Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Stab In The Back, 2008 Style

One of the most enduring mythologies of post World War One Germany was the legend of the 'stab in the back'-that is, the idea that defeat in the war and the troubles that followed could be directly attributed to a conspiracy of commies, jews, war profiteers, homos, middle of the roaders, politicians, and various and sundry defeatist elements.

Generals Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg appeared before a select committee  of the Reichstag in 1919 investigating whether peace could have been achieved before the Armistice, and Ludendorff said there and then that the Wehrmacht, never having been defeated in battle, was secretly and methodically sabotaged by subversives. 

Thus, it is said, that the Generals lent all the gravitas of their positions and honors to perpetuating a myth that Germany had not gotten an old fashioned, knock 'em down and drag 'em out ass whuppin' with all the trimmings. 

It may be so in 2008 as well. There are signs of a split in the McCain campaign as Palin starts thinking of her own political future, and how she's going to stuff up the cracks in her own leaky rowboat.

It seems also that some in right wing circles and on the talk radio circuit these days are busy constructing their very own 'stab in the back' legend in anticipation of next Tuesday's election-getting a jump on things like.

Although it's not official, there are signs these days, as the once bright flame of the Reagan Revolution gutters and flickers, having nearly exhausted the supply of swamp gas that fueled it, that the myth is busily being constructed in an effort to explain to the Guns, God and Guts crowd how they lost to a Democrat and a black man at that.

Herr Limbaugh himself must be wondering what he's going to talk about next Wednesday morning. It may make for some interesting listening for once.

My guess is that the myth he constructs for the downfall of his party will consist of a recital that his party did not deserve to win, having deserted the Gingrich wing of the party to cozy up with moderate succubi such as Colin Powell and William Weld, who will, of course be branded as heretics and apostates to be expunged with extreme prejudice.

It's interesting to note that I had a very interesting conversation with a former senator here who explained why she, as a Republican, could not hire me as an aide. She said candidly that she was afraid of her party. That's how deep this split runs and how much the Streichers of talk radio and Gingrich have done to drive moderates out of the GOP. 

As Edwin Armstrong once pointedly observed, "It's not what people know that's dangerous. It's what they know that ain't so."

Joe the Plumber's Leaky Pipes

When I was a young lad, if it was said (archly) of a fellow that he had leaky pipes, it usually meant that he had consorted with people that harbored...well....a certain social disease of louche persons.

So it is with Joe the Plumber Wurzelbacher, as we are informed by the Toledo Blade that he's been busy on the campaign trail removing all doubt as to where his sympathy lies.  Gone is the pretense of being just a common working stiff with a question. Joe's a celebrity these days, and if the accounts are correct he ain't running copper underneath a house on the east side of Toledo. He;s out campaigning for McCain.

He now thinks that a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel but that it would take fifteen minutes to explain why he feels that way. 

He also thinks that people aren't justified in looking into his background (legally or otherwise) and has contacted a lawyer.

Pretty heady stuff for a common, unpretentious working man of no greater ambition than running his own business and paying the mortgage. 

Joe, don't let it go to your head. You've already had your fifteen minutes and the people you're keeping company with are on their way out. It's a dangerous game you're playing.

My old crew chief used to say "when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas." 

Being a public figure in politics is like juggling chainsaws-you've got to know exactly what you're doing, never lose sight of the big picture, and be able to defend anything you've ever done. 

Or, you get infected.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who's Your Daddy? Fear of a Unicameral Planet

Recently the McCain campaign has been advancing the idea that we should elect the...ahem...Original Mavericks because it would be a bad thing to have a "durable majority" in government.

That's an interesting notion from the party of Chairman Newt and Chief Gauleiter Karl Rove, both of whom seemed to think having a durable majority was a rather good idea back when they had one, and sought to make it a permanent feature of the political landscape-with their party, of course.

Well. It didn't happen, even though Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council were the next best thing to the real, 100 per cent bottled in bond Republican administration that Gingrich, Rove, and the rest of that soon to be discredited crew would have liked to have had.

Folks, this is the last week of the Republican satrapy, at least for a while. It's sure as hell the last week of a year that did a damned good job of driving a stake in the heart of the Reagan Revolution.

We're on the eve of change that may well be as important as the election of Lincoln in 1864 or Roosevelt in 1932.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Legacy of John McCain

It woulda been awful if the Ashley Todd hoax had taken root. Chalk it up to some overeager operatives and a useful idiot. Good thing the Pittsburgh cops are smart enough to know a ringer when they saw one.  

McCain is starting to look a lot like Icarus-you know, the guy who wanted it too much and tossed all the safety precautions, lashed down the safety valves and headed for Hanoi with nukes on board, Ride-of the-Valkyries kinda stuff.....I always thought he was a great senator but he's starting to look like a tragic person. He sold out, he knows it, and it may avail him nothing.  

In addition, in wanting it too bad he hoisted this awful mediocrity-this Potemkin village of a woman -from well deserved obscurity in nowheresville and created a political monstrosity that's going to haunt what's left of the GOP for years and years to come. She LIKES having $150,000 spent on her at Saks and Neiman and an image consultant who got paid $25,000 for six weeks work. I mean, who wouldn't?  

Of course, someone MUST have spoken to her about it because when she appeared on local television today and earlier on stage in western Iowa, her getup was more downmarket than we have seen in a while-faded jeans and a cloth jacket. 

Mrs. Palin's going to be McCain's unfortunate legacy-not the years toiling in the Senate and before that in durance vile at the hands of the NVA and before that in the service of his country...what to do with Sarah Palin is his legacy as surely as the monster was Dr. Frankenstein's.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pittsburgh Atrocity Propaganda Plot Backfires For GOP

The Associated Press informs us this day that Ashley Todd, a McCain volunteer from Texas reported to police in Pittsburgh that she was attacked, robbed and beaten by a black man who proceeded to whup her like Knee-grows do and carve a B in her face telling her that she was gonna be Barack's bitch or something like that.

There was only one problem with this story, and that is that it was a falsehood, a fabrication, a damned lie and a piece of atrocity propaganda that, had it proved to have legs, might well have ignited a firestorm in swing state Pennsylvania.  It's the kind of putup job that Josef Goebbels might have admired.

She'd made the whole thing up, and has been charged with misdemeanor filing of a false police report.

You gotta love the GOP. They've really come off the rails.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Open Letter to Sam "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher

Dear Joe,

Now that the dust has settled a little and the teevee trucks and reporters have moved on and life's getting back to the daily grind, it's probably time you and I talk man to man, brother to brother and working stiff to working stiff. 

They're still whoring your name around Florida as proof of something or other, but I'll bet the phone doesn't ring all that much anymore and aside from the airfare to New York and the blazer that may have been provided, you probably haven't seen much out of this deal, least of all what $150,000 at Saks and Neiman would buy you. 

Joe, that's $20,000 more than your house cost. Think about it. I'll bet you shop at Walmart of Kmart for your kid's school clothes, and there's more chili on the menu than filet mignon at Chez Wurzelbacher. 

Let me preface this by saying that I was blue collar longer than you've been around. My credentials are pretty good in that area, and I've got more bashed fingernails, safety wire punctures and stinky work boots and coveralls behind me than most people ever see in a lifetime. I've spent time as a towtruck driver, cab driver, auto mechanic, warehouse clerk, human forklift, air conditioner assembler, pump jockey, telephone cable splicer, aircraft mechanic and flight line inspector in my time. I've also got time cold calling sales prospects but I was never very good at that and got fired from a couple jobs doing that stuff.

I've also got a union card that I'm pretty proud of, it's from Local 148 of the UAW, and it's under the glass over my law license.  If nothing else, that makes me a paid in full member of the Working Stiffs of America.

I lived the life you've lived, right down to the shit jobs, the rental apartments in the not so nice parts of town, the beater cars that die in the winter, the heat bills and on and on and on. Just like you, I laid out in the driveway on Williamsdale Avenue right there in Toledo putting the transmission back in the Ford truck and the next week it was getting the goddamned Dodge running again and being real proud of the fact that I found a California emissions carburetor in Toledo, of all places..

I don't know whether you remember me in Toledo but I was there in 1984-maybe you were a skinny kid on a bicycle and saw an old red Ford truck with California plates going past you on Airport Highway. 

That was me.

Joe, back in slavery times Ole Massuh would keep the slaves divided against themselves by convincing the negroes who worked in the big house that they were better than the field hands because maybe they didn't sweat and stink as much, or they were dressed a little better or had manners that the field negroes didn't have and didn't have to live down in the slave cabins. 

But when push came to shove, and Ole Massuh had lost his roll gambling or speculating on the market and the debts had to be paid, the field hands and house negroes alike were put on the auction block and were as likely to chop cotton as the next person. 

Joe, never forget where you're from and who you belong to. It's not the moneyed classes, and you're not doing yourself any good by being Charlie McCarthy or Mortimer Snerd for John McCain and Sarah Palin.

I hope you buy that plumbing business and earn enough from it that you can bitch about the taxes and give your son the kind of life any good kid in this country should have. 

What I'd really like to see is you get yourself a solid education and a law license like I did. You're intelligent, articulate and smarter by half than most of the lawyers I've met.

Working folks need people like you to ask the hard questions, and not to settle for a stroke job like the Republicans just gave you or a beating like some folks on the left did. 

Working folks also need people who will stand up and fight for them with some authority whether it be on the shop floor for the union, the city council, the school board, in the courts or in the legislature. What they don't need more of is Quislings created by the House of Reagan.

What working people don't need any more of is people who will let themselves be used by those in power. It's one thing if they really don't know what the play is but quite another if they think they've got something to gain.

Now you know the difference.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Memo To Joe da Plumber: The Cost Of Looking Good And Who Paid For It

Someone a lot smarter than me once said that clothes make the man-or, it seems, the First Woman In Waiting wannabe.

Politico informs us this day that the Republican National Committee has expended better than $150,000-that's right folks, 150 large-on fashion duds and accessories for Sarah Palin and probably First Dude In Waiting Todd. 

The tab at Saks Fifth Avenue was $49,425.74 and the tab at Neiman Marcus was a staggering $75,062.63 . There was also the small matter-a mere bagatelle, really- of $4,716.49 on hair and makeup.

The RNC, after initially stonewalling, said that they thought with all the problems facing the country it was silly talking about blouses and skirts, you see, and anyway the intent was to donate the stuff to charitable purposes. 

I don't know how the RNC proposes to recycle the makeup and haircuts, but necessity is, as they say, the mother of invention.

What's this have to do with Joe the Plumber?  Not a whole lot, but on the off chance that Joe's reading this blog instead of working in a crawlspace somewhere in Toledo running PVC pipe, I just thought he'd like to know where his campaign contributions went.

Oh....and Joe? You DO know who that Knee-grow fellow on Meet the Press was, don't you?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Quotations From Chairman Joe

Lately we've been hearing much made of a fellow named Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher, a/k/a Joe the Plumber. 

Parenthetically, I must confess that I am not among those who watched the last presidential debate, because I already have a pretty good idea of what the candidates stand for. You've got to remember this is Iowa, where we road test and sometimes proof test the crop of presidential wannabes and weed out the obvious losers for the rest of the country....where was I?

Oh yes. Joe the Plumber.  Much was made of Joe the Plumber by the McCain campaign.

The muzzle seems to be on the Pit Bull the last few days as the campaign desperately tries to shift public attention from last week's "Treason! Kill him!" rallies that would have made Julius Streicher proud. 

They went over like a turd in a punchbowl with the general public. That much is obvious.

Seems that this all started in Toledo, Ohio, where Joe Wurzelbacher, this week's 'man in the Clapham omnibus", asked Barack Obama a question about taxes that was more of a statement: 

"I want to buy a business and you're going to raise my taxes." 

And he's a very engaging, articulate fellow too, who looks pretty good on camera as well. 

But nevermind.

Joe said "You've really got to find out the facts." 

So we took him at his word. 

Here are some trenchant quotes. It's all on youtube, folks. Find out the facts.

Obama is a great speaker and I think a lot of people could get fooled by that.

My mind's been made up for a long time.

Social security's a joke. I have one set of parents and I don't need another. I hate that it's forced on me.

To take the money that I've worked for and redistribute it to other people who don't deserve it or haven't worked as hard as I have, that's the mark of socialism to redistribute wealth, that's what Karl Marx said.

Parenthetically, I guess this is why Joe owes $1100 or so in back taxes to Ohio that he hasn't paid. 

I had already heard his (Obama's) answer six or seven times.

I don't remember (registering with the Natural Law Party).

I’m kind of like Britney Spears having a headache. Everybody wants to know about it.

I don't like a lot of attention.


If Joe were to buy the plumbing business, AND it makes more than $250,000 a year in pure, unalloyed profit above expenses, AND he reports all of that as income, THEN the incremental tax rate increase would rise three per cent. 

But none of that has happened yet. Joe doesn't own the business and he hasn't made the $250,000-which the great majority of plumbers never do, either. He works for a guy who owns the business. 

It's a hypothetical construct, and if you buy the business and you can't figure a way to bury a niggling three per cent of the profits, you're no kind of a small businessman. 

Joe, people who make more than $250,000 per year have people on retainer who are tasked with making sure that they don't pay a penny more in taxes than they have to. They're called accountants. They get paid to do this sort of work, just like you get paid to glue together PVC pipe and sweat copper.

Now...Joe's a nice enough fellow who doesn't like attention, and it does seem as if it's been forced on him a little. 

We'll be listening to see what you've got to say on Mike Huckabee's radio show Saturday, Joe.

Does that sound like a man who doesn't like attention?

My prediction is that your fifteen minutes of fame will expire right after Meet the Press on Sunday.

Stay tuned.

Image courtesy of Speedy the Plumber. When pipe's being laid in Chicago, Speedy's da man.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nasty As They Wanna Be?

If everything that's been published on FOXNews is to be believed, the fact that the idiot pictured at left has the bad taste to wear this teeshirt, and others who've bought it showed up at Obama rallies ought to offset the offensive and dangerous tone of recent Palin and McCain rallies and the use of Obama's middle name by speakers sent out to warm up the crowd, redolent with arch suggestions of vast, Illuminati style conspiracies of negroes and Arabs.

There's a qualitative and quantitative distinction here that's so obvious it would leave a roomful of three year old toddlers shaking their little heads in dismay.

The one demonstrates only his appalling lack of class, taking a swipe at women generally-which is to be deplored by all. The cure for that is for his mother to wash his mouth out with laundry soap and personally apologize to the people he's offended starting with Governor Palin, who is entitled to the same modicum of respect that any other decent woman is.

I commend it to him-apologizing to the people you've offended is good for the soul and everyone should try it. 

The idiot also speaks only for himself.

The other? Well, that's a little different. Telling a large crowd of angry  people spoiling for a fight that someone's "not like one of us"  is an incitement to violence that Joe Vogler probably would have approved of. 

It's a world of difference. 

Now.....having said all that, people on the right side of the house are making much of the notion that this has not been reported in the mainstream media. And they're right. It hasn't.  Because I looked.

On the other hand, with Google, who in the hell needs the mainstream media anymore? I heard about it and every numbskull who can google "Sarah Palin Is A Cunt" would find exactly what I found.

So let me be the first to say it's offensive, nasty, and Barack Obama ought to reject the presence of such small minded people at his events. 

And that ought to happen the same day that McCain and Palin stop smirking when someone in the audience, prompted by the arch question "Who is the real Barack Obama?" yells out at the top of his lungs "Treason! Kill him!" and the same day that McCain and Palin start talking about what ails America and what they plan on doing to fix it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Death of a Conscience

The San Francisco Chronicle informs us this day....well, as Will Rogers once said "Everything I know I read in the newspapers"....where was I? Oh yes.

The Chronicle tells us that the McCain campaign has decided that it's time to change course yet again and start talking about things that are of importance to the great majority of Americans. In the immortal words of Bill Clinton "It's the economy, stupid!"

It seems to have sunk in with McCain's handlers that what people need and want to hear about is not homos marrying each other or babies being killed by Obama, it's not about whether Obama's an Arab as one lady in the McCain campaign seems to think, it's not about pitbulls in lipstick from north of Nowhere and what Obama and Bill Ayers thought about each other if they ever thought about each other at all, and it is not about every talk radio influenced  know-nothing paranoid who sees a huge negro Arab muslim conspiracy in Obama's middle name, for heaven's's the economy and what in the hell happened to it in the last year or so and all the money folks were counting on retiring with. 

It's also the larger question of how we got in this mess and who was responsible for getting us there. The writing's on the wall here, and it spells Republican led deregulation-which, unfortunately, the Clintons and the Democratic Leadership Conference had much to do with. 

We now have the answer to what would happen when we got government off the backs of the big money boys on Wall Street and in the banks and insurance activities.  It's a pretty damned ugly house of cards we and they built together.

Regulation without purpose is one thing, but regulation that promotes good order and stability is a conservative value that Edmund Burke, the father of them all, would recognize and approve of.

Let's make a distinction here. 

There's offensive stuff that gets the job done, and there's offensive stuff that is ineffective in changing people's minds about anything. It's of no value preaching to the lynch mobs who come to campaign rallies and shout "Treason! Kill him!" because they're convinced already. 

Simply stated, the campaign thus far has failed to see the distinction between offensiveness as a political tool and offensiveness for its own sake. McCain is guilty, like Icarus, of being willing to cast principle aside for wanting the presidency too much. 

Governor Palin probably does not understand the distinction at all, and she will probably turn out to be the biggest mistake of all for John McCain. 

In wanting it too much McCain turned away from the moderates and the opposition to pirouette before the brownshirts that inhabit his galleries and the Julius Streichers of talk radio and the Father Coughlins in the pulpit-of whom there are far too many these days. At times McCain seemed to check himself when the better angels of his nature asserted themselves, but it is the death struggle of a conscience perhaps. 

Governor Palin's conscience has never been known to be a deciding factor in anything she's done in the campaign thus far. Of her, Edmund Burke well could have been speaking when he said "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."

And let it be said, the moderates are still where the votes are.  

So there's a change afoot. Senator McCain used the word "fight" as a theme in his most recent reiteration of the stump speech, and he used it 15 or 16 times. Does that mean it'll do much of anything? Not if he and the Governor can't come up with something better and it may well be too late in the day.

This election is going to be a referendum on far more than whether America is willing to elect a black man to high office-it's going to be a referendum on what the next presidential campaign may look like and it's going to be a referendum on the Right in this country, and whether they've earned a place at the table with the rest of us.

Come to think of it, after the election's over we could do well to buy them all Greyhound tickets to points north-Point Barrow or Attu is nice this time of year and they'll be among fellow travelers, the likes of Joe Vogler and his acolytes. Together they can make foxhole radios out of pencil leads, razor blades and toilet paper rolls and tune in whatever it is they listen to up there.

Here's what E.J. Dionne said today, and it's worthy of quoting:

"McCain cannot be blamed for all of the crazies who see in Obama a chance to earn fame and fortune by concocting lies about him. And yes, we should defend the speech rights even of those whose views we find abhorrent.

But the angry McCain-Palin crowds, and particularly those who threaten violence or shout racist epithets, should be a wake-up call to McCain. The dark hints about Obama that McCain's campaign is dropping dovetail too nicely with the nasty trash floating around the Internet and the airwaves.

We are in the midst of what could become - and here's hoping it doesn't - the worst economic downturn in decades. The last thing we need is a campaign that strengthens fanaticism, tarnishes the authority of the next president, and whips up the worst kinds of prejudice. This works both ways: Obama should not be delegitimized if he wins, and McCain should not want to win in a way that would undermine his own capacity to lead....

McCain has an obligation, to his own legacy and the country he has served, to separate himself and his campaign from the kooks. Extremism in defense of liberty may be no vice, but extremism in pursuit of the presidency is as dysfunctional as it is degrading."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yes, Michelle, There Is A Problem.

A nice lady posted this not so nice sign in her yard and has earned her 15 minutes of fame on the nightly news here in Duh Moines earning her the ire of the local homeowner's association that has asked that she take it down. 

Here's what she said.

"I wanted to do something to spur people's conversation at the dinner table between each other, neighbor to neighbor to get people's attention."

On Tuesday, ******, a wife, mother and former marketing major, used her home computer to craft a bash on Obama's abortion stance: a sign calling Obama a "baby killer."

"Got on my PowerPoint and pulled off some art," she said.

Nobody's going to sit around the dinner table and say "Honey, please pass the three bean salad. Gee, we're really doing great with the 401k, aren't we? Obama's really a baby killer, isn't he, just like all the rest of those pesky Knee-Grows?"

They're far more likely to be sitting around the dinner table after the kids have been tucked in, saying to each other "Where in the hell are we going to get the dough to make the mortgage payment, the gas and electric, and send something on the Mastercard? Who can we stiff for another month? Do we really need to put $5 in the collection plate this Sunday?"

To paraphrase Francis P. Church, 

Yes, Michelle, there really is an economic crisis. It's far more important than some story made up to scare the dickens out of some people and to offend others with the sort of tripe that your standard bearers are dispensing like toxic turds along the campaign trail. 

Whirlpool is laying off 440 employees over in Amana next week. The stock market has shed 35 per cent of its value with no bottom in sight. This week the stock market set a record for values shed and number of shares dumped, all in one week, the like of which we haven't seen since 1929. And this morning as I write, the market's down another couple hundred points.

Banks aren't lending money because they can't get any. Business is starting to feel the pinch. 

Mortgage foreclosures and forced evictions are on the rise all across the country. The Des Moines Register carries three or four pages of foreclosure notices nearly every day.

The Polk County Sheriff has scheduled no less than 113 foreclosure auctions of homes in the next month. 

Some of these foreclosures and evictions have taken place right in your own neighborhood. Do you recognize the names Yousufani, Acherman, Hoang, Schira, Belanger, Millard, Larson, Brodeur, Cahill, Christensen, Hyland, Warner and Bunda? That's right, those are people who used to be your neighbors right there in Ankeny until they lost their homes in the last few months and were evicted.

But don't you worry about a thing. We may all live in dumpsters and eat out of garbage cans for the next forty years, but we'll be damn sure that Obama doesn't kill any babies in our town. 

A Nation of Whiners or Crime Victims?

Back in July, Phil Gramm gave an interview with the Washington Times in which he opined that...well, I'll let him speak for himself:

"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

"We've never been more dominant; we've never had more natural advantages than we have today," he said. "We have benefited greatly" from the globalization of the economy in the last 30 years.

Mr. Gramm said the constant drubbing of the media on the economy's problems is one reason people have lost confidence. Various surveys show that consumer confidence has fallen precipitously this year to the lowest levels in two to three decades, with most analysts attributing that to record high gasoline prices over $4 a gallon and big drops in the value of homes, which are consumers' biggest assets.

"Misery sells newspapers," Mr. Gramm said. "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."

I've got news for you Phil. It's not as bad as you read in the newspapers-it's worse.

To give credit where it's due, John McCain did try and distance himself from Gramm in theruckus that followed.

So where's Phil Gramm now?

Oh.....he's an investment banker with UBS.

And how's UBS doing since July? Well, they're probably a company of whiners.

UBS is cutting 2,000 jobs, they've lost $42 billion on toxic loans, they're restructuring themselves and their share price has declined about 25 per cent since June.

For the historically minded, Gramm may well be the single key man who caused us all to become such a bunch of whingers. After all, he slipped the Commodity Futures Modernization Act into an omnubus spending bill, and this statute prohibited the regulation of credit default swaps.

Here's what Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post says:

"As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee during the Clinton administration, (Gramm) consistently underfunded the Securities and Exchange Commission and kept it from stopping accounting firms from auditing corporations with which they had conflicts of interest.

Gramm's piece de resistance came on Dec. 15, 2000, when he slipped into an omnibus spending bill a provision called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA), which prohibited any governmental regulation of credit default swaps, those insurance policies covering losses on securities in the event they went belly up. As the housing bubble ballooned, the face value of those swaps rose to a tidy $62 trillion. 

And as the housing bubble burst, those swaps became a massive pile of worthless paper, because no government agency had required the banks to set aside money to back them up.

The CFMA also prohibited government regulation of the energy-trading market, which enabled Enron to nearly bankrupt the state of California before bankrupting itself."

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Who's Holding the Bag For The Banks?

 We're reliably informed that Senator McCain has decided on a plan of relief for people who are upside down on their mortgages.

The plan's simple. The Federal Government would buy up all these toxic mortgages, to the tune of $300 billion or more.

"B-b-but Sparky!" you say, "Doesn't that show the Senator c-c-cares?"

Of course. 

He cares about the bankers, because what that would do is allow them to slink off with their big fat bonus checks and get paid face value for the loans they made while you and I hold the bag for the toxic mortgages they wrote. 

Fact is, that'd also mean every Joe and Jane Doaks who live in a crummy apartment across the tracks owned by an unsympathetic landlord, who never have had a shot at owning the roof over their heads, and every other person who's paid their bills, lived modestly and scraped up a down payment for their little slice of la dolce vita. 

Rather than being a bailout, it's a pork barrel for the banks, their shady mortgage brokers, and their wastrel clients who would reap a windfall the likes of which old Croesus could only dream about.

And we haven't even talked about how it'd be paid for.

The Gauleiter of Wasilla

We're reliably informed that the tenor of carefully scripted Sarah Palin tubthumpers is taking on something of a nasty turn, with the audience responding to the Gauleiter's intemperate remarks with the usual hoots and catcalls, shouts of "Treason!" and in one memorable instance, "Kill him!". 

All of this was in an effort to demonize Senator Obama by associating his name with that of William Ayers, a person with a nasty past that Obama had a passing acquaintance with.

Nothing happens by accident on the campaign trail, but this is new and desperate stuff from what used to be the party of Lincoln and Grant. 

Now. We here at the Dougloid Towers generally try to take the high road, but we're wondering, if the pot is calling the kettle nasty names, maybe it's time to look at the pot a little closer.

Mrs. Palin has more than a passing acquaintance with the Alaska Independence Party. She addressed their convention via a videotape this last March. Far from taking them to task, her address was rather chatty. Is this a person who's uninterested in the things that AIP members think are important?

None of that would be news, except for the rather unsavory founders of that organization and the positions they've taken.  

Their platform speaks for itself. It's an assemblage of posse comitatus positions that'd look right at home at the next Freemen's Kommon Law Konvention. 

AIP founder Joe Vogler was known to have observed "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. And I won't be buried under their damn flag. I'll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home." 

Joe Vogler also assumed room temperature back in 1993 at the hands of one Manfried West in an unsuccessful effort to buy a large quantity of plastique. Of course that wasn't quite heroic enough for the Party, which has concluded that Vogler was actually assassinated by the U.S. Government.

Joe was, in fact, as good as his word and was buried in Dawson, over Canada way. The soil here in America smells a little sweeter for it, and how the Canadians ever got talked into playing host to Joe's remains is beyond me.

Their current Chair and Vice Chair attended the second Secession Convention held in Tennessee in 2007. Here's a bit of dialog from the current vice chair that outlines some of their"policies".

Also, if you can stand it, you can listen to hours and hours of
Joe Vogler's maunderings, which, in fact, seem to be historically challenged at times. 

Give ear to the segment on how he came to Alaska. Consider also, when you listen to his version of history that when the events occurred that Joe seems to think precipitated the Pacific war happened, the Japanese fleet had already set sail from on their mission to destroy the American fleet, which action had been preapproved by the Tojo government at an Imperial conference on September 6, 1941. It's a matter of historic record. 

Joe was simply wrong.

If Sarah Palin has a license to savage Obama for his past associations the people of this country have the absolute right to inquire as to her past association with a secessionist political party and her frequent contacts with it, up to and including her video address to their Konvention this year.

But there's more. Mr. And Mrs. Clark, the leaders of the AIP, were more than happy to claim Sarah Palin as a member-that is, until details of Palin's connection began to emerge. Jake Tapper of ABC News says that the Clarks were in error when they claimed her as a member. 

But it's passing strange that the Clarks first discovered the error of their ways after this mess blew up in Palin's face. 

Here's what George Clark said at the AIP convention in March of this year: Palin "was an AIP member before she got the job as a mayor of a small town –- that was a non-partisan job.  But you get along to go along -– she eventually joined the Republican Party, where she had all kinds of problems with their ethics, and well, I won’t go into that.  She also had about an 80 percent approval rating, and is pretty well sympathetic to her former membership."

That sounds unequivocal and not exactly something a person would be uninformed about.

Mrs. Clark told ABC News on September 1 of this year  that Palin and her husband Todd were members in 1994, even attending the 1994 statewide convention in Wasilla. Clark was AIP secretary at the time. Clark has since recanted, blaming the entire contretemps on an unidentified person who misinformed her. 

That also sounds unequivocal.

At the very least, the connection's far more than casual, particularly the murky agenda of the AIP.

Seems that there's an episode of A&E's excellent series City Confidential that deals with the untimely demise of Joe Vogler. I've ordered my copy.

The Hand On The Switch

We're informed by a gentleman in the country of impeccable reputation that the Governor of Alaska, Mrs. Palin, was in the habit of using a yahoo email account to communicate all sorts of information, some sensitive, some not, some personal, and some job related. 
We're also informed that some young fellow hacked her yahoo account, which as it turns out was painfully easy to do and took him only a few minutes of astute guesswork. It may be a record, although hacking my supervisor's password at a former job was also painfully easy. 

The haul of Mrs. Palin's dirty laundry was thereupon posted on the web for all the world to see and marvel at. Or, scratch their heads, whichever you prefer.

All of which raises two points of information that may be instructive.

The expectation of privacy in such matters is pretty near nil, at least with those things that are related to her job at the time. 
And you could, if you were interested, file a FOIA request or whatever Alaska has that's equivalent  and get that information.

Although I think that what this hacker did was distasteful and perhaps punishable in the courts, that's ancient history at this point. I've no interest at all in reading Mrs. Palin's pillow talk or recipes for mooseburgers.

What the whole silly episode points out loud and clear is this. I really wouldn't want anyone with that tenuous a grasp on the notion of information security or the willingness to commit important business to a public information channel to occupy high office. 

Of course, people who are elected officials are not expected to know everything, but they are expected to surround themselves with the best and most well informed subject matter experts available. 

Was anyone in her retinue smart enough to say "Hey Gov,  Yahoo email is not secure and you have an official state email account anyway."? 

If they did, did she listen?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fear of An Obama Planet

Did you ever wonder why the closer water gets to the drain the harder it swirls? It's as if it knows what's coming.

That seems to be the story on the Straight Trash Express these days. And the Commander seems to be losing his grip, referring to Obama as "that one" and treating a black man who asked a question at the recent debate as something of a low grade moron: "I'll bet you haven't heard of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac." The contempt is palpable.

Sarah Palin, self professed pitbull in lipstick has been active as well, and her rallies in Florida and other places, well stocked with fellow travelers and stage managed to a fault (because nothing happens by accident on the campaign trail), have greeted her use of Obama's name with hoots of derision, cries of treason! and in one memorable case "Kill him!" 

I've usually got something smart to say but here, I'm just stunned. 

Is this what the party of Lincoln became? Do these people think that this is going to win them an election?

We've got a ways to go here, but I'm calling this one. Stick a fork in the Straight Talk Express and send the pitbull back to the dog pound.