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Jamie Dimon Mansplainin

Jamie Dimon on May 10, 2011 explaining a two billion dollar loss to his shareholders on a conference call:

“In hindsight, the new strategy was flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed, and poorly monitored.”

 

“It was a bad strategy. It was badly executed. It became more complex. It was poorly monitored.”

“We’re willing to bear volatility, and um, that’s life.”

“This trading may not have violated the Volker Rule, but it violated the Dimon principle.”

“We’re not in a business where we are not going to make mistakes. We are going to make mistakes… I could never promise you no mistakes.”

“Even hindsight’s not 20/20, but with hindsight, yes, obviously we should have been paying more attention to it.”

Jamie Dimon at Davos in 2009 speaking about the financial crisis:

“Just because we’re stupid doesn’t mean everybody else was.”

That was after taxpayers needed to pony up $100 billion dollars to create the capitol he didn’t think he was going to need in order to run his casino. He was trying to make the point that regulations aren’t necessary, simply because he was a total fucking moron.

Jamie Dimon on the London Whale debacle:

“It’s a tempest in a teapot.”

“[It] plays right into the hands of a whole bunch of pundits out there … These were grievous mistakes, they were self-inflicted.”

“We made a terrible, egregious mistake … There’s almost no excuse for it.”

“We made a stupid error. Businesses make mistakes, they learn from it and get better. Only when I come to Washington do people act like making a mistake should never happen. Only with academics and politicians is it not allowed.”

“The London Whale was the stupidest and most embarrassing situation I have ever been a part of.”

From an article in The International Business Times (regarding the London Whale):

The bank has been criticised for allegedly holding back information from regulators during the London Whale saga, but Dimon said nothing was withheld and “we didn’t know ourselves sometimes” as JPMorgan tried to mop up in the aftermath.

So you’re running a company in a fashion that allows for you to not know what the fuck is going on? And you’re still employed, why?

Why am I revisiting Jamie Dimon’s greatest hits? Because this arrogant and demonstrably incompetent ass had the audacity to say about Elizabeth Warren, “I don’t know if she fully understands the global banking system.”

Really? You don’t know if she understands? You’ve repeatedly told us that you don’t understand what the hell is going on (usually after one of your giant fuck ups), and we’re supposed to care that you don’t know if Elizabeth Warren understands what you clearly don’t?

Oh for fuck’s sake, can’t you just rob the world in silence? Must you take our money and subject us to your arrogant bloviating?

Honestly, what this idiot lacks in intelligence and morality, he makes up for on audacity. You don’t get to mansplain things to someone who has been right about damned near everything she’s said in the past twenty-five years without me bitchily pointing out what a stupid, greedy, arrogant fuck you are.

That’s it. Short and sweet bitching this time.

 

 

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Leaded Rioting

Violent crime started dropping precipitously in the 90s, and has continued to drop for over twenty years. It started happening during Bill Clinton’s presidency. In 1994, he passed a crime bill that did several things including putting around 100,000 more cops on the streets by issuing $200 million in grants to local police forces to help them staff up. It also included a lot of other "tough on crime" legislation that put more people in prison for longer, but I’m not going to get into the specifics because they’re not relevant to this piece. The Clinton administration naturally took credit for the decrease in violent crime, which sounds reasonable until you realize that those crime rates started dropping in 1991 and never went up for a single year since then.  

Governors all across the country also took credit since their crack downs were clearly the reason for the decreasing violent crime rates. Rudy Guiliani, the most obnoxious of all mayoral peacocks, still claims that his harassment of people of color approach (it’s called the broken windows policing) is why crime went down in New York City during his tenure as mayor. As I stated above, violent crime started declining three years before Rudy began his racially bias policing practices so no rational person would agree with his self aggrandizing assessment of his efforts.

The Freakonomics guys had an interesting theory that Roe v Wade was responsible for the decrease in violent crime. Their thinking is that legalizing abortion meant that would-be criminals weren’t being born because the mothers who weren’t equipped to raise children had access to safe and legal abortions. There seems to be a correlation in terms of the timeline. Roe was decided in 1973, about 18 years before the crime rate started dropping. Sounds pretty good, right? Not so fast. Just like the "tough on crime" thing, it doesn’t hold up to more scrutiny. This theory doesn’t work outside of the US. The UK legalized abortion in 1968. Their crime started dropping in 1995.

That was a nice try by Freakonomics. It sounded great, and relied on more data than criminologists turn to. I generally like theories from economists more than I do, those of criminologists. They don’t suffer from the curse of being a hammer, and therefore needing to turn everything else into a nail. Also, economists found the flaw in the economists’ theory. The criminologists are still clinging to their fallacies.

Criminologists have also theorized that crack was the culprit. See, the crack epidemic had increased violent crime so much, that when the crack epidemic burned itself out, crime dropped. But after crack there was meth. And during crack and meth, there’s always been heroin so that lame theory doesn’t hold up to 20 seconds of just thinking it through without having to Google anything. They also came up with the "when times are tough, crime gets worse" explanation. The problem with that is that the late 80s were a pretty good time to find a job. The much bigger problem is that crime didn’t increase from 2008 – 2012, when times were as tough as they’d been in sixty years.

So what is it? What explains the drop in violent crime. It’s looking very much like lead is the culprit. We have another economist with a theory that seems to be holding up all around the world, in a way that hasn’t yet been countered. In 1994, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (yes, the dreaded HUD) hired an economist named Rick Nevin to help them do a cost benefit analysis on removing lead paint from old homes. There had been a mountain of research at that point, demonstrating that exposure to lead can cause a laundry list of issues like lowered IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral issues, and learning disabilities. There was also a study that linked lead exposure to juvenile delinquency. This study got Nevin thinking about whether there could be a link between lead and violent crime. Remember, this was 1994 so violent crime had been decreasing for three years at that point.

Nevin found that the highest lead exposure wasn’t coming from paint, but from leaded gasoline.

Here’s a little history on the lead in the gas. In 1921, tetra-ethyl (known as TEL or ethyl) lead was developed for GM by Thomas Midgley, who discovered that adding the lead to the gas reduced the "knocking" in engines. In February, 1923, leaded gas was first sold commercially. Four months later, the US Public Health service was made aware of the leaded gas and requested safety tests (pesky big government!). By September of the same year, workers in the DuPont TEL plant were starting to die. The scene was described as, “sickening deaths and illnesses of hundreds of TEL workers… Gripped by violent bursts of insanity, the afflicted would imagine they were being persecuted by butterflies and other winged insects before expiring, their bodies having turned black and blue.” By April 1925, a Yale study (among others) concluded that "the greatest single question [whether leaded gasoline is safe] in the field of public health which has ever faced the American public.". In May 1925, the US Public Health Service held a conference to discuss both sides of the ethyl (as usual, the sides were science vs corporate profits) issue and appoint a blue ribbon committee to conduct an independent inquiry.

What followed was a now very familiar decades long period in which more and more studies around the world were sounding alarm bells about the dangers of lead, which naturally generated industry funded "studies" to counter the broader scientific community. This was the beginning of the allegations (by DuPont and GM) of "partisan science". Stop me when this starts to sound familiar to you. People are dying in the manufacturing plants, and everyone knew it was because of the "looney gas". By the late 60s, the government was starting to lay out timelines and regulations for the phasing out of lead. Here’s a fun quote from the VP of Ethyl Corp in 1971;

“The clincher by all prophets of doom is that someone started the rumor that lead was the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire… The legend always gets fuzzy — sometimes it is caused by lead-lined aqueducts, other times it is from their wine being drunk from lead-lined flasks.”

Again, just let me know when this is starting to sound familiar to you. The victimhood, the hyperbole, the fear tactics…these are all echoed by tobacco companies, the NRA, the entirety of the energy industry. Basically any corporation who needs for science not to be so sciency. And when it gets too sciency, it’s time to cook up just enough "science" to claim that there are unanswered questions. There were no unanswered questions about tobacco. There were no unanswered questions about lead. There are no unanswered questions about why our climate is changing, and there are no unanswered questions about how to reduce gun deaths and gun crime.  

In 1972, the EPA mandated that gas stations would be required to sell unleaded gasoline to protect these new fangled "catalytic converters" that the government forced the automotive industry to develop (fucking big government, all up in our business again!) It wasn’t until 1986 that all leaded gasoline was eradicated in the US. That’s over sixty fucking years from when serious questions about lead emerged. No wonder this tactic is still being used.

Okay, back to Nevin. He’s published dozens of papers on the topic of lead and its correlation to violent crime. Here’s a link to the one paper I’m primarily using. I’m just going to give you some bite sized samples of what he’s found by sharing some of his graphs.

Robbery

 

It’s impossible to imagine a more clear correlation.

 

AggAssault   

 

 

 

Murder     

You get the idea. He demonstrated a clear correlation between lead and IQ, behavioral issues and violence. All of it correlates as clearly as the graphs above.

Guess where lead paint still exists in the US? If you guessed that it exists in poor neighborhoods, you win a cookie. Wanna know where there’s likely still a decent amount of lead paint? Yep, Baltimore. Three years ago, they paid out a $3.7 million settlement to a public housing resident who suffered lead poisoning as a child in the 80s.

Maryland’s lead poisoning prevention law didn’t kick in until 1996. Nevin found a nearly precisely twenty year correlation between the elimination of lead and the reduction in crime. In other words, if Nevin is correct and all of Maryland took care of its lead paint problem (I know, I’m being hypothetical) in 1996, we should expect to see low IQ, behavioral issues, and violent tendencies until 2016.

There is an actual physiological factor at play in poor areas of America. All of the privileged people who get to say, "violence is unacceptable under any circumstances" have no idea what they’re talking about. Of course violence is unacceptable, and I’m fairly certain that a significant number of the people committing the violence would be able to agree, had they grown up in a different neighborhood. Being poor comes with innumerable hazards that don’t come with being middle class or rich. Don’t even get me started on the asthma situation.

My response to every single "this is unacceptable" comment was that this isn’t mine to judge. If you didn’t grow up under the circumstances that residents of Ferguson or Baltimore did, then you are not qualified to judge what the appropriate level of rage would be. Lead is just one of dozens of factors involved in these situations that most people aren’t aware of. Stay in your lane. Judging people in these neighborhoods is not your lane. And making an uninformed judgment says more about you than it does about the rioters. I’m just saying that realizing that you don’t know what you don’t know would be the wise thing to do sometimes.     

   

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The Real Presidential Primary

That would be the one that you don’t get to vote in. It’s the one that picks who you get to "choose" from when it’s your turn to have some democracy. It’s the primary that happened last weekend when you were busy having heated discussions about ballgate.

The Koch brothers held their first round of auditions to determine who you get to choose from next year, when it’s your turn to nibble on the scraps of democracy that trickle down to you from their table. The contestants who put on their prettiest gowns and tiaras on, and did their prettiest twirl for the Koch brothers in round one were Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz.

You won’t be deciding on whether to give Mitt Romney a third bite at the apple because the Kochs have already decided they’re not interested in any more Mittens. But don’t despair, he can still get in the game if he can land himself a Sheldon Adelson, who hasn’t held his primary yet. Or Mitt could land himself Mitt, although Mitt seems to greedy and risk averse to invest in someone like Mitt so that’s not really likely. Mitt likes to invest in sure things, what with being a vulture capitalist and all. That’s too bad, cause the people who think that losing twice means you have no chance at all really don’t know much about Ronald Reagan. Third time was a charm for that two time loser. But he finally won on his third try, which subsequently led to the rest of us losing. But I digress.

The Kochs have budgeted 889 million dollars to buy the 2016 elections with. That’s not just the presidential race, that’s congress too. That 889 million dollars of democracy they’re going to enjoy is roughly equal to what each party has to spend on the elections. So two guys who inherited a fuckload of Stalin money from their sugar daddy (literally) have one third of the total cash in the coffers to fund the next American election. Isn’t freedom of money speech great? If you have a problem with this form of speech, let me give you some words of wisdom from Mitt Romney; just go get some money speech from your parents so that you can level the playing field.

When I said, "If you have problem with…" I meant, "you obviously have a problem with this form of speech. It doesn’t matter what you call yourself; democrat, republican, independent…you all have a problem with it.    

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Wanna know who that 22% of republicans who love the money talks system are? Here are some quotes I compiled for you to peruse so you can see for yourself.

“All Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech…. We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times.” – Mitch McConnell

“The exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you — that really started my trajectory." – Joni Ernst 

“I’m really proud of this Supreme Court and the way they’ve been dealing with the issue of First Amendment political speech.” – Mitch McConnell

“I believe in freedom of speech: I think that political spending and political activism is a form of protected speech,” – Marco Rubio

"[The Citizen’s United verdict}a big win for the First Amendment" – John Boehner

"Judicial activism occurs when judges abandon constitutional or statutory meaning and impose their policy preferences instead. A decision that faithfully applies the First Amendment is not activism but rather a proper exercise of the judicial responsibility to keep Congress within its constitutional bounds." – Anthony Dick writing for The National Review

"A vote to oppose these reforms is nothing less than a vote to allow corporate and special interest takeovers of our elections. It is damaging to our democracy. It is precisely what led a Republican President named Theodore Roosevelt to tackle this issue a century ago." – Barack Obama

"Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on campaign financing is a shameful step backward toward big money special interests exercising too much influence over American political campaigns." – Senator Mark Begich (D-AK)

"The Supreme Court’s decision represents a step backward for the American people and our nation’s political process." – Nancy Pelosi

"Allowing corporate influence to flow unfettered into federal campaigns will only undermine the confidence the American people have in their government, and serve only to stack the deck further in favor of special interests at the expense of hardworking Americans." Senator Michael F. Bennet (D-CO)

"With this ill-advised spate of judicial activism, five Supreme Court justices have struck down the distinction between individuals and corporations in election law and opened the floodgates to a hostile corporate takeover of our democratic process." Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT)

"The Supreme Court in essence has ruled that corporations can buy elections. If that happens, democracy in America is over." – Alan Grayson (D-FL)

"Today’s Supreme Court ruling is yet another nod to the wealthy corporate interests in this country. This ruling now allows big corporations to spend large amounts of money to influence elections far beyond the ability of individual Americans. The free market free-for-all announced by these justices makes me wonder, ‘What’s next?’ If today’s ruling isn’t legislating from the bench, I don’t know what is." – Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)

"Today’s decision by Supreme Court is a triumph for special interest and judicial activism at its worst. Overturning the ban on corporate spending on political campaigns opens the floodgates for the corrupting influence and the dominant hand of special interest groups." – Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)

"I think we need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals." – John Kerry

"The effects of the decision will be to undermine existing law, flood the airwaves with corporate and union advertisements, and undercut landmark reforms that I and many others fought to secure to put elections back in the hands of the American people. In short, today’s decision was a serious disservice to our country. – "Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

"The best long-term solution is a constitutional amendment that would prevent the Court from overturning sensible campaign finance regulations." – Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)

"[The] activist element of the Supreme Court struck down key protections of our elections integrity, overturned the will of Congress and the American people, and allowed all corporations to spend without limit in order to elect and defeat candidates and influence policy to meet their political ends. The consequences may well be nightmarish." – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

"The ruling will, to a significant degree, give control of the political process in the United States to the wealthiest and most powerful institutions in the world and the candidates who support their agenda. Instead of democracy being about one-person one-vote, it will now be about the size of a company’s bank account." – Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT)

Do you see a pattern here? No you don’t, cause everyone knows that both parties are exactly the same. There is no difference between them at all, right?

At this moment, democrats are being outspent by republicans to the tune of two to one. What do you think they’re going to have to do to level the "speech"? Could declining to prosecute a single banker for tanking the world’s economy perhaps be the only path forward?

Look, I don’t know how many democrats are earnest in their desire to give us back our democracy, but I know that we’ll never find out until we actually get money out of politics. I’m not going to attribute things like Obama’s inaction on regulating Wall Street to corruption, until we see him actually make a choice. You cannot call democrats hypocrites until they are in a position of making a choice to serve corporations, rather than the people. They don’t have a choice right now so we can’t really tell how many of them are genuinely corrupt (there are a significant number who are, I’m not kidding myself about that) and how many are just forced to play the money speech game.

Or maybe both parties are exactly the same and you should not bother looking for differences or even voting. Become a libertarian……………like the Koch Brothers. Oh, wait.   

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Replacing McD’s Workers With Computers?

The dumbest thing I’ve ever heard is that McDonald’s will replace it’s employees with computers before they pay them $15 per hour. This came to mind when this heaping pile of stupid showed up in my G+ feed;

 

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What is that idiocy based on? The wave of automation that swept through the fast food industry in Denmark where the minimum wage is $20 per hour or Australia where it’s $15 per hour(converted to US)?

Let me tell you a story of something I saw with my own lying eyes. Sometime more than 15 years ago (I haven’t lived there in 15 years) when I lived in northern CA, I had to give a presentation in Palo Alto. That was a 20 mile drive for me and since I was running late, I didn’t have time to eat that day. I just jumped into my car and hoped to get to Palo Alto with enough time to grab some fast food. So I get to Palo Alto, and I see an Arby’s (it was actually Menlo Park, but same diff). In the grand scheme of fast food, that seemed like the least disgusting option so I went in. There were no cashiers, just three computer terminals. I went to the first one and it didn’t work. The second machine also didn’t work. The third and final option worked.

I found the whole thing creepy and isolating. Now that was a long time ago, so maybe that creepy feeling wouldn’t happen for most people today since we’re plugged in all the time, but those machines are still going to break. Publicly accessible hardware breaks often and early.  Ever been on a plane with a frozen screen and wondered why they can’t keep up with your smartphone, which works nearly all the time?

Anyway, I went back to that Arby’s about a year later, just to see if the screens were still there. They were gone and I’ve never seen that setup in silicon freaking valley (or anywhere else) since. If this were viable, I’m pretty sure the genius executives at McDonald’s who insist they’re worth thousands of dollars an hour more than everyone else who works for the company, would have figured it out over the span of (at least) fifteen years.

A hardware engineer makes six figures. A software engineer makes six figures. The network engineers and the system administrators all make six figures. So one engineer (of any variety) for one year makes what one fast food worker makes in eight years. If you double the salary of the fast food worker, it will take them four years to make what one engineer makes in one year.   

How do these idiots think this is going to be an attractive alternative for the fast food industry? What kind of magical math replaces 10 fast food workers with three engineers and comes out ahead? Honestly, is any thought at all put into these inane comments? Or is the burning need to punch down all the thought needed to come up with this shit?

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Fast Food Worker Scumbags!

If you weren’t angry with these damned moochers before, wait until you get a load of what they’re trying to pull now. These scumbags who, despite having exactly the same opportunities as everyone else in the country, refuse to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. So instead of working hard, they’re coming up with new ways to rob the rest of us.

Their latest maneuver might be the most underhanded thing they’ve ever done, and you should hate them even more than you did before. In order for you to fully appreciate the depravity of these shameless takers, I need to give you the back story. They made up a thing they call "wage theft". This isn’t a real phenomena, but rather a ruse that’s designed to garner sympathy from hard working Americans (just like that "white privilege" myth). Anyway, what they call "wage theft" I call shrewd business acumen. It’s when a franchise owner forces an employee to (for example) pay for their uniform (not legal), pay for any shortage in their register (not legal), get straight time pay for overtime hours (not legal), or work without clocking in (not legal).

There’s a bleeding heart liberal "study" that estimates that wage theft (if it existed) costs each worker an average of $2,634 a year. To that I say, so fucking what? That still leaves them with $12,011 a year to live on. 84% of fast food workers "claim" they’re being "robbed" by their "employer". Oh wait, those last quotation marks were a mistake so just ignore them. I don’t know where these people get their sense of entitlement, but if they don’t like it, they can free market themselves another job. And another one, and another one, until they find a fast food employer who will steal a more acceptable percentage of their wages. Or they can get a second or third job. These lazy moochers who can’t see that there’s a whole 128 hours a week available for them to work after they’re done with the first 40 hours are getting what they deserve. Better yet, why don’t they just get some college money from their parents, so that they can get some skills that actually make them worth a damned? Fucking moochers.

Anyway, they didn’t just stop at making up theft and finding some hippy dippy liberals to back them up with a "study". NO, they’re far more insidious than that. McDonald’s workers in three states (California, Michigan, and New York) had the audacity to file class action law suits against the McDonald’s corporation for these alleged "stolen wages". So now, they’re mooching federal resources and draining our court systems of time that we all pay for. These losers really steam my beans!

The McDonald’s corporation correctly asserts that they have no control over the labor practices of their franchisees, and that the workers need to take it up with each individual franchise owner. Well duh! Of course the corporate entity isn’t responsible. I mean, just because a big chunk of those profits end up there, doesn’t mean that Corporate is responsible. These idiots think that they can just follow the money. With this sort of limited intellectual capacity, I say they’re overpaid at $7.25 an hour.

So back in July, the top attorney for the National Labor Relations Board determined that Corporate exerts so much control over their franchisees, that they are ultimately responsible for what happens in their "restaurants" (oops, there I go with the erroneous quotation marks again; please ignore). Now mind you, no court has found this outrageous assertion to be true yet, so it’s clearly part of the conspiracy. These mooching minimum wage workers have found themselves some powerful lobbyists to assert their influence over the National Labor Relations Board. SCUM! Since this matter is on its way to court, the poor McDonald’s corporation (in partnership with the International Franchise Association who represents all franchises) have no choice but to fight back against the powerful minimum wage worker lobby. I say good for them! Someone needs to fight back against this kind of tyranny otherwise, who knows what kind of world we’re going to be leaving for our kids?

So the corporate fast food entities have scraped together their limited resources (and pennies) to send the International Franchise Association to meet with John Boehner and Republican Governors Association head (and Mississippi Gov.) Haley Barbour, who are going to introduce legislation to make sure that Corporate can’t ever be held liable for the shrewd business maneuvering of their franchisees. And those fucking liberals have the nerve to claim that republicans aren’t interested in job creation! By making sure that the corporate entities aren’t liable for these allegedly "stolen wages", they’re putting more money up at the very top. And the more money that’s sitting at the very top, the bigger the avalanche of trickle down will obviously be. If you needed any more proof that democrats don’t care about creating jobs for you, this is it since the International Franchise Association isn’t meeting with any of them. Still think both parties are exactly the same?

I don’t know about you, but as someone who doesn’t work in the fast food (or any other minimum wage) industry, I believe that stopping these moochers is ultimately good for my own self interest. I get paid a well earned six figure salary to work in the high tech, marketing, or publishing industries. I can tell you from experience that keeping a large segment of society working like dogs, while leaving them with no disposable income at all is awesome for me. Sure, they can’t afford to buy my company’s high tech product or consume the media that another client may produce, or even be worth spending the money to advertise to, which ultimately may leave me without a job because my company isn’t generating enough revenue to pay me. But you know what? I get the soul enriching satisfaction of hating them for being so fucking unskilled. And let me tell you that my hate is so satisfying, it should be a class 1 drug. I don’t care what it costs me to keep my hate. I can lose my job, my family, my friends, but I will always have my hate. I will never let anyone take that away from me.

Do you hear me, moocher minimum wage workers?

You need to use your bootstraps to get yourself out of your minimum wage situation. And by bootstraps, I don’t mean hard work since no matter hard you work, your wages will be skimmed off by your employer (the maker). I also don’t mean that you should turn to the legal system. That’s not for you either. That’s just for the makers. You scum need to know your place in life. And you need to think long and hard about all the mistakes you made to get yourself where you are.

You should have gotten that college money out of mummy and daddy’s couch cushions instead of choosing to be takers. Assholes. You disgust me.                 

 

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Hey SCOTUS, We Have The Appearance Of Corruption

Something very interesting, but not at all surprising happened last week that I can’t allow to go unnoticed. It has to do with the sweet, doe eyed belief by the far right wing of the Supreme Court, that money can’t possibly corrupt our political system.

Vance McAllister, the republican who won a congressional seat in special election in Louisiana last November made news last week, for the second time in his short and legislatively empty tenure. You may remember him from a few months ago, when he was caught on tape making out with a married staffer (naturally, he is also married). Being the class act that he is, he decided to finish out his term while at the same time firing the staffer for doing exactly what he did. Remember?

Anyway, he’s back in the news and it’s worse than the last time he was in the news. He made some fascinating admissions during a speech to the Northeast Chapter of Louisiana CPAs when he told a story about a vote he cast. From the article;

McAllister said he voted on legislation related to the Bureau of Land Management though he did not identify the bill. McAllister said a colleague on the House floor told him that he would receive a $1,200 contribution from Heritage Foundation if he voted against the bill.

“I played dumb and asked him, ‘How would you vote?’” McAllister said. “He told me, ‘Vote no and you will get a $1,200 check from the Heritage Foundation. If you vote yes, you will get a $1,000 check from some environmental impact group.’”

McAllister said he voted against the bill but did not receive a $1,200 contribution from Heritage Foundation. Federal law prohibits public officials, including members of Congress, from directly or indirectly seeking, accepting or agreeing to receive anything of value in return for the performance of any official act such as voting.

McAllister said he was not surprised he did not receive a contribution from Heritage Foundation since the group and Gov. Bobby Jindal were “upset with me,” referring to Jindal’s call for McAllister’s resignation. Jindal asked McAllister to resign after The Ouachita Citizen and its sister newspapers exposed McAllister’s extramarital affair with a member of his congressional staff.

Isn’t the lack of corruption and the lack of the appearance of corruption comforting? But don’t get the wrong idea that you may be seeing some corruption here because a spokesman for Heritage stepped up to clear this right up for us (from the article);    

Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. It conducts research of issues and legislation before the Congress. Heritage Foundation does not make political contributions in any manner, according to James Weidman, spokesman for Heritage Foundation.

Weidman said McAllister did not receive a $1,200 contribution from Heritage “because we would never do anything like that.” “If he (McAllister) is wondering why he didn’t receive a check from the Heritage Foundation, which does not make political expenditures of any kind, it is because we do not do it,” Weidman said.


“The Heritage Foundation is a think tank and does research and education, but does not get involved with political bills at all.” “He was just badly misinformed,” Weidman added.

Me thinks the lady doth protest too much. But don’t you worry because I’m positive that this is all a misunderstanding, and that SCOTUS’s sunny optimism was well founded and not all a product of the perks they themselves get from the very same benefactors who are so generous with congress.

Nope, nothing to see here. Move along.

Or, you can help by joining Wolf PAC and changing the system.    

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Mass Surveillance? It’s The Money, Lebowski

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. As we get more information on the mass surveillance programs (both PRISM and the “Terrorist” Surveillance Program), I’m becoming convinced of one thing; these programs are about feeding the military industrial complex with our money. More importantly, it’s about feeding the privatized military industrial complex.

Why do I think that? Because The White House, and several senators who vehemently support the program have been bumbling and fumbling to come up with just one terrorist plot that was thwarted by these programs. On Friday, Mike Rogers claimed that these surveillance programs were instrumental in foiling Najibullah Zazi’s plan to bomb New York City subways. It took me fifteen minutes of Googling to find the holes in his story. Twelve hours later, Buzzfeed debunked it. And then on Monday, several US officials including Dianne Feinstein claimed that the surveillance programs should be credited with the capture of David Coleman Headley, who planned the Mumbai attacks. By Wednesday, ProPublica debunked those claims. Then on Wednesday, Gen. Keith Alexander claimed that these programs thwarted dozens of attacks, including the two that were debunked. Wouldn’t dozens of foiled attacks mean dozens of trials with dozens of trial transcripts containing intercepted communications?

These claims are a joke on their face. So why are these people twisting themselves into pretzels to defend programs they can’t legitimately justify? It’s the money, Lebowski.

The US intelligence budget for 2013 is 19.2 billion dollars. Booz Allen (whose employees are in a revolving door between Booz and the NSA) was awarded 3.8 billion dollars in government contracts last year. That represents 99% of Booz Allen’s total revenue. And that’s just one government contractor.

Our current Director Of National Intelligence, James Clapper is a former Booz Allen employee. I promise you that both he and Gen. Keith Alexander will both be receiving giant paydays when they finish their government service and to to work for Booz Allen.

And just like the fighter jets the pentagon doesn’t want and doesn’t need (but gets anyway), and the tanks they don’t want and don’t need (but get anyway), this program will not die.

And like the fighter jets that don’t work, these programs aren’t going to continue because they’re keeping us safe. They won’t die because of the money, Lebowski.

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Dear Internet, Here’s My Advice On SOPA

SOPA is dead! But don’t get too excited. It won’t stay dead. It’s going to come back to life over and over again for at least the next few decades. It will keep coming back mostly because of what tech companies did, not because of what Hollywood interests have done (or will do).

What did they do that was so horrible? I have to give you a little bit of background info before I can explain where the monumental fuck up by Google (I’m using Google to refer to most of the tech industry here, since listing them would take too long) happened. The tech sector in general, is not a big contributor to political causes. I’m not saying they don’t make donations, but they make fairly insignificant donations in the grand scheme of corporate “giving”. Here’s where the tech companies fucked up; when SOPA and PIPA first reared their ugly heads, the tech industry responded by hiring lobbyists and throwing money at politicians. On its face, that seems like a reasonable course of action.

But in reality, throwing money at the issue is going to prove to be disastrous. Google basically told congress that they’re willing to cave in to extortion. And we all know that when you pay a blackmailer once, you invite other blackmailers to fuck you.

No, they made a bad opening gambit. They basically insured that some version of this bill will come back again and again, since it proved to be such a great fundraiser this time around.

We have a system of governance with seriously fucked up incentive structures built into it, which is why is will never serve the people. There’s no reason why our representatives should give a shit about “the general welfare” of the people. They answer to their corporate masters, because that’s who pays them.

Paying politicians not to fuck you just perpetuates the problem. No, the opening gambit should have been to shut down the internet. Doing that would have put this SOPA bullshit to bed once and for all. Reddit, WiKiPedia, Boing Boing, and everyone else that went dark on Wednesday did a great thing. They should have opened with that move.

While I appreciate Google’s part in the protest, I’m a little pissed at them for not going all in. It was a stupid move on their part. If Google had shut down all of it’s offerings, they would have literally brought the world to its knees. A day without Google, Gmail, G+, or G anything, would be a day that goes down in history. Can you imagine the horror of having to use Bing for a day? Oh, the humanity! They cost themselves a shitload of money by not going dark yesterday. The extortion money that they’re going to have to pay to our politicians over the next couple of decades will far eclipse the loss of revenue from going dark for twenty-four hours.

Are you listening, Eric Schmidt (I’m actually speaking to every CEO that does business on the internet)? I know that you’re new to this whole, our-politicians-are-feckless-thugs thing, but you’re going to have to figure it out fast.

I almost forgot –  before I sign off, I would like to say something to Twitter. You guys are a bunch of ASSHATS and simpletons for not being able to recognize a threat to your livelihood when you see it. Fucking morons!

 

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Jobs Brand Of Capitalism

When my iPhone alerted me to Steve Jobs passing last night, I found myself awash with a profound level of sadness that I couldn’t explain. I couldn’t explain it because I didn’t personally know Steve Jobs. My relationship with him didn’t extend beyond my enthusiasm for the products that he brought to market. Products that I absolutely love, by the way. But still, he was the CEO of a company that made stuff that I loved. It felt strange to feel such strong emotions under these circumstances. As I scrolled through social networking sites, I realized that I wasn’t alone. Lots of people were lamenting their seemingly irrational grief over the passing of a complete stranger.

The more I read, the more I realized that my reaction wasn’t “abnormal”. Steve Jobs had an unusual effect on millions of people that he never met. As I read messages of adulation and sadness, it occurred to me that in this time of worldwide disdain for corporate titans, the world was truly mourning the loss of a corporate titan. My G+ stream was filled with equal parts; Steve Jobs tributes, and Occupy Wall Street updates. Many of which were being posted by the same people.

And then I thought about the main stream media coverage (such as it is) of Occupy Wall Street. Most of it consists of dismissing the protesters as “dirty hippies”, or naive, confused children. Many of the derisive comments have been petty, commenting on the way the protesters look. They’re to be dismissed either because they’re unkempt and smelly, or because they’re wearing designer clothes and carrying around Apple products (that was really one criticism on a CNN discussion). Apparently, the media can’t make up their minds about which basis they should be dismissive of the protestors upon. And when the media isn’t derisive about the protests, they’re simply confused about why they’re even happening. They just can’t seem to crack the code of what the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about. Seriously?

What does all of this Occupy Wall Street talk have to do with Steve Jobs? Simple; one of the things that opponents of the Occupy Wall Street movements like to say, is that the protesters are “anti-capitalism”. That line always pisses me off to no end. It’s the thinking of either a simpleton, who is incapable of any level of nuanced thinking, or of a hypocrite with an agenda to discredit the opposition.

Nobody is opposed to capitalism. No one. We’re opposed to being financially raped by a system designed to protect our rapists. We’re opposed to the idea of a health insurance CEO getting a $124 million bonus because his company had a banner year of fucking people out of life saving treatments, thereby increasing the company’s profit margin. Health insurance isn’t capitalism, it’s exploitation. They’re not making a product that people want, they’re exploiting on the human desire to stay alive. We’re opposed to banks and investment firms making a goddamned fortune by fraudulently jacking up the value of real estate by giving mortgages to millions of people that should never have qualified for loans. That’s not capitalism. That’s fucking fraud.

The world mourns the loss of Steve Jobs at a time when corporations are reviled because Steve Jobs represents capitalism at its best. He created beautiful products that the world wants to buy because they work well. There’s something in it for the consumer. Apple’s approach has always been to entice consumers by making products that are irresistible in their design and performance. I’ve always said that I prefer Apple’s approach to Microsoft’s. Apple lures you in by making a product that you want. Microsoft pushes you into buying their products by making sure that you have to upgrade in order for your shit to keep working. I prefer to be lured rather than pushed because that’s good capitalism.

That’s the kind of capitalism that I can get behind. I want to say to all of the simpletons that accuse me of being anti-capitalist: Don’t worry, I’m fighting for you too, even if you’re too ignorant to fight for yourself.


R.I.P. Steve Jobs. Thanks for all of the good capitalism you brought to the world.

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Something In The Air

I’ve been reading articles and polls on President Obama’s rating bump since Bin Laden was killed. He’s gotten a ten point increase in his approval rating as a result of the killing, putting him at around a 56% approval. Most of that bump comes from republicans and independents, which isn’t surprising since most democrats have largely stuck with Obama all along.

I thought a ten point bump was oddly low, even though most pundits expected that he would get “as much as a ten point bump in approval”. Why do I find it odd?

Because I looked at Bush’s approval ratings. Prior to 9/11, Bush’s approval was hovering in the low to mid 50s. On September 12, 2001, his approval rating shot up to nearly 90%. In hindsight, this is fairly shocking since Bush was largely absent that day. He was busy flying from Florida, to Louisiana, to fucking Nebraska. This, after dicking around at an elementary school for a full twenty minutes after the initial attack. America needed a daddy that day, and our president wasn’t there. Rudy Guiliani was going to have to fill that role until Bush could get his shit together at 8:35 that night. But Americans were too shocked to notice all of that so when he finally decided to be a fucking leader, we were happy he was there. We were like kids with absent, deadbeat dads; grateful that he showed up, and happy to forgive the abandonment of the years between appearances. And we showed our gratitude with a 90% approval rating.

Fast forward to nearly ten years later to Obama. He finally avenges 9/11 by killing the mastermind behind the events of that day, and we only approve of him to the tune of 56%. What the fuck? Why did the guy that was merely in office at the time do so much better than the guy who did something about it did? It doesn’t make sense. We’re America. We fucking love it when the belief in our God given superiority is on validated. We shot Bin Laden in the head, and gave Pakistan a heartfelt “fuck you” by not telling them that we were going to do it. It really doesn’t get much more badass than that.

So what’s the problem? Is Obama just the shittiest president we’ve ever seen? Hardly! Regular readers of this blog know that I’m no cheerleader for Obama, and I’m definitely not an apologist for him either. I don’t think that this comparatively lackluster approval has much to do with Obama, anymore than I thought the Bush 9/11 bump had to do with Bush. I believe this is all about Americans realizing that our government isn’t working for us anymore.

When Bush took office, we had just come off eight years of relative comfort and prosperity. Granted, it was all built on a house of cards, but we felt prosperous. We felt so prosperous that we had the luxury of talking about a presidential blow job for two years. Americans like to bathe themselves in utterly irrelevant bullshit, only when important things aren’t happening. Bullshit is fun when you don’t really have a care in the world. Trump’s disappearance from the news this week is proof of that. We were inundated with birther and afterbirther bullshit, until Bin Laden was killed. Something important happened, and we stopped caring about the bullshit (for a while, anyway). Bush benefited greatly from the prosperous America that he inherited.

But during the course of Bush’s eight years in office, that illusion of prosperity melted away. In the past ten years, the bottom 60% of workers in America have received a 1% salary increase while the cost of gas, milk, and health insurance have doubled. And that 1% increase is achieved by working longer hours. Being American is just getting fucking harder, and everyone knows it. Americans are getting angrier every day. We saw it in the town halls during the health reform debate. We’re seeing it in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana in regard to collective bargaining rights. We’re again seeing it all across the country in town halls, where Americans are professing their adamance about keeping medicare in tact and instead, insisting that we raise taxes on the rich.

Something palpable is in the air in America. Americans might not exactly know why they’re getting screwed, or exactly how they’re getting screwed, but they’re not confused about the fact that they’re getting screwed.

In my opinion, this is a really good thing. It’s the start of something. The sunny optimist wants to believe that this is the start of taking our government back (sorry to use the teabagger matra, but I have to). The shitty and dysfunctional government that we have didn’t happen to us, it happened because of us. It happened through decades of ignorance and apathy on the part of the American people. When we don’t pay attention to what the government is doing, they get to rob us blind. And they do it with our tacit permission. And when Americans start noticing that things are shitty, our politicians misdirect our anger toward gays, immigrants, the elderly, international terrorist bogeymen, or the other party. They do this successfully, because we’re not paying close attention.

I want to believe that we’re in the early stages of paying attention. If my sunny optimistic vision for America comes to pass, it will require traveling a long long road. We’re at the first step of this road; deeply rooted discontentment.

This blog is largely about the next step in getting where we need to go. We need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that our political party are the good guys, and the other party are the bad guys. As a party loyalist, you are most susceptible to misdirection. You will always be rewarded for your blind loyalty with fewer opportunities to succeed in America. The George W Bushes will not keep you safe, and your loyalty to them will always be rewarded by redistributing your wages to the likes of Haliburton. The Barack Obamas will not give you healthcare at a reasonable cost. They will always divert trillions of your dollars to pharmaceutical and insurance companies by making shady backroom deals. Your blind loyalty will make you cheer them while they do it. You’ll get so swept up in team loyalty, that you will accept the notion that this was the best they could do, despite the fact that your own lying eyes never saw so much as one fiery speech supporting the public option that you really wanted. Your party loyalty is crippling your ability to see the actual solution to America’s problems.

Which brings me to the next step. Our elections shouldn’t be about candidates or parties. Our focus should be on changing the system. We’re never going to get good government if we don’t get the money out of the system. We need to be focusing on getting publicly financed campaigns for every seat in every state in the country. We need to organize to get ballot measures on the books in every state. Most people don’t realize that we have this option in America. Our congressmen aren’t the only people that can pass laws. We have that power too. All we need to do is get organized and collect signatures to put a measure on the ballot in every state. We need to be talking about publicly financed elections all the time. We need to get the word out. Everything else is just a bullshit distraction designed to confuse you about the definition of who “us” against “them” are. It’s not about “us” democrats versus “them” republicans (or vice versa). It’s about “us” earners versus “them” corporations.

We will never get good representation as long as that representation is dependent on money that comes from interests that are contrary to your own. I don’t care which party you identify with because this holds true for both sides. Republicans have held onto their loyalty for thirty years despite the fact that their party has done exactly nothing for them during that period. Democrats are happy for the occasional crumb they’re thrown once every decade or so, pretending like this loyalty won’t land them in the same boat republicans have been cruising in for decades.

Stop kidding yourselves. There’s something in the air in America. As politically active and aware people, don’t waste this opportunity by talking about party bullshit. Talk to your friends and family about what the real issue is; the corporate takeover of our government. We need to spread the word and channel this anger toward meaningful reform of our whole system.

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