SLEEP NO MORE, MY BODY

clock

I paraphrase the Stephen Foster lyrics from My Old Kentucky Home…”Weep no more, my lady”…because I am trying to ensure i am on time for my doctor’s appointment.

As an old retired person with fewer duties than a broken clock has opportunities to still be correct in one day, I maintain more irregular hours than the Gabriel Brothers chain of discount stores maintains irregular pairs of socks. One is as apt to find me at full speed in my busy day at 4 a.m. as at 4.p.m.

So I have few occasions to need to make an appearance anywhere at an appointed hour let alone at the appointed hour. Except for seeing doctors. But even at those times philosophically one is tempted to ask oneself

am I late for or on time for a medical appointment when I find myself in a waiting room at 10:00 a.m on Easter Daylight Time but I have little chance of being in the examining room until 10:00 a.m. Easter Standard Time?

Thus arises the facility of devices known to man as alarm clocks. These instruments of torture have barely escaped the Geneva Convention’s list of banned methods of inhumane treatment, though Shriners‘ conventions recognized that fact long ago and thus invented the hotel wakeup call, finding a soothing voice from the front desk was preferable to a jangly clanging penetrating the foggy cloud generated from the previous night’s revelries.

The torturous nature of alarm clocks has at least been partially acknowledged by the alarm clock manufacturing industry, if not by Dick Cheney, in the form of the snooze alarm. Or has it? Perhaps it is enhanced torture to be able to stifle an alarm by hitting the snooze button welcoming the return to the blissful Land Of Nod only to be jolted out of that state again and again until your palm is worn raw from slapping the damned monster.

But let us discuss our present state of affairs in greater detail.

As a resident of a building that unexpectedly loses power for what is generally no more than two seconds several times a month, a digital version of one of these clocks will need to be reset upon each occasion. And this may not be the building’s fault. The phenomenon may be attributable to mischief emanating from students of West Virginia University pulling the giant plug from the giant socket that controls the electricity in the neighborhood we share as a form of celebration, much as they have burned couches and trash dumpsters and presumably bridges behind them as their shenanigans have raised the hackles of the school’s administration when these antics draw national attention.

But I digress.

I once depended on an alarm clock radio of the digital kind…or of the digical kind as my ex-wife’s  family’s former neighbor Joyce liked to pronounce the word….she also enjoyed the pork snack she termed shitlings…which, when I finally woke up upon unconsciously experiencing one of these momentary outages, would be blinking tauntingly at me as if to say “Guess what freaking time it is NOW, you sucker.”

So entered my possession a nice battery operated analog clock. You know, that’s the one that has two hands indicating, if both are straight up, that it is twelve o’clock somewhere and not that it is being placed under arrest. Purchased at one of the dollar stores, though I was charged more than one dollar for my little friend (thank you, Tony Montana) It stood by my side and buzzed its way into my psyche at the required times with its peculiar blend of annoying electronic beeping sounds. It’s a wonder it survived as long as it did having been heaved into walls so frequently.

But, alas, it announced its demise one morning when, set for 7:30 a.m.,I awoke on my own at 9:50 for a 10:00 a.m. appointment at the doctor’s office, I discovered my little ex-friend had made no sound, annoying or not, when it was required most.

My quest began for a replacement. AHA! “There is a dollar store on my planned post doctor visit route”, I thought. What a simple task. That store had no alarm clocks.

I managed to survive a couple more weeks with a failed timepiece, making every one of my 354 doctor’s visits in the interim. Until yesterday. The sun was shining bright though temperatures were cold. I ventured out to get to the grocery store but, as I approached it, there loomed a CVS Pharmacy a couple hundred yards down the road. I detoured there first, entered the CVS, asked the clerk where I could find alarm clocks, was appropriately directed, and found the mechanical creation of my dreams designed to wake me from same.

There, ensconced in what I was to discover plastic packaging built to withstand Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction was a bright white happy looking analog alarm clock, its hands appearing to welcome me warmly into their figurative grasp. I gleefully accepted its beckoning, paid for it, stopped at the grocery to acquire sustenance, and headed home, safe in the knowledge I would wake in time for today’s medical adventures.

Once home I borrowed a jackhammer from the construction folks working on the building’s sidewalk and…VOILA!…a scant three hours later I had broken through the protective shield and was holding my precious cargo directly in my hand. Delicately I inserted the one AA battery necessary for operation and gently turned the requisite knobs on its back to the hour then at hand. And then turned the knob again, and again, and again.

Damn It! I’d bought a clock with erectile dysfunction. Its hour hand will not stay up. Not for four hours nor for four seconds!

Turns out I am now the Goldilocks of alarm clocks but with none of the three in my possession being “just right”

Anyone know where I can buy some Viagra for my clock?

FERGUSON FOREVER.

mike brown

The tale of the shooting of Michael Brown on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri in August of 2014 will soon reach its denouement. Or not.

The world is breathlessly awaiting the results of a Grand Jury investigation that will determine whether Ferguson police officer Darrell Wilson will be indicted for Brown’s death..

If Wilson is indicted, that only initiates another chapter in the tale. Then will come trial, verdict, and finally public reaction. If he is not, the reaction will come sooner.

The tale…and any potential moral…hinge on whether Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown. Justification  depends on whether Brown had attacked Wilson in an attempt to get Wilson’s gun and he then feared for his own life and had to use his weapon to defend himself. Brown’s supporters maintain that, even if there were an initial struggle, that contact had been broken and Brown was trying to get away, if anything, and that Wilson wantonly gunned him down.

It does not matter. Of course it is a life and death issue for the Brown family and his friends and also for the thousands of people taking up his cause in person. There are millions of other observers such as myself who care ardently about the outcome.

But it does not matter. Or it should not matter.

Why?

If we focus solely on the circumstances of Brown’s death and what justice means as an isolated incident, we risk losing a golden opportunity to address and solve a severe societal defect that needs to be addressed and can be solved.

The ultimate issue is not whether Brown’s death was a justifiable homicide. Instead it is what do we do about the way young black males are far too often viewed by law enforcement as a lethal threat requiring a lethal response. In reality it is not simply young black men facing this challenge to their very existence but older black men, frequently black women, Hispanics, the mentally ill, and other demographics looked upon with disfavor, whether through genetics or institutional conditioning of those in charge.

There are far too many other examples of Michael Brown in this nation whose blood has been spilled in Missouri and on the streets of New York City or in Salt Lake City or in Florida or in Pittsburgh or it may happen in your town on your streets or in your Walmarts.

Yet there is a general reluctance on the part of the public and of prosecutors to hold officers responsible for the carnage they commit, generously extending the benefit of the doubt…in effect granting amnesty.

Not all these shootings, mostly killings, are unrighteous, but neither are they all righteous as they are deemed.

And it is not merely a certain mindset that is to be faulted but also the training and indoctrination that tells police officers that status begets certain privileges but low status begets  certain suspicions.

I have stated elsewhere that the standard police motto….”to serve and protect”…seems in these cases to have been amended to “shoot first, screw ‘em later when they ask questions”.

I refuse to catalog all the examples which could bolster my argument here. They are in the news every week and easy to find. For those who believe as I do sheer numbers alone are more than persuasive but for those who are blind to the phenomenon no numbers exist to merit what they consider to be disrespect for law and order by both the victims and those who protest on behalf of victims no longer able to do so themselves.

Whether Ferguson will be marked as watershed or aberration will be determined by history.

To those who value justice no matter one’s station in life Ferguson will remain in hearts and minds.

 

RIGHT TO CARRY= RIGHT TO COMMIT CRIMES?

rtc

Scenes such as the one above have been common the past couple of years with people openly possessing firearms while strolling down the aisle of a store casually tossing cans of French cut green beans, boxes of toothpicks and diapers, some juicy lamb chops, and a silencer into the old shopping cart.

I’m kidding about the toothpicks.

I think this graphic expression of one’s claimed Second Amendment rights is silly at best.

At worst I believe it is a bad example of, and is a potentially dangerous way of evoking such rights while at the same time acting far more manlier than warranted. A false machismo that is meaningless in a world where real men do not need to portray their violent nature nearly so much as they do empathy, compassion, intelligence, and thoughtfulness.

Intuitively those of us less inclined to martiality via cold blue steel share a sense that open carry portends mayhem just around the corner, given the propensity for bar discussions about Elroy Face vs Hoyt Wilhem as the epitome of 1950’s relief pitchers while quaffing a Falstaff Beer in a bar or upset at the fool changing lanes in front of you absent the courtesy of a turn signal  to erupt in more than mere angry words.

Fists result in bloody noses. Guns result in bloody autopsies.

Indeed, while open carry advocates speak of the great traditions and invoke memories of glorious Wild West Lawmen, Wyatt and Doc and the Brothers Earp were enforcing gun control during the famous showdown somewhere in the vicinity of the OK Corral. Tombstone, you see, had adopted an ordinance requiring the surrender of guns while in town to lessen the chances of more humans utilizing its namesake product.

And Wild Bill Hickock could have finished his poker game in peace if not for some miscreant determined to create a special nickname for a hand of Aces and Eights while practicing open carry.

But at that, I was intrigued at the headline Right-To-Carry Gun Laws Linked to Rise In Violent Crimes: Study.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/14/right-to-carry-laws-crime_n_6160414.html

The report, published in September and issued as a National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper last week, adds to a series of studies over the last decade tending to discredit the “more guns, less crime” hypothesis, which argues that right-to-carry laws serve as crime deterrents by allowing ordinary Americans to better protect themselves.

I am a skeptic. I am as doubtful of the tales of purported saving of damsels in distress because an armed stranger untied her from the train tracks while blazing away with his six-shooter as I am that NRA militants are stealing everything in sight during their forays into Target and intimidating possible 911 callers by waving bazookas and flame throwers. And mainly I am a skeptic because, while I believe a statistical correlation may be shown, causality cannot.

Yet the authors of the study, academics employed by Stanford and Johns Hopkins Universities, appear confident in their conclusions. Abhay Aneja, John J. Donahue III, and Alexandrea Zhang summarize their findings in this  abstract.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2443681

Across the basic seven Index I crime categories, the strongest evidence of a statistically significant effect would be for aggravated assault, with 11 of 28 estimates suggesting that RTC laws increase this crime at the .10 confidence level. An omitted variable bias test on our preferred Table 8a results suggests that our estimated 8 percent increase in aggravated assaults from RTC laws may understate the true harmful impact of RTC laws on aggravated assault, which may explain why this finding is only significant at the .10 level in many of our models. Our analysis of the year-by-year impact of RTC laws also suggests that RTC laws increase aggravated assaults. Our analysis of admittedly imperfect gun aggravated assaults provides suggestive evidence that RTC laws may be associated with large increases in this crime, perhaps increasing such gun assaults by almost 33 percent.

(Note…the download of the total study is 108 pages so I have not read it. I am basing this on the researchers own words in the abstract.)

The language employed here belies the Huffington Post headline as I would interpret this as to suggest that their findings are anything but absolute or even nearly so.They are far more indicative of the need for, if anything, further study. Greater statistical correlation of their assumptions would then help justify further public discourse and policy debate on open carry.

Yet…and yet? Intuition often serves us fairly well. There are many occasions when empirical evidence was unavailable but our gut instincts told us something was just not right and those instincts proved out.

The Wild West became just the West when the guns were put away and women and children and non gunslingers felt safe in public.

That’s not intuition…that’s history.

THE NEW RACISM—A THEATRICAL TRIUMPH

point


We have entered the Theater of The Absurd.

“Welcome, Sir, would you prefer seating on the right or left?”

What’s the difference?

On the left you can view our play through a prism that brings clarity to the absurdity.”

And on the right?

“There, Sir, you are provided blinders so that you view the play solely through the cacophony emanating from the stage and cannot see the truth.”

Well, what’s the play about?

“Sir, it is a dialogue about racism.”

Is it for or against?

“Oh, everyone is completely against racism, Sir.”

Then where is the conflict?

“Respectfully, Sir, some of the players, called Republicans here, are  utterly opposed to racism and are thankful that it was totally abolished in the United States solely by the will of God…….and the Republican Party…and has not existed since.”

That’s pretty silly, Mr. Usher, I think the families of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and Eric Golden might disagree with that. And so would the long time voters now denied that right due to these draconian voter ID laws.

“Oh, but Sir, those players deny there is any racial motivation in those acts.”

But what about the protests about those deaths and laws and all the statistical evidence that puts numbers to how disproportionately blacks and other minorities are affected by these measure?

“Sir, the other group of players, known as liberals,  makes that same argument…and more.”

How does the first group of players respond to those arguments?

“Oh, Sir, they call out the second group of players for their blatant racism.”

How can that be? I assume the second group includes blacks who have been discriminated against.

“Oh, it does, Sir, but when they complain about that the first group calls them racists.”

Now I am confused.

“You see, Sir, they are racist because they complain about white police killing young black men, when it is a well known fact that young black men kill a lot more young black men.”

I guess that is bad but what about the voters?

“In that case, Sir, it is the fault of those who cannot get the proper ID because they chose to be born black or poor or both and simply have no ambition to become a Koch brother.”

Why on earth would anyone wish to be a Koch brother?

“So you can buy your own country, Sir.”

I suppose there are advantages to that. But since Republicans ended slavery why do these Republicans act in what many could interpret to be a racist manner?

Don’t forget, Sir, that the parties switched identities sometime in the 1960’s. The Democrats then who opposed the Civil Rights Act are now Republicans. The Republicans of Lincoln and even Teddy Roosevelt were more like the Democrats/liberals of today.”

Oh, now I get it, sort of like the old Cleveland Browns of Jim Brown now being the Baltimore Ravens with a completely new Browns team that has adopted the records of the old Browns. Just as the Ravens officially do not have claim to the old Browns records, the GOP of today should have no claim to the records of the much more liberal old Republicans who accomplished them.

“That is what our second group of players maintains, Sir”

Do these Republicans in the play make any other assertions?

Yes, Sir, they state very clearly that the American Civil War had absolutely nothing to do with slavery.”

Why that is utterly absurd!

“Precisely, Sir”

Excuse me, I’m going to ask for my money back. If I watch this play I am sure to be sick.

 

YOU GOTTA HAVE (NO) HEART

HEART

There is a 1950’s Broadway musical called Damn Yankees. It is based on a book by Douglass Wallop titled The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant.  The premise of that novel is that the perennially hapless Washington Senators (the baseball team not the upper chamber of Congress) are given a new jolt of life when a young player from out of nowhere, Joe Hardy, gives the team a lift as he helps slug them into first place.

Ah, but Joe is really Joe Boyd, a middle-aged fan who once dreamt of starring for his home town team. But the nefarious Mr. Applegate transforms him to Hardy, expecting to collect his soul in the bargain. In the musical the song You Gotta Have Heart is sung by some of the ballplayers in an optimistic paean to the sport that soon becomes reality when Hardy hits his way into their and their fans’ hearts.

Alas Applegate threatens to pull the plug on Hardy and retransform him to ordinary Joe Boyd, depriving the people of their sports salvation.

This musical is, in a sense, being reprised now in Washington, D.C. with a new cast and no musical renditions praising heart and planned legislative action absent any heart at all. The part of Applegate is shared by Charles and David Koch.

You see with the new Republican majority in both Houses,  Congress is certain to renew efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (ACA)(I refuse to use the common name for the law, deeming it derogatory). Absent outright repeal other measures may be utilized to thwart full implementation of the employer mandate or to end or severely limit the funding aspects of the law, effectively emasculating it.

To boot, the non-musical version of The Supremes is contemplating a move that will intervene to remove the repeal stigma from Congress. It has accepted the case of King v Burwell. That litigation is a challenge to the provisions of the law providing federal premium subsidies to some health policy holders based on their income.

Recall that the law established a marketplace for the new plans through exchanges, intended to be operated by the states, but with a federal exchange available should a state not act to set up its own. 36 states chose not to operate their own. Several million Americans therefore purchased policies on the federal exchange with most of them eligible for the premium subsidies.

Some unfortunate language in the law stated, in effect, that the subsidies were available only for policies purchased on state exchanges. Other language clearly demonstrates the intent of Congress to make the subsidies effective regardless of where the coverage purchased.

The Supreme Court will decide whether the narrow language of the law controls, strictly interpreted, or whether the law, and thus the subsidies, will remain as before the challenge. If the former, millions now covered may not be able to afford their insurance without the subsidies.

Now that would not be the total repeal the Republicans in Congress seek, yet it would so undermine the ACA that the delight of GOPers would be palpable.

Obviously full repeal would bring dancing in the streets…no doubt to the strains of You Gotta Have (No)Heart.

But think about it. If millions are left with policies intact but no way to afford them, or the law is repealed in toto, that means millions of people will now be up the creek with health care coverage. A SCOTUS decision against subsidies would mean the paddles would be too expensive and repeal would mean no paddles can be bought at all.

How in the world can either result be good for the United States of America? The Affordable Care Act, despite any imperfections or weaknesses, has enabled approximately ten million citizens to be covered under some health insurance plan that did not previously have that privilege. And having insurance saves lives. That is a concrete positive of the law.

Most importantly ending or severely altering the law will have devastating financial and health consequences for real people, not abstract and wrong headed political philosophies.

I don’t know that statistics have been compiled demonstrating how many lives have been saved due to the ACA, but I do know that there is ample anecdotal evidence of many cases. One is presented here. David Tedrow of Raleigh, N.C. received a life saving liver transplant earlier this year. he had fallen ill in 2010 and, as the disease progressed, finally was unable to work.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/11/08/without-obamacare-i-would-have-died-im-scared-the-supreme-court-is-going-to-gut-the-part-that-saved-me/

With lower income he could no longer afford the health coverage he’d had and became uninsured. Then the ACA marketplace opened last year and he signed up. With his subsidy he could afford it. But he is in one of the states without its own exchange and will lose his subsidy if SCOTUS rules wrongly. Of course under repeal he’d have no coverage at all. Remember, one portion of the law requires insurers to cover regardless of pre-existing conditions. If Tedrow losses this policy he will be unlikely to procure another at all, affordable or not.

Simon Maloy of Salon looks at the upcoming Supreme Court decision and expounds on the potential ramifications.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/11/08/without-obamacare-i-would-have-died-im-scared-the-supreme-court-is-going-to-gut-the-part-that-saved-me/

Maloy takes another whack at the topic in another piece. In that one he looks at the possible SCOTUS gutting of the ACA as maybe even a negative to the GOP due to the public outcry that may erupt when millions lose insurance.

http://www.salon.com/2014/11/10/scotus_could_roil_the_gop_how_new_threat_to_obamacare_may_backfire_on_the_right/

The Republicans and conservatives who clamor for the elimination of the Affordable Care Act tend to carefully avoid discussing the inevitable results of the law’s demise: exploding health insurance costs, spikes in uninsurance, general chaos in the health insurance market, and the very real chance that people will die. The GOP doesn’t have a plan for what comes after the ACA, they just want it gone, no matter the consequences. If the Supreme Court rules against the government in King v. Burwell, they’d be forced to face down those consequences, and there’s a good chance they won’t like what they see.

As he notes the fix for the subsidies is simple enough…a minor amendment with corrective language clarifying that the subsidies were to apply no matter which exchange the policy was purchased on.

That will be a cold day in hell to see the GOP surrender on this issue.

So from this angle it appears that there is an enormous chance that the Republican chest will be ripped wide open an the vacant cavity where the heart normally is will be exposed for all to see. That is so whether the ACA is repealed or the Supreme Court rules negatively and Congress fails to pass the easy fix.

The only questions is whether the besotted public will finally have enough of their heartlessness.

One can only hope this musical closes in New Haven.

 

 

 

EXPERTS? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING EXPERTS

experts

“I am not a scientist”. Those words, or a variation thereof, have been used by the following politicians when speaking of climate change or global warming: John Boehner, Bobby Jindal, Michael Grimm, Lisa Nelson, Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, and Joni Ernst. Well Nelson is not a politician herself but she is CEO of ALEC which is a shadow legislator in many states.

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/10/03/3575849/not-a-scientist/

These people, as well as many more have more in common than sharing this occupational status.. They are all Republicans.

Yet that they are not scientists does not impair their ability to substitute their judgment for the the 97% of climate scientists who are in agreement that the earth’s climate is changing and that much of that change is due to human caused activity. Even the scientists acknowledge differences in degree, the sum total of effects of change, and what precisely it will take to stem and/or reverse that change.

The bottom line is that Republicans want to dismiss expert opinion in favor of some ethereal conceptions of how the climate works and mistake, possibly deliberately, temperature in Rockville, Md. for the climate to which the entire earth is subject.

Similarly in the faux Ebola crisis sweeping the country, all kinds of recommendations of how to deal with this deadly disease, as well as strange notions of how it is transmitted (possibly in the back packs of child refugees?) have been emerging from the mouths of people who themselves have no medical training but who purport to know exactly what is necessary to protect the American public health. Again most, but not all, are Republicans.

Talk about bipartisanship!

There are some area of expertise where Republicans have exercised their acumen, especially over the past 30-35 years. They have conducted living experiments in the application of their core principles, being extracted intact from the conservative bible. The results of the experimentation are available in the form of solid empirical evidence.

These experiments, employing the American people as lab rats, have brought nothing but negative results.

Kurt Eichenwald in Vanity Fair generously shares some prime examples with us.

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2014/11/conservative-nonsense-political-history

Are conservatives ever right?

The question isn’t meant to suggest that liberals are never wrong. But reviewing the last few decades of conservative policy initiatives—or their objections over that timespan to policies they hate—shows a consistent pattern of failure: predictions never pan out, and intended results turn to catastrophic flops.

As he notes further

Too often, it seems, conservatives have scorned experts as incompetent, biased, or otherwise worth ignoring because they came up with answers that didn’t fit their politically desired answer. Often, they proclaim experts have a liberal bias.

He fleshes out his assertions by exploring the fantasy versus the reality in these areas:

Tax cuts pay for themselves.

Deregulating the Thrift Industry Will Save It

Iraq I: The Tilt

Giving Iranian Moderates Weapons Will Help America

Raising Taxes Will Cause a Recession

Abolishing Some Bank Regulations Will Help the Economy

The U.S.–led Bombing of Yugoslavia Would Be a Disaster

Bin Laden Was a Front for Iraq

Iraq 2: W.M.D.s and a Short, Inexpensive War

Obamacare

I will grant that some of these policies or decisions were not  ones that strictly lent themselves to pure objective analysis. But even those were subject to the supposed teachings of history.

Moreover the wrongheadedness of Iraq I directly led to the future fiascoes of the other Middle Eastern adventures on this list.

I’ll save you the trouble. No Presidential Administration, no political party, and no political movement is immune from stumbling disastrously on its own ideals and rhetoric. But being so conspicuously and continuously wrong suggests that inventory must be taken to assess what went wrong and then to make appropriate changes.

But the fly in that ointment is that if you dispense with the experts or banish known contraindications from your political thought development and, instead, maintain a philosophy destined to fail, the mistakes will be repeated ad nauseum. Witness the ads and speeches generated in this mid-term election year and the promises made upon achieving electoral success.

Eichenwald summarizes it thus

America needs reality-based policy. Bluster and fantasy have cost us too much.

I’ll put it this way. Failure to exit denial, the first stage of grief, inevitably leads to further grief.

JAMIE DIMON’S USED CARS———–BUY HERE, GET SCREWED HERE

cars

Matt Taibbi, in the new Rolling Stone, tells the tale of one Alayne Fleischmann, once a deal manager at JP Morgan Chase, the giant bank, too big to fail but not for lack of effort.

You may recall the saga of Chase and its CEO, Jamie Dimon. But large parts of that saga are more myth than documented history…akin to Homer’s Iliad depicting the Trojan War as a panty raid on a college’s women’s dormitory.

Fleischman, for her part, has been attempting to set the record straight. She is a Cornell educated lawyer who surprisingly found herself working for Chase after graduation and then finding she enjoyed her work. That is, until Chase put in place people controlling the securitiization of home mortgages more concerned with the bundle of money Chase would earn than for the fact that many of these mortgages were doomed to fail almost from the outset.

This is a synopsis of what Fleischmann found she was dealing with;

In late 2006, not long after the “no e-mail” policy was implemented, Fleischmann and her group were asked to evaluate a packet of home loans from a mortgage originator called GreenPoint that was collectively worth about $900 million. Almost immediately, Fleischmann and some of the diligence managers who worked alongside her began to notice serious problems with this particular package of loans.

For one thing, the dates on many of them were suspiciously old. Normally, banks tried to turn loans into securities at warp speed. The idea was to go from a homeowner signing on the dotted line to an investor buying that loan in a pool of securities within two to three months. Thus it was a huge red flag to see Chase buying loans that were already seven or eight months old.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-9-billion-witness-20141106

In Taibbi’s reporting he makes a couple of analogies to used cars. He likens these defective loans to old junkers given a new coat of paint and resold to unsuspecting consumers. In this case the unsuspecting consumers were the purchasers of the loans packaged to be sold as securities. And, just as a junker getting a cosmetic overhaul but with a rotting body or soon to blow engine, these packaged mortgages were rotten to the core and guaranteed to go into default, costing the investors, perhaps, but a sure financial windfall for Chase.

What carries the used car analogy even further is the element of fraud. Within the mortgage and securities industry there may be no outright prohibition of selling such bound-to-fail mortgages but the entity doing so is bound to identify them as such so that the purchaser is aware of the risk. Likewise it may not be illegal to sell a used car with a blown headgasket but if such defect is known to the seller it has a duty to so inform the customer. That is so even if the car is sold “as is”.

Taibbi also tracks the course of the investigation of Chase for this fraud by the Department of Justice. Instead of facing true criminal charges Chase fessed up and was fined $13 billion. He explains how that figure is misleading and how the entire process was virtually pure smoke and mirrors designed to fool a gullible public into believing some action was finally being taken to punish the people responsible for the almost catastrophic collapse of the financial markets.

Chase was so damaged by this settlement that Dimon suffered considerably due to his leadership during this fraud. His pay was cut…no WAIT!, that’s a typo…his pay was not cut one bit but early this year he received a 74 % increase.

Taibbi spares no government official in his revelations of this chicanery, depicting

Attorney General Eric Holder, (as) the chief architect of the crazily elaborate government policy of surrender, secrecy and cover-up. “Every time I had a chance to talk, something always got in the way,” Fleischmann says.  

For her part Fleischmann is still eager to see that Chase is criminally prosecuted.

She believes the proof is easily there for all the elements of the crime as defined by federal law – the bank made material misrepresentations, it made material omissions, and it did so willfully and with specific intent, consciously ignoring warnings from inside the firm and out.

Aside from these charges Matt Tiabbi offers other examples of miscreances committed by Chase while also noting that

…former Debevoise & Plimpton hotshots Mary Jo White and Andrew Ceresny, who represented Chase for some of this case, have since been named to the two top jobs at the SEC. As for the bank itself, its stock price has gone up since the settlement and flirts weekly with five-year highs. 

What is evident from all this is that, while there is no rest for the wicked, there is also no retribution for them.

This is one lemon that, if you were to make lemonade of it, you would gain nothing but indigestion.

 

TRIUMPH OF THE WON’T

won't

Let me strongly assert right off that in this blog I am not alleging any outright similarities in substance to the Nazis. That meme has been far overdone by many politicians and their supporters in recent years. In Mein Kampf  Hitler talks of the success of British propaganda in World War I, believing people’s ignorance meant simple repetition and an appeal to feelings over reason would suffice.

In other words propaganda which prefers image over fact can often be successful. Hitler believed the British had utilized this method in World War I and adopted the same methods for his Third Reich. Those methods may be employed and have also succeeded in other contexts and for other governments or organizations regardless of overriding philosophy.

What is striking about the election victories by Republicans at both the federal and state levels this past November 4, 2014 is that in many cases these wins seem to have come about directly from employing a similar strategy. Now in office, based on track records and campaign rhetoric the character of their philosophy going forward leads one to describe them as the Party Of Won’t.

They won’t be working to raise the national minimum wage.

They won’t be addressing possible solutions to slow or reverse climate change.

They won’t recognize that climate change is a scientific fact.

They won’t act to protect Social Security and Medicare.

They won’t do anything to effectively alleviate any problems in our immigration system.

They won’t realize that military force is usually the worst alternative in any international crisis instead of being the first alternative considered.

They won’t admit that their policies to cut taxes to enable the rich to create more jobs have not resulted in more jobs.

They won’t act to pass or strengthen laws prohibiting discrimination in certain areas.

They won’t act to ensure that our regulatory systems are effective enough to protect the public from poisoned air or water, or from unscrupulous bankers or other businesspersons, or from processes or systems that harm the less well off among us.

They won’t act to correct any flaws in or strengthen the Affordable Care Act, choosing again to attempt to destroy it.

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman,, who has been proven right far more than he has been wrong this century, describes the phenomenon succinctly.

…politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. Still, it’s not often that a party that is so wrong about so much does as well as Republicans did on Tuesday.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/07/opinion/paul-krugman-triumph-of-the-wrong.html?ref=todayspaper

Some of the blame for these election results must be ascribed to the Democrats who lost. Since many were assailed on the campaign trail with accusations of being rubber stamps for President Barack Obama, and also were subject to the canard that the economy is in the tank with blame for that belonging to Obama, rather than highlight the accomplishments of this administration to which they had contributed, they basically acted as if Obama were Ebola incarnate, avoiding any close contact even with the name.

I have previously written about how much the economy has improved subsequent to Obama assuming office during the depths of a recession,

http://umoc193.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/its-good-news-week/ ,

One would reasonably assume that Democratic candidates would be touting this record and his other areas of accomplishment. They did not. Thus they enhanced the GOP’s ability to base their campaigns on the fact that

 people’s ignorance meant simple repetition and an appeal to feelings over reason would suffice.

Krugman continues his vein of thought to cite concrete examples as backup. He briefly summarizes the issues of economic policy, health reform, and climate change to make his point. Further he assesses GOP strategy as

But the biggest secret of the Republican triumph surely lies in the discovery that obstructionism bordering on sabotage is a winning political strategy. From Day 1 of the Obama administration, Mr. McConnell and his colleagues have done everything they could to undermine effective policy, in particular blocking every effort to do the obvious thing — boost infrastructure spending — in a time of low interest rates and high unemployment.

Yep, there’s that triumph of won’t again.

In the coming two years the Republican party in charge of Congress will iterate and reiterate its common theme that government does not work. Then, when the needs of the nation cry out for effective government action in enforcing current laws or enacting new laws……….

THEY WON’T!

2014—THE GOP’S TOGA PARTY

animal

“…that a Roman toga party was held from which we have received two dozen reports of individual acts of perversion so profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here.”

So said Omega Doug Neidermeyer at the sham trial for the Deltas in Animal House.

I was reminded of this quote when reading about some of the Republican pledges about to become active members of that wild and crazy institution, commonly referred to as Congress. It is about to become wilder and crazier.

The Daily Kos, something I read only when a friend posts a link on Facebook, has come up with a list of the most extreme newly elected members of that once august, but now February, body—you know, cold, dark, and foreboding, and bound to feel much longer than it’s official length.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/11/05/1342284/-Meet-your-new-Craziest-Republicans?detail=facebook

The collective grade point average of these Congresspersons to be, and possibly their collective IQ, is farther south of the Mason-Dixon Line of grade point averages and IQ’s than is the South Pole from the geographical one.

They are an aggravating aggregation of Muslim hating, science denying, gun-toting, Biblical nonsense spewing, gay bashing, border closing, ISIS/Mexican drug cartel conspiracy theorizing, wanna be impeaching, UN mischaracterizing, Obamacare repealing  rivals to the already sitting preternaturally stupid Louie Gohmert and repugnantly craven Ted Cruz. (What IS in the water in Texas, anyhow?)

Many of their and their colleagues actions almost inevitably will be in a virtual food fight in their respective but not respectable Chambers in the Capitol. Just as their current nutjob counterparts are an assimilation of Bluto clones, the incoming class can be called Flounder. Why Flounder? Why not?

The voting public themselves need to become Dean Wormer, putting these Republicans on double secret probation, standing ready to expel them at the first opportunity when they commit their next offense, not against Faber but against the United States.

I can envision their Homecoming Parade through the legislative process in which they are reluctant participants at all but which they will utilize to disrupt the enjoyment of the other participants as well as all the observers. I guarantee that someone will lose their marbles and the Death Machine will emerge from the smoke.

Unfortunately the electorate that put them in office is most comparable to Omega pledge, Chip. Faced with the ignorance and mis, mal and non feasance of their present representatives they chose to add to that.

It’s the equivalent of “Thank you, Sir, may I have another.”

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

Bass-O-Matic - Dan Aykroyd[4]

Late night and often not so late night television is saturated by commercials for mail order products. Well, not so much mail order as telephone products. “Call now at 1-800-YOU-SUCKER”

The variety of products available is amazing, running the gamut from soup to nuts, though I really can’t recall either soup or nuts being offered. I suppose the closest to the latter are the ads for solutions to ED. Now exactly why Ed is a problem I have no idea. The only Eds I have known were upstanding gentlemen, and had quite good posture when erect. Why they would ever need an everyday pill so they could achieve this erect status whenever they desired sounds silly to me. When I want to stand I just attach the block and tackle of my portable crane to my shoulders and winch myself out of my seat.

I am constantly amazed that some of this merchandise is marketable at all. Odd devices that serve many uses are touted as bargains at $19.99.

“Purchase this remarkable safety pin for only $19.99. It’s unique design includes the entire text of the Consumer Product Safety Act written on its head!” Harrumph! As if reading that would save you from getting pricked.

“Be one of the first 5634 viewers to call and we will send you, at no extra charge, your free gift of a roll of belly button lint removed from our company president!”

I won’t torture you by demonstrating but the volume of the voice overs is always amplified enough so that, if you were reading these commercials on line, they would be in all caps.

Too, the announcers are practically breathless in their recitations and speak so fast that if they were reading this sentence, in print it would appear like thusly :

Tootheannouncersarepracticallybreathlessintheirrecitationsandspeaksofastthatiftheywerereadingthissentenceiprintitwouldappearthusly

Often the commercial will be an infomercial, wasting an entire half hour of your time instead of just 30 seconds. If you are old enough you should be able to recall TV commercials in the early days were generally one minute long. On occasion they may have been longer, as this Betty Furness Westinghouse commercial will illustrate, all 2:29 of it

One of these infomercials I have witnessed, usually as I channel surf right past, is for something called a Nuwave Cooktop. This innovative method of preparing your meals apparently was developed by bands such as Depeche Mode, Blondie, A Flock of Seagulls, and the B-52’s in the 1980’s and only recently licensed for sale to the general public.

Speaking of the B-52’s

“Call in the next ten minutes and for the price of one, $19.99, you can get TWO tactical thermo-nuclear bombs and, as part of this special offer there are no shipping and handling charges and these weapons will be delivered to your door by one of our specially equipped B-52 bombers!”

If like me, you believe many of these products are shoddily constructed of inferior materials, or how else could they be so inexpensive, then your concerns are confirmed that now you can buy two for the price of one. I mean TWO thermo-nuclear weapons for $19.99? Must have been constructed by Muslim terrorists being paid the minimum wage and forced to work overtime for free. Sort of like the Walmart of nuke building.

I’ll tell you a secret. I once fell for a Dragon commercial. That’s the program that allows you to talk and your words will be transformed into text in your computer instantly. Since I have never learned to type I thought this was just what I needed to increase my output. I called, worked through some phone prompts and, for the discount price of only $79.99 I soon had myself an order for Dragon and been charged nearly $200.

It took a few days to get this glitch reversed and my order completely cancelled. Thus, I had to return to my old ways of typing each letter one finger at a time, frequently the middle one, and can write less than desired.

Aren’t you glad?

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