Saturday, September 15, 2007

Run, Bank, Run!

Many of you are familiar with bank runs only from the movie "It's A Wonderful Life," a particularly syrupy little piece of treacle your parents made you watch a billion times as a kid around Christmas:So George Bailey dips into his own pocket and rescues his bank with his honeymoon money.

Yea, that would happen. But bank runs were a significantly contributing factor to the Great Depression, which is why that scene had to be put in the movie.

Which brings us to today. Despite the attempts at reassurance by the central banks of both American and European governments that the sub-prime lending crisis is contained, there are many who are not getting the message, and rightfully so. It is NOT contained, and banks are working feverishly behind the scenes to put out this wildfire before it spreads.

The defaults on subprime mortgages and the subsequent defaults on securities that are derived from those shaky, questionable loans, will mean less liquidity for some major institutions in the world. Less liquidity, less cash, and suckers people like you and me who deposited money with these institutions stand to lose our investments.

Thus, today's story has some very ominous overtones:
LONDON (Reuters) - Fears grew on Saturday that panic among savers at British bank Northern Rock will see a run of withdrawals after reports that 1 billion pounds ($2.01 billion) had already been taken out.

The Bank of England stepped in on Friday to rescue Northern Rock, Britain's fifth-biggest mortgage provider, pledging to provide emergency funds after a global credit crunch hit the bank's ability to raise cash in money markets.

Saturday's Financial Times said customers had withdrawn 1 billion pounds on Friday, or about 4 percent of deposits.

Citing a source familiar with the situation, the paper said a quarter of that amount was withdrawn from branches and more via the Web site, despite problems accessing online accounts.
It will be impossible to even gauge the impact of this run for some days. The fact that people can electronically move their money out means they can't even easily stop the flow or limit it. Northern Rock could go bone dry on Monday, and no one would know until Wednesday.

And this is after the Bank of England has stepped in to do a George Bailey!

Bank runs have their own unique momentum, fueled by rumour and truth in a volatile mixture. The conservatives have played this paranoia for their own benefit for seven years now, and I suspect we're about to see it blowback big time on them. Just try to stop Americans from withdrawing money, and you'll realize that all those terror rumours and anti-liberal, anti-human, anti-gay, anti-immigrant ghost stories took their toll on our psyches.

This won't be the last bank run, nor will it be the worst. And this depression could be worse than anything we've ever seen.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Music Blogging

Dir En Grey - Kodou

Think "No Doubt" without the pretenses and some fucking blast-headed numbnuts lead singer.

Friday Kitten Blogging

Happy anneebersry, Dadby! See'd how much I growed since you 'dopted me?

Sorry 'bout eatin' da rug...

Nobody Asked Me, But...


1) That's it baby, polish my pistil, oh YEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

2) How to shut a perverted sycophant up.

3) This story got buried by the Petraeus report and September 11 commemoration, but it's one that could conceivably change the course of the next year. Kudos to AgitProp for keepin' it real.

4) I can sort of understand the reasons for this, but come on...does anyone think this jackass's beliefs aren't common knowledge already?

5) Like to get under the hood of your car and tinker? Need $30 million?

6) Maybe we're finally growing up?

7) Or maybe not.

8) No, we're growing up.

9) And so are our relatives. No, really! (h/t not_over_it)

10) There's a certain dark poetry to this story.

11) There's two years missing here.

12) Sorry, Grandpa...If it's work, it's not enjoyment.

12) One-third of the people of the world are threatened so we can drive with cheap gas.

13) MEMO: To Democrats-- Just redefine "success", and bring our boys home now.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Too Little, Too Late

Thanks for noticing, Mr Bush:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Thursday is expected to endorse plans for limited cuts in U.S. troop levels in Iraq but will offer little else to skeptical Americans looking for a change of course in the unpopular war.

Trying to rally public support in the face of growing Democratic opposition to his Iraq strategy, Bush will deliver a televised address after two days of congressional testimony by his top military and diplomatic officials in Baghdad.

The president is all but certain to embrace Gen. David Petraeus' recommendation to gradually withdraw 30,000 troops by next summer, bringing U.S. force strength in Iraq back to what it was before he ordered a buildup in January.
An administration marked by the ultimate in flip-floppery-- "We're invading Iraq because (pick one) they hit us on 9/11, they have WMDs, they intend to build WMDs, they intended to build WMDs, Saddam Hussein is a vicious tyrant" and "Stay the course until we achieve (pick one) total victory in Iraq, a beacon of freedom for the Middle East, the end of sectarian violence, a political solution in Iraq-- has lowered the bar, yet again.

The "vision thing" has caught up with the Bush family once more. His father nakedly lacked any vision, preferring situational ethics of the kind only a CIA director could appreciate. His son, Bush the Childish, has put up the pretense of a vision but it is an essentially flawed vision filled with sparkly ponies and cotton candy pink clouds at sunrise and a Texas cowboy trompe l'oeil.

Bush has touted Thursday's prime-time speech as a chance to "lay out a vision" for future U.S. involvement in Iraq four and a half years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

But the White House has signaled little chance of a major shift in policy, which could make Bush's address a tough sell. Polls generally show Americans 2-to-1 against the war.
Even his own handlers don't buy his crap anymore.

You half expect Bush tonight to announce he's taking his bat and ball and "going heume!," to quote Cartman.

The Democrats need to seize on this opportunity the way Republicans and their orc army would: a twin-barrel assault on the President.

The leadership, the members of Congress and responsible spokespeople (/snark) need to come out and say that this is "too little, too late," that Bush's credibility and stroke in the country is so low that he needs to up the ante and bring even more troops home.

Meanwhile, the rabblerousers (myself included) ought to hammer home the point that even this little concession to the will of the American people was orchestrated ONLY because we and the Democrats held his feet to the fire and forced him to capitulate.

Let the right wing get a taste of their own medicine, and let Bush get it coming and going, a rat trapped in a rat trap with a couple of hungry cats circling, trying to pick out the tender cuts first.

WE forced this jackass to even curtsey in the direction of drawing down troops! WE made him realize that he has gone way over the line for the past seven years and WE will hold him more and more accountable to the American people. Bush believes he is out of the woods in terms of getting out of Dodge just ahead of the posse, but the posse switched to fresher and faster horses now, and WE will ride him down.

We on the left have persuaded the American people that this man is both dangerous and dimwitted enough to embroil our great nation in a conflict that will last generations AND take out thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of our citizens and our children. And we did it without a reliable national media outlet to hammer home this message, 24/7. WE beat Fox. WE beat Richard Mellon Scaife. WE beat the Washington Times, and the rest of the kneeling masses of mainstream media who bleat the sheeple line of this administration.

It is a small victory, yes, a very small one, but small cracks can open dams as they grow bigger and bigger.

Keep on Bush's case about this, yes, absolutely, just take a minute and reflect on what WE have accomplished in 2007. We humbled the most arrogant men on the planet.

(Ed. Note: Don't pussies were harmed in the posting of this blog)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

The Latest From Lisa Nova

A Meeting Of The....Um, Minds?

OK, this ought to be interesting...
SEOUL (Reuters) - The removal of all nuclear weapons from North Korea next year could pave the way for a summit meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and the reclusive state's leader, Kim Jong-il, a U.S. envoy said on Wednesday.

But U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Alexander Vershbow said it would be a mistake for the impoverished state to still expect international aid and an improvement in its diplomatic standing if it only takes half measures to end its nuclear program.

"I think that it (a summit) might be possible before the end of President Bush's term if North Korea makes the right decisions and is ready to go all the way, not just disablement but full denuclearization," Vershbow told a security forum.
That "Axis Of Evil" that Bush pinned his presidency on sure is getting kinda wobbly...we've failed in Iraq, we're kissing up to Kim and North Korea, and Iran is not-too-quietly rattling sabres about making nukes.

The summit talk grows out of a planned summit between Kim and South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun to be held next month in Pyongyang.

Given two things: a) that we've been in the region at the request of South Korea to bulwark them against North Korea (and it's ally, China), and b) South Korea never signed the armistice in 1953 with North Korea (you could look it up), that South Korea is holding a summit with the North is a significant step in the region.

See what "jaw jaw jaw" instead of "war war war" gets you, Mr Bush?

Roh's talks with Kim will not include nuclear disarmament (although I'm sure Bush has pressured Roh to bring it up), but focus on a peace treaty between the two nations, which have been "on again, off again" in their overtures towards reunification.

Now, we must keep in mind that, with two megalomaniacal tyrants involved, we're talking about a likelihood of a meeting somewhere north of a frozen hell. Still, both men stand to gain some measure of vindication in the world's eyes should this meeting go off, something sure to tempt a megalomaniac: Bush gets a gold star on his homework, for once (and likely the only time in eight years), while Kim would have gained some small measure of admiration and respect by facing down his enemy across a table and making some kind of deal with him, as trivial as that deal may appear to us.

Both sides will, of course, blow any deal well out of proportion for their home town "fans," and crow about how much they shook the other guy down for.

People like me, however, will be commentating from the sidelines, and will keep you informed about the real deal.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Meditations On Nine-Eleven

Call this a prayer. Call this a meditation. Call this an afirmation, sermon, an essay, whatever you like. This comes from my heart, and is something I've been meaning to say for a while:

I am not afraid.

In the days immediately following September 11, 2001, as I watched the plume of smoke rise off the rubble pile and glad-handers and hate mongers scramble to find some way to exploit the deaths of thousands and the loss of naivete of Americans, I was scared. As I watched the empty hospitals, devoid of casualties, I was terrified.

I remember sitting in my office that Friday, September 14, as the building-wide PA system clicked on announcing a bomb scare. It was time to evacuate.

After the initial scramble to gather up the few necessities...a wallet, cellphone, keys, making sure others got to the fire exit safely...I stood in a crowd waiting my turn to walk the stairs, not sure if I'd make it out of the building, and if I did, what awaited me there.

I could take a deep breath, and I sobbed. And then walked. The heat was dreadful, bodies packed the steps, and it was a hot and humid day, a rainy late summer morning.

An hour later, I made my way back to the building. Miracle of miracles! The bomb scare was a phony, the elevators were running and we all got back to some semblance of work.

But I am not afraid anymore. That single sob, that single teardrop on my cheek, was the only concession I've made to my fear, six long years ago.

I am not afraid.

I am not afraid of Al Qaeda, of Osama bin Laden, of Hamas and Hezbollah. I am not afraid that they can, and will one day, attack this nation again. Some may die, most will not, and by God's word, the next time we'll have a President and a people prepared to handle it like adults.

You took our innocence. You will never have that same result again. I am not afraid.

I am not afraid of George Bush, Dick Cheney, or Karl Rove. I am not afraid of Republicans and their lickspittle blogosphericals who harass and chide anyone who thinks for themselves when it comes to the direction this nation is headed. I am not afraid that they will do anything and everything they can to impose a reactionary, antediluvian agenda that turns the clock back on hundreds of years of progress in this nation.

You cannot succeed. You will not succeed. America has seen behind the curtain of hype, advertising and marketing that shoved an illegal invasion down our throats. We're pretty full, and about to explode. The blowback won't be pretty.

I am not afraid.

I am not afraid of the TSA, the NSA, the CIA, the DEA, the FDA, the FBI, the DHS, or the IRS. I am not afraid because ultimately, my freedom will prevail, even if I may not be in any shape to appreciate it, if even around.

You can take nearly everything from me, anything I might value. You can strip me naked, decide I'm some criminal, force me to the streets then arrest me, take my friends from me, and create a mythos about me. But you cannot take me.

I am not afraid.

I am not afraid of the fear-mongers, the mind-rapers, the heart-stabbers, the soul snatchers, who would parade fear around to sell newspapers or cable TV shows, while ignoring the very truths about themselves.

I am not afraid because I know, the American people know, that these jackasses are trying to scrape the bottom of the barrel for every last viewer and dollar that they can, and have sold their very beings to that end.

We pity you and laugh at you, not with you. Your words are meaningless, your thoughts inane, your shrieking "Talking Points" speak more about your own wet diapers than of our supposed inability to hear your Chicken Little screeches any longer. You miss the bigger picture because you are incapable of wrapping your pea-brains around the truth of the world: you've contributed to so much degradation and contumely in this nation that you, too, are now victimized by it. You've inadvertently Hannitized yourselves for our protection.

I am not afraid.

I will never be afraid again of this world that has been created around me by naked greed and hideous envy, for I am stronger than any of you who would see me buckle and bend to your hatred. I will be true to my soul, and true to my heart, and will fight you with every breath in my body and with every fibre of my being.

And long after you have gone to dust, long after I go to dust, the monument to truth and peace and freedom that I have added a few miserable pebbles to will stand tall and firm as a bulwark against the dark you attempt to bring to the world.

And it will have these words enshrined on it: I AM NOT AFRAID

Monday, September 10, 2007

Just The Way Republicans Like Them

Given the way we're continually told to support our troops by the righteous right wing blogosphericals...which in my mind means they think we should prop them up as'd think there would be much more of a hew and outcry about this:
Thousands of troops have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, or TBI. These blast-caused head injuries are so different from the ones doctors are used to seeing from falls and car crashes that treating them is as much faith as it is science.

"I've been in the field for 20-plus years dealing with TBI. I have a very experienced staff. And they're saying to me, 'We're seeing things we've never seen before,'" said Sandy Schneider, director of Vanderbilt University's brain injury rehabilitation program.

Doctors also are realizing that symptoms overlap with post-traumatic stress disorder, and that both must be treated. Odd as it may seem, brain injury can protect against PTSD by blurring awareness of what happened.

But as memory improves, emotional problems can emerge: One of the first "graduates" of Vanderbilt's program committed suicide three weeks later.
Treat the brain, but not the mind, it seems.

We'll treat hemmorhoids as if they are a life-threatening, debilitating illness...possibly because the wingnut keyboard kommandos suffer from them, so they don't give much fuss to the administration...but a guy who comes home after having his brain scrambled inside his skull by an IED that took out three of his buddies?

Nah. Him, he has to fight the bureaucracy all the way up the ladder:
Though the full number of those suffering from TBI is still unknown, the problem is straining the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Until now, "they were dealing with a cohort of aging veterans with diabetes, heart disease, lung disease," said Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and a VA adviser.

Now, these young, brain-injured troops need highly specialized care, and how much it will help long-term is unknown, he said.

People with TBI have frequent headaches, dizziness, and trouble concentrating and sleeping. They may be depressed, irritable and confused, and easily provoked or distracted. Speech or vision also can be impaired.

Some sufferers have been misdiagnosed with personality disorders. Others have lost jobs because of unrecognized and untreated symptoms.
It's precisely this last bit that makes it so easy to ignore, and indeed, deride the disability as just one of those things: someone was born a hot-head, or a sad sack, or a loser. After all, why else would he have joined the army, keeping in mind that most of his critics have come no closer than a video game to actual combat? Republicans like 'em "dumb and loyal," I guess.

Ironically, these same bloggers probably get all weepy-eyed about their latest favorite athlete who has to retire because he's had his bell rung a few too many times by hits to the head.

Excuse me? That you'll give a damn about, probably even excusing the athlete's subsequent arrests for illegal prescription pain killers or his acting out his brain trauma on his wife and kids, but a soldier, who's fighting a war only you and 27% of the people in this country support?

That you get all "It's only a flesh wound" about?

There's something very wrong when the very youngest people with the brightest futures and happiest lives laid out in front of them pick up a gun and go fight a war that no one really understands, no one really wanted, and no one can really see a way out of that everyone can get behind, and come home to find out that the injuries and insults their bodies absorbed on our behalf are not only underappreciated, but UNappreciated by the blood-thirsty vultures who demanded this sacrifice from them in the first place.

How you can help: The Ten In Ten Project

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Two For The Price Of One

The Afghan war was a war that I could actually get behind, and considering I've opposed nearly every American military venture in the past forty years, that's saying quite a bit.

But thanks to George Bush's infernal and imperterbable obsession with Iraq, it seems we may lose two wars for the price of one:
Afghanistan has slipped backward into a political "danger zone," the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies warned in March. In the broadest published evaluation of Afghans' attitudes, the center said Afghans are facing worsened physical security, greater threats from warlords, criminal gangs and corrupt officials, and more difficulty in supporting their families. Such alarms are ringing from every side: UN agencies, non-government aid organizations, scholars, some U.S. officials and ordinary Afghans.

In the battle against the Taliban for Afghans' hearts and minds, "support for America and for [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai is becoming less every day," said Eissa Wahdat, an Afghan government engineer who coordinates small development projects in Nuristan.
You might recall that, prior to our liberation of Afghanistan from the Taliban, Hamid Karzai was an advisor to Unocal on a pipeline through Afghanistan. He was also a staunch ally of the Taliban until he came to realize the Taliban had strong ties to Pakistan. As president, Karzai has had a running slap-fight with Pakistan president Musharraf over what to do about the tribal regions that span the Afghan-Pakistan border.

The strategic mistake America made in Afghanistan, apart from distracting ourselves with that idiotic venture into Iraq, was to try to cement the tribal warlords fealty with short term measures (notably, money). The history of the region shows us that warlords are about as loyal as, well, Britney Spears panties: here one day, gone the next. To say a bargain will be honored is to ignore a simple realty: warlords are in truth Republicans, and so the philosophy, "I got mine, Jack!" is taken to its logical extreme.

What we could have and should have done from day one was to go into Afghanistan full force and forgotten about Iraq. Afghanis owed us a debt of gratitude after we helped Osama bin Laden and the mujahadin drive out the Soviet Union's occupying force, and that could have brought us a lot more respect and a lot more assistance, if we showed we were serious about installing true representational rule that wasn't tyrannized by a minority party.

(Yes, we're still talking about Afghanistan, and not America)

Too, installing a president who was so willing to be a puppet of the Bush administration (and so clearly powerless outside of Kabul) was a signal to the northern alliance tribes that the US was not going to be around very long. Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun (meaning his ancestry traces from the region near Pakistan), was not an acceptable choice for the Nuristani factions.

That they've been willing to work this long with Karzai and the NATO alliance/American forces is a testament to their desire to have a freely elected government that will represent the people of Afghanistan, and not a terror organization. We ought to take that into serious consideration and do something to help, or else risk throwing not only South Asia into chaos, but having that chaos spread into Asia proper, including parts of the former Soviet Union as well as western China itself.

And that will create a conflict so far-reaching, it's beyond my ability to assess what could come of it, aside from some nebulous "and then the real war starts" comment.