Remarks From Remarksman

April 10, 2009

NPR Reporting Continues To Disappoint

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 3:35 pm
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I heard this story about how the banks that are still in business are whining about big increases in the FDIC premiums they must pay on NPR this morning.

I kept waiting to hear as the story neared its end that many banks have not been paying any premium for the past ten years. The Boston Globe has a story that explains the situation with much more context.

Instead of providing the important historical information, the NPR story interviews a bank manager who says:

“We were very angry that we were paying for the sins of others,” Marranca says. “Obviously, the cost of this was because other people were doing silly, imprudent, criminal things. We never got involved in subprime loans. We would never do a loan with no documentation. We didn’t cause this problem. Imagine if you had to pay for your neighbor, or your competitor screwed up somehow, and you had to pay for it.”

Then the reporter makes this lame joke:

Yes, taxpayers, close your eyes and try to picture a scenario where you pay for the mistakes of others.

Bank managers whining about increased premiums that will cut into their profits really does seem lame in the face of the massive debt incurred by the government bailout that taxpayers will have to pay off. But the NPR story doesn’t even mention that this is the way insurance works! When hurricanes or other natural disasters destroy lots of property, our State Farm/Generic Brand Insurance rates go up.

Thanks for nothing on this story, NPR!

April 5, 2009

Obama and Nuclear Proliferation

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 4:32 pm
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I have been encouraged to hear that Obama, in Europe this week for a variety of meetings, is talking with Russia about reducing stocks of nuclear warheads, but in the same week he has a couple of contradictory speeches.

First, Obama reiterated his support for missile installations in east Europe, claimed to be to protect Europe from a theoretical attack by Iran. How can he justify asking Russia to reduce armaments while continuing to add arms in eastern Europe?

Second, North Korea launched a missile that they claimed was to put a communication satellite in orbit. US forces tracking the missile claim no orbital insertion was achieved, but North Korea says it was a success. Immediately afterwards, Obama spoke of the importance of stopping proliferation. The obvious double standard: It is OK for the US to build missiles and emplace them all around the world, but it is not OK for North Korea to launch a missile, even if they claim it is for peaceful purposes.

The double standard also stands with Iran, of course, where enrichment of uranium is not to be tolerated by other countries, even if Iran claims it is only for nuclear power.

While Obama so far seems to be much more of a “straight talker” than Bush was, he is definitely capable of massively hypocritical statements within just a couple of days.

Speaking of senselessness, Noam Chomsky had some interesting points about the continued existence of NATO during an interview on Democracy Now. Why does NATO continue to exist when it’s stated purpose, protection of western European states from Russia and “the east,” is no longer an issue? Why has NATO turned into a “global intervention force” for the US?

February 1, 2009

Hypocrisy Continues

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 6:00 am
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To no-one’s surprise, hypocrisy continues even in the new administration of change.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified before Congress this past week. He said, (quoting from Ann Scott Tyson’s article in The Washington Post

U.S. goals in Afghanistan must be “modest” and “realistic”

“This is going to be a long slog, and frankly, my view is that we need to be very careful about the nature of the goals we set for ourselves in Afghanistan,” he said.

Civilian casualties resulting from U.S. combat and airstrikes have been particularly harmful to progress in Afghanistan and must be avoided, Gates stressed. “My worry is that the Afghans come to see us as part of their problem rather than part of their solution, and then we are lost,” he said.

Oopsy, wasn’t it just a few days before this testimony that the Obama administration approved an air strike from an unmanned aerial drone that killed about 20 people, three of them children? Oh, that was in Pakistan, so the Afghans are still happy, right?

Gates also warned of Iranian interference in Afghanistan, pointing to a slightly increased flow of weapons including components of lethal munitions known as “explosively formed projectiles.”

Iranian activities have been troubling in other parts of the world, Gates said, including Latin America, where Iran is setting up “a lot of offices and a lot of fronts.”

This is the part where everyone is supposed to ignore the fact that the U.S. is ‘interfering’ in Afghanistan, Iraq, Columbia, and elsewhere overtly and covertly, The country that has over a hundred military bases outside of its own territory around the world needs to be concerned that Iran is setting up ‘offices and fronts.’

This kind of testimony would be kind of funny if it didn’t involve killing people.

October 27, 2008

Iron Knee on How Screwed We Are

Iron Knee has posted a couple articles, today and yesterday on PoliticalIrony.com, discussing the awful actions the Bush Administration is taking during its last few months. Here is a list of recent events (most of it enumerated in the Political Irony posts):

  • Banks are using the bailout money to buy up other banks.
  • Banks are using the bailout money to give bonuses to investment bankers.
  • The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) has failed to enforce the Stream Buffer Zone Rule in regards to mountain-top-removal coal mining in Appalachia, so now they’re planning to just do away with the rule.
  • Bush (along with a willing and apparently stupid Congress) agreed to sell nuclear technology to India, which never signed the NPT. (I wrote about this when the bill passed.)
  • AIG (one of the largest recipients of federal bailout money) may have used bailout money to lobby Congress to pass that India nuclear tech bill.
  • And now we are apparently killing people in Syria via cross-border raids from Iraq.

It seems that Bush and his corporate welfare administration cronies are concentrating on extracting every dollar and benefit, and executing every idiotic plan they can during these next few months because it looks like Obama will win the election. It’s difficult not to feel like we’re looking for deck chairs on the Titanic on a grand scale. Like Iron Knee says, we are screwed.

The Wrong Bailout

The administration is trying to loosen the credit market by pumping money into banks by buying supposedly preferred shares (which have no voting rights). Their idea seems to be that if banks have plenty of money, they will hand out loans. As we’re seeing, that is not what banks will do with the money. Instead, the government should be creating new business. It could increase spending on critical infrastructure: fix up a bunch of our decaying highway bridges, build new electric transmission lines, build big solar thermal plants in the southwest, build big wind power fields in the northeast, build geothermal power plants in the northwest. Build or subsidize these kinds of projects and in addition to creating jobs, loans will be requested by contractors — loans which have a great chance of being repaid. Loans that the banks will be happy to make.

The Works Project Administration (WPA) from the Great Depression didn’t hand money out to banks, it built valuable infrastructure for the country and put unemployed people to work. But just last week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress they should start thinking about another stimulus package. Congress already seems to be thinking along the same lines as the “economic stimulus package” from earlier this year. Note to Congress: Handing out cash to taxpayers so they can buy new plasma screen televisions is not the same as the WPA.

I’d be surprised that Congress and the Bush Administration can get it all so wrong, but it’s not surprising if you consider how much the financial industry spends on lobbying and campaign donations. And don’t forget “Clean Coal.”

October 5, 2008

U.S. Gives India Nukes, Who Cares About Non-Proliferation?

Nuclear Disarmament Symbol Another major story lost in the bailout headlines: the Senate voted on Oct. 1 to approve the Bush administration’s plan to begin supplying India with civilian nuclear reactors, nuclear fuel, and other related technologies. India has already exploded a nuclear weapon but has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

More details in this MojoBlog article.

Another entry for the hypocrisy category: The Bush Administration handing out technology for real weapons of mass destruction without requiring India to sign on to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. How the House and Senate were convinced that this is a good idea is a mystery to me.

October 1, 2008

There’s Still Plenty of Hypocrisy

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 4:10 am
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(This was written on Sept. 23 but somehow did not get published then.)

Even though we should all be busy wondering how things will go now that the clever financiers, their lobbyists, and the lax regulation overseen by ex-financial-company-CEO’s have brought the economy to a manufactured disaster, there is still plenty of hypocrisy to make fun of.

First a note on the bonuses paid to the people asking for the big bail-out. From ABC News:

In 2007, Wall Street’s five biggest firms — Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley — paid a record $39 billion in bonuses to themselves.

That’s $10 billion more than the $29 billion loan taxpayers are making to J.P. Morgan to save Bear Stearns.

Those 2007 bonuses were paid even though the shareholders in those firms last year collectively lost about $74 billion in stock declines — their worst year since 2002.

As MojoBlog (how I discovered the story) points out, the bonuses paid by these five firms averaged $201,500 per employee. Can there be any question about whether the bail-out plan should limit the salaries and bonuses paid to these financiers?


Now to the naked hypocrisy. First we have Rush Limbaugh in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal complaining that out-of-context quotes make him look like a racist bigot, so he provides the full paragraphs from these quotes to supposedly prove that he is not. Again, from MojoBlog.

Supposedly out-of-context quote:

“…stupid and unskilled Mexicans.”

Supposedly exculpatory context:

“If you are unskilled and uneducated, your job is going south. Skilled workers, educated people are going to do fine ’cause those are the kinds of jobs Nafta is going to create. If we are going to start rewarding no skills and stupid people, I’m serious, let the unskilled jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do — let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work.”

Second supposedly out-of-context quote:

“You shut your mouth or you get out!”

Supposedly exculpatory context:

“And another thing: You don’t have the right to protest. You’re allowed no demonstrations, no foreign flag waving, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our president or his policies. You’re a foreigner: shut your mouth or get out! And if you come here illegally, you’re going to jail.”

Yeah, Rush, that really proved something.


In the looking stupid while trying to prove how smart I am department, we have Sarah Palin claiming that, once elected, she and McCain are “going to do a few new things also. For instance, as Alaska’s governor, I put the government’s checkbook online so that people can see where their money’s going. We’ll bring that kind of transparency, that responsibility, and accountability back.”

That’s a great idea! In fact, it’s such a good idea that Senators Barack Obama and Tom Coburn created the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act to do exactly that in 2006 and 2007. You can see it at USASpending.gov. No other candidate can match your spending transparency kung-fu, Gov. Palin!


Maybe I should just link my whole blog to MojoBlog. Here is a telling sequence of quotes from MojoBlog regarding McCain campaign manager Rick Davis.

John McCain, yesterday [Sep. 21] on CNBC:

My campaign manager has stopped [lobbying for Fannie Mae], has had nothing to do with it since, and I’ll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it.

The New York Times, today [Sep. 22]:

Senator John McCain’s campaign manager was paid more than $30,000 a month for five years as president of an advocacy group set up by the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to defend them against stricter regulations, current and former officials say.

The McCain campaign, today, in response to the Times:

“Whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization…. [it is] an organization completely, totally 150-percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate.”

That’s only $1.8 million, probably not much as lobbying goes.

September 6, 2008

The Daily Show on Palin Commentary Hypocrisy

Filed under: media — BrianB @ 3:47 pm
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Jon Stewart skewers Karl Rove, Bill O’Reilly, and Dick Morris on their ridiculous hypocrisy while talking about Sarah Palin. WordPress doesn’t seem to be able to embed Daily Show videos, so here’s the link to the clip on Comedy Central.

This one is too funny to miss!

June 30, 2008

Lots of Links

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 3:48 pm
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I’ve been busy, but have a lot of interesting reading to link to.

First some good news from MojoBlog, we finally have a Federal Elections Commission. On June 24, the Senate confirmed five commissioners to join the single sitting commissioner. Yes, we’ve gone through over a year of election activities with effectively no FEC to regulate it.

Wired has a story about a photographer who is making a statement about the secrety spy satellites that orbit overhead.

“Marriage Protection Amendment” Hypocrisy

Another short piece from MojoBlog. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad.

The Real Story

There is a bit more to the “judge who has porn on his web page” story than has been widely reported – BoingBoing

Former Senator Phil Gramm, one of Senator McCain’s campaign advisors, helped clear the way for the “sub-prime meltdown” – Mother Jones.

Most of the main-stream media coverage of President Bush’s and Senator McCain’s calls for increased off-shore oil drilling based on high gasoline prices just say “critics claim that gas prices won’t go down for years.” It’s pretty clear that off-shore drilling is not a quick fix. There are other problems, too. – MojoBlog

After closing the salmon-fishing season off the west coast, senators added disaster funding for the fishermen. The Bush administration is trying to cut the funds, though.

Government by the Corporations, for the Corporations

DOD Contracts Out Contractor Oversight at Truthout

Telecom Donations Tied to FISA Vote also at Truthout

Did Bank of America Write the Housing Bailout Bill? at The Big Picture

Mandatory arbitration clauses have become commonplace when consumers deal with large corporations. BusinessWeek has a long article detailing how consumers usually lose in arbitration, while MojoBlog has an interesting story about arbitration in nursing homes.

Liars

Lying and forgetting continue to be popular…

Scalia Cites False Information in Habeas Corpus Dissent at Truthout

Torture from the Top Down at Harper’s Magazine

Good Stuff

A small village decides to grow its own food.

Consumers Use Shopping Spree To Get Store To Make Energy Efficient Choices

May 23, 2008

Hypocrisy

A few studies in hypocrisy

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner on Illegal Wiretapping

This short entry on the EFF blog says it all: Boehner Wants Protection From Illegal Wiretapping – But Only For Himself. Add Boehner to your list of bad Congressmen.

The Land of the Free

As the United States government ages, it seems to drift further and further from the ideals of freedom and true representative government. The Bush administration may have done more damage than others, but it’s certainly not the only one. Here is an interesting article about a list of “enemies of the state” who may be immediately “dealt with” if martial law is declared. The history behind this list goes back many years, but if there was ever an administration that would take full advantage of silencing opponents by declaring martial law, it would be the current one. Of course, this administration is also the most vocal about “spreading democracy.”

Senator McCain

McCain’s campaign has been shedding personnel after the campaign manager issued a new policy requiring all campaign personnel to either resign or sever ties with lobbying firms or outside political groups.

McCain has built his reputation in Congress on fighting special interests and the lobbying culture, but he has been criticized for months about the number of lobbyists serving in key positions in his campaign.

More details here.

McCain recently made a speech in Portland, Oregon talking about how great the wind energy business is, and his support for it. Of course, he voted in the past against renewable energy, and his campaign chairman (a lobbyist) received $380,000 to stop the Cape Wind project offshore of Cape Cod.

MoJo Blog on another one of McCain’s advisors.

Here’s a three minute video with some of McCain’s contradictions.

Mad Cow (Food Safety)

Another one where the title of the article almost says it all: Bush Government Sues To Make Testing Meat Illegal. And: Government asks court to block wider testing for mad cow

If you don’t have time to read the articles, this editorial cartoon by R. J. Matson is not to be missed:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
(Click image to open full-size in new window)


Oh yeah, and the “Media Force Multipliers” actually were illegal. Should of put that under But Will We Do Anything About It?

April 17, 2008

CondiMustGo.com

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 11:02 pm
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The main page of the CondiMustGo.com web site features a video that makes Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s hypocrisy regarding torture crystal clear.

I agree that liars and hypocrites don’t belong at the top levels of our government, especially when they are responsible for authorizing crimes against humanity. I’m not sure how relevant the effort to force her to resign is, given that the whole administration will be replaced in less than a year now, but I certainly support it.

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