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Right and Wrong?

October 18, 2009

Here’s an example.

Swedes divided over bunny biofuel

Residents in Stockholm are divided over reports that rabbits are being used to make biofuel.
The bodies of thousands of rabbits are fuelling a heating plant in central Sweden, local newspapers say.
The city of Stockholm has an annual cull of thousands of rabbits to protect the capital’s parks and green spaces.

If I’d only known that rattuses also could have been put to such good use. Darn. Opportunity lost.

Here’s another, a serious interview of Crispin Glover by Tom Green about the influence of Werner Herzog. Or is it?

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53 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    October 18, 2009 10:43 pm

    And in news elsewhere …

    Protesters and police in violent clashes at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station A thousand or so showed up at the coal plant near Nottinghamshire (Robin Hood would be so proud) to demand the plants be shut down and replaced with alternative energy sources. It is unknown whether shoes were thrown.

    Nine Nations of ALBA are going ahead with plans to dump the dollar in favor of the sucre. I do believe this story has been covered in the past at the Zone. It looks like a go now that the dollar is in the shitter.

    All Hail Atlantis?

    The oldest submerged city discovered to date is finally being surveyed off the southern part of Greece.

    “It has remains dating from 2800 to 1200 BC, long before the glory days of classical Greece. There are older sunken sites in the world but none can be considered to be planned towns such as this, which is why it is unique.”

    The site, which straddles 30,000 square meters of ocean floor off the southern Peloponnese, is believed to have been consumed by the sea around 1000 BC. Although discovered by a British oceanographer some 40 years ago, it was only this year that marine archaeologists, aided by digital technology, were able to properly survey the ruins.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 19, 2009 9:58 am

      Thanks for catching the article about the sucre. We did discuss that at the Zone last December. They have gotten this deal together a lot quicker than I thought they would and I really hope they succeed.

      And that archaeological find is tremendous. I do love the Bronze Age! If there really was an actual Atlantis that the legend is based on, I doubt that site is it since it’s so close to the mainland. But many of the Bronze Age places mentioned by Homer like Pylos, Mycenae, Tiryns, Knossos, Troy, etc have been discovered (or were never completely lost) so it makes me wonder if they will be able to make a connection here. I may have to go reread some Homer and see if there’s a city he mentions that hasn’t been identified yet.

      If there really was an Atlantis, my bet is still Santorini/Thera. You can still see the layers of ash from when the volcano there erupted all over the Mediterranean in archaeological sites and there is plenty of evidence that they were very advanced during the early to mid Bronze Age before the disaster.

      • Stemella permalink*
        October 19, 2009 11:43 am

        I thought the news of that site would intrigue. Here are a couple of youtubes from the lead archaeologist. Ggggrrrrreat accent.

        and a local link

        Elaf Pavloneri

        • cometman permalink*
          October 20, 2009 8:23 am

          I’m really interested to see if this could be a Bronze Age city mentioned by Homer that hasn’t been discovered previously. Here’s one pretty good link of the catalogue of ships from the Iliad. Some of those on this particular list don’t have any further links describing the city named. Not sure if that is because nobody really knows what place those names refer to or whoever put this list together just didn’t have complete knowledge themselves. A google search for Homer and catalog of ships brings up all kinds of links. More virtual digging required!

          • Stemella permalink*
            October 20, 2009 9:13 am

            Bookmark one of those videos so you can track what happens at that site. If I remember correctly I think they are planning to take a couple more years to survey it, so any new revelations will be posted at that youtube page and the University of Nottingham podcast page.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    October 19, 2009 8:24 am

    Moving these down here to reduce front page clutter

    And check out this rather amazing and sometimes disturbing youtube artist who has brought to life long dead poets reading their works. Here is William Blake reading Tiger

  3. Stemella permalink*
    October 19, 2009 8:31 am

    Another example of how the foxes failed to guard the henhouse at the FDIC

    FDIC Failed to Limit Commercial Real-Estate Loans, Reports Show

  4. Stemella permalink*
    October 19, 2009 8:51 am

    Here’s a story with inherent cognitive dissonance, another right and wrong?

    National Museum of Natural History is dedicating a new hall to the story of human evolution

    Upon first glance a sane person would think, yes, good, it is right that a National museum dedicated to the study of natural history would emphasize science and evolution in telling the story of human development. One would also think that this would cause wingnut and/or teabagger heads to esplode. All good.

    But then, look at one of the major funding sources for this new wing, 15 million of funding, David H Koch. Koch, a chemical engineer and oil magnate, is one of the wealthiest in the country via his company, Koch Industries. He also is one of the major backers of far right astroturfing group, Americans for Prosperity. He ran as VP for the Libertarian party. I wonder what the xristofascist supporters of that group would think about the new scientifically oriented exhibit.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 19, 2009 10:34 am

      Yeah, that part about Koch industries providing funding for the exhibit made my head explode. IIRC, Koch industries is a private corporation that is not publicly traded. They are even more secretive than your run of the mill asshole corporation but they do spend lots of money bribing Congresspeople just like the rest of them. If their environmentally catastrophic business practices and those of corporations like them continue to go unchecked, the human beings who manage to survive the disasters they create may be forced to start evolving rapidly again as they may need gills to survive.

  5. cometman permalink*
    October 19, 2009 8:52 am

    Very thought provoking post. The first thing that came to mind when reading that article about burning bunnies was that the Swedes must have missed the joke in this video I posted here a few weeks ago.

    Thinking about right and wrong and good and evil always brings to mind the Sufi poet Rumi and Nietzsche who both discussed that concept and came to similar conclusions. From a philosophical standpoint there really isn’t any absolute good or evil, there just is. That seems to be the case to me – the universe doesn’t care how good or bad you’ve been and the sun is still going to wipe out the earth in a few billion years whether we’ve been kind to children and animals or not. But eastern and western cultures have used this idea to go down two very different paths. The east has taken these ideas and tended towards introspection whereas the west has distorted them and used “The Will to Power” as an excuse for domination. The neo-con followers of Leo Strauss take this philosophy to the extreme with their ideas about the “noble lies” that the elites must tell because the hoi polloi simply can’t handle the truth. The justification is supposedly something along the lines that they are doing this for the good of society as a whole to protect the rest of us, however this strikes me as probably another “noble lie” or at best self-delusion and really they are simply doing whatever it takes to gain more power for themselves.

    When I was searching for a particular Rumi quote I ran across this fascinating post from The Dark Age Blog which gets into more detail. (It’s fascinating because whoever wrote it seems to have read the same things I did and come to the same conclusions as me :P ) Interesting that this person goes so far as to suggest that Nietzsche may have just been cribbing from Rumi. I always thought the similarity between the two was probably just a coincidence, one of those “nothing new under the sun” type moments.

    Anyhoo, people can and do argue about the merits of this philosophy but as Crispin Glover mentions societies do create systems of right and wrong regardless and all of them have taboos. And if a society is going to operate under such a system the rules must apply to everybody. We can’t have rules and laws for some while the oligarchs operate under the law of the jungle and take whatever they wish for themselves. But Glover is right that in our corporate dominated society, the traditional taboos are often ignored. Like “Thou shalt not steal” for example. Everyone can understand that one. “Thou shalt not nakedly sell short” is a bit harder to grasp as being a taboo without explanation, which is why the corporate rulers who benefit from it never bother to explain to society at large exactly what it is.

    Personally I think most people can handle the truth and simply realize that life is better when we play nice with each other. Life is richer when we enjoy each other’s differences and eccentricities. When we have a cat who can eat a whole watermelon.

    There will always be a minority of sociopaths, corporate or otherwise, who would like to drown our cat purely for their own enjoyment. But rather than cowering in fear of these people, the rest of us need to stand up to them and realize that sometimes a well thrown shoe can knock a little sense into them.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 19, 2009 9:35 am

      I’d forgotten about the burning hare! And thank you for sharing that post about Nietzsche and Rumi and ensuing discussion. I think you describe perfectly the forked paths between Western and Eastern philosophies. I think that black snake, that evil inside, is none other than self awareness, that knowledge imparted by the other snake well known to Christians through the apple. That awareness is that humans are but animals, no more or less superior than the beast.

      The Ubermann Superior man of the West keeps that dark secret in order to control and exert that will to power as you suggest. The introspective meditators of the East seek to suppress that knowledge, internalizing it, for the same ends? Controlling knowledge, keeping secret and arcane is still controlling, yes?

      Who knew that Crispin Glover could provoke such things? Who knew his cat was so cool? Who knew that he was a shoe flinger so long ago? This is all so fucking profound!!!!!! :-D

      • cometman permalink*
        October 19, 2009 10:24 am

        I think you’re right about the dark secret and I shouldn’t have implied that those in the east have not distorted Rumi’s thoughts like the west distorts those of Neitzsche. I think jihad for Rumi did mean an inner struggle and a search for self-awareness but obviously that has been distorted by many in the Muslim world over the centuries right up to the present. And for all the peace, love, and understanding we in the West hear about Buddhist philosophy, from what I’ve read those monks can be just as tyrannical as our own Western clerics. It’s always easier to see the faults in the society you grew up in and are surrounded by.

        More profundity – if the black snake of self awareness leads one to see the universe as it is and realize that humans are but animals, does that make The Bloodhound Gang the modern day Rumi?

        • Stemella permalink*
          October 19, 2009 11:26 am

          Omg! Nice mime dwarf! Too funny. I think I saw Dubya in there humping a tree.

  6. cometman permalink*
    October 19, 2009 9:16 am

    Here are a few good articles I ran across over the weekend regarding the Wall Street rat fuckers.

    Glenn Greenwald the latest instance of the fox being sent to guard the henhouse. Surprise surprise! Adam Storch, a Goldman Sachs exec, has been named as COO of the enforcement division of the SEC. The highly sarcastic updates give a pretty good idea as to how much enforcement we can expect from this joker.

    UPDATE: Business Insider has more details on Storch, the new COO of SEC Enforcement: He’s 29, and has worked at Goldman Sachs for the last 5 years — since he was 24 years old. I’m sure there was nobody more qualified for that position and that he’ll be an absolutely relentless and fearsome force in helping the SEC enforce applicable laws and regulations.

    UPDATE II: I owe Adam Storch an apology for unfairly questioning whether he’s really the most qualified person for the position of COO in SEC enforcement. After all, in 2002, he was named as a Co-Winner by SUNY-Buffalo of the prestigious Intern of the Year Award, for his sterling summer work in sorting mail and fetching coffee at Deloitte & Touche (h/t thelastnamechosen).

    Frank Rich also tears into Goldman and William Greider tells what must be done to put a stop to the banksters. He provides a glimmer of hope by noting that there are two investigations beginning led by Phil Angelides and Edolphus Towns which seem to be genuinely trying to get to the truth of what has occurred. The corporate media has ignored it so far but if Angelides keeps pushing maybe the public will eventually come to understand just how badly they are being fleeced and do something about it.

    When the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission opened for business on September 17, it was a nonevent for the media. Leading newspapers brushed aside chairman Phil Angelides, the former California state treasurer, and his declaration of purpose–“uncovering the facts and providing an unbiased historical accounting of what brought our financial system and our economy to its knees.” As Angelides put it, “The fuses for that cataclysm were undoubtedly lit years before. It is our job to diligently and doggedly follow those fuses to their origins.”

    ~snip~

    The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Edolphus Towns of Brooklyn, New York, broke a hoary taboo this summer–unprecedented in modern times–by issuing two subpoenas to the Federal Reserve, demanding e-mails and other documents on its role in Bank of America’s subsidized takeover of Merrill Lynch. The Fed tried to duck and dodge, but given its tarnished reputation, it complied rather than provoke a fight it was bound to lose.

    Towns used the evidence from private communications to grill officials with provocative questions. Did Fed chairman Ben Bernanke bully BofA into doing a bad deal? Did BofA CEO Ken Lewis mislead his shareholders on the losses and the outrageous midnight bonuses the bank paid to Merrill Lynch executives? After the hearings, Towns sent a tart letter to Lewis, mocking his double talk and demanding more documents. On September 30 Lewis threw in the towel and announced his retirement. (BofA remains in the cross hairs.)

  7. cometman permalink*
    October 19, 2009 11:52 am

    Mike Whitney thinks that those predicting the imminent demise of the dollar are premature, basically because the rest of the world hasn’t mustered up the stones yet to call the US on its bullshit.

    The rest of the world should have chucked the present system more than a year ago when Lehman Bros. collapsed. But they didn’t, because they were afraid to face their own future without holding onto Uncle Sam’s hand. If they really wanted to stand on their own two feet, they’d pile their Treasuries and greenbacks in a heap and set them ablaze. That’s what freedom looks like.

    So Bumbling Ben keeps printing greenbacks as part of his master “plan”.

    The financial crisis hasn’t hurt the dollar a bit. The dollar isn’t getting weaker because people are dumping it, but because Fed chief Bernanke is managing its value downward to increase exports and reduce the true cost of household and financial sector debt. What doomsayers are calling a “crash” is really just part of the Fed’s plan.

    I think Whitney is half right regarding any plan Bernanke may have. He may very well be flooding the economy with newly printed dollars in an attempt to reduce the true cost of financial sector debt. As long as financial institutions are propped up instead of being allowed to fail as they rightly should, the massive debts they incurred will seem a lot smaller once they’ve got their hands on billions worth of new cash the Fed is handing to them. But unless people start getting big raises in a hurry, it isn’t going to do a whole lot for household debt. As long as the banks keep hoarding the cash it isn’t going to make it’s way into the larger economy and people will continue to lose jobs and homes and wages will not keep up with inflation.

    I suspect that once Bernanke’s plan for the banks lets them pay off their debts and make themselves whole again, the Fed will start raising interest rates so that when the banks do start lending again the money for the rest of us won’t be cheap anymore. We may eventually get higher wages but the benefits will immediately be erased by the inflation that has occurred in the meantime.

  8. cometman permalink*
    October 19, 2009 12:37 pm

    Meanwhile Dean Baker argues that we should embrace the dollar’s downfall because it could lead to the value of China’s currency rising which would make any US-made product cheaper both domestically and for export.

    Lots of what-ifs and possibilities in that article but the bottom line is that if it is still the oligarchs making the decisions, those decisions will benefit them and not us. Sure it would be great if the US began exporting more again and reduced the trade deficit. The implication is that this would provide more decent jobs for people in this country instead of the shitty low paying service jobs which are about the only new jobs produced here in recent years. However, if nothing is done to alleviate the gross disparity in wealth between the few at the top and those who have to work for a living, I fail to see how this would make life much better for Jane Wine-Box. It isn’t the amount of wealth that’s produced that matters, it who ends up capturing it, and right now the oligarchs are the ones holding all the steel traps. They care little for where the cheap labor is as long as they can play one labor market against another. And right now I see no drive whatsoever to restore the power of labor in this country so if manufacturing does come back to the US, it will just mean that US workers are now the cheap labor to be exploited.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 19, 2009 4:48 pm

      Ah crap. I hit the back button by accident, wrecking my comment. In a nutshell, I think Baker is right about the need for dealing with trade deficits, but I question what it is that we export besides agricultural commodities and other raw materials. What do we manufacture besides weapons systems and drugs?

      Regarding labor and the dreaded “new normal” I came across this article in the WSJ that outlines how crappy conditions have become and will continue to be for those who still have jobs in this country or get new jobs in the future.

      Slump Prods Firms to Seek New Compact With Workers

      Ronald Reagan got what he ordered, a couple of decades deferred, but his and his followers policies have succeeded in breaking the rights of workers for the benefit of the plutocracy/oligarchy/rich fuckers/owners.

      Here’s another article about labor that illustrates well how bad it is getting

      One industry that’s booming: debt collection

      Yep, this is the decade for Repo Man. Romero should make a movie about zombie Repo Men from the 80’s come back with a vengeance.

      • cometman permalink*
        October 20, 2009 6:44 am

        Those two articles sound about right to me. Workers are being forced to make concessions and that becomes the new normal. I do think Americans have been spoiled in many ways compared to the rest of the world, but even if people stop racking up debt to buy things they don’t need which would be a positive development, they still need to pay the bills and increasingly the wages they earn don’t even allow them to do that. And one thing I don’t see discussed much in the health care debate is the consequence of making it mandatory for insurance companies to cover everybody despite pre-existing conditions without offering any kind of public option, much less single payer. Insurance companies are not going to take a hit to their profits – they are going to jack up premiums even further if they have to cover everybody and yet nobody i the Beltway seems to want to admit the obvious as long as they can get something passed and call it “reform”.

        There is a booming demand for collection agents right now and new companies are popping up all over the place. Credit insurers are doing pretty good business too and are jacking up their rates to deal with the increased risk. Not a pretty picture at all.

        • cometman permalink*
          October 20, 2009 9:13 am

          More on the new normal.

          For the serfs and for the lords on Wall Street.

  9. Stemella permalink*
    October 19, 2009 5:10 pm

    Here’s one that has flown under the radar in our press

    Iraq cabinet ratifies oil deals

    The contract with Britain’s BP and CNPC of China is the first major deal with foreign firms to be signed since an international auction in June.

    The project aims to almost triple output at the 17bn barrel field – increasing it by 2m barrels a day.

    Iraq has the world’s third largest oil reserves, but production lags behind potential due to a lack of investment.

    The country’s total daily output of 2.4m barrels is lower than it should be due to problems stemming from sanctions against former Iraqi governments, lack of investment and insurgent attacks, analysts say

    snip

    Thirty two companies – including Shell, Exxon, BP and Total – bid for contracts to develop six oil fields and two gas fields in June’s televised auction, Iraq’s first big oil tender since the invasion of 2003. Iraqi officers secure an oil pipeline from the Rumaila oil refinery, near Basra, Iraq, file pic from 2008
    Foreign companies remain wary of investing in Iraq’s energy sector

    But most of the bidders withdrew at the last moment, saying the terms on offer were unfavourable

    snip

    BP was thrown out of Iraq in 1972 when Saddam Hussein nationalized the oil industry.

    The British company will hold a 38% stake in the venture, compared to CNPC’s 37% share, while Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization will control the remaining 25%, the Associated Press reported.

    The Brits and the Chinese get the contracts, not the Americans. Hmmmm.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 20, 2009 7:36 am

      Interesting. How can the US allow that to stand?!?!?! I expect the US will be invading the UK and China soon ;)

  10. Stemella permalink*
    October 19, 2009 5:28 pm

    As suspected, it’s the Flaud.

    Fraud seen growing faster in financial sector

    According to the survey, the average financial services company lost $15.2 million to fraud over the last three years. That compares with $8.8 million for companies overall, a sum that rose from $8.2 million a year earlier.

    Thirty percent of respondents said the economic environment directly increased their exposure to fraud over the past year, with only 5 percent reporting a decline. The percentage reporting an increase was 32 percent in North America.

    Fraud increased in these other sectors besides finance: pharmaceuticals and biotechnology; professional services; retail, wholesale and distribution; and travel, leisure and transportation.

    Fraud decreased in these sectors: construction and engineering; consumer goods; manufacturing; natural resources; and technology, media and telecommunications.

    Gee, all of the latter sectors have been nearly wiped out and the former have been glutted by corporate cronyism in the government. I think I see a pattern here. ;)

  11. Stemella permalink*
    October 19, 2009 5:47 pm

    Life imitating art

    Kafka’s ‘Trial’ Comes to Life in Court Battle Over His Papers

    • cometman permalink*
      October 20, 2009 7:58 am

      Kafka is probably having a good chuckle somewhere about the ridiculousness of all that. Maybe over tea with a giant cockroach.

  12. Stemella permalink*
    October 19, 2009 9:39 pm

    Let there be blasphemy!

    R. Crumb does Mt. Sinai, illustrating Genesis Mr. Natural style.

    It is no doubt going to be incredibly offensive to the bible thumpers and most women alike, par usual. Here’s an example Let There Be Crumb

    • cometman permalink*
      October 20, 2009 8:05 am

      Uh oh. Graphic depictions of incest!! That ought to get the book burners out in full force – if they can get a permit. Maine’s main wingnut is very determined though.

      In two towns, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Lewiston, Maine, local fire stations denied book-burning permits. One pastor, Douglas Taylor of the Jesus Party in Lewiston, undeterred, slashed and destroyed 12 Potter books instead.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 20, 2009 9:07 am

      Even more blasphemy! A Nobel prize winning author bashes “the Good Book” in his new novel.

      A row broke out in Portugal on Monday after a Nobel Prize-winning author denounced the Bible as a “handbook of bad morals”.

      Speaking at the launch of his new book “Cain”, Jose Saramago, who won the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature, said society would probably be better off without the Bible.

      ~snip~

      “The Bible is a manual of bad morals (which) has a powerful influence on our culture and even our way of life. Without the Bible, we would be different, and probably better people,” he was quoted as saying by the news agency Lusa.

      Saramago attacked “a cruel, jealous and unbearable God (who) exists only in our heads” and said he did not think his book would cause problems for the Catholic Church “because Catholics do not read the Bible.

      “It might offend Jews, but that doesn’t really matter to me,” he added.

      Haha!!!!

  13. triv33 permalink
    October 20, 2009 6:01 am

    I watched the HBO doc Schmata last night. Now, I’m sure I’ve mentioned that in another life I used to be a sewing machine operator. I never worked in the garment district, but 25 years ago there used to be a dozen places in my area that you could get a job running a sewing machine and make a living…all gone now. I wish to hell I could sit all the anti-union new style patriots (tea-party idiots) down and make them watch it.

    http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/schmatta/index.html

    • cometman permalink*
      October 20, 2009 8:09 am

      That program looks good. I may have to cancel my TV service and sign up again so I can get free HBO for a few weeks :) Some of my relatives used to work in shoe factories in the NE but those factories are all gone now too.

      BTW, what were you doing watching HBO last night instead of watching the Phillies spectacular ninth inning comeback? That was a good game – now that the Red Sox are out I’m rooting for the Phils.

      • triv33 permalink
        October 20, 2009 5:34 pm

        Of course I watched the Phillies, are you out of your fucking mind? Heart attack city, baby! I was losing it…losing it…oh, you just don’t know the cussing and carrying on that went on at my house last night! Whew…
        I watched the doc on the west coast feed. Yeah, making shoes was the first job I ever had, I know it sounds low rent, but I loved that damn job. They paid us piece rate and there weren’t many jobs there that I couldn’t make more than double minimum wage at. I was young and had money in my pocket, driving my orange ’72 Vega, (yes, it did burn oil, what of it?) life was good. Damn Ronald Reagan and everything he stood for, damn him straight to hell.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 20, 2009 9:09 am

      Thanks for the heads up. I’ll catch a re-run soon. So many businesses that sustained this country have been lost to sweatshops overseas and robotics. So much effort in generations building up something tangible, improving standards, bettering lives – gone.

      Here’s another good program that will be on PBS tonight – check for times –

      Frontline: The Warning

      It’s about Brooksley Born, who used to work under Larry Summers (ewww) during the Clinton era. She was the one who warned that Summers was going to kill our economy. She was ignored. And here we are.

      I posted this article about her here a few months ago. Prophet and Loss:
      Brooksley Born warned that unchecked trading in the credit market could lead to disaster, but power brokers in Washington ignored her. Now we’re all paying the price.

  14. cometman permalink*
    October 20, 2009 9:26 am

    Good article on the next thing the banksters will steal from the rest of us – Pensions: the Next Casualty of Wall Street . Interesting to note that all the figures the author cites about the amount of money needed to shore up pensions so they don’t fail completely are far less than what has already been handed over to the rat fuckers on Wall Street.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 20, 2009 9:41 am

      Hah! Look at what I posted below this. That article is right on.

      The rot extends to every corner, like mold on wallboard in a house in New Orleans.

      The concept of “golden years” in this country will only apply if you happen to work for Golden Sux or one of their government affiliates. Otherwise, you are shit out of luck. I’ll bet if I make it to my 70’s let alone 80’s there will be no safety net left. Maybe the new version of Soylent Green will be Granny Biofuels instead of bunnies?

  15. Stemella permalink*
    October 20, 2009 9:27 am

    More fraud (hat tip to ZH)


    Brown Sues State Street Bank for Massive Fraud Against CalPERS and CalSTRS

    Seeking to recover more than $200 million in illegal overcharges and penalties, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that he has filed suit against State Street Bank and Trust — one of the world’s leading providers of financial services to institutional investors — for committing “unconscionable fraud” against California’s two largest pension funds — CalPERS and CalSTRS.

    The suit, which was unsealed today by a Sacramento Superior Court judge, contends that Boston-based State Street illegally overcharged CalPERS and CalSTRS for the costs of executing foreign currency trades since 2001.

    “Over a period of eight years, State Street bankers committed unconscionable fraud by misappropriating millions of dollars that rightfully belonged to California’s public pension funds,” Brown said. “This is just the latest example of how clever financial traders violate laws and rip off the public trust.”

    Go Jerry Brown, GO!!

    I think every state needs to have at least two Attorney’s General to tackle all the fraud that has been going down and around. It’d be nice to have a functional and fair Department of Justice while they’re at it.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 20, 2009 12:13 pm

      Hopefully they’ll get every penny back that Brown is suing for. When you consider that the money they were skimming should have stayed in the funds where presumably they would have grown in value, suing the crooks for three times what they stole sounds about right.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 21, 2009 3:47 pm

      Good theatre – Jerry Brown gets royally pissed at the CNBC chuckleheads.

  16. cometman permalink*
    October 20, 2009 9:36 am

    More evidence that using the interwebs rewires the old noodle.

  17. cometman permalink*
    October 20, 2009 9:53 am

    Just ran across this article where Niall Ferguson discusses the decline of the US empire. Not a whole lot there we haven’t already discussed but it did link to his program from PBS called The Ascent of Money. I caught two hours of this when it aired on TV but didn’t realize there was more. It was an excellent program and well worth watching the whole four hours. Or you could just buy the book.

  18. cometman permalink*
    October 20, 2009 12:15 pm

    The data in this zerohedge post really drives home the point that this current stock market rally is based on not much more than wishing for unicorns and rainbows.

  19. cometman permalink*
    October 21, 2009 9:51 am

    Can’t wait for the leaves to fall so I can get reception on my local TV stations again. If I’m still whining about this in the spring somebody needs to remind me to cancel my damn Direct TV now that the contract has expired ;)

    Posting the link to last night’s Frontline program called The Warning so I remember to watch it. It was about warnings by Brooksley Born regarding derivative trading which went unheeded by the Clinton administration and by some of the same people who are currently setting economic policy for Obama.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 21, 2009 11:30 am

      I watched it. It was excellent and infuriating. I hadn’t realized that there had been a mini meltdown similar to Lehman years earlier, in 1998, with another large financial due to OTC derivatives.

      If you despised Cane Toad before, this program will clinch it. It did for me.

      • cometman permalink*
        October 22, 2009 8:20 am

        Just got a chance to watch that last night. Also just noticed you had posted a link to it already with a good article about Born :) And yeah, I like Cane Toad even less now. It was enjoyable to watch Greenspan have to admit that he had been disastrously stupendously wrong again. That clip cannot be played enough if you ask me.

        I do remember the meltdown of Long Term Capital Management in the late 90s although it wasn’t in the news for months on end or anything and was kind of overshadowing by some of the national economies that were tanking at about the same time. It was kind of written off by the banksters as an anomaly that wouldn’t have happened without the wider economic problems. IIRC the fractal man Benoit Mandelbrot discusses it in the book I read a few months ago called The (Mis)Behavior of Markets. He mentions that the whiz kids at LTCM had all these complex algorithms based on data they had collected and according to their model the meltdown they did experience shouldn’t have been possible. but Mandelbrot mentions that they simply discounted any outliers like big market swings and didn’t include them in their models and not only that but they based their models on only a few years of data. The hedge fund was started in the mid-90s and they hadn’t even included the data from the market crash that happened only a few years earlier in 1987!!!

  20. Stemella permalink*
    October 21, 2009 10:01 am

    Naked Capitalism has some good discussion of the upcoming Showdown in Chicago and the larger issue of the need for a civil rights movement for the middle class. There is also interesting analysis of why it is that people aren’t challenging the financial overlords and banksters and their government enablers in any meaningful way.

    A New Civil Rights Movement is Afoot for the Middle Class

    Food for thought

    • cometman permalink*
      October 21, 2009 11:43 am

      Very good article. It pisses me off to no end that protests are even needed to get things fixed after hearing all the promises from Democrats about the changes they would bring if only the public would vote for them. Wasn’t fixing these problems the reason people voted for these clowns? At this point I’d like to see our entire electoral system and the political parties that control it done away with and start from scratch with a parliamentary system. But that’s a pipe dream that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

      The article makes very good points about the difficulties in making effective protests. I think it’s probably harder now than in the 60s to get any momentum with any issue because people are afraid that the protests won’t be covered and therefore not noticed, or that if they are noticed the police will crack down harshly and start breaking heads and tossing people into jail. Both are very valid concerns. And they are right about protesting Wall Street excesses since the issues are difficult for people to understand. I’ve certainly seen enough glazed over eyes when trying to talk to people about naked short selling or how derivatives were used to rip us off. That’s why people like Matt Taibbi are a breath of fresh air – he’s no financial expert and he educated himself about what’s been going on and now he’s able to explain it to others in pretty simple and understandable language and has a decent sized platform in Rolling Stone to get the message out. Zerohedge is great but all the esoteric posts there aren’t going to educate people who don’t already understand what’s being discussed.

  21. cometman permalink*
    October 21, 2009 11:19 am

    So the preliminary elections results in Afghanistan have been deemed to be fraudulent by a UN commission and since Karzai did not receive a majority after the new count there will be a runoff election. Investigating election fraud is certainly a positive development but my question is why hasn’t Karzai simply been disqualified. Are we supposed to believe that the oil exec installed as a puppet ruler is simply so popular in Afghanistan that a million people decided to stuff the ballot box of their own accord and Karzai had nothing to do with it?????

    I’m thinking that the reason that there was even an investigation in the first place is because the US has become much less enamored of their puppet as he has failed miserably in bringing order to the country and making it safe for US business interests. And the reason he isn’t disqualified from running again after committing fraud is because the US doesn’t want to be seen as too heavy handed in the “sovereign” nation of Afghanistan by ousting Karzai through the UN.

    Maybe if the US doesn’t want to seem heavy handed in that country or in any of the others they are currently occupying/bombing they could, I don’t know, stop occupying/bombing them and get the fuck out.

  22. cometman permalink*
    October 21, 2009 11:56 am

    Couple of good article from Truthout.

    Labor’s Love Lost – talks about the difficulties labor is facing in getting the EFCA passed. My only criticism is that the author gives the Obama administration far too much credit for possibly giving a shit about labor at all. Most of what Obama has done positively for labor has been nothing but talk. Meanwhile autoworkers were forced into huge concessions in order to bail out the automakers – still haven’t figured out why the workers were the ones to be punished for the errors of corporate management.

    This article – Schools and the Pedagogy of Punishment – is an eye opener and discusses how public schools have come to resemble prisons. I guess I was lucky to have made it through the public school system before the days of pat-downs, metal detectors and zero-tolerance policies for minor infractions. I remember smacking a bully in the chops one day when he threw a new book of mine onto the ground. I ended up being applauded for it by a bunch of other students who were sick of this kid and none of the teachers took any disciplinary action towards me at all. they were probably sick of the kid too. I think I earned a little respect from it and eventually became decent friends with the guy and he stopped being such a jerk to everyone. Sounds like today I would have been thrown out of school for it and maybe even worse.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 22, 2009 7:55 am

      Where I live the middle schools and high schools do look like prisons with steel fencing topped with barbed wire. If a kid did what you did now around here he’d be more likely to be stabbed or shot after school for standing up to a bully, let alone be punished by the school. Yeah, that culture of fear, crime and repression dominates. We were indeed very lucky to go to school before that was the widespread case. It is no wonder that so many parents today want to home school or use alternatives like charter or private if they can afford it. As with so many of the institutions of the commons in this country, the reich wing has destroyed it, drowned it in the bathtub, made it useless and ugly. The extent of the destruction to the foundations of civilization as this empire dies is astounding.

      • cometman permalink*
        October 22, 2009 8:38 am

        Some friends of mine who I went to college with (and are not Jeebus freaks) have been home schooling their kids and even though it’ll be a few years before my spawn reaches school age, I have been considering the possibility of home schooling. Evidently there are good programs now for non-fundie home schooling where you can have people come in and teach things like math and science at a level the parents themselves are not able to. My concern is that I’ve forgotten so much of that stuff that I wouldn’t be able to teach it properly, but knowing there are options out there is encouraging. The public school high school in my area is literally crumbling – I took a tour when there was a school bond issue up for a vote and saw huge cracks where walls had separated from the floors. But of course the “no taxes” crowd voted down the funding to completely overhaul the school so we’ll probably end up paying more in the long run to fix things up piecemeal as the school continues to fall below state code.

        Read about the history of land grant colleges a while back and that seemed to be a great program at its inception. Higher education was brought to rural areas and students were able to afford it because after classes they basically worked on agricultural projects. A lot of people benefited from that program but today many of those schools are so expensive they are unaffordable to the type of people they were designed to serve.

  23. cometman permalink*
    October 21, 2009 3:52 pm

    Surprised to find this broadside on Marketwatch. Good one on the inevitable demise of the US empire.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 22, 2009 7:39 am

      I agree about the historical imperative, the end of empire and capitialism. I do have a more difficult time agreeing that capitalism ever had a soul (too anthropomorphic for one). At its best it was heavily regulated and did allow for creative juices to flourish and grow, with innovation and development, rewarding smarts and ability. Those damn brain washing advertisers and public relations freaks like Bernaise really did hasten the corruption and the emergence of the beast we now battle. The black snake inside our spines manifests into the vampire squid externally.

      Now, at its worst, unregulated and rigged as a gambling racket, vampire squid capitalism is essentially at its core, enabling fascism.

  24. Stemella permalink*
    October 22, 2009 7:16 am

    New one by Pam Martens

    The Next Financial Crisis Hits Wall Street, as Judges Start Nixing Foreclosures

    Trillions of dollars of bundled home mortgage loans and derivative side bets tied to those loans were being manufactured by Wall Street without any one asking the basic question: why is all this capital being invested in a dormant structure? Houses don’t think and innovate. Houses don’t spawn new technologies, patents, new industries. Houses don’t create the jobs of tomorrow.

    Also, by acting as wholesale lenders to the unscrupulous mortgage firms (some in house at Wall Street firms), Wall Street was not responding to legitimate consumer demand, it was creating an artificial demand simply to create mortgage product to feed its securitization machine and generate big fees for itself. Now we see the aftermath of that inefficient allocation of capital: a massive glut of condos and homes pulling down asset prices in neighborhoods as well as in those ill-conceived securitizations whose triple-A ratings have been downgraded to junk.

    There’s no doubt that one of the contributing factors to the depression of the 30s and the intractable unemployment today stem from a massive misallocation of capital to both bad ideas and fraud. Today’s Wall Street, it turns out, is just another straw man for a rigged wealth transfer system.

    Yep, it’s a racket. This is going to be a tough winter for a lot of people. And the fucking criminals at Goldman and JPM get to walk off with our trillions.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 22, 2009 9:03 am

      Wow. This can’t be good:

      While the illegal foreclosure filings, investor lawsuits over securitization improprieties, and predatory lending challenges play out in courts across the country, a few sentences buried deep in Citigroup’s 10Q filing for the quarter ended June 30, 2009 signals that we’ve seen merely a few warts on the head of the securitization monster thus far and the massive torso remains well hidden in murky water.

      Citigroup tells us that the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has issued a new rule, SFAS No. 166, and this is going to have a significant impact on Citigroup’s Consolidated Financial Statements “as the Company will lose sales treatment for certain assets previously sold to QSPEs [Qualifying Special Purpose Entities], as well as for certain future sales, and for certain transfers of portions of assets that do not meet the definition of participating interests. Just when might we expect this new land mine to go off? “SFAS 166 is effective for fiscal years that begin after November 15, 2009.” There’s more bad news. The FASB has also issued SFAS 167 and, long story short, more of those off balance sheet assets are going to move back onto Citi’s books.

      Bottom line says Citi:

      “… the cumulative effect of adopting these new accounting standards as of January 1, 2010, based on financial information as of June 30, 2009, would result in an estimated aggregate after-tax charge to Retained earnings of approximately $8.3 billion, reflecting the net effect of an overall pretax charge to Retained earnings (primarily relating to the establishment of loan loss reserves and the reversal of residual interests held) of approximately $13.3 billion and the recognition of related deferred tax assets amounting to approximately $5.0 billion….” [Emphasis in original.]

      I’m trying to imagine how the American taxpayer is going to be asked to put more money into Citigroup as it continues to bleed into infinity.

      It’ll be interesting to see if the banksters do to the FASB what they did to Brooksley Born. They’ve been fighting tooth and nail to keep from admitting how bad their losses really are and many many knowledgeable people have already said that if the banks actually had to account for these financial deals accurately instead of basically making up numbers out of whole cloth as they are currently doing, it would be patently obvious that they are insolvent.

      The empire is crumbling and the emperor’s family jewels are swinging in the breeze.

      • Stemella permalink*
        October 22, 2009 10:07 am

        What an image! lol

        Here is more on

        SFAS 166 & 167 and FASB SFAS 167

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