Saturday, February 07, 2009

Worse than Bush 

Not Obama, but what's coming. After Obama's failure, the collapse of the economy will allow new monsters to seize power.

See Team of Zombies by David Sirota:

At the top [of Obama's "economic" "team"] is Lawrence Summers, the director of Obama’s National Economic Council. As Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary in the late 1990s, Summers worked with his deputy, Tim Geithner (now Obama’s Treasury secretary), and Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel (now Obama’s chief of staff) to champion job-killing trade deals and deregulation that Obama Commerce Secretary-designate Judd Gregg helped shepherd through Congress as a Republican senator. Now, this pinstriped band of brothers is proposing a “cash for trash” scheme that would force the public to guarantee the financial industry’s bad loans. It’s another ploy “to hand taxpayer dollars to the banks through a variety of complex mechanisms,” says economist Dean Baker—and noticeably absent is anything even resembling a “rival” voice inside the White House.

That’s not an oversight. From former federal officials like Robert Reich and Brooksley Born, to Nobel Prize-winning economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, to business leaders like Leo Hindery, there’s no shortage of qualified experts who have challenged market fundamentalism. But they have been barred from an administration focused on ideological purity.

In Hindery’s case, the blacklisting was explicit. Despite this venture capitalist establishing a well-respected think tank and serving as a top economic adviser to Obama’s campaign, the Politico reports that “Obama’s aides appear never to have taken his bid [for an administration post] seriously.” Why? Because he “set himself up in opposition” to Wall Street’s agenda.

The anecdote highlights how, regardless of election hoopla, Washington is the same one-party town it always has been—controlled not by Democrats or Republicans, but by kleptocrats (i.e., thieves). Their ties to money make them the undead zombies in the slash-and-burn horror flick that is American politics: No matter how many times their discredited theologies are stabbed, torched and shot down by verifiable failure, their careers cannot be killed....

UPDATE: "Bristol Palin: ESPN headquarters inspired her name." More here.


It is Carnival time, everyone, time to turn the rules upside-down and roast some of our sacred heifers on the pyre. One by one they are being lined up for our delectation, our bread and circus, our consolation for a world of images that increasingly doesn't match the one we are trudging through, a Real that peeps more and more through the screen.

Now A-Rod, previously Christian, before that Michael, Blago, etc. etc. More to come. Can there be a sadder and more insulting compensation for eight years of being relentlessly shat upon and fucked?

But wait, you might say. These people did shit wrong, and there is no conspiracy. They are getting what they deserve. This has no bearing on economic policy or our presence in Afganistan, or anything that really matters.

But I would argue that there is a reason these opportunities for collective punishment, for pathetic "apologies" and hara-kiri on late-night television, are so prominent in our social world of appearances. There is, in fact, a thread, a conspiracy of sorts. The conspiracy is for US to join in; it is the meager sum we are offered to keep us going. Those people who it always seemed had no business getting so much praise, so much success, so much money are now going up on crosses. They will mortify themselves for our pleasure. They will get cut back down to our debased and unrecognized level, and lower than that. Fuck 'em.

These limp celebrity burnt-offerings are skin-masks pulled over the real proprietors of power and disaster, the ones who have slipped away with nary a downcast eye or apology, the ones who have fucking destroyed the world and left us to live in it.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio marched 220 chained illegal immigrant inmates into a segregated enclosure of Tent City Wednesday afternoon...


The 220 inmates walked from the Durango Jail complex to Tent City near 35th Avenue and Durango Street in Phoenix about 1 p.m. Wednesday. The inmates were chained at the feet and wore handcuffs while carrying bags full of personal belongings. The procession took about 15 minutes.


SHANGHAI 2006: Social outcasts and supposed criminals, in this case prostitutes and a few pimps, were paraded in front of a jeering crowd, their names revealed, and then taken to jail without trial.

Friday Cat Blogging 

What the fuck? 

Why isn't this being done? Why are so few people even talking about this? Isn't this the obvious and only measure to be taken in the present circumstances?

Do people want people want mass chaos and global depression?

Beyond Firefighting Debt, by Adrian Pabst

Across the world, governments and central banks are desperately trying to unblock the frozen credit markets. Through a combination of re-capitalisation, state-guaranteed loans and quantitative easing, the hope is to inject more money into an illiquid banking sector, drive down real interest rates and thus restore the flow of capital to cash-starved businesses and struggling homeowners.

But none of this activism will work unless and until policymakers address the problem of excessive corporate and private debt that caused this crisis in the first place. In fact, the constant firefighting is blinding governments and central banks to the adverse long-term effects of ill conceived, short-term measures like costly, no-strings bank bail-outs. What is required instead is large-scale debt conversion.

The problem of debt will get much worse before it gets better. Banks and other financial institutions are bracing themselves for another wave of debt defaults – this time not from dodgy mortgage schemes but from commercial real estate, credit cards, car and student loans, corporate bonds, insurance and pension funds. Only last week, the IMF raised its estimate of financial sector write-downs from its October 2008 forecast of $1,400bn to a staggering $2,200bn. According to Nouriel Roubini, the economist dubbed "Dr Doom" for his gloomy predictions three years ago (which turned out to be broadly accurate), total US financial losses from the credit crunch could reach as much as $3,600bn, compared with a capital base of $1,400bn. In that case, says Roubini: "the financial system is insolvent. It's technically bankrupt."

Lower real interests alone won't do the trick because in a falling market, banks have few incentives to lend and every reason to hoard the public money that was injected as part of the double re-capitalisation in September 2008 and last month. Why? Because the ongoing fall in the value of assets increases liabilities, forcing further sell-offs and putting more pressure on assets – a vicious cycle of debt-deflation. Lending will only be restored to adequate levels if and when unsustainable debt is restructured, more demand for goods and services is generated (making investments once more profitable) and, yes, real interest rates are lowered.

If the full flow of credit is to be restored in these conditions of debt-deflation, then governments and central banks must now enact bolder measures than acquiring equity shares that are impossible to value, or buying up the toxic assets that undermine trust in the international financial sector.

One radical policy is debt conversion, whereby mortgages and consumer credit are converted into long-term, low and fixed-interest loans. Governments should urgently consider proposals by the Harvard economist Martin Feldstein. He has suggested that the state offer mortgage holders the option of replacing a share of mortgage (20-50%) with a low-interest loan from the government, subject to a maximum amount.

...This sort of state assistance should be made available not just to individual borrowers but also to housing associations, especially those that have formed joint ventures with building companies and are now facing an acute funding shortage. Similar debt conversion programmes could be extended to other sectors that are crippled by debt, including commercial real estate and consumer loans.

One key advantage of debt conversion is that it deals with the immediate debt burden while reducing private and corporate bankruptcy and also avoiding the need for total debt cancellation, both of which would further depress assets. By interrupting the vicious circle of debt-deflation, debt conversion helps establish a floor to asset prices...


Thursday, February 05, 2009

bale vs. o'reilly 

Bill-o takes on Hollyweird. Woot. Parables abound:


We -- the population of the earth -- are just waiting for something to happen. It's happening. We are being fucked.

A few basic points:

1) The stimulus bill is a hodge-podge, currently being watered-down, and not sufficient.

2) Far more importantly, the new "bailout"/"solution" to the financial meltdown being plotted by Geithner/Summers/Rubin is more of Paulson. And Paulson was more of Summers/Rubin. Summers/Rubin -- under Clinton -- were the ones who started this most recent, most toxic cycle of legal fraud. Clinton, not Bush One, and not Reagan, either. Clinton's economic "gurus" had the bright idea of trying to run an economy on inflated stock prices, on the assumption that as long as everyone (i.e., "rich" people) thought they had money, they would spend it, and there would be an "economy," even though U.S. business was not actually selling products for profit. The current "bad bank bailout" is more of the same demented bullshit: the gov't pays full price for worthless shit, and the shit is supposed to gain value for that very reason. And in any case no economist believes that this "purchase" will make any of the banks solvent -- for the basic reason that no one knows what is actually held in the banks, because their "holdings" are too "leveraged" -- i.e., they are fictional.

3) The economy is going to continue to go through the floor. Obama can't stop it, and doesn't seem to be aware what the problems are.

4) The Republicans are going to be on record as being "against" all of Obama's "plans." It doesn't matter in the least that the Republican "opposition" has amounted to the delirious raving of a brain-damaged infant. They will be on record as having been against, and they will get credit when Obama et al. fail, as they inevitably will. (They already have.)

5) Republicans will have access, in the next year or two, as Obama's failure becomes more evident, to their inexhaustible reservoir of ways to exploit ignorant resentment: xenophobia, fear, hatred, etc. And soon enough they will be obliged by -- what else? -- a catastrophic terrorist attack.

Knowledge to be had here.

System failure. Finis.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Connecting Dots 

There are sometimes strange parallels between unrelated yet "contemporaneous" events, like Blagojevich's unbelievably painful appearance on David Letterman last night and today's New York Times article about the "discovery" of a missing Nazi war criminal, the curious timing of which might lend the impression, after recent events, that Nazis live among "the Arabs" and thus justify their occasional unmitigated slaughter.

I was struck, in both the Times' account and Letterman stint, how both utterly convinced both men appear to be as to their innocence and wrongful persecution. But of course, "appear to be" is the key phrase here. What is frightful about both cases is how utterly cut off we really are from the interiority of these men, to the point where one might argue that they have no interiority whatsoever. Heim/Farid is a ghost stapled together from various bits of ephemera, from Spielbergian WWII horrors to his own, likely unsent, letters to various figures of importance around the world, rambling about Zionist plots. Blagojevich, on the other hand, is someone who has realized the value of becoming-skin, becoming-mere surface. As Letterman repeatedly notes, everyone knows that he is guilty as sin; but Rod knows that all he need do is to keep saying that he really believes he is innocent, to keep pretending he is one of us, and not an object of media sacrifice. This way the sacrifice can proceed as prescribed yet Blagojevich can hold out hope that maybe a few people on his jury will have read the message wrong-- and mistaken him for a victim.

decln wst civ. vol. MXLIV 

Question: What do you if you have no understanding of either videos or books?

Make a Video Book!


What do you do if you have $10 to blow and 23 minutes to kill to watch an author sum up his book?

Buy a "V-book"!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

speaking of FAIL... ...WIN! 

Epic WIN:

The Obama administration is expected to impose a cap of $500,000 for top executives at companies that receive large amounts of bailout money, according to people familiar with the plan.

Executives would also be prohibited from receiving any bonuses above their base pay, except for normal stock dividends.


“That is pretty draconian — $500,000 is not a lot of money, particularly if there is no bonus,” said James F. Reda, founder and managing director of James F. Reda & Associates, a compensation consulting firm. “And you know these companies that are in trouble are not going to pay much of an annual dividend.”

Mr. Reda said only a handful of big companies pay chief executives and other senior executives $500,000 or less in total compensation. He said such limits will make it hard for the companies to recruit and keep executives, most of whom could earn more money at other firms.

“It would be really tough to get people to staff” companies that are forced to impose these limits, he said. “I don’t think this will work.”

Sucks to be you guys. Keep a sharp eye out for even more human interest pieces in the NYT about how hard it is to be less rich.

When BO did the presser yesterday and wagged his finger at the execs for their planes and general pimpitude, I thought that was we were gonna get, some pious finger-wagging.

This is very good though. Hats off to you, sir.

(h/t hiaw)

Stimulus FAIL/WIN 

So it looks like the stimulus bill will pass and the arguments rage about whether it will "work" or not.

I was looking at it today, although not too closely, and realized that its not botched or compromised at all, and that in fact it is already working!

Consider: of the roughly $820 billion in the stimulus, about $275B go to tax cuts, and about $544B to a more Keynsian/New Deal approach. So that's about a 65/35 split, Keynes vs. Supply-siders.

So what happens if in a couple years the bill appears to be FAIL?

Democrats say that the concessions they made to the GOP in the form of tax cuts watered down the bill and made it less effective. Thus Republican intransigence set us up for FAIL. Shorter Donkle, "Vote for us, they are FAIL."

Republicans say that it's a Democratic bill through and through, since they didn't vote for it. Democratic tax & spend has lead us down the path to ruin just like Reagan said. Shorter GOP: Vote for us, they are FAIL.

And if the economy is WIN in two or four years?

Democrats: Our bill is WIN. Vote for us, we are WIN.

Republicans: The only thing about that bill that made it WIN were the tax cut concessions we got by playing hardball and making teh Obana come to us. Vote for us, we are WIN.

So no matter what happens, both parties are poised to claim victory. Granted if the economy is WIN, then the GOP likely has a harder row to hoe. From a political standpoint though, this is a perfect bill. It has just enough of your stuff to take credit and just enough of the other guy's stuff to place blame, and completely leaves out any stuff that might endanger you or the other guy's relative social position. Political parties: WIN! People in charge: WIN!

This is all leaving aside the inevitable debate about what constitutes economy WIN/FAIL and whether WIN/FAIL has been achieved. A debate that will take much time, much swill will be inked, nits picked, and hairs split. During which time everyone will become sore confused and look to their favorite entrail reader for guidance or just go with whoever most resembles their inner fantasy life. This will have the effect of taking the economy off the table as an electoral issue and returning the field of play to the control of those who invest most in the players.

Kind of amazing if you think about it. The 'murrican people just voted, albeit narrowly, to set aside race as a class-divisive wedge issue, and united around their class interests. So the overclass response is to effectively take class interests off the table. Brilliant.

Of course nothing in this bill has anything about restructuring or anything that would move society into an economic system that was actually just and sustainable. Both parties are just beating dead 20th Century horses. Keynes vs. Friedman State-Capitalism Celebrity Deathmatch (likely setting us up for more FAIL). So all you people not in charge? Either way, you are FAIL.


This also has a striking resemblance to the terror-fighting argument - If there are no terror attacks it is because of our awesome rulage. Vote for us, we are WIN.

If you get blown up by a brown person, only your rulers have the means to kill, vote for us, we are the only hope of WIN.

The next big Bush-era scandal 

...will hopefully be more widely reported than ABC News and Forbes.com...

CIA officer investigated in alleged Algiers rapes

A CIA officer in Africa is under investigation for two separate instances in which he was accused of rape, according to court documents and a government official.

...Warren been assigned to Algiers since 2007.

One of the Algerian woman claimed that she was drinking at a party at the man's home when something made her suddenly ill and she passed out. She awoke believing she had had intercourse, but with no memory of having done so.

just...i mean...you've got to...you see it's...really? 

And ya don't stop...

Fresh off his stint as a war correspondent in Gaza, Joe the Plumber is now doing political strategy with Republicans.

When GOP congressional aides gather Tuesday morning for a meeting of the Conservative Working Group, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher – more commonly known as Joe the Plumber — will be their featured guest. This group is an organization of conservative Capitol Hill staffers who meet regularly to chart GOP strategy for the week.


Fuck the NYTimes for allowing this fuckface a column to spew his shit, even after the Great Flush.

My simple rebuttal would be that if there is any chance that Iraq is stabilizing it is precisely not because of the surge, but because Obama's election has created hope that we will actually leave!

mutiny on the titanic 

Jiminy Shitballs:

Obama's decision to override Petraeus's recommendation [to not withdraw from Iraq] has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.

A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama's decision.


The assertion that Obama's withdrawal policy threatens the gains allegedly won by the Bush surge and Petraeus's strategy in Iraq will apparently be the theme of the campaign that military opponents are now planning.


[Former Army Vice Chief of Staff] Keane had operated on the assumption that a Democratic president would probably not take the political risk of rejecting Petraeus's recommendation on the pace of troop withdrawal from Iraq. Woodward quotes Keane as telling Gates, "Let's assume we have a Democratic administration and they want to pull this thing out quickly, and now they have to deal with General Petraeus and General Odierno. There will be a price to be paid to override them."

Monday, February 02, 2009

state of the nation 

Hummer vs. Schoolbus: A parable for our times.

via C&L


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