Experienced journalists fearlessly reporting the truth in pursuit of the real story
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Deja Vu All Over Again
Presidential Candidates Debates Cancelled in Favor of Game Shows
Washington D.C. - Both the Obama and the McCain campaigns have announced that due to the economic crisis facing the nation they will be cancelling the scheduled debates. Instead, both the Presidential and the Vice Presidential nominees will face off in a series of classic game shows.
“These game shows typically only take 30-60 minutes, which is about the maximum attention span of the American voter, if you figure in commercial breaks,” explained Marcia Funebre of The League of Women Voters, the group sponsoring the game show contests. “And this way the contestants, I mean nominees, can concentrate on more important things, like raising money.”
For the first contest, Senators Obama and McCain will contend in “The Price Is Right”, trying to figure out just how much the American taxpayer will pay to save the economy and for the continuing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The Dating Game” will allow Senators McCain and Obama a chance to pick that special someone for Secretary of the Treasury!
“Jeopardy” will test the overall knowledge of Senators Obama, McCain, Biden and Governor Palin. Although the exact categories are guarded, questions will cover American history, world history, domestic current events, world current events, foreign affairs, world leaders, public policy and the environment.
“Let’s Make a Deal” will pit Obama and McCain against each other in a 60-minute mad dash to see who can reach consensus first with House Democrats, House Republicans, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, The Treasury, The State Department and The Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Each of the four candidates will make a solo appearance on “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?”
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Customs Agents Feeling Lonely
San Francisco – Customs agents are copying American’s private documents because custom agents feel lonely.
According to a Freedom of Information Act suit filed by the Asian Law Caucus and the Electronic Frontier Foundation http://www.eff.org/press/archives/2008/09/23 US Customs agents are examining and in some cases copying “books, handwritten notes, personal photos, laptop computer files, and cell phone directories” of Americans returning to America.
The customs agents are acting in the absence of any indication of criminal conduct by these citizens and there need not even be suspicion of an individual’s actions to trigger scrutiny.
Marcia Funebre, of the Department of Homeland Security Press Office said, “Customs agents never get invited to parties. Nobody sends them those funny e-mails on Friday afternoons. They never get shown pictures of the new baby. Nobody calls, nobody writes. It’s really sad. Custom’s agents are very lonely people."
"I mean," said Ms. Funebre, "unless they look through your stuff how else are they going to find out the phone number of the person who's walking the dog while you're away or that you like reading John Grisham on the plane? They have to pillage through your personal information and make copies and then share with requesting law enforcement agencies because, basically, they have no lives. That's why they need to copy yours.”
Ms. Funebre refused to consider that these actions by Customs and Border Protection agents might be violating citizens’ rights.
“When our agents ‘review and analyze’ your personal financial data, they might just be looking for a donation for orphans. It’s harmless!” said Ms Funebre, “When they look at your handwritten notes, they’re probably just checking for spelling errors – for your own good! And, what’s wrong with asking you your political views, anyway? It’s not like we have secret ballots or anything.”
Monday, September 22, 2008
Mad Libs! (Mad-as-hell Liberals?)
What are your answers to fill in the blanks?
The economy is a (adjective/adverb) _____________mess, but the American (noun) ______________ are not worried because their
(adjective/adverb) ______________officials can be depended upon to (verb) _________them.
Meanwhile, Back at the Oval Office
It is very understandable that at this moment we are concentrating on the economy and on the presidential races. But, just so it doesn't go completely unnoticed, you'll all sleep better knowing that on Thursday September 18, 2008 the President quietly renewed the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. (d) ) until September 22, 2009. http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-22248.pdf
The Sky is Falling Act Proposed by Comrade Bush
Washington, D.C. - Comrade Bush has convened the highest commissars from the Central Planning Committee at The White Dacha today. The commissars and The Decider are discussing the next Great Leap Backwards for the economic health of the nation. All hail the commissariat! May The Decider live for a thousand years!
Henny Penny, of The Decider’s press office, released this statement today from Our Beloved First Among Equals:
“Folks, we’re in deep doo-doo. That’s not what we call it in Texas, but you get the idea. Wall Street needs money, lots and lots of money. Right now. Right this very split-second! It’s an emergency! (I love emergencies, don’t you? It makes people forget to think straight, just like after 9/11 when Congress gave me and Dick every damn thing we asked for and then some.)
Anyway, we need The Sky is Falling Act. Right now! Don’t stop to think about, just do it! Like that teevee commercial says, just do it. Be decisive. If you’re wrong, don’t worry, history will sort it out. Besides, you’ll be dead then anyway, so who cares?”
Ms. Penny elaborated on The Sky is Falling Act saying, “Comrade Bush wants to give Secretary Paulson $700 billion* of the country’s wealth to do whatever he wants with. Secretary Paulson, and all other Treasury Secretaries after him, will be able to run America like the corporation we all know it really is.
It also makes Secretary Paulson our New Dear Leader even though he never was elected, not even once like The Decider. And, our New Dear Leader can then make whatever deals he likes, sometimes with the very same people who got us into this fine mess.”
Asked why New Dear Leader would be able to do whatever he wants with this significant chunk of the taxpayers’ assets, Ms. Penny replied, “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”**
Ms. Penny added, "Don't worry your little head about it. The Decider and New Dear Leader know best."***
*there are a whole lotta zeroes in $7 billion; it looks like this $700,000,000,000
**that’s the actual wording Congress will vote on.
***Contact your representatives. http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml
Sunday, September 21, 2008
More "Not Funny"
Okay, I promise I'll get back to my snarky, sarcastic self really soon (Watch This Space!!!). I just have to get one more serious post out of my system.
Frank Rich of The New York Times has done a column on essentially the same subject as Friday's post "Not Funny" http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/opinion/21rich.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
While Rich’s column takes the lies and distortions of the presidential race as its main thrust, starting out with “truthiness” versus outright lying, he segues into the Keating S&L scandal and mentions (although briefly and not by name) both the Commodity Futures Modernization Act and Glass-Steagall.
Frank Rich’s column will certainly reach more people than any post I ever write and rightly so: Rich is a professional journalist with years of experience, and I’m just someone with a keyboard. His columns have to be vetted through an editor, they get proofread, questioned, and polished; mine come off the top of my head, sometimes when I’m hopping mad, and the spell-checking function on my computer does the best it can.
Frank Rich is a journalist; I’m a citizen.
But, I suggest that just as a well-formed militia made of citizens is essential for the defense of the country, a cadre of citizen-journalists is equally vital, especially in an age when the media’s concern for “balance” gives equal time to distortion and absurdity. This “balanced” style of reportage dominates reasonable news outlets and pure partisanship, on both sides, dominates the rest. (As The New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman once wrote, “Even when reporters do know the difference, the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism get in the way of conveying that knowledge to readers. I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, ‘Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth.’ “)
Nieman Watchdog is an electronic forum by journalists for journalists http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=about.Mission_Statement
Due to the sheer beauty of the Internet (one of the greatest things to ever happen to democracy) this journalistic site is open to anyone and everyone. One of the best parts of Nieman Watchdog is the “Ask This” section http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ask_this.welcome
Yet, the “Ask This” ethos is far too important to be left to those who are paid by media conglomerates. The “Ask This” questions should be in the mind of every voter listening to a speech, watching a political ad, reading a news article or even discussing a subject with a friend or acquaintance.
“The price of democracy is eternal vigilance” said Thomas Jefferson.
We can not outsource vigilance to the media, we can not pay someone else to do it for us; it is your responsibility, it is my responsibility, it is our responsibility.
Below is a list of questions Nieman Watchdog editor Dan Froomkin posed back prior to the 2006 election, when sabers were rattling against Iran.
Add to these 2006 questions some 2008 questions about the economy
1. (Questions for McCain and Obama on the economic carnage) http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ask_this.view&askthisid=00369 ;
2. (What’s the impact of the meltdown in your state?) http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ask_this.view&askthisid=00370
3. (Long-term national economic effects:How much will the Paulson package cost, and where’s the money coming from?) http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ask_this.view&askthisid=00371 ;
then let these combined questions be your mental template when reading, watching or listening to the news. Have the journalists presenting the material you are receiving asked these questions? Are you getting the answers that you need? If not, why not? You need to know these answers, whether you get them from the media, your elected representatives or ferret them out on your own.
Post/link these questions on your blogs, send them in your e-mails, include them in your conversations, hang them up at work (they are non-partisan) and in your home. (A bumper sticker on your car is great, but consider posting a simple question on the rear side window of your car where anyone parking next to you may see it.)
We are all journalists in search of the truth.
Some points to remember for ALL issues at the local, county, state and national level:
#1. You Can’t Be Too Skeptical of Authority
*Don’t assume anything administration officials tell you is true. In fact, you are probably better off assuming anything they tell you is a lie.
*Demand proof for their every assertion. Assume the proof is a lie. Demand that they prove that their proof is accurate.
*Just because they say it, doesn’t mean it should make the headlines. The absence of supporting evidence for their assertion -- or a preponderance of evidence that contradicts the assertion -- may be more newsworthy than the assertion itself.
*Don’t print anonymous assertions. Demand that sources make themselves accountable for what they insist is true.
#2. Be Particularly Skeptical of Secrecy
*Don’t assume that these officials, with their access to secret intelligence, know more than you do.
*Alternately, assume that they do indeed know more than you do – and are trying to keep intelligence that would undermine their arguments secret.
#3. Don’t Just Give Voice to the Administration Officials
*Give voice to the skeptics; don’t marginalize and mock them.
*Listen to and quote the people who got it right last time: The intelligence officials, state department officials, war-college instructors and many others who predicted the problem we are now facing, but who were largely ignored.
*Offer the greatest and most guaranteed degree of confidentiality to whisteblowers offering information that contradicts the official government position. (By contrast, don’t offer any confidentiality to administration spinners.)
#4. Look Outside Our Borders
*Pay attention to international opinion.
*Raise the question: What do people in other countries think? Keep an eye out for how the international press is covering this story. Why should we be so different?
#5. Provocation Alone Does Not Justify War
*War is so serious that even proving the existence of a casus belli isn’t enough. Make officials prove to the public that going to war will make things better.
*Demand to know what happens if the war (or tactical strike) doesn’t go as planned?
*Demand to know what happens if it does? What happens after “victory”?
*Ask them: Isn’t it possible this will make things worse, rather than better?
#6. Watch for Rhetorical Traps
*Keep an eye on how advocates of war frame the arguments. Don’t buy into those frames unless you think they’re fair. *Keep a particular eye out for the no-lose construction. For example: If we can’t find evidence of WMD, that proves Saddam is hiding them. *Watch out for false denials. In the case of Iran, when administration officials say “nobody is talking about invading Iran,” point out that the much more likely scenario is bombing Iran, and that their answer is therefore a dodge.
#7. Understand the Enemy
*Listen to people on the other side, and report their position.
*Send more reporters into the country we are about to attack and learn about their views, their politics and their culture.
*Don’t allow the population of any country to be demonized. All humans deserve to be humanized.
*Demand to know why the administration won’t open a dialogue with the enemy. Refusing to talk to someone you are threatening to attack should be considered inherently suspect behavior.
#8. Encourage Public Debate
*The nation is not well served when issues of war and peace are not fully debated in public. It’s reasonable for the press to demand that Congress engage in a full, substantial debate.
*Cover the debate exhaustively and substantively.
#9. Write about Motives
*Historically, the real motives for wars have often not been the public motives. Try to report on the motivations of the key advocates for war.
*Don’t assume that the administration is being forthright about its motives.
*If no one in the inner circle will openly discuss their motives, then encourage reasonable speculation about their motives.
#10. Talk to the Military
*Find out what the military is being told to prepare for.
Some links that provide useful info:
National Security Archives http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/
Sunlight Foundation: http://www.sunlightfoundation.com/
Open Secrets: http://www.opensecrets.org/about/index.php
Congressional Record http://www.gpoaccess.gov/crecord/index.html
Investigative Journalism: http://www.publicintegrity.org/
International English Language News Sites http://www.thebigproject.co.uk/news/
Register/find polling place/get customized ballot for issues for your district http://smartvoter.org/
Friday, September 19, 2008
This isn't a "funny" so if you're looking for a laugh, give it a skip.
I was watching C-Span last night. Hillary Clinton, in a speech yesterday in the Senate, said that the Wall Street meltdown was due to the rapid evolution of the banking industry under outmoded laws created in response to The Great Depression.
That's correct but that's not the whole picture.
Perhaps our regulations from the past do need updating, but part of the root cause of this debacle is a brand-new regulation that we didn't have before, a regulation that regulates the regulators and keeps them from doing their jobs.
The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 1999 was quietly slipped into the budget bill, and Bill Clinton signed it into law December 2000.
This Act looks great at first glance, but it has an ulterior motive: preventing oversight of "credit swaps." (Credit swaps are financial instruments, such as sub-prime mortgages, bundled and sold as securities.) http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c106:1:./temp/~c1069VrXJa:e45437
The Commodity Futures Modernization Act shielded hedge funds and investment banks from the scrutiny of both the SEC and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). This kind of scrutiny ensures financial entities have enough assets to cover their losses. In other words, the SEC and the CFTC were blocked from checking if the bettors really had enough money in their pockets to cover all the bets they'd made while they were rolling the dice.
What the Commodity Futures Modernization Act also did was to partially repeal The Glass-Steagal Act http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass-Steagall_Act , the Depression-era regulations that established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and sought to separate bankers from brokers.
The Glass-Steagal Act had long been a target of Republican lawmakers "because government is not the answer." http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/wallstreet/weill/demise.html
One of the sponsors of this Act was Phil Gramm. Gramm's wife had been on Enron's Board of Director's and the Act had a provision commonly called "the Enron loophole." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron_loophole
Up until recently, Phil Gramm was McCain's go-to guy for the economy. Currently he's Chairman of UBS Bank which has had its share of problems recently the same as all the others http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601085&sid=aCQiBbgZcfZE&refer=europe , not that anyone has to worry about Phil Gramm's personal financial health as he probably still has some of that $1,000,000-plus he received from various securities interests while in Congress.
Until his "nation of whiners" comment in July, Gramm was the shoo-in for McCain's choice to run the economy. And, he's probably still on the short-list although maybe in a lower-profile, behind the scenes position.
After all, McCain and Gramm have been pals since the 1980's Savings and Loan Scandal when McCain was one of the “Keating Five”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keating_Five
Charles Keating went to jail http://law.jrank.org/pages/3500/Charles-Keating-Trials-1991-99-Keating-Draws-Maximum-Sentence.html
McCain was cleared of impropriety but censured for poor judgment.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Where is Spain? Enquiring minds want to know!http://rawstory.com/news/2008/McCain_asked_if_he_would_invite_0918.html
Sealy Introduces Money Saver Mattress
In response to recent government rescues of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, American International Group (AIG), bank failures, Bear Sterns, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the fire sale of Merrill Lynch, Sealy Mattress Corporation has introduced a line of "money saver" mattresses designed for the anxious American investor.
"There really is no such thing as a safe bet anymore," said Tucker Yap, spokesman for Sealy Mattress Corporation. "Our grandparents lived through The Great Depression and we all now see the wisdom of their advice that the best way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket."
Three new Money Saver Mattresses are now available in Sealy showrooms.
The We're On a Budget model has a hidden waterproof pocket on the side of the mattress that allows easy access to cash in case of unforseen needs requiring a sudden infusion of funds. "The Budget model is great for young families who are trying to establish economic security but who may also need to cover car repairs, home repairs or other emergencies," said Mr. Yap.
The next model up in price is the I'm Worried and Confused. This model features a hidden waterproof and fireproof pocket on the underside of the mattress. "The Worried and Confused is for the investor who is comfortable enough now but concerned that the current economic instability may threaten near-future cash flow and retirement plans," said Mr. Yap.
The ultimate in the Sealy Mattress Saver line is The Retiree. This mattress features an inner-mattress pocket that is waterproof, fireproof and dust-mite proof. In addition, the mattress itself converts into a raft in case of hurricaines or floods, and an additional easy-access side pocket has a battery-operated cooler to keep medications at correct temperatures for extended lengths of time in the event of power outtages. Struts sewn into the mattress edges can be raised, turning the sheets into a tent to avoid living in community shelters or FMEA trailers. Also for sale is a specially-designed pillow that provides good neck support and a groove on the pillow's underside perfect for placing a loaded shotgun to deter looters. The pillow has been approved by the American Chiropractic Association.
"We understand that Americans are anxious about their money. Putting your money in your mattress is a time-honored American tradition which is making a comeback," explained Mr. Yap. "Sealy is helping the consumers protect their hard-earned assests."
Questioned about the wisdom of putting money into a no-growth financial instrument, Mr. Yap snorted, "Ask the folks who had Enron, 'If you had your life to live over again which would you pick - the market or your mattress?' "
Monday, September 15, 2008
Battle of the Titans! Uncle Sam Mano-a-Mano with The Invisible Hand!
Washington, DC - It was Uncle Sam against the market’s fierce Invisible Hand the other day in a bruising fight that spilled out of the ring and left bystanders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac battered and reeling. Although The Invisible Hand had been the odds on favorite, Uncle Sam managed to defeat the capitalist giant with some quick timing and fancy footwork.
“There’s gonna be a rematch!” bellowed The Invisible Hand, flexing his muscles, causing ripples as far away as the Nikkei in Tokyo. “You don’t mess with The Invisible Hand and expect to get away with it! You can run, but you can’t hide!”
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were both taken to the hospital where their conditions are considered “guarded". Their coaches in the Golden Parachute Division, Fannie Mae’s CEO Daniel “Here’s Mud in Your Eye” Mud and Freddie Mac’s CEO Richard “The Screaming Siren” Syron, had hoped to split a $24 million purse but instead walked away empty-handed.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
And Now, For The Update
Palin can locate Russia but still can't figure out Kuwait from Iraq......
I See London, I See France
ABC anchor Charles Gibson recently interviewed Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Gibson asked Palin to explain Sen. John McCain’s comment that Palin had expertise on Russia because she lives in Alaska.
“They're our next-door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska -- from an island in Alaska," Palin said
This statement shows that Palin can at least locate Russia on a map unlike Ms South Carolina http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww
But, evidently, Palin personally believes that US Americans such as some people out there in our nation who don’t have maps who have gone through our education system but are so disadvantaged that they may as well be in South Africa because they know so little about American policy that they believe that Palin’s being able to see the distant shores of a Bering Strait island give her great insight into Putin’s Russia because, such as, she sees, can see them, and so forth, in this manner.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Bin Laden Enrollment CIA Plot
Syracuse, NY - Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor today revealed that the enrollment of Osama bin Laden in the school was the result of a CIA plot.
"Osama bin Laden himself did not enroll," said Chancellor Cantor, "but was enrolled by those outside the University." When asked to speculate as to the CIA's motives in enrolling the international terrorist, Ms. Cantor shook her head and replied, "I have no earthly idea."
Although CIA officials denied having any involvement in enrolling the 9/11 mastermind at any American school of higher learning, a CIA agent involved in the ruse explained the action.
"Look," said the CIA agent, who declined to be identified, "I went to Syracuse University. If there is one thing I know, it is that the SU Alumni Association will track you down. They've been after me for 35 years and I've never given them one red cent. I've changed addresses many, many times trying to get away but that doesn't stop them, dammit. The SU Alumni Association will hunt you down until you die. Then they'll probably go after your grandchildren. They are relentless."
"This is the 7th anniversary of 9/11," continued the CIA agent,"yet, we still don't have bin Laden. So, we enrolled him at SU. Once the Alumni Association finds out he's graduated, it won't be long; they'll find him."
Osama Bin Laden Enrolled in US University
Syracuse, NY - Osama bin Laden enrolled at Syracuse University today for the 2009 winter semester, according to University officials. University Chancellor Nancy Cantor said that SU officials have no idea why the internationally known terrorist had chosen SU over any other school of higher learning, adding, "It can't be for the weather, that's for sure."
Per a University spokesperson, bin Laden has not yet declared a major.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
The 10 Commandments Of The New American Theocracy
The following 10 Commandments have been released by the Bush administration in concert with a coalition of Republican lawmakers and evangelical Christians in order to prepare the population of the United States for a full scale transition to Biblical governance expected to be completed sometime in 2010
1. All women must be modestly dressed when in public. Any exposure of the female body that serves to entice or create lascivious reactions in men will be a criminal offense punishable by 10 lashes.
2. Women must at all times respect the wishes and commands of their husbands or closest patriarchal figure. Failure to obey the will of the closest masculine authority is a criminal offense punishable by 10 lashes.
3. All abortion is strictly prohibited. Women and doctors who violate this commandment will face 20 years of hard labor in a federal penitentiary.
4. Be obedient and never question the authorities. Failure to obey this commandment will lead to re-education at the nearest Halliburton Luxury Spa & Resort. Repeat violators will be dealt with in a harsh but humane manner.
5. Always vote for the candidates with the officially sanctioned cross next to their names.
6. All books and reading material must be approved by the newly created Ministry of Religion and Good Citizenship. Possession of unauthorized reading material is a capital offense resulting in death by hanging or stoning.
7. All non-evangelical religions are banned. Practice of a banned religion is punishable by two days in stocks followed by renunciation of the forbidden religion.
8. Never remove your PTC (personal tracking chip) once it has been implanted. Violation of this commandment will result in a $10,000 dollar fine and one year in the federal penitentiary.
9. All citizens are now deputized representatives of the government and as such must closely observe their family, friends and neighbors for any violation of the new 10 Commandments. Those who report immoral activity will be rewarded with extra ration coupons for eggs, butter and bread.
10. Remember the Three Pillars of the new and improved America, Obedience, Passivity and Acceptance.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
A Word From Our Sponsor
And Now, For Something Completely Different.....
I got all excited when I heard that McCain had picked Palin! Whoa, I thought, this will be so totally cool - Palin could teach McCain the dead parrot sketch, at ballgames we'd all sing "He's A Lumberjack and He's Okay", and rather than distributing surplus cheese the government could give away goldfish named Wanda.
I thought that after 8 years of misery under Bush we deserved a few laughs. I figured Cleese had declined so Palin got the nod instead. Then I read the fine print: SARAH Palin, not Michael.
Oh. Now, that is something completely different.
Like Monty Python's Michael Palin, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin may very well have a great sense of humor. Any woman with 5 kids has to have some sense of humor if only to avoid eating her young: He's looking at me! He's copying me! ("He's copying me!") She's breathing again, she's always breathing, make her stop!
But, if the ability to amuse others were all it took to run a country Jon Stewart would be king.
The Vice Presidency is but a heartbeat away from the top job in the nation. Given McCain's age and history of health problems, America could wake up one day to see Sarah Palin standing in Air Force One, looking solemn, with one hand on a bible.
That would not be a good time to find out Palin is a joke.