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So Much for Health Care Reform January 10, 2009

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Corruption, Government, Health Care, Health Insurance, Politics.

Tom Daschle is promising that health care reform will be truly bipartisan. If by this he means that he won’t be pushing for anything that the Republicans won’t sign up for then meaningful reform that will help the uninsured in this country is dead. The Republicans in the House and Senate will never go along with anything that doesn’t protect the current profit levels (If not even more.) of the insurance companies, the large publicly held hospital chains and the pharmaceutical industry. Given those limitations you cannot accomplish anything that will really help. All you have to do in order to understand that is read the position expressed by Senator Michael Enzi R-WY. What’s really important? Not the uninsured. Not cost control. Not the health of millions of Americans. It’s the insurance companies.

“Any new insurance coverage must be delivered through private insurance plans,” said Senator Michael B. Enzi, Republican of Wyoming and his party’s ranking member on the Health committee, in prepared comments for the hearing, the panel’s first session of the year.

There’s some real caring and compassion for you. Care for corporations, that is.


Did He Look in Madoff’s Eyes? December 17, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Corruption, Economics, Government, The Big Crash of 2008, The Bush Administration.
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In an editorial the Kansas City Star’s resident ultra-conservative, E. Thomas McClanahan actually says that an inept SEC led to the Madoff scandal. I’m sorry, Mr. McClanahan, but in fact the SEC was basically doing what your hero Dubya wanted them to do, which is largely nothing. Was there any regulatory agency that wasn’t having their budgets cut under the Bush administration? Any agency that wasn’t full of political appointees whose main goal was to forward a particular political agenda? Look at Cox’s background. What else would anyone expect of an SEC he’s in charge of? Let’s face it, everything went according to plan and if you think Madoff is the only one out there…

Yes, the War on Drugs is Insane August 1, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Barbarity, Corruption, Does Not Compute, The War on Drugs, Too Stupid to Live, What is Justice?.
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The Washington Post reports on how Prince George’s County police and Sheriff’s officers, including a full SWAT team, broke into the home of the mayor of Berwyn Heights, shot his two dogs and handcuffed he and his mother-in-law and interrogated them. Why? In Arizona a drug sniffing dog identified a package addressed to Calvo’s wife as containing marijuana. The Prince George authorities disguised themselves as delivery people and with SWAT team and other officers in place delivered the package. Wasn’t the fact that an older woman (the mother-in-law) told them to just leave it on the porch a good first clue that something was a bit odd? So the mayor comes home from walking the dogs, sees the package addressed to his wife and takes it in and puts it on the table, just as most of us would do.

A few minutes later the door bursts open as the SWAT team invades and they immediately shoot one dog and then kill the other when it comes running into the room. Why would they do this? Why were there no Federal officials there when this shipment made in a crime crossing multiple state lines? Why didn’t the county cops contact the local police? Simple. Money. I have no doubt the county officials will deny it but anyone familiar with what goes on with drug busts now knows that whatever agency makes the arrest can take any money and property the drug dealer has. Even if the suspect is found innocent the property is often never returned. If you involve the Feds or any other law enforcement agency you have to split the money with them. Apparently in their rush to bust the wealthy drug dealer receiving 32 pounds of pot and seize their property it never occurred to them to investigate who lived at the house and consider that just maybe a violent assault on the part time mayor whose day job is running a national non-profit organization called SEED wasn’t the brightest move they could make.

Too Simple To Be True January 25, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Corruption, Economics.
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David Brooks writes of the recent problems in the financial sector of which the subprime mortgage mess is only one part. His column says that there are two narratives and only two narratives used to explain it. The Greed Narrative or the Ecology Narrative. He closes with this (emphasis mine).

The lesson of the Ecology Narrative is that, in most cases, the market corrects itself. Maybe this year banks will change their pay structure so there’s not so much emphasis on short-term results. Maybe companies will change their boards to improve scrutiny over complex new instruments. In short, markets adapt.

People who embrace the Ecology Narrative don’t like the offensive bonuses that get handed out on Wall Street. They just don’t see any way the government can curtail them without rending the fabric of the ecosystem. They don’t like the periodic crises, but don’t see how government can prevent them without clamping down on innovation. The challenge is to give people the means to withstand the perturbations.

The Ecology Narrative is not morally satisfying. I wouldn’t bet on its popularity as a backlash against Wall Street and finance sweeps across a recession-haunted country. But the Ecology Narrative has one thing going for it. It happens to be true.

I just haven’t seen any signs that there is anything in the financial services sector that would correct the problems with the compensation structure. I haven’t read anything anywhere that indicates I’ve missed something that would indicate there’s any demand building for a system less destructive of the long term good. After all, the people who make a mint with the current structure are the ones in charge and there is no motivation for them to change things and the incestuous relationship between company management and boards pretty much guarantees there is no force influencing them from the “outside” to encourage repairs. There is no magic wand, spell or potion that guarantees that “markets adapt”. Not so long as over-compensated executives and traders have people like Brooks shrugging and saying that they and the damage they do to our economy must be tolerated because of unproven claims about the good they do.

But his claim is too simple. His last sentence precludes the possibility that while the Ecology Narrative has a lot going for it, it just doesn’t explain a lot of what is seen in the real world. Frankly, Mr. Brooks, someone got a lot of their Greed Narrative in your Ecology Narrative. And the narrative that includes them both is the one that is true.

Pogo and The Street January 24, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Corruption, Economics.
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Do you think that any of the hotshots on Wall Street are familiar with Pogo? Maybe you remember the famous saying and maybe you don’t but Wall Street seems to be the latest capitalists to have become capitalism’s greatest enemies. I rarely agree with anything Robert J. Samuelson has to say but this column of his actually makes some sense. But of course, since it is critical of the current economic environment he just dips his toe into the water. He rightly points out that the compensation structure not only produces incredulity on the part of many that these people really deserve the huge pay packages they routinely get but also encourage behavior that has larger consequences for the country. The way their bonuses are structured encourage activities that have little to do with what’s good for their customers, the companies whos stocks and bonds they sell and certainly not what’s good for the average person who doesn’t work for them.

Consider this admission from someone who should know:

“People self-select for careers. On Wall Street, they self-select for the money,” says pay consultant Alan Johnson. “Wall Street is a sales business — they sell bonds, securities, transactions, ideas. . . . They’re not paid to be long-term, philosophical, reflective.” The pressure is to do the next merger, sell more stocks and bonds, do more trading — whatever boosts current profits and bonuses, the long-term consequences be damned.

The focus is an unrelenting one purely on personal gain and status in the company that accompanies doing well in the short term measurements that are pretty much all they deal in. The standard excuses are that they are responsible for the strength of our economy by their ability to provide capital to those companies that deserve it. But Samuelson points out the places where they have failed miserably at this task. I think that he could have listed more but after all, there’s only so much room for his column and so much time to research it, isn’t there?

Samuelson closes with this:

But if the subprime failure turns out to be a preamble to a larger financial breakdown, flowing from the creation of new securities that offered short-term trading possibilities but whose long-run risks were underestimated, then the mood could turn uglier. Indeed, many Americans may conclude that capitalism has run amok.

But let’s be honest, this current disaster in the making is related in a very basic way to Enron, Enron and other energy trading companies’ gaming of the California energy market a few years back, Tyco, Global Crossing, Adelphia, Arthur Andersen, Worldcom and the rest. It relates to the demands placed on publicly held companies by Wall Street. There is no restraint, no moderation. There doesn’t seem to be any such thing as enough. There isn’t enough profit to make them happy, there isn’t enough income to give traders and consultants the ego boost, status and material goodies they apparently crave. So eventually it becomes just too easy to step over the lines, whether they are the ones separating honesty from dishonesty or ambition from greed. Just remember that the very definition of greed includes the word excessive. MBA programs now include more discussion of ethics than before the wave of scandals that swept American business a few years ago. But how many of them ever address the simple idea that at some point people in business should say “Enough. That’s going too far.”. Because even if it’s legal that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Yes, They Think We’re Stupid December 12, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Corruption, Does Not Compute, Politics.
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MSNBC reports on the last Republican candidate debate before Iowa’s caucuses. It is noted that they all basically agreed on at least one big lie.

Republican presidential rivals called for deep cuts in federal spending Wednesday in a debate remarkably free of acrimony and agreed the reductions they seek need not require painful sacrifice by millions of Americans who rely on government services.

“The sacrifice we need from the American people is saying, ‘Let the programs go that don’t work. Don’t lobby for them forever,’ ” said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, one of nine GOP presidential hopefuls sharing an Iowa stage little more than three weeks before the state’s caucuses provide the first test of the campaign.

Anyone who looks at where the government spends its money and what other promises the Republicans are making knows that this is a lie so big that it might well collapse into a black hole at any moment. Not one of the leading contenders is about to cut military spending and even the anti-war Ron Paul is unlikely to do that, he just doesn’t want our soldiers in Iraq. After all, while they all speak of cutting programs that don’t work have the words V-22 Osprey passed their lips as an example? Of course not.

At least Ron Paul admits that he believes in eliminating every social program and every regulatory agency. The others won’t admit it, but the numbers would only work out if that’s what they did. The tax cuts they want and the military spending they want pretty much leave no alternative but to make up the difference by taking it out of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and every other department that isn’t run by the Pentagon. Does anyone think that this truth will pass the lips of Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani, Thompson or Paul? I don’t.

About that Looking Into His Eyes Thing… November 25, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Corruption, Foreign Relations, International News.
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“I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul.

“He’s a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that’s the beginning of a very constructive relationship,” Mr Bush said.

This was George W. Bush’s comment concerning Vladimir Putin in 2001. Does trustworthy include tossing your political opponents in jail and having them beaten to make certain that your hand picked successor wins? After all, Vladimir, that good old boy KGB apparatchik, can’t take any chances that he will lose power, can he? And make no mistake, though he might not be President of Russia after the coming elections he won’t be losing his grip on power in any way. Just because they aren’t the Evil (Communist) Empire any more doesn’t mean that they are our friends or allies in any way.

Not My Definition of Charity September 30, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Corruption, Government, Politics.
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OK, I just don’t know how to express what I feel about this little cesspool written about by the Washingon Post. I strongly suggest you read the whole article. So let’s just list the highlights, shall we?

  • Charles Reichers is appointed to a Bush Administration job with the Air Force and gets a “fake” job with an Air Force contractor while awaiting confirmation. Reichers himself admits that this job required no work on his part.
  • This contractor, Commonwealth Research Institute, and its parent company, Concurrent Technologies, are both listed with the IRS as tax exempt charities.
  • Neither company is apparently doing anything different from what other companies that pay their taxes do for the government or anyone else for that matter.
  • It has received over $100,000,000 in earmarks.
  • Jack Murtha, the representative for the area where the company is based just arranged a $10 million earmark for the company for fiscal 2008.

Charity?? I don’t think so. I think this whole thing and this company just don’t pass the “smell test”.