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Mars, Bitches!

January 12, 2010

Mars is looking better every day. Back when all we had to go on were drawings from people like Percival Lowell, we used to think it looked like this:

Now we know it actually looks like this:

Pretty freaking amazing if you ask me.

You can find more new pictures of Mars by poking around the HiRISE website.

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43 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    January 12, 2010 1:31 pm

    I wish Dave Chapelle would come back. His was one of the very few TV shows that ended way too soon. Here’s a fairly poor quality video of the skit I pinched the title of this post from.

    You can watch just the last part about M. A. R. S. Mars here.

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 12, 2010 3:07 pm

      Until Colbert came along, Chappelle was the only show that had me laughing out loud every time. I remember watching “The Nigger Family” with several teenagers, black and white. We were all rolling around on the floor. Interesting to compare now, Scarborough etc shitting their panties over Reid’s offhand remark which happened to be true.

      • cometman permalink*
        January 12, 2010 3:19 pm

        Did you happen to catch Colbert last night when he touched on the Reid dust-up? Funny stuff. Here it is in case you missed it.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    January 12, 2010 2:24 pm

    Those photos are outstanding. The pink one you chose looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss world landscape.

    Agreed about Chappelle. That clip brings back so many bad memories, but his parody of it all was perfection. Mars, beeatches, Mars.

    Obama seems to need a Mars of his own these days.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 13, 2010 10:43 am

      It does look some Dr Seuss world. There is so much detail you almost expect to see Horton and some Hoos go walking by. It also reminds me of a bunch of mussels with their beards sticking out. In this Bad Astronomy post where I first saw the picture he assures us that those weird formations are made out of sand and dust, but I still like to imagine that they might start waving at the camera the next time it flies by.

  3. Stemella permalink*
    January 13, 2010 8:09 am

    It is a masochistic morning.

    God’s work Blankenfein just finished whining to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that the financial crisis was like an earthquake. Someone on the committee said earthquake’s are acts of God and the financial crisis was the result of the acts of men. I don’t think God’s Work understood that response.

    In light of the horrible earthquake in Haiti yesterday and what will no doubt be catastrophic loss of life there, that these fuckstains could even compare the two required many, many tossed zapatos.

    This panel will no doubt be another complete kabuki strip tease, but in case any kind of truth is expressed I’ll mention it here.

    There is a Reuters liveblog of the show here. No doubt the Zed Hedgers will be discussing it too.

  4. cometman permalink*
    January 13, 2010 11:14 am

    Another post by Glenn Greenwald about the general piss poor quality of the US media. Not too much new there but I link to it because of the news he refutes which I hadn’t heard.

    Justin Elliott of TPM documents how an absolute falsehood about the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing — that Abdulmutallab purchased a “one-way ticket” to the U.S., when it was actually a round-trip ticket — has been repeated far and wide by U.S. media outlets as fact. Two weeks ago, Elliott similarly documented how an equally false claim from ABC News — that two of the Al Qaeda leaders behind that airliner attack had been released from Guantanamo — became entrenched as fact in media reports (at most, it was one, not two). This week, Dan Froomkin chronicles how completely discredited claims about Guantanamo recidivism rates continue to be uncritically “reported” by The New York Times and then inserted into our debates as fact.

    I don’t watch too much of the corporate news these days because they are so terrible but still some things seep into the public consciousness and eventually make the rounds. I had heard that the underoo guy bought a one-way ticket but until now hadn’t heard anyone mention that it was completely untrue. Rrrrrrrrrrrr.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 13, 2010 11:16 am

      More from Greenwald. This story is worth keeping an eye on in an attempt to figure out the truth through the fog of war – An Iranian nuclear physicist is murdered.

    • triv33 permalink
      January 13, 2010 4:08 pm

      I just had an idea. I don’t watch corporate news much either and I could stand to lose a few pounds. Now, hear me out on this before you judge me. I know people who do the whole “stick your finger down your throat” diet successfully, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Perhaps I should just start watching the idiot box as a news source and the whole process will happen naturally. Eh, on second thought my head would probably explode first.

      • cometman permalink*
        January 14, 2010 10:50 am

        Hey, the head weighs ten pounds or so. Not a bad weight loss for a few minutes of viewing :P

  5. cometman permalink*
    January 13, 2010 11:29 am

    Some good perspective on financial industry compensation in this piece from the BBC’s business editor. After hearing so much talk from the crooked oligarchs about how they must pay big bonuses to retain all the top “talent”, this one was a breath of fresh air.

    There is an acknowledgement by some bankers that these gains are in effect an unrepeatable jackpot, the consequence of the authorities’ bail-out of the economy, and not the result of their great prowess.

    Or to put it another way, only the generation of losses in these benign market conditions would require a very special talent. Making profits? A suited monkey could do it.

    For fucksakes, these people have been getting money for next to nothing with few limits on how much they can borrow since they’re still leveraged to the hilt and they’re allowed to lend it out at whatever the hell they want and still aren’t paying much of anything for interest on savings. And they do so with the knowledge that if things turn bad for them even with these favorable conditions they’ll just get bailed out again.

    Really, only a complete fucking moron couldn’t figure out how to cash in big under those circumstances.

  6. cometman permalink*
    January 13, 2010 11:36 am

    Stiglitz hits the nail on the head.

    One of the lessons of this crisis is that there is a need for collective action, that there is a role for government. But there are others. We allowed markets to blindly shape our economy, but in doing so, they also shaped our society. We should take this opportunity to ask: Are we sure that the way that they have been molding us is what we want?

    We have created a society in which materialism overwhelms moral commitment, in which the rapid growth that we have achieved is not sustainable environmentally or socially, in which we do not act together to address our common needs. Market fundamentalism has eroded any sense of community and has led to rampant exploitation of unwary and unprotected individuals. There has been an erosion of trust—and not just in our financial institutions.

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 13, 2010 12:53 pm

      He does nail it. The corruption and malaise, the mistrust, are all completely systemic, down to the core throughout all the current institutions that serve as a foundation to this society. The internet entanglements also seem to exacerbate that kind of mistrust, especially if you take a look at klub kumquat these days.

      I imagine it will take another extended period of economic decline and/or stagnation for new generations to come up with a different set of expectations than those now reaching or already attained of adulthood. I haven’t trusted our government since I saw Tricky Dick lying on the television when I was a little kid. It may take a quite a few generations before trust can be widely shared in this country again.

      • cometman permalink*
        January 13, 2010 1:01 pm

        It was Reagan and Iran/Contra where my eyes were opened. The news about Watergate is one of my first recollections from TV but I was too young to grasp what it was all about at the time. I remember wondering why everyone on the news was so concerned with alligators. Somehow the words sounded a lot alike in my 4 year old brain :)

      • triv33 permalink
        January 13, 2010 4:27 pm

        No, don’t look at klub kumquat. Unless you want to see people trying to make the argument that an excise tax on health insurance is a sound policy. I guess that depends on the aim of the policy. If you’re trying to pit what’s left of the middle class against the poor then it’s pretty damn sound. I’m tempted to put up this little tidbit I found in Wikipedia..

        Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language defined excise in 1755 as A hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged not by the common judges of property, but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid.

        Not that there will be all that many people left with policies worth levying that bad boy against when the time comes, but I’m sure that’s the idea…to make the commodity that is our health insurance so shitty as to not be worth taxing.
        Yeah, I’m a little ray of sunshine on this shit. I’ve even gone so ridiculously far as to bother to comment over there on the subject. Why? Ya got me. Maybe I’ve finally gone round the friggin’ pipe.

        • cometman permalink*
          January 14, 2010 10:59 am

          This was a pretty good article about the proposed tax on expensive insurance plans – The Myth of “Cadillac” Health Plans .

          Sounds to me like this tax would start hitting middle class health plans pretty quickly and as costs continue to rise the tax would hit even more people, with the result being that people would wind up with cheaper plans with sky high deductibles for fewer benefits. Sort of like where we’re at right now except it would have the added benefit for the oligarchs of forcing concessions and cuts onto union members who have pretty decent plans.

          Personally, I don’t understand the logic of trying to tax health care in the first place. You want to buy a Lamborgini (sp?) instead of a sedan then fine, pay a luxury tax. But health care that actually covers what ails you shouldn’t be considered a luxury.

  7. cometman permalink*
    January 13, 2010 1:09 pm

    The secessionist movement in Vermont continues and this time they’re fielding candidates.

    Peter Garritano thinks it’s time for Vermont to call it quits with America.

    The way the 54-year-old automobile salesman sees it, the “empire” is about to implode and tiny Vermont can lead the way by becoming its own independent republic. So he’s running for lieutenant governor, topping a slate of secession-minded candidates seeking statewide offices this year.

    Their name: Vermont Independence Day.

    “The only hope is to just say, ‘Look, this isn’t working for us. We want to start fresh again, with a real democracy,'” Garritano said. “I think that’s the answer. Hopefully, it won’t take another horrible economic breakdown to realize that the people running things don’t look out for the little guy, or us, or the soldiers. It’s all about profit and getting the last drops of oil on Earth and trampling people’s rights.”

    Garritano, gubernatorial candidate Dennis P. Steele and seven candidates for state Senate seats plan to declare their candidacies Friday.

    Vermont has a pretty long history of being independent-minded and this is nothing new. There have been non-bindings votes on town meeting day to secede from the Union in the past. If these people have a chance of making inroads anywhere, I think Vermont might be the most likely state for success. Remember the Man with a Plan Fred Tuttle who spent about $250 to defeat a multimillionaire in the US Senate Republican primary a few years back.

    Sure it’s a long shot but it’s nice to see that some people are fed up with it all and are at least trying to do something different.

  8. cometman permalink*
    January 13, 2010 1:25 pm

    Tremendous article from Dean Baker. He starts by discussing how FDIC insurance granted to banks allows them to take risky bets because there is currently next to no oversight. he goes on to put together many of the ideas for reform we’ve discussed here in the past. Long article but worth reading the whole thing. A snippet:

    The FDIC lent an enormous amount of stability to the system, and the benefits are shared by depositors and banks alike. However, government insurance means that the market does not offer the normal discipline against risky behavior. Typically, a bank making high-risk loans must offer high interest rates in order to assuage wary depositors. But if the bank has government insurance, depositors need not worry about losing their money thanks to others’ unpaid loans. Thus, insurance allows the bank to attract deposits at relatively low interest rates and still incur high risk on loans. If a bank is in financial trouble and has little of its own capital at stake, the incentive to take large risks is even greater. And its customers, who are covered by deposit insurance, have no reason to be concerned about the soundness of a bank, even if the bank ends up suffering large losses and going out of business.

    ~snip~

    An insured bank must be a regulated bank; there is no way around this. An unregulated bank with government insurance has a license to rip off taxpayers, and unfortunately many banks have done precisely that. In particular, recent rule changes that allow banks to use “fair value” accounting instead of market accounting in assessing the value of their assets enable banks to bury large losses.

  9. cometman permalink*
    January 13, 2010 9:36 pm

    Baaaaaaaaaahahaha!

  10. artemis54 permalink
    January 14, 2010 4:17 am

    It’s an ill wind, er, flood current that blows no one good:

    Country’s Only Hippo Escapes Zoo During Floods

    Montenegro’s only hippo took the opportunity preented by rising flood waters. But it sounds more like a vacation in the country than a prison break. She’s only a mile away, and everyone knows where she is:

    People like her, and she is used to people, villagers are bringing her fresh hay.

  11. cometman permalink*
    January 14, 2010 11:41 am

    The Martians are already here! At least that’s what NASA scientists suspect.

    Final proof that Mars has bred life will be confirmed this year, leading NASA experts believe. The historic discovery will come not on Mars itself but from chunks of the red planet here on Earth.

    David McKay, chief of astrobiology at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, says powerful new microscopes and other instruments will establish whether features in martian meteorites are alien fossils.

    He says evidence for life in the space rocks could have been claimed by the UK if British scientists had used readily-available electron microscopes. Instead, images of colonies of martian bacteria were collected by American scientists.

    The NASA team is already convinced that colonies of micro-organisms are visible inside three martian rocks that landed on Earth. If so, this would have profound implications for our understanding of life in the universe.

    Two of the meteorites – ALH84001 and Yamato 593 – were found in the Antarctic by American and Japanese scientists after they lay in the icy desert for thousands of years.

    But of special interest is a meteorite that fell in many chunks at Nakhla, Egypt, in 1911. Most of the fragments ended up in London’s Natural History Museum.

    The stones are known to be from Mars because gases trapped inside them match those in rocks examined by probes on the red planet. They were blasted out of its surface by asteroid impacts and then drifted around the solar system for millions of years before falling to earth.

  12. cometman permalink*
    January 14, 2010 11:52 am

    Good one from Naked Capitalism on Obama’s proposal of TARP fees for the big banks.

    The Obama Administration is now caught in its own machinations and is having to backpedal fast and hard from its bankster friendly posture, or at least have the public believe it is executing that maneuver.

    While I cannot fathom the logic, Team Obama clearly decided to throw in its hat with the industry from the beginning, supporting a whole raft of tricks to keep banks from recognizing losses (heavens, might expose that some were bankrupt and require that incumbents be given the heave ho!). It also assisted in the “talk up the bank stocks” effort, since goosing prices would allow some banks to sell shares and save the new Administration the unpleasant task of figuring out how to resolve and recapitalize the sickest bank. It never seemed to occur to them that the best time for a President to take unpopular but productive action is at the start of his tenure. Nor did they anticipate that the public was not as dumb and inattentive as they assumed, and has taken notice of how the Administration has hitched its wagon to that of the plutocrats.

    ~snip~

    But Team Obama does not want to play up the extent to which the industry has benefitted from public munificence; that only stokes the deserved and correct public anger, which includes the Administration for cutting such a crappy deal with the industry. So it has the PR conundrum of having it be beneficial for political reasons for them to beat up on the financiers, but now being so deeply aligned with them as to make that impossible, save perhaps on a few narrow issues that it hopes will have sufficient peasant-appeasement value. Any full-bore attack would represent an embarrassing change from the Administration’s past fawning posture, and would also require the sacrifice of a senior head or two, presumably starting with Timothy Geithner, to look credible. But Obama seems constitutionally incapable of firing anyone, no matter how much it would serve him to do so.

    More smoke and mirrors…

  13. cometman permalink*
    January 14, 2010 1:05 pm

    Hmmmmmm. There’s a new study out saying that the election results for the Prop8 vote in California from 2008 may not have been accurate. Evidently the official results for other ballot measures and candidates came within the margin of error but in some precincts the Prop8 results were way off.

    The report makes a point to note that it does not constitute proof of election tampering because:

    This report is meant as a warning. It does not provide conclusive proof of election tampering, since such “proof” would be embedded with the memory cards and computer code which are regarded as proprietary secrets and strictly off-limits to examination. But what is revealed here is strong enough to suggest that legislators, secretaries of state, attorneys general, and the public must pay close attention to what is reported in all future elections. Candidates entering upcoming elections should especially read and understand this report and take notice of the current state of our electoral system.

    The bottom line is: with electronic equipment counting our votes, we cannot know whether the official results are accurate. Multiple analyses of vote tabulations from the past several elections caution us that they are not.

    The post also mentions that next week’s special election in mass will be held with the same type of machines.

    If our “elected” officials were really serious about fixing the problems in this country, this problem would be addressed immediately. The fact that the public owns these machines and votes on these machines but can’t ever look inside the machine is mind-boggling to me. Why should anyone ever trust anybody in government as long is this is allowed to continue?

  14. cometman permalink*
    January 15, 2010 9:19 am

    Naomi Klein caught the oligarchs starting to drool over the potential ‘benefits’ of the Haiti disaster. Here’s the quote from the Heritage Foundation she noticed before it was deleted:

    “In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region.”

    Lest we forget why Haiti has had such a dysfunctional system for so long, Ted Rall reminds us. The fact that the US propped up the Duvaliers so it could use Haiti as a sweatshop for decades is pretty well known but this tidbit about how the US basically purchased Haiti’s treasury was new to me:

    The story begins in 1910, when a U.S. State Department-National City Bank of New York (now called Citibank) consortium bought the Banque National d’Haïti–Haiti’s only commercial bank and its national treasury–in effect transferring Haiti’s debts to the Americans. Five years later, President Woodrow Wilson ordered troops to occupy the country in order to keep tabs on “our” investment.

    From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. Marines imposed harsh military occupation, murdered Haitians patriots and diverted 40 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product to U.S. bankers. Haitians were banned from government jobs. Ambitious Haitians were shunted into the puppet military, setting the stage for a half-century of U.S.-backed military dictatorship.

    The U.S. kept control of Haiti’s finances until 1947.

    Still–why should Haitians complain? Sure, we stole 40 percent of Haiti’s national wealth for 32 years. But we let them keep 60 percent.

    Isn’t it about time to let the dinosaurs like Citi go extinct?

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 15, 2010 9:56 am

      Oh man, in following the incredible tragedy that is Haiti right now, the whole disaster capitalism methodology hadn’t yet entered my thoughts, though of course it should have. These fuckers aren’t even going to wait until the mass graves are filled before they plot the further rape of this country.

      As you and the articles you point out, it is nothing new. We have been vulturizing this country for years now as with most of the third world.

      Reading that Rall article was a real punch in the gut. Heartbreaking too. I’d forgotten so much of the Papa Doc/Baby Doc/Tonton Macoute detail as it all blends together with the Manos Blancos, Contras, Death squads du jour all backed by the Agency for the benefit of the banksters.

      And America wonders why it is hated?

  15. Stemella permalink*
    January 15, 2010 9:25 am

    In case anyone has wondered, news of our favorite DickHead is mentioned here

    I hadn’t actually thought about him since he was banned from kumquat, but this article was sent to me by email this morning. I found it amusing.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 15, 2010 10:35 am

      Me too. Heh!

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 15, 2010 12:10 pm

      He’s been everywhere, man, banned from everywhere!

      Voltaire said of Frederick the Great’s mule that he had seen all the capitals of Europe and seemed none the wiser for the experience.

  16. Stemella permalink*
    January 15, 2010 9:38 am

    Good McClatchy article on Obama’s Yemen policy here

    Obama aid to Yemen could risk backlash in Arab world

    • cometman permalink*
      January 15, 2010 10:38 am

      Backlash is unfortunately what many pushing these policies are probably hoping for. An excuse for more military contracts and more bombs. Doesn’t really matter who they get dropped on as long as someone makes a few million off it.

  17. cometman permalink*
    January 15, 2010 10:12 am

    The new Harper’s came yesterday and there was a great article in it about the cap and trade system. The article goes through how the system is supposed to work and points out its many shortcomings and potential for abuse. Won’t be too much of a surprise to anyone here that Goldman Sachs and the other banksters have set themselves up to profit handsomely whether the system has any effect on the actual problem or not.

    Anyhoo, there was one part where they described an operation that was burning eucalyptus to produce charcoal and somehow that made them eligible for carbon credits which they could sell to keep their business viable. It sounded kind of fishy to me and this morning I ran across this article about using “biochar” to sequester carbon.

    …biochar is charcoal produced by heating wood, grass, cornstalks or other organic matter in the absence of oxygen. The heat drives off gases that can be collected and burned to produce energy. It leaves behind charcoal rich in carbon.

    One thing that comes to mind is would I be eligible for carbon credits if I started using a vaporizer when I wanted a little attitude adjustment? If so, I could produce a whole lot of “biochar” :)

    Anyhoo again, the procedure the Science Daily article describes sounds very similar to what they mentioned in the Harper’s article. Unfortunately I don’t have the Harper’s piece in front of me and it isn’t available at all on their website yet. I’ve seen Science Daily publish a few press releases of dubious provenance before which have some shaky details in them and this looks like another one of those to me. The source isn’t Nature or PlosOne or Science but the American Chemical Society. IIRC correctly in the Harper’s article they mentioned the charcoal they produced was later burned as fuel for something else so I don’t really see where the benefit comes from.

    Basically what I’m getting at is that I suspect there’s some greenwashing going on here. The way the Harper’s article described it, you have subsidiaries of banking companies running around developing countries looking for any project that they might be able to claim is somehow reducing carbon emissions. The bankers bring a proposal on behalf of the company to the authorities for approval and once the company gets approved for carbon credits they can sell them and the banks can broker the deal. There is a lot of incentive for these people to overestimate the amount of carbon reduction and once the credits are issued there is no mechanism to revoke them if they turn out to be fraudulent. So we end up with a system that tells us we can reduce carbon by planting trees, burning them for charcoal, and then using the charcoal to fuel something else instead of simply, oh i don’t know, planting the fucking trees and leaving them there.

    If you guys read this in the new Harper’s I’d be interested to know what you think.

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 15, 2010 11:35 am

      I just got it in the mail and I’ll read and get back. Have to say though the biochar comment made me really laugh.

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 15, 2010 12:18 pm

      Between you and Miss D, I’m going to have to subscribe just to stay au courant.

      C&T is a nightmare. What you mention is only part of it. The banks etc will try to capitalize off everything, including where there is no additionality (things that would have been done anyway). We’ve already seen this mess, credits for nothing, credits for destructive hydro plants and monoculture plantations, on and on. Then there’s the untapped potential for fraud, already ramping up in Indonesia for one. That will only multiply. All this is why a tax at point of origin is so much better.

      Biochar is great as an agricultural practice. Many benefits as as an agricultural practice including long term sequestration. But that doesn’t mean it can become the silver bullet to sequester carbon on a global scale and make everyone on the stock exchanges rich at the same time, and that’s unfortunately what drives much of the interest, the fantasy of a magic bullet.

      Just for starters, there is a real philosophical problem here of once again trying to find some way to continue to extract carbon out of the ground forever and somehow make up for it. In this case, it is particularly questionable – to me at least – to start down this road of converting living biomass into charcoal on an industrial scale. It isn’t quite on par with the plan to grind Greenland sharks into biodiesel, but it’s the same road.

      • cometman permalink*
        January 15, 2010 12:54 pm

        Go get yourself a subscription! The news related articles are great but they also have a pretty good new book review section and publish some excellent fiction too. And of course the Index. There was an interesting stat there this month about how much food is wasted in the US which is something I’ve been wondering about for a while having worked in many restaurants. The study they cite claims 40% of all the food produced is wasted! Based on what I’ve seen that figure definitely sounds like it’s in the ballpark.

        The problems you describe with C&T are pretty much exactly how the article describes it too. The system is ripe for fraud and the biggest fraudsters around are the ones drumming up the business.

        And yeah, converting living biomass into charcoal doesn’t seem like a real good way to go. Didn’t work out so well in Haiti.

  18. cometman permalink*
    January 15, 2010 1:20 pm

    Saw this Rawstory article yesterday about a recently written paper by Cass Susstein where he wishes he could catapult the propaganda the same way that Bush did.

    Cass Sunstein, a Harvard law professor, co-wrote an academic article entitled “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures,” in which he argued that the government should stealthily infiltrate groups that pose alternative theories on historical events via “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine” those groups.

    As head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Sunstein is in charge of “overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs,” according to the White House Web site.

    Of course he advocates secretly paying these “independent” people for their infiltration. Today Glenn Greenwald has picked up the story and states that the Obama administration has already been paying at least one “independent” person to advocate for its health care plan, just like Bush did with Armstrong Williams:

    Consider the recent revelation that the Obama administration has been making very large, undisclosed payments to MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber to provide consultation on the President’s health care plan. With this lucrative arrangement in place, Gruber spent the entire year offering public justifications for Obama’s health care plan, typically without disclosing these payments, and far worse, was repeatedly held out by the White House — falsely — as an “independent” or “objective” authority. Obama allies in the media constantly cited Gruber’s analysis to support their defenses of the President’s plan, and the White House, in turn, then cited those media reports as proof that their plan would succeed. This created an infinite “feedback loop” in favor of Obama’s health care plan which — unbeknownst to the public — was all being generated by someone who was receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret from the administration (read this to see exactly how it worked).

    In other words, this arrangement was quite similar to the Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher scandals which Democrats, in virtual lockstep, condemned.

    Enjoyed the part in the udpates where Greenwald smacks down the apologists who tried to defend this practice as somehow being different than what Bush was doing.

    New boss same as the old boss but way too many are being fooled again.

  19. cometman permalink*
    January 15, 2010 1:27 pm

    Long one to read later – Chomsky on Haiti.

  20. cometman permalink*
    January 16, 2010 9:58 am

    Bus-sized great white shark: 1

    Sunbathing tourist: 0

    Witnesses described the terrifying scene. The shark was “longer than a minibus”, Coppen told the Cape Times newspaper.

    He said: “It was this giant shadow heading to something colourful. Then it sort of came out the water and took this colourful lump and went off with it. You could see its whole jaw wrap around the thing which turned out to be a person.”

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 17, 2010 2:50 am

      Ouch. I am sure to hear more about this from my SA friend. She has always maintained that no sane person ever goes past knee deep in salt water.

  21. cometman permalink*
    January 18, 2010 7:25 am

    Zerohedge via CNBC of all places has this post about more illegal activity from the big banks.It concerns the short sale of homes, short sale in this case being when a home is sold for less than it was is still owed on the mortgage. If this happens when there is more than one lien on the house, the second lien holder needs to drop their claim, but evidently these lien holders have been working around the regulations by cutting side deals off the books to get the deals done.

    Since many second lien holders are getting very little, they are now allegedly requesting money on the side from either real estate agents or the buyers in the short sale. When I say “on the side,” I mean in cash, off the HUD settlement statements, so the first lien holder doesn’t see it.

    “They are pretty clear and pretty upfront about the fact that if the first lender knows they are getting paid, the first lender will kill the short sale,” says Brandt. “So these second lenders are asking for the payments off the closing documents, off the HUD statement, usually in a cashiers check prior to closing. Once they receive that payment, they will allow the short sale to go through, which according to RESPA laws and the lawyers that we have spoken to on the topic is not legal.”

    Most agents wouldn’t go on the record with me, for fear of retribution by the banks with whom they have to work every day. But one agent, Kayte Gentry, of Keller Williams Integrity First Realty, was brave enough to blow the whistle.

    “I think it’s wrong, and I think somebody needs to hold them accountable, and every time I lose a house in foreclosure because of this, it hurts my client,” says Gentry matter-of-factly. “Aside from being illegal and a violation of RESPA, it’s immoral and truly it’s just sad for the client that it’s hurting.”

    A little warning about civil unrest there at the end of the post too.

  22. cometman permalink*
    January 18, 2010 7:44 am

    Here’s something interesting. Most financial institutions are not subject to usury laws (something that ought to change IMO) but this financial guy wonders whether securitized debt is in fact subject to these laws and if so, what does that mean for the collectibility of such debts.

    My belief is that securitized pools are subject to usury laws, unless usury laws are specifically preempted for the type of debt that is held.

    ~snip~

    These aren’t mere academic questions. Securitization trusts hold around 60% of mortgage debt and 25% of other consumer debt. There’s no law directly on point, but if I’m correct, then usury could be raised as a viable defense to the collection of a sizable portion of consumer debt.

    Damn I’d love to see all credit card debt over a certain percentage declared usurious and therefore void. If the banks are going to get their Debt Jubilee, why not the rest of us? In the unlikely event this actually happens, I may have to go out and get a credit card :)

  23. artemis54 permalink
    January 18, 2010 11:01 am

    Speaking of bankers, hear much on tv about the idea of cancelling Haiti’s debt?

    Incredibly, the IMF is lauded for a new $100 million loan to Haiti. But do we hear anything about the neoliberal caps, freezes, constraints and levers written in to keep it captive to a predatory financial system?

    • sisdevore permalink
      January 18, 2010 11:30 am

      depressing to read about the IMF “loan” which is the ultimate scenario for the “Shock Doctrine”

      http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/14/naomi_klein_issues_haiti_disaster_capitalism

    • cometman permalink*
      January 18, 2010 1:08 pm

      Thanks for the links from both of you. Really, what do you expect from a country that sends in George W Bush to “help” as I just learned about today.

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