Friday, October 12, 2007

Satirewire: REMAINING U.S. CEOs MAKE A BREAK FOR IT

Band of Roving Chief Executives Spotted Miles from Mexican Border

El Paso, Texas (SatireWire.com) — Unwilling to wait for their eventual indictments, the 10,000 remaining CEOs of public U.S. companies made a break for it yesterday, heading for the Mexican border, plundering towns and villages along the way, and writing the entire rampage off as a marketing expense.

"They came into my home, made me pay for my own TV, then double-booked the revenues," said Rachel Sanchez of Las Cruces, just north of El Paso. "Right in front of my daughters."

Calling themselves the CEOnistas, the chief executives were first spotted last night along the Rio Grande River near Quemado, where they bought each of the town's 320 residents by borrowing against pension fund gains. By late this morning, the CEOnistas had arbitrarily inflated Quemado's population to 960, and declared a 200 percent profit for the fiscal second quarter.  Read on...

...and SCOTUS shall not mess with "state secrets privilege"

"...Washington, Oct. 9 -- The Supreme Court today turned down the chance
to elaborate for the first time in more than 50 years on the “state
secrets privilege” by refusing to hear an appeal filed on behalf of
Khaled el-Masri, who claims he was abducted and tortured by United
States agents while imprisoned in Afghanistan.

Without comment, the justices let stand an appeals court ruling that
the state secrets privilege, a judicially created doctrine that the
Bush administration has invoked to win dismissal of lawsuits that
touch on issues of national security, protected the government’s
actions from court review..."  Full article...

The market: Seeing similarities between 2007 and 1929

Bill Moyers, in his Journal:
 
Despite record highs on Wall Street this week, investors and economists are not worry free. Many point to similarities between today's market and the conditions preceding the Stock Market crash of '29.

In testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services last week, veteran economic journalist Robert Kuttner talked about these parallels:

"Your predecessors, over at the Senate Banking Committee, in the celebrated Pecora Hearings of 1933 and 1934, laid the groundwork for the modern edifice of financial regulation. I suspect that they would be appalled at the parallels between the systemic risks of the 1920s and many of the modern practices that have been permitted to seep back in to our financial markets."

And former SEC Chairman, William H. Donaldson has too drawn this connection, worried about the recent trend away from market regulation, which he explains to Bill Moyers just leads to further corruption:

"Markets don't regulate themselves, cleary, anymore than you can have an intersection and no stop signs and red light."
 

Capitalism vs. Democracy

"...Why has capitalism succeeded while democracy has steadily weakened? Democracy has become enfeebled largely because companies, in intensifying competition for global consumers and investors, have invested ever greater sums in lobbying, public relations, and even bribes and kickbacks, seeking laws that give them a competitive advantage over their rivals. The result is an arms race for political influence that is drowning out the voices of average citizens. In the United States, for example, the fights that preoccupy Congress, those that consume weeks or months of congressional staff time, are typically contests between competing companies or industries.

While corporations are increasingly writing their own rules, they are also being entrusted with a kind of social responsibility or morality. Politicians praise companies for acting “responsibly” or condemn them for not doing so. Yet the purpose of capitalism is to get great deals for consumers and investors. Corporate executives are not authorized by anyone—least of all by their investors—to balance profits against the public good. Nor do they have any expertise in making such moral calculations. Democracy is supposed to represent the public in drawing such lines. And the message that companies are moral beings with social responsibilities diverts public attention from the task of establishing such laws and rules in the first place..."

Full article...

Bookslut review of Deep Economy

"...Every year since World War II, the National Opinion Research Council has asked a sample of Americans whether they were “very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy.” To judge by the responses, the U.S. was at its very happiest in the 1950s and has grown steadily gloomier since. The number of the not too happy has increased as well. As McKibben reports, “people born in advanced countries after 1955 are three times as likely as their grandparents to have a serious bout of depression” -- and this increase does not owe just to better diagnosis or more awareness of the disease. The same pattern holds for other developed countries as well. Up to a certain point -- for those living in poverty, for example -- “more” increases aggregate and individual levels of happiness; after that point, though, happiness becomes subject to the laws of diminishing returns, until the returns become losses and “more” actually correlates with unhappiness.

One cause for this unhappiness may be work: in order for the economy to continue to grow, Americans must work as much or even more than they have in the past -- and much more than workers in comparably industrialized countries. For example, on average Americans work 199 more hours per year today than they did in 1973. And while Americans make 29 percent more money than European workers, they also work about 338 more hours per year than a German worker. That schedule leaves, McKibben theorizes, much less time for what does make us happy: spending time with our families and in our communities. To put it bluntly, we work longer hours to buy more things to make ourselves more miserable.

The solution to all these economic ills -- inequality, sustainability, and happiness -- lies, McKibben argues, in revitalizing local economies and local communities. The remainder of his book documents various efforts -- most of them drawn from his home state of Vermont -- to do just that. McKibben visits local farms (including urban ones), local radio stations, local wind farms, and local town hall meetings. He is careful not to wax sentimental about such efforts, but equally careful in trying to show that not only are such efforts possible but in many cases thriving. Moreover, that they are a welcome and perhaps even an unavoidable alternative to our current unsustainable, immiserating economy. He does a tolerable job, too, of responding to those who argue that abandoning economic growth means abandoning the half of the world currently living in poverty to their poverty. One, he argues, does not necessarily follow from the other..."

 

Susan Faludi examines the cultural impact of the 9/11 terror attacks

"...In "The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11
America," (Metropolitan Books, Oct. 2007)  the Pulitzer prize-winning
social critic traces the narrative to 17th-Century conflicts between
New England tribes and white settlers during the nation's founding,
which she calls "the characteristic and formative American ideal."
When, more than three centuries later, terrorists flew hijacked planes
into the World Trade Center, Faludi contends that the captivity
narrative re-emerged as the organizing principle for our national
identity, re-configured to star a heroic cowboy rescuing a weak
frontierswoman from a "dark-skinned, non-Christian combatant." Faludi
spoke to NEWSWEEK's Jennie Yabroff about her book..."
 
"...I do think things are beginning to crack open, that this sort of
sleepwalking in a fantasy world since 9/11 has been significantly
eroded, especially since Hurricane Katrina. After 9/11, we really
wanted to buy into the idea that if our leaders looked strong, played
a tough guy on camera, those images would be enough. What happened
with Hurricane Katrina was the American electorate was forced to look
at what lay behind the veneer of chest-beating. We all saw the
consequences of having terrible government leadership. I think the
2008 campaign is the beginning of the realization that cowboy bluster
and rhetoric is not going to save the country, that it has made us
less safe, and has made the world less safe..."
 

Yeats' perpetual reincarnation

One of the most remarkable channeled documents of the past century is Nobel Prize-winning poet William Butler Yeats’ A Vision.  Yeats explains how he obtained A Vision as follows:  “On the afternoon of October 24th, 1917, four days after my marriage, my wife surprised me by attempting automatic writing.  What came in disjointed sentences, in almost illegible writing, was so exciting, sometimes so profound, that I persuaded her to give an hour or two day after day to the unknown writer, and after some half dozen such hours offered to spend what remained of life explaining and piecing together those scattered sentences.”  Yeats spent the next twenty years on this project, and in the end produced a masterpiece which contains an all-encompassing system of symbolism which has geometrical, astrological, psychological, metaphysical, and historical components – a model of the entire universe:  “all thought, all history and the difference between man and man.”  

To understand Yeats’ theory of reincarnation described in A Vision, it is important to understand that reincarnation does not take place within a matrix of linear time.  It’s not as if e.g. you had a life in ancient Greece and then you died; then you had a life in ancient Rome and then you died; then you had a life in the Middle Ages and then you died; etc.  Rather, all of your past and future lives are going on at once, in an eternal Now moment.  One way of thinking about this is:  survivors of near-death experiences often report seeing all the events that every happened to them flash by them in no time at all.  Thus it would seem that we experience the thought forms of our lives twice – once in linear fashion over a lifetime, and the second time around in timeless fashion at the moment of death.  Similarly, while there is indeed an evolution going on in the universe, this evolution is not taking place in linear time:  it’s all happening at once.  Read on>>

From Scoop: Financial Coup d'Etat - 1998

"...If we assume that the $17 billion went missing at HUD during 1998 on an even basis — that is, $1.4 billion a month, $63.6 million per week day, $7.9 million per working hour — by the summer of 1998, approximately $14 billion would have been missing from HUD alone, not counting other agencies. Where did it go? Was it financed with securities fraud using Ginnie Mae or other mortgage securities fraud or fraudulently issued U.S. Treasury securities? These are important questions. Interestingly, this was also a period in which some of the most powerful firms in Washington, D.C. or with Washington ties were having remarkably good luck raising capital. Indeed, the period of missing money coincided, not surprisingly with a “pump and dump” of the U.S. stock market and a significant flow of money into private investors hands..."  ...Read on...

UK: concern over data collection from children

"...Britain is already the most snooped-on society in the world.

It has more than a fifth of the world's CCTV cameras.

One day all our NHS records may be on a national computer accessible by thousands of health workers.

Ministers have suggested that every British subject should have their DNA placed on a national database.

And already, the State has the DNA records of nearly a million children, some as young as five.

Now the Government is actively encouraging cash-strapped schools - short of teachers, sports facilities and even books - to spend £20,000 or more on fingerprinting systems.

In the short time since the practice began unannounced in 2001, nearly 6,000 pupils have had their 'dabs' taken throughout the country.

Every week another 20 schools join the list..."   Read full article >> 

Dear George,

From Salon's Open Letters to George W. Bush

 

It’s easy running an outlaw presidency when you have enablers like the congressional democrats.  Thanks to them, your crimes are not crimes; they are simply policies awaiting congressional approval.

 

Once again we hear a flapping sound, as democrats fold their tents because they are afraid of being criticized.

 

When they voted in August to grant you a “temporary” extension of your illegal wiretapping in the Protect America Act, they swore they would kill the bill when it came up for renewal in six months. 

 

That was then; this is now, and it suddenly dawned on the democrats that if they tried to kill the Protect America Act, people might think they were (gasp!) soft on terrorism.  They haven’t figured out that their failure to stand for anything is what makes them appear soft. 

 

Nor do they realize that the only people in the country who give a shit about terrorism are their fellow ostriches with their heads buried in the Beltway sand and those for whom antiterrorism is a revenue stream.

 

They say they are simply dealing with reality, i.e. the reality manufactured by your administration.  Instead of fighting this reality tooth and nail and possibly creating a new reality, they bend over and spread their cheeks.

 

Their behavior is so craven, one wonders if surface appearances might be misleading.  Could it be that the democrats have come to realize that they, too, can garner votes by waging fear?  Did they tote up the dollars pouring into their districts via National Security contracts and decide that maybe losing some civil liberties might not be that bad after all?  If contracts and contributions keep pouring in, maybe it’s not even that important to be the party in power.

 

 Nossir!  The democrats know that you don’t make hamburger out of a cash cow.

 

 

There is another dynamic that works to your advantage.  The line seperating right from wrong is not a line but a thick fog bank in to which most of us wander from time to time (some more than others).  The normal person has a functioning moral gyroscope that pulls them back towards the light when he wanders too far into the darkness.  There once was a time, long ago, when you would find the occasional politician with a working gyroscope.  I’m thinking of Sam Erwin and Barbara Jordon who provided moral ballast for the Watergate hearings.  Thank goodness, people like that are relics of the past.

 

The politicians pouring into Washington now have gyroscopes that are broken or missing because they have learned that when they lack both a backbone and ethics their coffers swell.  Should a politician show up with a working gyroscope, Gucci Alley puppeteers surround him and attach strings of campaign contributions to his arms and legs.  By they time they are done, he is clogging across the stage like Pinocchio singing, “I’ve Got No Strings,” while the puppetmeisters pull them hither and yond in a herky-jerky dance. 

 

Yes George, the democrats understand the system well.  Keep putting out no-bid contracts and they will follow you anywhere.

 

Your admirer,

Belacqua Jones

 

- Link -

The DoD's generous play: 'The carrot'

The Army is offering cash bonuses of up to $35,000 to retain young officers serving in key specialties -- including military intelligence, infantry and aviation -- in an unprecedented bid to forestall a critical shortage of officer ranks that have been hit hard by frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army officials said that lengthy and repeated war-zone tours -- the top reason younger officers leave the service -- plus the need for thousands of new officers as the Army moves forward with expansion plans have contributed to a projected shortfall of about 3,000 captains and majors for every year through 2013.

In response, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved the unusual incentives last month as a temporary measure for this fiscal year, and over the past three weeks, more than 6,000 Army captains have accepted cash awards ranging from $25,000 to $35,000 in exchange for committing to serve three more years...    Read on >>

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