September 2008 Archives

The era of American dominance is over

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locomotive.jpgThere's a lot of momentum left in the American economic locomotive even after this recent financial train wreck, but things are never going to be quite the same.

Rome went on for some time after its heyday, but still it fell and dispersed. The global financial crisis will see the US falter in the same way the Soviet Union did when the Berlin Wall came down.

So it goes.


A shattering moment in America's fall from power



John Gray - The Observer

Our gaze might be on the markets melting down, but the upheaval we are experiencing is more than a financial crisis, however large. Here is a historic geopolitical shift, in which the balance of power in the world is being altered irrevocably. The era of American global leadership, reaching back to the Second World War, is over.

You can see it in the way America's dominion has slipped away in its own backyard, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez taunting and ridiculing the superpower with impunity. Yet the setback of America's standing at the global level is even more striking. With the nationalisation of crucial parts of the financial system, the American free-market creed has self-destructed while countries that retained overall control of markets have been vindicated. In a change as far-reaching in its implications as the fall of the Soviet Union, an entire model of government and the economy has collapsed.

Ever since the end of the Cold War, successive American administrations have lectured other countries on the necessity of sound finance. Indonesia, Thailand, Argentina and several African states endured severe cuts in spending and deep recessions as the price of aid from the International Monetary Fund, which enforced the American orthodoxy. China in particular was hectored relentlessly on the weakness of its banking system. But China's success has been based on its consistent contempt for Western advice and it is not Chinese banks that are currently going bust. How symbolic yesterday that Chinese astronauts take a spacewalk while the US Treasury Secretary is on his knees.

Despite incessantly urging other countries to adopt its way of doing business, America has always had one economic policy for itself and another for the rest of the world. Throughout the years in which the US was punishing countries that departed from fiscal prudence, it was borrowing on a colossal scale to finance tax cuts and fund its over-stretched military commitments. Now, with federal finances critically dependent on continuing large inflows of foreign capital, it will be the countries that spurned the American model of capitalism that will shape America's economic future.

Humor to Tell the Truth

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How We Became the United States of France

By Bill Saporito

This is the state of our great republic: We've nationalized the financial system, taking control from Wall Street bankers we no longer trust. We're about to quasi-nationalize the Detroit auto companies via massive loans because they're a source of American pride, and too many jobs -- and votes -- are at stake. Our Social Security system is going broke as we head for a future where too many retirees will be supported by too few workers. How long before we have national healthcare? Put it all together, and the America that emerges is a cartoonish version of the country most despised by red-meat red-state patriots: France. Only with worse food.



Admit it, mes amis, the rugged individualism and cutthroat capitalism that made America the land of unlimited opportunity has been shrink-wrapped by a half dozen short sellers in Greenwich, Conn. and FedExed to Washington D.C. to be spoon-fed back to life by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. We're now no different from any of those Western European semi-socialist welfare states that we love to deride. Italy? Sure, it's had four governments since last Thursday, but none of them would have allowed this to go on; the Italians know how to rig an economy.

You just know the Frogs have only increased their disdain for us, if that is indeed possible. And why shouldn't they? The average American is working two and half jobs, gets two weeks off, and has all the employment security of a one-armed trapeze artist. The Bush Administration has preached the "ownership society" to America: own your house, own your retirement account; you don't need the government in your way. So Americans mortgaged themselves to the hilt to buy overpriced houses they can no longer afford and signed up for 401k programs that put money where, exactly? In the stock market! Where rich Republicans fleeced them.

An Unacceptable Proposal

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That's what economist Paul Krugman is calling the Paulson bailout scheme.

He also echoes caution I called for in my last post:

"I'd urge Congress to pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and try to seriously rework the structure of the plan, making it a plan that addresses the real problem. Don't let yourself be railroaded -- if this plan goes through in anything like its current form, we'll all be very sorry in the not-too-distant future."



bailout.jpgCash for Trash

by Paul Krugman

Some skeptics are calling Henry Paulson's $700 billion rescue plan for the U.S. financial system "cash for trash." Others are calling the proposed legislation the Authorization for Use of Financial Force, after the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the infamous bill that gave the Bush administration the green light to invade Iraq.

There's justice in the gibes. Everyone agrees that something major must be done. But Mr. Paulson is demanding extraordinary power for himself -- and for his successor -- to deploy taxpayers' money on behalf of a plan that, as far as I can see, doesn't make sense.

Some are saying that we should simply trust Mr. Paulson, because he's a smart guy who knows what he's doing. But that's only half true: he is a smart guy, but what, exactly, in the experience of the past year and a half -- a period during which Mr. Paulson repeatedly declared the financial crisis "contained," and then offered a series of unsuccessful fixes -- justifies the belief that he knows what he's doing? He's making it up as he goes along, just like the rest of us.

So let's try to think this through for ourselves. I have a four-step view of the financial crisis:

  1. The bursting of the housing bubble has led to a surge in defaults and foreclosures, which in turn has led to a plunge in the prices of mortgage-backed securities -- assets whose value ultimately comes from mortgage payments.
  2. These financial losses have left many financial institutions with too little capital -- too few assets compared with their debt. This problem is especially severe because everyone took on so much debt during the bubble years.
  3. Because financial institutions have too little capital relative to their debt, they haven't been able or willing to provide the credit the economy needs.
  4. Financial institutions have been trying to pay down their debt by selling assets, including those mortgage-backed securities, but this drives asset prices down and makes their financial position even worse. This vicious circle is what some call the "paradox of deleveraging."
  5. The Paulson plan calls for the federal government to buy up $700 billion worth of troubled assets, mainly mortgage-backed securities. How does this resolve the crisis?




Like Spoiled Brats in the Wings

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"The Bush administration proposal could be the largest government bailout of private industry in the nation's history, and it calls for nearly unfettered powers to the Treasury secretary. There is intense pressure to pass a rescue measure quickly because the markets remain jittery..."

So frigging what?

Who exactly is jittery? Are you? I'm not.

Who are these market people anyway? Do you even know any?

I say let them jitter while a solid reasonable plan is worked out rather than this hyped $700 billion quick fix for the money junkies who have ripped us all off trying to feed their greed habit.

What are the BushCo people like Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson who've been racing from news program to news program screaming "the sky is falling" trying to pull of here?

You think all all these banks and investors are just going to walk away if nothing is forth coming in a week or two? Congress needs to take a hard look and get some serious questions asked before they had Paulson the same sort of carte blanche they gave George Bush 7 years ago. Look where he took it.

The legislation being put forward to congress even has a statement in the header that disallows any court review of the legislation after the fact. How is that necessary and what about the role of the Supreme Court? Why is that even being put in?

What about penalties for the corruption that got us here? That's even being pooh-poohed as irrelevant to the need for a "quick and clean" action by congress to bail the suckers out. That's how the the Patriot Act got railroaded through...same hype.

There's some serious stink going on here and congress would do well to ferret it out before signing on to such a massive outlay of taxpayer money. I can't help but see this as a nefarious plot on the part of conservatives to hamstring the next administration. Creating so much deficit that any social programs will be hard pressed to be funded. Cynical...yeah, so are they.

Calling Paulson's Bluff

by Robert Kuttner

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson spent the past two weeks playing a game of chicken with firms like Lehman Brothers and A.I.G. Now he is playing even higher-stakes chicken with Congress and the economy.

Paulson's storyline is that the credit markets are frozen, and unless Congress passes a "clean bill" -- his way -- disaster lies ahead. He spent a busy Sunday morning on the talk shows ducking questions on what would happen if Congress didn't act -- and what might still happen if it did.

One senior Congressional Democrat told me, "They have a gun to our heads." Paulson behaved as if he held all the cards, but in fact the Democrats have a lot of cards, too. The question is whether they have the nerve to challenge major flaws in Paulson's plan as a condition of enacting it.

Paulson also faces serious defections in Republican ranks, with several key senators and congressmen resisting a bailout of this scale. Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, speaking on CBS's Face the Nation, flatly blamed the crisis on greed and deregulation, and questioned the terms of Paulson's plan.

Paulson's bill would give him carte blanche to spend up to $700 billion over the next 24 months to buy toxic securities from financial firms. This presumably would "unclog" capital markets, the financial economy would begin functioning normally again, and then the government would recoup what it could.

The plan is outrageous on several levels. It demands nothing from these firms in return. It holds the Treasury Secretary accountable to no one. And it extends the most generous terms to Wall Street while offering nothing to Main Street.

House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, speaking Sunday morning on "Face the Nation," gave the flavor of what Democrats will demand, if they hang tough: An economic stimulus to go with the Wall Street bailout; more refinancing help for borrowers; and some limits on windfall gains to corporate executives. These provisions would improve the bill, and Democrats would win either way: if they were included, more help would be on the way to working families. If they lost, and the bill passed without these provisions, it would make crystal clear the difference between the parties.

Ideally, the Democrats should go even further.

Such as:


The gutting of a delusion

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The one good thing that is going to come from the meltdown of the financial market, is that the magical belief that the market works best when it is left alone to self regulate has been exposed and proven now to be a myth.

The quasi-religious unfettered free market ideal pushed by conservatives for the last 30 years is a smoking heap of delusional rubble. Hopefully this will allow Americans to get over their kneejerk reaction to socialism as a practical economic form and more mixed and sane economy will arise from the ashes.

Another hope is that this disaster will spell the end of the predatory and unfettered capitalist regime that has brought such ruin.

Great article on this disaster:

The Wall Street Model: Unintelligent Design

By Pam Martens

Wall Street is collapsing not because of bad mortgage debt or lack of capital or over-leverage. Those are merely symptoms. Wall Street is collapsing because it deserves to collapse; it needs to collapse in order for America to survive. The economist Joseph Schumpeter called it creative destruction, a system where outdated models collapse to make room for new innovation.

Wall Street of the past decade never really had a business model as much as it had a business creed: greed is good; leveraged greed is even better.

The fact that Wall Street is collapsing is a given. How it survived as long as it did under its corrupted model is the question that will be debated in history books for the next generation.

For example, imagine a business model that bases remuneration to brokers on how much money they make for their Wall Street employer and not one dime for how well their customers' portfolios perform. A Wall Street broker receives remuneration that rises from approximately 30 to 50 per cent of the gross commission based on their cumulative trading commissions with zero regard to how well the clients' accounts have done. There is no acknowledged internal mechanism in any of the major Wall Street firms to gauge the overall success of the accounts the broker is managing.

The industry has been irreconcilably incentivized to corruption just as brokers have been socialized to silence. The reason we are seeing a stampede this week into U.S. Treasury securities is that much of this money belonged there in the first place, not in esoteric mortgage backed securities, junk bonds, commodity funds or annuities backed by AIG. Brokers put their clients "safe money" in these unsuitable investments because their Wall Street employer dangled a seductive financial inducement. A broker receives less than $1,000 in gross commissions ("gross" meaning before their firm takes their 50 to 70 per cent cut) on $100,000 of longer dated Treasuries. Putting that same $100,000 in a junk bond or mortgage-backed security or annuity could generate $3,000 or more. In other words, the financial incentive has created an artificial demand. And, as must inevitably happen, the true state of that demand is just now catching up with the true glut of supply.

What would be the incentive for Wall Street firms to offer higher commissions for some products over others?



The Fiscally Insane Bailout Bill Might Not Pass

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Here Are 5 Reasons It Shouldn't

By David Sirota

There was news Sunday afternoon of a congressional deal to bailout Wall Street fat cats with $700 billion of taxpayer cash (you can read the draft legislation here). Though the deal negotiated between congressional leaders and the White House is better than what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson originally proposed early last week, it remains an insulting atrocity, having omitted even basic aid to homeowners, bankruptcy reforms and any modicum of future financial industry regulation. Now, the New York Times reports that the Democratic leadership may not have the votes to pass this bailout. So without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons (in no order) why every single member of Congress -- Democrat and Republican -- should vote this sucker down. Please feel free to copy and paste this post into an email to your congressperson. They are deciding right now -- let them hear your voice.

1.This Bailout's Inherent Fiscal Insanity Could Make Problem Worse

When an individual consumer uses a new credit card to pay off astounding debt from an old credit card, it's akin to check kiting, which is is illegal. Apparently, though, when the government does it, it's billed as Serious Public Policy. Because that's what this supposedly prudent bailout bill would do: Force taxpayers to borrow $700 billion from foreign banks to pay off the bad debt of Wall Street banks. During a crisis that is aimed at preventing interest rates from skyrocketing, nobody has been able to explain how adding almost a trillion dollars to the interest rate-exacerbating national debt would do anything other than undermine the plan's underlying objective. Worse, the U.S. Treasury Department itself admits that the $700 billion number is "not based on any particular data point" -- that is, they created it out of thin air because "We just wanted to choose a really large number." Slapping that amount of money onto the national credit card when our government can't even justify the amount is beyond absurd -- it is insane.

It didn't have to be this way, of course. As I noted in my newspaper column this week, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a temporary tax on millionaires to finance part of this bailout. Similarly, Blue Dog Democrats proposed a future tax on financial firms if and when taxpayers lose cash on the deal. These proposals were discarded in favor of language asking the government to "submit a plan to Congress on how to recoup any losses," according to the Associated Press. Not only is that language toothless, but it opens up the possibility of a plan being submitted that says we should raise middle-class taxes or slash middle-class social programs to pay for Wall Street's misbehavior.

2. Experts on both the left and right say this bailout could make things worse

Primum non nocere is the latin phrase for "first do no harm" -- the priority principle for any EMT working on a sick patient. It should be the same priority for Congress at this moment -- and a growing group of esteemed experts on both the Right and Left are insisting that this bailout bill could make things worse. Here's a review:

  • The Washington Post reported on Friday, almost 200 academic economists "have signed a petition organized by a University of Chicago professor objecting to the plan on the grounds that it could create perverse incentives, that it is too vague and that its long-run effects are unclear."
  • NYU's Nouriel Roubini, the visionary who had been predicting this meltdown, says "The Treasury plan (even in its current version agreed with Congress) is very poorly conceived and does not contain many of the key elements of a sound and efficient and fair rescue plan."
  • Harvard's Ken Rogoff, a Former Federal Rerserve and IMF official, insists that the prospect of this bailout is, unto itself, taking a manageable problem and making it into a more intense crisis. He says that credit is frozen primarily because banks want to avoid dealing with other banks that might drive a hard bargain, and instead would rather wait for free money from the government. Without the prospect of that free money, Rogoff suggests that credit would probably begin moving again, if slowly.
  • Dean Baker of the Center on Economic and Policy Research says that spending so much cash so quickly on such a poorly conceived plan could have the effect of making it impossible to fund economic stimulus that is the real way out of this mess. "Suppose the Paulson plan goes through," he writes. "It is virtually certain that the economy will weaken further and the number of foreclosures and people without jobs will continue to rise. This is the fallout from a collapsing housing bubble...When families respond to their loss of home equity by cutting back their consumption it will deepen the recession. In this context it might prove very important to have the resources needed to provide a substantial stimulus. [and] there is no doubt that this bailout will make further stimulus much more difficult to sell politically."

Meanwhile, it's not even close to clear that this is a problem that requires such an enormous response. As mentioned above, the Treasury Department admits it has absolutely no factual basis for requesting $700 billion -- an amount equivalent to about 5 percent of our entire economy. Additionally, the Washington Post reports that "Banks throughout the United States carried on with the business of making loans yesterday even as federal officials warned again that their industry is on the verge of collapse, suggesting that the overheated language on Capitol Hill may not reflect the reality on many Main Streets." Indeed, "many smaller banks said they were actually benefiting from the problems on Wall Street" and "even some of the nation's largest banks, which have pushed hard for a federal bailout, deny that the current situation is forcing them to reduce lending."

The questions, then, are simple: In the face of this bipartisan opposition from objective experts, why should a lawmaker instead believe the same Bush officials who helped create this crisis with their deregulation, the same Bush officials who just months ago said everything was AOK? Shouldn't there be almost complete unanimity among both objective and partisan observers before spending 5 percent of our entire economy after just one harried week of White House demands? Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. It's time, as The Who said, that we "don't get fooled again."

Break's Over, Obama

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Seeking a President Who Gives Goose Bumps? So's Obama.

By Maureen Dowd

Now that he's finally fired up on the soup-line economy, Barack Obama knows he can't fade out again. He was eager to talk privately to a Democratic ex-president who could offer more fatherly wisdom -- not to mention a surreptitious smoke -- and less fraternal rivalry. I called the "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin (yes, truly) to get a read-out of the meeting. This is his account:



BARACK OBAMA knocks on the front door of a 300-year-old New Hampshire farmhouse while his Secret Service detail waits in the driveway. The door opens and OBAMA is standing face to face with former President JED BARTLET.

BARTLET Senator.

OBAMA Mr. President.

BARTLET You seem startled.

OBAMA I didn't expect you to answer the door yourself.

BARTLET I didn't expect you to be getting beat by John McCain and a Lancôme rep who thinks "The Flintstones" was based on a true story, so let's call it even.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET Come on in.

BARTLET leads OBAMA into his study.

BARTLET That was a hell of a convention.

OBAMA Thank you, I was proud of it.

BARTLET I meant the Republicans. The Us versus Them-a-thon. As a Democrat I was surprised to learn that I don't like small towns, God, people with jobs or America. I've been a little out of touch but is there a mandate that the vice president be skilled at field dressing a moose --

OBAMA Look --

BARTLET -- and selling Air Force Two on eBay?

OBAMA Joke all you want, Mr. President, but it worked.

BARTLET Imagine my surprise. What can I do for you, kid?

OBAMA I'm interested in your advice.

BARTLET I can't give it to you.

OBAMA Why not?

BARTLET I'm supporting McCain.

OBAMA Why?

BARTLET He's promised to eradicate evil and that was always on my "to do" list.

OBAMA O.K. --

BARTLET And he's surrounded himself, I think, with the best possible team to get us out of an economic crisis. Why, Sarah Palin just said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had "gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers." Can you spot the error in that statement?

OBAMA Yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren't funded by taxpayers.

BARTLET Well, at least they are now. Kind of reminds you of the time Bush said that Social Security wasn't a government program. He was only off by a little -- Social Security is the largest government program.

OBAMA I appreciate your sense of humor, sir, but I really could use your advice.

BARTLET Well, it seems to me your problem is a lot like the problem I had twice.

OBAMA Which was?

BARTLET A huge number of Americans thought I thought I was superior to them.

OBAMA And?

BARTLET I was.

OBAMA I mean, how did you overcome that?

BARTLET I won't lie to you, being fictional was a big advantage.

OBAMA What do you mean?

BARTLET I'm a fictional president. You're dreaming right now, Senator.

OBAMA I'm asleep?

BARTLET Yes, and you're losing a ton of white women.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET I mean tons.

OBAMA I understand.

BARTLET I didn't even think there were that many white women.

OBAMA I see the numbers, sir. What do they want from me?

BARTLET I've been married to a white woman for 40 years and I still don't know what she wants from me.

OBAMA How did you do it?

BARTLET Well, I say I'm sorry a lot.

OBAMA I don't mean your marriage, sir. I mean how did you get America on your side?

BARTLET There again, I didn't have to be president of America, I just had to be president of the people who watched "The West Wing."

OBAMA That would make it easier.

BARTLET You'd do very well on NBC. Thursday nights in the old "ER" time slot with "30 Rock" as your lead-in, you'd get seven, seven-five in the demo with a 20, 22 share -- you'd be selling $450,000 minutes.

OBAMA What the hell does that mean?

BARTLET TV talk. I thought you'd be interested.

OBAMA I'm not. They pivoted off the argument that I was inexperienced to the criticism that I'm -- wait for it -- the Messiah, who, by the way, was a community organizer. When I speak I try to lead with inspiration and aptitude. How is that a liability?

BARTLET Because the idea of American exceptionalism doesn't extend to Americans being exceptional. If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song. The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it.

OBAMA You're saying race doesn't have anything to do with it?

BARTLET I wouldn't go that far. Brains made me look arrogant but they make you look uppity. Plus, if you had a black daughter --

OBAMA I have two.

BARTLET -- who was 17 and pregnant and unmarried and the father was a teenager hoping to launch a rap career with "Thug Life" inked across his chest, you'd come in fifth behind Bob Barr, Ralph Nader and a ficus.

OBAMA You're not cheering me up.

BARTLET Is that what you came here for?

OBAMA No, but it wouldn't kill you.

BARTLET Have you tried doing a two-hour special or a really good Christmas show?

OBAMA Sir --

BARTLET Hang on. Home run. Right here. Is there any chance you could get Michelle pregnant before the fall sweeps?

OBAMA The problem is we can't appear angry. Bush called us the angry left. Did you see anyone in Denver who was angry?

BARTLET Well ... let me think. ...We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family's less safe than it was eight years ago, we've lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know ... I'm a little angry.

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that's what they are. Sarah Palin didn't say "thanks but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said "Thanks." You were raised by a single mother on food stamps -- where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I'd ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you're at it, I want the word "patriot" back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn't know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can't do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie -- the truth isn't their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they've earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It's not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It's not bad enough she's forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It's not enough that a woman shouldn't have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist's baby too? I don't know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she's got the qualifications of one. And you're worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

OBAMA Good to get that off your chest?

BARTLET Am I keeping you from something?

OBAMA Well, it's not as if I didn't know all of that and it took you like 20 minutes to say.

BARTLET I know, I have a problem, but admitting it is the first step.

OBAMA What's the second step?

BARTLET I don't care.

OBAMA So what about hope? Chuck it for outrage and put-downs?

BARTLET No. You're elite, you can do both. Four weeks ago you had the best week of your campaign, followed -- granted, inexplicably -- by the worst week of your campaign. And you're still in a statistical dead heat. You're a 47-year-old black man with a foreign-sounding name who went to Harvard and thinks devotion to your country and lapel pins aren't the same thing and you're in a statistical tie with a war hero and a Cinemax heroine. To these aged eyes, Senator, that's what progress looks like. You guys got four debates. Get out of my house and go back to work.

OBAMA Wait, what is it you always used to say? When you hit a bump on the show and your people were down and frustrated? You'd give them a pep talk and then you'd always end it with something. What was it ...?

BARTLET "Break's over."

Incompetence and Greed to the Max

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Bush wants OK to spend $700B

OK, buy out the whole financial sector and nationalize it all, including the banks. Force the CEO's of these companies to work at government wages until they clean up the mess they created or they go to jail. Claw back their multi-million dollar parachutes and sell their estates. Hang onto the assets until a profit is made by government and slowly return the assets to the private sector once a well tuned regulatory scheme has been put in place. Put a freeze on all mortgage defaults until they can be renegotiated.



Incredible! This changes everything.

from slashdot

jaimevaldez.jpg12-year-old William Yuan's invention of a highly-efficient, three-dimensional nanotube solar cell for visible and ultraviolet light has won him an award and a $25,000 scholarship from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. 'Current solar cells are flat and can only absorb visible light'" Yuan said.



'I came up with an innovative solar cell that absorbs both visible and UV light. My project focused on finding the optimum solar cell to further increase the light absorption and efficiency and design a nanotube for light-electricity conversion efficiency.' Solar panels with his 3D cells would provide 500 times more light absorption than commercially-available solar cells and nine times more than cutting-edge 3D solar cells. 'My next step is to talk to manufacturers to see if they will build a working prototype,' Yuan said. "If the design works in a real test stage, I want to find a company to manufacture and market it."

Socialism for the Rich

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Though not for the average person.

Explain to me how this is not the largest rip-off of the common wealth in history?

The market is nothing but a pyramid scheme at this point.

New bailout planned

The federal government, in what may be its most far-reaching attempt yet to contain the financial crisis, is poised to establish a program to let banks get rid of mortgage-related assets that have been hard to value and harder to trade.

Leaders from the House and the Senate were briefed on Thursday evening by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

"The root cause of distress in capital markets is the real estate correction and what's going on in terms of the price declines in real estate," Paulson said at a press briefing after the meeting. "So we're coming together to work for an expeditious solution aimed right at the heart of this problem, which is illiquid assets on financial institutions' balance sheets."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said lawmakers expected to get the proposal from Treasury in a matter of hours.

"We hope to move very quickly - time is of the essence," Pelosi said.

Paulson, Bernanke and other officials expect to work through the weekend with congressional leaders to finalize a plan, said Brookly McLaughlin, a Treasury spokeswoman.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said he believes legislation could be acted on next week.

The announcement is the latest stunning turn in an extraordinary six days that have rocked Wall Street. A widening banking crisis has toppled two major firms - Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch - and prompted an $85 billion government loan to stem the sudden collapse of insurance giant American International Group.

Meanwhile, mainstay financial institutions are scrambling to raise cash or find merger partners - because of a freeze-up in lending and sinking investor confidence stemming from a collapse of the home mortgage market.

Where's Robespierre When You Need Him?

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Need a Job? $17,000 an Hour. No Success Required

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Are you capable of taking a perfectly good 158-year-old company and turning it into dust? If so, then you may not be earning up to your full potential.

You should be raking it in like Richard Fuld, the longtime chief of Lehman Brothers. He took home nearly half-a-billion dollars in total compensation between 1993 and 2007.

Last year, Mr. Fuld earned about $45 million, according to the calculations of Equilar, an executive pay research company. That amounts to roughly $17,000 an hour to obliterate a firm. If you're willing to drive a company into the ground for less, apply by calling Lehman Brothers at (212) 526-7000.

Oh, nevermind.

I'm delighted to announce that Mr. Fuld (who continues to lead Lehman since it entered bankruptcy proceedings this week) is the winner of my annual Michael Eisner Award for corporate rapacity and poor corporate governance. The award honors the pioneering achievements in this field of Mr. Eisner, the former Walt Disney chief.

This isn't a plaque that will simply gather dust in a closet. It's a shower curtain to commemorate the $6,000 one that the former C.E.O. of Tyco purchased and billed to his shareholders.

So, Mr. Fuld, you'll be pleased to know that I've picked out a lovely green vinyl number for you. Only $14.99! Why, I saved you $5,985!

Perhaps it seems frivolous to be handing out shower curtains to chief executives when we're caught in a deepening economic crisis. Well, it is.

But one of our broad national problems is rising inequality, and it is exacerbated by corporate executives helping themselves to shareholders' cash. Three decades ago, C.E.O.'s typically earned 30 to 40 times the income of ordinary workers. Last year, C.E.O.'s of large public companies averaged 344 times the average pay of workers.

John McCain seems to think that the problem is that C.E.O.'s are greedy. Well, of course, they are. We're all greedy. The real failure is one of corporate governance, which provides only the flimsiest oversight to curb the greed of executives like Mr. Fuld.

"Compare the massive destruction of wealth for shareholders to what he gets at the end of the day," said Lucian Bebchuk, the director of the corporate governance program at Harvard Law School. A central flaw of governance is that boards of directors frequently are ornamental and provide negligible oversight.

As Warren Buffett has said, "in judging whether corporate America is serious about reforming itself, C.E.O. pay remains the acid test." It's a test that corporate America is failing.

These Brobdingnagian paychecks are partly the result of taxpayer subsidies. A study released a few weeks ago by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington found five major elements in the tax code that encourage overpaying executives. These cost taxpayers more than $20 billion a year.

That's enough money to deworm every child in the world, cut maternal mortality around the globe by two-thirds and also provide iodized salt to prevent tens of millions of children from suffering mild retardation or worse. Alternatively, it could pay for health care for most uninsured children in America.

Do we truly believe that C.E.O.'s like Mr. Fuld are more deserving of tax dollars than sick children?

Pimping Palin

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Another article by David Brooks with which I concur. He's got to stop being sensible or I'm going to have to admit him into my favored authors circle. His take here on the Palin debacle is a prime example.



Why Experience Matters

by David Brooks

Philosophical debates arise at the oddest times, and in the heat of this election season, one is now rising in Republican ranks. The narrow question is this: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be vice president? Most conservatives say yes, on the grounds that something that feels so good could not possibly be wrong. But a few commentators, like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Frum and Ross Douthat demur, suggesting in different ways that she is unready.

The issue starts with an evaluation of Palin, but does not end there. This argument also is over what qualities the country needs in a leader and what are the ultimate sources of wisdom.

There was a time when conservatives did not argue about this. Conservatism was once a frankly elitist movement. Conservatives stood against radical egalitarianism and the destruction of rigorous standards. They stood up for classical education, hard-earned knowledge, experience and prudence. Wisdom was acquired through immersion in the best that has been thought and said.

But, especially in America, there has always been a separate, populist, strain. For those in this school, book knowledge is suspect but practical knowledge is respected. The city is corrupting and the universities are kindergartens for overeducated fools.

The elitists favor sophistication, but the common-sense folk favor simplicity. The elitists favor deliberation, but the populists favor instinct.

This populist tendency produced the term-limits movement based on the belief that time in government destroys character but contact with grass-roots America gives one grounding in real life. And now it has produced Sarah Palin.

palingrump.jpgPalin is the ultimate small-town renegade rising from the frontier to do battle with the corrupt establishment. Her followers take pride in the way she has aroused fear, hatred and panic in the minds of the liberal elite. The feminists declare that she's not a real woman because she doesn't hew to their rigid categories. People who've never been in a Wal-Mart think she is parochial because she has never summered in Tuscany.

What the...?

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zebragiraffe.jpg

McCain is Handing Palin the Keys

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She's beginning to sicken me in the same that Bush and the other neo-cons do. She's the Cheney in this mix and McCain will simply be the figure head like Bush. She a hard right wing evangelical airhead facile liar with a rotten interior.

The Palin-Whatshisname Ticket


By Frank Rich


With all due deference to lipstick, let's advance the story. A week ago the question was: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? The question today: What kind of president would Sarah Palin be?

It's an urgent matter, because if we've learned anything from the G.O.P. convention and its aftermath, it's that the 2008 edition of John McCain is too weak to serve as America's chief executive. This unmentionable truth, more than race, is now the real elephant in the room of this election.

No longer able to remember his principles any better than he can distinguish between Sunnis and Shia, McCain stands revealed as a guy who can be easily rolled by anyone who sells him a plan for "victory," whether in Iraq or in Michigan. A McCain victory on Election Day will usher in a Palin presidency, with McCain serving as a transitional front man, an even weaker Bush to her Cheney.

The ambitious Palin and the ruthless forces she represents know it, too. You can almost see them smacking their lips in anticipation, whether they're wearing lipstick or not.

This was made clear in the most chilling passage of Palin's acceptance speech. Aligning herself with "a young farmer and a haberdasher from Missouri" who "followed an unlikely path to the vice presidency," she read a quote from an unidentified writer who, she claimed, had praised Truman: "We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity." Then Palin added a snide observation of her own: Such small-town Americans, she said, "run our factories" and "fight our wars" and are "always proud" of their country. As opposed to those lazy, shiftless, unproud Americans -- she didn't have to name names -- who are none of the above.

There were several creepy subtexts at work here. The first was the choice of Truman. Most 20th-century vice presidents and presidents in both parties hailed from small towns, but she just happened to alight on a Democrat who ascended to the presidency when an ailing president died in office. Just as striking was the unnamed writer she quoted. He was identified by Thomas Frank in The Wall Street Journal as the now largely forgotten but once powerful right-wing Hearst columnist Westbrook Pegler.


The Strange Death of Steven Kangas

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If you read this and the article below you won't find it so strange.

The Origins of the Overclass

By Steve Kangas

The wealthy have always used many methods to accumulate wealth, but it was not until the mid-1970s that these methods coalesced into a superbly organized, cohesive and efficient machine. After 1975, it became greater than the sum of its parts, a smooth flowing organization of advocacy groups, lobbyists, think tanks, conservative foundations, and PR firms that hurtled the richest 1 percent into the stratosphere.

The origins of this machine, interestingly enough, can be traced back to the CIA. This is not to say the machine is a formal CIA operation, complete with code name and signed documents. (Although such evidence may yet surface -- and previously unthinkable domestic operations such as MK-ULTRA, CHAOS and MOCKINGBIRD show this to be a distinct possibility.) But what we do know already indicts the CIA strongly enough. Its principle creators were Irving Kristol, Paul Weyrich, William Simon, Richard Mellon Scaife, Frank Shakespeare, William F. Buckley, Jr., the Rockefeller family, and more. Almost all the machine's creators had CIA backgrounds.
During the 1970s, these men would take the propaganda and operational techniques they had learned in the Cold War and apply them to the Class War. Therefore it is no surprise that the American version of the machine bears an uncanny resemblance to the foreign versions designed to fight communism. The CIA's expert and comprehensive organization of the business class would succeed beyond their wildest dreams. In 1975, the richest 1 percent owned 22 percent of America's wealth. By 1992, they would nearly double that, to 42 percent -- the highest level of inequality in the 20th century.

How did this alliance start? The CIA has always recruited the nation's elite: millionaire businessmen, Wall Street brokers, members of the national news media, and Ivy League scholars. During World War II, General "Wild Bill" Donovan became chief of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA. Donovan recruited so exclusively from the nation's rich and powerful that members eventually came to joke that "OSS" stood for "Oh, so social!"
Another early elite was Allen Dulles, who served as Director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961. Dulles was a senior partner at the Wall Street firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, which represented the Rockefeller empire and other mammoth trusts, corporations and cartels. He was also a board member of the J. Henry Schroeder Bank, with offices in Wall Street, London, Zurich and Hamburg. His financial interests across the world would become a conflict of interest when he became head of the CIA. Like Donavan, he would recruit exclusively from society's elite.

Palin is a foreign policy airhead

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Did you see the Gibson interview with Palin? She didn't even know what the Bush doctrine of preemption was and once it was explained, she concurred with it. Dolt.

She's Not Ready

by Bob Herbert

While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson Thursday night, and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I've gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail.

How is it that this woman could have been selected to be the vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket? How is it that so much of the mainstream media has dropped all pretense of seriousness to hop aboard the bandwagon and go along for the giddy ride?

For those who haven't noticed, we're electing a president and vice president, not selecting a winner on "American Idol."

Ms. Palin may be a perfectly competent and reasonably intelligent woman (however troubling her views on evolution and global warming may be), but she is not ready to be vice president.

With most candidates for high public office, the question is whether one agrees with them on the major issues of the day. With Ms. Palin, it's not about agreeing or disagreeing. She doesn't appear to understand some of the most important issues.

"Do you believe in the Bush doctrine?" Mr. Gibson asked during the interview. Ms. Palin looked like an unprepared student who wanted nothing so much as to escape this encounter with the school principal.

Clueless, she asked, "In what respect, Charlie?"

"Well, what do you interpret it to be?" said Mr. Gibson.

"His worldview?" asked Ms. Palin.

Later, in the spin zones of cable TV, commentators repeatedly made the point that there are probably very few voters -- some specifically mentioned "hockey moms" -- who could explain the Bush doctrine. But that's exactly the reason we have such long and intense campaigns. You want to find the individuals who best understand these issues, who will address them in sophisticated and creative ways that enhance the well-being of the nation.

The Bush doctrine, which flung open the doors to the catastrophe in Iraq, was such a fundamental aspect of the administration's foreign policy that it staggers the imagination that we could have someone no further than a whisper away from the White House who doesn't even know what it is.

Palin not ready at all

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Its a joke, but a sick one, that Palin is being put in a position where she could become president. She's so arrogant or just plain stupid that when asked in an interview whether she thought she was ready to be president, she answered without hesitation, yes. That means she's blind to her own shortcomings...can we say Bush?

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - John McCain running mate Sarah Palin sought Thursday to defend her qualifications but struggled with foreign policy, unable to describe President Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive strikes against threatening nations and acknowledging she's never met a foreign head of state.

The Republican vice presidential nominee told Charles Gibson of ABC News in her first televised interview since being named to the GOP ticket that "I'm ready" to be president if called upon. However, she sidestepped on whether she had the national security credentials needed to be commander in chief.

Palin, 44, has been Alaska's governor for less than two years and before that was a small-town mayor. She was McCain's surprise selection for the No. 2 slot on the ticket, raising questions about her readiness to serve in the White House, particularly during wartime.

The stuff that's got to stop

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You know the State dept will deny deny deny and that what Chavez is declaring is true true true. Thankfully the Bush admin is nearly dead and that American foreign policy under Obama can take a different turn.


Venezuela to expel U.S. ambassador

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday he is recalling his own ambassador from Washington and expelling the U.S. ambassador from Venezuela.

"He has 72 hours, from this moment, the Yankee ambassador in Caracas, to leave Venezuela," Chavez told a crowd of supporters.

The president said he was making the moves "in solidarity with Bolivia and the people of Bolivia."

Bolivia's Evo Morales accused the United States Thursday of fomenting a coup d'etat by rich eastern department landowners against him, the country's first Indian president.

"We have seen reports about President Chavez's remarks but have not received any official diplomatic communication," said Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman. "Our embassy in Caracas is looking into these reports."

Also Thursday, Chavez accused the United States of having backed a coup plot against him.

"When there's a new government in the United States, we'll send an ambassador," he said. "A government that respects Latin America."

Earlier Thursday, Chavez said he has uncovered a U.S.-backed plot to remove him from power.

"It's the empire that's behind this," he told supporters in a nationally televised address. "They go around looking for a way to stop our revolution and, with it, to strike all the processes of change that are occurring in our Americas, in the Caribbean, in Central America."

Chavez then played a four-minute tape of what he said were conversations among current and retired members of the Venezuelan military discussing whom they could count on to support a movement against the presidential palace.

Chavez, who was briefly detained in a failed 2002 coup attempt, said the former plotters "are the same people involved in this coup attempt. Behind them is the American empire."

But he said the presence of two Russian warplanes on Venezuelan soil for a training exercise "is a warning" to the rest of the world that Venezuela's allies include Russia and other countries.

Chavez added that, should any country in Latin America be overthrown, he would interpret that to be "the green light to undertake military operations of any sort in those countries, and restore power back to the people."

And he had a message for President Bush, beseeching him, to "go wherever you have to go and leave the Latin-American people alone."

He added, "If they kill me, my God, I don't fear for me, but for what comes after."

A U.S. State Department spokesman denied involvement in any coup attempts in Venezuela or Bolivia.

As Ex-Scrapper I've got to admire this

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Risk-Taking Thieves Steal Scrap Metal

WINDBER, Pa. -- Police in Somerset County are trying to figure out how a radio tower went missing in Windber. Police say a group of people had a very thorough plan to get all 120 feet of steel and copper down from the old Windber radio tower.

Police believe the thieves threw cables over the guidelines of the tower and yanked it down with a truck. Police also found cut bolts and torch marks on nearby grass. Police say the tower had to be cut into small pieces in order to get it out of the wooded area, but they can't figure out how they did it without anybody noticing.

"There's probably a half a dozen routes that come in and out of that area. At least 20 four-wheelers and ATV riders go through there a day," said Paint Township Police Chief Rick Skiles.

The thieves also got away with a 300-pound Penelec transformer full of copper.

The radio tower hasn't been used for years, but the family who owns it was in talks with a company to use the tower to bring wireless Internet to Windber.

"There was an Internet company that approached my son. That's all gone now, so what're you going to do? He lost a good bit of money," said Jay Shaffer.

The Shaffer family is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. The police chief said convicted could face felony charges.

Obama the Chat Room Robot

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Why Obama's Message Resonates with Millions

By Matt Taibbi, RollingStone.com

On the campaign trail with Barack Obama, four days before the Democratic convention. Another teeming high school gym in another halfway-to-somewhere town, decorated with still more banners proclaiming the heroic exploits of the Local Sports Team, in this case the football studs of Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, Virginia.

In the audience are the same characters you see everywhere on the campaign trail: the bare-armed cheerleaders congregating near the bleachers, the sullen-faced union workers dutifully decked out in matching T-shirts, the heavyset Soccer Moms cheering from the back rows with that weird overhand applause style they all seem to use, their fingers curled back so as not to ruin freshly painted nails. There are the same Secret Service agents waiting to herd the press into the same windowless concrete filing room, and the same exhausted, khaki-clad campaign staffers with the rapidly thickening backsides ready to queue up behind the journalists to fill their buffet plates with the same Regionally Appropriate Cuisine (pork ribs and hush puppies in the South; steak, corn and potatoes in the Midwest) made up with pride by the local caterers.

And to top it all off, there's even the same speech.

Four years ago, I listened first to Howard Dean and then to John Kerry as they went through the motions of promising to support the middle class, to create jobs through investment in renewable energy, to punish companies that exploited tax loopholes by moving overseas and to find the real terrorists in Afghanistan. They trod the same ground as Gore and even Clinton, coughing out the same paeans to the same lost paradise of the middle-class lifestyle, to those same vanishing days of our history when hardworking, patriotic Americans could live with comfort and economic security on one decent manufacturing job. At stake, they insisted, was nothing less than the American Dream itself. For Dean, it was "time for a change in America." Kerry sometimes ended his speeches by presenting his campaign as a choice of "change versus more of the same" -- a phrase he actually borrowed from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign.

Here in Chesapeake, Barack Obama offers up the same milky hodgepodge of middle-class tax cuts, investment in alternative fuels and consequences for job exporters and terrorists. And rhetorically, he uses the same old magic trick for his main theme, talking about how all Americans want is to leave a better world for their children.

"That's the essence of the American Dream," he tells the crowd, echoing his predecessors. He goes on to tell the already-famous story of John McCain's seven houses, then explains that someone who has seven houses can't possibly understand what the middle class is going through. "You need a president who's going to be fighting for you," Obama says, to thunderous applause. He concludes by declaring, "We are going to fundamentally bring about change in America" -- a message punctuated by the huge banner hanging behind him, emblazoned with his infuriatingly omnipresent campaign slogan: "Change We Can Believe In." Obama has even taken to borrowing some of his theme music from other candidates: I was mortified when his rallies began to feature the worst of the Hillary standbys, the excruciating "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty. The painful predictability of it all was summed up by a front-page headline in The New York Times after the first day of the Democratic convention: "Appeals Evoking American Dream Rally Democrats."

All of this saccharine talk of "change" is so transparently a mechanical come-on that if it were anybody but Barack Obama uttering the word, you'd want to throw up at the very sound of it. And yet, as I watch Obama deliver the same hackneyed act I've seen hundreds of times before, I feel against my will that I am actually watching something different at work. After Kerry and Dean speeches, I often heard people say things like, "At least he's not as dumb as Bush." But after Obama speeches, I see audience members stumbling around in all directions with orgiastic smiles on their faces, as though they've been splashed with gallons of magic pixie paint. In Raleigh, North Carolina, where Obama knocked dead a massive town-hall crowd at a local fairgrounds with a speech that said almost nothing at all, I ask a woman named Melanie Threatt why she thinks her life would improve under an Obama presidency. "It just will," she says. When I press her for specifics, she says, "I just think doors are going to open." You hear stuff like this a lot on Planet Obama, and it makes you wonder just what it is you're encountering. Obama's followers implicitly believe in the things he says, and the fervor of their belief is more religious than intellectual, closer to faith than to reason. Watching him at work, you realize that Obama's remarkable success has almost nothing to do with the same-old product being marketed by the same-old political machine, and almost everything to do with the specific qualities of the individual who is selling it. The same stuff that sounded like hollow, invidious horseshit coming from Kerry and Gore sounds, as dispensed by Obama, like nothing less than a clarion call to collective action. And every time you feel his pitch working, you wonder: Is this some chat-room robot I'm falling in love with? Or is this an actual human being on the line, offering me an opportunity at last to fulfill my deepest desires?

Humanity will live on thru Colbert

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Colbert's DNA to be shot into space

(AP) -- Should this world ever cease to exist, Stephen Colbert will live on.
Stephen Colbert, host of "The Colbert Report," will have his genes included in a time capsule of human DNA.

Stephen Colbert, host of "The Colbert Report," will have his genes included in a time capsule of human DNA.

The comedian's DNA will be digitized and sent to the International Space Station, Comedy Central was to announce Monday. In October, video game designer Richard Garriott will travel to the station and deposit Colbert's genes for an "Immortality Drive."

"I am thrilled to have my DNA shot into space, as this brings me one step closer to my lifelong dream of being the baby at the end of 2001," Colbert said in a statement, referring to the 1968 landmark science fiction film "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Garriott, one of few private citizens to travel into space, is collecting material for a time capsule of human DNA, a history of humanity's greatest achievements and personal messages.

Operation Immortality

The host of "The Colbert Report" will essentially be preserved so that aliens can clone him.

"In the unlikely event that Earth and humanity are destroyed, mankind can be resurrected with Stephen Colbert's DNA," Garriott said in a statement. "Is there a better person for us to turn to for this high-level responsibility?

Sermonette 004

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The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.

Atisha

O'Reilly and Obama (Round 1)

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Guess who's winning?


Edward Said

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Said:


hat tip to Sarah

Teen Sex and Abortion

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Americans simply have to get over their puritanical and childish regard for sexuality. It causes harm on so many different levels.

Let's Talk About Sex

By Charles M. Blow NY Times

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teenagesex.jpgSarah Palin has a pregnant teenager. And, she's not alone. According to a report published in 2007, there are more than 400,000 other American girls in the same predicament.

In fact, a 2001 Unicef report said that the United States teenage birthrate was higher than any other member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. tied Hungary for the most abortions. This was in spite of the fact that girls in the U.S. were not the most sexually active. Denmark held that title. But, its teenage birthrate was one-sixth of ours, and its teenage abortion rate was half of ours.

If there is a shame here, it's a national shame -- a failure of our puritanical society to accept and deal with the facts. Teenagers have sex. How often and how safely depends on how much knowledge and support they have. Crossing our fingers that they won't cross the line is not an intelligent strategy.

To wit, our ridiculous experiment in abstinence-only education seems to be winding down with a study finding that it didn't work. States are opting out of it. Parents don't like it either. According to a 2004 survey sponsored by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, 65 percent of parents of high school students said that federal money "should be used to fund more comprehensive sex education programs that include information on how to obtain and use condoms and other contraceptives."

Repuke Hypocrisy

| | Comments (6)

Wednesday night on "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart hit Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly with damning evidence of their hypocrisy regarding Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

While Rove recently praised Palin's experience as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Stewart showed video of Rove trashing Virginia Governor -- and former Richmond Mayor -- Tim Kaine's executive experience, listing all the cities that are bigger than Richmond and calling such a pick "political."

Then, after recent video of O'Reilly describing Bristol Palin's pregnancy as a family issue, Stewart showed a clip of the Fox News host blaming Jamie Lynn Spears' parents for her teenage pregnancy.

Finally, after showing video of Dick Morris complaining about the rampant sexism in the media coverage of Sarah Palin, Stewart unveiled a clip of Morris saying that Hillary hides behind the sexism defense, and that anytime "the big boys" pick on Hillary, "she retreats behind the apron strings."

"In Dick Morris' defense," Stewart said, "he is a lying sack of shit."

Don't forget the Slacker vote

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Gotta love Moore


Elsewhere saids #6

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From a conversation where the rule was you first have to say some thing good about religion before criticizing it.

I said:

Religion creates bonds of familiarity and community and can provide an ethical foundation for the distribution of good will, charity and transcendence of self for the good of the other. Religion can be the root cause of a life long elevation of the mind and spirit. It can carry important cultural discoveries across generations and create a deep sense of tradition and belonging and be an incredible impetus for the arts and sciences.

However, once religion becomes dogmatic and tries to petrify truth, it loses it inherent value and becomes a ruthless tool of political oppression, spiritual abrogation and impediment to the advancement of humankind on every level. It becomes stupidly literal and vacuously instructive. Once this has occurred people should seek other avenues of enlightenment and eschew completely the polity of their priests and other spiritual intercessors.

The creative spirit loves nothing so much as a heavy dose of debunking.

Im watching the Republicans

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And it makes me wanna tell them:

you-make-bunny-cry.jpg

Cern Rap

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This the best physics lesson ever:

Obama's Not Perfect

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But what candidate is?

One of the major disagreements I have with Obama's platform is his approach to universal heathcare. Chris Hedges' article below raises good points about the things I find lacking in Obama's plan. For one, I do not believe that any plan that allows the for profit health care insurance industry to remain in place will work at all. In fact the insurance companies are THE problem and should be cut out of the formula altogether.


Curb Your Enthusiasm for Obama

by Chris Hedges

Barack Obama's health care plan coddles the corporations that profit from the misery and illnesses of tens of millions of Americans. The plan is naive, at best, and probably disingenuous when it insists that we can coax these corporations, which are listed on the stock exchange and exist to maximize profit, to transform themselves into social service agencies that will provide adequate health care for all Americans. I wish we lived in such a rosy world. I know, and I suspect Obama knows, that we do not. 

"Obama offers a false hope," said Dr. John Geyman, the former chair of family medicine at the University of Washington and author of "Do Not Resuscitate: Why the Health Insurance Industry Is Dying, and How We Must Replace It." "We cannot build on or tweak the present system. Different states have tried this. The problem is the private insurance industry itself. It is not as efficient as a publicly financed system. It fragments risk pools, skimming off the healthier part of the population and leaving the rest uninsured or underinsured. Its administrative and overhead costs are five to eight times higher than public financing through Medicare. It cares more about its shareholders than its enrollees or patients. A family of four now pays about $12,000 a year just in premiums, which have gone up by 87 percent from 2000 to 2006. The insurance industry is pricing itself out of the market for an ever larger part of the population. The industry resists regulation. It is unsustainable by present trends."

We face a health crisis. The Democratic and Republican parties, awash in campaign contributions from the beasts they should be slaying on our behalf, have no interest in addressing it. A report in the journal Health Affairs estimates that, if the system is left unchanged, one of every five dollars spent by Americans in 2017 will go to health coverage. Half of all bankruptcies in America are because families are unable to pay their medical bills. There are some 46 million Americans without coverage and tens of millions more with inadequate policies that severely limit what kinds of procedures and treatments they can receive. 

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