Saturday, November 20, 2010

Last Call

And going back to Bon's post earlier today on a breast cancer survivor who was made to take off her prosthetic bra by TSA agents, we have this lovely story of another cancer survivor.

A retired special education teacher on his way to a wedding in Orlando, Fla., said he was left humiliated, crying and covered with his own urine after an enhanced pat-down by TSA officers recently at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

“I was absolutely humiliated, I couldn’t even speak,” said Thomas D. “Tom” Sawyer, 61, of Lansing, Mich.

Sawyer is a bladder cancer survivor who now wears a urostomy bag, which collects his urine from a stoma, or opening in his stomach. “I have to wear special clothes and in order to mount the bag I have to seal a wafer to my stomach and then attach the bag. If the seal is broken, urine can leak all over my body and clothes.”

On Nov. 7, Sawyer said he went through the security scanner at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. “Evidently the scanner picked up on my urostomy bag, because I was chosen for a pat-down procedure.”

Due to his medical condition, Sawyer asked to be screened in private. “One officer looked at another, rolled his eyes and said that they really didn’t have any place to take me,” said Sawyer. “After I said again that I’d like privacy, they took me to an office.”

Sawyer wears pants two sizes too large in order to accommodate the medical equipment he wears. He’d taken off his belt to go through the scanner and once in the office with security personnel, his pants fell down around his ankles. “I had to ask twice if it was OK to pull up my shorts,” said Sawyer, “And every time I tried to tell them about my medical condition, they said they didn’t need to know about that.”

Something needs to be done about the TSA.  I think something will be done, and done very, very quickly, especially based on this story.

Representative John A. Boehner, soon to be the Speaker of the House, has pledged to fly commercial airlines back to his home district in Ohio. But that does not mean that he will be subjected to the hassles of ordinary passengers, including the controversial security pat-downs.

As he left Washington on Friday, Mr. Boehner headed across the Potomac River to Reagan National Airport, which was bustling with afternoon travelers. But there was no waiting in line for Mr. Boehner, who was escorted around the metal detectors and body scanners, and taken directly to the gate.

Mr. Boehner, who was wearing a casual yellow sweater and tan slacks, carried his own bags and smiled pleasantly at passengers who were leaving the security checkpoint inside the airport terminal. It was unclear whether any passengers waiting in the security line, including Representative Allen Boyd, a Florida Democrat who lost his re-election bid, saw Mr. Boehner.

I believe the TSA is going to find itself facing some rather interesting oversight committees very, very soon.

Wall Street Gets Flat Busted

Finally, some three years after the Big Casino events that led up to the financial crisis and the current economic nightmare we're stuck in (and one of the major reasons why I began this blog), criminal investigations against Wall Street banks are about to break wide open.

Insider-trading charges are being prepared against a vast network of consultants and traders across the US financial industry in a years-long probe that a report suggests will reveal a pervasive culture of backroom dealing.

The investigation could be the largest insider-trading probe in US history, The Wall Street Journal said Saturday citing people close to the issue, with federal officials examining if multiple, organized insider-trading rings reaped illegal profits of tens of millions of dollars.

Some charges could be brought before the end of the year, the Journal said.

The criminal probe is examining some three dozen companies in the probe, which is examining the "expert networks" to clients such as hedge funds and mutual funds, which connected managers of companies with investors in a bid to offer inside tracks on financial deals, according to the report.

And behind these consulting firms and the culture of insider trading that led to Big Casino are the biggest names on Wall Street, including the guys at the top of the pyramid.

Among those being investigated, the newspaper said prosecutors were examining whether bankers with the Goldman Sachs Group leaked information about transactions, including health-care mergers, in a bid to benefit investors.

Inside traders are generally known to profit after being tipped off on deals ahead of time -- for example, giving them an opportunity to buy stocks before acquisitions, and then selling them after the shares rise in value.

As well as large financial firms like Goldman Sachs, the investigation is also examining independent analysts and research houses for providing non-public information to hedge funds. The report suggest the three-year probe has involved wiretapping the telephone conversations between consultants and investors.

A culture of people who clearly believed the amount of money involved made them invincible to prosecution have just discovered how wrong they were.  And to all the folks that said Obama was a tool of the banksters, do you think President McCain would have lifted a finger to even look at these guys?  The probe in 2007 would have been killed in January 2008, guaranteed.

This is potentially huge.  Much more on this from Tyler Durden and the Zero Hedge crew.

Over a year ago, Zero Hedge published an expose in three parts (two of them in the form of direct letters to Andrew Cuomo) discussing the possibility that so-called "expert networks" are nothing less than legalized insider trading rings for the uber-wealthy, operating largely unsupervised, and leaking selective information to preferred clients. For those who may be new to this topic, we suggest catching up on Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Subsequently, we also suggested that expert networks would be implicated in the bust of Galleon Partners, the Goldman "Huddle", the collapse of FrontPoint Partners and, most recently, that expert networks may have been directly or indirectly involved in facilitating the record historical P&L of such hedge fund "titans" as SAC Capital. Today, via the Wall Street Journal, we realize that not only have the good folks at the SEC been diligently reading us for the past 13 months, but that we may have been right all along (once again).

If you thought the banks were in trouble before, the real show is about to begin.

Absolutely Positively On Purpose

Steve Benen asks the kind of question more people should be thinking about.

Budget expert Stan Collender has predicted that Republicans perceive "economic hardship as the path to election glory." Paul Krugman noted in his column yesterday that Republicans "want the economy to stay weak as long as there's a Democrat in the White House."

As best as I can tell, none of this analysis -- all from prominent observers -- generated significant pushback. The notion of GOP officials deliberately damaging the economy didn't, for example, spark widespread outrage or calls for apologies from Matt or anyone else.

And that, in and of itself, strikes me as remarkable. We're talking about a major political party, which will control much of Congress next year, possibly undermining the strength of the country -- on purpose, in public, without apology or shame -- for no other reason than to give themselves a campaign advantage in 2012.

Maybe now would be a good time to pause and ask a straightforward question: are Americans O.K. with this?

And for the most part they are, because they've been convinced that Obama will do the opposite:  make the economy better for everyone else except them, and at their specific expense.  Obama, we learn, says he wants to make the economy better.  It's not better for a lot of Americans, therefore what Obama must have done over the last two years is made the economy better for everyone except me.

It's a load of crap, of course.  But depending on how cynical your worldview is, Obama's economic policies range from incompetent to being a purposeful tool of the bankers to being a Socialist revolutionary.  It's hard to dispel these myths without the economy actually getting better, so all the Republicans have to do is to make sure that doesn't happen.

Block all efforts to improve the economy, and you get rewarded for it.  I've been saying this, literally, for years now.  This year's midterms are proof this plan can work.  But people besides me are finally arriving at this conclusion.  The Republican scorched earth campaign has a cost, and we're the ones paying.  If America falls apart, the Republicans will gain power.

Only when they have regained the power they lost in 2006 will they suddenly begin to do the things for the economy that need to be done in order to maintain power.

To a point.  After all, it's pretty easy to do these days when all you have to do is say the First Lady is a radical racial revolutionary for disagreeing with you.  It's like falling off a log.

[UPDATE]  BooMan has some additional thoughts on this.

There are smart people in the Republican Party who know that the economy is going to suck for the next two years and that people are going to suffer. Some of them know that the federal government can do something about it and that cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans isn't going to help. They might even be worried that the American people will punish them if they refuse to do anything or to work with the president in any constructive way. But they're helpless to change course because they've poisoned the minds' of their base. And, it's not only their base, because I think most incoming freshmen are true-believing dittoheads.

So, Benen is correct. If you wanted to design a party to destroy America's economy, you couldn't do much better than the current GOP. But, are they going to do it for purely cynical reasons or because they're crazy? The answer is: a little of each. The top echelon...the movers and shakers...have never been social conservatives and the only ideology they're wedded to is keeping as much cash for themselves as possible. They probably don't want the U.S. economy to suck for the next two years, although most of them are smart enough to win at the casino either way. But the lower level Republicans, including a good percentage of their caucuses? They're going to fuck everything up because they're crazy. 

And that's pretty much it.

The Unmeasured Angle

I'm in complete agreement with Steve M.  This unaired Sharron Angle ad really is terrible.

And I'm positive Sharron Angle would have won if she had run this ad just after the primary.  Mock it at your own peril, because while it really does have the production values of a 3 AM public access channel, that's entirely the point.  Democrats would have seen the ad and gone after Angle as a rube, which would have been a fatal mistake and sealed the "Angle is one of us and Harry Reid is the smart-ass elitist" thing for good.  Steve's absolutely right, it would have gone viral, the people in the ad would have gotten interviews and press, and we would have seen a bunch of scared and pissed off older Nevadans saying "We need to fire Harry Reid's ass."  Hell, I would have agreed with them.

The only reason we're not talking about Senator-elect Sharron Angle right now is because Angle ran arguably the worst campaigns in the modern history of Senate elections (compared to Harry Reid's second worst campaign in the modern history of the Senate elections), and that she bought into the hype that the political suits sold her.  If she had stuck to her message discipline of attacking Harry Reid instead of going off half-cocked, especially on Nevada's unemployed, undocumented immigrants, and stating she would deny an abortion to a rape victim in the most heartless fashion imaginable, thus allowing Harry Reid to go on offense, she would have won by double digits.

This ad would have absolutely helped her, because the Dems would have fallen into the Palin trap of attacking the messenger, not the message and then completely fallen apart trying to apologize to Nevada seniors about yes, we understand you have concerns about Social Security.  By then it would have been too late.  Instead, Angle sank herself by playing the lunatic card on her own campaign by doing Harry Reid's work for him.  And since Angle was the one who brought up her crazy ideas on Social Security first, they became fair game.

So laugh at this goofy ad all you want, just remember that if Angle had used it properly, she'd be Senator in January.  The next time, we won't get that lucky.

Witness Rand Paul, for example.

The Fall Of The House Of Gates Part II

It's all in the clouds.

Microsoft is making a huge scramble to get their bluff in on the cloud, because there is no doubt that is where we are headed. For those of you who do not know what this means, click here to find out. The short definition is the cloud is web-based processing, instead of the traditional computer storage and processing we use today.

Why should Gates be quaking? This is the crumbling of his empire. Once upon a time, if it didn't run on Windows, a program was dead in the water. Because Microsoft Windows shaped the growth of the personal computer, Gates had the programmers in his pocket. That is no longer the case. Cloud computing is the inevitable blend of computing and the Internet, meaning you will not have to carry your digital life with you everywhere you go. You will log in to your documents and kitten pictures from anywhere. And if you decide to keep Microsoft, they will take a major financial hit because they won't be able to charge a per-computer licensing fee. You will own the right to use Microsoft, or you won't, but long gone will be the days of purchasing a license for every machine in the household.

With products like OpenOffice, and the universal Internet browser, casual computer users can accomplish just about everything they want using a free product. Google Docs has made collaborating easy, and Ubuntu offers a user friendly operating system, all for free. The current economy is going to hasten the inevitable, and people are going to start asking why they would spend $299 on a CD. The stink of Windows ME still haunts my generation, but Vista will be the stinker of the newcomers. Microsoft's technology has not become extinct, but our need for it has. People are wanting to take control over their computers, and Microsoft's "dummy proof at the right of being able to own your system" approach is stale. And not so dummy proof, after all.

At this point, the best Gates can do is take his place as a pioneer of the world's digital age. And rightfully so, the man isn't a slacker who stumbled across a lucky idea. He is one of the most generous billionaires in history, and has helped millions in need. Gates has a lot to offer the world, both as a brilliant geek and a role model for the wealthy. But we won't be paying him an outrageous fee for the right to use computers now. People are going to have choices, and the bluff that you can only do it with Microsoft products has been called.

What A Boob

(CBS) A flight attendant and cancer survivor said she was forced to remove and show her prosthetic breast to a TSA agent during a security pat-down.

The link above takes you to the full article, I'm just going to skip to the horrific part.

"She put her full hand on my breast and said, 'What is this?' Bossi recalled. "And I said, 'It's my prosthesis because I've had breast cancer.' And she said, 'Well, you'll need to show me that.'"

Now, the security debate is a hot topic. You can Google a thousand sides that are all different. The one thing I hope that all sides keep in check is that there are people involved. Real, breathing, honest to goodness people. Not cattle. Hell, even cattle should be treated with more courtesy and sensitivity than this.

It's this stupidity that will force this issue to blow up. Not whether it's necessary, or the best solution, but how people are treated. You can do something that is necessary and still maintain your humanity. Airlines are still a business, and their customers are (at least mostly) voluntary.

I work in customer service. I have managed and trained in customer service. The one thing I never failed to repeat is that we should remember that ever person we deal with, no matter how aggravating or rude, how stubborn or difficult, is somebody's son or daughter. They are someone's lover, best friend, long lost uncle, and they matter. You do not earn the right to be treated with kindness and dignity, that should be offered freely.

Too bad they didn't get that memo. Never underestimate the power of the angry customer, not in the days of the Internet.

Impossible Moose-ion

The Republican pushback against Sarah Palin's expected bid for Obama's job in 2012 has now begun in earnest.  Ever since word of her interview where she declared she could beat him two years from now, the GOP has been scrambling to find a way to cut her off.  This weekend she faces some harsh truth from the right, starting with Townhall's Mona Charen.

After the 2008 campaign revealed her weaknesses on substance, Palin was advised by those who admire her natural gifts to bone up on policy and devote herself to governing Alaska successfully. Instead, she quit her job as governor after two and a half years, published a book (another is due next week), and seemed to chase money and empty celebrity. Now, rather than being able to highlight the accomplishments of Sarah Palin's Alaska, we get "Sarah Palin's Alaska," another cheesy entrant in the reality show genre. She'd so much rather be out dog sledding than in some "dull political office," she tells the audience. File that.

She is wildly popular with a swath of the Republican electorate, it's true. And, as a conservative woman politician told me, the consultants (who get paid the big bucks win or lose) will doubtless descend upon her with game plans showing how she can win in Iowa and then cruise to the nomination. Maybe. But the general election would be a problem, since 53 percent of independent voters view Palin unfavorably, according to a recent Gallup poll, along with 81 percent of Democrats.

There is no denying that Sarah Palin has been harshly, sometimes even brutally treated by the press and the news/entertainment gaggle. But any prominent Republican must expect some of that and be able to transcend it. She compares herself to Reagan. But Reagan didn't mud wrestle with the press. Palin seems consumed and obsessed by it, as her rapid Twitter finger attests, and thus encourages the sniping. She should be presiding over meetings on oil and gas leases in the North Slope, or devising alternatives to Obamacare. Every public spat with Dave Letterman or Politico, or the "lamestream media," or God help us, Levi Johnston, diminishes her.

Speaking of television, sorry, this must be mentioned. Have you watched "Dancing With the Stars"? Cheesy would be several steps up for this one. Perhaps the former governor should not be blamed for the decisions of her adult daughter. Yet there in the audience we see Sarah and Todd Palin, mugging for the camera and cheering on their unwed-mother daughter as she bumps and grinds to the tune of "Mamma Told Me (Not to Come)." Her parents had advised her, the 20-year-old Bristol told an interviewer, that she had to stay "in character" if she expected to win. Being "in character" apparently meant descending to the vulgarity that "DWTS" peddles on a weekly basis. The momma grizzly was apparently unfazed by -- or, equally disturbing, unaware of -- the indignity. And this is supposed to be a conservative culture warrior?

And while Charen is absolutely right, I have to say that the pundits and press on the right created Sarah Palin in the first place.  May I remind Mona Charen of her words some 26 months ago:

Sarah Palin is not perfect -- she's just the most exciting, authentic, fresh, and talented politician to debut in a generation

Really.  And because Charen and other conservative columnists and pundits gave Sarah Palin a free ride in 2008, and brutally attacked anyone who dared to voice the same legitimate criticisms Charen brings up now as misogynist elitists who couldn't possibly have a real reason to doubt Palin's credibility for higher office, because the right couldn't bring themselves to be intellectually honest about Palin's failures, you now have an imminent civil war brewing between those who see Palin as the messianic figure Republicans accused Obama of being in 2008, and those who know Palin would lose by double digits to Obama in 2012.

And to you, I say "you reap what you sew."  Enjoy your little scuffle here, because if you thought the tensions between the Obama and Hillary Clinton factions of the Dems were bad, you have no idea what's coming.

I plan to enjoy every minute of it.  You helped make her.  Now she's going to help unmake the GOP.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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