Saturday, October 31, 2009

HAPPY HALLOWEEN



But, more importantly,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KID FURIOUS!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

This is Your Criminal Justice System on Drugs

Will there ever be a politician with the balls to work on abolishing some of the draconian and ultimately ineffective drug sentencing laws in this stupid country? Jacob Sullum at Reason:
Last week the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that bong water is an illegal drug. Under state law, a controlled substance includes any "mixture" containing that substance, "regardless of purity." The consequences of reading that definition literally can be severe. In the case before the court, a woman whose bong contained 37 grams of water with traces of methamphetamine will now be treated as if she possessed 37 grams of speed, which converts possession of drug paraphernalia, a petty misdemeanor punishable by a $300 fine, into a a first-degree drug offense, punishable by seven or more years in prison. Three dissenting justices wrote that the majority's interpretation of the statute "misapplies the plain-meaning rule...runs counter to the legislative structure of our drug laws, does not make common sense, and borders on the absurd."

In that column, Sullum refers to a previous absurdity...
Back in 1993, I wrote a piece for Reason in which I highlighted the ridiculously unjust results of including the "carrier medium" for LSD (typically blotter paper) in calculating the drug's weight for sentencing purposes:

Under federal sentencing guidelines, selling 100 doses of LSD in pure form triggers a minimum sentence of less than a year, but selling the same amount on paper will get you a sentence of at least two years, three months. And if you were old-fashioned enough to drop your acid onto sugar cubes, you will end up behind bars for no less than 15 years, eight months.

That makes about as much sense as tacking on the weight of the car in when someone's busted for a bag of weed in the glovebox.

Mandatory sentencing and the disparity between different drugs has made this whole thing a fucking joke.

[h/t Sullivan]

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dead Zone

Am I the only one who's kinda creeped out by the DirecTV ad featuring Chris Farley? After seeing it 2 or 3 times I actually had to ask Mrs. F, "Chris Farley's dead, right?" In the ensuing discussion, she pointed out that perhaps the Farley estate/family could use the cash... I suppose that's possible, but the whole thing seems offputting to me. And since I've never been a fan of David Spade, profiting off the image of your dead friend really doesn't help his case with me.

Full Disclosure: I actually never liked either Spade OR Farley and thought both of them were one-trick ponies on SNL and beyond. So, naturally I never saw Tommy Boy, so there's certainly the chance that there's something to the ad I'm not appreciating...but somehow I doubt it.

Also, this isn't DirecTV's first trip to the graveyard for their spokespeople...

Statistics Don't Lie


Guess where I'm going this morning... and, guess what I did last night?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Congratulations, Yankees

In celebration of New York joining the Phillies in the World Series, I bring you Esquire's list of The Most Hated Yankees by Position


Waterfall along S.C. Hwy 11, October 26, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Foxes Grizzly Bears and Henhouses, etc.

Matt Taibbi's latest financial exposé is in the new Rolling Stone, and it is as infuriating as it is thorough and detailed. It's long—one of those features that when you read the actual magazine was page after page of nothing but columns of text, that "continued on page 96," then 104, then 132...

In it, Taibbi breaks down how the biggest investment banks—namely Goldman-Sachs and Morgan Stanley—conspired, often with the help of the federal government, to cannibalize two of the other Top 5 banks since there were no more suckers on Main Street left to screw over.

Did I mention that it's infuriating? Yes, it is infuriating—but it's a special kind of anger that is tempered by overwhelming dismay that nothing was done at the time to stop it, nothing is being done now to stop it, and nothing ever will be.

Most of the crooks responsible are still running those same banks, only now gambling with our money and making obscene profits with it. And the guys no longer working for those banks? Don't worry about them—they're working for Obama's financial team.

I want to vomit.

UPDATE: Some excerpts:
What really happened to Bear and Lehman is that an economic drought temporarily left the hyenas without any more middle-class victims — and so they started eating each other, using the exact same schemes they had been using for years to fleece the rest of the country. And in the forensic footprint left by those kills, we can see for the first time exactly how the scam worked — and how completely even the government regulators who are supposed to protect us have given up trying to stop it.

This was a brokered bloodletting, one in which the power of the state was used to help effect a monstrous consolidation of financial and political power. Heading into 2008, there were five major investment banks in the United States: Bear, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Today only Morgan Stanley and Goldman survive as independent firms, perched atop a restructured Wall Street hierarchy. And while the rest of the civilized world responded to last year's catastrophes with sweeping measures to rein in the corruption in their financial sectors, the United States invited the wolves into the government, with the popular new president, Barack Obama — elected amid promises to clean up the mess — filling his administration with Bear's and Lehman's conquerors, bestowing his papal blessing on a new era of robbery.

To the rest of the world, the brazenness of the theft — coupled with the conspicuousness of the government's inaction — clearly demonstrates that the American capital markets are a crime in progress. To those of us who actually live here, however, the news is even worse. We're in a place we haven't been since the Depression: Our economy is so completely fucked, the rich are running out of things to steal.

Hank Paulson's moment of glory:
[...] early on the morning of Friday, March 14th, Bear's CEO, Alan Schwartz, struck a deal with the Fed and JPMorgan to provide an emergency loan to keep the company's doors open. When the news hit the street that morning, Bear's stock rallied, gaining more than nine percent and climbing back to $62.

[...]

The rally proved short-lived — Bear ended the day at $30 — but it suggested that all was not lost. Then a strange thing happened. As Bear understood it, the emergency credit line that the Fed had arranged was originally supposed to last for 28 days. But that Friday, despite the rally, Geithner and then-Treasury secretary Hank Paulson — the former head of Goldman Sachs, one of the firms rumored to be shorting Bear — had a sudden change of heart. When the market closed for the weekend, Paulson called Schwartz and told him that the rescue timeline had to be accelerated. Paulson wouldn't stay up another night worrying about Bear Stearns, he reportedly told Schwartz. Bear had until Sunday night to find a buyer or it could go fuck itself.

Bear was out of options. Over the course of that weekend, the firm opened its books to JPMorgan, the only realistic potential buyer. But upon seeing all the "shit" on Bear's books, as one source privy to the negotiations put it — including great gobs of toxic investments in the subprime markets — JPMorgan hedged. It wouldn't do the deal, it announced, unless it got two things: a huge bargain on the sale price, and a lot of public money to wipe out the "shit."

Wait. It gets better...
So the Fed — on whose New York board sits JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon — immediately agreed to accommodate the new buyers, forking over $29 billion in public funds to buy up the yucky parts of Bear. Paulson, meanwhile, took care of the bargain issue, putting the government's gun to Schwartz's head and telling him he had to sell low. Really low.

On Saturday night, March 15th, Schwartz and Dimon had discussed a deal for JPMorgan to buy Bear at $8 to $12 a share. By Sunday afternoon, however, Geithner reported that the price had plunged even further. "Shareholders are going to get between $3 and $5 a share," he told Paulson.

But Paulson pissed on even that price from a great height. "I can't see why they're getting anything," he told Dimon that afternoon from Washington, via speakerphone. "I could see something nominal, like $1 or $2 per share."

Just like that, with a slight nod of Paulson's big shiny head, Bear was vaporized. This, remember, all took place while Bear's stock was still selling at $30. By knocking the share price down 28 bucks, Paulson ensured that the manipulators who were illegally counterfeiting Bear's shares would make an awesome fortune.

What's most frustrating about the whole affair is that due to the banks controlling their own regulators and having infiltrated agancies like the Fed, much of this was legal—and if something they wanted to do wasn't, they'd have that regulation changed, dropped or simply not enforced.

Even if Obama (or anyone else) suddenly decided to crack down and haul these crooks in, it's likely they couldn't even be charged with anything.

The critical part of Taibbi's story is his explanation of naked short-selling and how it was the weapon of choice in taking out Bear Stearns and Lehman. Just go read it.

UPDATE 2: This also comes on the heels of TAL's recent update to last year's seminal "The Giant Pool of Money."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quote of the Day

A comment from a Balloon Juice thread:

@Brachiator:
Punditry is the journalistic equivalent to the newspaper astrology column. Punditry doesn’t have to be right, it’s just gotta be entertaining and provide comfort for those who need to believe easily digestible bullshit.

I think that's just about perfect.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Five years ago (give or take a week) Jon Stewart went on Crossfire and made the children cry. The other night he went after what remains of CNN. Behold:


CNN Leaves It There
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nobel Follow-Up

The video by Rachel Maddow (below) and a few other things I read have made me more receptive and understanding of Obama. Lindsay Beyerstein (now writing at ObWi) makes a very good point here:
If the 2008 election happened in Africa or the Middle East it would seem obvious that an opposition leader who restored the rule of law and set about reintegrating his country into the family of nations would be racking up points towards a Nobel Peace Prize before he even took the oath of office.

Prove Me Wrong

Clay Buchholz is all that stands between the Red Sox and elimination. And he faces notorious Sox-Killer Scott Kaszmir. That's not a match-up that looks good for Boston. I said at the deadline that Buchholz was a flamethrowing talent that wasn't all there upstairs. That the Sox traded the wrong guy in Justin Masterson and should have dealt Buchholz. All Clay Buchholz did after that was go like 7-2 with an ERA of 3.00 (guessing) and make me look stupid.

Today there is a new level of pressure on him—win or go home.

Make me look stupid one more time. (And if the lineup could actually put some runs up, that might help. No need to make the kid toil in a scoreless tie for seven innings...)

UPDATE Middle of the 1st: Throwing a ball in the dirt to first allowing the runner to move up is exactly the kind of thing that would have unraveled Buchholz in the past. That he went on to take care of the Angels two most dangerous hitters after that is a very good sign. Time for the Sox to start fucking hitting.

UPDATE Postgame:
Well, that wasn't exactly pretty. Though I will say, if anyone on the team was going to cough up a game, I'm glad it was Papelbon and not Buchholz or Bard. Pap has never been my favorite guy—in fact, I see exactly why fans of other teams hate him—he's a dick. Plus, I wouldn't want any of the young(er) pitchers damaged from the experience of losing the elimination game. Papelbon is an established closer, and can rebound from the loss. Buchholz and Bard can feel good about THEIR contributions yesterday, and build off it.

Change I Can Believe In?

TALKING THE TALK
Obama made a speech to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, the other day, and Andrew Sullivan wasn't impressed. Of course he wasn't. He has a visceral hatred for the group for some reason, and he's grown impatient with Obama's talk-to-action ratio. Not that I can blame him...he's got a very personal stake in the matters addressed (aside from DADT). Here's my take: until Obama can increase the action in that ratio, he needs to lower the talk. I (and Sullivan) understand the amount of shit on his plate, and the political challenges Obama faces with all things gay—but that, and the fact he's only nine months in office, only excuses the lack of action. The talk is all up to him. I know an invitation by the HRC is probably impossible for him to decline, but if I were Obama I'd be embarrassed to deliver that speech having walked NONE of the walk.

BOOBY PRIZE
And that is a natural lead-in to the Nobel Prize. My first reaction was the same as most of Obama's critics: "Are you fucking kidding me? What has he done?" Now, with a bit more background on the process, it seems it is not unusual for people to receive the award in anticipation of or for potential actions. That's clearly the case here. Along with a statement about the USA's rejection of the Bush/Cheney regime.

But the timing for this would have been better had Obama had a chance to act on anything of real substance. I understand it's designed to motivate him, but it ends up making everyone involved look stupid. And despite catcalls from the right about this feeding Obama's alleged narcissism, it's probably the LAST thing Obama wanted to deal with right now.

And here's what else...I really don't care to hear another excellent speech about Obama's plans to undo the Bush/Cheney doctrine until he actually does any of it.

UPDATE: Excellent analysis and breakdown by Rachel Maddow.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The False Sense of Urgency of Now

While the political world is all abuzz with health care reform bullshit... whether there'll be public option or not, etc... one thing that isn't getting nearly enough attention is this:

None of these plans take effect for three years.

THREE. FUCKING. YEARS.

That nugget'll be buried deep in whatever article you're reading, but for all the bullshit happening on or around the dance floor on this issue, none of it really makes a fucking difference for the people getting fucked by their insurance now. Or next year. Or the year after that. Or the year after that.

The Democrats could pass the greatest single-payer plan on Earth, and since they are so fucking stupid and cowardly they will let TWO elections cycles go by before anyone benefits from it, and they are rewarded for delivering it. They could, alternatively, pass the worst piece of shit corporate giveaway possible, knowing they can run for their House seat twice before having to face hte pissed off voters they sold out.

At this point I'm not sure I give a shit what plan comes out what Committee of Congress and what Obama ends up signing. No matter how good it is (and I'm not saying it will be good at all) we have to wait three goddamn years to get it.

Screw Baucus, Reid, and all the corporate whores on the Hill. And screw Obama too. This whole thing is a gigantic fucking tease.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Late Night Buffet

Over the week I started a half dozen posts or saved links about stuff I thought I'd get to later, but it never happened. It's not actually going to happen now either—it's too late and I'm tired—but I'll toss 'em out there in snack size...

MASSACHUSETTS CHANGING THE LAW TO APPOINT A SENATOR
At first glance, I thought this was horseshit, and that the Dems should lie in the bed they constructed when the wanted to deny then-Gov. Romney the same power if Kerry became President. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that these lawmakers are ostensibly working towards the desires of the electorate—who deserve full representation, and the representation they want. If the legislature were acting against the popular will, they would be punished in the next election.

The fact that Kennedy's life's work might hang in the balance—and that his opponents quite probably stalled the vote hoping he would die before getting to cast it, was all I needed to cross over. That Massachusetts would be shorted his vote between now and January is too cruel an irony.

The new law is better than the old one anyway.

--

TEXAS IS ANOTHER PLANET
That the Governor of a state could so blatantly and obviously obstruct justice and cover his ass for the execution of an innocent manand probably be rewarded for it by voters is fucking absurd or insane. Or both.

--

THE FALL OF ROMAN
Roman Polanski deserves worse punishment than he is ever going to get, and the fucking clueless, insular assholes in Hollywood defending him and calling for his release need to get a fucking clue. Exhibit A: Whoopi Goldberg, with perhaps the stupidest legal opinion of all time, "It wasn't RAPE rape."

Yes, it sure as hell was.

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CRASH TEST DUMMIES
This is pretty cool. GM did a crash test pitting a 2010 Malibu against a 1959 Bel Aire. The results are pretty crazy. I was just thinking about the safety of big old cars on the way to work the other day... [via Jalopnik]

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THE ICE IN HELL IS SAFE FOR SKATING
I registered as a commenter at Little Green Footballs. The current right-wing meltdown has Charles Johnson undergoing an enlightenment eerily reminiscent of John Cole, circa-Terri Schiavo. That was must-see tv, and this may be as well.

LINKS:
The Moustache of Understanding has an ominous column about the direction of right-wing hysteria.

President Obama hates your Blackberry.

The Stupid Police Work of the Week Award: Vermillion County, Indiana

Middleville, Michigan wants a piece of that award too...