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Twelve Days of Christmas

December 9, 2009

a buzzard on a branch.

In Afghanistan,
no partridge, pear tree;
but my true love sent to me
a card from home.
I sat alone,
crouched in yellow dust,
and traced the grins of my kids
with my thumb.
Somewhere down the line,
for another father, husband,
brother, son, a bullet
with his name on.

that Shakespeare loved –
turr turr, turr turr –
endangered now
by herbicide,
the chopping down
of where they hide –
turr turr, turr turr –
hawthorn thickets,
hedgerows, woodland.
Summer’s music
fainter, farther…
the spreading drought
of the Sahara.

un, deux, trois –
do not know
that French they are.

Three Welsh lambs –
un, dau, tri –
do not know
that Welsh they baa.

Newborn babies –
one, two, three –
only know
you human be.

Only know
you human be.

The Condor calls from the USA.
The Wood Stork calls from its wetlands.
The Albatross calls from the sea,
on the fourth day of Christmas.

The Yellow-eared Parrot is calling.
The Kakapo calls from NZ.
The Blue-throated Macaw is calling.
The Little Tern calls from Japan, calls
my true love sent to me.

The Corncrake is calling; the Osprey.
The Baikal Teal calls from Korea.
The Cuckoo is calling from England,
four calling birds.

bankers’ profits fired in greed.

The second ring outshone the sun,
fuelled by carbon, doused by none.

Ring three was black gold, O for oil –
a serpent swallowing its tail.

The fourth ring was Celebrity;
Fool’s Gold, winking on TV.

Ring five, religion’s halo, slipped –
a blind for eyes or gag for lips.

With these five gold rings they you wed,
then slip them off when you are dead.

With these five go-o-o-old rings.

This goose laid Barack Obama.

I bought a magic goose from a friendly fellow.
This goose laid Fabio Capello.

I bought a magic goose from a maiden (comely).
This goose laid Joanna Lumley.

I bought a magic goose from a busker (poor).
This goose laid Anish Kapoor.

I bought a magic goose from a bargain bin, it
was the goose laid Alan Bennett.

I bought a poisoned goose from a crook (sick, whiffing).
This foul goose laid Nick Griffin.

of a broken heart, one half.

The Mersey Swans, flying
for Hillsborough, wings of justice.

Two, married and mute on the Thames,
watching The Wave.

A Swan for Adrian Mitchell
and a Swan for UA Fanthorpe,
swansongs for poetry.

The Queen’s birds, paired
for life, beauty and truth.

Two milked voters to float her boat.
Three milked Parliament to flip her flat.
Four milked Government to snip her cat.
Five milked the dead for close-up tears.
Six milked the tax-payer for years and
years and years…
Seven milked the system to Botox
her brow.
Eight milked herself – the selfish cow.

But the lady in the Detention Centre
does not dance.
But the honour killing lady does not dance.
But the drowned policeman’s lady
does not dance.
But the lady in the filthy hospital ward
does not dance.
But the lady in Wootton Bassett does not dance.
But the gangmaster’s lady does not dance.
But the lady with the pit bull terrier
does not dance.
But another dead soldier’s lady
does not dance.

They sleep.

fir ‘Royal Bank;
twa pipers each
fir Fred and Phil,
fir Finlay, Fraser, Frank.
Too big tae fail!
The wee dog laughed!
The dish ran awa’ wi’ the spoon…
We paid the bluddy pipers,
but we dinnae call the tune.

banging their warning?
On the twelfth day in Copenhagen
was global warming stopped in its tracks
by Brown and Barack and Hu Jintao,
by Meles Zenawi and Al Sabban,
by Yvo de Boer and Hedegaard?
Did they strike a match
or strike a bargain,
the politicos in Copenhagen?
Did they twiddle their thumbs?
Or hear the drums
and hear the drums
and hear the drums?

~ 2009, By Britain’s Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, the first woman and Scot to hold that title.

64 Comments leave one →
  1. artemis54 permalink
    December 9, 2009 6:31 am

    Wow. Thanks much for this poem.

    From the sublime to the ridiculous: WaPo gives editorial space over to the halfwit/half-governor/pageant also-ran for her “opinion” on purloined emails and Copenhagen. A repetition of everything heard on Beck and Hannity, now Palin’s alleged scribbling is being recycled as The Great Controversy on CBS, CNN, etc. Mika the Disgruntled Mannequin is defending Palin for writing a “policy proposal.”

    Really, Mika? Really, WaPo? For science policy we turn to someone who denies evolution?

    For every thousand people who read this tripe, maybe one will read Nature’s editorial on the emails.

    This paranoid interpretation would be laughable were it not for the fact that obstructionist politicians in the US Senate will probably use it next year as an excuse to stiffen their opposition to the country’s much needed climate bill. Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real — or that human activities are almost certainly the cause. That case is supported by multiple, robust lines of evidence, including several that are completely independent of the climate reconstructions debated in the e-mails.

    First, Earth’s cryosphere is changing as one would expect in a warming climate. These changes include glacier retreat, thinning and areal reduction of Arctic sea ice, reductions in permafrost and accelerated loss of mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Second, the global sea level is rising. The rise is caused in part by water pouring in from melting glaciers and ice sheets, but also by thermal expansion as the oceans warm. Third, decades of biological data on blooming dates and the like suggest that spring is arriving earlier each year.

    (Never underestimate the power of paranoia.)

    Maybe one of those thousand will read one of several accounts in Science.

    “You can’t have a spelling mistake in a paper without it being evidence on the floor of the Senate that the system is corrupt,” says [NASA researcher Gavin] Schmidt.

    Palin and her associates on Fox etc seem to think it is like American Idol; enough votes for denial, and climate change will go away.

    What do you even call this state we have reached? A preferential option for the ignorant?

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 9, 2009 7:04 am

      Gobsmacked. Palin?

      What do I call this state we have reached? Fucked Up Beyond Any Redemption.

      Related to your post and the 12th Day section of the poem, the Guardian says the Copenhagen talks aren’t going so well thanks to the usual suspects and typical oligarchs and imperialist attitudes that just don’t seem to ever die.

      Leaked draft deal widens rift between rich and poor nations

      Three hours after the “Danish text” had been leaked to the Guardian, Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairman of the group of 132 developing countries known as G77 plus China, spelt out exactly why the poor countries he represents were so incensed. “The text robs developing countries of their just and equitable and fair share of the atmospheric space. It tries to treat rich and poor countries as equal,” said the diplomat.

      The text is a draft proposal for the final political agreement that should be signed by national leaders including Barack Obama and Gordon Brown at the end of the Copenhagen summit on 18 December. It was prepared in secret by a group of individuals known as “the circle of commitment” but understood to include the US and Denmark.

      Five hours later, the UN’s top climate diplomat had responded. Yvo de Boer said: “This was an informal paper ahead of the conference given to a number of people for the purposes of consultations. The only formal texts in the UN process are the ones tabled by the chairs of this Copenhagen conference at the behest of the parties [involved].”

      But the representatives of developing nations felt betrayed by the intent of the proposals in the draft.

      Just as Team Obama met with the health insurance junta and big pharma to work out details of HCR before unleashing the kabuki of Congress on the public stage, the fat cat polluters and lobbyists have drawn up the rules of their global climate game.

      I tire of all this betrayal.

      • artemis54 permalink
        December 9, 2009 7:36 am

        I heard about this by watching a press conference by the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC). The rep from Kenya seemed on the verge of having a stroke.

        That one was pretty good by the way. Don’t know if you’ve checked out the webcast page but it is really good and updated almost real time. UN has really come a long way in that department.

        Today, WWF reps are very very loudly calling bullshit on EU and American loopholes and “hot air” (reductions that appear only in accountin, not the atmosphere) – German rep is shouting – that they say will see both at best reaching an emissions plateau in 2020.

        The US doesn’t even have a policy on REDD. Not even a statement. On this we are behind Bolivia.

      • artemis54 permalink
        December 9, 2009 8:06 am

        Amy Goodman’s lead story today. Looks like quite a lineup – she has lead negotiators from several countries on.

    • cometman permalink*
      December 9, 2009 9:29 am

      Mike Judge was off by a few hundred years when he made that movie “Idiocracy”. It’s already here. You’d think that somebody would put an actual scientist on the TV to explain how a couple stolen emails taken out of context does not disprove decades of research and that would be the end of it, but no. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about this stupidity for a long time.

      “Follow the money” has always been a good mantra when you want to get to the bottom of a controversy and I would really like to hear what a few thousand climate scientists stand to gain by lying about climate change. It isn’t as if these people are riding around in chauffeured Bentleys after they get a paper published in Science or Nature. I’ve seen some idiots trying to claim that these emails prove that climate change was all a hoax cooked up so the oligarchs can cash in somehow. Well, the main reason that nobody has done jack shit about this problem for so many years is precisely because it would have cost business money to do so and there was no profit to be made by being responsible. Now that the politicians have come up with this ridiculous cap-and-trade idea, yes it does provide a means for companies like Goldman Sachs and others to rake in big bucks, but it was the politicians and not the scientists who proposed this idea and it is a relatively recent development which won’t do nearly enough to fix the problem. More of a ploy so the politicians can help out some of their big campaign donors in the financial industry without pissing off donors from other industries and make it look to a public who is barely paying attention like they are actually doing something. But God forbid anyone explain all that.

      And goddammit I am sick of Caribou Barbie. She reminds me of this guy Damon Wayans played from a while back, except his grammatically challenged character was in prison and this bimbo actually thinks she might be president.

  2. triv33 permalink
    December 9, 2009 9:49 am

    Apropos of nothing….is anyone still watching Top Chef?

    • cometman permalink*
      December 9, 2009 10:21 am

      I am. Is tonight the finale? I’m still rooting the guy with the beard. Kevin I think.

    • artemis54 permalink
      December 9, 2009 10:24 am

      I am. Tonight’s the finale, with those two asshole brothers and Kevin – go Kevin! Sad that Jen left.

      • cometman permalink*
        December 9, 2009 10:27 am

        I was really hoping that the meaner of those two brothers would get the boot last week instead of Jen. Oh well – go Kevin!

      • triv33 permalink
        December 9, 2009 11:08 am

        I really think Micheal had the weaker weak points last week and Jen was sacrificed to keep the stupid sibling rivalry thing going to the bitter end. That being said, who cares about them…Go Kevin!

    • artemis54 permalink
      December 9, 2009 11:44 pm

      Uh oh. I think Kevin drove into the ditch with that dessert. Bacon brittle? What, no chocolate covered sturgeon? This sounds like something I would do high.

      • triv33 permalink
        December 10, 2009 4:25 am

        That was a shock. Micheal! I never thought it would be him.

      • cometman permalink*
        December 10, 2009 8:37 am

        Ha! That does sound like some stoner chow. It’s always the dessert that does them in. Didn’t that nerdy woman lose last year when she let somebody convince her to do a souffle or something? I was rooting for her too.

        Actually had to record it last night since the viewing audience at my house fell asleep on the couch before the show started. I won’t tell the cometwoman that Michael won. She can’t stand him at all.

  3. cometman permalink*
    December 9, 2009 10:25 am

    More from the “Do as I say not as I do” department. The US refuses to allow weapons inspectors to take a look at their WMDs.

    The United States said Wednesday that it remained opposed to international inspections of biological weapon sites, even though it stressed its commitment to a UN treaty covering such arms and invaded Iraq in part over its alleged stalling of — UN weapons inspectors.


    …. the new US administration is still against an additional protocol that would authorize international inspections of biological weapons sites.

    “The Obama Administration will not seek to revive negotiations on a verification protocol to the Convention,” said Tauscher.

    “We have carefully reviewed previous efforts to develop a verification protocol and have determined that a legally binding protocol would not achieve meaningful verification or greater security,” she added.

    So which country gets to invade the US for non-compliance now?

  4. cometman permalink*
    December 9, 2009 10:46 am

    Listening to Amy Goodman today and Obama is saying that the government won’t need to use all the TARP funds, the banks are paying the money back so well that the government will turn a profit, and the extra cash left unspent can be used for other programs. I don’t believe a word of it.

    I believe it even less after reading Timmeh’s letter to Congress. There is so much bullshit in that I don’t even no where to start. He says the banks are doing better but yet he’s still extending the TARP program to 2010 although he still won’t spend all the TARP money. Of course he also says there will likely be a greater commitment to another acronym, the TALF, although through some miracle he doesn’t specify that evidently won’t cost taxpayers a dime. Riiiiiiiiiight. And of course all the money he shoveled to AIG isn’t coming back, but that wasn’t officially part of TARP so no need to mention that little debacle.

    Then of course things are going so well that banks are lending again to small business and consumers.

    Credit is starting to flow again to consumers and businesses, and the economy is growing.

    But then a couple paragraphs later, evidently they aren’t really better.

    …many small businesses face very difficult credit conditions. Although bank lending standards are starting to ease, many categories of bank lending continue to contract.

    Which is it Timmeh, you equivocating douchebag? And then this part was just laughable.

    In addition, as the steward of taxpayers’ funds, Treasury will continue to manage investments in a manner that ensures accountability, transparency and oversight.

    You’re going to continue doing all that? Funny, I wasn’t aware that they’d ever started.

    And all of this financial stuff is set to be wrapped up, just coincidentally I’m sure, right before the 2010 mid-term elections. Now I think we see the real reason for writing this bullshit letter.

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 10, 2009 7:50 am

      Timmeh is supposed to testify today to defend himself and his uh, record of accomplishment. Something about extending the TARP for another 10 months because it has all worked so well, or something.

      Obama administration extends TARP deadline

      • cometman permalink*
        December 10, 2009 8:31 am

        Not surprisingly, there are some big differences in how these statistics are being presented in what I heard Obama say on the radio, Timmeh’s letter above, and the article you posted. Obama said there was $200 billion left over in TARP funds whereas the LA Times says something quite a bit different:

        Over the next 10 years, the administration estimates that TARP will lose about $141 billion. But that is about $200 billion less than projected in August, giving the administration the ability to spend more on new job-creation efforts without increasing the huge budget deficit.

        There is a huge difference between maybe losing $200 billion less than you thought over ten years and actually having $200 billion on hand. And in Timmeh’s letter he says the Treasury will recover all but $42 billion from this year while the LA Times article makes it pretty clear the fund lost that $42 billion in just one year and will probably lose much more. Looks like Timmeh and Squobama are trying to spin this debacle in probably a much more positive light than it deserves.

        Still can’t figure out how they are accounting for AIG. I was under the impression that the AIG bailout was separate from the TARP, but the LA Times article says TARP lost about $30 billion from the AIG shakedown. But we know that AIG was given closer to $200 billion and we’ve also heard reports that the government will be getting very little if any of that back. So if AIG is being counted as part of the TARP, that $30 billion loss seems a little on the low side.

        And as far as any of these assholes having supposedly repaid their debts to the taxpayer, I’d really like to see a bank statement or a check stub before I take the word of a bunch of crooks and liars on that.

        • Stemella permalink*
          December 10, 2009 4:49 pm

          Great catch. It seems we have to wade through just as much spin and bullshit from this Administration as we did with the last one.

          The latest is that ShittyGroup will repay its Tarpage. What a load of shit. There is no way that bank is solvent enough to do that. All this is mythical BernieBux printed and traded in thin air. It’s Gods Work, after all.

  5. cometman permalink*
    December 9, 2009 1:14 pm

    Joe Bageant has a real humdinger today –The Devil and Mr. Obama.

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 10, 2009 7:46 am

      Read that last night. Ruthlessly honest and priceless assessment of Obama. Though I may never be able to drink Tequilla again after reading it.

  6. Stemella permalink*
    December 10, 2009 7:43 am

    Running late and on the run … rat race lately, but here’s one on upcoming so called financial reform legislation from Baseline Scenario worth a gander

    How To Kill OTC Derivatives Reform in Two Sentences

    and linked to by Baseline Scenario


    • cometman permalink*
      December 10, 2009 8:50 am

      That one about the derivatives reform is the exact same thing that Alexander Cockburn noticed at Counterpunch. Amazing to me that the article says Barney Frank may not even realize that the language to gut any reform at all is currently in the legislation. But since this revelation is making its way around the intertubes over the last few days, I bet somebody has brought it to Frank’s attention and he’s damn well aware of it now.

      They haven’t been in any huge hurry to pass financial reform, waiting until they handed out trillions with no strings before even considering it. There should be no excuse for passing a meaningless bill and then claiming they didn’t know what was in it because they didn’t have time to read it.

    • cometman permalink*
      December 10, 2009 9:12 am

      More on financial reform legislation. It’s the Democrats who are proposing amendments to gut the CFPA or eliminate it entirely.

      One amendment being pushed by Democratic Representative Walt Minnick would scrap a proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). Instead it would set up a council of regulators to look after consumers’ interests.


      An amendment from Democratic Representative Melissa Bean would give the CFPA more power to preempt state laws that are stricter than the agency’s own limits, a change favored by business, but opposed by consumer advocates.

      This bill will need a set of dentures before these bought-off whores are finished with it.

      • Stemella permalink*
        December 10, 2009 5:02 pm

        After the travesty that is health care “regulation” I don’t think I’ll be getting very psyched about anything else that may come out of Washington in months and years ahead. Corporate Profits Uber Alles.

  7. cometman permalink*
    December 10, 2009 9:18 am

    Kucinich is sponsoring a resolution to force a House vote on withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    Kucinich said he was motivated to act by hearing Afghan President Hamid Karzai assert that his country will probably need U.S. financial aid and training for the next 15 to 20 years.

    “We shouldn’t be there another 15 to 20 months, let alone 15 to 20 years,” Kucinich said. “We can’t afford the loss of lives. We can’t afford the loss of taxpayers’ money. We’ve got to get our priorities straight.”

    Thanks for trying Dennis.

  8. cometman permalink*
    December 10, 2009 9:26 am

    Unfuckingbelievable. The US is now helping to build a huge underground wall at the Egypt/Gaza border.

    No doubt at the instigation of the Israeli government, the Obama administration has authorized the United States Army Corps of Engineers to design a vertical underground wall under the border between Egypt and Gaza.

    In March, 2009 the United States provided the government of Egypt with $32 million in March, 2009 for electronic surveillance and other security devices to prevent the movement of food, merchandise and weapons into Gaza. Now details are emerging about an underground steel wall that wil be 6-7 miles long and extend 55 feet straight down into the desert sand.

    The steel wall will be made of super-strength steel put together in a jigsaw puzzle fashion. It will be bomb proof and can not be cut or melted. It will be “impenetrable,” and reportedly will take 18 months to construct.

    I’m sure it will never occur to those trapped in Gaza to start building 56 foot deep tunnels….

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 10, 2009 5:08 pm

      So when Obama brags about all his effort and success in infrastructure development and job creation in his upcoming State of the Union we will need to fill in the blank … in Israel. Sort of like the cliche fortune cookie joke, but not “in bed”.

      Yes, the wall will be breached. They always are.

  9. cometman permalink*
    December 10, 2009 9:44 am

    Here’s some potentially good news. The pitch of blue whale songs is gradually declining and it may be because the number of whales has been increasing over the last few decades.

    “The basic style of singing is the same, the tones are there, but the animal is shifting the frequency down over time. The more recent it is, the lower the frequency the animal is singing in, and we have found that in every song we have data for,” said Hildebrand, a professor of oceanography in the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps.


    The researchers examined a list of possible causes for the frequency drop-from climate change to a rise in human-produced ocean noise-and believe it may be explained by the increase of blue whale numbers following bans on commercial whaling activities.

    While the function of blue whale songs is not known and scientists have much more to learn, they do know that all singers have been determined to be males and that the high-intensity, or loud, and low-frequency songs propagate long distances across the ocean. Blue whales are widely dispersed during the breeding season and it is likely that songs function to advertise which species is singing and the location of the singing whale.

    In the heyday of commercial whaling, as blue whale numbers plummeted, it may have been advantageous for males to sing higher frequency songs, the researchers believe, in order to maximize their transmission distance and their ability to locate potential mates (females) or competitors (other males).

    “It may be that when (blue whale) densities go up, it’s not so far to get to the closest female, whereas back when they were depleted it may have been that the closest female was a long way away,” said Hildebrand.

  10. cometman permalink*
    December 10, 2009 9:49 am

    Looks like the Goldies aren’t arming themselves to the teeth after all.

    New York police spokesman Paul J. Browne says that their records show only four Goldman employees have applied for gun permits in recent years — and the last application was made in 2003. That application, by the firm’s head of security for a “carry permit”, was granted. The only other employee granted a NYPD carry permit” is a building security guard. It was issued prior to 2003, said a police spokesman. Those applying for a permit must list their employer.

    This coming out may not be really good news for Goldman execs. If I were an executive there I might want people to at least think I was packing heat.

  11. cometman permalink*
    December 10, 2009 9:59 am

    Interesting post from zerohedge which cites a Financial Times article saying that Kuwait may pull out its moolah from Citi, which is where the country currently stores the bulk of its oil revenues.

    The Kuwait Investment Authority has held internal discussions about scaling back its banking relationship with Citigroup in a move that could include transferring funds currently deposited with the US bank, people familiar with the matter say.

    A withdrawal of KIA funds from Citi would mark another setback for the bank as it seeks to recover from the financial crisis and pay back government bail-out funds.

    That would definitely leave a mark. It might also force Timmeh to revise those figures about how much TARP money he’s really got left. Or he could just keep lying about it. Something tells me he’d chose the latter.

  12. cometman permalink*
    December 10, 2009 11:31 am

    “If the American people really knew what we had done, we would be chased down the street and lynched.”

    Those words were supposedly said by George HW Bush to reporter Sarah McClendon in 1992. It’s unclear whether Bush actually spoke those words or if it’s just another internet legend that has grown over the years, but regardless of who originally said it, the sentiment behind them rings true.

    Robert Parry has a long article out on the 5th anniversary of his friend and colleague Gary Webb’s suicide. Webb was the journalist who broke the story in 1996 that the CIA had conspired with the Contras to smuggle cocaine into the US which led to the surge of crack cocaine use in major US cities in the mid-1980s. For his efforts, Webb was derided by the mainstream media, forced to quit his job, and eventually killed himself after facing numerous difficulties in his life. But he was right, and a later internal CIA investigation (which was quickly glossed over) showed that Webb had only seen the tip of the iceberg and the extent of drug smuggling involving the CIA was even more widespread than Webb knew.

    Here’s the article – Why Journalist Gary Webb Died.

    Read the whole thing.

    Interesting to note the involvement of John Kerry in trying to get to the bottom of the story at the time, before he stopped really trying. What happened to you John?

  13. cometman permalink*
    December 10, 2009 1:09 pm

    Rrrrrrrrrr. The revolving door continues as former Goldman Sachs VP Neel Kashkari , after his brief tenure as a public servant, just got a new job. And surprise surprise, it’s with PIMCO, one of the very firms who was hired to help administer the bailout Kashkari was in charge of.

    On Sunday, we learned from a florid Washington Post profile that Neel Kashkari, the Treasury Department’s one-time bailout czar, is now Thoreau-ing it up in the Northern California woods. (Sample line: “The moon hits his stubble, which is six days old.”) But the very next day, the investment behemoth PIMCO announced that it had hired Kashkari as a managing director and the head of new investment initiatives.

    No word yet on whether it was Neel or a PIMCO exec doing the kneeling that allowed this sweetheart deal to be consummated.

  14. cometman permalink*
    December 10, 2009 1:40 pm

    Ha! The bankers have claimed to be doing “God’s work” but evidently God doesn’t appreciate the help.

    The Democratic party brushed aside the question of usury last spring when Congress decided not to impose any limits on the ruinous interest rates charged by major banks and other lenders. But usury is now back on the table, put in play by Metro IAF, an alliance of two dozen faith-based community organizations affiliated nationwide with the Industrial Areas Foundation. These politically savvy community groups draw their members from diverse religions and across the usual divisions of race and class. They are staging face-to-face “actions” to confront bankers and politicians around the country with a blunt moral message. Usury is a sin, Judaism, Christianity and Islam agree, and must be stopped.

    This demand is expressed in their slogan: “Ten Percent Is Enough.” The campaign seeks a legal ceiling of ten percent imposed the interest rates for credit cards and predatory practices like “payday loans.” Ten percent approximates the old ceiling on interest rates before 1980 when deregulation repealed the federal law against usury. Ten percent is also the tithe religious adherents give to their churches. As one IAF campaigner put it, “If ten percent is good enough for God, it should be enough for the bankers.”

    Personally, I’d go further than just arbitrarily placing a cap on interest rates and the solution offered later in the article is a better one.

    The anti-usury campaigners learned additional insights from Citigroup when they met with John P. Carey, chief administrative officer for the bank’s credit-card business. Carey told them a cap on interest rates is plausible if it is designed to be flexible in adverse conditions. He suggested it could be indexed to inflation and other factors like unemployment levels so creditors could maintain an “appropriate rate of return” and not be compelled to shrink credit availability. Flexibility might have saved the old system of interest-rate controls from repeal. Inflation was rising in the 1970s and creditors rightly complained that their “real return” on lending was getting smaller, even turning negative when the rate of inflation exceeded the nominal interest rate. Instead of making sensible adjustments, Congress abolished all limits. The result today is an economy and financial system drenched in usurious practices–banks that profit by destroying the borrowers.

    How about tying the rate companies are allowed to charge consumers to the rate the companies get from the Fed? Allow the banks to charge something like 5 or 6% above the prevailing rate, or whatever is necessary for them to turn a reasonable profit for the service they provide. With the amount of automation used in that industry these days, they ought to still be able to make plenty of money since it isn’t a very labor intensive business. If you allow them to charge 10% they will, whether it’s justified by the current economic climate or not. And if the Fed’s rate does get significantly higher, Congress can just move the rate above 10% temporarily if necessary rather than simply repeating what they did in the 70s.

    Right now the rate the banks get is just about zero and the they are borrowing money essentially for free and then turning around and charging consumers 30%. I’d like somebody to show me the idiot who couldn’t make gazillions of dollars in a system rigged in their favor. Not much bootstrap pulling necessary to succeed in that industry under current conditions.

  15. Stemella permalink*
    December 10, 2009 5:21 pm

    The Goldies claim they will bonus their big squid with stock options this year instead of cash: Goldman Sachs’s Top Managers to Get All-Stock Bonuses

    Goldman Sachs Group Inc., derided for allocating $16.7 billion to pay employees after a bailout by taxpayers, said its top 30 executives will get year-end bonuses in stock they can’t sell for five years.

    The awards will be consists of so-called shares-at-risk, allowing Goldman Sachs to repossess them if the firm determines that the executive failed to adequately analyze or raise concern about risks, the New York-based company said in a statement today. Goldman Sachs will also give shareholders a non-binding vote on compensation.


    “It’s been done to address the populist movement that has put so much pressure on the financials over the last year,”

    Sounds like an improvement, yes?

    Not so fast says this article, Goldman is cutting pay? Be very suspicious

    The suspicions are all speculative, but there may be something too them. There is no way the Goldies would do something altruistic.

  16. triv33 permalink
    December 10, 2009 6:06 pm

    Fresh Taibbi, anyone? He takes Obama apart and then there’s this…

    Morning, the National Mall, November 5th. A year to the day after Obama named Michael Froman to his transition team, his political “opposition” has descended upon the city. Republican teabaggers from all 50 states have showed up, a vast horde of frowning, pissed-off middle-aged white people with their idiot placards in hand, ready to do cultural battle. They are here to protest Obama’s “socialist” health care bill — you know, the one that even a bloodsucking capitalist interest group like Big Pharma spent $150 million to get passed.

    These teabaggers don’t know that, however. All they know is that a big government program might end up using tax dollars to pay the medical bills of rapidly breeding Dominican immigrants. So they hate it. They’re also in a groove, knowing that at the polls a few days earlier, people like themselves had a big hand in ousting several Obama-allied Democrats, including a governor of New Jersey who just happened to be the former CEO of Goldman Sachs. A sign held up by New Jersey protesters bears the warning, “If You Vote For Obamacare, We Will Corzine You.”

    I approach a woman named Pat Defillipis from Toms River, New Jersey, and ask her why she’s here. “To protest health care,” she answers. “And then amnesty. You know, immigration amnesty.”

    I ask her if she’s aware that there’s a big hearing going on in the House today, where Barney Frank’s committee is marking up a bill to reform the financial regulatory system. She recognizes Frank’s name, wincing, but the rest of my question leaves her staring at me like I’m an alien.

    “Do you care at all about economic regulation?” I ask. “There was sort of a big economic collapse last year. Do you have any ideas about how that whole deal should be fixed?”

    “We got to slow down on spending,” she says. “We can’t afford it.”

    “But what do we do about the rules governing Wall Street . . .”

    She walks away. She doesn’t give a fuck. People like Pat aren’t aware of it, but they’re the best friends Obama has. They hate him, sure, but they don’t hate him for any reasons that make sense. When it comes down to it, most of them hate the president for all the usual reasons they hate “liberals” — because he uses big words, doesn’t believe in hell and doesn’t flip out at the sight of gay people holding hands. Additionally, of course, he’s black, and wasn’t born in America, and is married to a woman who secretly hates our country.

    These are the kinds of voters whom Obama’s gang of Wall Street advisers is counting on: idiots. People whose votes depend not on whether the party in power delivers them jobs or protects them from economic villains, but on what cultural markers the candidate flashes on TV. Finance reform has become to Obama what Iraq War coffins were to Bush: something to be tucked safely out of sight.

    • artemis54 permalink
      December 11, 2009 5:19 am

      I wonder if the teabagger horder will shrink a little now that Sarah and Newt have fallen under the spell of the Nightingale of Oslo.

      • triv33 permalink
        December 11, 2009 6:55 am

        Hee hee hee. Somebody posted a non-diary with a link to this at the big orange last night…top o’ the wreck list and the bots are freaking. The thing you bring up? It’s been mentioned.

        • cometman permalink*
          December 11, 2009 9:40 am

          I saw that earlier. Still near the top of the rec list with over 1000 comments and nearly every one I scrolled through (the first 100 or so) was just an argument about whether it constituted a diary or not. Hardly any were actually addressing the subject of Taibbi’s article. Klub Kumquat is the home of the dead enders of the left, just like Red State and others became for the right.

    • cometman permalink*
      December 11, 2009 9:35 am

      Another good one from Taibbi – thanks for posting that. These dumb teabaggers really are absolutely clueless about how they are being manipulated and used by both parties.

      • triv33 permalink
        December 11, 2009 9:54 am

        Well, I do enjoy the Taibbi, the article was good, but knowing my soft spot for the teabaggers, you know that’s the part I would have to box quote. I’m so damn tired of the Gospel of Low Taxes. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 12, 2009 11:07 am

      Thanks for this link, Triv. I see that Taibbi is now enemy #1 among the most virulent of the kumquats. Typical.

  17. cometman permalink*
    December 11, 2009 9:50 am

    Good article from the Independent describing how most everything being proposed in Copenhagen is so watered down with loopholes that it’s either useless or makes things worse – Leaders of the rich world are enacting a giant fraud.

    • artemis54 permalink
      December 11, 2009 10:09 am

      Here’s the thing though: the African countries, the South Americans, the indigenous groups, they all know it.

      Over under on a walkout?

    • artemis54 permalink
      December 11, 2009 10:22 am

      Here’s one to add to your holiday cheer: This conference is essentially about doing as little as possible

      What kind of people are we, to think we should pay Bangladeshis to reduce their emissions so we don’t have to.

      The same kind I guess that would come up with “population offsets”: In order for my kids to live in luxury, I’ll just pay some Peruvian not to have any. This is the most ghoulish proposal yet, but the more you think about it, the more you see that it simply boils cap and trade down to its heartless, amoral essentials.

      • cometman permalink*
        December 11, 2009 1:02 pm

        I’m all for population control but it is the height of arrogance to think that the West can solve the problem by convincing the other people to stop having kids. Pretty much been the case all through history that the poor generally have more kids whether it’s in Western countries or not. If you want to stop overpopulation, then the rich nations need to stop exploiting the rest of the world and causing them to be poor. If people have a reasonable expectation that they will survive into old age along with their children because they have access to enough food, clean water, health care, etc, most would likely stop having so many kids. That seems to be the pattern that has developed.

        I think the US could take the lead here by creating incentives for people to have fewer kids in this country. Instead of allowing all dependents to be used as a tax deduction, set a limit at three. You want more kids than that, you better think long and hard about how you’re going to pay for them all. Maybe even throw in a rebate for couples who don’t have any kids at all since their families don’t place as high a burden on social services.

  18. artemis54 permalink
    December 11, 2009 10:30 am

    Don’t know if you folks noticed this amongst all the COPS and MOPS: Yes, He Can!

  19. cometman permalink*
    December 11, 2009 12:52 pm

    Got a kick out of this one. Crotchety old scifi guy disses jeebus.

  20. cometman permalink*
    December 12, 2009 7:46 am

    Financial regulation legislation passes in the House.

    A sharply divided House yesterday passed the most dramatic overhaul of US financial regulations since the Great Depression, voting to establish a new borrower protection agency and give the government sweeping new powers to crack down on the types of Wall Street practices that caused last year’s economic meltdown.

    Sounds pretty good if that’s all you read. But if you make to near the end of the article you find this:

    A Democratic floor effort to make more companies subject to derivatives regulations and to end abusive-trading rules also failed. When the Obama administration first proposed a package of regulations, it called for regulations of derivatives without any exceptions. But a potent lobbying coalition that included Boeing Co., Caterpillar Inc., General Electric Co., Coca-Cola, and other big companies persuaded lawmakers to dilute the restrictions.

    Uh, these are exactly “the types of Wall Street practices that caused last year’s economic meltdown” and this legislation doesn’t do jack shit about it.

    I’m glad to see that the new consumer protection agency stayed in the bill for the time being at least, but my main reason for supporting this new agency is in the hopes that Elizabeth Warren heads it. She seems like the type that would actually enforce regulations. However we’ve already had credit card “reform” that does nothing to limit usurious rates and fees and now we’re getting financial “reform” that doesn’t regulate the worst problems either. So what good is another government bureaucracy if all the worst practices it could regulate are all still legal? This is starting to look like the same situation Brooksley Born was put in – Warren may wind up with job but it will be at a toothless agency with no power to do anything

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 12, 2009 10:40 am

      I imagine this bill will end up being worse than status quo once the Senate is through with it.

      As to the CPA and the likelihood of Warren heading it — not going to be a good outcome as long as Jabba the Cane Toad is still the economic overlord. Any woman appointed as a regulator will be chained to Larry just as was Princess Leia.

      Ding! New photoshop springs to mind :)

  21. Stemella permalink*
    December 12, 2009 10:35 am

    Some Euro News to Chew via the Guardian

    Norwegians incensed over Barack Obama’s snubs

    Apparently Barry dissed King Harald by not attending lunch among other slights to the host country and its residents. There wasn’t coverage of these faux pas stateside.

    Grave robbers have stolen the body of the Cypriot President

    Things are still edgy down in the Mediterranean.

    And protesters are on the streets in the thousands today in Copenhagen
    Copenhagen climate protesters rally

    300-400 arrested so far. Photos of demonstration here

    Fifi Blair admits he would have invaded Iraq regardless of WMD

    Someone needs to pick him up with zirconium encrusted tweezers and give him the poodle treatment in the Hague, where he clearly belongs along with his American counterparts.

    • cometman permalink*
      December 13, 2009 7:57 am

      Good articles. Glad to see there are a good number of protesters in Copenhagen. That one about Blair is really maddening. He’s basically admitting that if he hadn’t lied about Iraq’s weapons he would have found something else to lie about to justify a war. And he’s still a free man.

      Very odd that people would steal the Cypriot president’s body. I wonder what the motivation was? And is that crime balanced out on the grand karmic scale of missing body parts of the deceased by the fact that Galileo’s fingers were recently found?

      Two fingers cut from the hand of Italian astronomer Galileo nearly 300 years ago have been rediscovered more than a century after they were last seen, an Italian museum director said Monday.

      They were purchased recently at an auction by a person who brought them to the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, suspecting what they were, museum director Paolo Galluzzi said.

      Three fingers were cut from Galileo’s hand in March 1737 when his body was moved from a temporary monument to its final resting place in Florence, Italy. The last tooth remaining in his lower jaw was also taken, Galluzzi said.

      Nice run for Galileo lately. He just had the 400th anniversary of the telescope, he’s good with the Church again, and now this.

  22. Stemella permalink*
    December 12, 2009 11:11 am

    More coverage of the Copenhagen protests at the NYT

    Protesters Gather to Urge Action on Climate Change

    I love the “Bla, Bla, Bla Act Now!!” sign.

  23. cometman permalink*
    December 12, 2009 2:07 pm

    Fun nerd games – Launchball.

  24. Stemella permalink*
    December 12, 2009 3:49 pm

    All they need now are the pitchforks —

    Torch-carrying protesters storm UC Berkeley chancellor’s home; 8 arrested

    A group of 40 to 70 protesters stormed UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s home late Friday, smashing windows and tossing incendiary objects at the house, UC Berkeley said in a statement.

    Eight were arrested and charged with rioting, threatening an educational official, attempted burglary and attempted arson, the school said. At least two of those arrested are believed to be UC Berkeley students.

    The group was apparently protesting student fee hikes and budget cuts. They carried torches as they surrounded the chancellor’s residence Friday night, chanting, “No justice, no peace.”

    Too bad they didn’t pay John Yoo a visit too. I think he still teaches at UCB.

  25. Stemella permalink*
    December 12, 2009 4:14 pm

    Another tidbit —

    Randy Scheunemann’s Orion Strategies has recently been hired as a subcontractor for who knows what for Montenegro. link

    The Republic of Montenegro is working with Orion Strategies, as subcontracted by The Reffe Group, according to a US Department of Justice filing.

    Not much to go on here. Something to file in the go fish department.

    Orion was subcontracted by the Reffe Group. Paige Reffe, the founder, was a senior advisor to the John Kerry campaign and is heavily entrenched in DC and Dem politics.

    Established his own law office in 1998 and established the Reffe Group, which specializes in international events, in 2000. Rejoined the law firm of Cutler & Stanfield as a partner in 1997. Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Advance at the White House, 1995-96. Joined the law firm of Cutler & Stanfield at its inception in 1988. Chief of staff for Tim Wirth as a Congressman and then Senator, 1985-87. A trial attorney with the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, 1979-83. Served as a political appointee in the Carter Administration for three years, working at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA). Graduate of both the college and the law school of Emory University. (Reffe succeeded Peter Kadzik who started as Senior Advisor in April — announced on April 16, 2004; he left about the time of the Convention for family reasons).

    Why is what sounds like a mainstream Dem operation hiring out a complete Neo-con? Dumb question I know.

    I wonder what’s up in Montenegro?

    • cometman permalink*
      December 13, 2009 8:16 am

      Hmmmmmm. Very interesting. Did a quick search and I couldn’t find much of anything about Montenegro and Orion. Most of the links just lead back to the one you posted. I did find something about Reffe at this link from a site I know nothing about and which requires a subscription to read in full. Not a whole lot to see:

      Since last month lawyer Paige Reffe has been acting as Washington lobbyist for Milo Djukanovic’s regime in Montenegro. Previously he was Albania’s mouthpiece.

  26. cometman permalink*
    December 13, 2009 8:20 am

    Haha! Get a Silver Trembling Fetus for your Xmas tree!

    Just picked up their new album Embryonic a few days ago. It’s pretty good.

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 13, 2009 10:35 am

      Wow. That was awesome.

      I would really like to have a silver trembling fetus for my tree. It would go so well with the Commando Fetus ornament among others.

      Why??? Why??????? haha

  27. artemis54 permalink
    December 13, 2009 12:56 pm

    WTF? REDD+ is supposed to be the succes story of the COP, but the only official draft leaves out any targets for deforestation and worst of all keeps the ludicrous FAO definition from long ago of a forest as half a hectare with some trees on it that might maybe potentially have 30% canopy cover at maturity if they ever lived that long, which they won’t. This is one of the main problems that fucked up the CDM and got us into this mess in the first place. The indigenous suspicion of REDD is more than justified so far.

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 13, 2009 5:09 pm

      But Melvin,

      Learning lessons takes time, with time comes wisdom, with wisdom comes change – we now have wisdom, but is it in time for the change we need?

      Sick, ain’t it? Sounds like an Obama campaign slogan.

      It appears at this juncture that COP is but more kabuki on the international stage. The floundering imperialists have no intention of practicing anything sustainably. Its all out extraction 24/7 till its all gone, baby. Burn baby burn or somesuch thing.

      • artemis54 permalink
        December 14, 2009 1:19 am

        The real story is the connections made in the halls, 350 and AOSIS and all the non-parties. Look what 350 did in a few months with nothing and no celebs or politicians.

        The mayor of Toronto was in the street video blogging.

  28. Stemella permalink*
    December 13, 2009 5:15 pm

    The Italians don’t fuck around, man. Shoes? pshaw — waste of decent leather. Tomatoes? When they could make a good sauce? No, something more substantial is required when Berlusconi is the target.

    Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi attacked at rally

    Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was struck in the face and left bloodied at a rally of his political coalition in Milan on Sunday.

    Vivid video shows the wounded prime minister appearing dazed in the aftermath of the attack, which took place as he was greeting supporters and signing autographs.

    Berlusconi was taken to a hospital and, according to the Italian news agency Ansa, treated for two broken teeth, a minor nose fracture and cuts on his lips. As a precaution, he remained hospitalized for overnight medical observation.

    Various Italian media reports said he was either punched in the face or struck with a statuette by his attacker. Ansa quoted a witness, Gabriele Cartasegna, leader of Berlusconi’s political party’s youth movement: “I was standing at his side when I saw a man, standing close to the barrier who without saying a word threw from a short distance a souvenir of the Duomo di Milano. I don’t know if the object was made of stone or metal.”

    That definitely left a mark.

    • artemis54 permalink
      December 14, 2009 1:16 am

      “That definitely left a mark.”


    • cometman permalink*
      December 14, 2009 8:17 am

      There are few more deserving than Berlusconi. After his recent escapades at his villa, they should have whacked him with one of these.

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