April 30, 2010
Criminal investigation opened into Goldman Sachs
Roundin' Up The TPA
The Texas Progressive Alliance can't believe that school is finishing up and summer will soon be upon us. Before it gets too hot, here's a look at what's been going on this past week.
This week on Left of College Station, Teddy takes a look at the beginning of the campaign for TX-17 between Chet Edwards and Bill Flores. Also, Teddy covers money in local politics by looking at the campaign finance reports of College Station and Bryan municipal candidates. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.
TXsharon stepped in DoodyGate this week! It appears Range Resources fabricated a toxic spill to cover up their illegal dump. When a toxic spill causes less hassle than doody, you know the Texas Railroad Commission "regulations" need updating. Will the City of Denton exercise their new found powers?
Help send the Texas Cloverleaf to Netroots Nation by voting on a DFA scholarship.
The same thing that caused the deaths of miners in the Upper Big Branch mine is the same thing that caused the bursting of the housing bubble, the Lehman crash, and the implosion of our financial system. Read more at PDiddie's Brains and Eggs post entitled Consumer regulation as coal mine canary".
There is an old saw which says it is a poor general who blames his soldiers for defeat. With the question of Texas public education still unresolved and hurling toward the latest crisis of funding and quality, lightseeker at TexasKaos takes on a San Antonio Express editorial which proceeds to bash teachers and unions as the overlooked villains in this recurring horror show. Check it out : On Teacher Bashing , or Beating Up the Easy Target on Educational Failures.
Neil at Texas Liberal is pleased to announce that the blog now has a New York City correspondent. Lyuba Halkyn, a daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, will now offer up her views for the blog reading public. This post also has a great picture of a blimp flying over Manhattan in the 1930's.
April 29, 2010
I know... it's horrible!
Yeah, I just noticed it a short while ago and can tell you that I am very, very angry. Like you, I feel that change is something to be feared.
Time Warner, was it really necessary to change the guide and DVR interface?!?!?! Can we switch back to the old way? Please?!?!
In other news, the US Supreme Court just took a big shit all over the separation of church and state. Apparently, we now have a bias toward Christianity. Oh, shit... I'm sorry... we're accommodating, not biased.
Thank you, again, to the Democrats who folded on Alito and Roberts. Seriously, y'all, good fucking work!
April 28, 2010
The CW aims low, hits 'High Society'
Has anyone watched this? I was already aware of Tinsley Mortimer before she began ger tragicomic turn on 'High Society'. A few years back I read a short article on her in Vogue and gleaned from it that she was a dainty, frilly thing that swathed herself in frothy pink Marchesa confections and ate tea cakes. A real, live modern day Miss Muffet, if you'll allow. But now, thanks to the CW (and God's punishment), we can all be privy to all things Tinsley, along with the dog turds who make up her deranged coterie.
Tinsley has left her husband and is starting a new life. She seems nice but idiotic. I've never been married, so I'm no expert on relationships. However, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if you have to press your cleaning lady to the point of her obvious discomfort on whether you should reconcile with your estranged husband, you have issues. Just saying. I'm all for starting over, but it seems her only objectives are to hawk tacky studded handbags and make out with Constantine from 'American Idol'. I don't think I'm alone in saying "Ewww" to the latter. At least she is more interesting than her sister. Her sister makes the chicks from 'Fly Girls' look complex.
The real red meat of the show hinges upon the maniacal rantings of Paul Johnson Calderon, an effeminate cackling monster whose only real claim to fame appears to be circling Tinsley in a tight orbit. When he's not throwing drinks in peoples faces, the little bow tied menace is tearing down sconces. Yes, sconces. I do enjoy his comments though, especially when they are coherent. It's also fun to watch as he bilks his mother for thousands of dollars which, upon receipt, he throws away on liquor, ridiculous clothing, and his model zombie boyfriend. I don't think the stylist career is going to happen unless he finds clients who want to look like Erkel. With perhaps some stringy black hair trim for the ladies.
His nemesis, Jules Kirby, is an endearing little shitbag with the heart of a neo-Nazi. Now, don't be fooled! She does not dislike blacks and Jews. Don't be deceived by the CW's tricky editing! The real truth is she hates blacks, Jews, fat people, and generally anyone not equally wealthy. Oh, and maids. The sad thing is that even the female equivalent of Archie Bunker has friends and enjoys an active social life. Despite the fact that she looks like she's been rode hard and put up wet, she is doted upon as to leave no doubt that the little bitch has more money than God. What she doesn't have apparently is a PR person, or a fucking parent, to reign in her incredibly offensive behavior. The only good thing I can say about her is she's not Devorah Rose.
Oh, Devorah Rose. What a sad, odd looking, little creature. She's like a troll doll that has been left outside and warped by the sun. She would provoke viewer pity if she weren't such a soulless sycophant. Her moronic sense of entitlement is bested only by her thirst for notoriety. Frankly, I think anyone who talks about going to 'war' with anyone is an imbecile that should be shot at point blank range. Especially when your target is as inane as Tinsley fucking Mortimer. It's like proving how important you are by kicking a Pomeranian. She richly deserved the tongue-lashing she received from Tinsley's mother.
I was confused by the inclusion of Dale Mercer to the cast, Tinsleys mama (she's from the south). I thought 'Oh, her mother is there to show that they're not all insane'. But, alas, that was not the case. Dale does not function as a source of wisdom to counteract the stupidity. No, Dale is an express train to Crazytown! A highly enjoyable beacon of inappropriate behavior! I LOVED when she chased Tinsley and her date around the ballroom! This show makes my eyes bleed, but if she's included in a second season, I am totally in! Tune in to the season finale tonight!
Thank you, Rep. Berman!
Just in time for the November elections, Rep. Leo Berman (R-Shitbox) has announced that he'll be filing a bill in the next session similar to the retarded piece of garbage that Arizona passed last week.
All I have to say is FUCK YEAH! You go, Leo Berman you crazy old bastard... you'll finalize the split in the Republican Party and motivate our base to get out and vote.
And a special thanks to Voltaire (for the prayer) and the AWESOME Jesus Christ (for granting it)!
April 27, 2010
The Goldman Sachs Fun Fest : Explaining Hudson Mezzanine
Oh, man... watching the Senate hearings on GS actually makes me think that they may not be long for the world. One of the lines of questioning today regarded a transaction known at Hudson Mezzanine, specifically if GS misrepresented it's interest in the transaction. Here's what went down from what I can see...
GS had built a lot of structured credit products, based at the end on mortgage backed securities. These trades were tranched with a certain percentage being rated AAA and down until you got to the BBB level, the equity, which was usually no more than 10% of the total product. So, out of a $2bn CDO, only $200 mn might be equity. Now, the problem for GS was that they couldn't give the equity (also known as the mezzanine layer) piece away and but it had to exist so they could unload the other $1.8 bn in mortgage... GS just got stuck with it. It's toxic waste because it takes the first losses when defaults rise.
Now, GS was sitting on, let's say, $2bn of this toxic waste so it built a synthetic CDO, worked with the rating agency to get most of it rated AAA and then to offset their risk sold it to their customers. But, yet again, they were stuck with the equity... but that didn't matter since someone bought the other $1.8 bn of the CDO and that cash now sat there ready to be claimed by GS when everything went south.
So, net, Goldman Sachs with this trade reduced it's loss from $2bn to only $200mn. Of course, they sold the shit to their customers but that doesn't appear to have been a major concern...
The subcommittee pointed to these deals as examples of how Goldman put its own interests ahead of clients. Mr. Levin read from several Goldman documents on Monday to underscore the point, including one in October 2007 that said, “Real bad feeling across European sales about some of the trades we did with clients. The damage this has done to our franchise is very significant.”
As the mortgage market collapsed, Goldman turned its back on clients who came knocking with older Goldman-issued bonds they had bought. One example was a series of mortgage bonds known as Gsamp.
“I said ‘no’ to clients who demanded that GS should ‘support the Gsamp’ program as clients tried to gain leverage over us,” a mortgage trader, Michael Swenson, wrote in his self-evaluation at the end of 2007. “Those were unpopular decisions but they saved the firm hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The Gsamp program was also involved in a dispute in the summer of 2007 that Goldman had with a client, Peleton Partners, a hedge fund founded by former Goldman workers that has since collapsed because of mortgage losses.
According to court documents reviewed by The Times on Monday, in June 2007, Goldman refused to accept a Gsamp bond from Peleton in a dispute over the securities that backed up a mortgage security called Broadwick. A Peleton partner was pointed in his response after Goldman refused the Gsamp bond.
“We do appreciate the unintended irony,” wrote Peter Howard, a partner at Peleton, in an e-mail message about the Gsamp bond.
During the hearing much was made by the GS folks of management desire to bring them net neutral on their mortgage related investments, neither long nor short. It's interesting that they chose to do this by, effectively, blowing up their customers with what they knew were going to be worthless securities.
A Mantastic Time!
Is Devorah Rose a boy or a girl? It's kinda up in the air right now but her age is not, she's 33. She just celebrated her birthday (or anniversary of her sex change, who the fuck knows) someplace in NYC.
I hate High Society like a non-smoking bar. But I watch because, well, it's a goddamn train wreck. Not since Redneck Wedding have I seen such obnoxious people falling over themselves to get in front of a camera and look like trash.
April 26, 2010
Who the FUCK cares?
Yeah, police... you spent God only knows how much fucking time and money to nail 850 pounds of marijuana. Whoop-tee-fucking-doo.
I know it's not the fault of law enforcement, but at the end of the day they wasted time enforcing a law that will only keep some people in Central Texas from developing an unnatural love for Doritos, thinking Bob Marley is good and enjoying the smell of their own BO lightly masked with Patchouli.
Fuckall... can we PLEASE decriminalize marijuana?
April 24, 2010
What A Revolting Way To End The Week
It takes a lot to spoil a Friday. Like clicking on the Slag's website and seeing a picture of Glenn Beck's giant biscuit head. Jeez, put some gravy on that thing!
April 23, 2010
Ask Toll Road Todd to stop with the gay bashing!
Some people just can't stop kicking folks when they're down. In this case, it's Toll Road Todd Staples who has made a career out of vilifying the LGBT community in Texas. From voting for DOMA to authoring the legislation that led to Prop 2, Toll Road Todd has created oppotunity after opportunity to make LGBT Texans and their families second class citizens in their own state.
Usually, you'd describe behavior like this as bullying (a powerful politician vs a powerless group of people who just want to be equal to their fellow citizens and taxpayers), but in the case of Toll Road Todd is more than that... it's a political calculation, to demonize a group of people and blame them for all the evils in the world. There's a rather obvious historical analogy that I'll not bother to spell out.
Bullies and panderers get to function as long as no one opens their mouth and calls bullshit. Toll Road Todd has had a pretty easy time of it, one of the reasons he felt emboldened to involve himself in a divorce case to which he wasn't even a party and over which his agency, the Texas Department of Agriculture, has no jurisdiction. He saw yet another opportunity to beat up some gays and figured no one would call bullshit.
And in stepped Hank Gilbert who called him out for being incompetent and a bully.
"I can't for the life of me figure out what this has to do with agriculture," said Staples' opponent, Hank Gilbert (D-Whitehouse). "The last time I checked, marriage and divorce played absolutely no role whatsoever in the price of cotton, sorghum, or corn," he continued. "One would think Todd Staples would focus his energies on actually improving agriculture in Texas, but instead, he's focused on yet again bashing the LGBT community and their families in an effort to shore up his erosion in his right wing base. I'm sick and tired of politicians masking their terrible job performance by using our citizens as a punching bag," he noted.
And that, boys and girls, is how you punch the fuck out of your opponent for being an asshole. The Dallas Voice has more. The overwhelming majority of Texans are sick of hypocritical politicians talking about the evil gays when elected officials all over this country who have been such ardent gay bashers end up coming out of the closet.
Maybe Hank's ability to speak up will prompt some of our other statewide candidates to find their voices.
April 22, 2010
Timing is everything...
In the debate over Financial Regulatory reform (or, as I like to call it, Financial Re-Regulation) a troubling theme has popped up from even those who support reform (tacitly, at least). Basically, there are a number of forces saying we're moving too fast and we need to be more deliberate with regard to changes to the regulatory framework. To support this idea, they talk about the 1907 Panic and the time between it and the creation of the Federal Reserve System. Then there were the reforms during the Depression and the lag there was about four years.
Here's the problem with this argument... we now have access to historical data on panics and depressions going back to the 19th century that's very easy to find. Our ability to evaluate and make changes should be much faster now. In short, we know what needs to be done to create a viable framework that will allow this country to prosper without the occasional market dislocations that lead to economic shocks.
We are more than 2 years since the collapse of Bear Stearns. This isn't at all too fast. If anything, it's moving more slowly than it really should. This isn't an issue where we need to reinvent the wheel...
Roundin' Up The TPA
Time for another roundup of the week's blog highlights from the Texas Progressive Alliance.
Something bubbles up from the ground in Bartonville. Could this be why so many dogs nearby have cancer? Since drilling toxins were found in Barnett Shale residents' blood and urine, maybe it's time to test the animals too. TXsharon struggles to keep pace with the latest Barnett Shale news at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.
The Texas Cloverleaf highlights the case of the Christmas goose in Flower Mound.
It was a wild week for the economy and, surprisingly, for economic history. McBlogger takes a look at one historical revisionist who like misrepresentation almost as much as Ayn Rand. Then he goes on to explain just what Goldman Sachs did.
Neil at Texas Liberal wrote a comprehensive preview post of the upcoming election in the United Kingdom. Election Day is May 6. The post is being updated daily with new developments and it took some time to write. So please give it a look if you find the topic to be interest.
WCNews at Eye On Williamson shows that the 2006 Texas tax swap created a $5 billion annual budget hole, the bill is coming due next year, Texas Republicans created a budget shortfall to cut programs that help working Texans.
Over at TexasKaos, Libby Shaw catches up with Johnny Cronyn . He and Mitch McConnell "continue[s] to serve Wall St. breakfast in bed." More to the point, Libby explains the battle lines being drawn between Obama and the Dems and those lap dogs of the priveleged, the Republican Pary. Check it out John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell, the GOP Stand by Their Wall St. Man .
The TeaBaggers and the regular GOP nuts fought each other to a stand-off on Election Runoff Day. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the sordid details.
In Flower Mound, gas drillers have crossed the line into express advocacy in local elections, sending out a letter to mineral owners telling them who to vote for in a town council election.
April 21, 2010
Don't mess with the Sisterhood
Many credit the nun's statement on health reform for bringing over anti-abortion Democratic congresspeople to vote for passage.
Well, they're not done
Though this is an issue that tea baggers should get behind, they're lack of clear reasoning makes it probable that they could get riled up against the nuns social renewal activism. Let's hope so, because the ladies will chew them up and spit them out. Of course, that battle will never take place since tea baggers are pretty gutless without their guns.
April 20, 2010
And now the story changes...
As you can probably tell from the post on Friday, the whole Goldman Sachs thing really makes me sick because it's just so goddamn gross. Of course, it also makes me really happy to have sold my GS months ago (and no, it wasn't because of this... it was because of the VAR in their prop trading)
Of course, it all fell apart yesterday when GS was forced to admit that yes, indeed, Paulson had a part in the construction of AC1. While it's true ACA, the independent management company (wink, wink), did make the final decision on the reference portfolio on which AC1 would be based, they did it with a lot of input from Paulson which GS mislead them into believing was the sponsor on the deal. Sponsor is a fancy way of saying he was the one buying the riskiest piece, the equity tranche, which also happens to be the smallest and the buyer of that usually gets to help with the construction of the reference security portfolio and credit structure. Problem is, he didn't... GS got stuck with that piece because no one wanted it. Paulson, greedy fuck that he is, wasn't even as smart as Magnetar in taking a small piece of the long side of the trade just to give the appearance that he wasn't out to fuck the world until it begged him to stop.
Oh, and had someone not taken the equity it would have been unfunded which might have spooked the other investors or, as they should be called in this trade, the patsies.
AND NO ONE BOTHERED TO ASK, WHO IS SHORT THIS TRADE?!?!?! This part actually pisses me off more than the due diligence because, frankly, you gotta be goddamn stupid to not even bother to ask the most basic of questions (I'm looking at you, ERS and TRS management... you guys better be concerned because someone is going to poke around and find out if you morons planted money in synthetics as well).
The problem was, is and will continue to be that this was nothing more than a vehicle to funnel money to the short side... it was a rigged bet that dramatically increased the size and scope of the financial crisis. These investments were created not to increase market liquidity but instead to suck it up, into the hands of hedgies like Paulson and the peeps at Magnetar. Normally, I'd be congratulating them on their ingenuity but in this instance, I'll call them crooks because that's what they were. All the kvetching about 'having a long position' and 'losing money, too' is bullshit... they were bias short (meaning they stood to make far more on the short than the long). Further, by acting as or, in the case of Paulson, alluding to being the equity in the trade means that they were engineering not only the nature of the trade but also putting just enough into it to defraud people into thinking their interest was legitimate and matched that of the other investors.
It was a classic confidence game and yeah, it should be prosecuted under RICO. Which gives the US Attorney in Manhattan something fun to do over the summer.
Just as a side note to explain my interest in all this, I work in banking for a depository. This kind of crap pisses me off but that's not my only interest... The push on the Republican side to privatize our infrastructure in Texas is leading us down this same road with many of the same players. I'd love to think that our elected and appointed officials are smart enough to smell the sourness of a trade but like every taxpayer in this state, I can't afford that luxury. That and I already know what they gave up in negotiations on infrastructure projects the first time around. Republican officials in Texas are never happier than when they are giving away the store to a private company for pennies on the dollar and making sure that taxpayers get stuck with the difference.
I wasn't going to say anything...
Seriously, news that Kinky Friedman was raising money for Republicans really didn't have much of an effect on us here at McBlogger. We never thought Kinky was a Democrat anyway, so it wasn't at all shocking. We also knew he was a shameless opportunist and it occurred to us that he'd probably appear at a weekend for Neo-Nazi's as long as they were paying him enough. I mean, let's get real here... Kinky doesn't do a damn thing without money attached to it.
Needless to say, we were all good to leave well enough alone since Hank won and who the fuck cares about the smelly old drunk minge any more...until we found out that this PAC has supported REP. MICHELE BACHMANN.
This is like hosting a fundraiser for Idi Amin or Joe Stalin, not that he ever really needed money. With most of our friends on the right, we can at least reason and find common ground. But Bachmann is a rarity in that she's really, truly, fuckall crazy as a shithouse rat.
April 16, 2010
Could end up hurting much more...
So the SEC brings a civil suit against Goldman Sachs for defrauding investors. Cutting through the bullshit, the suit is based on the allegation that GS intentionally misled investors in synthetic CDO's (collateralized debt obligations) they sold as to the party that actually structured what was in the CDO . Honestly, I have real problems with all this because it was a synthetic trade which, frankly, shouldn't have been allowed in the first place.
Breaking down the news, there's one critical piece undisclosed... did investors know the CDO was synthetic? In that event, GS would appear to have an affirmative defense since the very nature of a synthetic CDO is that someone has to be short the reference security (in this case, actual CDO's made up of low grade debt instruments... in this case, slices of some deep sub-prime mortgages) for investors IN the CDO to make money. It's an insurance trade, so one party pays premiums (the person short the reference security, in this case John Paulson) which simulate the actual payments which were being made on the reference security to the party who buys the CDO. If the value of the reference security then becomes worthless, then the buyers are wiped out and the short seller makes all the money. If the reference security doesn't lose value, then eventually the short seller will be wiped out and all the money will be transferred to the buyer.
If buyers knew the trade was synthetic then they can't be upset about no one telling them the counterparty was a short seller (simply put, it's implied by the nature of the trade and the security). They can be upset and can take action in only one circumstance... if they lied about who selected the reference securities in the CDO.
I don't like the very nature of a synthetic security since it's underlying basis is, frankly, a side bet. It's gambling using a financial instrument created solely to make the bet itself possible. It's also responsible for dramatically magnifying the losses experienced by investors all over the world. Instead of having just one $1 billion pool of mortgages default and investors losing money, there were 20 other synthetic pools that mirrored the first.
Finally, if the investors DID know this was a synthetic trade, I have no sympathy for them. They were stupid to have purchased it in the first place. At the end of the day, they could have done their due diligence and asked Goldman for a list of the reference securities and investigated them to find out they were all trash. But they didn't so I could give two shits about them and their managers.
Here's one thing no one is paying much attention to...
The SEC case increases pressure on the Justice Department, which has been investigating many of the same Wall Street firms to look for possible criminal wrongdoing at the root of the financial crisis.
If there is a criminal complaint filed and the result is either a guilty verdict or a no contest plea, GS can lose it's primary dealer status in US Treasury securities. That would be a devastating blow to the company since dealing in US debt is a lucrative business.
Of course, the obvious effect is that many of their customers will think twice before accepting a trade from GS wondering what's really behind it. It's the optics of it all that can cause real, nasty, long term problems.
On a political note, you gotta be wondering how long it will take the stupid Republicans to reverse course on their fight against regulatory reform...
Larry King, Wife #7 To Divorce
Remember, though, he really hasn't outdone Henry the Eighth until he founds his own religion.
April 15, 2010
Burt Folsom is the moron of the universe
Thursday on Bloomberg, Burt Folsom fell in with Amity Shlaes with regard to the effort of the right wing to deny the benefits of the New Deal and ignore what really prolonged the Depression in the US.
Sounds kinda dry and boring, but considering what's going on now, it's hyper relevant.
Burt's prescription for the US? Cut income and capital gains taxes which will do only one thing... depress economic activity AND concentrate wealth in this country. For the bottom 97% of the people in this country, there is no benefit. There are a few reasons...
1) Tax rates are, even without the Bush tax cuts which dramatically increased the deficit, on the left side of the Laffer Curve which means that additional cuts reduce government revenues AND don't produce additional economic activity because if taxes are lower, people don't need to do as much to keep income at a steady or slightly increasing level.
2) The policies Burt proposes will end up concentrating wealth at the top since it's basically a reduction on the taxes levied against capital, not labor, without making any demands on that capital to be put to productive use. It's like the positive tax benefit of an IRA, you get to continuously reinvest your earnings without paying taxes, concentrating your earning power. Note that you're not really creating jobs or real GDP. Another example, take the case of banks today... they can plant money in Treasuries at 3-4% while they pay depositors 1% or less. It's a risk free trade for them and it doesn't require them to extend credit to anyone in the US which might actually help the economy. It does, of course, make the banks a lot of money since they don't need to reserve for losses.
And Burt the Bore even reused the tired old Republican talking point about revenues increasing with tax cuts which even David Stockman of Reagan Administration fame admitted years ago wasn't at all valid since the increase in revenues was temporary due to tax planning (people deferred income and capital gains until the tax rate changed, then took the charge. If you're an idiot like Burt Folsom, you draw the erroneous conclusion that lower taxes equal higher revenues which isn't the truth at all. This is one of those times when you just can't listen to stupid people like Burt Folsom).
Now back to the Depression... Amity and Burt both think that the New Deal had little to do with economic recovery out of the Depression. They say it was World War 2 that really did the trick and they're right. However, they're ignoring the massive GDP growth during the post-New Deal 30's up until the 1937-38 recession which was driven by the disastrous budget cuts demanded by conservatives at the time. They're also ignoring that unemployment had been cut basically in half when new workers are factored in. In short, they ignore the very real success of the New Deal and Keynesian economics in a deflationary environment.
But don't take my word for it, here's a really good take on Amity's shitty work that could be repeated, almost word for word, in a review of Burt Folsom's crap-o book.
Burt finished up talking about the Bush tax cuts which produced anemic growth in GDP but actually caused losses in real wage growth because they were targeted at (wait for it) THE RICH. He then went on to assert that after World War 2, the Republican Congress cut taxes and we had an economic boom. The top tax rate, even in the 50's, was 91%, far higher than now (35%) and higher even than the rate during the 30's under Roosevelt and the Democrats. It wasn't a tax cut that created an economic boom in the 50s.
But don't tell Burt Folsom... he wouldn't want to hear it anyway.
Michiganders Rally To Bare Arms
You know, until this week I thought "open carry" referred to drinking a beer while walking down the street.
On the economy, two things to remember
For everyone still kvetching about bailouts, the reality is that they saved the entire economy from a meltdown that would have made the depression look like good times. Of course there is a cost and we desperately need reform of financial services. However, this actually isn't all that bad when you compare it to other fiascos.
April 14, 2010
Dialing Back The Crazy Just A little
It looks like Republican voters opted for the saner choice in yesterday's primary runoff. I don't want it to sound like I'm a Debra Lehrmann fan, but Rick Green is about as qualified to be a Texas Supreme Court Justice as I am to shill for nutritional supplements.
This is what failure looks like
Microsoft, even with all that money and all those smart people, still can't JUST DESIGN A FUCKING PHONE THAT PEOPLE WANT. They both look cheap and the focus is going into the trendiest thing out there, social networking, which is actually in mid jump of the fucking shark and is already being done (better) by other phones.
Microsoft, why not just buy Palm? If you're going to be an also ran, why not at least have a decent platform that developers respect? It's pretty clear it would be a matched pairing with regard to hardware since your devices look like they suck and they Pre certainly does.
April 13, 2010
Runoff elections TODAY
Y'all go vote... and just in case you're wondering for whom you should cast your ballot, here are our suggestions.
April 12, 2010
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
This is a rather lengthy post and I don't want to monopolize the front page. So be sure to click the Supersize to read the whole thing. Or don't. It's a free country.
One hundred forty-five years ago today a military ceremony took place at a small courthouse village in Southside Virginia: the formal surrender of the infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia. Three days earlier, his army surrounded, General Lee had asked for terms from Ulysses S Grant, Lieutenant General commanding all United States forces. Here's how Joshua Chamberlain, designated to receive the surrender, recalled the event a half century later in his memoir The Passing Of The Armies:
Our earnest eyes scan the busy groups on the opposite slopes, breaking camp for the last time, taking down their little shelter-tents and folding them carefully as precious things, then slowly forming ranks as for unwelcome duty. And now they move. The dusky swarms forge forward into gray columns of march. On they come, with the old swinging route step and swaying battle-flags. In the van, the proud Confederate ensign — the great field of white with canton of star-strewn cross of blue on a field of red, the regimental battle-flags with the same escutcheon following on, crowded so thick, by thinning out of men, that the whole column seemed crowned with red. At the right of our line our little group mounted beneath our flags, the red Maltese cross on a field of white,* erewhile so bravely borne through many a field more crimson than itself, its mystic meaning now ruling all.
The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; — was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?
Instructions had been given ; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier's salutation, from the "order arms" to the old "carry" — the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual, — honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum ; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!
And so the Confederate States of America, the failed dream of rebellious southern slavocrats passed out of life and into the dusty pages of The Big Book Of Places No Longer On The Map somewhere between the Byzantine Empire and the Spanish Republic.**
Or maybe not. The new Governor of Virginia sparked some controversy the other week by proclaiming April Confederate History Month, a tradition his recent predecessors had allowed to whither away. And even such an illustrious personality as our own Governor For Life Perry is not above dropping hints that secession might be worth considering again if the weight of federal tyranny presses too heavily on the Lone Star State. The Confederacy is not entirely laid in its grave.
Okay, there's a funny thing about Chamberlain's account I quoted above. Some present-day historians raise questions about what actually happened that day 145 years ago. Chamberlain may or may not have been in command of the surrender. And the famous salute---"honor answering honor"---may not have actually happened. If it did apparently he didn't think it worth mentioning in a letter to his sister he wrote soon afterwords. And it doesn't seem to have been worth noting in anyone else who was there's letters or diaries.
Now, I don't mean to rag on old Joshua. After the war he went back to Maine and had a long public career that included four terms as governor. He also promoted good relations between veterans of both sides of the conflict. And if Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Hero of Little Round Top***, badly wounded at Petersburg, wounded again at Quaker Road, recipient of a battlefield promotion to general, recipient of the Medal of Honor, in the twilight of his years remembered "with advantages what feats he did that day," I can cut him a little slack.
But I'm going to expect more from current day leaders who seek to use things that happened a century and a half ago for their contemporary purposes. Last week, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell issued a proclamation:
WHEREAS, April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse; and
WHEREAS, Virginia has long recognized her Confederate history, the numerous civil war battlefields that mark every region of the state, the leaders and individuals in the Army, Navy and at home who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today; and
WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth's shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present; and
WHEREAS, Confederate historical sites such as the White House of the Confederacy are open for people to visit in Richmond today; and
WHEREAS, all Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace, following the instruction of General Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who wrote that, "...all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and to restore the blessings of peace."; and
WHEREAS, this defining chapter in Virginia's history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live, and this study and remembrance takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.
The proclamation received the immediate approval of the Sons on Confederate Veterans, praise from other quarters, not so much.
"I don't think you can understand the Confederacy and the Civil War unless you understand slavery,'' said Mr. Obama, who sent a wreath, as presidents have done since Woodrow Wilson, to the Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery last Memorial Day. (Moreover, first lady Michelle Obama is a descendant of Southern slaves.)
McDonnell's initial omission of slavery in his proclamation was "unacceptable," Obama said.
"Dayam!" said the guvnah, "did I somehow forget to mention slavery? It's bad, m'kay," Amending the original with an additional whereas
WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history;
Let me be clear, I am a Civil War geek. I've stood where Jackson stood like a stone wall. I've been to that cornfield at Antietam where the Texas Brigade was slaughtered and I've walked Pickett's Charge. And I've been to plenty of places you've probably never heard of. So I have no problem with Civil War History. But I do take exception with the idea of Confederate History Month.
For starters, the proclamation calls on Virginians to recall the sacrifices of her Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens. The Governor seems to forget that there were many Virginians who were not so fond of the Confederacy. In fact, there were enough of them in the northwestern part of the state that they got in a little secession action of their own and set up their own state. In addition to the West Virginians, a further battalion of Virginians fought for the Union. In fact, every seceded state proved to have enough loyal citizens to form military units loyal to the Federal cause, something that's been written out of Confederate History Month. And bear in mind, that's just the white folks.
Following the Emancipation Proclamation, Congress authorized the raising of African-American regiments. By the time of Appomattox, three hundred thousand or so were serving in the United States Colored Troops. Untrusted by many commanders, subject to all the racial prejudice of the day, when given a chance they showed that they were soldiers indeed... even if they were subject to re-enslavement or execution if captured. In addition to the USCT of course there were the thousands and thousands of slaves who took the opportunity to "self-liberate" themselves from the plantations whenever s column of Mister Lincoln's soldiers came through the neighborhood. Their sacrifices don't seem to fit into Confederate History Month either.
While I'm not a fan of Confederate History Month, I suppose I could get into Civil War History Month. There's certainly a lot to be learned from that era. Maybe the greatest lessons are that the war was a catastrophe for the South, and that the war was brought on by perhaps the most idiotic decisions in American history, made by the political leadership of the South.
Okay, it's getting late, and I have other things to do. I'll wrap things up in a day or two.
*Chamberlain is describing the flag of the Union Fifth Corps, First Division, in case this is confusing to non-Civil War geeks.
**Okay, there were other rebel forces still in the field that took several more months to surrender, but after Appomattox the CSA was kaput as a going concern.
***One of several deserving that title, it must be said.
Save yourself the It's-Not-You-It's-Me bullshit
While I haven't used this amazing service yet, I'm soooo tempted to start dating someone just so I can. A guy in the midwest named Brad will, for $10 bucks ($25 if your engaged and $50 if you're married) breakup with your boyfriend/girlfriend over the phone. For an extra sawbuck (plus airfare and hotel) he'll even fly out and do it in person.
Just in case you think this guy is some kind of half-ass, listen to what I think is some of his best work...
You absolutely can not fake that kind of enthusiasm and strong work ethic. The best part is that he doesn't discriminate based on sexual orientation! Check out iDump4U.com!
April 10, 2010
Runoff Election day is Tuesday, April 13th. If you didn’t vote in the March 2 Primary, you can still vote in the runoff.
Travis County E-Day Polling Locations
For Travis County Democrats, there’s only one race on the ballot: the 299th District Court. Your options are Karen Sage or Mindy Montford. We’re supporting Karen.
Phillip Martin wrote a great post over at BOR about why he’s supporting her. The Austin Chronicle endorsed her. Anything we add here isn’t going to say it any better. Karen and her team have been working hard for nine months, and the least you can do is spend a few minutes getting to the poll and casting your vote for her on Tuesday.
On the off chance that you’re a Republican (or that you voted in the Republican primary to screw with the system), your races for the runoff are Supreme Court Place 3, and SBOE 10. It’s hard to tell you what we’d do if we were in your shoes. One the one hand, it’d be cool if you pick the candidates that can be beaten by Democrats in November, but there is room for genuine concern if something goes awry and the Republican candidate wins after all.
In SBOE 10, it’s between Brian Russell and Marsha Farney for who will face Dr. Judy Jennings in November. It’s easy to see why Cynthia Dunbar (R-Teh Crazy) hand-picked Brian Russell to succeed her. He provides a massive contrast to the sanity of Jennings. Even though Marsha Farney will be a tougher candidate to beat, would we prefer to risk replacing one wingnut with another if Russell wins? Tough call. No endorsement.
For Supreme Court, Place 3, it’s down to Debra Lehrmann (R-Already a Judge) and Rick Green (R-Face Puncher). The sheer spectacle of watching Justice Jim Sharp (1st Court of Appeals) hand Rick Green his ass on a platter will be worth watching, but is the majority of the Texas electorate smart enough to recognize that Rick Green will be a disgrace as a judge? Again, hard to tell. And, is it worth risking Green actually getting elected just to watch the Sharp v. Green battle? Lehrmann is already a judge, and is a reasonable choice. But there’s still no endorsement. Make your own call on this one, too.
No matter how you voted on March 2 (and especially if you didn’t vote), get your butts to the polls for April 13th. These campaigns work too damn hard for us to disrespect them by staying home.
That explains the traffic
Apparently, Austin MSA now has just over 1.7 million residents and Travis County makes up a little over half of that at 1 million people. So, keep that in mind when you're cursing the asshole in front of you.
In comparison to other areas of Texas, we're about 25% of DFW, but relatively close in terms of core to core population. Which is a nice way of saying our suburbs haven't quite become the trashy sprawl-o-rama that dominates DFW. And if you're one of my readers in Plano or Carrollton, don't get mad at me for pointing out that you live in fucking Oklahomo.
April 09, 2010
It's hard out there for a pimp
Wednesday, during a press conference at the Capitol, reporters got to see Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond as more than just a bloviating fat ass, they got to see him in his true form... Republican Pimp.
For ages, it's been obvious to everyone that Bill's a typical political hack playing the part of the President of a pro-business group in Texas. The press though, got to see it full tilt on Wednesday...
Calling HCR "the corrupt product of a corrupt process", Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond told the assembled press that Obamacare (as he insisted on calling it) will cause financial rack and ruin for small businesses. "Employers are going to be put in a position where they will simply give up and not give this benefit to their employees," he said. Employers with more than 50 employees will have to meet new standards ("established in Washington, D.C.," he rumbled) or face a $2,000 per employee tax.
Just so we're clear, we can now add 'liar' to the list of derogatory adjectives that describe Bill Hammond. The current list includes (but is not limited to) 'Republican shill', 'hyperbolic exaggerator' and 'fat'. The process was nothing but cooperative, it's just that Bills peeps chose not to, you know, COOPERATE. So the Democrats did what Democrats always do in the face of Republican failure and intransigence, they fixed the problem. As for that crap about employers dropping health insurance, I think that's about as stupid as Cynthia Dunbar's crazy from the 08 cycle. It ain't gonna happen and Bill knows it.
Fortunately, Bill wasn't the only shitbox at the presser, some idiot from the US Chamber of Commerce was also there representing the energy and health insurance industries. Funny how the CoC now has about as much cred as the AEI and the CEI.
The issue, he suggested, is people waiting to get sick before they buy insurance. He went on, "What I'm getting at is, in a market place, creating a situation where you may be creating disincentives to purchase insurance and can get care either way."
Hammond chimed in on the same meme, and added, "What you're doing is allowing someone to pay a small amount of money and in return receive tens of thousands of dollars in benefits that will being paid for by other policy holders."
So, having shown a poor grasp of both what pre-existing conditions really mean and the basic shared risk principles behind insurance, the event became a Q&A. Unfortunately for them, the questioning took a tougher turn, with the three spokespeople being pushed hard on questions of the mitigating effect of tax credits and basic issues of whether they had really consulted their membership.
Goddamn, if ever there was a stupid Bill Hammond Quote and if ever there were a time to nail it, this was it. Thank you, Richard Whittaker. The press, strangely, seems to be catching on and calling bullshit more often with these touts. Another example...
Hasn't Texas, the state with the weakest legal restraints on businesses and the smallest, ended up with amongst the nation's highest insurance premiums, lowest rates of coverage and worst stats for under-insurance? As Layelin Copelin from the Statesman (welcome back to the press corps, sir) so adroitly put it, "For ten years, we've been in a free market state, by and large, and y'all praise it as being low-regulatory and so on so forth. So why hasn't the free market solved the problems?"
Hammond's response to the general issue was that Texas is still over-regulated and that every decision should be be between "the employer, the employee and the health insurance company."
Jesus, Bill, about the only thing a corporation can't do in this state is buy a human being. They can pollute water if they want, but they just can't buy folks off the street or harvest organs from bums, though we're sure that's coming. Never mind the failure of deregulation in the energy markets, something even the Cato Institute now admits was a colossal mistake (on par with giving Jay Leno that show in prime time). Of course, what you really gotta love is Bill's response to all this... just like an old commie defending their beloved ideology by saying that what existed in the Soviet Union wasn't really communism, Bill's steadfast in believing that we just haven't freed up things enough for Adam Smith's Invisible Hand to step in and bitchslap all us socialists. Never mind the fact that Adam Smith (the same founder of modern capitalism) believed in government regulation as a necessary means of keeping private enterprise from growing too powerful and abusing consumers.
I'd also like to mention that Adam Smith believed in a progressive tax system in the hope that Bill, when he reads this, will explode and make a HOOOOOOGE mess (get it?) over a sizable (so phoning it in) portion of Austin. But enough with the BILL HAMMOND IS FAT jokes, back to the details of the amazingly awful press conference of derelicts (sorry, Laura, love you but WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING WITHIN 50 YARDS OF THESE WALKING, TALKING COLOSTOMY BAGS?!?!?)...
But Hammond left his most remarkable statement for near the end.
If Ken Lay were alive today, he'd say, 'My god, what have they done?' Or maybe he's looking down from heaven saying, 'If I were alive today, they would have sent me to prison for what I did?'
Yes, according to Hammond, expanding health care is dreadful because it will increase the deficit (sorry, Bill, gonna weigh in on hyper-inflated military spending any time soon?) But bringing in the Enron fraudster as the voice of moral reason? Really?
Speaking of the deficit, Hammond probably doesn't realize that ex the stimulus, the deficit itself (even leaving in place the Bush tax cuts) will cure itself with increased tax receipts as employment ticks up. But explaining economic reality to someone like Bill Hammond is like explaining efficient market theory to a 6 year old. Well, that's not right... the 6 year old would probably have a more open mind. As for Ken Lay, I have a special place in my heart for Kenny Boy and the crooks at Enron. Because of them, American business has to deal with Sarbanes-Oxley which, for me, means dealing with 5 different logins for different protected systems. Every single motherfucking day and the passwords have to be changed every 10 days. How awesome is that?
Ken Lay defined an era in that he stood out as a crook and a fraud even in an age of IPOs for companies that had no revenue, let alone profits. And Bill Hammond still thinks he's someone to admire. I bet he also thinks Bernie Madoff got a raw deal and Alan Stanford is being persecuted.
Oh, and did I mention he was fat?
April 07, 2010
Finally, a good reason to not text and drive...
According to this Australian video, something really awful happens when you text while driving...
April 06, 2010
In which I take legal action against Progressive Insurance
I'll be brief (and you can quite your snickering)... Progressive Insurance has done irreparable harm to my effort to have someone (ANYONE) name a child Pickles. Progressive, in a deliberate move to ruin my efforts and advertise that they cover family pets in the event of an accident, has begun advertising using a small dog named
This action will solidify in the minds of millions that pickles is 'a pet name' and not a name for human beings. Such action completely eliminates any chance* I ever had at finding some
dipshitbrave soul who would be willing defy convention and name their child Pickles.
As a result, this will cause me excruciating mental anguish and I feel like I should be awarded, well, a lot of money. If you'd like to help with the suit (or as we're starting to call it at McBlogger HQ, the SUPER AWESOME PAYDAY FROM PROGRESSIVE) shoot me an email.
*Harry says the chance was very slim and I reminded him he was neither a statistician nor a mathematician. Fucking know-it-all lawyers.
April 05, 2010
Dregs : More winger bullshit
First up, some freakshow testified before Congress that her research showed that the stimulus money was disproportionately sent to Democratic districts. Nate Silver took a look and noticed rather rapidly that the research was, to put it nicely, deeply flawed.
That de Rugy has testified before Congress on the basis of her evidence, and never paused to consider why the top five congressional districts on her list overlap with Sacramento, Albany, Austin, Tallahassee and Harrisburg, is mind-boggling. The presence of a state capital is the overwhelmingly dominant factor it predicting the dispensation of stimulus funds. This could have been discerned in literally five minutes if she had bothered to look at the apparent outliers in her dataset and considered whether they had anything in common -- a practice that should be among the first things that any researcher does when evaluating any dataset.
Then there was this which was just too funny... from This Week (via Krugman)
Rove: “This thing is paid for with Bernie-Madoff-style accounting. … It’s a gigantic disaster.”
Plouffe: “Karl and the Republicans would be familiar with that.”
Rove: “You will bankrupt the country if this bill passes. … For God’s sake, will you stop throwing around epitaphs [sic] and deal with the facts for once, David? … We will fight the election on this,. and the Democrats will have significant losses in the House and Senate as a result of this bill.”
Plouffe: “If Karl and a lot of Republicans want to call the election already, they ought to break out that ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner.”
Rove: “That’s cheesy, David. … You should not denigrate the mission of the USS Abraham Lincoln.”
Yes, Karl, break out that banner. It would be Teh Awesome.
Americans For Prosperity, the Republican group that supports a growing economy by advocating for positions that really won't do much to grow the economy (tax cuts, for example, when we're on the left side of the Laffer Curve without even a thought to what the inevitable deficits will do the economy), is apparently chock full of some really stupid people willing to lie for energy companies including Koch Industries regarding climate change. As usual, the dumbest member of the club is from Texas.
Peggy Venable, AFP's State Director for Texas, is less restrained. In an opinion piece titled The Feds are Messing with Texas in The Lone Star Report (29 January 2009), she says: "The scientific establishment has dropped the ball. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. On the contrary it makes crops and forests grow faster. We exhale carbon dioxide." She goes on to discuss the science-based finding by the EPA that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare (its "endangerment" finding). Specifically, she praised a response to EPA's endangerment finding that was being contemplated by the state of Texas and suggested by an AFP ally "who proposes attacking the EPA as a purveyor of bad science under federal statutes that prohibit junk science by agencies."
I guess it should obvious that Peggy never really understood that it's better to be quiet and thought an idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Peggy doesn't understand that escalating CO2 levels actually are detrimental to plant growth (it's stunting) not to mention that increases in temperature usually alter weather patterns and lead to desertification (which we're already seeing, one of the reasons the Chihuahuan Desert is expanding). Granted, it's obvious to us because we know that the methane and CO2 saturated atmosphere of Venus has acted like a pressure cooker on that planet. We also know that an increasing CO2 level in the atmosphere leads to increased levels of carbonic acid which is super bad for the plants there who suck up a lot of atmospheric CO2. That algae exists in a rather narrow band of Ph and more acid ain't so much a good thing.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that Peggy doesn't get it. She probably still thinks deficits don't matter and that Iraq has nukes. As long as you pay her enough, I bet she'll believe anything the Koch's tell her to believe.
Some good news... Scott Roeder is going away for a very, very long time.
April 01, 2010
Some Days You Feel Like A Nut
Sorry about the slow posting. We've all been holed up in the McBlogger Cave, writing clever subtitles for the Hitler Learns Kay Bailey Hutchison Is Staying In The Senate video on YouTube.