

So, I really like this compilation of info re- toilets around the world.

(Thanks, Ben!)

February 16, 2009

V-Day Pillow Fight

I want one near me:

Via Eyebeam reBlog.

February 15, 2009

"The Man from U.N.C.L.E."

At least the first 2 or 3 shows rec'd: hilarious; and the outfits/hair alone are worth it.

"T.H.R.U.S.H. is an orgnization that believes the world should have a two-party system: the masters and the slaves." Need I say, this perfectly describes our current skull+bones regime.

Plus, Solo + Kuryatkin are hot.

The opening of this video is cringe-ful; but it gives an idea.

Note it resembled Star Trek in positing that an agent from a putatively enemy nation (Kuryatkin, from the U.S.S.R.) could collaborate for good. Unfortunately it also resembled Star Trek in imagining women as little more than objects to be rescued for subsequent plunder.

And note how totally the Mission Impossible theme ripped them off.

February 14, 2009

February 12, 2009

How to Fix the Economy (Including Social Security)?

The American Dream is being looted before our eyes.

I've worked for 40 years, stayed out of debt, saved, invested carefully – everything I was supposed to do. I and my employers have been paying into SS and Medicare for decades. During the last six months, I've lost a quarter of my retirement fund; and I fully expect that what I've got left will be eviscerated by inflation beginning in the not-too-distant future.

Now they want to cut Social Security and Medicare; see here, here, here, here and here.

I've got three multiple-choice questions.

1. WHO Should Pay for the Current Disaster?

(a) Old people who worked hard and saved, who've just lost a lot of their savings in the crash and have no hope of recovery before they die, let alone before they retire, and many of whom have no prayer of finding a job in this economy? (Note, not all the lost money simply "vanished," as some suggest. Some people came out ahead, and are still trying to.)

(b) Young people who mostly haven't yet lost much in the crash and may still have time to recover? (I'm NOT saying this is what should happen.)

(c) The wealthy top 2% who've benefitted the most by far from the regime of tax cuts and deregulation inaugurated under Reagan (remember the S&L debacle enabled by deregulation, and the subsequent bailout at taxpayer expense, which, monstrous though it seemed at the time, was apparently just a test-run for the much larger-scale looting now underway?), including but not necessarily limited to the Wall Street and military-industrial types who've most substantially helped create this mess??

(d) The people who've made/are still trying to make a bundle on credit derivatives and naked shorts??? (If you're not familiar with "naked shorts," see here and here. It's NOT fun for all.)
Personally, I'm voting for a new benchmark in public accountability: not one taxpayer should lose one dime before every one of the people who've made/are still trying to make a bundle on credit derivatives and naked shorts have LOST every dime.

2. HOW Should We Pay?
(a) We can cut Social Security and other "entitlements" to the people who proportionately contributed the most and who need it most, the elderly and the poor. (NOTE: even though it's true that SS funds have been borrowed by the rest of the gummint, there's still an obligation on the gummint to repay. If the U.S. is insolvent, there's a HUGE difference between being first in line for whatever's left vs. being last in line behind Wall Street and Halliburton, or worse, not being in line at all.)

(b) We can inflate the dollar, so everyone suffers equally in proportion to the dollars they hold (further vitiating peoples' retirement funds or other savings.)

(c) We can tax the heck out of everyone with assets or income greater than $2 million. 'Cause if you have more than that, you don't really need it, esp. not compared to the rest of us.

(d) We could confiscate the assets of the people who've made/are still trying to make a bundle on credit derivatives and naked shorts. After all, they just confiscated a quarter of my life's savings.
3. What Caused the Crisis -- WHAT Needs to Be "Fixed"?
(a) Deregulation. Over the last few decades, as our memories of the '29 Crash and ensuing Great Depression faded and our attention wandered or was spread too thin, conservatives repealed the restrictions that protected our savings from excessive speculation and fraud (yes, I know, some so-called "Dems" participated or failed to object; in my book, they're conservatives). They also gutted enforcement agencies by slashing budgets and staff. One result was the wave of S&L failures in the 80's. Few of those actually guilty were actually punished, so we continued down the primrose deregulatory path; voilĂ  credit derivatives (the main part of the current disaster, esp. so long as we're not willing to allow those who made the bets suffer the losses), naked shorts, Madoff's 3-decade-long Ponzi scheme, etc.

We simply cannot leave the foxes in charge of the henhouse; we MUST not only restore but expand Glass-Steagall to cover new kinds of institutions, re-regulate in various other areas, and of course restore enforcement capabilities.

(b) The systematic impoverishment of the working/consuming classes in the U.S. and some other developed countries. During the last few decades, U.S. leaders (themselves in hock to multinational corporations) chose to promote a model in which economic growth was fueled by ever-increasing consumption, while allowing most consumers' real wages to fall far short of real inflation and enacting tax cuts that have disproportionately benefitted the top 2%. Jobs, but not labor or environmental protections, have been exported. U.S. workers' numbers, hours, and productivity have steadily grown; but we've been pushed into debt and steadily drained of the income and assets necessary to continue to consume.

Multinational corps. don't care; if U.S. workers can't afford the product; sooner or later, workers elsewhere will take up the slack.

(c) All of the above. Until we fix both (a) and (b) above, nothing else we do will restore us to genuine economic health.
It seems we're no longer governed by laws or governments; we are governed by multinational corporate interests -- and it's not even the interests of the stockholders in those corporations, as those of us who've watched our savings vaporize during the last few months have learned; it's the interests of senior management.

Docs Reveal Prisoners in U.S. Custody Were Tortured to Death

Story here.

From Our Military-Industrial Complex: Hummingbird mit Argus

A robot helicopter capable of hovering for 20 hours without re-fueling at altitudes up to and beyond 15,000 feet, equipped with a 1.8 gigapixel camera. Developed under the auspices of DARPA, the camera is the sensor part of Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance - Imaging System or ARGUS-IS.

While surveying an area of over a hundred square miles, the resolution will be good enough to follow individual people on foot. Part of the tech involves an ability to target areas of interest; when used, "it may be possible to speed the frame rate up considerably – we previously looked at a windowing system so fast it could follow speeding bullets."

More at Wired (thanks, Ben!) Glad I live in a city with tunnels.

For art re- DARPA, see the Institute for Applied Autonomy (also rec'd is their project on supposedly-extraordinary rendition; see here and here).

February 11, 2009

Impeach Obama!

100 days since he promised a puppy!

February 10, 2009

Wikileaks Releasing 6,780 Secret Reports Commissioned by Congress

Now you can know a lot more of what Congress knows, or thinks it knows. More details here.

February 9, 2009

$550 Billion "Electronic Run on the Banks" WITHIN A 2-HOUR PERIOD

ca. 9/15/08, that's PRE- the stock market crash, per Sec. of the Treasury Henry Paulson, per Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania:


Did you know there's an entire Truthiness Encyclopedia online? E.g., check out "Some People" or the "John W. McCain/Medical Plan"; and like, when I searched just now for "Some People," literally hundreds of entries came up. Looks like they've transcribed and organized everything that's ever emerged from any Colbert orifice. I'm in awe.

More Ben & Jerry Ice Cream Flavors

Of course you've seen Ben & Jerry's Obama-inspired flavor. Supposedly they also asked for suggestions re- Bush; here are some names people came up with:

- Grape Depression

- Abu Grape

- Cluster Fudge

- Nut'n Accomplished

- Iraqi Road

- Chock 'n Awe

- WireTapioca

- ImPeach Cobbler

- Guantanmallow

- ImPeachMint

- Good Riddance You Lousy Motherf**ker... Swirl

- Heck of a Job, Brownie!

- NeoconPolitan

- RockyRoad to Fascism

- The Reese's-cession

- Cookie D'oh!

- The Housing Crunch

- Nougular Proliferation

- Death by Chocolate . . . and Torture

- Credit Crunch

- Country Pumpkin

- Chunky Monkey in Chief

- George Bush Doesn't Care About Dark Chocolate

- WMDelicious

- Chocolate Chimp

- Bloody Sundae

- Caramel Preemptive Stripe
(Thanks, Scott!) Someone needs to inform Colbert of this outrage.

Job Losses, Among Other Things, Off the Cliff,

as compared to previous "recessions."

Manhattan Madam's List Includes Lots o' Wall St. Bailees

"I think you're allowed to be racist in bed." It gets better/worse from there (Trump in women's panties??) Video from The Young Turks, worth checking that site out.

UPDATE: This the same kind of stuff that took Spitzer down -- only worse, since the guys were charging their fun to their companies. Oddly, the prosecutor chose not to pursue the Wall St. johns.

Here's abc's interview of the Madam.

February 8, 2009

The People Will Win in the End

Click on it for a bigger version. Source.

Dallas Burlesque Festival

Very enjoyable, and very well-organized for a first-time event -- the place was packed (and not just with photographers), but things went pretty smoothly; lots of enthusiasm and genuine talent (I'm trying to contact the DJ and two dancers; unfortunately there was no programme); and it was a fun way to see the partially-renovated Texas Theatre, in which Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended.

During the warm-up and intermissions while the DJ played, I snuck past the barriers to the not-yet-renovated balcony and danced in the dark (watch out for the rubble, esp. if you're wearing heels).

I liked the art-ier acts, my sig. other liked the more traditional acts. By end of the nite I felt slightly bored by the basic strip formula (one gal, bless her, reversed it by starting in a g-string and pasties and then getting dressed) -- I'd have cut the total time of the Fest. by a half hour. But when it comes to sex, better too much than too little.

(Photos by Ben Britt.)

And While You're Contacting Your Congress Critters,

. . . why not urge them to pass legislation to extend the statute of limitations on prosecution of any B*sh administration crimes.

Remember my previous post re- how the Repubs might be holding up Eric Holder's confirmation for more than one reason? Got this from Peace Team today:

One of the most important recommendations by John Conyers in his 487 page recent report "Reining In The Imperial Presidency" was to extend the statute of limitations on the crimes of Bush and Cheney, to allow a fair opportunity for them to be actually investigated by a real prosecutor. Of course the [B*sh] Justice Department was entirely derelict in enforcing the law as to them while they were still in office. To fully preserve and protect the rule of law, the statute of limitations must be extended now.

And sure enough, just the other day Cheney was out there gloating about how the statute of limitations was expiring on some of their most egregious offenses. For example, the midnight putsch to institute a regime of illegal wiretapping occurred in early March of 2004, not quite 5 years ago.
(Emphasis supplied. Specifically, as reported by Politico, Cheney recently said he is "set to plunge into his own memoirs, feeling liberated to describe behind-the-scenes roles over several decades in government now that the 'statute of limitations has expired' on many of the most sensitive episodes. ")

Please go here and tell your reps to extend the statute of limitations. They don't have to convict anyone if there's insufficient evidence; but the B*sh admin's obstructionism must not be allowed to succeed.

Cuts from Stimulus Bill: Only the Most Impt. Stuff

I'm starting to wonder if the oligarchs' strategy is to deliberately enrage us masses to the point that either we stop looking in order to avoid having an apoplexy or we resort to sufficient violence to justify using our own army to lock us up in those "detention centers" Halliburton's been building in the U.S.

The "curiously weak" Demtoids' latest excuse is that they have to compromise on the stimulus bill or the Repubs will filibuster it. This is rubbish.

First: let the Repubs filibuster, and let 'em take the rap for it.

Second: the Dems can simply change the rules whenever they like on what's required to bring the bill to a vote; e.g., they could reduce the number of senators needed for cloture to 55% of the Senate -- see William Greider's more detailed explanation here -- or even 50% plus one. Writes Greider, "If Democrats allow the sixty-vote filibuster to survive, it is because they want to keep it as a convenient way to avoid taking responsibility." (Emphasis supplied.)

What's been cut from the stimulus? Among other things, per Gizmodo,

• $2 billion for public broadband access has been totally eliminated. Sorry, "real America," you're gonna keep getting screwed.
• $7 billion for energy-efficient public buildings has been cut in half.
• a fleet of hybrid vehicles for the federal government has also been cut in half, from $600 million to $300 million.
• $50 million for NASA has been totally cut.
• a combined $300 million for scientific research has been totally cut.

Funds for education and the arts have also been cut. Please contact your reps here.

February 5, 2009

New Orleans' WTUL

I love music but am pretty occupied by other stuff. But came across New Orleans' Tulane's v. eclectic station, streaming here (thanks Amy!). (Closest thing I'd found before was Paul Slavens' 90.1 at Night, which I love, on the eponymous Dallas pub. radio station; but it's only a few hours a week.)

(Feel free to let me know any other great sources.)

Earth to Dem Pols:

From Open Left:

"Media Gunning For Obama and Democrats
by Chris Bowers
Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 18:45

"Last night, commenter NFR83 wrote:

I just got laid off at ABC

and my best friend works at CNBC.

They don't want Democrats on air. We've been only booking Republicans because "everybody already knows where the Democrats stand."

After all, what are the Democrats going to do? complain? It's the liberal media, right?

I was in a meeting last week where our producer flat out said we needed to "bring Obama's approval ratings down."

Everyone who got laid off this week was an Obama supporter.

"This isn't definitive proof of anything, but it would explain why Republicans are dominating the airwaves these days."

What do you think about a Constitutional amendment to restore the independence of the Fourth Estate?

One of Adam's Recs: Len Lye's "Swinging the Lambeth Walk"

Visuals apparently hand-made; note the audio's spliced. Per Wikipedia,

"The Lambeth Walk" is a song from the 1937 musical Me and My Girl . . . . The song takes its name from a local street once notable for its street market and working class culture in Lambeth, an area of London, England.

The tune gave its name to a Cockney dance first made popular in 1937 by Lupino Lane. The story line of the original show concerns a Cockney barrow boy who inherits an earldom but almost loses his Lambeth girlfriend. . . .

An SA Mann of the Nazi Party declared the Lambeth Walk "Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping" in early 1939 as part of a speech about how the "revolution of private life" was one of the next big tasks of National Socialism.

In 1942 Charles A. Ridley of the British Ministry of Information made a short propaganda film, Lambeth Walk - Nazi Style, which edited existing footage of Hitler and German soldiers (taken from Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will) to make it appear as if they were marching and dancing to "The Lambeth Walk." The film so enraged Joseph Goebbels that he ran out of the screening room kicking chairs and screaming profanities.

Check out Adam's other recs, too; e.g., "The Internet in 1969":

Adam Bork

I like how the visual aspects work with the street/movement noise, as well as Adam's moog/organ music (which was in fact audible outdoors -- not just layered into the YouTube video). Check out more of Adam's work here.

February 4, 2009

February 1, 2009

Why I Read Spam

(at least, the spam that gets through):

"I am REV.INNOCENT EBE , General manager to the Atm Desk Department. The attached picture [no picture was attached] was taken in my office where i was serving verification documents to the White men Mr Gabriel Evans and Mr Alan Mills From Ireland Republic who stormed my office last two days ago, the Black Gentleman (on white African attire). the black man Mr Fred Johnson claimed to be your representative and the supervisory Engineer that supervised and certified your money execution that was shifted from the previous Paying Institute to the Atm Desk Department because of their inability to have paid it at the agreed time.

"They said that you were dead and before your death, you appointed them as the next of kin to your contract/inherited fund presently under our custody these two whitemen and the black gentleman quickly applied that your Inherited fund should be presented to them at the spot.The Official responsible for the presentation of consignment quickly granted approvals to their application and packaged the fund for them to go with it .

"Please study the attached photograph and call me urgently for your comments which will be highly appreciated, but we will not hesitate tocontinue the payment transmission to them if no response comes from you.immediately as your silence will be a clear indication that you authorised them to effect the above changes .

"Here are the below required information needed from you to proof to us that you are real:"

Mr. President: Please Consider Dr. Howard Dean

in place of either Senator Daschle for Secretary of Health and Human Services or Dr. Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General (see here for concerns about Daschle and Gupta).

As you know, while governor of Vermont, Dr. Dean brought near-universal healthcare to children and pregnant women. The uninsured rate in Vermont dropped from 12.7% to 9.6%, and child abuse and teen pregnancy rates were cut roughly in half. At the same time, under his tenure, the state paid off much of its public debt while lowering income taxes twice.

Moreover, he pioneered grassroots internet politics, and as DNC Chair, his 50-state strategy deserves much of the credit for Dems' election wins during the last two election cycles (see Wikipedia regarding Dean's career).

Dr. Dean can make government work for the people, which we badly need.

You can e-mail the Prez here.