The Alabama Moderate

Painting the Red State Purple.

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Archive for March, 2009

Blago Radio

Posted by ALmod on March 26, 2009

Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich now has his own radio show.  The show is primarily a platform that he’s using to “set the record straight” about his legal issues.

Why does this sound familiar?

I guess if we see him show up in court with local black pastors backing him up, we’ll know where he got his legal advice.

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Posted in Laugh It Off, Mainstream Media, Scandal | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

“Nobody could have predicted…” A look back at 1999

Posted by ALmod on March 26, 2009

Here’s a little gem from the New York Times.  It’s dated Friday, November 5, 1999.  It appeared on page 1 of section A, or the “front page,” as it’s called.  Read on. I’ll warn you, though.  Reading this article will make you want to hit something or someone.

Congress approved landmark legislation today that opens the door for a new era on Wall Street in which commercial banks, securities houses and insurers will find it easier and cheaper to enter one another’s businesses.

The measure, considered by many the most important banking legislation in 66 years, was approved in the Senate by a vote of 90 to 8 and in the House tonight by 362 to 57. The bill will now be sent to the president, who is expected to sign it, aides said. It would become one of the most significant achievements this year by the White House and the Republicans leading the 106th Congress.

This is the bill that I believe did it.  It was passed by the Republican Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.  The Democrats didn’t exactly offer stellar opposition to it, either.  And while the Bush Administration poured gasoline onto the fire, this would have been the lit cigarette butt thrown onto a pile of leaves in a dense, dry forest.

As we now know, the economic situation we’re currently experiencing came into being when bad mortgage loans were packaged and sold over and over to banks and other entities.  Meanwhile they were backed by insurance companies in association with those banks.  And the insurance companies were rated by agencies owned by those insurance companies.  Houses quit selling, people suddenly owned more on homes than they were worth, loans went bad, insurers couldn’t back the loans after all, and it all collapsed.  (Yes, I’m aware that it’s more complicated than that, but I’m trying to paraphrase it.)  There were other factors, but this is the rough scenario is what led to the collapse and bailouts of several banks and insurers who are now being bailed out.

This is also a very similar situation to what happened back in the Great Depression.  That’s why Glass-Steagall was passed. It was put into place to prevent conflicts of interest where insurers, banks, and brokers were under the same company.  The legislation described in this article basically repealed Glass-Steagall.

As much as I dislike Sen. Richard Shelby, he voted against this turd.  Kudos to him on that.

Some of the opponents predicted exactly what would happen.

The decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 provoked dire warnings from a handful of dissenters that the deregulation of Wall Street would someday wreak havoc on the nation’s financial system. The original idea behind Glass-Steagall was that separation between bankers and brokers would reduce the potential conflicts of interest that were thought to have contributed to the speculative stock frenzy before the Depression.

…The opponents of the measure gloomily predicted that by unshackling banks and enabling them to move more freely into new kinds of financial activities, the new law could lead to an economic crisis down the road when the marketplace is no longer growing briskly.

”I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930’s is true in 2010,” said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. ”I wasn’t around during the 1930’s or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980’s when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.”

We were warned, folks.  And how was that warning received?

”The world changes, and we have to change with it,” said Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who wrote the law that will bear his name along with the two other main Republican sponsors, Representative Jim Leach of Iowa and Representative Thomas J. Bliley Jr. of Virginia. ”We have a new century coming, and we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century. Glass-Steagall, in the midst of the Great Depression, came at a time when the thinking was that the government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer.”

…Supporters of the legislation rejected those arguments. They responded that historians and economists have concluded that the Glass-Steagall Act was not the correct response to the banking crisis because it was the failure of the Federal Reserve in carrying out monetary policy, not speculation in the stock market, that caused the collapse of 11,000 banks. If anything, the supporters said, the new law will give financial companies the ability to diversify and therefore reduce their risks. The new law, they said, will also give regulators new tools to supervise shaky institutions.

If the name Phil Gramm sounds familiar, it should.  He wrote John McCain’s economic policy when McCain was running for POTUS.  That tells me that we’re still embracing the same knuckleheads who got us into this mess and asking them to get us out.  Sound familiar? Be afraid, folks.  Be very afraid.

Are you angry, yet?

Posted in Corporate Craziness, Economy, Federal Government, Legislation, Mainstream Media, Public Outrage | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Nobody could have predicted…” A look back at 1999

Larry Langford: Tip of the Iceberg

Posted by ALmod on March 25, 2009

With JP Morgan back in the news, it’s hard for this Alabama native to not think back to the other things that JP Morgan and a few of its fellow Wall Street firms are involved in.  When you live here, and this is such big news here, you have to wonder why it’s not getting a lot of national attention.

Well, as it turns out, Larry Langford isn’t so special, after all.

The FBI, already strained by more than 2,000 cases of corporate fraud, is bracing for a fresh wave of public corruption amid the economic crisis, FBI chief Robert Mueller said Wednesday.

“Public corruption is our top criminal priority. We have 2,500 pending public corruption investigations — an increase of more than 58 percent since 2003,” Mueller told a Senate hearing.

Yikes!  I suppose I can’t say that I’m surprised at public corruption on a massive scale.  I just wan’t expecting quite as much as what the numbers show.

Well, we know how many of those cases involve Larry Langford, but you have to be at least a little curious as to how many of those cases involve JP Morgan and other Wall Street firms.

“In addition, the FBI has more than 566 open corporate fraud investigations, including matters directly related to the current financial crisis,” Mueller said.

Well, I suppose that answerd that question.

Posted in Corporate Craziness, Economy, Federal Government, Jefferson County, Local Government, Scandal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Blame Canada!

Posted by ALmod on March 24, 2009

All this talk of Fox News and the incident at Red Eye got me to thinking about some of the better segments from The Daily Show regarding Canada.  They usually feature (Canadian couple) Samantha Bee and/or Jason Jones.

So here we go with a segment from back in December:

Part 1

Part 2

And poking fun of Obama’s visit in February (and his Iowa/Ottawa slip-up):

There are two distinct differences between these segments and what appeared on Fox News.  First and foremost, there are no smarmy jabs at the Canadian military and/or their service. Second, this is not a program that could ever be mistaken as a news show.  Beyond that, there are a few other things.  It pokes fun at our own country in addition to Canada (and India and the UK).  The jabs are rather light-hearted and do not negatively portray Canada.  There is not a general “we’re better than you” attitude.  Stewart, Bee, Mandvi, and Oliver all actually know about Canadian culture and don’t rely solely on stereotypes for humor.  Rather, they seem to focus on differences in culture between the two.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and poke fun at a guildie for buying bags of milk while he pokes fun at me for being a barefoot redneck.

Posted in Entertainment, Laugh It Off, Mainstream Media, Public Outrage | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Gambling, Smoking, and Sales Tax! Oh My!

Posted by ALmod on March 23, 2009

There are some important votes coming up tomorrow in our state legilature, and I figured it’s high time I said something about these issues.

The budget. Please, for the love of all that is holy, get this done.  I realize that, in Alabama, it’s tradition or something for this to not get done.  I think I speak for most people in this state when I say that we wouldn’t miss this tradition.  I realize that some cuts have had to be made mostly because we’ve lost a lot of revenue in sales tax, which brings me to the next thing…

Sales tax on groceries. It’s time to cut the cord.  We have become far too dependent on a regressive tax.  I don’t mind higher income taxes, though I doubt I make enough to be affected by the increase.  At least income taxes are proportional to what I bring in.  Unless you suddenly require less food to survive  when your paycheck is smaller, I doubt you could argue the same about sales tax on groceries.  Yes, I do hold the whole “tax=bad” mentality, but I’m also realistic.  Taxes are needed to fund schools, public servants, road repairs, and all sorts of things.  I’d rather that we pay taxes as is proportional to what we make rather than have those who make the least be expected to pay out the higest percentage of their paychecks.

Bingo. It’s not your grandmother’s card game anymore.  That’s a shame.  I liked the card game.  But again, I’m a realist.  If you want to gamble, you’re going to gamble.  Prohibition doesn’t change that.  Meanwhile, groups will skirt around loopholes and put up establishments while we get chump change in return.  Legalize it and create a gaming commission to regulate it and tax it so that we can actually benefit from something that (let’s be honest) we’re already allowing.

Smoking ban. This is where you’ll see me disagree with a lot of Libertarians.  I have no issue with smoking tobacco being legal.  I have an issue with not being able to go a restaurant or other public establishment (or get a job in one) without having to breathe it.  Yeah, I’ve heard all the “blah blah your choice to eat out” arguments.  The way I see it, in areas where there are no regulations on smoking areas, I have the choice to stay home.  Period.  Smokers choose to smoke just as much as nonsmokers choose not to.  The difference is that there are no negative health consequences from being forced to breathe clean air.  “But I’d have to step outside to smoke, and it’s cold out there.”  Wah, wah…  I”m not forcing you to eat your entire meal out there.  Smoking is a legal choice, but it’s not a necessity.  Being able to work without being forced into an asthma attack is a necessity.  Yeah, I suppose I have a choice whether or not to work there, but considering today’s economic atmosphere, not everyone has that luxury.

The state constitution. I have mixed feelings on this.  It’s ridiculously bulky and makes it near impossible for local goverments to make necessary changes that they actually want to make.  However, it has also saved the citizens of JeffCo from the actions of their comically nonsensical county commission.  I’d let the people vote.  I’m sure we can draft a new constitution that would allow for the best of both worlds.

Posted in Alabama Government, Legislation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Anchorage, Alaska: Volcano Erupts

Posted by ALmod on March 23, 2009

So far, I’m hearing of no injuries, though there is a risk to elderly and those with breathing disorders, and there has been damage to some aircraft.   Mt. Redoubt has been heavily monitored over the past few months.  Gee, I suppose it’s a good thing we allocate funding for that sort of thing.

I know, I know…  Jindal has been nailed to the wall over that comment already.  I guess it just comes as almost comedic if it weren’t from the governor of a state that has been hit by natural disasters in such a devastating way.

I  mean, it’s not like the govenor of the state who just had a volcanic erruption has rejected that stimulus money in any way…

Posted in Economy, Federal Government, Legislation, Pork | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anchorage, Alaska: Volcano Erupts

While you’re busy being outraged at bowling jokes and AIG…

Posted by ALmod on March 22, 2009

Fox News was busy alienating our allies.

Where’s the outrage?

h/t to the GTL

Posted in Mainstream Media, War on Terror | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The game is afoot.

Posted by ALmod on March 18, 2009

Okay, no more with the puns.  Seriously, my puns are bad.  Corny and bad.

But seriously…  What is with all the shoe throwing? Is this a trend or something?  Is this the Twitter for protesters?  When your protesting makes folks feel sorry for the person you are protesting, that could be a sign that you are doing it wrong.

Posted in Foreign Policy, Public Outrage | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off on The game is afoot.

And you thought frat boys were dumb…

Posted by ALmod on March 14, 2009

(For the full story, click here.)

Posted in Laugh It Off, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on And you thought frat boys were dumb…

Cramer v. Stewart: Redux

Posted by ALmod on March 13, 2009

First, watch this.  This link contains the unedited interview from last night.  Being unedited, it does contain strong language, to it’s probably not safe for work.

Now, I shall comment.

To begin with, this isn’t about Jim Cramer.  It’s a much larger issue, as Stewart points out, that covers news networks and reporting in general.  The question he poses is whether or not these institutions have any responsibility to the American people in keeping them properly informed as opposed to being focused on entertainment.  Should networks such as CNBC have actually engaged in some genuine investigative recording rather than taking executives at their word?  And if they advertise themselves as a financial information source– or as the source– should their feet be held to the fire when they fail in giving good information?

I agree with Stewart in saying that, to a point, they should.  The American public has lost faith in its MSM for a reason.  It’s more about entertainment and ratings these days than about keeping us informed.  That’s why bias is so popular.  It provides entertainment value and keeps viewers glued when they hear what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

In my humble opinion, that’s what makes The Daily Show so popular these days as a source for news rather than comedy.  They are not advertised as unbiased news.  In fact, they’re very upfront about being biased and heavily edited and putting entertainment first.  So when you watch, you know they’re making fun of the news, but you’re actually willing to listen about news for a laugh.  You watch it with the knowledge that it’s wrong to a point so that you don’t take it seriously.  And when you hear about a story that interests you, you Google it and read up on it further to get the full story.

The sad part is that the interview linked above was one of the most hard-hitting and thorough pieces that I’ve seen in a very long time– from a comedian, not a news reporter.  It wasn’t an entertaining interview, in my opinion, which is somewhat disappointing because I watch The Daily Show to be entertained.  It was hard for me to watch.  Cramer was squirming in his chair, and his voice was cracking.  Meanwhile, Stewart looked like a parent scolding his teenage son after he’d been caught stashing pot under his mattress.

The telling portion of this interview is when Cramer was confronted with the clip that I posted on this site earlier this week.  As Stewart points out, it’s hard for those at CNBC to pretend to be “dewy-eyed innocents” when they have shown that they know exactly the sort of thing that goes on behind the scenes. Cramer stated in the interview that he was shocked that a CEO (or four) lied to him about the state of his company; however, Cramer admits in the clip he is shown that those behind the scenes put out false information on CNBC and other news networks.  It only allows for two possibilities.  Either Cramer is incredibly stupid and naiive in thinking that they’d miraculously change their practices now that he’s on CNBC, or he knows he’s being fed false information and is allowing it.

It’s the same situation that caused us to approach Richard Scrushy with the same skepticism.  Either Scrushy knew what was going on and he was allowing it, or he was horrible at his job and should have been fired.

Just on a side note…  As I look at the market ticker now, Bank of America is up 90% in five days.  Cramer was recommending against that earlier this week and instead was recommending JP Morgan.

Posted in Economy, Entertainment, Scandal | Comments Off on Cramer v. Stewart: Redux