Tuesday, March 31, 2009

God dammit, Sebelius

That's it, Barry. Give up. What do you really need a Secretary of Health and Human Services for, anyway? Finding one who hasn't cheated on their taxes is clearly costing you too much time, effort and political capital. I'm even linking to FauxNews for the story. You've earned it.
Health and Human Services nominee Kathleen Sebelius has corrected three years of tax returns and paid more than $7,000 in back taxes after finding "unintentional errors" -- the latest tax troubles for an Obama administration nominee.
We tried to help. Matthew even made this handy questionnaire and gave you permission to use it, gratis. But did you pay attention? Noooo. Better to cover your eyes and work your way down the list in case there's someone in the first dozen or so who isn't a fucking tax criminal.

For your edification:

vet [vet]
–verb (used with object)
3. to appraise, verify, or check for accuracy, authenticity, validity, etc.: An expert vetted the manuscript before publication.

Stop fucking about, Barry. You'll screw up plenty without making those mistakes most easily avoidable.

Fasten your seat belts

Never one to bypass taking a swipe at other people's imaginary friends gods, I'm compelled to present the Rapture Index, a comprehensive list of all activities that are propelling us toward The End Times.

To their credit, the parties responsible for the index admit it "is by no means meant to predict the rapture, however, the index is designed to measure the type of activity that could act as a precursor to the rapture."

Once you get beyond the base absurdity this thing is kind of fun. But only if you're willing to ponder the rubric a little. For instance, "False Christs" currently rates a 3 (of 5) on the following merits:
A gentleman in Florida has made news by claiming to be Christ.
You can see how seriously these people take their scripture when all it takes is some crazed dipshit in Florida -- the species is endemic to the region -- claiming he's the King of Kings to wratchet up the doomsday clock another notch. Not to trouble anyone, but a google news search for "man claims to be jesus" yielded 336 results (and a picture of Madonna beneath one of Jim Caviezel). Might want to bump this category up to a 5.

At any rate, the most recent update has good news and bad. The bad? The index currently stands at 161, placing cleanly in "Fasten your seat belts," the highest level and that most likely to result in most of you being left behind once the righteous ascend.

The good news? It's a fucking rapture index and, like those who believe in this horseshit, should only be consulted when looking to make mean-spirited and very necessary jokes.

Video of the day



From FSTDT: Dramatic readings of fundamentalist Christian message board posts.

Skynet goes active tomorrow

The Conficker Worm: April Fool’s Joke or Unthinkable Disaster?
The Conficker worm is scheduled to activate on April 1, and the unanswered question is: Will it prove to be the world’s biggest April Fool’s joke or is it the information age equivalent of Herman Kahn’s legendary 1962 treatise about nuclear war, “Thinking About the Unthinkable”?
...
Given the sophisticated nature of the worm, the question remains: What is the purpose of Conficker, which could possibly become the world’s most powerful parallel computer on April 1? That is when the worm will generate 50,000 domain names and systematically try to communicate with each one. The authors then only need to register one of the domain names in order to take control of the millions of zombie computers that have been created.

Speculation about Conficker’s purpose ranges from the benign — an April Fool’s Day prank — to far darker notions.
Happy birthday baby Jesus, the robots take over at 12:01. In case you were wondering, yes this does only effect Windows machines. I'm as shocked as you are, Mac users. Try not to laugh too hard at us as you're masturbating to a photo of Steve Jobs or whatever it is you Mac people do, because we're dragging you down with us.

Now if you don't want Megatron and C-3PO to glory hole your vulnerable computer's port holes robo-style, then you can detect to see if you have a problem and remove it if necessary. You will not be a part of the fall of man. You will stride into the apocalyptic breach with a clean soul.

Our only hope is the robo-apocalypse and financial apocalyspe offset each other or that the financial collapse bankrupted the robots and made them unable to build their flesh reaving devices and metallic exoskeletons. There's also the chance that both apocalypses combine to open a swirling vortex to hell that suck us all in. In any event I'll see you on the battlefields/at the 'Welcome to Hell' mixer.

Blog of the day

'Miss Universe' Dayana Mendoza (formerly Miss Venezuela aka Miss Hugochavezsocialism!!!!) on her trip to visit Guantanamo Bay.
This week, Guantanamo!!! It was an incredible experience....The next days we had a wonderful time, this truly was a memorable trip! We hung out with the guys from the East Coast and they showed us the boat inside and out, how they work and what they do, we took a ride around the land and it was a loooot of fun!

We also met the Military dogs, and they did a very nice demonstration of their skills. All the guys from the Army were amazing with us.

We visited the Detainees camps and we saw the jails, where they shower, how the recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books. It was very interesting.

The water in Guantánamo Bay is soooo beautiful! It was unbelievable, we were able to enjoy it for at least an hour. We went to the glass beach, and realized the name of it comes from the little pieces of broken glass from hundred of years ago. It is pretty to see all the colors shining with the sun. That day we met a beautiful lady named Rebeca who does wonders with the glasses from the beach. She creates jewelry with it and of course I bought a necklace from her that will remind me of Guantánamo Bay :)

I didn't want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful
So wait, was that pledge for world peace and to end war/bad stuff a lie? Or does it get sidetracked by those sandy Guantanamo beaches and friendly military dogs? Not even a token "End this mean stuff"? Were you not aware? Has Chavez not been haranguing on an on about this on state TV? Oh well.

Though for future reference if you never wanted to leave Gitmo then you probably should have been named Miss Desert Outside of Kirkuk during a battlefield pageant three years ago. Might not have as high an opinion of the dogs after the first week though.

Take notes

To the members of the Bush Administration who authorized and condoned torture during your reign, take notes on the Khmer Rouge torture trials going no right now. One: it may be a portent of your future if you step off American soil. Two: even fake apologies filled with caveats are more contrition than any of you have shown.
The commandant of the most prominent Khmer Rouge torture house apologized in court Tuesday for atrocities he had committed but said that he had feared for his own life and that he was being made a scapegoat for others.

“I would like to express my regret and heartfelt sorrow,” said the commandant, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who is the first defendant in a trial involving the deaths of 1.7 million people from 1975 to 1979 from starvation, overwork and disease, as well as torture and execution.

“My current plea is that I would like you to please leave an open window for me to seek forgiveness,” said Duch, who is 66.
Remember this for when your trial in Spanish court starts, it might buy you a few years off. Yeah, didn't expect that did you? But that's what happens when you kidnap, wrongly imprison, and torture Spanish foreign nationals. Spain tends to get all mad and its human rights lawyers start filing briefs to Baltasar Garzon, the judge who went after Pinochet, Kissinger, Argentine military officers, and Spain's second largest bank. By the way Spain, signing on to international treaties banning torture and binding you to prosecute those who torture your own citizens.....and then actually following through and obeying those international treaties is sooooo childish. What are you, six?

So to Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Douglas Feith, William Haynes II, Jay Bybee, and David Addington, remember to add in just a dash of fake remorse. Doug Feith, with his claim that his complete disrespect and ignorance of the Geneva Conventions actually mean he showed torture laws great respect, hasn't seemed to get the message yet. Oh well, don't leave the country unless you have a human rights lawyer on retainer and bail money. Who ever wanted to see Europe anyway?

Road trip

President Obama is getting the fuck out of here and going on vacation. Eight days in Europe away from all of America's problems. G-20 meetings with other leaders. Safety. Sanity.

Who can blame the guy? Have you been around America? It's depressing, filled with jobless people, mounting problems, no solutions, and assholes asking what you're gonna do about it. America's problems aren't in London, Barry won't be asked to fix London's problems, London's problems are Gordon Brown's problems, all Barry has to do is shake hands and take pictures with leaders who want a photo with the President or who think he's Tiger Woods and still want a photo. Shake some hands, make up some golf swing advice to tell Andrea Merkel, and eat as many mini-quiches as you can stuff in your mouth. Just an easy few days....aw crap they're going to expect leadership on the financial crisis and solutions.
First up: a summit of the world's economic powers in London to address the global financial meltdown that has defined the first two months of Obama's administration.

"The president and America are going to listen in London, as well as to lead," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

The main event in London is Thursday's summit on the global financial crisis among the Group of 20 wealthy and developing nations. Together, they represent 85 percent of the world's economy.

Obama planned to meet with leaders of Britain, Russia and China _ major players in the U.S. financial system. He also scheduled meetings with leaders of India and South Korea while in London.

But money isn't the sole agenda item. Obama plans to attend international summits on urgent topics, including the downward-spiraling fight against terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
That should go well, "Hey world, I know we're all dealing with this financial crisis--actually I'm dealing with it and you're all hoping my solutions fix your problems, more on that later--but you want to take some time out of your day, dust off those armies you don't use and help a brother out? Why are you all backing into the dining room?"

After a few awkward days of everyone looking to him to fix everything and Obama mumbling a response of "ask Tim Geithner" it's off to France for a speech on trans-Atlantic relations and a tour of destitute Roquefort makers left penniless after our cheese tariff; a speech in Prague about weapons proliferation; a quick jaunt to Berlin to pick up the wallet and spare podium he left there during the election; then off to visit his first Muslim country, Turkey (aka the safe Muslim country) to talk to students. That last one ought to fuel a few days of crazy Michelle Bachmann conspiracy theories. So it's really a working vacation. Still, better than sticking around here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Picture of the day

ll

Stock photo used for the story NYC Changes Birth Certificate Policy for Lesbians

I think NBC New York needs to spend that extra 15 seconds looking for different stock "lesbians" photos when it Google searches. Or not. Gotta drive those page views.

Chembloggery



From the EU Research Commission's Marie Curie Actions, a video used to "increase awareness among the young about science and the EU's support on Research". I think this qualifies as promotion of witchcraft/alchemy in Texas.

As someone who failed chemistry and then near failed it again (at two different schools! High fives!), I learned more from this short video than from any class or tinker toy representation of a covalent bond. Everything should be taught in video form set to an electro/techno beat. It is the 21st century.

Quote of the day

John Cornyn on why Minnesota will never have a second senator:
Texas Sen. John Cornyn is threatening “World War III” if Democrats try to seat Al Franken in the Senate before Norm Coleman can pursue his case through the federal courts.

Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, acknowledges that a federal challenge to November’s elections could take “years” to resolve. But he’s adamant that Coleman deserves that chance — even if it means Minnesota is short a senator for the duration.
Sorry Minnesota, doesn't matter how many times Al Franken wins this thing or how many courts rule on his side, you don't get another Senator. Why? Because John Cornyn will get all pissy if Norm Coleman isn't able to file a million fruitless lawsuits. I'd say I sympathize, but you inflicted Michelle Bachmann and her tenure as America's dumbest elected representative ever, so I guess God is punishing you.

Sorry Al, looks like you'll be the only guy ever running for re-election that never got to take his seat.

Thanks Texas

You feel that little tremor last week? A sort of tremble in your brain stem and a cold shiver up your spine? Yeah, that was our country getting dumber.
The State Board of Education on Friday passed science curriculum standards that members described as a compromise between those who are critical of teaching evolutionary theories without scrutiny and those who feared attacks on evolution would lead to the teaching of creationism in Texas schools.

After the 13-2 vote, it was social conservatives on the board who were doing most of the celebrating while scientists expressed concerns.

The new standards remove current requirements that students be taught the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. Instead, teachers will be required to have students scrutinize "all sides" of the theories.
I always like it when hundreds of years of tested and re-tested science supported by 99.9999999% of the scientific field is given the same weight as the people who added up all the ages of people in the bible and decided to wage a political battle over it. Some say this, others say this, who can tell the difference? If only science was a subject where testable hypotheses were used to prove and advance knowledge within the field. But it isn't, science is just people's opinions on stuff and thus all opinions must be debated with equal merit. 

Texas also decided global warming wasn't petro-friendly enough and put out an APB to stone Pythagoras on sight. Round earth? Texas doesn't think so Mr. a² + b² = c².

Added Bonus: Texas scrapping it out with Mississippi and Louisiana for the bottom rung of US educational rankings means the burning stupid is going to bleed into other states, as large states tend to set the textbook requirements. Thanks Texas, you are the gift that keeps on giving.

Billy Mays would never hit a woman

When last we saw Vince the Shamwow guy, he had just begun his ascent up Mt. Popeil on a bed of extra absorbent rags. Furthermore he was using his new found fame and money to do what any of us would do: wage ceaseless and unending war against Scientology because they backed out of funding our Kentucky Fried Movie/Naked Gun ripoff. Such a heartwarming story. Hey, I wonder what he's doing now?
Shlomi, 44, was arrested last month on a felony battery charge following a violent confrontation with a prostitute in his South Beach hotel room. According to an arrest affidavit, Shlomi met Sasha Harris, 26, at a Miami Beach nightclub on February 7 and subsequently retired with her to his $750 room at the lavish Setai hotel. Shlomi told cops he paid Harris about $1000 in cash after she "propositioned him for straight sex." Shlomi said that when he kissed Harris, she suddenly "bit his tongue and would not let go." Shlomi then punched Harris several times until she released his tongue.
...
After freeing his tongue, a bleeding Shlomi ran to the Setai lobby, where security summoned cops. Harris refused to cooperate with officers, who recovered $930 from her purse. "Both parties had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from their persons," police reported.
Turns out selling the Shamwow and SlapChop on late night TV doesn't get you knee deep in South Beach Latin ass. Meth fueled rage, anger at the fact you're the Shamwow guy and your expensive hooker is biting your tongue,  or Scientology set up? All we know is Billy Mays has no sympathy and knows how to keep his hooker beatings on the down low. 

It was a nice 15 minutes you had Vince, we'll miss you. In a few years you'll enter the urban myth lexicon. If you're lucky the story will get exaggerated to "had his face eaten off by cannibal prostitute" and passed on by impressionable fifth graders everywhere in between stories about the Life cereal kid's stomach exploding after mixing PopRocks/Coke and the Richard Gere gerbil thing. It's not a great life, but well that's what happens when you fuck with Tom Cruise's belief system.

Time to get tough

It had to happen sometime. Finally government gets mad at all these damned companies asking for bailouts and handing out bonuses. Finally Washington is asking hard questions, setting hard deadlines, and getting tough. With the financial companies? God no, what are you, high? We've decided to take a couple of beaters from Detroit, paint AIG & Citibank logos on them, add in a big picture of Joe Cassano on the hood and start beating them with baseball bats in a furious rage.
The White House on Sunday pushed out the chairman of General Motors and instructed Chrysler to form a partnership with the Italian automaker Fiat within 30 days as conditions for receiving another much-needed round of government aid.

The decision to ask G.M.’s chairman and chief executive, Rick Wagoner, to resign caught Detroit and Washington by surprise, and it underscored the Obama administration’s determination to keep a tight rein on the companies it is bailing out — a level of government involvement in business perhaps not seen since the Great Depression.
...
If a deal is reached between Chrysler and Fiat, the administration says it would consider another loan of $6 billion to Chrysler.

G.M., on the other hand, has made considerable progress in developing new energy-efficient cars and could survive if it can cut costs sharply, the task force reported. The administration is giving G.M. 60 days to present a cost-cutting plan and will provide taxpayer assistance to keep it afloat during that time.
Why the different track with Detroit? Two reasons: 1. It's easier to sell steel, car building robot slaves, and surplus car doors in a bankruptcy than it is useless bullshit like credit default swaps. 2. The dumbass CEO's from Detroit didn't even threaten to pull down the entire economy with them or claim that they needed to be retained because only they knew how to fix the problems they created. This is the lack of innovation that has been crippling Detroit for years.

People from within the Administration also seem to be mad that Detroit hasn't fully lived up to its loan related promises. How is this different than the financial institutions? Well, no one from the Treasury Department or Obama Administration spent time working their way up the Detroit ranks, has any friends in the car industry, or is partially to blame for the mess in Detroit. So they can wail on Detroit without any future awkward social situations/uncomfortable cocktail parties or yet another reminder that they've spent their life working in an industry with no redeeming societal value.

So congrats Detroit, you get to feel the wrath of a government scorned. It's not your fault, you just look like AIG when we squint our eyes a bit. We'll put this in the "right idea, wrong reason" file.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Prison reform

Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is introducing a bill into the Senate to create a bipartisan commission on prison reform that would conduct an 18 month review of the entire prison system. The bill has pretty broad support and should pass. Among the many reason Webb gives for the need of this commission are
*With 5% of the world's population, our country now houses 25% of the world's reported prisoners.
*Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980.
*Four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals.
*Approximately 1 million gang members reside in the U.S., many of them foreign-based; and Mexican cartels operate in 230+ communities across the country.
*Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard and often nonexistent, undermining public safety and making it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to become full, contributing members of society.
These are all good reasons to reform prisons and all good reasons to move forward. But my question is this: don't we already know all of these problems exist? Don't we already know why they exist? Don't we all pretty much know what the solutions are? Isn't any 18 month review just pretty much going to restate these same problems we already know about? If so, then of what use is it? Why not act now on the problems we already know exist?

Because the senate is a stupid place. Even though everyone knows the problems that exist they need to have an official panel 'look into it' so they can come back with their observations of things we already know and everyone can act surprised and move to 'do something'. If we're just going to end up a year and a half from now with yet another official study to go with all the other official studies, while the fight gets boiled down to 'tough on crime' vs. 'soft on crime', then why don't we just start that fight up now? Is another comprehensive study really going to change the minds of people who want mandatory minimums and 8 years olds tried as adults so they can piece together an effective campaign ad?

If it does help then good, but I think we're going to have the same 'debate' on prisons we always have: somebody who knows something banging on a report and yelling "See!" for the umpteenth time versus a bunch of people snickering about 'liberal pussies' and how Jim Webb wants rapists out of prison quicker so they can ravage all of your grandmothers. Good luck anyway. Oh if you're not too busy, have them look at drug decriminalization and the drug war. It'll engender the same 'debate', but it's always nice to have yet another study showing our absolute failure to have a sensible drug policy.

Seems about right

For the love of God.....

Twitter, Twitter, Twitter. You little 140 character word vomiter you. You're taking off, everyone loves you, and everyone wants to be a part of you, especially those in the entertainment industry. But of course this is America and it turns out that celebrities can't even be bothered to type in the most mundane details of their lives anymore. They have to hire ghost writers for their Twitter posts. Ghost writers for a 140 character blurb. I hate this country.
The rapper 50 Cent is among the legion of stars who have recently embraced Twitter to reach fans who crave near-continuous access to their lives and thoughts. On March 1, he shared this insight with the more than 200,000 people who follow him: “My ambition leads me through a tunnel that never ends.”

Those were 50 Cent’s words, but it was not exactly him tweeting. Rather, it was Chris Romero, known as Broadway, the director of the rapper’s Web empire, who typed in those words after reading them in an interview.
...
But someone has to do all that writing, even if each entry is barely a sentence long. In many cases, celebrities and their handlers have turned to outside writers — ghost Twitterers, if you will — who keep fans updated on the latest twists and turns, often in the star’s own voice.
At the very least it's a new employment opportunity during these harsh times. Plus if you get this job and then everyone finds out you're the guy behind Kanye's Twitter, there's a 50/50 shot you'll be more respected than Hemingway in today's culture.

Among the many shocking revelations in this explosive article that shatters our perceptions of reality there is one reassurance: THE_REAL_SHAQ is really Shaq and he doesn't have any damn assistants doing it for him. Praise Jesus, I don't know what I would have done if I found out the daily "RANDOM ACTS OF SHAQNESS" were phony. At least there's one man staying true to the people.

Broken News: Lenders, entrepreneurs target tent cities

The brave new American economy at work

FRESNO--Bereft of inexpensive exurban real estate, reckless mortgage lending and woefully uninformed homebuyers, speculators have begun to approach residents of modern-day Hoovervilles in an attempt to ply their trade.

The makeshift tent cities, which have sprung up in states across the country, might strike some as a sobering testament to the severity of the global economic downturn. Others, however, see nothing but opportunity in these syphilitic shanty towns.

"This here is one of the last untapped real estate markets in America," beamed Andre Galveston, an analyst for the Chuckling Righteousness division of Bain Capital Ventures, as he strolled through the New Jack City encampment in Fresno. "A modest investment at this crucial juncture would net a stellar return once the economy really collapses and more people are forced from their homes. I'm telling my bosses that scrapyard tin siding, tent poles, and abandoned lumber piles are the boom markets to leverage."

Despite the unconventionality -- and some say complete and unflinching soullessness -- of his tactics, Galveston is not alone in seeing profit where others see poverty, despair and staggering insensitivity on the part of the world's wealthiest nation.

"I'm gonna clean the motherfuck up!" explained entrepreneur Sonny DiNezza, who has taken to speculating at Taco Flats, a small encampment northwest of New Jack City populated predominantly with unemployed agricultural workers. "Shit, yesterday I invested $40 in this guy Raul who dispenses heating oil out of an old Poland Spring water jug. If he doesn't pay me back with interest inside of two weeks, I can foreclose on his whole damn shack."

Still, others are taking a more nuanced approach in their efforts to fleece society's most vulnerable.

"I know a guy in South Korea who can get me brand new Yurts at-cost," said Doug Flores, who spends his time around Seattle's Nickelsville, a ramshackle setup named after mayor Greg Nickels. "A little mark-up for my trouble, a weekly installment plan for people who obviously can't afford to put together $100 all at once, and in a few months I've tripled my investment."

However, Flores' plan pales in comparison to Guillermo Steinberg, also known as Fort Lauderdale's "Terror of Terrortown." Since arriving from New York City's Upper East Side a mere four months ago, Steinberg has taken a virtual stranglehold on all speculation and racketeering in the area's tent cities. Though unavailable for comment, Steinberg did issue a statement through his lone employee, Irda Steinberg, 98, of West Palm Beach.

"Those who call the methods used to monitor my investments 'cruel' or 'exploitative,' simply have no idea what it takes to be here, day after day, with these poor overlooked people. I seek only to provide a safety net and, if circumstances warrant, a series of wires leading from that net to a car battery."

While individual entrepreneurs are having great success, some of America's largest corporations have encountered a surprising amount of trouble adapting to the new reality of the Hooverville economy.

"All of this has really taken us by surprise," remarked Timothy Boyle, CEO of Columbia Sportswear, whose tent division has caused the government to reclassify his company as a construction and home building outfit. "Last year we were making quality sportswear and sporting goods, camping equipment and jackets. Now we're the nation's fifth largest home builder behind the North Face, Coleman Outdoor, Amalgamated Tarp, and Frigidaire. I'm subject to housing regulations and I've got HUD officials over here yelling about housing discrimination in Nickelsville and low-cost loan programs for Bum Park. I make sleeping bags!"

But others note that these are just the stark new realities of protecting vital new markets.

"New regulation and oversight is needed, especially for those companies like Columbia who will be the linchpins to the future viability of these tent towns," observed Randy Barnett, Deputy Secretary of Emerging Shanty Economies at the Treasury Department. "If Wall Street is already making inroads into these emerging unregulated markets then Government needs to follow, lest bankers destroy or poison the tent economy before it even fully emerges, removing our last bulwark against a complete backslide into the Dark Ages."

Regardless of the final outcome of these tent cities, Mr. Flores is just happy to have found his niche. "I used to work at AIG financial products division, now I'm putting people in housing fit for Mongolian nomads and stripping copper wire from abandoned houses. It's nice to have some dignity and purpose back in my life."

Flores finished, "America truly is the land of opportunity."

Culture under siege

The ritual in action*. R.I.P.

From the blog Pittsburgh Dish comes terrible news about Oakland high class, college livin'. No longer will residents of cheaply made tenement shacks be able to lounge on their porches on a couch they stole from a garbage pile. No loner will the students of Pittsburgh's numerous fine higher learning institutions (and Duquesne) be able to use said couch as fuel in a celebratory fire over a sporting victory, the end of finals, or as the clear flammable solution to a whisky fueled rage at sitting implements. And why is this? Well, because of the fire thing. And lucrative fines! And spite!
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will sign legislation banning couches from porches, his office said yesterday, after City Council gave its unanimous final approval to Councilman Bruce Kraus' ordinance.

Upon the mayor's signature, the presence of a couch, mattress, box spring or upholstered chair on an unenclosed porch could bring a fine of $200 to $500 per day, plus court costs.
...
Council also was motivated by the celebratory burning of couches that accompanies some Oakland street festivals and follows big sports wins.

"Hopefully, this will help out, but it's still a lot of education that's going to happen" before such behavior stops, said Ms. Payne.
Et tu, boy mayor? Must you treat us like lowly Morgantown dwellers? I'll bet this solves everything. No more fires. Nothing else in Oakland is flammable.

An era is ending. No more sitting on the porch discussing literature getting shit faced and skipping class. Now people will have to steal lawn furniture or milk crates and sit on those. They will have to defend and protect these new sitting implements from theft. This flies in the face of the whole dirty porch couch concept: that no one in their right mind would ever try to steal one.

So a heartfelt farewell to all the dirty porch couches in my life, you were there when I needed to sit down outside, avoid a beagle, recover from a hangover, and yell shit at passers by. Although I now regret ever allowing my skin to touch you, that meant something. In an ideal world we'd pile all of you up in the street and set you on fire, a fitting tribute and final sendoff, but that would anger our child mayor. Fare thee well, dirty porch couch, fare thee well.

*picture by noted photojournalist Nathaniel Minto
The last name has been redacted to protect his identity

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The financial crisis. Who could have foreseen?

Byron Dorgan, that's who. From Rachael Maddow's show the other night comes an interview with Senator Byron Dorgan, replete with a thorough discussion of all his eerily accurate predictions as to the state of the economy and corporate bailouts if we were to deregulate and pass a whole host of other terrible laws. He was summarily ignored.



Here's the article he wrote for the Atlantic Monthly in 1994 that he mentions in the interview. Read it and try not to bang your head off the desk as he describes derivatives trading, banking, and financial markets in such accurately apocalyptic terms that you'd think he drives a time traveling DeLorean. I'm sure that the Senate, where the majority who was wrong is always quick to reward the minority who was right, will let 'ole Byron have a hand in drawing up new regulatory and oversight legislation.

Yeah, right. Well, at least he'll write a prescient article about the upcoming 2020 collapse. At least we'll have that.

Picture of the day




The only thing that gives me joy in these bleak times: bizarre stuff being destroyed by bullets and captured by high speed photography.

From Alan Sailer.

Let it go, James

Anyone else notice how much better Jim Cramer is at responding to Jon Stewart's criticism when Jon Stewart isn't in the room? Here's The Jimmy on today's Morning Joe, telling his buddy Scarborough how badly he totally whooped that misguided satirist's ass and shit.

Try getting this mental image out of your head

Pimp of the Nation


A ribald Gene Hackman story from Cloris Leachman's new autobiography, which seems to be a malicious attempt to scar the minds of the innocent.
"As we moved into the main course, it was as if a cosmic wind enveloped us. Some giant space magnet was pulling us together," Leachman writes. "We didn't finish the meal. We went upstairs, flew into bed and made love. It was epic. And the next morning, Gene went back to his film and I went back to mine. I haven't seen Gene since that night, but I remember well the feisty lad he was."
I was personally touched by the story of unrequited love sex bets with Ed Asner and an aborted affair with Andy Williams. Forget the Motley Crue and Slash books, the Cloris Leachman book is the sex fueled fame romp the kids need to read.

Coleman is the nation's new largest homebuilder

It's finally happened. Americans reduced en masse to living in tents? No, the New York Times finally got around to doing a story on people affected by the economy who weren't fired bankers, gold digging girlfriends hitting the hard times, millionaires having to pay for their own lunch, or hedge fund managers who were rally regretting leasing that second Humvee for the use of their maid staff.
Like a dozen or so other cities across the nation, Fresno is dealing with an unhappy déjà vu: the arrival of modern-day Hoovervilles, illegal encampments of homeless people that are reminiscent, on a far smaller scale, of Depression-era shantytowns. At his news conference on Tuesday night, President Obama was asked directly about the tent cities and responded by saying that it was “not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours.”

While encampments and street living have always been a part of the landscape in big cities like Los Angeles and New York, these new tent cities have taken root — or grown from smaller enclaves of the homeless as more people lose jobs and housing — in such disparate places as Nashville, Olympia, Wash., and St. Petersburg, Fla.
Herbert Hoover has been dead for nearly 50 years and we still have to name our shanty cities after him? Dear God, hasn't he suffered enough? This one wasn't even his fault. At least the good people of Seattle have named their tent city Nickelsville in an attempt to blame the local mayor for a national crisis. We need a name more reflective of the times. Bushvilles? Cassanotowns? Grammburghs? Paulsenhausen? Surely we cannot keep tying Hoover to this.

Maybe we should sell the naming rights to corporations, get enough money to pay for running water. AIG presents Shame City. Cititentcity. It's best we get these people up and funded, they are building and founding the new cities we'll all be living in. We'll want the infrastructure and hobo hierarchy figured out by the time we get there. There aren't enough state fairgrounds for all of us.

It must make those tent dwellers warm inside that the debate over money to corporations is over how large and how soon, the debate over money to people affected by the crisis and programs that help those people are over whether the money is needed at all. Hopefully that warmth is enough to sustain them on cold nights.

New finance rules

Today the Obama Administration unveils their new financial plans. Not just content to attach strings after the fact to billions they've handed out freely, Tim Geithner and the other three people working at the Treasury Department have decided to come up with a plan to address new regulation of the financial markets to help better avoid a future financial Ragnarok. The sooner the better as the canvas bubble fueled by the tent cities springing up around the US will threaten the economy in 2011.
The plan, which would require Congressional approval, would give the government vast new powers over “systemically important” banks and other financial institutions that are so big that their collapse would jeopardize the economy as a whole.
...
If regulators decided that a company had become “too big to fail,” as was the case with A.I.G. in September, they would subject it to much stricter capital requirements than smaller rivals and much closer scrutiny of its borrowing levels and its trading partners, or counterparties.

But the most striking new proposals, and the ones that may provoke the most heated opposition from the industry, would regulate so-called private pools of capital — hedge funds, private equity funds and venture capital funds — and the gigantic market in financial derivatives, including instruments like credit-default swaps, the insurancelike instruments that allow investors to hedge against bond defaults.
Of course this has to pass Congress, so there's a 50/50 chance that Harry Reid will have to water the bill down to the point where it actually deregulates the markets further just to get Arlen Specter to deign to consider voting for it. Not included in the article was a list of other regulatory measures the bill wishes to take:
  • A company may only engage in enough shady dealings to tank 1/3 of the world economy
  • The bonus system will be completely overhaul...just kidding
  • All senior management must take at least one class on faking sincerity and gratitude
  • ABC will commission the program Extreme Makeover: Corporate Office Edition so as to provide reasonable cover for those corporations still wishing to redecorate during their own collapse
  • Failing companies will only be allowed to have one sports sponsorship at a time and will have to choose between jersey sponsorship and stadium sponsorship
  • When choosing a minority underclass that tricked your company into your economic ruin, all official spokespeople will be allowed only to blame that one group for the duration of the crisis
  • Only 2 handjobs per day for executives at their office spa
  • Horse and dog track betting are now considered legal financial instruments for securities and credit default swaps
  • Monocles, spats, top hats, and canes are mandatory attire for any CEO accepting government bailout funds
  • Senior management must legally pinky swear to never break the economy again

How to give Ann Coulter worms

Above: Coulter shat upon, semi-literally (click to embiggen)

Nothing brightens up your morning like the latest step in petty, pointless, internet-based vandalism. Therefore, we give you Netdisaster. Just load your most-loathed website, choose from a variety of weapons ranging from dog poo (above) to a chainsaw to acid urine to, yes, worms.

Start HERE. Visit early and often. If we generate enough ad revenue, they just might work up an Oxycontin Offensive for Rush Limbaugh's site or perhaps some Loofah Luftwaffe for our pal O'Reilly.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Broken In Brief: Area man unable to think of network based signs to wave at NCAA tourney

INDIANAPOLIS—As he eagerly awaits the start of the third round of this year's NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, area attention whore Garret Johnson finds himself afflicted with writer's block. The local scourge of televised sport has been unable to think of any basketball or college-themed signs that incorporate the three letter call sign of the network broadcasting the event, CBS.

“How am I going to get on TV unless I come up with a good enough sign,” a tense and jittery Johnson said. “Just look at the teams playing: Kansas, Louisville, Arizona, and Michigan. Not a goddamned C, B, or S anywhere. Some lucky bastard watching the Memphis bracket is going to get on camera with a ‘Can’t Beat Syracuse’ sign and I’m gonna be stuck trying to wedge Arizona into mine. Maybe I can just make an announcer reference. Something that says ‘Hi Gus Johnson’ or ‘Indy loves Dick Enberg’, but that’s just scraping the bottom of the barrel. Wait, it’s Michigan State. ‘Can’t Beat State’. Fuck, does anyone even call them ‘State’?"

Friends and family say this is the most distraught Mr. Johnson has been since writer’s block struck him before the 1995 Colts/Steelers AFC Championship Game. It was at this game, an eventual Colts loss, where Mr. Johnson resorted to just waving around a giant CBS logo in a vain attempt to get on camera. They say he was nearly inconsolable when the sign “Colts Beat Steelers” came to him in a dream on the drive home.

“They’ll never put me on if I go waving a giant logo again,” Thompson moaned. “These televised corporate suck ups have to appear to be grassroots and heartfelt, not just nakedly commercial. Maybe I’ll have to sink to depths I’ve never had to go to before… maybe I’ll be one of those jackasses who dresses up in a bizarre costume. If I jump around and caper they’ll have to put me on. Or something religious, maybe. What's the deal with that 'John 3:16 shit? Anything to do with Dick Vitale? No?” he finished, trailing off into emotional waling and weeping.

His family hopes that by going back through some old game tapes and camera pans of audiences, Mr. Johnson will jog his memory and get those creative juices flowing. Some are even holding out hope that this ordeal will cause him to grow up and learn to watch a sporting event without toadying to a conglomerate in return for 3 seconds of face time, but they acknowledge these hopes are remote.

MTA to New Yorkers: Drop Dead


Here's a bold pricing strategy: cut service levels and staffing while increasing cost of use by 24-27%. This way, the few of us in this city who still have jobs will have less to spend on caviar enemas and champagne baths.
The board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted Wednesday morning to enact a series of fare hikes and service cutbacks needed to keep the transit system from going broke.

The vote was broken largely into three parts: fare hikes, toll increases and service cutbacks. After hearing from the public and the board members, the board approved each by a vote of 12 to 1.
Quick question: Just how illegal would it be of me to buy a bunch of Monthly Metro Cards (currently selling for $81) on May 30 and start selling them off on May 31 when the rate jumps to $103?

More of a breakdown over at Gothamist.

Chart of the Day


From 538.com (they aren't dead), comes this look at how whitey voted in the 2008 election compared to the rest of the populace. Conclusion? Grampa Walnuts would have had it wrapped up if it weren't for those damned meddling non-whites and the unmoneyed underclasses. At least he can take solace in his superior NCAA bracketology.

We picked the wrong guy

McCain creams Obama — in NCAA picks
The “First Bracket” may have brought President Obama some unwanted scrutiny this past week, but a number of lawmakers — like most Americans — prepped their brackets ahead of this weekend’s opening rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament.

And if the presidential election were an office pool, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would have won the first weekend of play in a landslide over Obama.

McCain’s bracket has 14 teams picked correctly headed into the Sweet Sixteen, placing him in the 94th percentile after the first weekend of play.

The president has been less lucky. Despite having a brother-in-law who coaches Oregon State’s team, Obama fell short in a number of the first-round match-ups that kept Washington and the rest of the country distracted from work Thursday and Friday afternoon.
Still though, Obama was able to recover and also place 14 in the Sweet Sixteen. But seriously Mr. President...VCU over UCLA, Temple over Arizona St., Wake Forest? What in God's name were you thinking? Right now the President is in 2,167,290 place for ESPN's Tournament Challenge. Frankly this is embarrassing. Apparently McCain is kicking ass. Maybe we elected the wrong guy. Maybe McCain or UPSSERG 1 should be leading us now. As our first black President, avowed baller, and brother in law to a Div 1 coach, I am disappointed in you. Putting Pitt in the Final Four doesn't fix things between us either.

In other bracket news, Mitch McConnell can't seem to divorce anything from politics and went with a Louisville/Western Kentucky final. Thank God the Wildcats didn't make it in or we would have seen Mitch's bracket include the first three team final. Also, in showing their full hatred of America and all it's pastimes, the Democratic leadership of Reid, Pelosi, and Durbin were unable to fill out brackets. Every other elected member of Congress did supposedly fill one out, but sadly there seems to be nowhere to go and check them all out, judging them for their lack or wealth of college b-ball knowledge. Maybe next year.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! pt 2.

Next up is some poor executive vice president of the AIG’s financial products unit, who is taking his ball and going home. Read it all, it really is a monument to self-righteous indignation. It was all someone else's fault at AIGFP, up by his bootstraps, sense of civic duty, American dream, he's just an honorable man, he's suffered too, blah blah blah, and his feelings are hurt because a certain section of the American populace (read: all of them) felt that paying bonuses to avowed pederasts on a 'per kid' basis was preferable to paying out bonuses to AIG. He was right about one thing: we haven't dumped enough shit on the exact people at AIGFP who caused this mess. But that message was so scattered around the self-pity, it's hard to feel that was an integral theme.

With all the self righteous martyrs in the financial industry these days I'm surprised he was able to find enough wood to build his own cross. It all boils down to him bitching that he's being made to feel like a piece of shit because people don't like the fact he got paid $700,000 in bonuses of government money to clean up his own company's mess. News flash, complaining about the fact that you don't get to clear a million because your company failed so hard it took the world with it does make you a piece of shit. CC'ing the Times to get yourself a little sympathy for your "hardship" compounds it. The world economy is failing and we're losing about 700,000 jobs a month, dumping trillions into your industry, and you're bitching about honor in contracts, trust, political outrage, and public outrage because you aren't being allowed to accept a $700,000 bonus with a clean conscience. Boo, and might I add hoo.

So you weren't personally responsible for crashing the company. Congrats. Put it on your resume. Enjoy the back slaps from the other executive VP's this letter bought you. You got your bonus but maybe it'll be taxed, maybe you'll give it to charity, maybe you'll just keep it. No one cares. No one feels sorry for you. No one will ever feel you were hard done by. There's a certain level of expectation among us that we do have to bail everyone out and prop everything up and keep it all from going Mad Max. But the two things we don't like to have to suffer through are people making obscene wads of cash off the bailout and millionaires whining about the fact that we're bailing them out grudgingly and don't really like their industry. Want to complain to your CEO and the Times? You don't like it? Get fucked and stop whining.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

The Wall Street crybabies are out in full force today. Seems they don't like that people don't like them. It's unfair, it's anti-corporate, it's the blame game, it's confusing one set of assholes for another set of assholes, it's boo-hoo waaa waaa weep weep. First up is the adults at the Future of Finance Initiative
Finance executives expressed anger and betrayal at Washington's latest anti-Wall Street rhetoric during Tuesday's sessions of the Future of Finance Initiative, a conference hosted by The Wall Street Journal.
...
"To point the finger at one group means, No. 1, you're not understanding the problem, two, you're stretching our social fabric thinly, and you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater," Mr. Hutchins noted. "Trust goes both ways."
...
"This is an issue of 'we' and 'they,'" Mr. Levitt said. "Compensation is a part of it, but a symbolic part of it. We are a centrist nation ... We're now shifting to the left pretty far in terms of business-bashing and it has reached extremes of incivility that are intolerable."
First off, the only future of finance is sea shells as money and credit default swaps on fire and animal pelts. Secondly, Mr. Hutchins is right, trust goes both ways. Here's the problem, you all sucked the world economy into an endless black hole that we have to dump golden barges full of treasure in every hour before it devours us all. We kind of don't trust you anymore, nor do we trust your new proclamations about what it'll take to fix your messes. In our defense, we've been wholly vindicated in our non-trust and scorn.

As for Mr. Levitt, what would you like our opinion of business to be? We aren't bashing all business, just the financial and banking industries which brought us to a once in a generation financial Ragnarok. We tend to not be civil towards the people who are setting our futures on fire and expect us to bend over and take it. You and your cohorts fucked us over, take the heat like a man.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Broken News: Boxer massacred during ‘in fight’ Twitter posting

LAS VEGAS—Boxer Ignacio “Boom Boom” Perez is recovering in a local hospital after suffering what ringside doctors termed “a severe and merciless beating” in his WBC-sanctioned 8th round knockout loss against #7 ranked Mickey Finnegan last night. The Dominican welterweight left himself open to the final barrage of blows that put him in the emergency room when it appeared his mid-round update to his Twitter feed distracted him from the advance of his opponent and his two-handed typing style rendered him unable to block the blows or counter punch.

“It was brutal,” noted Perez’s corner man and trainer Danny Lombardi. “We’re out there telling him to counterattack ‘cause we really needed to pick up some rounds if this goes to the judges. Suddenly he pulls his Blackberry out and tells us he’s gotta keep his followers updated on the fight and starts tapping away. Finnegan was a little perplexed there for a minute, but when his corner told him that Boom Boom was talking shit on Mickey on his feed, that Mick went to town.”

“Of course it didn’t help that Iggy was telegraphing his moves on Twitter and Finnegan’s corner was relaying the messages into him. ‘Gonna feint left then come in with the right uppercut.’ Stuff like that. Then he just decided to start hitting him when he was typing,” Lombardi sighed. “All the prep we went through: weights, running, sparring. It turns out we should have spent more time getting him to learn to type without having to look at the keypad.”

The trend of athletes using Twitter or blogs is nothing new, with many top athletes from Shaquille O’Neal to Gilbert Arenas communicating with their fans in this manner. But that trend has only moved into “of the moment” coverage in the last few weeks. It began with Charlie Villanueva, a forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, Twittering the halftime speech of his coach during a March 15th contest against the Celtics, but has grown to include sprinter Usain Bolt, who liveblogged his 200m victory this weekend at the Tokyo Track Championships, and Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who blogged about the Fed’s new monetary policy from the on-deck circle of a Spring Training game against the Orioles.

Perez, nicknamed the People’s Champion because of the close level of contact he kept with his fans through blogging, e-mail, online chats, and public appearances, had only recently joined Twitter, but became quickly enamored with its potential to keep his fans updated on his daily goings on and to help build the Perez brand.

“Yeah with boxing kind of going in the shitter over the past decade, you really need to start thinking outside the box,” remarked business manager and friend Tony Grant. “He hadn’t hit that level where random weigh-in fights, rape trials, and reality shows were going to get him that recognition so he decided to build his brand through incessant, meaningless communication with his fans. Unfortunately he’s also slightly retarded. Either the blows piled up over the years or he’s just not very smart in the first place. Yes new media is exciting, but there’s a time and place for it. The middle of a fight probably isn’t it.”

Sources close to the pugilist hope that this is a lesson learned, that Mr. Perez will keep his blogging and Twittering confined to the pre and post match periods as well as only in between rounds. These same sources note that they don’t have high hopes for the lesson sticking, noting that as of this morning Perez had started a Tumblelog, Twittered about his hospital breakfast and the attractiveness of his nurses, updated his Facebook status to “Ignacio Perez feels like his head got fucked by a Mack truck”, and had de-friended Mr. Finnegan.

You stay classy, IDF

Courtesy of Haaretz, behold the latest in Israeli Defense Fashion. Made of a 100% poly-cotton blend and available in four colors, this number represents the cutting edge in "Dare me to be more callous and offensive" designer wear, perfect for the modern urban rape and pillage law enforcement environment.

Christ... this one even gave me pause. And I routinely make jokes about drowning kittens.

Matthew has already ordered three.

Picture of the day


Really, already? People at least waited until he started an illegal war based on lies, sprinkled with a dash of gross Constitutional violations before they hopped on the "Impeach Bush" train. Obama gets tossed for "wasteful Washington spending"? Ah well, it was a good run.

Oh, bonus classy points for the Osama reference. Whatever happened to that guy anyway?

Quote of the day

Conservative columnist and former bearded kick machine Chuck Norris, with an assist from Mike Huckabee.
And the question that keeps coming back to my mind is: How is it that we can militarily overthrow a tyrant like Saddam Hussein in Iraq, yet we can't keep illegals from crossing our borders? As Mike Huckabee says, "If the government can't track illegals, then let's outsource the job to UPS or Fed Ex." It's true. If they can track a lost package anywhere in the world within minutes, they can certainly track down and keep track of illegals.
Yes, this is clearly the solution to everything related to illegal immigration. Give UPS or FedEx the contract and then set about installing GPS chips into everyone in Mexico (in secret so they don't find out and take the chips out) so that UPS can somehow magically track who comes over the border and where they go.

Someone has told Chuck that UPS and FedEx are able to keep track of packages because of the fact that they control where and when the packages go, right? It's a complex system of barcodes, scanners, and planes held together by the fact that people pay them to deliver and track the packages, not some system where they wrangle loose packages that they stumble across, right? There's not some elaborate electronic net over the world that allows then to keep tabs on everything made of cardboard. Nor does it have a setting that can be switched over to "Mexicans". He does know this, right?

Real ultimate power

The White House is expected to send up legislation arguing that Congress should give Tim Geithner more power. Robotic eyes, super speed, metal claw hands, and jaws that crush steel beams. You know, the basic bionic man package. But also some financial powers as well. Because, why not? He's been doing so awesome let's just expand his jurisdiction.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner is set to argue for the new powers at a hearing today on Capitol Hill that was scheduled to address the furor over bonuses paid to executives at American International Group, which the government has propped up with about $180 billion in federal aid. Administration officials say the proposed authority would have allowed them to seize AIG last fall and wind down its operations at less cost to taxpayers.

The government at present has the authority to seize only banks.

Giving the Treasury secretary the power to seize a broader range of companies would mark a significant shift from the existing model of financial regulation, which relies on independent agencies that are shielded from the political process.
Normally, I'd say this was a good/great idea. Why shouldn't the government be able to step in and control/quicken the liquidation/fix problems in companies it already ostensibly owns? It already can step in and take over banks, why not financial giants it's shoveling billions into? Yeah, except I doubt they'll ever take over AIG, judging by how they've handled the banks.

Instead of nationalizing banks, we've just concocted scheme after scheme to allow them to go on pretending they hold assets of some value and are financially solvent, most recently last weekend with the unveiling of Geithner's toxic/legacy assets program. They keep drawing the misery out there, stalling action, prolonging the recession, dumping more money in, taking extra bite after extra bite of the shit sandwich instead of one big final one. So why would we expect them to ever do something different with AIG? In the end it'll just be one more thing they drag their feet on.

And all was right with the world

$50 Million in A.I.G. Bonuses Will Be Repaid
The New York State attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, said on Monday that he had persuaded nine of the top 10 bonus recipients at the American International Group to give the money back, as the Senate retreated on plans to tax such bonuses.

Mr. Cuomo said he was working his way down a list of A.I.G. employees, ranked by the size of their bonuses, and had already won commitments to pay back $50 million out of the total $165 million awarded this month. But in a reversal of the stand he took last week, he said he did not intend to release any names.
...
Mr. Cuomo said that he hoped eventually to recover $80 million in bonuses paid in March to A.I.G. employees in the United States. But he said an additional $85 million had gone to people outside the United States, and he did not believe his office had the legal standing to pursue them.
See these people aren't so bad. Sure they bankrupted the world, but when faced with the prospect of having their name revealed and having to face the triple stigma of working for AIG, working in the financial products division, and trying to pretend like they had done a good job, they buckled under to fear of peasants with pitchforks at their door what's right. It's amazing what massive barge loads of shame and scorn can do when dumped on the heads of social pariahs. Any chance of this working on our elected betters?

Cuomo didn't even need any fancy tax laws, which is good because none seemed forthcoming. The current "tax 'em all" plan had stalled, of course, in the Senate, where Senate Republicans asked for "more time to study the legislation". What's that? The guys that stopped bonus and wage legislation earlier aren't for taxing it either, even after spending almost an entire week pretending to care? Shocking.

Well in any event, almost all the money that can be recovered has been recovered and it seems the outrage of the day/week unfortunately came to an end without bloodshed. I'm sure something else will be along to make sure we don't pay attention to what's actually happening. Octomom being artificially inseminated with Charles Manson's seed while getting a bonus from Citibank or something. We'll all get really pissed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

All you need to know


Today Tim Geithner officially released his toxic legacy assets program. A program which attempts to completely subsidize private investment risk in return for throwing good money after bad in an attempt to pretend excrement is in fact brown gold. A program that was largely derided by economists as trying to pretend the fundamental flaws in the financial system are just superficial, ignoring clear historical precedent and guidance, and one that will prolong our problems and forestall real action.

The Dow responded to this plan by going up 497 points.
The S&P jumped 54.
The Nasdaq went up 98.

Bad economic news is good Wall Street news, as long as Wall Street gets their cut. You really are better off betting your money at the dog track.

Quote of the day

Brit Hume, warning that he doesn't want the news to be so damn partisan....it's just that those damned blaggers and their blagmidifying machines are making things so toxic.
HUME: What are we getting?…We’re getting bloggers and websites and all sorts of individual entrepreneurs, and we have a vaster menu of choices today than we’ve ever had. But I think that we also have the danger that everything will be presented from one political viewpoint or the other, and that the media that confront us are going to be more partisan than ever — which means that the Media Research Center will have a mission for many years to come, and a good thing that is.
Of course this is Brit Hume of Fox News and he was speaking at the Media Research Council gala slamming the "liberal media" and getting a journalism award named after William Buckley (what's that Irony, you can't stop throwing up in your mouth?). So when he means 'danger' and 'partisanship' he's talking about the danger/partisanship posed by those dirty liberals. What he does over at Fox is fair and balanced and other various slogans that appear in their ads.

Maybe if Brit spent more time working on the partisan news problem instead of giving partisan speeches at partisan events, receiving partisan awards for partisan journalism, he'd find a solution. But he's just worrying about the other side doing it too. In any event, like everything, it's all the fault of bloggers.

The Palin Fund

Seems that being an unethical politician isn't easy. First there's all that suppression of that voice inside your head that tells you you shouldn't be doing what you're doing. Then there's the self delusion (possibly including drinking) you need to engage in to tell you that you're right to act this way. Finally, there's all those damned legal bills that pile up cause some lawyer and judges got a bug up their butt because you run your state like a catty junior high writ large. That last place is where we find Sarah Palin. And she needs cash fast!
Gov. Sarah Palin owes more than a half million dollars to an Anchorage law firm that has defended her against ethics complaints, and she may create a legal fund to pay the bill, she said Friday.

Legal bills have mounted fighting complaints that she called partisan, false and frivolous, starting with "the politically motivated Troopergate probe," Palin said in a written response to questions.

She said the legal bills all stem from her actions as governor.
...
"On August 29, it seems the political landscape changed in Alaska. Now, it seems in order to do this job as Governor, with the political blood sport some are playing today, only the independently wealthy or those willing to spend their income on legal fees to defend their official actions in office ... can serve," Palin said in the written response to Daily News questions.
Yes...this is a populist issue, Sarah. Soon only rich politicians will be able to pay off their own legal bills that arise from their own malfeasance. I think the only solution is to get rid of ethics investigations. Or there's that other solution...what is it again...oh yeah: stop engaging in ethically bankrupt actions. That will probably cut down on the legal bills. I might also just hire cheaper lawyers, because these expensive, big-city Juneau lawyers don't seems to be able to help you win any of these ethics investigations. That probably has something to do with the brazen nature of your infractions.

So if you want to help Sarah out, I'm sure she'll have a PayPal set up soon. Only you can help her fight those rotten sons of bitches who have the audacity to point out her numerous ethical lapses.

Picture of the day

Turns out if you want to get high tech space photos and topographic mapping detail you don't need a satellite, Hubble, or an astronaut with a polaroid camera, you just need to be a Spanish teen with a balloon and no qualms about tying mom's Nikon to it. The students managed to send a latex balloon, sensors that ran data into Google Earth, and a camera 20 miles up into the stratosphere and photograph the earth.

Full documentation of the project on their Flickr page. Eat it, NASA.



The new shitty plan is the old shitty plan

Our new appointed betters at the Treasury Department of One have unveiled their brand new plan to rid financial companies of their toxic assets. Since 'retro' is really in they decided to use Hank Paulson's initial plan, in which everyone in government pretends that all the worthless assets are really worth something and decides to pay what banks wish they assets were worth instead of what their actually worth. That if these assets were priced properly, instead of by loonies who see them as worthless, then all the banks problems are over. One key change: instead of the government buying the toxic crap under the guise of "this is so fucking brilliant" we're gonna get private investors to buy it up.....except we're going to guarantee the assets and end up paying out when it turns out they are, in actuality, just as worthless as everyone thought.
The Obama administration, striving to ease lending in the struggling economy, moved Monday with private investors to sop up bad bank assets. The administration said the program could grow to $1 trillion in purchases eventually, if it proves successful in attacking the bad-books problem that has been at the heart of the banking crisis.
...
To achieve the goal of freeing up more lending, the program would entice private investors with low-cost loans provided by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve. The government would also shoulder the vast bulk of the risk.

In one example used in the fact sheet, the purchase of a batch of bad mortgage loans would see the private investor put up 6 percent of the cost with the rest provided by the government, with the FDIC covering 84 percent of the cost with a loan and the remaining 6 percent coming from funds from the $700 billion bailout program.
I know what you're saying, "Didn't this brilliant plan have a name that rhymed so we'd better be able to understand and remember its full implications"? Yes it did, that name was "Cash For Trash". This time it comes with an investor subsidy. Positives? Well if you're into gallows humour, you can enjoy Paul Krugman defecating in anger/despair over the entire concept of the plan and the Obama Administration's handling of the crisis. The world stock markets also rose on the belief that thew government thinks that its just been all one big mistake and that everyone in finance and banking just got a tad overexuberant and is really just as smart and pretty as they think they are.

Other than that......you should probably be moving towards the remotest location you can find so that when society collapses you'll be away from the center of it. Paul Krugman so virulently hating an economic policy means the policy either killed his family and he's been hunting it bent on revenge for years....or it's just a really awful plan. His Nobel isn't in beard grooming, after all. As an added bonus we got to find out that the problem with government response isn't that Republicans hire unrepentant market/banker humpers, its that Democrats hire similar people too....because those are the only people that apparently exist who have any working experience within the Beast. It was so worth extending this recession by another couple years to figure that out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I almost forgot






Happy sixth anniversary sweetheart, the magic is still there. Put on something sexy, we're going out for dinner tonight.

Headline of the day

Police: Naked boy, 14, on walk with dog, pushes woman, breaks phone

A 14-year-old Saginaw boy has been charged with strong-arm robbery and assault in juvenile court after he pushed a woman and broke her cell phone while taking a walk naked with a large white poodle in Hart Township Monday, police say.
h/t jsg

Scratch'n'Sniff or Pop-up?

Bush Book on Decisions Is Set for 2010
As widely expected, former President George W. Bush, like many past occupants of the Oval Office, is writing a book. But rather than delivering a more traditional presidential memoir, Mr. Bush plans to explain 12 difficult personal and political decisions he has made.

Mr. Bush mentioned the book Tuesday in his first speech since leaving office, delivered in Calgary, Alberta. The book, tentatively titled “Decision Points,” is to be published in 2010 by Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House.
Christ, even the name and premise are terrible. This man is a human wasteland.

I for one am looking forward to reading 400 pages of equivocation, ignorance, buck passing, messianic inspiration, pigheaded insistence, declarations of future generations appreciating him, and probably a few wacky Cheney/BBQ stories. On the bad side, the little shit is getting $7 million to whine about how we didn't 'get' him. On the 'silver lining' front it's less than Bill, Hillary, Tony Blair, and Sarah Kierkegaard Palin got. Oh yes, 2010 may bring us books by both Palin and Bush. Go fuck yourself Philip Roth and Cormac McCarthy, we have our new literary future ahead of us. Dump your pitiful new tomes in the garbage where they belong, Bush and Palin are talkin' 'bout God, media conspiracies against them, and family.

Quote of the day

Another CNBC human travesty, host Mark Haines, on the what will happen if the million dollar Übermensch is replaced by a $250,000 counterpart.
HAINES: Let’s get back to what I regard as a fundamental issue here. I know it’s politically unpopular, politically incorrect. I know it goes against all of the populist indignation that’s out there right now. But you can’t really, it seems to me, expect that these Wall Street companies are going to be run well by a bunch of people who don’t make more than $250,000.
Call me a freaknik radical, but I don't think these companies were run very well by people pulling down tens of millions of dollars. What's the worst that could happen if we let some peon run the company for a laughable pittance of a quarter of a million dollars? He might collapse the world economy? You're right, too risky. It's a shame that you only become capable and smart when your paycheck pushes into that seven digit range.

The new Sophie's Choice

Oh these poor financial executives. Forced by their own incompetence to have the government fully fund their companies they are forced with a dilemma that is almost too difficult to comprehend. Do they accept government money and restrict bonus payments or do they give the money back and collapse? Truly a query that even King Solomon would have difficulty finding a solution to. It's just not as simple as sawing an infant in half.
Some bank executives warned yesterday that the government is forcing them toward a disastrous choice between accepting restrictions on compensation that could cripple their ability to compete with rivals, or returning billions in federal aid, which could retard lending and damage the economy.

The possibility of a newly weakened banking industry also raised concerns among businesses in the wider economy that already are struggling to find financial firms willing to lend them needed money.

"We're all going to lose on this thing," said an executive at a large bank that took federal aid. He and other bankers expressed shock at the rapid progress of legislation that could impose large pay cuts on thousands of workers, and dismay that the industry is at the mercy of an angry Congress.
It's a fair tradeoff, you're mad at all the mad people and government for deigning to judge you, we're mad at all the apes in suits who collapsed the world economy. You're mad that all your "talent" might leave if you can't hand out exorbitant bonuses with government money and you'll lose to competitors. Here's the good news: all your competitors are also failing and taking government money, so no worries. I think it's nice to know that after all the damage you've caused you're all still thinking about how your failures affect your own pay and not, you know, the collapsing world economy.

This article is one of my favorite types of new financial collapse journalism. It's one where we're repeatedly told that the only sensible way forward is to give financial companies free money but to also let them pay their employees exorbitantly and any restrictions and scrutiny is coached in fear about what chilling effect it will have. News flash: you've just enacted history's biggest financial collapse, the solution was never going to be 'let things go on as they were, only with the masses subsidizing the corporate elite". The faster you come to that conclusion the faster I can stop gouging out my own eyes every time I have to read one of these "Will no one think of our moneyed whore elite?" articles.

Barry, Barry, Barry...

What are you doing, man? A taped message directed at 70 million Iranians urging a "new day" of peace and respectful discourse? How dare you take a direct, conciliatory tone with those, and I use the term loosely, people.

Are you blind to how effective three decades of isolation and dick-waving have been in our ongoing effort to make Iran's government more transparent and engaged in the international community?

You even had the thing subtitled in Farsi and released on Nowru, the Persian equivalent of New Year's, MLB opening day, and the vernal equinox all rolled into one!

Clearly, you need to study up on your history, Barry. Backing a military coup, providing military support to enemies foreign and domestic, shooting down their civilian aircraft, rattling the saber every time one of their leaders so much as opens his mouth -- that's how you deal with Iran. Zero tolerance. How do we know this? Because, clearly, it's worked so well in the past.

Appeaser.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Broken News: Elite mathematicians unable to calculate AIG bonuses after factoring for success

NEW YORK—Today a group of elite mathematicians and numerologists from some of the world’s finest learning institutions announced that they were abandoning their attempt to figure out what the bonus payout for the financial products division of AIG would have been if the company had, instead of perpetuating the collapse of the global economy, actually made money in 2008.

Initiated after the announcement of $165 million in bonuses to the division that nearly ruined AIG, the project quickly descended into chaos. At the core of the disagreement was whether humans possess the mathematical sophistication required to express just how much money the executives and traders in question would have earned had their schemes borne fruit, or at least broken even.

"I just don't think a number exists that can accurately tells us what they would have earned," explained Dr. Francis Simon, Professor Emeritus of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "If bankrupting the world and crippling every financial institution in creation warrants a nine-figure bonus, well, I think it practically impossible to discern what the production of actual profit might have entailed."

Insiders say the group fractured while debating the merits of inventing new, higher descriptive numbers. Suggestions included "kajillion" and "bazillion," as well as a proposal to describe compensation in terms of land ownership. Specifically, 1 trillion suns or 40 billion solar systems. Unfortunately, tempers then flared over whether the group would be required to invent a new number to ascribe astronomical value to the sun. It was allegedly at this point that Carnegie Mellon University Astrophysics professor Charles B. Woo referred to Simon as the "Son of a two-balled bitch."

"After a short time, we came to realize that the exercise was ultimately futile," said Simon, obviously exhausted from the mental expenditure and minor scuffle that ensued after Dr. Woo's insult. "I think it's better for society if we continue not knowing what these financial wizards would have been owed."

Berkley Cognitive Psychologist Dr. Maureen McCarren echoed this assessment. "In light of the downturn, it's best we not ponder the true value of AIG's contribution to the economy. Given the vast mental faculties required to only fail as drastically as they did, I don't know that the amount of money required to compensate such genius even exists. From a conservation-of-psychic-energy perspective, this economic collapse was really a blessing."

The financial world was quick to react to the news. “If some of the best minds in the world can’t even conceive of the payments involved for a successful year, let alone formulate a method for which we could attain the necessary goods to exchange for a competent execution of duties, then maybe we need to reassess our payment structure,” observed Danny “Skunk” Walker of Ameriglobe Financial Services.

“If we can’t figure out the logistics of acquiring Jupiter, or at least its mineral rights, for a junior exec who managed not to kick out too many necessary pillars holding up the precariously balanced world economy, maybe we need to offer more esoteric social benefits like free murders or the secret to happiness. As long as that secret isn’t ‘amassing unfathomable amounts of land and money in return for basic competence’, then I think we’re golden.”

Still, other financial gurus note that such worries about reconfiguring the bonus structure are premature and that the mathematicians had essentially been wasting their time. “You really think the bonus system for these big corporations actually conceives of achievement?” asked a bewildered Peter Gurka, animal handler for CNBC’s Billy the Money Goat program. The whole system is based around covering up failure; success doesn’t even enter into the equation.”

He explained further, “The only two working business models on Wall Street are one: to either fake success by artificially making your company so large and its tentacles so weaved into the foundation of the economy that your failure has to be subsidized by the government or, two: to fake success by intertwining your business with a series of shell companies and loans between subsidiaries before cashing out and dumping it all on your successor. For the really large payments these scientists are talking about, Wall Street would have to abandon its entire business model. Fat chance.”

Regardless, the scientists are quick to caution that unless changes are eventually made, one of these galactic bonuses is going to have to be paid out. “Then what are we going to do?” Dr. Simon was quick ask. “It’s got to happen sometime, just by pure random chance. We need to be prepared. And once our civilization regroups after the inevitable nuclear holocaust, world rape and eventual banding together under one human flag? Saints alive, I don't even want to ponder the repercussions.”