Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Scariest Video You'll Ever See

or see it here ...

How lucky do YOU feel?

On Keeping One's Place

Catholic Bishops Say No to Women Priests, Yes to Hookers

by Angela Bonavoglia

My Google "Catholic" Alert today listed two articles in this order: "Women Warned Against Catholic Ordination," followed by "Catholic Bishop Backs Brothel Regulation."

That about sums it up. In yet another empty defense of the Catholic Church's blatant discrimination against women who it refuses to ordain, St. Louis, Missouri Archbishop Raymond Burke promised to excommunicate two Roman Catholic women who will be ordained priests in St. Louis on Sunday, November 11. The women are part of an energetic international movement called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which has organized the ordination of Catholic women around the world, with the first U.S. ordinations, which I described in Salon, last year.

Burke also threatened to impose "additional disciplinary measures." To which one of the ordinands, Rose Marie Dunn Hudson, reportedly replied: "What is he going to do, burn us at the stake?"

Meanwhile, another Roman Catholic bishop in the City of Portsmouth, England, the Right Reverend Crispian Hollis, came out in support of legalized prostitution. He based his position on matters of health and safety and the fact that hooking has been with us "from time immemorial."

Yes, but so have women like the apostle Junia, the deacon Phoebe, and bishop Theodora who have been with us since time immemorial--or at least since the dawn of Christianity. Yet they remain conveniently invisible to the whole lot of this dysfunctional boys' club--Biblical and archaeological evidence be damned.

Sourced: Catholic Bishops Say No to Women Priests, Yes to Hookers

My comment: It's a matter of keeping one's priorities straight. Of course, using the word "straight" when referring to the church's hierarchy seems a little ironic.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Did you know? The media loves controversy ...

... and they're happy to make it up on slow news days.

It’s hard to say for sure when the “silly season” started in the media’s coverage of the presidential campaign. If there was a “serious season,” it was exceedingly short. I’m afraid I missed it.

But yesterday was unusually inane. A waitress at an Iowa diner noted that Hillary Clinton and her campaign aides had recently stopped by, but didn’t leave a tip. NPR picked up on the “story,” the New York Times called it a “potentially embarrassing mini-scandal,” and Drudge blared it above the fold. Soon after, NBC News and ABC News were trumpeting the story.

Clinton didn’t leave a tip? Does she hate working people? Is she out of touch? What does this say about her economic plan? What do her rivals think about this? Why won’t Barack Obama attack her over the issue? Is it too soon to put a poll in the field gauging the public’s reaction?

All of this breathless fascination was for naught. It turned out Clinton’s campaign did leave a tip with the manager for the entire serving staff. Clinton’s individual waitress didn’t know that, so there was a simple misunderstanding.

Check out the non-news ... and you believe everything you get in the newspapers and on TV ... right? This is right up there with the "Obama-hand-over-heart-NOT" trivia.

How about we focus on actual issues?

What Music Is All About

Get the video here.

If this doesn't get to you, you ain't got no soul!

Is a Vote for Rudy a Vote for War?

by Patrick J. Buchanan on AntiWar

Rudy Giuliani has made a "promise" not to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear capability, even if it requires U.S. military action. Though the U.S. Army is scrimping to meet recruitment goals, Rudy has pledged to add at least 10 new combat brigades.

Speaking to an Atlantic Bridge conference in London, Rudy called for NATO expansion to include Japan, India, Australia, Singapore and Israel. Has Rudy thought this through?

Why would Japan and Australia, each of which already has a U.S. commitment to come to its defense, commit to go to war with a nuclear-armed Russia if it invaded Estonia? For joining NATO would require them to treat an attack on Estonia, or any other NATO nation in Europe, as an attack upon themselves.

Why should the United States commit to war for India, which has territorial conflicts and has fought wars with China and Pakistan? What vital interest is it of ours who holds Kashmir? As for Israel, are American boys now to fight Hezbollah and Hamas?

While FDR talked to Stalin, Ike and JFK to Khrushchev, and Nixon to Mao, Rudy would not talk to any "enemies bent on our destruction or those who cannot deliver on their agreements." Would he be even-handed in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute? Answers Rudy, "America shouldn't be even-handed in dealing with ... an elected democracy ... and a group of terrorists."

If Rudy rivals McCain as the hawk's hawk in the Republican race, the foreign policy advisers he has signed up make the Vulcans of Bush look like Howard Zinn and Ramsey Clark.

Read the rest of the piece after the click ...

Right Wing "Swiftboaters" are Alive and Well

Obama "refused to not only put his hand on his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, but refused to say the pledge."

Chain e-mail on Thursday, November 8th, 2007 in an e-mail circulated by many people.

Photo was taken during anthem, not pledge

A chain e-mail says a photograph shows Barack Obama is unpatriotic because he "refused" to say the Pledge of Allegiance and did not put his hand over his heart.

In the photograph, Barack Obama is standing in front of an American flag with his hands clasped just below his waist. Beside him are Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton, with their hands on their hearts.

The e-mail notes that Obama’s middle name is “Hussein” and says he “REFUSED TO NOT ONLY PUT HIS HAND ON HIS HEART DURING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, BUT REFUSED TO SAY THE in the hell can a man like this expect to be our next Commander-in-Chief????”

But the Time magazine photograph wasn’t taken during the Pledge of Allegiance; it was taken during the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

My comment: I guess outright lies are part of Family Values.

A dyed-in-the-wool Republican friend of mine forwarded the e-mail to me on 11/1 with an indignant note. That puts him pretty close to the beginning of the chain. I suggested there were far more significant issues at stake. Now that the truth is out, maybe the "hand-over-the-heart" thing is a significant issue. Lacking rational arguments to support their positions, the Right is at it again given the national disgrace we experienced in the "Swiftboating" of John Kerry in the run-up to the 2004 election. That strikes me as pretty significant. But, my god, don't these people ever learn. They fall for the same brand of hooie and horse-pucky every time. (Can you spell "g-u-l-l-i-b-l-e"?) You'd think they'd catch on eventually. Rather than checking the facts, it seems they'd rather embrace their negative fantasies. Rather than debate real issues, they'd rather hop on a bandwagon of lies and personal attacks. They get suckered every time.

I e-mailed my friend the link (above) to the St. Petersburg Times / Congressional Quarterly "PolitiFact" piece. I wonder if he forwarded it to the same list of people he sent the original piece to? What do you think?

Wither you're a Conservative Republican or a Liberal Democrat, I would hope that the truth and honesty are important values in your world.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Highway to Hell

Lets see if I've got this straight. Earlier in the campaign Rudy tore Ron Paul a new a$$h0^# for suggesting US foreign policy might have been a contributing factor in our nation being attacked on 9/11. Now he embraces Pat Robertson who said: "We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. And, then we say 'why does this happen?' Well, why its happening is that God Almighty is lifting His protection from us"

Following reported by Andy Borowitz

One day after endorsing former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for president, televangelist Pat Robertson explained his decision, saying that a Giuliani presidency features prominently in the Book of Revelation.

In his endorsement announcement the day before, Rev. Robertson had made reference to Mr. Giuliani's tenure as "America's Mayor," but did not indicate that the Republican frontrunner was a key player in the Bible's most apocalyptic book.

In his statement today, however, the televangelist made it clear that "in order for the Second Coming to occur, the world needs to end, and Rudy Giuliani is just the man for that job."

Rev. Robertson said that he was "confident" that within weeks of his inauguration, Mr. Giuliani would usher in the "end days" that are a staple of Bible prophecy.

In praising Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Robertson had critical words for the current resident of the White House, President George W. Bush: "President Bush got us on the road to Armageddon, but it's taking too darn long -- Rudy Giuliani will put us in the express lane."

While the Giuliani camp initially welcomed the endorsement of the influential evangelist, the former New York mayor seemed less enthusiastic today about being identified as one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.

When asked by a reporter in Iowa about Mr. Robertson's comments today, Mr. Giuliani replied, "9/11."

Elsewhere, former Beatle Paul McCartney confirmed that he is dating a Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member, explaining, "Since my divorce from Heather, I've had to start taking the subway."

Andy Borowitz is a comedian and writer whose work appears in The New Yorker and The New York Times, and at his award-winning humor site, He hosts an all-new edition of "Next Week's News" starring Amy Sedaris. John Oliver (The Daily Show) and Christian Finnegan (VH1's Best Week Ever) at Comix on Thursday January 17 at 8 PM. Comix is located at 353 West 14th Street, just east of Ninth Avenue. For tickets, call 212-524-2500 or go to For a $5 discount, use the promotional code ANDY.

The Worst Economy in Our Lifetime

Yo - my "supply side" friends! I hope you're deliriously happy ...

"Republicans stand for "fiscal conservatism", meaning they believe in smaller government and balancing the books. At least, that's what they say. The underlying reality is far different. Bush has yet to balance a budget. In fact, he has yet to come close to balancing a budget. In fact, Bush has yet to even get moderately close to maybe possibly balancing the books one day."

"First, Bush has cut taxes twice -- once in 2001 and once in 2003. Working off the standard "supply-side" economic theory he thought this would create a huge wave of tax revenues. The problem is it didn't."

from Hal Stewart.

Check the charts while you're at it. One picture is worth 1,000 words.

Stewart: The Republicans are spending social security money now, hoping no one will notice. And so far they're getting away with it. But intra-governmental debt is still debt. It has a legal priority claim on government revenue and must eventually be paid."

Got a problem with that? Write your "borrow-'til-you're-blue" Republican congressman. It seems Republicans have never seen a buck they didn't want to borrow!

The Machine is Us/ing Us

or get the video here.

Just under 5 minutes but an interesting introduction to HTML, XML, the Web and how it effects communication and us.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Former State Lawmaker?

Guess which political party* ... no ... really ... take a guess. Green? Socialist? How about Progressive? No .. really, take a guess!!!

PIERRE, S.D. - A former state lawmaker was convicted of raping two former foster daughters during physical examinations that he claimed would help them sell their reproductive eggs.

The jury on Tuesday found Ted Klaudt guilty of all four counts of second-degree rape after deliberating for three hours. Klaudt, 49, could get as many as 25 years in prison for each count when he is sentenced in January.

Circuit Judge James W. Anderson ordered Klaudt to undergo a psychosexual evaluation before sentencing, as required by state law.

Klaudt also is scheduled to stand trial next week for rape and other offenses in Corson County, where he lives.

Klaudt's attorney Tim Rensch didn't deny during the trial that his client gave the girls physical examinations or that they were part of a scheme by which the girls were told they could make thousands of dollars for selling their reproductive eggs.

Read the sordid rest here.

* Answer? You're right!!! You guessed it!!! Klaudt, a Republican served eight years in the state House from 1999 to 2006 and left because of term limits. He ran for a state Senate seat last year but lost to a Democrat.

Giuliani: Guts, Experience, Vision and His Own Facts. too!

Katie Levinson
Communications Director
Rudy Giuliani 2008

Dear Miss Levinson,

Rudy's been very good about reminding people every few minutes about how he heroically held press conferences on 9/11. And by now, most people know about how Rudy: single handedly protected New York from terrorist attack (most of the time anyway), waded into the smoke and debris at the World Trade Center to work on the clean-up; brought down the mob by torturing confessions out of suspects. But few people know about his other great accomplishments. I've created the following campaign posters to help you change that.

More Giuliani posters on Jesus' General.

Drivers Licenses for "illegals"?

A very conservative friend and I have started a discussion via e-mail about the controversial "drivers licenses for illegals" proposals that have been floated in several areas of the country. I thought I'd post my view in response to his question about my take on it. (I don't have his take on it, yet ... though I'm sure its coming.)

First, I believe the immigration reform issue is so emotionally charged that no rational plan has a hope in hell regardless of who proposes it. Even the Republicans can't decide among themselves wither "homeland" security should be the priority or "business friendly" should be. On this issue those two priorities are in direct opposition.

Second, with 12,000,000 of them here already, we have a significant problem - and there is no practical solution that involves rounding them up and sending them home en masse. It's a situation that has been with us for decades - though it has only just recently been "discovered". They didn't arrive here in the last year or two. They have been among us throughout the last century .... first invited here, then discouraged, then invited again. They are not here on vacation. They are here because they need to eat and because segments of our economy have built their business plans around their existence - notably the hospitality industry, restaurants, the construction industry and agribusiness to name a few.

Aside from our on again, off again love affair with their cheap labor, I think one needs to be aware that a lot of the problem has its deeper origins in the US export of Milton Freedman's bankrupt "corporations and the invisible hand of the markets" solve all problems. The net result was tremendous support for right-wing dictatorships throughout Central and South American wherein the rich in these countries became super rich selling the national resources to American businesses at the expense of the nations economy in general and their citizens. The few that prospered did so in spades --- but there has been a cost. Everything has a cost and these displaced people are part of that cost. Too bad they don't just crawl off into a corner and die ... the certainly don't fit into Freedman's formulas. (Would love to discuss Uncle Milty's "invisible hand of the market" with you at some point ... I'm sure the conversation would be spirited. I'll give you a clue: I think it's mostly bunk.)

Third: Its a simple fact that you can't control something you can't identify & measure and until we find a way of identifying who these people are, we have no hope of controlling the situation internally. I don't know what the answer is but I know measurement and control are at the bottom of it. I haven't explored drivers licenses enough to feel that's THE solution. However, I do know that New Mexico provides for drivers licenses and some of the positive effects are that uninsured drivers in that state have declined from about 25% to roughly 11%.

As for current migration across the border ... walls don't work. They didn't work when the Soviets (whom the Right resembles more and more every day) walled in Berlin and they didn't work when China tried to wall out the Mongol hordes. We need tighter security at the borders, but walls are a band-aid that only makes the Minutemen happy. We have the technology to register everyone at the border at entry. Other countries require visitors to report to the local police on daily, weekly, or monthly cycles thereby verifying their whereabouts. Failure to report results in an arrest warrant. Apprehension results in instant, no-questions asked, no appeal deportation. Students are visitors and subject to the same rules. We have the computer power ... we just don't have the political will. No papers? Instant bums rush.

Right now a major part of the decision involves a serious prioritization. Is it more important to gain control of our borders than it is to get into a pissing contest over wither or not a workable solution appears to "reward law breaking"? (Given Libby's pardon, I'm surprised its an issue with those on the right ... but go figger!) I vote for doing what is necessary to gain control of the borders, as well as doing whatever it takes to identify and measure the illegal aliens already here so we can control that aspect of the situation. If driver's licenses do the trick, I'm all for them.

An Impeachment Petition

Ten Reasons to Impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney

I ask Congress to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney for the following reasons:

1. Violating the United Nations Charter by launching an illegal "War of Aggression" against Iraq without cause, using fraud to sell the war to Congress and the public, misusing government funds to begin bombing without Congressional authorization, and subjecting our military personnel to unnecessary harm, debilitating injuries, and deaths.

2. Violating U.S. and international law by authorizing the torture of thousands of captives, resulting in dozens of deaths, and keeping prisoners hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

3. Violating the Constitution by arbitrarily detaining Americans, legal residents, and non-Americans, without due process, without charge, and without access to counsel.

4. Violating the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and using illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new type of napalm.

5. Violating U.S. law and the Constitution through widespread wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant.

6. Violating the Constitution by using "signing statements" to defy hundreds of laws passed by Congress.

7. Violating U.S. and state law by obstructing honest elections in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.

8. Violating U.S. law by using paid propaganda and disinformation, selectively and misleadingly leaking classified information, and exposing the identity of a covert CIA operative working on sensitive WMD proliferation for political retribution.

9. Subverting the Constitution and abusing Presidential power by asserting a "Unitary Executive Theory" giving unlimited powers to the President, by obstructing efforts by Congress and the Courts to review and restrict Presidential actions, and by promoting and signing legislation negating the Bill of Rights and the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

10. Gross negligence in failing to assist New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina, in ignoring urgent warnings of an Al Qaeda attack prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and in increasing air pollution causing global warming.

Find it here. Pick a reason. Any one of them would do it under normal circumstances. Just ask yourself what would happen to Bill Clinton if ANY of these charges could legitimately be leveled against HIM.

Conservatives get a taste of unregulated Capitalism

And they find they don't like it very much.

Their battle cry?

"Why is Regnery acting like a Marxist cartoon of a capitalist company?"

You can find it here in the New York Times.

gee ... maybe your publisher IS a Marxist cartoon of a capitalist company? I found it all very amusing. How about starting a writers union, guys?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Does the FBI have a file on YOU?

If you're a convicted or suspected criminal, you already know that the FBI has a file on you. But the agency's files aren't just for criminals and bad people. If you've ever done anything to get the government's attention, like march in a civil rights protest or getting involved with political action committees, even if you've applied for a job that required a background check or security clearance, you may have an FBI file. If you've ever wondered whether you have an FBI file, and if so, what its contents are, GetMyFBIFile can help.

Keith Olbermann's take on Torture

... and those who think its a good idea.

Video clip here.

The Freedom Agenda Fizzles

How George Bush and Condoleezza Rice made a mess of Pakistan.

By Fred Kaplan on Slate

Now we've really got problems.

The state of emergency in Pakistan signals yet another low point in President George W. Bush's foreign policy — a stark demonstration of his paltry influence and his bankrupt principles. More than that, the crackdown locks us in a crisis — a potentially dangerous dynamic—from which there appears to be no escape route.

For much of last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other top U.S. officials had been urging Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, not to declare martial law. He not only ignored these pleas; he defied them.

More here.

Lawyers Against Musharraf
Why are attorneys taking to the streets in Pakistan?

By Michelle Tsai also on Slate

Lawyers demonstrating in their black suits and ties clashed with police in Pakistan on Monday, two days after Pervez Musharraf declared martial law. In Lahore, about 2,000 lawyers gathered at the high court, even as some news outlets reported 1,500 arrests of lawyers across the country. Why are attorneys leading this round of protests?

Because they want to, and they can. When Musharraf came to power in 1999, he effectively paralyzed the two major political parties that opposed him. The leaders of those groups, Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan People's Party and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistani Muslim League, went into exile. Other political figures were arrested, and public rallies were generally not permitted. (The gathering of hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis to greet Bhutto's return in October was a rare exception.) Thus weakened, the parties couldn't lead a mass response to Musharraf's takeover. Lawyers, on the other hand, could circumvent some of the general's restrictions. Since they still had to go to court, lawyers were able to use the courts as public meeting places. They also couldn't be easily targeted as a group, since bar associations carry out necessary functions for the government, like ensuring that local political campaigns follow the rules and authenticating applicants for a national ID card. This appears to have changed, however; one eyewitness said the police were now arresting "anyone wearing the lawyer's uniform."

More here.

My comment: I hope you're paying attention. Pakistan is a real nuclear power with real, test-proven nuclear weapons (as opposed to the trumped up allegations about Iran). Bin Laden lives there and the tibal border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan are controlled by al Qauda and the Taliban. If Pakistan falls apart at the seams, it's very likely that we'll be confronting a nuclear jihad.

We should have been tracking down bin Laden all this time instead of playing wack-a-mole in Iraq. We were off to a good start, but we got distracted. Now we're not very well positioned to do anything about the changes.

Who said Fredrick of Hollywood doesn't have a grip on reality

Before a scheduled interview with Fox News in New Hampshire — it’s only Thompson’s third appearance there — interview Carl Cameron announced into a studio microphone, “The next president of the United States has a schedule to keep.” Oh he totally set up Thompson, who couldn’t help but interject with, “And so do I.”

25 Stories You Might Have Missed

You might have missed them because they've been swept under the rug by the main stream media.

  1. No Habeas Corpus for “Any Person”
  2. Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
  3. AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa’s Resources
  4. Frenzy of Increasingly Destructive Trade Agreements
  5. Human Traffic Builds US Embassy in Iraq
  6. Operation FALCON Raids
  7. Behind Blackwater Inc.
  8. KIA: The US Neoliberal Invasion of India
  9. Privatization of America’s Infrastructure
  10. Vulture Funds Threaten Poor Nations’ Debt Relief
  11. The Scam of “Reconstruction” in Afghanistan
  12. Another Massacre in Haiti by UN Troops
  13. Immigrant Roundups to Gain Cheap Labor for US Corporate Giants
  14. Impunity for US War Criminals
  15. Toxic Exposure Can Be Transmitted to Future Generations on a “Second Genetic Code”
  16. No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11
  17. Drinking Water Contaminated by Military and Corporations
  18. Mexico’s Stolen Election
  19. People’s Movement Challenges Neoliberal Agenda (Free Trade through Central and South America)
  20. Terror Act Against Animal Activists
  21. US Seeks WTO Immunity for Illegal Farm Payments
  22. North Invades Mexico
  23. Feinstein’s Conflict of Interest in Iraq
  24. Media Misquotes Threat From Iran’s President
  25. Who Will Profit from Native Energy?

You can get the details here.

My Comment: A free society is a marketplace of ideas. Censorship is an anathema to a free society; it is the hallmark of dictatorships, tyranny and closed societies. If only one side of the news is presented, we get a distorted picture of the world in which we live. We are unable to make informed decisions as is our right in a democracy.

The First Amendment of the Constituton of the United States of America reads:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

[Emphasis added]

It is the portion of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

I cannot vouch for the truth in any of the stories listed above but they represent a point of view that requires our consideration as citizens of a free society. (However, my own personal research strongly suggests that #24 is very true and we should be aware of it in the run-up to a war in Iran. I discussed this news item in an earlier post.) That these stories were not included in main stream media coverage should raise a red flag and spike our collective curiosity about them.

Should we open the window and go out on the ledge?

You know, those wonderful adjustable rate mortgages? The ones where you start out at a low teaser rate for the first couple of years ... and then the bank "adjusts" the interest rate and your monthly payment sky rockets? When you took the loan, the loan officer told you that people tend to sell their homes every 3 or 5 or 7 years ... so you'd probably sell your house and buy a new one before the adjustment hit. Or, alternatively, you could always refinance the mortgage before you got whacked by the sky rocketing adjustment, right?

Well, that works really well as long as housing prices are going UP. But what happens if, all of a sudden, the market value of your home starts circling the toilet? What happens if, suddenly, you can't sell your home for what you owe on it? What happens if you go to the bank to refinance the mortgage and the bank appraisal says your home isn't worth what you owe ... and to refinance, you have to come up with the difference of say 10% or 20%. On a $250,000 home that means you have to come up with between $25,000 and $50,000 in cash to avoid your monthly mortgage payment going through the roof.

Here's a picture of the amounts of money tied up in adjustable rate mortgages spread out over when those adjustments are scheduled to hit.

The problem with this debt is we have now partially crippled our economy going forward. The U.S. economy relies on the credit markets for a host of necessary economic activities. But those markets are not functioning smoothly right now. And the chart from the IMF indicates they won't function smoothly for some time into the future. As a result, the U.S. economy will limp alone for the foreseeable future as the credit markets work-out their self-imposed problems. And that's not good for anyone.

Hal Stewart, market analyst | Bio | Full article |

Lenders like Countrywide are devaluing their mortgage holdings like there's no tomorrow. The foreclosure rates are at record highs - that means banks and lenders are taking ownership of the homes people can no longer pay for - and that is depressing both the existing home and new construction markets. (Why would you buy a home at retail when you can get one just like it down the street at wholesale?)

Well, one of the things the chart tells me is that it's going to get a lot worse before it starts to get any better.

The lesson in all of this is that the only time leverage works for you is when you have other alternatives. The only time to buy something by leveraging it's future value is when you don't have to. Betting that the value of your home will always increase is a foolish dream. We make the bet because it's been the case since the 1950s - but history goes back a lot further than the last 60 years and there are precedents of values dropping like a rock --- over night.

Lets hear it for market deregulation! The invisible hand of the market will solve everything! Milton Freedman forever!

Well, the invisible hand of the market doesn't solve everything. Corporations don't always act in their own best interests and they certainly don't act in your best interest. This economic hiccup is a prime example of why regulation of an industry is important. For the last 10-15 years the financial markets have been using "hedge funds" as a means to circumnavigate the regulations covering stocks and bonds and other other publicly traded financial instruments. They created a totally free and unrestricted market on the side and then they engaged in a high stakes, "free market" game of Three Card Monte among themselves. They bundled terrible loans and sold them back and forth among themselves at ever increasing prices until, one day, someone asked the forbidden question: "What are these things REALLY worth?"

The answer is now coming to light. "They're not worth what we've been selling them back and forth to each other. Not anywhere NEAR what we've been selling them to each other for."

So much for "free markets", invisible hands and all that bunk.

The problem is that the only people who get hurt in all of this are the people who believed that their home values would continue to increase at unbelievable rates (as they have for the last decade).

I know how it works because I took advantage of the situation. We bought a condo in New Jersey about a decade ago and sold it for a healthy profit in a bidding war between potential buyers. We took the money and bought a fixer-upper house in the mountains of Pennsylvania and flipped it in three years ... for a significant profit. Circumstances pretty much repeated themselves a couple times here in Arizona. We find ourselves in quite a nice home now, leveraged on the backs of the condo, the house in the mountains and a couple of other transactions that too advantage of market escalations. The down side is that I got caught with two houses; buying this one before I unloaded the previous one. The up side is that the leverage worked but only because I'm fortunate enough to have an alternative I can fall back on if things get tight. Oh, by the way, the mortgages aren't adjustable.

Several years ago, in the late 1990s, when the "Dot Com" bubble was spiraling out of control and fortunes were being lost faster than popcorn pops as we watched hyper inflated stock prices flush down the toilet in hours, I passed a paper around to a couple of friends of mine. It was a history of the Holland Tulip Craze (1634-1637). The language may seem a little stilted but, one must keep in mind that the piece was written in 1852. It reads like satire but, it is in fact, simply history. It points out that there is a significant difference between "intrinsic" value and "market" value - something missed in all of the "scientific" economic formulas tauted by Uncle Milty, the Chicago School and many of the so-called fiscal conservatives on the Right. It's worth reading now because history is repeating itself yet again. I guess Uncle Milty missed that reading assignment when he was developing his theories.

Monday, November 05, 2007

When is Detention Not Detention?

by Naomi Wolf

I have argued that in the closing stages of a `fascist shift', events cascade. I am hearing about them, even across the globe. Here in Australia I hear from the nation's best-know feminist activist, and former adviser to Paul Keating, Anne Summers, who was also at the time this took place Chair of the Board of Greenpeace International. Summers was detained by armed agents for FIVE HOURS each way in LAX on her way to and from the annual meeting of the board of Greenpeace International in Mexico, and her green card was taken away from her. `I want to call a lawyer', she told TSA agents. `Ma'am, you do not have a right to call an attorney,' they replied. `You have not entered the United States.'

Apparently a section of LAX just beyond the security line is asserted to be `not in the United States' -- though it is squarely inside the airport -- so the laws of the US do not apply. (This assertion, by the way, should alarm any US citizen who is aware of how the White House argued that Guantanamo is not `in the United States' - is a legal no-man's land -- so the laws of the US do not apply.) Toward the end of her second five-hour detention she asked, `Why am I being detained?' `Lady, this is not detention,' the TSA agent told her. `Detention is when I take you to the cells out back and lock you up.'

More after the click ...

My comment: Of course, if you're innocent, you have nothing to worry about. Right?

No ... wait ... that's only if someone has to prove you broke a law. That's no longer the case. And having to prove anything is soooooo pre-9/11!

Wolf continues with some questions that you should be asking yourself. They're very important questions:

- Is building a US Embassy in Baghdad the size of eighty football fields and at a cost of well more than half a BILLION dollars evidence of short- or long-term thinking?

- These walls would crumble if the next legitimate president independently ends the war. How about defending and expanding the basis for FISA violations at this late stage -- after all, these folks will be gone in a year?

- How about the decision to fight so hard for a US attorney who will defend the view that the President is above the law?

- Why would that matter so much in an administration folding its tents?

- Why the rush to establish Guantanamo as a permanent part of the landscape and even seek money at one point to double its size -- if the next President, a truly independent Republican or Democrat, might just close it down?

- Why the push to expand a war that makes no military or popular sense, rush through military tribunals that the next President might just disband, and, by the way, drum up a fresh new World War III?

- Do the neo-cons advising Giuliani look like a fresh page for an independent, transparent election or an ideological continuity of government in themselves?

- Do these look like the short-term tactics of a fading administration -- or the institutional strategic bases for some kind of new long-term beginning?

- Why work so hard to make sure that the man who defended the infamous "enemy combatant" concept will be the new Attorney General?

Don't kid yourself. Fascism is always a possibility. I know you're thinking "It can't happen here." It can.

The Idocy of National Unity

Marty Kaplan / HuffPo

Dear Presidential Candidates:

The men and women of the media are not your friends.

They work for a big business, whose oxygen is attention. They live or die on grabbing and holding audiences. To stay in business, they need combat, conflict, heat, meat, flip-flops, gotchas, losers, boozers, hairpin turns, heroes with feet of clay, Rockys, Quixotes, cliffhangers, firewalkers, comebacks, kickbacks, zingers, 'wingers.

And yet at the same time the media root for and egg on mudwrestling and foodfighting, what they say they want is a cathedral -- bipartisanship, consensus, a Serious Debate on The Issues, Bringing America Together.

Boy, is that a sucker punch. The truth is, they think that stuff is really b-o-r-i-n-g. No combat = no attention. If you want a case study of the media's ennui with unity, look at how they've covered Bush for the past four years. The country has never been more united in opposing him and his policies; words like "idiot" and "incompetent" are what come to mind first when 70-plus percent of the country think of him, which is as close to a landslide as America ever gets. Yet from the coverage Bush and the Republicans receive, you'd think that his opposition resides in a wild-eyed fringe.

The rest after the click ...

A Study in Contrast

In light of policies which now allow for torture, I thought this was an interesting clip.

Wallace: “The President remembered the courage and humanity of American soldiers and he grew emotional.”

Bush: “My favorite picture is a picture of American soldiers surrounding a guy whose been in a foxhole, Iraqi soldier, and the American guy says, we’re not going to harm you, we’re American soldiers.” (fights back tears)

Bush: “… See, that side of the war never got — the fact that we treated those people with respect in spite of the fact they were the enemy, it’s really good.

Video clip here.

My comment: It's not abut who they are. It's about who we are.

The War Protest that Wasn't


It’s important who owns the press, as we’ve just seen and heard ... but it’s also important who decides what is news.

Why wasn’t it news last weekend when more than 100,000 people turned out in 11 cities across the country to protest the occupation of Iraq … but if you blinked while watching the national news, you wouldn’t have known it was a story? ...

Video clip here.

My comment: There is no public outrage for several reasons ... among those reasons is the silence of the news media. But also among the reasons is the fact that the general public doesn't have a personal stake in the war. There is no draft so "it doesn't effect me".

I remember the 1960s. I remember the terror of going in for my draft physical, the fear of being sent to the front to fight in a war that I didn't understand or believe in.

The reasons for the war didn't make sense to me then. The reasons for this war do make sense to me ... though the reasons offered in the MSM (mainstream media) are not the the reasons I believe we are there. I believe we are there because this war is too damned profitable for too many corporate entities.

When I was gainfully employed as an actual "employee", I was queried one day by a vice president of the corporation about my sense of loyalty - what it means and how it applied to the job he was about to offer me. I told him honestly that I was prepared to lay down my life for my company ... just as soon as I had the sense that my company was prepared to lay down it's life for me. He understood exactly what I was saying.

Now, I ask myself what happens when the country becomes a "company" ... what happens when foreign policy is driven by corporate interests? I suspect the challenges of staffing an all volunteer fighting force and the need to hire mercenaries security contractors to do a lot of the heavy lifting in this war is wrapped up in that set of thoughts ...

Shooting War

It's five o'clock in the morning. I've been up for a couple of hours ... no an unusual set of circumstances. The usual drill is to bring up my news reader and skim the headlines, looking for something interesting to share. This morning brought something quite interesting.

Shooting War
A graphic novel by Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman

The year is 2011 and the situation in Baghdad hasn't improved. President McCain is still occupying Iraq, a mushroom cloud just rose over India and the network news is as news-less as ever. Enter 25-year-old Jimmy Burns, a 25-year-old New York City hipster with bad facial hair and a porn habit, who prompts the questions: what is journalism and what is a journalist?

Less a comment on the never ending war than it is a comment on how the news is manipulated.

The web version of the graphic novel is a beta version of the book. There are enough plot twists to keep you "turning pages". It's an interesting perspective, to say the least. It even has at least one reference to my favorite terrorist, Milton Freedman. My opinion? highly recommended and I'm not all that big on graphic novels.

Welcome to 2011; Welcome to Baghdad and who's zoomin' who?.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thought for the Day

"To believe is to know you believe, and to know you believe is not to believe."

Jean-Paul Sartre