Friday, May 30, 2008

They Said It. I Repeat It.

We have a new religion. It’s called free marketry, you know. We’re going to privatize everything. We’re privatizing almost everything that’s privatized, when the Depression came along in the ‘30s, you know, the government played a little role. The government, until Roosevelt, played no role in our cities life except the postmaster. Then it stepped in, benignly, interven-, you had to because free marketry fell on it’s fanny.
Studs Terkel 2003
Television In America: An Autobiography


**A Happy 96th Birthday, albeit two weeks late, to an American Icon.

The CTFC & Oil Prices: A Barrel Full O' Monkeys, Pt. 1

Reuter's reports "U.S. oil probes focusing on price manipulation":

A U.S. regulatory probe into potential oil-market trading abuses is focusing on possible short-term manipulation of benchmark crude prices and the use of information related to important oil storage tanks to influence prices, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The report comes a day after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, under pressure from U.S. lawmakers to crack down on speculators they blame for pushing energy prices to record highs, said it would step up market surveillance.
There's no doubt in my mind that speculators play a large role increased gas prices here in the US. I think the average American can grasp this concept. But I also think the average American wants to know why when the price of that sweet, sweet light crude goes up in the morning, the price of all oil already refined, already in the massive underground tanks at their local gas station, also goes up.

All production and transportation costs for that gas have already been paid
. There is no increase in cost of that gas to the oil companies. But there is an increase in it's value. Thus the price you pay to fill up your tank goes up often twice each day.

How can the oil cos. get away with this? Easily. Until we rid our current government of the oil men riddled throughout and our duly elected representatives grow some cajones, we're powerless to oppose them. Our Congressional oil hearings have been a joke.

It's crystal clear Exxon-Mobil and friends are beholden to no one other than their stockholders. Their stockholders are ecstatic. Their stockholders can afford to fill up their tanks too. They probably all drive Hummers, Escalades and RVs. And why not? But I digress...

Fortunately for us, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission AKA the CTFC is on the case:
The CFTC announced a nationwide investigation into energy trading last December, but is in fact pursuing several oil investigations, many of which relate to one another, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with enforcement priorities of the agency.
Wow! "Several oil investigations"! That's good, right? Not so fast. According to the CFTC's own 2006 Performance Accountability Report:
In FY 2006, Commission staff conducted daily surveillance of 1,135 active futures and option contracts. In particular, close monitoring was conducted on the energy futures markets...
Still, even with all of that CTFC vigilance, the price of oil has increased 40-fucking-percent in the first five months of this year! So what else can the CFTC do? More Reuters:
It has expanded its probe into alleged short-term manipulation of crude-oil prices via a widely used price-reporting system run by Platts, a unit of McGraw-Hill Cos, the newspaper reported.
They're just now expanding their probe to include Platts? Fer chrissakes, Platts has only been around for 90 fucking years!?! What's this unbelievably long overdue probe about?:
The probes appear to focus on gambits well known by traders in the opaque physical oil market, where trading a small volume of cash crude or gasoline during a short period when benchmark prices are set can yield big profits on derivatives positions.

Oil traders say that these kind of leveraged trading plays -- which are generally not illegal -- were more common prior to the Enron melt-down and the California power trading scandal that triggered increased scrutiny of world energy markets earlier this decade, but rarely had a lasting effect on prices.
Ah, Enron. It's funny how that name pops up. Two CTFC Commissioners(!) played a major role in the development, drafting and passage of the CFMA (H.R. 5660)." That's the legislation that created the "Enron loophole." It's this very legislation that created the oil futures mess in the first place!

That and more in Part Deux when we meet the Republican monkeys on the CTFC.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

VA Sec. James Peake Is A Huge Asshole

He's dumber than dirt too. Via Think Progress:

Over the weekend, Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake visited Alaska with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). While there, they met with Vietnam veteran John Guinn, who questioned the Secretary about the growing problem of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst veterans. Instead of addressing Guinn’s concerns, Peake dismissed them:

VA secretary Peake suggested some of the concern about post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury has been overblown.

Many of the brain injuries are serious but some of them are akin to what anyone who played football in their youth might have suffered, Peake told Guinn.

Guinn wasn’t entirely satisfied with the answers. He said it’s a real issue for returning soldiers as well as their families, and he doesn’t think job training is enough.

On Saturday, Peake also said that many vets with PTSD may just need “a little counseling” and shouldn’t “need the PTSD label their whole lives.”

Despite his 40+ year military career, retired US Army Surgeon General Peake has proven he not only knows nothing about veterans but he also knows jack all about medicine. Where do I start ripping?

Vets with PTSD do not “need the PTSD label their whole lives.” PTSD is not a label anyone would ever want for any reason. With proper intensive treatment, not "a little counseling as Secretary Peake suggests," many vets will lead relatively normal productive lives.

I used to play contact sports. I was also a serious downhill ski racer. I’ve been in a few car accidents. I've whacked my head a few too many times (which explains a lot). I’ve had one diagnosed TBI or traumatic brain injury. I’ve also had PTSD.

Traumatic brain injury is a medical term describing what occurs when your head is struck by something, stops and your brain keeps going striking the inside of your skull. This could be caused by a bomb's concussion blast or a simple slip & fall. PTSD is a psychological term describing a specific response to a severe emotional trauma. While both can happen concurrently, they are completely different medical problems that require specific, intensive and separate treatment.

As long as we have clowns like Peake in charge of their wellbeing, veterans will continue to get short shrift.


Spy Vs. Spy

Milan's anti-terrorism police chief spied on CIA agents who kidnapped Muslim cleric Abu Omar. The LA Times has the fascinating skinny.



This Does Not Surprise Me...

...But the sheer extent of it does. The Media fucked us big time.

In the run-up to the Iraq War, news executives across the board dictated that the coverage reflect the wave of patriotism sweeping our nation. Concerned far more about ratings than the truth, the folks upstairs killed stories critical of the administration, admonished/fired/reassigned overly aggressive or outspoken reporters, required two conservative guests for every dissenter(no liberals could be interviewed alone), pushed stories that were positive to the Bush Administration, etc.

Glenn Greenwald has the lowdown.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Feelings Exactly

Ribbon-Based Economy.


(HT: Liesl)

"I Didn't Get Nominated. Waaaaaah!"

Christine Smith quits the Libertarian Party. That was quick. After her surreal literally fangs-bared condescending performance at last Sunday's Libertarian Party Convention, the newbie and wannabe became a has been. Smith couldn't overcome the perception that she was a band wagon jumper. By jumping off the Libertarian wagon, she proved their point. She also came off as a very sore loser.

Claiming her exit was in protest of fellow newbie-band-wagon-jumper-ex-Republican Bob Barr's nomination, Smith ripped her now former party in a rambling resignation letter of sorts, The LP as "The Party of Principle" is DEAD. Here's an excerpt:

I think the party is a waste of time and resources...

No true libertarian would support (or defend) the selection of Bob Barr. (For those who choose to remain in the LP to try and repair it, it will take many years to even return to the place the party was a few days ago.) The hope and enormous potential the LP, as "The Party of Principle," had in 2008 was enormous - now that has been destroyed.

It was my devotion to libertarian philosophy that led me to join the LP, and it is the reason I must leave.
I'm going home and I'm taking my ball with me. Waaah!

Rather than than expend the necessary effort to put her adopted party of some three years back on course thus earning much needed credibility, Smith threw the baby out with the bath water. This story dovetails nicely with an upcoming post.

Stay tuned...


Andy Ostroy Sez: "Hillary Should Quit."

Dear Hillary:
What happened? No really, what the fuck just happened to you? I can't for the life of me figure out how a once-promising presidential campaign -- a sure thing for Pete's sake -- turned into a pathetic embarrassment?
My feelings exactly. Read the rest here.

I admire Andy Ostroy tons. He's not only an smart cat but he's also the husband of one of my all-time fave actors, the late Adrienne Shelly. (For the most part I act like a tough guy but it's because I can't help shed a tear watching her films that I haven't yet seen her directorial debut Waitress). For those of you unfamiliar with Shelly's work, run (don't walk) wherever you get yer DVDs and grab the astonishing Hal Hartley-directed The Unbelievable Truth (and Trust if you can find it).

In memory of Adrienne, Andy has set up The Adrienne Shelly Foundation. The Foundation's goal is to provide support for female actors, writers and directors. A very worthy cause I endorse it without reservation. Please donate what you can here.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

RIP: Sidney Pollack

Sidney Pollack was a true movie industry titan the likes of which we rarely see anymore. As an aspiring film maker, I've watched all of his films and read or seen numerous interviews. He was a meticulous craftsman.

died of cancer yesterday at age 73.

Godspeed Mr. Pollack.


Whereby Pres. Hillary Clinton Resembles Pres. George W. Bush

I'm probably not saying anything new here but I'm compelled to say it nonetheless...

The truth is the longer Hillary insists on staying in this race, the less attractive a candidate she becomes to this voter. (Can you say Senator John Hall, New Yorkers?) Her naked ambition, not to mention that of her husband's, lays her faults bare for all the world to see. What I find most disturbing is how Sen. Clinton, the candidate, has more and more come to resemble George Bush, the President. There, I've said it.

I've already discussed my other Hillary "problems" here and here. What should now be the most critical concern to Sen. Clinton's die hard supporters, and thus all Democratic voters, is two-fold:

  1. Her penchant for statements that can easily be "misunderstood" or "taken out of context."
  2. Her inability to take responsibility for these statements through a proper, timely apology.
Even if you believe that some of Hillary misstatements were not intentional, and I do not, have we not spent seven-and-a-half years living through a Presidency just like this?

Time and time again we've watched helplessly as our current President has made thoughtless self-serving statements with a total disregard as to how they might be received and/or misinterpreted. Statements that have ranged from those damaging to our country's international reputation (mentioning Hitler at Israel's 60th Anniversary celebration. WTF?) to those endangering our troops' lives ("Bring 'em on!").

For our next Commander-In-Chief, we desperately need the most thoughtful successor possible. Sen. Clinton has offered abundant proof she does not meet this criterion. A sample of Candidate Clinton's most damaging statements:
  1. "We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California."
  2. "Dr. [Martin Luther] King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964…it took a president to get it done."
  3. Florida and Michigan primaries "don’t count for anything.’"
  4. "(We have a) basic obligation to make sure that every vote in America counts" implying that the Democratic Party doesn't want every vote to count.
  5. "I am not violating the pledge" referring to her decision to campaign in Florida after pledging not to.
  6. "It is well within the Democratic Party rules to take this stand." Then she implied her opponents, who kept their pledges not to campaign in FL & MI, were comparable to those who were for slavery and against women's suffrage.
  7. "We have to carry the states that I’m carrying, the primary states, the states that really have to be in the winning Democratic column” minimizing Sen. Obama's primary victories in traditionally Republican Western states i.e. only big states count.
All of this and more Hillary Clinton has said in either total disregard for or oblivious to how hurtful it was to individual citizens, certain states' voters, our entire democratic process and her Party. It goes beyond the self-serving. It's flat-out selfish. And the longer her campaign drags on, the more frequently we see this act from either Sen. Clinton or her surrogates.

This is not Presidential behavior, Hillary. It's just not. It is not when President George Bush does it. It definitely is not when Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton does it. There's no excuse for it. Period.

It's not Senatorial behavior either. There's precious little time left for Sen. Clinton to bow out of the race with a modicum of self-respect intact. By doing so sooner rather than later, she has an opportunity to regain some trust and respect from her constituents too.


PS If you still haven't yet seen it, what's wrong with you?, here's last Friday's Keith Olbermann Special Comment on Senator Clinton.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

As I get older and "our" two wars rage on, Memorial Day becomes an even more somber occasion. We display a Colonial flag at the Forester residence for that is the flag under so many of my ancestors fought. Fortunately, my forbears all survived that war though not all unscathed.

Vietnam vet and author Michael Norman describes how a war's survivors may live their lives for the dead even those they only knew for an instant.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bob Barr?!?

The loud derisive jeers directed at Bob Barr supporters parading before their fellow party members was among the more memorable moments of the Libertarian Convention today. Mr. Barr's supporters chose to do so "spontaneously" in the transition between the various candidates' nomination pitches and the nominating speeches from each states' delegations. That they chose to do so during Bill Redpath's instruction to the delegations could not have gone over well with the LNC's Chairman.

Imagine my surprise when hours later, the Libertarian Party chose Barr as its 2008 Presidential Candidate.

They Said It. I Repeat It.

The word evol?

"The Word 'Evol' In 'Revolution' Revolved Is Spelled 'Love'"
Dr. Dean Ahmad
Libertarian Party Nomination Speech
on behalf of Mary Ruwart for President

Umm, there is no such word as "evol," Doctor. This in a nutshell (emphasis on the "nut") epitomizes the Libertarian Party. Intriguing rhetoric speeding down the political highway only swerve and take the first exit to Crazy Town.

Now despite the above evidence of his zaniness, Dr. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is one of the Libertarian Party's most interesting figures. As a Harvard-educated Palestinian-American college professor, Ahmad doesn't fit the Libertarian stereotype. Did I mention that he's Muslim? That raises a simple question. If Dr. Ahmad hadn't spent the past 30+ establishing his Libertarian bona fides, would he be readily accepted as a Libertarian in this post-911 landscape?

Anyhoo, Dean Ahmad is also noteworthy as the founder the Islamic libertarian think-tank the Minaret of Freedom Institute. (Who knew there was such a thing as an Islamic libertarian think-tank?) Perhaps MFI's most interesting position is that on riba or usury. In a 2003 interview with Reason Magazine, Ahmad blames Islam's prohibition on usury for the Muslim world's relative technological backwardness. Here's why:
...When you have an entrepreneurial idea that is so radical that you can't convince anyone that there is a profit to be shared in it. I believe this may be why Islam never had an industrial revolution. If you look at Islamic history, they had strong business, they had international trade, they had factories, science, innovation. Yet somehow they never made that final leap to an industrial revolution. And when I look at the fact that the steam engine was called Fulton's Folly, I can't help but wonder, to what degree did the availability of interest play a role in the commercialization of the steam engine? And is it possible that the Islamic prohibition on interest meant that that just wasn't gonna happen in the Muslim world?
Seeing that as for centuries, the Arab world dominated all comers in the fields of science, mathematics, etc., this angle demands a closer look from Islam's leaders. All the more so since Ahmad confesses that he's made little progress pushing his position forward. Additional deets on his riba argument here.


Christine Smith For President

Libertarian Presidential candidate Christine Smith tries to make her mark challenging her party in a most condescending and strident manner.

Fun Facts To Know & Tell about Christine Smith:

  1. Christine packs heat. She has a 95% kill rate with "seemi"-automatic pistol.
  2. She's the author of A Mountain In The Wind - An Exploration of the Spirituality of John Denver
  3. Christine Smith is an aspiring model & actress.
You can't make this shit up folks.


Libertarians Gone Wild!

I'm watching the Libertarian Party Convention on C-SPAN live from Denver. I highly recommend you watch some of it. It's surprisingly compelling TV but not for the reasons the Libertarians want. Chock full o' comedy gold too. More soon come…

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Uncle Anacher's Punk Rock Tales: Johnny Rotten, Part 1

Public Image Ltd.'s signature song "Public Image."

The first time I interviewed Johnny Rotten was an experience to remember. It was **shudder** just over twenty-two years ago. Solely by virtue of his reputation, Johnny cuts an imposing figure. And I was in NYC for the first time as an adult. I was nervous as hell. For my own personal consumption, I had brought a modest quantity of high-powered herb. It was going to have to be enough. For unlike most people, pot calmed me down and helped me focus.

When we first met at his record co.'s HQ, Johnny was positively resplendent in what was without a doubt the loudest, custom-tailored no less, red plaid suit I have ever seen. I mean it was screaming. As far as this suit was concerned, Dicky Barrett and the rest of The Bosstones had nothing on Johnny. (An aside: I almost came to blows once with Dicky's older brother, Billy, over the music selection at one of our many high school graduation parties. That's a story for another time perhaps.)

Anyway, at about 11:00 AM, Johnny was drinking Beck's. We gave each other the once-over, glanced around the big stupid corporate conference room. I complimented him on his togs. I put down my tiny professional cassette recorder. We both chuckled at the absurdity of this scene.

There was, at least for me, a bit of weirdness in that Johnny was in the middle of his "I'm-not-Johnny-Rotten-
I'm-John-Lydon" phase. Still, the interview went surprisingly well. I was well-versed on all the outstanding musicians with whom he had collaborated. Johnny warmed to me. By the time we wrapped up, I had the distinct feeling that this was one his better chats of this particular press junket.

To put a capper this day, Johnny's wife Nora burst in. Looking for all the world like a twisted version of the St. Pauli Girl (right down to the long braids), she was a sight to behold. It wasn't until I returned from NYC that I realized Nora is Ari Up's mom. Oh yeah, she's also the heiress to the Beck's Beer fortune hence Johnny's brew of choice.

I took Amtrak home later that afternoon. I had barely enough of my stash left to enjoy a quick bowl on the New Haven platform whilst the electric locomotive was swapped for diesel. I arrived home both exhausted and exhilarated. I wish I still had that interview tape. It's long, long gone.

Recounting this story seals it. My next audio adventure is to digitize my Metal Box vinyl. They can master it for CD nine ways to Sunday and it will never sound as good as it does on wax. The occasional bit o' scratchiness just lends it more character.


I Demand An Apology From GOP "Ladies"

Every last one of them...For their very existence. Given the GOP's hideous record against families, children, education, women, our environment and everything else just, right, good and fun, I can't think of anybody more self-loathing than Republican chicks. OK, maybe I can. Log Cabin Republicans. But, as Peter Griffin would say, I digest...

Minnesotan GOP "ladies" want Al Franken to apologize for a Playboy CEO Christine Hefner-hosted fund raiser plus his "Porn-O-Rama"satire he wrote for that mag back in 2000. They're hoping against hope that these two tiny "issues" of minimal importance resonate with Minnesotans.

These "ladies" probably think Franken's hi-larious as Stewart Smalley. (I disagree). But don't let him make funny about sex. After all, sex is wicked icky. It's shameful. It's only for makin' other lil' Republicans. Sex is what their husbands do with other men.

As Raw Story reports:

The Republican Party of Minnesota web site, notes that "Rep. Laura Brod, Dr. Laura Dean, Sen. Michelle Fischbach, Mary Igo, Annette Meeks and Laura Merickel called Franken’s column an 'extreme example of the kind of disrespect for the role of women in society that all of us have fought our entire lives' and called on Franken to 'denounce this article and apologize immediately.'"
This "issue" ranks up there with idiot Arlen Specter's ill-advised attempt at investigating my beloved over-investigated New England Patriots. Meanwhile two wars rage on, health care blows, a record number of homes are being foreclosed, people are out of work, gas prices are sky-high, food has become ridiculously expensive, the economy's tanked and Republicans have looted our treasury.

Al Franken has absolutely nothing to apologize for. But every single Republican owes America an apology for the past eight disastrous years.


Life From A Window

I took a break from blogging due to poor physical and mental health. I'm more or less back. Thanks for your patience.

Great news! After a year unemployed and/or seriously underemployed, Mrs. Forester actually found a job in her chosen field! I feel blessed to be married to such a remarkable woman.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Thorn In My Side

When I misappropriated the phrase "intellectual quicksand," I could not help but think of these "post-hardcore" buds o' mine.

"It's Still Early Yet" And Other Election Ruminations

No, Hillary. It's too late for you. But early days yet for this election season. Today's Bob Herbert Op-Ed, "Party Like It's 2008", rips our clueless political establishment and punditocracy. Their antiquated pre-2000 notions have found them unable to "tell the difference between Facebook and, say, AOL." Blinded by nostalgia these dinosaurs of democracy are "too busy salivating over the Clintons’ vintage 1990s roster of fat-cat donors to hear the major earthquake rumbling underground."

These folks' state of oblivion is far-reaching and oh-so-painful to behold:

Hillary Clinton’s attempt to impersonate a Nascar-lovin’, gun-totin’, economist-bashin’ populist went bust: Asked which candidate most “shares your values,” voters in both North Carolina and Indiana exit polls opted instead for the elite and condescending arugula-eater. Bill Clinton’s small-town barnstorming tour, hailed as a revival of old-time Bubba bonhomie, proved to be yet another sabotage of his wife, whipping up false expectations for her disastrous showing in North Carolina. Barack Obama’s final, undercaffeinated debate performance, not to mention the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s attempted character assassination, failed to slow his inexorable path to the Democratic nomination.
This occurred despite the talking heads' and the (non-Obama) political strategists' best concerted efforts to ensure the exact opposite effect. What a bunch of witless bastards:
Almost every wrong prediction about this election cycle has come from those trying to force the round peg of this year’s campaign into the square holes of past political wars. That’s why race keeps being portrayed as dooming Mr. Obama — surely Jeremiah Wright = Willie Horton! — no matter what the voters say to the contrary. It’s why the Beltway took on faith the Clinton machine’s strategic, organization and fund-raising invincibility. It’s why some prognosticators still imagine that John McCain can spin the Iraq fiasco to his political advantage as Richard Nixon miraculously did Vietnam.

The year 2008 is far more complex — and exhilarating — than the old templates would have us believe. Of course we’re in pain. More voters think the country is on the wrong track (81 percent) than at any time in the history of New York Times/CBS News polling on that question. George W. Bush is the most unpopular president that any living American has known.
Our country's political topography is changing at a rate so fast it's leaving the dinosaurs in the dust:
The demographic reshaping of the electoral map, though more widely noted, still isn’t fully understood. From Rust Belt Ohio through Tuesday’s primaries, cable bloviators have been fixated on the older, white, working-class vote. Their unspoken (and truly condescending) assumption, lately embraced by Mrs. Clinton, is that these voters are Reagan Democrats, cryogenically frozen since 1980, who come in two flavors: rubes who will be duped by a politician backing a gas-tax pander or racists who are out of Mr. Obama’s reach.
No great shock. When you put a gaggle of simpletons in a studio, the only possible result is a simplistic (and completely wrong) assumption. Adding the sum total of their misperceptions and preconceived notions to the mix creates an intellectual quicksand of sorts. To wit, the harder these know-it-alls struggle to understand this new political paradigm, the further away from the truth they drift:
But this isn’t 2004, and the fixation on that one demographic in the Clinton-Obama contest has obscured the big picture. The rise in black voters and young voters of all races in Democratic primaries is re-weighting the electorate. Look, for instance, at Ohio, the crucial swing state that Mr. Kerry lost by 119,000 votes four years ago. This year black voters accounted for 18 percent of the state’s Democratic primary voters, up from 14 percent in 2004, an increase of some 230,000 voters out of an overall turnout leap of roughly a million. Voters under 30 (up by some 245,000 voters) accounted for 16 percent, up from 9 in 2004. Those younger Ohio voters even showed up in larger numbers than the perennially reliable over-65 crowd.
It's fascinating to watch these political "experts" ignore the demographic actually driving the upcoming election. Instead they choose to concentrate on older white folks like them. Through this classic Freudian projection, these "experts" have deluded themselves into believing they, and only people they perceive to be like them (read: blue collar), will be the arbiters deciding our next President. What's worse is that, intentionally or otherwise, they're working overtime to fool the rest of us into believing it too. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Herbert has plenty o' gold today. Read the whole thing here.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It's Only A Flesh Wound

After her drubbing in North Carolina and her close call in Illinois, can Hillary Clinton move the goal posts yet again?


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Leave Them All Behind

Like New Order's "Temptation" (the scoop here), I've obsessed over "LTAB" for 15+ years. This epic version is from a 1992 Brixton Ride show. I wanna say that I saw 'em around the same time. While I can remember almost every one of the countless acts I've seen, my early NYC years do have quite a few blurry patches.

I popped up to Boston to give my mom a hand. She's kept me busy. Later today I'll be putting a face to everything that is wrong about how the "Support Our Troops"-car-magnet-
sporting-lapel-flag-pin-wearing-Bush Administration treats our military.