Wealth Inequality from Al Jazerra’s Front Lines

August 4, 2011

It’s 25 minutes but worth watching should you have the time. Imagine the U.S. media talking the issue of wealth inequality as straight forward as this:


Matt Damon is cool

August 2, 2011

Matt Damon – whose stature is not to be questioned – stands up for teachers and stands up to Libertarian simple-think. How you like them apples?


What a debt ceiling deal will mean to you in one paragraph

July 31, 2011

“From the perspective of a rational person, we shouldn’t even be talking about spending cuts at all now,” Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour. “We have nine percent unemployment. These spending cuts are going to worsen unemployment… If you have a situation in which you are permanently going to raise the unemployment rate — which is what this is going to do — that’s actually going to reduce future revenues.”

Get ready to share some shoulder all the sacrifice.


This exists in the world

July 25, 2011

A gold-plated super-yacht that is claimed to be worth a staggering £3 billion ($4.5 billion) has taken the title of the most expensive in the world.

UK designer Stuart Hughes claims that the 30-metre long History Supreme yacht is adorned with 100,000 kilograms of gold and platinum that covers more than half its surface and even comes with a statue made from the bone of a T-Rex dinosaur.

The base of the yacht as well as the deck, dining areas, rails and anchor are wrapped in solid gold and the sleeping areas are covered in platinum.

There is also a wall feature in the master bedroom that is made from meteoric stone and an aquarium made from 68kg of 24 carat gold.

Also on board is a luxury liquor bottle featuring an 18.5ct diamond, one of the world’s rarest.

Sources say the yacht is powered by the hunger and broken dreams of millions of poor people. Mind you, the owner of the boat is a job creator, so it’s cool.


Follow the money

July 25, 2011

At least some people are getting paid. Via the Washington Post (Subscription needed):

While the U.S. economy is struggling, U.S. corporations aren’t.

A third of the way through the second-quarter reporting season, earnings at companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index are the highest in four years, according to S&P analyst Howard Silverblatt, who predicts the second half will be even stronger. Yet there is little indication that the strong results will jump-start the U.S. economy and get the millions of Americans idled by the recession back to work.

Blessed be the job creators. Now the rest of you get your resumes in order and ignore the person behind the corporate logo.


These aren’t the 1960s

July 20, 2011

Today vs 1960s: Comparing eras, economies, society on Twitpic

HT Barry Ritholtz & Center for American Progress


Chrysler announces first profit since bailout – better than a bullet in the eye

May 3, 2011

As America celebrates President Barack Obama’s birth certificate as well as Osama bin Laden’s new eye hole, one bit of news managed to get by that will likely have a bigger effect on the U.S. – Chrysler announced a profit:

Chrysler has posted its first quarterly net profit since declaring bankruptcy almost two years ago, Reuters reports.  

The Fiat-controlled brand’s first quarter net income came to $116 million, with a total increase in revenue of around 35 percent to $13.1 billion.  

The company’s success can be traced partially to several redesigned vehicles, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Additionally, the overall vehicle price rose to $28,300 in the first quart, from $27,300 a year ago.  

Chrysler has been posting operational profits, but the cost of high interest on loans the company owes from its 2009 bailout have damaged its ability to post a net profit.

For those of you struggling to recall, the bailout of Chrysler – according to Republicans - was more or less going to be the end of capitalism, if not the world in general.


“Just giving them $25 billion doesn’t change anything. It just puts off for six months or so the day of reckoning.” — Sen. Jon Kyl.

“[The bailout] was all about the unions. The unions didn’t want to have their very generous contracts renegotiated so we put $80 billion into both General Motors and Chrysler, and anybody believes that Chrysler is going to survive, I’d like to meet them.” — Sen. John McCain.

“We gave $14-$15 billion to General Motors and Chrysler, and both of them probably will end up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.” — Rep. Dan Burton

“The government has forced taxpayers to buy these failing companies without any plausible plan for profitability.” – Sen. Jim Demint.

 “This is an unprecedented takeover from the private sector by this administration…It is totally unconstitutional, it’s totally against freedom, it’s totally unprecedented, and it’s exactly the same thing that Hugo Chávez is doing down in Venezuela.”Rep. Paul Braun.

What did Obama have to say about it?

“For the auto industry to completely collapse would be a disaster in this kind of environment,” Obama said. “So my hope is that over the course of the next week, between the White House and Congress, the discussions are shaped around providing assistance but making sure that that assistance is conditioned on labor, management, suppliers, lenders, all of the stakeholders coming together with a plan — what does a sustainable U.S. auto industry look like?”

It seems we may be starting to see what a sustainable U.S. auto industry looks like. Regardless, this has been what we pundit types like to call “A really good week for Obama.”


Crossposted at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles

The first rule of Starving the Beast is you do not mention “Starving the Beast”

April 18, 2011

There was nothing the least bit brave about Paul Ryan’s GOP budget that would slash the social safety net and enrich the already rich. Ryan’s work – like all his work – is partisan cowardice based on a long-held Conservative strategy – Starve the Beast.

Of course, this is not something you can speak of in polite conversation. As an Andrew Sullivan reader pointed out to him:

Indeed, it is the culmination of about a thirty year Republican strategy called “starve the beast,” by which Republicans have worked to reduce taxes and increase the national deficit as large as possible – all to create the supposed “deficit crisis” that we now face and to use that crisis to eliminate programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and a slew of other programs (EPA, SEC, Planned Parenthood, collective bargaining, etc.) that the Republican class has never been able to eliminate through the democratic process. This “starve the beast” Republican strategy has been openly acknowledged for years and I know you are well aware of it. And the Ryan “budget plan” is transparently an attempt to cash in on this long-standing political agenda.

So, frankly, why is there no acknowledgment by you of this?

Sullivan, of course, was not having anything to do with that line of argument, and, in fact, completely avoided discussing it in his response:

There is, in as much as I have detailed my objections to a budget balancing plan that raises no new revenues. But the proposals on Medicare and Medicaid would undoubtedly cut costs over the long run, and would obviously inflict sacrifice on many Americans. That’s why I remain of the view that the debate kicked off by Ryan is a good thing, because for the first time, the GOP has essentially owned and fessed up to the human costs of fiscal reform. From Reagan to W, with the great exception of George HW Bush, Republicans have told us we can have our cake and eat it. That’s not the tone of Ryan’s austerity. And that alone is worth something.

What makes Sullivan’s give-and-take even more interesting is a check of Google News for the term “Starve the Beast.” There are only 60 mentions of the term in U.S. media sources. So what is the “Starve the Beast” strategy? Paul Krugman gave a good lesson in it more than a year ago, accurately predicting what we’d be seeing from Republicans today:

[E]ver since Reagan, the G.O.P. has been run by people who want a much smaller government. In the famous words of the activist Grover Norquist, conservatives want to get the government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

But there has always been a political problem with this agenda. Voters may say that they oppose big government, but the programs that actually dominate federal spending — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — are very popular. So how can the public be persuaded to accept large spending cuts?

The conservative answer, which evolved in the late 1970s, would be dubbed “starving the beast” during the Reagan years. The idea — propounded by many members of the conservative intelligentsia, from Alan Greenspan to Irving Kristol — was basically that sympathetic politicians should engage in a game of bait and switch. Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit.

And the deficit came. True, more than half of this year’s budget deficit is the result of the Great Recession, which has both depressed revenues and required a temporary surge in spending to contain the damage. But even when the crisis is over, the budget will remain deeply in the red, largely as a result of Bush-era tax cuts (and Bush-era unfunded wars). And the combination of an aging population and rising medical costs will, unless something is done, lead to explosive debt growth after 2020.

So the beast is starving, as planned. It should be time, then, for conservatives to explain which parts of the beast they want to cut. And President Obama has, in effect, invited them to do just that, by calling for a bipartisan deficit commission.

The current “Starve the Beast” brigade of Ryan and his Yes-men Republicans are not doing anything brave with their slash-and-burn budget. If Ryan were truly the type that cared about budget deficits, he wouldn’t have given a thumbs up to George W. Bush’s entire “screw the deficit and economy.” And he wouldn’t have agreed that having too much of a budget surplus was a bad thing, as he did in 2001.

The Republicans are trying to put the finishing touches on their master plan of making the United States into some type of strange Libertarian-Theocratic nation. They broke the budget on purpose, and are now attempting to reap rewards for both themselves and their big-money donors. If Ryan hadn’t scrawled out a an anti-Medicare, anti-humanist budget, some other Republican would have. It’s a long-term strategy and Ryan is only playing his part, after all.

But despite how obviously this plan has worked and how obvious the next step is, the media, Republicans and Democrats seem to be unable to conjure up the name. Because the rules of “Starve the Beast” demand you never speak of “Starve the Beast.”


Parents to fix household finances by cutting child’s allowance

March 9, 2011

DES MOINES – Having declared that their current budgetary path is “unsustainable,” Bob & Peggy Thompson of Des Moines today announced that they will be cutting the $1-a-week allowance they give to their 5-year-old child, Jessica.

“Having gone over our current budget deficit, we have come to the realization that sacrifices will have to be made,” said Bob Thompson, 44. “These cuts may not be popular in the short-term, but are necessary for our household to rein in our spending.”

The Thompson’s currently are running a $1.7 million yearly deficit. No other cuts outside of Jessica’s allowance were announced.

While announcing the cuts to young Jessica’s allowance, the Thompson also unveiled a list of budgetary items that are “untouchable,” including: Jet Skis, maintenance of the family bomb shelter, cell phone, satellite television, gun collection, car collection, baseball card collection, masseuse, house cleaner, or anything that “could negatively affect the emotional or physical state” of the two main employers of the household – Bob and Peggy Thompson.

“What’s important is that Jessica learns to sacrifice for the betterment of the household in general,” said Peggy Thompson, who, like Bob, is a hedge fund manager. “She may not understand now, but it’s for her own good.”

Reached for comment, Jessica Thompson states she felt the cuts were short-sighted and would inhibit growth.

“It’s nawt faaaaiiiwwwwwrrrr,” said Jessica Thompson.


“Crazy Eddie” Fraudster Sam Antar to return to crime – thanks to Darrell Issa & Anti-Regulation Republicans

February 11, 2011

Sam Antar, one of the architects of the “Crazy Eddie” fraud of the 1980s, has examined the current state of politics and has made an important decision – He’s going back to crime.

After the SEC took down the Crazy Eddie’s scam, Antar has spent his time working as a whistleblower. But with the likes of Darrell Issa and Michele Bachman representing the Republican Party,  Antar has decided to give up the clean life and make his glorious comeback to a life of crime.

In an exclusive interview, Antar – who has previously called White-collar crime more devastating than many other crimes due to the number of people it can hurt – said that the time was perfect for a White-Collar criminal like him to get back into the game.

“Now, crime is easy and much more profitable. We have Republicans like Bachmann and Issa who are making the world safer for criminals,”said Antar, who famously devised the “Panama Pump” embezzlement scheme. “Bachmann wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, so I won’t have to worry about whistleblowers turning me in for a reward. And Issa wants to gut the SEC, so I won’t have to contend with them investigating me for securities fraud.”

Antar added that the system was heavily tilted for criminals like him before, but with the help of the current crop of Conservatives, the pickings should be easier than ever.

“The Big Four accounting firms (Deloitte, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young) still can’t catch crooks like me,” said Antar, who helped embezzle more than $80 million at Crazy Eddie. “Audit committees are padded with cronies. The SEC can’t even keep a straight set of books. Even the US Supreme Court has narrowed the definition of fair services fraud.”

While some may be confused or even outraged about Antar’s public decision to return to crime, accountant Caleb Newquist, editor of the blog Going Concern, said it makes perfect sense.

“Sam Antar’s return to a life of white-collar crime couldn’t be more perfectly timed.  The SEC was already overworked, understaffed and many of the employees already spent much of their time watching porn at their desks,”said Newquist.  “If the Congress successfully slashes their budget, the Commission will have to make some tough choices about protecting investors or allowing employees to satisfy their primal urges.  

“With a weakened SEC, his previous success as the CFO of Crazy Eddie and the perpetual ineptitude of audit industry, Sam will have no trouble reaping an ill-gotten fortune at the expense of the American People,” added Newquist.

Antar said he has no worries about being caught as he was in the 1980s, thanks to a “pro-business” Republican culture and corporate-owned politicians like Issa that makes crimes like fraud and embezzlement easier than ever.

“It took the combined efforts of the SEC, FBI, IRS, US Postal Inspector’s Office, and an army of class-action lawyers to take me down in the 1980s,” said Antar. “It wasn’t are fair fight back then. I could have beat them two at a time. Today, I can take them on all together.

“So I am back to being a criminal. I couldn’t be happier. And let me personally thank Darrell Issa and the anti-regulation Republicans,” added Antar. “This time around, I’m going to make $80 million look like chump change.”


William K. Wolfrum’s Morning: The Meaning of Austerity

November 12, 2010

The Meaning of “Austerity.” The privileged won’t feel it.


G20: By the time they’re done, you’ll still be unemployed and rich people will still pay less in taxes.

Austerity!: When Austerity comes to America, it will be wrapped in a Democrat.

[Read more]

William K. Wolfrum’s Morning: Make Money with U.S. Veterans!

November 11, 2010

You see a Homeless U.S. Veteran. Insurance companies see dollar signs.

Wolfrum’s Word

Today’s proof that U.S.-Style Capitalism is a heinous monstrosity – Retained Asset Accounts on U.S. Soldiers.

[Read more]

Let the Tax Man cometh for God

October 25, 2010

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

If there has been one phrase reverberating across the United States the past decade or so, it’s that “Freedom isn’t Free.” So why is Freedom of Religion free?

As conservatives and liberals alike fret over the current U.S. deficit, Republicans have made it clear that they believe any new taxes would stifle growth and hurt business both large and small. But religion is not a business.

Ok, those last six words are, of course, terribly naive, but are correct in at least a figurative sense. A Church or religion is not a charity. They may commit acts of charity, but it is done for a singular purpose – to encourage people to follow their beliefs. The more that follow those beliefs, the more money is taken in by the church or religious entity.

[Read more]

Romanians begin adopting American children

October 14, 2010

Nadia and Thad Comaneci looked at their child with the love the love of new parents. eyes of newborn parents. That he was 14 seemed to have no affect on them whatsoever. Timmy Johnson was their new son.

“Look at him. He always wants the hamburgers and the video games. He is so beautiful,” said Nadia Comaneci, of her newly adopted American son. “Always with the fuckaoofs.”

“Oh, Fuck off,” said Johnson.

The Comanecis are a new breed of Romanian – lower middle class, confident, and with an eye toward the greater good – who have been adopting American children at a record rate. The children generally range in ages from 4 to 16, as most Americans seem to enjoy their children more when they are babies.

“Itsa like the chewing gum,” said Thad Comaneci, 78 and momentarily Italian. “They chew the baby, the baby loses it’s flavor, the baby comes to Romania and learns to play the Oina.

“They take out another baby and start chewing,” added Thad Comaneci, clearly dedicated to making that particular metaphor work. “You see where I’m going, right?”

The economic crisis and a populace hell-bent on having babies at every turn have been two major factors in the outsourcing of children. For Romanians, having an American child is a source of pride and upward mobility, regardless of the child’s behavior.

“Look at that lazy little bastard,” said Nadia Comaneci. “He is our little American. Get him some baklava.”


William K. Wolfrum’s Morning: Stick Yoga Up Your Jnana

October 8, 2010

star wars yoga
Sure, Star Wars Yoga sounds fun, but it’s a one-way ticket to Hell.


Yoga Kills: A Southern Baptist pastor makes it clear – stretching and breathing calmly will not be tolerated in God’s kingdom.

The toxic sludge is slowing, but the damage isn’t.

Afghanistan: Death.

Mid-Terms: It’s all about jobs.

N.Korea: Kim Jong Un to keep N.Koreans under his boot now. It’s a family thing.

Not Stimulating: Hey, the rich are getting richer, thus the economy is fine and more stimulus would be silly. Just build some more prisons, is all.

Dobbsian Hypocrisy: Lou Dobbs rails against undocumented workers and those that employee them. Also, Lou Dobbs employed undocumented workers. That’s how these things work.

Job Hunting

Hunter S. Thompson: When he wanted a job, he just asked. In his own way.


The Frisky: Femin-Its — When a regular memo is part of the patriarchy.

Truth Wins Out: More Republican Sexual shenanigans.

Matt Osbourne: The Politics of Rationalization.

Wattree: The Pledge of Allegiance: A wish list at best.

Juan Cole: Sen. Carl Levin says the U.S. is paying insurgents to attack the U.S. Also: War didn’t seem to feed hungry Iraqis or Afghans.

Farting In Your General Direction

Monty Python Letter
Thank goodness the boys at Monty Python never cared much for censors.


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