Thursday, November 10, 2011

Last Call

Yes, Herman Cain added a couple points to his scumbag multiplier with the "Princess Nancy" crack and Perry.exe encountered reality and blue screened on stage, but the real problem at last night's debate was a number of GOP candidates (Newt and Ron Paul End The Fed) gleefully saying that as President they would basically end government student loans, at a debate at a college, with a college audience, presumably the college kids at the college due to government-backed student loans, and the college kids cheering the end of the aforementioned loans.

Paul was asked about student loan program at a Republican presidential debate. He called it a "total failure" and said student loan debt of nearly $1 trillion could be "dumped on the taxpayer." He said he supported getting rid of student loan programs and the Education Department.
"There's no authority in the Constitution for the federal government to be dealing with education," the Texas congressman argued. "We should get rid of the loan programs. We should get rid of the Department of Education and give tax credits, if you have to, to help people."
Gingrich said the loan program expanded the ability of students "to stay in college longer because they don't see the cost." He called it "an absurdity."
I mean how long before the official GOP platform plank on college is "not if you can't pay cash you don't!"  The number of things America can no longer afford because we have to get the top marginal tax rate as low as possible in order to Magically Create Jobs is getting a bit long, yes?  Somehow, I don't think that our revenue problem is going to be solved by the "Michele Bachmann Two Happy Meal Alternative Minimum Tax Plan" either.

This notion that the federal government should do nothing whenever possible is one thing, but actively running on a platform of promising to assure that government doesn't help its citizens is just grimly bizarre stuff.

Greek Fire, Part 45

We've come a long way from February 2010 when I first mentioned that the Greek Fire had been lit, unquenchable, unstoppable, and immolating all in its path.  I warned then that all of Europe was at risk, and the ECB has doen everything imaginable to make the situation worse.  It's done just that for the last 19 months, laying waste to Ireland, then to Portugal, then Spain, and now we've completed the PIIGS set with the meltdown of the Italian bond market.

Political and economic crisis in Italy spurred fears of a split in the euro zone with borrowing costs for Europe's third biggest economy at unsustainable levels and the bloc unable to afford a bailout.

EU sources told Reuters that French and German officials had held discussions on a two-speed Europe with a smaller, more tightly integrated euro zone and a looser outer circle.

The discussions among senior policymakers, still in the realms of the theoretical, have focused on how to protect the euro zone from breaking up via tighter common policies which some members may by unable or unwilling to live with.

A German government spokesman said on Thursday that Berlin was not pursuing the idea of a smaller euro zone.

Asian shares fell more than 3 percent after similar falls on Wall Street and in Europe as investors took fright at the accelerating sovereign debt crisis and at buck-passing among European leaders and institutions.

The risk premium on all southern European government bonds over safe-haven German Bunds continued to rise at the opening on Thursday ahead of an Italian treasury bill sale seen as a major test of the country's ability to fund itself.

The problem is that the Greek Fire has burned through all the firewalls the IMF, ECB, and EU have set up.  It's slagged them like a plasma torch through ice cream.  Italy is the last bulkhead between the eurozone and oblivion, and the EU knows it.

They also know that there's nothing they can do at this point that wouldn't mean the end of the EU as we know it.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that Europe's plight was now so "unpleasant" that deep structural reforms were needed quickly, warning the rest of the world would not wait. "That will mean more Europe, not less Europe," she told a conference in Berlin.

She called for changes in EU treaties after French President Nicolas Sarkozy advocated a two-speed Europe in which euro zone countries accelerate and deepen integration while an expanding group outside the currency bloc stays more loosely connected -- a signal that some members may have to quit the euro.

At this point, there are no more firewalls left.  The only question now is whether or not the EU and its leaders have the political will to do the right thing.  But at every turn they have implemented austerity and cut off the engine trying to coast up the hill on an empty tank, instead of giving it more gas.  More worried about the tank being empty than getting up the hill, they're about to fail at both.

Now the EU is talking about throwing the PIIGS away and pretending they were never part of the eurozone, while continuing to subject hundreds of million of Europeans to austerity...the same approach Republicans want to use here.

Things are going to move fast now.

Nothing Says Hot Internet Date Like... 300 Stab Wounds?

Milwaukee police are investigating a bizarre stabbing incident in which a 22-year-old Milwaukee woman allegedly stabbed an 18-year-old Arizona man more than 300 times when their sexual relations got "out of hand."

According to an affidavit accompanying a search warrant, the man was bleeding from the neck, arms and back when he called police to East Knapp Street and North Astor Street shortly before 9 p.m. Sunday. The man told police he met the woman online and took a bus from Phoenix to meet her.

"Once he got to the residence, he was bound and stabbed numerous times over a time frame of what he described as two days," the affidavit states.

The man suffered more than 300 puncture wounds to his back, face, arms, legs and neck and was taken to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, according to the document.

Bon's Top Five Responses:

5. Dear Penthouse: What started as a perfectly innocent meeting turned into an amazing two days...

4. 300 wounds and he survived? Was that knife the size of a toothpick or what? If you're going to arrange a random meeting for sex and bloody cutting gratification at least do it right!

3. I want to read the insurance paperwork. How the hell do you code this out in the system?

2. Team Edward!

1. Please let these people all be too stupid to breed successfully.

Pippi Longstocking Racist? One Woman Says Yes

A German theologian has sparked controversy by calling Sweden's beloved Pippi Longstocking children's books racist and demanding additions to prompt parents to skip over or explain certain passages.
She goes on to list what she considers improper, and then gives the books credit for being funny and creative.  However, she loudy demands that parts be cut, edited, or marked so parents can explain.

Well, bull. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of the Pippi books.  I have not read the passages in context, and what the article describes would make me stop and think, for sure.  I'm simply saying that anything that has been published has the right to exist how it is.  It is not the reader's choice what is in the book, only whether they choose to read it or not.  Did we get to tell Margaret Mitchell that Scarlett and Rhett should have patched it up?  Did anyone read The Grapes of Wrath?  If anyone deserved his ass kicked for what he put us through, it's John "Hope Is For Losers" Steinbeck.  The Scarlet Letter?  Except for getting Demi Moore's boobs on the big screen, could there a more useless story?  Those are my opinions, and I'd never read any of those books again.  I'd never dream of telling anyone else what to think, however.  Where I find melodrama and painfully slow plots others see beauty and grace.  Don't blame me, I'm an O. Henry gal, and will remain so forever.

But seriously, nobody has the right to tromp over another person's work.  If you find a book to be racist, stupid, or just not fun you have the right to not read it.  However, demanding changes is wrong.  If someone is that opposed, they can write their own book however they please.  If they are reading it out loud, they can skip anything they like without forcing change on a work of art.  In a world with billions of books, there is no need to demand that any one of them be tailored to one person's expectations.

Second, racist is subjective in this case.  This is a snapshot of history, warts and all.  Those warts are important.  Take To Kill A Mockingbird, for instance.  That book is racist as hell.  It also demonstrates why it's wrong, how people truly were at that time, and how one brave man doing the right thing made a difference.  But racist?  Hell yes it is.  A black man was convicted, not because he was guilty but because he dared admit he felt sorry for a white woman, something unheard of at that time. As distasteful as some characters and actions are, the end result is a lesson in what racist behavior can do, and how it can be countered by intelligence and compassion.  Mark Twain's work is also heavily criticized for his choice of words.  But they are his choice of words, his work, and our right to stop reading anything that we find offensive.

This woman means well, but she's wrong.  If she finds the characters out of line, read something else.  There are plenty of choices out there, and will spare her the burden of censorship for the world.  I know I watched certain movies with the nieces and nephews and used it to have a conversation about things such as racism.  In fact, we watched Gone With The Wind and she flinched at some of the things she saw.  After seeing some of the horror of that era, she had a new understanding of how wrong we can be as a culture.  This summer I bought her a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird and we had several talks about how racism happens as  culture, and how "it's just that way" is never a good enough reason to be unjust.

We can choose what we read.  That should be enough.

When Is A King Really A Prince?

When it's Stephen King, of course.  King has always had a "do your part" perspective when it comes to giving to charity or helping others.  He has pledged $70,000 of his own money if people are able to contribute a matching amount.  The money will go to people who are struggling to heat their homes in the Maine winter.

BANGOR, Maine – Horror author Stephen King is stepping up to help struggling Maine residents buy heating oil.

The state is facing deep cuts to a federal heating oil assistance program.

The Maine native announced Tuesday that his foundation will work with the three radio stations he owns in the Bangor area to raise $140,000 to buy heating oil for low-income residents.

He's asking listeners to donate $70,000, and the foundation will double it.
Now that's a prince.  Rather than just throwing money into the wind, he is specific and holds people accountable for giving as well.  Bravo!

Moving Forward At Your Own Perry-il, Part 10

And Governor Goodhair ends not with a bang but with a...umm...errm....something.

“And I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when i get there that are gone,” he said. “Commerce, education, and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see.”

He proceeded to struggle a bit while his rivals and the moderators tried to jog his memory.

“Five,” he said. “Okay. Commerce, education, and the —”

“EPA?” a moderator interrupted.

“EPA,” Perry replied. “There you go.”

But then he realized upon further prodding that that wasn’t what he meant at all.

“No, sir, no, sir. We are talking about the — agencies of government,” he said. “EPA needs to be rebuilt.”

Eventually he just gave up.

“Commerce and, let’s see. I can’t,” he said. “The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

Perry later said that he was glad he was wearing boots, because he "really stepped in it".  To recap, this is a man too stupid to pull off the "lovably stupid like Bush/Texas swagger" routine without his mind blue screening under the Kleig lights. 

Perry.exe has encountered reality it can't handle and will now shut down.  Bye, Ricky.

Alabama Bound: Here We Go

I first mentioned Jefferson County, Alabama over three years ago as the state's most populous county (and home of its largest city, Birmingham) has been on the brink of municipal bankruptcy for years now as it was devastated by the credit default swap shell game.  In the meantime to stay afloat, the county fought and lost a tax battle that forced it to suspend a number of services and then Republicans ravaged the tax system with a regressive occupation tax and the Democratic mayor was indicted on fraud to the tune of billions.

It's taken a while, but the county has finally declared Chapter 9 bankruptcy this week.

Jefferson County, Alabama, filed the biggest U.S. municipal bankruptcy after an agreement among elected officials and investors to refinance $3.1 billion in sewer bonds fell apart.

The county, home to Birmingham, the state’s most-populous city, listed assets and debt of more than $1 billion in Chapter 9 papers filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Birmingham.

The county’s bankruptcy attorney, Kenneth Klee, said the filing was necessary because talks with creditors and the receiver in charge of the sewer system built by the bonds broke down.

“There was an impasse reached,” Klee said in an interview today. “None of the creditors -- zero -- signed up to the deal that we have been negotiating for six weeks.”

The county’s major creditors, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), signed tentative agreements in September to reorganize the sewer debt to avoid bankruptcy. County officials said at the time that JPMorgan would provide $750 million of about $1.1 billion in concessions.

By October, the tentative deal began to fall apart as disagreements emerged among Jefferson County’s 25 state lawmakers. The deal required action by the state Legislature to help the county close its budget deficit, create an independent sewer authority and give state moral-obligation backing to new sewer debt. 

Yeah, there's the irony:  the big losers here are the banks who have to take a haircut on their losses.  But Jefferson County is not going to be alone, folks.  This was years in the making, and more of this will be coming.  Count on it.


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