July 14, 2014

Sure, Citigroup today agreed to settle their rotten mortgage case with the feds and state attorneys general. And it’s going to be a big chunk of cash: $7-billion. Some of that may actually make it back into the pockets of the investors they knowingly scammed into investing in toxic home loans.
What’s critical is what isn’t in the settlement which must still get court approval, of course. There is nothing to prevent Citigroup from simply raising costs to its customers. There is almost zero chance that this settlement will lower one bank exec’s bonuses by one cent, or even cost shareholders a single pence on their dividends. The payers will ultimately be the mass of customers who have been slow and apathetic enough to stick with Citibank. Too inconvenient, account tied to a credit card, etc. etc. etc. Banks, like cell phone companies, have found all kinds of ways to be sticky, making it a royal pain to move your account…all those automatic deposits and payments, yada, yada, yada.
There is nothing in the settlement that requires Citi to take any money away from bonus pools or dividends or even consultant fees or lawyers’ fees or travel budgets or company holiday parties…or any of the stuff the bank biz expects by divine right.
The stock market sees the settlement as a good thing. Nobody that matters really pays. Citi stock is up today and the market itself followed suit. Whoopee. Got off the hook, again.
One analysis points out Citi has made over $74 billion in the past four quarters and it will take just over a month for the corporation to generate enough cash to pay off the $7-bil in bills. One bright spot, the federal portion of the settlement is NOT TAX DEDUCTIBLE!


July 11, 2014

I think the Republican Party has gotta double-down on the horrors of Obamacare. The percentage of uninsured Americans is plummeting. People need to edycated away from buying insurance. This is getting awfuller by the day. Next thing you know all the deadbeats, the horrid 47%, will be checking into hospitals just so they won’t have to look for work. Read here about how more and more folks are getting health insurance.
Disaster. As soon as folks know they can get run over and then get hospital treatment, they’ll start walking in front of buses like those bums do in all those socialist countries in Europe…and up in Canada. And if you think gun violence is outta control now, wait’ll all those unarmed dummies in kindergartens and movie theatres realize they’ll get ambulance service and treatment for wounds…they’ll start jumping in front of madmen with assault rifles. Oh god, death of the American Way of Life. Wait’ll insurance companies start paying for medical marijuana in Colorado and Washington State. Ohmigqawd!
Anybody watching the stock price of the big medical conglomerates? Stratosphere here we come.


July 10, 2014

To any of us who toiled in the money=strewn landscape of TV news, this all rings oh so true.


July 10, 2014

Marx was wrong. It is not religion that keeps the masses sedated. Look at Muslim jihadists in the Mideast. Not too sedate regardless of how wrong-headed they may be. Their religion doesn’t keep them calm by any means. I’m afraid old Marx couldn’t see beyond the mild forms of Catholicism and Anglicanism of his century.
Today it is opiates that are the opiate of the people. Here’s a gut-wrenching story from NPR on how we drug our soldiers and send them off to war. One crucial part of this story that is not delved into by the polite folks at NPR: how this massive use of opiates relates to the continued “drug war” and efforts to keep non-prescription drugs out of public use. If marijuana became the number 1 legal form of painkiller in America think of the billions of dollars the big drug makers would lose.


July 6, 2014

Over at they are running a long essay on the current malaise in America: the fear of real political conflict. And the author goes on to say we must clash now or simply let the wave of impending disasters wash us out to the metaphorical sea. This is a nation and fought and died in the millions over slavery…where union and union-haters fought bloody battles and assassinated one another for decades…where racist lynch mobs and civil rights proponents where so far apart it was hard to imagine them living in the same nation…where governors proudly stood in the way of school integration…where fanatics still tell one another that the murder of abortion providers is doing god’s work.
Of course, dealing with climate change and the increasing wealth gap will be nasty and messy. It has to be. People in the aggregate build things that are often nasty and messy. Just take a slow walk through our history on this planet. Sure we can do art and generosity, but we often do mayhem and massacre. Worse than that, we do ignoring reality really well. Let’s rebuild our flood or hurricane damaged cities right where they were before.
I agree with the Politico essay’s author that we are not more divided than ever before but we are less likely to cope with the issues facing us that require serious action. The forces that favor easy-going, protection of the status quo include our elected officials, their donors and handlers, anything connected with Wall Street and our major industries from fracking to Internet to retail. Don’t rock the boat, don’t get excited, don’t rattle the markets. Doesn’t the majority of Americans realize that our impending disasters can’t be bought off, postponed or ignored? Doesn’t look like it.
The NYT today has an interesting opinion piece on how we may have to get pro-active if we want to protect some of our precious natural resources. The old hope of letting nature run her course has been detoured by our inadvertent fiddling with the global climate and what it means for precious things from giant sequoia to tiny coral organisms. You can read that essay here.
Since the halcyon days of President Teddy Roosevelt, we have led the league in conservation and protecting nature. We should continue to do so. There are two phases of human activity where the U.S. is still proudly #1: tech innovation and protection of wild and undeveloped lands. We need to value the latter as much as the former.
I’m afraid we’re doomed to ignore our problems until they explode. Our whole system now is built on money as the crucial measure. Can we put a monetary value to a grove of sequoia that can’t be cut down for lumber? Or seeing a sage grouse that on its lek? Or knowing that wolves can at least range freely over a tiny fraction of the land they once ruled? There are powerful forces that would argue those things have little economic worth and thus little worth that matters. There are forces that would argue any creature or natural boundary that impinges on our comfort or commerce should be killed. Our system tends to practice capital punishment on any bear, wolf, lion or tree that “gets in the way.” One of our neighbors recently took down several century-old oaks so he could clear a lot and put in on the market. The American free enterprise system at work.
Second we need to realize that economic growth is not a positive idea as we practice it now…it is destructive of our only known habitable planet. Not even the richest can find another place to go when their security gates start to melt in the heat (metaphorically speaking).


July 5, 2014

One Seattle billionaire is suggesting his fellow plutocrats should get smart…or get forked. As in pitch-forked. You can reed the screed here.

He’s right of course. Anything that can’t go forever, won’t. Rising home prices, rising stock prices, more steroids and more home runs each year. Huge wealth gap. Open ended overseas occupations. Empires. Dictatorships. How many dictators get to retire on the job. Franco was lucky. So how long can billionaires ignore the rest of the planet and pretend global warming and social upheaval and revolution is just somebody else’s problem?

I actually wish the Koch Brothers were thirty years younger so they could be around as the globe’s violence and hunger and climate change begin to take an ever-larger toll ever closer to Houston and Wall Street.


July 3, 2014

You want poverty? Go south. Here’s a map showing the most impoverished states in the U.S. Essentially it is the Old Confederacy plus the southwest. Most of these states are heavily Republican, except for New Mexico. The highest poverty states are mostly “right-to-work” states which really means unions are almost impossible to maintain. Our poverty belt includes states where gun violence is the highest in US…where illiteracy is the worst…where obesity is most prevalent…where Fox News is gospel…where the gospel is gospel as well…where politicians love to rail against all those godless liberals destroying America. Their proud America is one in which poverty, low wages, ignorance and prejudice rule…just like 1840. Bring back the Know-Nothings and the glorious frontier past! Muskets all around. And never raise the minimum wage as it’s not blessed in the Bible according to the minister on TeeVee.
There may be poverty in the south but there is wealth on Wall Street. Another stock market record high today! Don’t you feel all that money just trickling down the walls of your house or apartment. BTW, this week I heard that rents are at record levels in much of the U.S. Just more good news for Wall Street and the banks.


July 2, 2014

Can you believe it? One statistical look at state governments in the U.S. indicates that Louisiana is only the second most corrupt state in the country. Wow, check out the list here.
As you would expect the list of corrupt states is heavily weighted in favor of red states because, after all, current Republican doctrine is that wealth is great and greater wealth is even greater…and not many questions asked about how you get that wealth unless you’re a dark-skinned person.
Almost half the states that once made up the Confederacy now make up the corruptocracy.
What I want to see is correlation to some other social measures: poverty, church attendance, education level…do any of these corrupt states have initiative and referendum allowing voters to take a position counter to elected officials??


June 30, 2014

How many different ways can we humans find to poison our planet? This week’s “Living on Earth” radio program was a veritable menu of toxicity. Fracking for natural gas is releasing long-lived radioactive isotopes into streams and groundwater. Oh goody.
There is now evidence that the current increase in rates of autism may be linked to maternal exposure to pesticides. Pass the unwashed strawberries, please.
To top it off, a class of pesticices introduced after 1984 (good year, huh?) is increasingly being linked to the dying of bee colonies. Neo-nicotinoids.
Not to worry, anything we can’t poison, we can kill in other ways.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to slaughter cormorants in the lower Columbia River, to preserve all those salmon for human fisherman. After all, those are our fish, right? Some religions say God gave us dominion right? Those greedy cormorants have a lot of nerve! Here’s Portland Audubon’s take on the pending cormorant
slaughter. Up to 16,000 cormorants could be killed at the largest Double-crested Cormorant colony on the Pacific Coast. How is the Corps then going to keep alien cormorants from sneaking across the border when the locals are killed off? Don’t they know cormorants can fly? Time for birders to speak up.


June 29, 2014

There’s been a shootout on the street in New Orleans, a town never know for its pacifist leanings. In fact I can remember seeing beheading swords and slave mangles in the front window of proud antique stores in the French Quarter. “get ‘em here. still stained in the original blood.” New Orleans is definitely not a town attuned to Tweedom.
And trying to think like a gunner I can only imagine the proper response to anybody’s reflexive thought of gun control in reaction to yet another mass shooting.
If those nine innocent victims in New Orleans had all been armed, with say a couple sawed-off shotguns, one of them would have been able to blast the two original gunmen and a put a proper ending to the whole affair. More guns means we need even more guns. The only response to a shooter is more shooters. Otherwise we just become a nation of twee cowards hiding behind the law. And we should arm all lamp-posts along with all teachers and kindergartners, right?


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