Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Republican Rape Embarrassment

In an election cycle in which the Republicans have been plagued by gaffs of their own making, this has to be their most ridiculous moment: their stance on rape. It is a complete embarrassment on any of them who actually believe this total bullshit. I know there are rational Republicans out there--a few are family and friends. I wish they would be more vocal at condemning this heinous and insipid view, but they just shake their heads and I can see that they just wish it would go away.

And in an election year in which the incumbant president is so clearly beatable based on the issues, all the Republicans can come up with to oppose Obama is Mitt Romney? GOP, how thou doth falter! It's ridiculous but not so much that it's funny, just troubling.

Stephen Colbert on Fox's "Benghazi-Gate"

Republicans Tell Why You Shouldn't Vote for Romney (and they're right!)

The Daily Show: American Pickers

Friday, October 26, 2012

Obama Uncensored: Rightwing Centrist Tax Cut Plan?

I get a right chuckle whenever I hear someone say Obama is a socialist. He's barely a democrat, more conservative than Saint Ronny ever was, and the real truth about this election? Obama and Romney are the same.  They play up their supposed differences in these "debates" but when it comes down to policy and which group they'll fuck the hardest, it will always be the group that has historically been fucked the hardest: the poor. Both parties do the bidding of their corporate masters, neither is progressive, it's all about the great big sellout. You'll be ok as long as you remain silent...or until you have something or do something that calls their attention to you. Regardless, you don't get a say in your future. You are a statistical subroutine.

Big Ag Ad Blitz Puts GMO Labeling in Jeopardy

California GMO Labeling Supporters Confront $34 Million Opposition and 13-Point Poll Slide
by Rebekah Wilce


California Proposition 37 to label foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is up for a vote on Tuesday, November 6. It enjoyed broad popular support as of September, with a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showing support by 61 percent of registered voters.

But in the two weeks following that poll, support dropped to 48 percent, according to a poll done by Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and the California Business Roundtable.

What explains the 13 point slide?

Multi-Million Dollar Ad Blitz Changes Minds

Between one poll and the next, voters saw the start of what the Los Angeles Times called a "major television advertising blitz by opponents aimed at changing voters' minds on the issue."

How big of an advertising blitz? $41 million in campaign contributions have been made to the "No on 37" campaign, according to the Los Angeles Times. The campaign paid Winner & Mandabach Campaigns, a political campaign management and advertising firm specializing solely in ballot measures, $14.7 million for "TV or cable airtime and production costs" in September.

Mark Bittman writes in a New York Times op-ed, "By some accounts the 'no' advocates are spending $1 million a day."

Follow the Money: "Big 6" GMO Companies Buy Big Ads

Among the campaign's largest funders are the "Big 6" GMO and pesticide corporations: BASF, Bayer, Dupont, Dow Chemical Company, Syngenta, and Monsanto the devil (see the chart below this article). These six corporations dominate the world's seed, pesticide and genetic engineering (GE) industries. Collectively they have contributed more than $20 million to oppose the labeling measure.

The most effective ad run by the opposition campaign, according to "Yes on 37" spokesperson Stacy Malkan, features Henry I. Miller telling voters that Prop 37 "doesn't make sense." It misleads voters by spinning the law's logical labeling exemptions into "arbitrary" "special interest" loopholes that allegedly result in an "illogical" and "ill-conceived" law.

For instance, the ad discusses exemptions for animal products, but currently there are no genetically modified cows, pigs, or chickens on the market.

According to the Earth Island Journal, spinning the law's exemptions into a major issue makes "a snazzy sound bite, . . . no doubt informed by the No campaign’s polling and focus group findings that show this is a wedge issue. But it’s a strawman argument and fundamentally misleading. The article points out "the holes in the loophole argument" one by one.

Who is Henry Miller?

The ad originally listed campaign spokesperson Miller as "M.D., Stanford" and showed Stanford University buildings in the background. The campaign had to pull that version off the air at the request of Stanford University and re-do it because "the Stanford ID on the screen appeared to violate the university’s policy against use of the Stanford name by consultants," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Miller is a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank housed on the Stanford campus. Prior to joining Hoover, Miller worked for 15 years at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where he was an outspoken advocate of agricultural biotechnology, including GMOs. Miller was the founding director of the FDA Office of Biotechnology, from 1989-1994.

What Miller is most notorious for are his unusual public positions. In 2003, Miller penned an op-ed for the New York Times defending DDT and arguing for its resurrection. This prompted a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) response pointing out the estimated "increase in infant deaths that might result from DDT spraying."

Miller was also a founding member scientist of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, a now-defunct, tobacco industry-funded public relations front group run by the APCO Worldwide PR firm that worked to discredit the links between cigarettes and cancer.

Perhaps most outrageously, Miller wrote in a 2011 op-ed for Forbes that some of those exposed to radiation after the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant "could have actually benefitted from it."

So it is unsurprising that Miller penned a Forbes op-ed on GMO labeling this week suggesting that it is the supporters of GMO labeling who are engaged in "no-holds-barred advocacy . . . to disparage farming methods and promulgate fraudulent health claims about the foods we eat."

Behind the Money is the Right to Know

 In these big dollar proposition campaigns, voters in California are often subject to a great deal of misinformation. As CMD has reported, a proposition on the California ballot in June dropped 17 points in the polls and was defeated after a $47 million misleading ad campaign by the tobacco industry.

On election day, voters in California are challenged to sift the wheat from the chaff to decide if they want to join 61 nations in enjoying the right to know if their food contains GMOs.

"No on 37" Campaign Funding

Weekly funnies



Consumer Protector Caves to the Banks

Richard Cordray might be the most powerful man in America today, and you’ve probably never even heard of him.

As head of the new US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Cordray can effectively set the clock back to 2005 and inflate another gigantic, economy-busting housing bubble without breaking a sweat. All he has to do is define the term “qualified mortgage” in a way that suits the big banks and–presto–$40 billion per month will start flowing into new mortgages. It’s that simple. Here’s the story from Bloomberg:
U.S. lenders may get strong protections from lawsuits over most government-backed mortgages under rules being weighed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to two people briefed on the policy.
The so-called qualified mortgage regulations would give banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) safeguards against legal action arising from the underwriting process, according to the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions aren’t public.(“CFPB Mortgage Rule Said to Give Lenders More Protection”, Bloomberg)
So this is why the banks haven’t stepped up their mortgage originations yet, eh, even though the Fed said it will buy $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) per month via its QE3 program? It’s because they want blanket legal immunity from lawsuits from homeowners who may have been foreclosured on unfairly.  But why is Cordray helping them? Why is he making it harder for the victims to sue the miscreants who booted them out of their homes? Isn’t his job to protect consumers? Instead, he’s doing the banks bidding. What gives?  Here’s more from Bloomberg:
The consumer bureau, which is crafting the rules as part of a broader overhaul of housing-finance oversight, revealed its plans in a meeting with other federal regulators yesterday, according to the people. About 80 percent of loans backed by Fannie Mae (FNMA), Freddie Mac or government insurers such as the Federal Housing Administration, would qualify for a legal safe harbor under the bureau’s plan, according to data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
So, it’s a done-deal, eh? They just need to dot a few “i’s” and cross a few “t’s” before making the big announcement. But just look at the details: “80 percent of loans …would qualify for a legal safe harbor under the bureau’s plan.” What a joke.  Fannie and Freddie already insure 90 percent of all new mortgages, so now they’re going to provide legal immunity on mortgages that they’re already insuring for free? That’s one helluva freebie for the banks, don’t you think? Why not just hand them the keys to Fort Knox right now and be done with it. The fact is, Cordray shouldn’t be making any concessions at all. The whole thing is ridiculous. More from Bloomberg:
Protections would cover loans issued at prime interest rates to borrowers whose total debt-to-income ratio doesn’t exceed 43 percent.
How long do you think you’d be able to keep your head above water if a 43% chunk of your paycheck vanished before you ever got your mitts on it? Not long, I’d wager. In fact, experts think that house payments should never exceed 33% of income. So what does that tell you? It tells you that Cordray has agreed to a deal that’s going to cost taxpayers a bundle to cover the rancid mortgages that the banks plan to make as soon as the ink dries. But that’s okay, right, because at least the banks will make a chunk of dough chopping this dreck into securitized morsels and selling it to the Fed at top-dollar. What a scam!

Think about it for a minute. If the Fed says it’s going to buy $40 billion in MBS per month, then the smart money is going to dredge up enough mortgage applicants to sign on the dotted line, right? Because you need mortgages to make mortgage-backed securities.  Well, guess what, the banks don’t care if these new candidates default or not. Why would they? As long as they can slip them in under the new definition, they’ll get their money anyway. They just want to make sure all their bases are covered so that when Joe Blow defaults  (because he was fitted into a mortgage that he clearly couldn’t afford to repay) he can’t sue them for sloppy underwriting. Now Mr. Blow will have to take it on the chin and find a cheap rental somewhere because Cordray sold him out to the banksters.

Thanks Rich.

And, there’s more to this story, too,  because the banks aren’t merely angling for carte blanche guarantees on their boomerang mortgages; they also want to make sure they don’t have to pony-up one red cent to backstop their garbage MBS. They think they should be able to create as much credit as they want without any risk to themselves or their shareholders. It is arrogance in the extreme. Here’s an excerpt from an op-ed in the Washington Post by economist Mark Zandi that explains what’s going on:
A second looming decision with big implications for mortgage credit involves something called the “qualified residential mortgage” rule. Although the name is similar, this is quite different from the qualified-mortgage definition, and is designed to curb bad lending by forcing lenders to hold a financial stake in their riskiest mortgages.
Under Dodd-Frank, a lender must hold 5 percent of any loan that isn’t a “qualified residential mortgage” (QRM) so that if it later goes sour, the lender loses something, too. This makes sense in principle, but like the qualified-mortgage rule, the devil is in the details. These are quite complicated, reflecting regulators’ fear that lenders will work hard to circumvent any rule. But complexity adds to costs, and as a result, non-QRM loans threaten to have meaningfully higher mortgage rates than QRM loans.(“Defining a ‘Qualified’ Mortgage”, Mark Zandi, Washington Post)
Right. It’s too complicated for you to understand, Mr. Taxpayer, so just go about your business and leave it to us, the experts. We’ll take care of everything.”

Give me a break, Zandi, anybody can get this stuff. The banks just don’t want to hold enough capital to back up their shitty MBS. That’s it, isn’t it? They want to be able to create more toxic MBS in their off-balance sheet boiler rooms but not keep enough money on hand to pay off investors when the ship goes under. It’s called “risk retention”, and it’s no different than requiring insurance companies to have sufficient reserves to pay off claims in the event that your house burns down. Here’s more from Zandi:
Since Dodd-Frank stipulates that loans made by the federal agencies are qualified residential mortgages by definition, how QRM is defined will help shape the federal role in the mortgage market. If the definition is too narrow, private lenders won’t be able to compete, given the higher interest rate they will need to charge to compensate for the extra risk. The government will thus continue to dominate mortgage lending in the near term. On the other hand, if Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are privatized down the road, a narrow QRM definition could significantly shrink the government’s role in the mortgage market, potentially threatening the existence of the 30-year fixed rate mortgage loan.
Oh please. Forget about the government’s role in the housing market; it’s completely irrelevant. What we’re interested in is making sure that the banks have a few bucks in the vault to back up their crappy assets when their next zeppelin crashes. Is that too much to ask? The fact of the matter is that capitalism requires capital; that’s just how it works. You just can’t keep cranking out credit without sufficient collateral to back it up or even the smallest blip in the market will send the financial system barrel-rolling into oblivion.  Lenders need to have enough skin in the game to cover their potential losses and to prevent another meltdown that requires trillions in gov support to fill the black hole that they (the banks) created.

Can you see what’s going on here? Behind all the legal rigamarole, the banks are blackmailing the government.  They’re saying that they won’t step up their mortgage originations until they get everything they want. And what they want is a safe harbor (legal immunity) and no more “put-backs”. (mortgages that the banks have been forced to repurchase because they exhibited “substantive underwriting and documentation deficiencies”.) In other words,  they don’t want to get stuck with the bill next time they blow up the financial system. That means that the way Cordray defines “qualified mortgage” matters a great deal, because it will determine whether the banks ease lending standards, increase mortgage originations, boost credit to marginal applicants, and fulfill Bernanke’s dream of inflating another housing bubble. That’s what this is all about. The CFPB’s definition could have a profound impact on the direction of the economy, so there’s a lot at stake.

Unfortunately, it looks like Cordray has caved in on all counts, which means we could see a sudden surge in housing activity as the banks put the Fed’s  $40 billion per month subsidy to work and start lending like madmen again.

Doesn’t it seem like we keep making the same mistakes over and over again?

Entrenching Murder as the American Way

The Washington Post has just laid out, in horrifying, soul-slaughtering detail, the Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to expand, entrench and “codify” the practice of murder and terrorism by the United States government. The avowed, deliberate intent of these sinister machinations is to embed the use of death squads and drone terror attacks into the policy apparatus of future administrations, so that the killing of human beings outside all pretense of legal process will go on, year after year after year, even when the Nobel Peace Laureate has left office.

They have even come up with a new euphemism for state murder: “disposition.” The new “counterterrorism matrix” is “designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones,” the Post reports.

In other words, it involves expanding and varying the menu of arbitrary murder, mixing the blunderbuss of drone blasts and night raids with more selective “bullet-in-the-brain,” “bomb-in-the-car-engine,” “polonium-in-the-pea-soup,” and “doping-and-defenestration” approaches. Arbitrary murder by unaccountable elites and their spies, paid for by money taken from ordinary citizens who have no say in and no knowledge of what is being done in their names (and who will be the victims of the inevitable blowback from the state terror and murder campaign): this is now being “codified,” officially, formally, as the American way.

To be fair — and by all means, let us be fair with these butchers — the term ‘disposition’ is also stretched to cover a multitude of sins: kidnapping, rendition, indefinite detention, turning captives over to proxy torturers. But it is worth remembering that all of these dispositions — including the murders, wholesale and retail — involve “alleged” terrorists, terrorist “suspects,” people who have found themselves, for whatever reason (or no reason at all) on one of the innumerable “lists” gathered by whatever method (or no method at all) by the many fatly-funded agencies now involved in “counter-terrorism.”

But that’s not all, not by a long shot. These codified murders are also being inflicted on people who are not on any list whatsoever: their names, affiliations, beliefs, intentions — indeed, their dispositions — are completely unknown to those who kill them. They are the faceless targets of “signature strikes,” which allow American death squads to kill people based on “patterns of activity” which may — or may not — signal some possible malign intent — or none — toward someone — or no one — somewhere — or nowhere. This rigorous process rests entirely on in the magical mind-reading abilities of drone jockeys ogling a computer screen. If the armchair warrior doesn’t like the cut of someone’s jib, then he squeezes his joystick and turns the stranger into “bug splatter,” to use the term favored by our bold defenders of civilization.

Like last year’s NY Times piece that first detailed the murder racket being run directly out of the White House, the new Washington Post story is replete with quotes from “senior Administration officials” who have obviously been authorized to speak. Once again, this is a story that Obama and his team WANT to tell. They want you to know about the murder program and their strenuous exertions to make it permanent; they are proud of this, they think it makes them look good. They want it to be part of their legacy, something they can pass on to future generations: arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder.

Perhaps this fact should be borne in mind by all those anguished progressives out there who keep telling themselves that Obama will “be different, that he will “turn to the left,” if we can only get him a second term. No; the legacy of arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder is the legacy he wants. It is the legacy he has been building, with remarkable energy and meticulous attention to detail, day after day, week after week, for the past four years. This is what he cares about. And it is this — not jobs, not peace, not the environment, not equal rights for women and ethnic and sexual minorities, not the poor, not the middle class, not education, not infrastructure, not science, not diplomacy — that he will apply himself to in a second term. (Along with his only other political passion: forging a “grand bargain” with Big Money to gut the remaining shreds of the New Deal.)

There is little point in going through the Post story and offering detailed comment. The sickening nature of this perpetual-motion death-machine — and the husk-like inhumanity of those who operate it and the sycophants who applaud it — are all too plain. Just read the whole thing, and see for yourself. See how these butchers — our bipartisan elites, our whole respectable, self-righteous establishment — have trapped us all in an Age of Hell.


The war on terror is a bogus system put in place to expand the American Empire while stuffing  the coffers of the corporate military industrial complex. There aren't enough terrorists left opposing us to even worry about, much less put forth such an effort at quashing them. They got lucky once because the Bush administration had their thumbs up their asses in spite of several warnings what was coming. Had anyone else been in office, no 9-11 per se, but there would still be this endless expenditure of money in the war on drugs (another farce) or expanding the empire just because that's what empires do. But keep killing whole families with drone strikes and we'll create a new generation of people who hate us and oppose the American Empire so that the corporate military industrial complex will have more victims for their high tech/high kill ratio meat it or not, fellow citizens. We aren't the good guys. History will judge us harshly for the crimes we commit on our fellow humans every single day. The best evidence we aren't the good guys: the US armed forces average more than 1 suicide per day. They kill themselves more than the enemy does. If what they were doing were righteous, would they be killing themselves in such staggering numbers? May their god bless them and forgive them for whatever drove them to such a sad ending.

Rebooting Our Definition of “Patriotism”

Limitless hypocrisy...

Beyond Flag Waving

Which is more “patriotic”—to loyally refrain from criticizing your government’s foreign policies, no matter how brutal or peremptory they may be (including those that result in quasi-legal, immoral military adventurism that kills thousands of innocent civilians), or to loyally pony up when your government asks you to make a relatively minor economic sacrifice?

Two specific examples. Who were the more “patriotic” citizens—those anti-war protesters, both young and old, who marched in the streets during the tumultuous Vietnam era of the 1960s and 1970s, or those mega-wealthy citizens of 2012 who have renounced their U.S. citizenship and re-located to foreign countries in order to avoid paying higher taxes? Call me a starry-eyed idealist, but I like to think it’s the former.

On June 25, the New York Post reported that twice as many ultra-rich Americans as in the previous year are expected to renounce their U.S. citizenship in order to avoid higher taxes. Granted, the New York Post doesn’t have the institutional whiskers of, say, the New York Times, but the Post does provide the requisite statistics and attribution to make its story credible.

The Post reported that, in 2012, approximately 8,000 Americans are projected to renounce their U.S. citizenship in order to seek refuge in more tax-friendly countries (Costa Rica, Singapore, Cayman Islands, Antigua, et al). They compare this figure to the 3,805 Americans who did so in 2011.

The article quotes Jim Duggan, a lawyer at the law firm of Duggan Bertsch: “High net-worth individuals are making decisions that having a U.S. passport just isn’t worth the cost anymore,” he said. “They’re able to do what they do from any place in the world, and they’re choosing to do it from places with much lower tax rates.” He fails to mention that federal income tax rates are lower than they’ve been in several decades.

So, whether these fat cats live in stately mansions within gated communities in the U.S., or in stately mansions within gated communities in Costa Rica, it’s not going to make any difference to them because they don’t “belong” to either community and never will belong. In truth, the very concept of belonging to a “community” (in the sense that most of us regard that term) is meaningless to them.

Duggan’s observation that wealthy people can now “do what they do from any place in the world” is actually quite chilling. Drones can kill people anywhere, satellites can spy on people anywhere, computer viruses can be sent from anywhere, and vast fortunes can be made from anywhere. Not to be morbid, but it’s worth noting that those philosophers who predicted that “abstraction” would eventually result in the disintegration of our here-and-now world, and lead to widespread alienation, may have been right.

When I mentioned this story to a Republican friend of mine, and went on a prolonged rant about the alarming greed and selfishness of these unpatriotic bastards, he instantly seized upon what he believed to be a brilliant counter-argument. He smugly asked if my scorn was reserved only for “very successful Americans” (his words) or if I were also willing to label “unpatriotic” those Mexicans who fled their home country to seek economic gain in the U.S.

Weak argument. People escaping grinding poverty by crossing national borders is one thing, but people who, literally, have more money than they know what to do with—who already have their yachts and cars and art and luxury homes, but who would rather relinquish their national identity than share a small fraction more of their wealth with their own government—is a whole other deal. Good riddance to them.