Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not so hot news for radio

Inside Radio is reporting the following this morning:
It’s official: Internet surpasses radio.
The internet is now the third largest ad-supported medium, behind television and print. Radio’s $100 million lead in 2007 evaporated as internet revenues grew 11% last year to $23.4 billion. That’s $3.9 billion more than radio.
Yikes. Of course, anyone reading the trades has seen this coming. Radio still gets a big draw of advertising. But the growth just hasn't been there, despite what all those takeover business plans said. That, and since anyone can start up a Web site, it is only bound to grow even more. Compare that to having to borrow hundreds of thousands just to acquire a small AM radio station or millions to acquire whole companies [BTW, there are a lot of deals out there].
But, earning money from the Web is much, much easier. There's just less of it, especially on the micro level. Even I'm earning money from the Internet: Amazon Kindle paid me 11 cents last quarter for downloads!
The key to the future will be how to gain consistent audience and monetize the Web long-term. Ideally, you want to do that without huge debts and as an individual owner-operator. That has yet to be figured out beyond the partisan bloggers and big corporate news sites though.

Googlecams capture UFOs!
Check this out: ["Google unearthly"].
It's probably the only net positive thing about all these cameras on everyone, everywhere. But wow, what a snapshot in time.

Hey UAW: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss ...

They are shocked, shocked that they would be treated harsher than the goons of Wall Street!: ["Workers say Obama treated autos worse than Wall St"].
Umm, hello, McFly, anybody in there? They can get bonuses but you can't get your health care! Obama filled his cabinet with a bunch of Clinton failures and other stooges. What were you expecting? Boo hoo ... But, you know, it won't matter, because when Obama gets done with health care, you'll have the same shitty plan the rest of us have. And, hopefully, cars produced by General Motors will be worth buying again.
Heck, my Honda has more American parts and more of it was produced by American labor than most GM cars these days. The difference? Honda makes a tank of a car and GM makes crap. Why would I go back to corporate America for any car? Not me, sorry.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dems get their billboard ...

This billboard will be in Rush Limbaugh's hometown of West Palm Beach.
This is pretty funny.
Although, the pill-popping, drug-dealing blowhard is, well, right to oppose some of Obama's plans. I mean, for eight years, the Democrats pummeled George W. Bush and his policies relentlessly. That's what the opposition is supposed to do. So, why is Rush not supposed to get his flock riled up about Obama? This is a whole lot of nothing ... but it is a pretty funny billboard!

'Frontline' show on public debt ...

I love watching PBS' "Frontline," one of the best news programs on television. And the latest entry on the national debt is another winner: ["Ten Trillion and Counting"].
It is probably one of the more balanced programs you will see on the issue, actually tackling it and telling people the truth. While it is true that tax cuts and spending under Bush expanded the debt bomb in a huge way, it has continued and been made worse in the first couple of months of the Obama Administration. To the point that Obama's budget is showing a $19 trillion debt in just a few years! And, when you think that this debt is essentially owned by the affluent who buy treasurer notes and the Chinese, who basically make and sell us everything, we have a major, major problem.
It would seem to me that the best thing is for the federal government to stop being a debtor nation. Simply put, we need to start paying down the debt and we need to do it as fast as possible. In order to do that, the government has to get back to a surplus budget - so we can start paying off the debt. There are only a few ways of doing this: Raising taxes, cutting spending, or some combination of both.
Ideally, we don't want to raise taxes, especially on working folks who can't make ends meet now. So, let's start by cutting spending first.
We can start by cutting the Pentagon budget. At almost $700 billion, it is one of the largest line items in the budget. Clearly we don't need to spend that much money on the defense of the country. Especially when you consider that a few terrorists with box cutters can take out buildings and kill thousands. An almost trillion dollar per year intelligence and military system couldn't stop that. As well, since we are in more than 100 different conflicts across the world, we need to start pulling back. If countries in Europe or Japan don't want us to pull back, they can pay for the services. Why are we spending $100 billion for NATO to protect Europe from no known enemies? It's supposedly $50 billion just to man bases in Japan. If they want the protection, let them pay for it. The taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for it.
After World War II, the military budget was cut by 90 percent. That money went to pay down the debt after the war and expand domestic services like the G.I. Bill and construction of the Interstate highway system. After the Cold War ended, similar cuts should have been made but weren't. Instead, the Congress and President fritted it all away until the Gulf War stuff started up. Once we "win" in Iraq and Afghanistan, we really need to do the same thing.
But why wait? We need the money now. The country is broke. We're the laughing stock of the world. If we cut the Pentagon budget in half and told them that they had to protect the nation with $350 billion, again, with the thought that we would pull our troops out of foreign wars and have those countries pay for their own defense, we would save $350 billion. They could do it; they will figure it out.
Other things that need to be eliminated is corporate welfare, subsidies, and giveaways, estimated to be around $400 billion. Technically, this could also be considered a tax increase. But it needs to be done.
There are other things in the budget we could easily cut, like wasteful foreign aid, an education department that doesn't educate a single child, among other things. But, it isn't going to be enough to get rid of $10 trillion in debt.
To be honest, while spending needs to be cut, taxes also need to be raised. Ideally, we need to limit the amount of taxes we nail ordinary folks with. Taxes also need to be raised on those things that aren't currently taxed. Right now, incomes are taxed in most states. Property is taxed in all states. So, let's take income and property off the table. Retail sales are also taxed on the state level. So, take that off. The Internet is not taxed but no one seems to want to do that. It could be done on a national or even international level. But it isn't going to happen. That doesn't leave too much.
Obviously, the government should close the tax haven loopholes. That would be a bit of money, who knows how much.
Another way is to raise tariffs on imported items. Right now, the trade deficit is so huge that we really don't have any other choice. The free trade economic system is a failed theory. It doesn't work. We all know it. Free trade has forced misery on most of the working families of our country. And yet, we continue to allow the MBA class to tell us otherwise - you know, the same folks that ran Wall Street into the ground.
In 2008, the United States imported $2.5 trillion worth of goods and services [and, BTW, it was mostly goods]. A very small 10 percent tariff on all imported goods would yield $251 billion in revenue which most consumers would never even notice. Sure, some who buy the more expensive items - $100 pair of Nikes would be $110; a $50,000 Mercedes would be $55,000; etc. - but most folks would never see it.
Now, according to economists, we live in a retail economy, since the bulk of our economy is based on retail sales. One of the reasons why things are so bad is that people aren't spending money. They aren't spending money because they either don't have any money or they fear for the future. When the public doesn't spend money in a retail economy, for whatever reason, well, that economy is never going to recover.
If and when people start shopping again, things may get better. But most of that money is going to continue going to China and Mexico, the places where most of our retail stuff is made. But, if we could bring those jobs back here, and people started spending again, the economy would not only rebound, but the rebound would be felt on Main Street.
Abraham Lincoln said it best after signing the Pacific Railroad Act which started the expansion of the rail from Iowa to California. Lincoln said, paraphrasing, If we get our steel for the railroad from British Steel, we'll have the rail and they'll have our money. But if we build the railroad with American steel, we'll have the rail and the money.
"Building the transcontinental railroad is widely considered one of the greatest achievements of the 19th century," Bob Turner, Union Pacific senior vice president, corporate relations, recently said, in honor of the 140 year anniversary of its completion. And it couldn't have been done without tariffs.
In fact, the Obama Administration could learn a lot from Lincoln, beyond the platitudes. As Anton Chaitkin notes in the American Almanac, Lincoln's "ultra-protectionist tariffs ... virtually forced into existence a new American steel industry." Along with upgrading agriculture, setting up a "free higher education throughout the United States through the Land Grant College system" and "reestablishing national control over banking, with cheap credit for productive purposes," Lincoln set the tone for economic recovery. While many like to extol the virtues of Lincoln, few really dig into what the guy did to save - and expand - the nation. Imagine an economic adviser suggesting that Obama follow the path of Lincoln, taking these steps to set the nation straight. Would they even get out of the White House alive?
Another tax that should be considered is a transaction tax on Wall Street products, as Ralph Nader mentioned in his column recently. While we don't pay sales tax in New Hampshire, we do pay 8.5 percent on rooms and meals. So, when I go out and buy steak tips at the 99 and help the retail economy, I get nailed for 8.5 percent. Other states also have sales taxes on almost everything. In Massachusetts, for example, it's 5 percent on retail products. But if I buy nine shares of some stock, I pay no tax. When I sell that stock again, I pay no tax. Clearly, some sort of transaction tax is in order. Nader suggests a 1/10th of 1 percent tax on investment transactions which would yield $500 billion. Why not more? Why not 1/5th of 1 percent? If we tax Scotch tape or a bicycle at 5 percent in Massachusetts or 9 percent in Florida, why can't we tax when a trader bets against a company? Seems reasonable to me.
So, with a few small changes - a 10 percent tariff, an extremely tiny tax on Wall Street transactions, elimination of corporate welfare, and a 50 percent cut in the military budget, our government would have more than $2 trillion to fix the debt bomb with little or no harm to the ordinary folks of the country. It could be done. It should be done. It could be done tomorrow.
Over a period of years, the national debt could be paid down and then we could tackle the next big round of problems, like health care, Medicaid/Medicare, and Social Security.
Problem solved, like most things, in about 15 minutes.
I'm interested in anyone else's thoughts on these matters. Feel free to chime in.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Since finally breaking down and buying an HD TV [I got a small one and it was a pretty good deal. Saved up for it for nearly two years ...], I have been fascinated by the "Planet Earth" series on DiscoveryHD.
The show, which is moderated by Sigourney Weaver, is just dazzling to watch. The camera angles and filming are tremendous and reveal a rare glipse of different parts of the planet that most of us will never actually get to see.
If you haven't seen it, do check it out here: ["Planet Earth"].

Boston Tea Party radio ...

Phil Keon, left, and Chuck Morse, host the Boston Tea Party radio program on three stations in eastern Massachusetts.
Last Friday, I sat in on two hours of talk radio with Chuck Morse and Phil Keon. It was, not unlike my February appearance, a good time. Chuck and Phil are now calling the show Boston Tea Party radio, which is a bit cooler than "Chuck and Phil," in my humble opinion. The topics ranged from the situation at the treasury to local politics and media.
Both Phil and Chuck take things from conservative standpoint so having me in the room puts a spin on things. Interestingly, or maybe not so, I found myself agreeing with them on issues more than disagreeing. I think last time Chuck said I was getting more conservative but I don't know. I think I'm just getting more realistic. Phil seems to take things from a more commonsense view while Chuck gets a bit more esoteric [this is meant to be a compliment]. And, admittedly, we all got off on tangents.
But, hey, would you rather have an intelligent conversation about real issues or talk about silly stuff like the other shows? Life is too short and things too complicated to allow yourself to get distracted by crap radio. And let me tell you, there is a lot of crap out there. Chuck and Phil get meaty, and I like that.
When the show gets posted online, I'll put up a link. Right now, you can find out more information about the show here: ["WBNW"].

Funny cartoon seen at some of the tea parties

I love this! I think it is so funny and great use of "Star Wars" imagery and lines:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Paying for the deficit

Guest Perspective/Ralph Nader
Where is the revenue coming from to help reduce the tidal waves of red ink during the massive deficit spending by Washington to bolster Wall Street greed, stimulate the economy and rescue homeowners?

The scale of federal deficit is witnessed by the new frequency with which the dollar word “trillions” is used in the news media. An adjustment of major proportions is needed. It was only ten years ago when economists projected out the Clinton’s budgetary surpluses as “as far as the eye can see.” They were scurrying to figure out how this surprising surplus was going to affect the U.S. Treasury bond market. How quaint!

So, who is going to have to pay more into the Treasury? Not the oil and gas industry whose advertised protests against removing unjustified tax breaks are saturating the radio and television stations. Not the real estate or defense industries. Certainly not the financial industry.

How about the very wealthy? Well Barack Obama is letting George W. “red-ink” Bush’s tax cuts expire. So people earning over $250,000 a year will pay more. Mr. Obama plans to give 95% of the taxpayers some tax relief. Granted the Federal Reserve is printing money big time now, in order to spend it fast.

The right-wing, commercially-funded Think-Tank establishment wants tax cuts across the board. And the Cato Institute’s fellows are also defending foreign tax havens! But most corporatists still want an even bigger military budget which already devours fifty percent of the entire federal government’s discretionary budget. Their faith is that future economic growth will dissipate deficits whose purpose ironically is to promote growth

On Capitol Hill—better described as Withering Heights during the past decade—there is little interest or fortitude to confront the revenue question.
Who or what can you tax more to make a difference on the massive deficits?

For starters, close the “tax gap” which is defined as the difference between taxes owed and taxes actually paid. This amount is estimated to be $290 billion every year by the IRS. Several thousand more IRS tax collectors will pay for themselves many times over and help preserve some public sense of fairness by those Americans who regularly do pay their taxes.

This figure of $290 billion does not include the huge tax shelters and offshore tax havens harboring trillions of dollars from U.S. corporations and very wealthy Americans who do not wish to share onshore tax responsibilities. Some members of Congress, notably Senator Byron Dorgan, want legislation to bring back some revenues from these tax escapees.

Another huge source of revenue, with very little if any fallout on the average taxpayer, would be a Wall Street sales tax on speculative derivatives (not stocks or bonds). With an estimated $500 trillion traded in such bets on bets or bets on debts last year, a 1/10th of 1% sales tax could bring in $500 billion yearly.

Consumers pay sales taxes in most states of 5 to 7 percent on necessities, while Wall Street’s casino gamblers buy trillions of dollars in derivatives and pay no sales tax. Unfair! Also such a transaction tax will help tamp down wild and destabilizing speculation, which has already pushed our economy to its knees.

A carbon tax would be another important source of revenue to keep the deficit lower and provide incentives to shift faster to energy efficiency and renewable energy such as various kinds of solar and geothermal.

There are other activities that our society as a whole would rather see diminished that can be subjected to increasing taxes. These could include the addictive and gambling industries and anti-social behavior such as corporate crime and fraud. Note that companies do not hesitate imposing “penalties” on consumers for far lesser infractions of their private, one-sided, fine print credit card and other form contracts.

Of course another $300 billion could come to the Treasury if Congress just restored the tax rates on corporate profits that were paid in the relatively prosperous nineteen sixties.

Then there is the reasonable argument that if taxes on “unearned income”—that is dividends and capital gains on investments—should never be lower than the tax on “earned income” by human labor. Well, today, taxes on the former—capital gains and dividends—can be half the rate as income taxes on work. Bringing them closer together could raise more revenue or bring down worker taxes in the process.

With huge deficits coming on like fiscal tornados for future repayment, Congress and President Obama have to face the music and stop dodging the question as to when they are going to be paid for and by whom?

Otherwise bankrupt corporate capitalism may be on its way to bankrupting its savior—Washington socialism!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Is this the first call for the impeachment of Barack Obama?

I think so ...

Tony on the radio ...

I'll be back on the radio this Friday, March 25, for two hours.
From 2 to 4 p.m., I'll be sitting in with Chuck and Phil on their new radio show on WBNW 1120 AM. The signal runs from Boston to Worcester, Nashua, N.H. to Brockton. The show is also heard on WPLM 1390 in Plymouth and WESO 970 in Southbridge/Webster.
To listen online, click here: ["WBNW"]. The call-in number is 888-205-2263. Feel free to chime in.
I was on the show back in February and it was a pretty good time. With the way things are going on in the country, it will probably be an even more interesting show this time around. I hope you can tune in.

Computer problems
I'm having some major computer problems. The HD blew out on my Gateway after two years. I thought it was because I was trying to upgrade to IE8 but it turns out that it just happened ... and these things do happen [I heard something about 100,000 HDs crash each week in this country ... yikes]. So, blogging will be limited over the next week.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


This is pretty shocking: ["Debt to the Penny"].

A few more things to read

Here are a few more things to read that were published recently.

First, more confusing news about the future of newspapers: ["If news is free, who can afford to gather it?"]. One of the good things about physically getting the print newspaper is that you actually force yourself to sit down and read it. With news online, it can be an arbitrary thing. Don't have time to catch up today? You don't go to the news site. I have found that happening to me more and more as I wean myself from print products in an effort to save money. I try to make the time to visit the sites online each day but it doesn't always work out that way.

Following that up is this, something I meant to post last week: ["Many Would Shrug if Their Local Newspaper Closed"]. How bad have things gotten? Many people would care less if their local newspapers shut down. Yikes! Well, I guess that they can't really say anything when something outrageous happens then can they? If you don't keep up with the news, you're bound to be victimized by the result.

And a good decision here from the state Supreme Court: ["E-mails fall short for fault-based divorce"]. As I was reading this story this morning I didn't realize until the end that I knew the guy involved in the case! I was working at a local radio station and he was doing a lot of work for the station. Over a couple of years, I got to know him very well and I recall when his wife first filed for divorce and how devastated he was. I mean, down to your soul devastated. He since has custody of his children and is doing fine without her. But the damage that she inflicted on the family based on absolutely nothing more than a flirty email to a former girlfriend and accusations he consistently and thoroughly denied is so very sad. I'm glad to read that the end result was even more good news for him and his family.

These next two stories should send a chill up your spine.

First, this overview of HR645 ["Preparing for Civil Unrest in America"], a bill "to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish national emergency centers on military installations," which should really prompt some discussion amongst the public but will be ignored by the mainstream press. These plans have been proposed before but didn't really gain much strength. With the way the economy is going though, just look at the numbers of people protesting at the homes of AIG employees, never mind outside the company's headquarters, I sense that some of the powerful people might be ready to prepare for the rounding up of Americans who feel dissent is the most powerful form of patriotism.
Of course, nothing will really happen so long as most Americans can afford cable television and the Internet. So long as there is the couch potato distraction, the government can get away with just about anything. I mean, they already have! And the other half just continues to fall in line. The hope-dope pusher Obama has been an unmitigated disaster and no one says boo except those crazy Republicans. What did one commenter say recently, that they never thought in a million years that the Obama people would come in and feloniously allow corporations to rob the country blind? Yeah, that just about sums it up. Corporate socialism on hyper-steroids. Yeah, we told you so!

And here's Danny Schecter, hardly a conspiracy theorist, who also connects the dots between HR645 and how the American people are really ticked off about the current financial crisis: ["Pitchforks and Protests: The Fury Down Below"]. What's most egregious about this is that the Obama Administration knew about these raises. They knew it was tucked into the bill and in a mad rush to pass these massive bills, no one in Congress read the documents! Of course, as others have stated, the raises at AIG and Freddy and Fannie are just distractions. The real issue comes back to not letting these companies fail in the first place. Too big to fail? Sorry, nothing is too big to fail. For once, can we let all the rich people lose everything instead of it always being the rest of us little people?

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has found out more outrage here: ["Kucinich: Bailout Money Going Overseas"].

And, let's close on a lighter note: Funny man Jimmy Tingle will be at the Tupelo in June: ["Jimmy Tingle Upcoming Events"]. If you've never seen the guy before, he's hilarious. Well worth the $25! His string of shows in Massachusetts are being billed as "Jimmy Tingle's Laughter Stimulus Plan" ... yuck, yuck.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A few pieces worth taking the time to read

Both kinda take a look at the "state" of America.
First, this interesting essay from this month's Vanity Fair: ["Rethinking the American Dream"].
From Rolling Stone, an overview of the financial situation: ["The Big Takeover"].
This, from Common Dreams: ["Barack Obama and the Altar of Greed"]. Yeah, Obama, as dumb as a bag of hammers.
And lastly, this: ["Is this the end of America?"].

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pummeling Patrick ...

Dan Kennedy has a roundup of some of the pundits commenting on Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick's performance of late: ["Pundits on Patrick: Not a pretty picture"].
This is, of course, an understatement.

What can Bush teach us?

Guest Perspective/Ralph Nader

George W. Bush is hitting the lecture circuit. Represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau, Mr. Bush for a fee of at least $150,000 flew up to Calgary, Canada and spoke to a conservative business audience amidst street protests.

He also has signed a book contract with Crown Publishers tentatively titled “Decision Points” about a dozen personal and presidential decisions ranging from giving up booze to choosing Dick Cheney to invading Iraq.

Now that he is becoming a lecturer and an author, why not also be a teacher? The 43rd president has much to teach Americans about how weak their democracy is—rights, institutions, processes and the sovereignty of the people.

His first lecture to students could be how he and Cheney violated, circumvented and trampled our Constitution. It was as if they replaced the opening preamble of “we, the people” with “we, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.”

Early in his Administration, Mr. Bush showed a determination to pick up on King George III and root himself in something called “the inherent powers of the Presidency,” often called the “unitary Presidency.” With that, King George IV was establishing his unilateral kingdom, though instead of invoking his divine right, his mantra was the “war on Terror.”

He became the most recidivist criminal president, the most variously impeachable president on a regular day-to-day basis in American history. Violating repeatedly our Constitution, laws and treaties, Mr. Bush warred, terrorized, tortured, imprisoned without charges, illegally snooped on masses of Americans and set a record for signing statements saying he “the decider” would determine which laws he signed he would obey and when. And that’s just what is public knowledge so far from a very secretive regime.

The ways this outlaw President devastated the rule of law has been well documented in many firsthand accounts of former members of his government in the military, intelligence, and diplomatic service. The lies and deceptions that took our country to war, with immense loss of life and limb, and turned the rights and lives of millions of families upside down have been the material of many books, public hearings and admissions. Even the conservative American Bar Association condemned the Bush White House three times for unconstitutional practices.

Mr. Bush taught us how cowardly the Congress could be in not defending its constitutional authorities and the crucial checks and balances to hold the White House accountable. He taught us the degree of abdication by the major opposition Democratic Party which allowed him and his ilk to do what they did and to leave office on January 20, 2009 without being subjected to impeachment and trial, without even being subjected to a Congressional censure resolution.

He taught us that the courts, with few exceptions, cannot be counted on to defend the constitution from the marauding President—avoiding doing so by excuses that these seizures of power are “political questions.” Sure, Bush going to war without a declaration of war is too political? Tell that to Jefferson, Madison and other founding fathers who made a big matter out of taking away the war-making authority from any future would-be monarch and decisively repositing it with the Congress.

He taught us how easily you could fool, manipulate, delay or intimidate the mainstream media into becoming a cheerleader for war and a collaborator in covering up what a few intrepid reporters uncovered.

He showed that truth is indeed the first casualty of war and that lies have no consequences for him other than a 70% disapproval rating.

He did tell the truth, however, when he announced to a big business audience in Texas early in his first term that they were “his base.” Acting like a corporation masquerading as a human in the White House, Mr. Bush pursued policies unleashing the greed and control of Wall Street that tanked the economy and destroyed trillions of dollars of the people’s money in an orgy of reckless speculation.

As Jamal Simmons wrote recently, “Unlike the story of King Midas, everything Bush touched turned to coal.”

Mr. Bush threw the gauntlet down to 800,000 American lawyers and unlike the marching Pakistani lawyers, only a handful such as Michael Greco, Ramsay Clark, David Cole and Jonathan Turley took up his challenge. The vast majority of lawyers went about their own business, shrugging off what it means to be “officers of the court.”

Bush, former American Caesar tore the pretense off our democratic pretensions. By not holding him and his top collaborators responsible for violating the constitutional, criminal and civil laws of the land, those persons, entrusted with their observance, took a holiday. These outrageous practices—still unchecked—are becoming institutionalized as illustrated in the several (but not all) ways that President Obama is continuing Bush’s legacy of license.

Democracies when they are eroded must show resiliency to recover and strengthen what was lost by way of freedom and justice. Otherwise the erosions fester and deepen. Who, you might ask, must be the tribunes of such resiliency? You will not find them now in officialdom.

The wise early twentieth century judge, Learned Hand, gave us the compass. He wrote these words: “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

Freedom Watch files amended complaint to force disclosure of Bush/Obama bailout policies

From the inbox:
Freedom Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption to promote and protect freedom, is filing an amended complaint against the Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury regarding the $700 billion dollar bailout of this country's prodigal corporate deadbeats, under the pretenses of the so-called "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008". Freedom Watch filed a FOIA request in December and again in February with these two agencies in order to obtain information relating to the bailout, specifically, who is deciding which companies should receive funds; how are the decisions being made; what documents are being submitted by these companies to justify assistance of them; and what are the names of all the companies receiving funds?
These are some basic questions to which Freedom Watch, on behalf of the American people, demands answers. The Bush Administration used fear-mongering and scare tactics to cow the public into listless obedience as they pushed through a bill in a matter of weeks that amounted to nothing more than subsidizing failure and rewarding rich Wall Street executives for making losing bets on an epic scale. Once the floodgates were opened up by Treasury Chairman Hank Paulson (Bush Administration), they have continued unabated under Tim Geithner (Obama Administration). It is helpful to look at these two individuals, Paulson and Geithner, to see what roles they played in this crisis, because this can offer insight into their subsequent actions.
Paulson was the CEO of Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs from 1998 to 2006, during which time he fostered a very special relationship with the Chinese government elite, visiting the country 70 times and no doubt encouraging them to invest in America through equity and debt ownership. During his tenure at Goldman and later as Treasury Chairman, he is best remembered for pushing for lower capital requirements for banks and less oversight, instead asserting in 2007 that, "An open, competitive, and liberalized financial market can effectively allocate scarce resources in a manner that promotes stability and prosperity far better than governmental intervention." One can only wonder if he still holds this same view in light of the economic disaster that has since befallen our country.
Tim Geithner has been involved in international trade and finance his entire life, his first notable experience being with Kissinger and Associates and then later in 1998 as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs where he served under then Treasury Secretary and close personal mentor Robert Rubin. If you recall, Rubin was an instrumental player along with Alan Greenspan in ensuring that derivatives markets remained free from government regulation, and he also worked for Goldman Sachs for 26 years before briefly serving as Chairman of Citigroup. Before Geithner's appointment by Obama, he headed up the largest of Federal Reserve banks, the New York Fed, beginning in 2003 and was also Vice Chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, the private committee that dictates and manipulates monetary policy for the entire United States, God-like in its sway over world financial markets.
These two extremely influential and powerful individuals, Timothy Geithner and Henry Paulson, have been notable architects of US policy on regulation and oversight of financial markets, and therefore controlled the fate of all US companies by extension. They essentially created the market conditions that allowed companies to take enormous risks, thereby putting the entire US financial system in jeopardy. Whereas once, they represented financial interests in the private sphere and pushed the government for favorable policies from the outside, they later went on to become a part of that same public sphere, where they could directly set policy that would influence these same private interests they once represented. Once the system that they helped to create began to falter, they used their power as Treasury Secretary to inject hundreds of billions of dollars into these same institutions that they once were a part of.
Freedom Watch Chairman Larry Klayman states, "What we have in this country, is a confluence of the public and private sectors. The individuals at the upper echelons of the corporate world transfer seamlessly into the upper echelons of government and vice-versa. The conflict of interest is enormous, as those who were once lobbying for lax regulation and oversight, are now the ones charged with setting those same policies. Similarly, those companies that are now receiving hundreds of billions of bailout dollars are the same companies that were once headed by top administration officials. This is corrupt, this is shameful, and we, on behalf of the American people, are not going to take it lying down."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Seven Avoidance Indicators

Guest perspective/Ralph Nader
Indicators of avoidance are what come to mind while absorbing the various rescue, recovery, stimulus and guarantee programs coming out of the Obama Administration to slow and reverse a splintering and shattering economy. If the Obamites do not act now when the political time is ripest, to put into motion forces of deterrence and prevention, the casino capitalists of tomorrow will again be able to de-stabilize our economy.

The other day I saw Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, just about predicting another round of recklessness in about fifteen years. But he called it “human nature” not casino capitalism.

Here are seven avoidance indicators which outline what Washington is not doing to prevent another round of greed and misdeeds by the Wall Street few against the innocent many throughout the country.

1. Where are the resources for comprehensive law enforcement against the Wall Street crooks, swindlers and purveyors of costly deceptive practices? Isn’t there a need to add two to three hundred million dollars for more FBI agents, prosecutors and corporate crime attorneys under the Justice Department to obtain the fines and disgorgements which will far exceed in dollars what is spent by the forces of law and order?

Americans want justice. They want jailtime not bailtime for these crooks. Look how many of the swindled just turned out in a New York City winter to let Bernard Madoff have a piece of their mind as he entered the courtroom and immediate imprisonment.

There has been very little movement so far in Congress or the White House toward this necessary action.

2. Where are the anti-trusters to revive the moribund divisions in the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commision? Failed banks, brokerage firms, and now insurance companies are being taken over by shaky acquirers, often with the encouragement of the federal government. Other industries are experiencing similar mergers and acquisitions in an already over-concentrated economy.

Our government needs to be on top of this accelerating creation of more companies deemed to be “too big to fail.” A variety of antitrust policies are needed to prevent, restructure or, at least, require spinoffs to minimize the anti-competitive effects of the “urge to merge.”

3. What about Congress and Obama shifting some power to the investors and shareholders who are paying for all these losses? The corporate bosses have made sure for many years that shareholders, who own their companies, have little or no right to control them. Had there been less of a gap between ownership and control, the bosses could never have engaged in such reckless speculation, looting and draining of the trillions of dollars with which they were entrusted. These include mutual funds, pension funds and various trusts. Power to the owners seems to be off the table.

4. The federal officials are talking up stronger regulation and re-regulation proposals but we have not yet been informed of their specific plans. There is not much talk of regulatory prohibition. That is, flat-out prohibition of banks, insurance companies, and other fiduciary institutions from speculating in derivatives or, to be more specific, bets on debts and the even more hyped creations of bets on bets on debts on debts.

5. By now, Washington should be devising ways to pay for these gigantic deficits and bailouts. A fraction of one percent sales tax on the hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivative transactions annually would produce hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue and tamp down some of this Wall Street gambling with other peoples’ money.

Such a tax on speculative trades in these abstract instruments can make the Wall Streeters pay for their own bailouts and reduce some of the taxes on human labor.

6. Our government doesn’t highlight not-for-profit institutions like the 8000 credit unions that are increasing their loans and continue to serve over 80 million Americans without a single insolvency. One would think that with the financial goliaths in a free fall, despite ever-larger bailouts from the federal government, that the cooperative model of credit unions would become a useful teaching instrument.

In his new paperback book, "Agenda for a New Economy," David Korten makes an important distinction between the “phantom wealth” of Wall Street and the “real wealth” of Main Street.

His 12-point agenda raises the fundamental question of why Wall Street is needed and how the functions of a just and progressive economy can be fulfilled with a sensible transition to a “real wealth” economy engaged by and accountable to real people striving for the necessities and wants of life through environmentally friendly, more efficient institutions.

Lest any remaining doubters out there are thinking about our country returning to business as usual Wall Street style, please read the confidential powerpoint presentation “AIG: Is the Risk Systemic?” by the AIG financial giant grasping $180 billion, so far, in federal aid and guarantees

In 21 pages of very large type, you will see why the AIG bosses believe that failure of their gigantic corporation would only “trigger a cascading set of further failures which cannot be stopped except by extraordinary means.” In other words, AIG says to Uncle Sam and you the taxpayer save it or be prepared for a global collapse through a dominoes effect of unknown catastrophic sequences. For the full astonishing AIG text, see: http://www.aig.com/Related-Resources_385_136430.html. Right from the horse’s mouth!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

WMFO to complete major technical renovation

This is exciting news from the station where I got my first start in radio more than 16 years ago! Congratulations to them!! From the inbox:
WMFO, Tufts Freeform Radio, is proud to announce that the station will be undergoing a major technical upgrade during the upcoming week of spring break. This upgrade has been made possible through a large grant approved by the Tufts Community Union Senate this past February. The upgrade will convert the station's current analog audio system, installed in the late 1970s, to a state-of-the-art digital audio system. In order to complete this renovation, the station will power down at noon on Saturday, March 14 with plans to resume normal programming a week later at noon on Sunday, March 22.
WMFO broadcasts on 91.5FM and online at www.wmfo.org. WMFO is a community radio station located in Curtis Hall on the Medford campus of Tufts University. The station is completely student managed and broadcasts shows hosted by both student and community member DJs. Currently the station is host to about 200 DJs, whose shows cover a wide variety of both talk and music.
WMFO applied for the granted funds as part of the Student Activities Recovered Funds application process. These funds were initially provided to the TCU Senate as part of the settlement following the embezzlement scandal involving two former Tufts administrators who were accused of stealing almost $1 million from the accounts of various student groups in 2007. Of the total amount of the settlement, about $87,000 has been made available by the Senate to student groups for the purpose of funding projects that would otherwise go unfunded. WMFO applied for and received about $32,000 of these funds. This amount, supplemented by about $4,000 from WMFO's annual budget, will be used to complete the upgrade project.
The bulk of the upgrade consists of installing a new audio transport system in the station. This system controls the flow of audio around the station and serves as the heart of the radio station's broadcast audio capabilities. The new system uses Ethernet technology, identical to that used in home networking and VoIP applications, to move audio from spot to spot around the station. DJs can control this flow from a new digital control board in the primary studio. After completing a competitive bidding process, Axia Audio (www.axiaaudio.com) was selected as the provider of the new equipment.
The upgrade will also consist of installing a new computer system in the station that will allow CDs and other digital files to be accessed directly from a primary computer terminal. This will replace the current system under which DJs have to search for music in a physical CD library. These computers will also include a broadcast automation system which will ensure that WMFO remains on the air 24/7.
The new systems, will put WMFO's technological capabilities on par with, or exceeding, those of many professional radio stations and will allow the station to continue to operate reliably for the next 10-15 years. The system also sets the station up for future upgrades such as remote broadcasting capabilities and the transition to Digital FM.
The upgrade project will be completed by a number of WMFO student DJs and community member volunteers who will be staying at Tufts over spring break. Upon completion, WMFO will return to the airwaves at 91.5FM and streaming online at www.wmfo.org.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Truth in Accounting says debt soon to top $11T

From the inbox:
Be The First To Know: America's Official Debt Will Soon Top $11 Trillion

This week, the official debt of the United States of America will top $11 trillion, just 165 days after hitting $10 trillion. "To increase the debt at this alarming rate is just plain scary," said Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of the Institute for Truth in Accounting, the Northbrook, Illinois based accounting watchdog organization.

The absolute size and the growth of the nation's obligations are alarming.

"In round numbers, U.S. debt will shortly cross the $100,000 level for every household in America." said Weinberg. "There is no parallel to this amount of absolute debt in American history, even during our wars and recessions. For example, the U.S. debt at the end of World War II was $258 billion or just $2.8 trillion in today's dollars."

Total U.S. obligations have ballooned since the economy turned down. "The Federal government is bailing out banks, the auto industry and the housing market," said Roger Nelson, the Institute's chairman. "At the rate the feds are borrowing I am wondering who is going to bail out our country?"

The U.S. government has risen to an unprecedented $11 trillion. That's up from $9.4 trillion just one year ago. Debt held by the public has grown by nearly $1.4 trillion or a whopping 25.8%. Nelson said, "The growth in our 'public' debt concerns me, because an increasing proportion of 'the public'' are actually foreigners who may not have our nation's best interests in mind."

This official debt is only part of the nation's obligations-unfunded liabilities and social insurance promises are more than five times greater. Find out more and keep an eye on the rising debt by viewing our spinning debt clock at: www.truthinaccounting.org.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Public hearings on state budget continue

From the inbox:
The House Finance and Ways and Means committees opened their budget “road show” in Salem Monday night to an overflow crowd of more than 200.
The crowd was so large at Salem High School that it filled the media room and the cafeteria, where testimony was heard over the loud speaker system. Seventy five people testified over a four-hour period.
“This is exactly why we are conducting these public hearings at night outside of Concord,” said Finance Committee Chair Marjorie Smith (D-Durham). “We want to hear from the people who will be affected by our decisions on the budget.”
Monday’s night’s testimony ranged in topics from alcohol and tobacco programs, the corrections system, district courts, catastrophic illness, personal in-home care attendants and gambling. More than 20 cities and towns were represented, from as far east as Hampton and as far north as Dover.
The committees travel next to Claremont on Thursday, where the hearing will be at the River Valley Community College at 6 p.m., and Monday, March 16, in Whitefield at the White Mountains Regional High School at 6 p.m.
“We are taking testimony on House Bill 1 and House Bill 2,” Smith said, preparing for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
“Some people are under the misconception we will be hearing testimony on the capital budget, HB25, which is not the case,” she said.
The public is encouraged to attend the hearings. Sign-up sheets to speak will be available. Written testimony will also be accepted.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Bottomless Bailout

Guest Perspective/Ralph Nader

Does anybody in the federal government know or could know “who, what, where and when” of the massive, complex, vertical, horizontal, global collapse of Wall Street and its planetary tentacles in over 100 countries abroad? Step forward if you exist! Uncle Sam needs you!

Is the multi-million dollar bailout of this financial mess and house of cards, this phantom wealth mummy hitting air beyond the federal governments’ salvage capability?

It is relatively easy to announce hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate rescue programs here and hundreds of billions of dollars of guarantees of corporate recklessness there and trillions of dollars of assorted stimulus, loan availabilities and foreclosure prevention initiatives in all directions. Now comes the rubber hitting the road.

Where are the skilled people to be hired by the federal agencies—the administrators, field implementers, auditors, financial whizzes able to understand the complexity of greed and over-reach; the inspectors, prosecutors and contract negotiators to name a few categories?

In other words, how are a hurried President Obama and his deputies going to rapidly build up the infrastructure of the federal government itself to advance all these “public works” efficiently and to avoid expenditure disasters amidst a potential orgy of waste, fraud and abuse by the coast to coast recipients?

So many of the federal government’s functions have been contracted out to corporations and consulting firms under Clinton and the Bushes that there is a serious dearth of skilled civil servants. Moreover, Obama has indicated he wants this work done by an accountable government and not by Halliburton-type outside contractors at greater expense to taxpayers.

Knowing and doing have to go hand in hand. Some Congressional Committees have finally gotten around to asking the basic questions about what is actually going on inside companies like the giant financial conglomerate AIG. Since the Goliath’s near collapse in September, the federal government has committed $160 billion to keep it from splattering its reckless red ink over small businesses, municipalities, 401(k) plans, policyholders and of course the Fortune 500 big companies led by the omnipresent Goldman Sachs bank.

At a Senate hearing on March 5, to review yet another $30 billion in rescue funds, Senators from both parties demanded that the Federal Reserve make public the names of the parties benefiting from all this taxpayer largesse. These include the derivatives trading partners (eg credit default swappers) who have received tens of billions of these dollars passing from Washington through AIG to them.

Sens. Chris Dodd, Richard Shelby and Jim Bunning went after Donald L. Kohn, the vice-chairman of the Fed board of governors who finally promised he would ask the other governors to reconsider their corporate privacy policy under these megabailouts. Don’t hold your breath!

Surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal editorial writers weighed in three days earlier about this fourth ever-sweeter rescue of AIG. in six months. In an editorial titled “AIG’s Black Box” the Journal thundered: “Perhaps someday the feds will even explain to taxpayers which AIG creditors had to be rescued and why…..try figuring out exactly who benefits when taxpayer money arrives at the insurance giant.”

Besides rebuilding the federal workforce and finding out what is going on inside casino capitalism begging for bailouts, the Obama Administration is wading into an administrative nightmare that could run through trillions of mis-directed dollars and not turn around a deep Recession plunging toward Depression.

When dealing with esoteric gambling chips called “derivatives” that are bets on bets on debts on debts, more than astute regulations and prosecutions are needed to punish, disgorge and deter present and future self-paid corporate crooks looting and draining other people’s pensions and savings. What is essential is that the federal surgeons have to know just where to apply their scalpel on the continuum spanning the big predators to the millions of direct and indirect victims.

So, during the next Congressional hearings featuring government witnesses from the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department and the securities, insurance and banking regulatory agencies, the Senators should start with four direct questions:

1.Just what is it that you do NOT understand about what is going on inside this widening Wall Street mess?
2.Why don’t you understand what you need to know?
3.How are you going to use your powers to achieve such understanding?
4.Finally, if these corporations like AIG are too big to fail, too secret to fail and overwhelmingly global in structure and operations, why aren’t you asking other governments to pitch in with their own rescue packages and tell you what they know?

As one solid small town banker in Indiana put it recently: “If these big companies are too big to fail, then they’re too big.”

Friday morning link dump ...

Well, I haven't been feeling so hot the last couple of days. Spring can't come fast enough at this point. I have a bunch of links piled up and I need to get rid of them so here it goes.

A couple of months ago we had an ice storm across the Northeast that left thousands without power for weeks on end. Electrical workers from across the country came up here to assist getting everyone back on the grid.
We were, thankfully, only without power for about eight or nine hours during the evening. Our immediate neighbors were not so lucky - they were without power for four days. Although, our Internet and cable was out for four days.
It was creepy at night, driving back from work, along a slew of Concord streets with no power, no streetlights, no nothing.
At the time, I started wondering whether it was time to make the commitment to bury the power and utility lines around the state. I mean, it was only an half-inch ice storm. What if it had been more?
Well, WMUR-TV produced this report looking at the costs: ["Should NH's Power Lines Be Buried To Avoid Blackouts?"].
Three dollars a month doesn't sound like a heck of a lot of money when you consider what we went through that week. The amount of lost productivity time and money would more than offset that expense. As well, this is a long-term investment on the grid. When we all start having our plug-in cars, we're going to need a stronger delivery system of power ... assuming we don't all have solar panels and windmills to charge our battery cars.

Aging Sen. Robert Byrd has raised some interesting points about concentration of powers in the Obama Administration: ["Byrd: Obama in power grab"].

One of the cool things about Facebook is that you get to run into old friends. Artist Lindsay Riggs Brown and I used to work at a restaurant called Thursdays here in Concord. They had great food and just about everyone who worked there was pretty nice. It's now an Indian place, BTW. Well, I ran into her on Facebook recently after not speaking to her for about 17 years. She has a pretty cool poetry blog here: ["Berkeley's Trees"].

Am I alone in thinking that the public has seen enough of the Octomom and her nonsense?

Band name of the month: ["The Whore Moans"].

Time Magazine has this overview of the financial crisis: ["25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis"].
Also in Time was this article about the newspaper business: ["How to Save Your Newspaper"].
It's a complicated time made all the more difficult by waning interest in issues and content that are serious in nature. I still am amazed by people who won't spend a few minutes to analyze a serious issue but will go on and on about some movie or sports star. It dumbfounds me. Seriously.

Sarah Palin fans have launched a new Web site: ["Team Sarah"].

Can this be done?: ["New Hampshire Family of Four Trying to Live on $1,500 for the Year"]. I recall seeing this family on television and even went to their blog a couple of times. But now, the blog has disappeared, apparently taken down due to threats. Wow.