Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ted Rall on Why We Hate the Bailout(s)

Ted Rall is an essayist and cartoonist.

I'm a calm person. Yet my most recent bank statement featured three items that brought my blood to a fast boil. One was a $10 "income wire transfer fee." A newspaper that publishes this column paid for it by wiring the money to my account. The bank charged me ten bucks--for depositing money! Money that, by the way, they invest in what the banking industry calls "the overnight call float."...

...Then there's what my bank calls AN IMPORTANT CHANGE CONCERNING THE PROCESSING OF YOUR CHECKS EFFECTIVE MARCH 20, 2009: "As checks you have written are presented to us for payment during the course of a business day," they explain, "we will place a hold on available funds in your account of those checks, resulting in a reduction in your available account balance throughout that day." This is Bankese for: "You will pay bounce fees even when you have enough money in your account for checks to clear."

I won't even mention the time they hit me with a $120 fine in a single month--twelve separate fees at $10 a pop--for being stupid enough to use the line of credit they once begged me to take.

I hate my bank. My bank is Citibank. Citibank sucks. ...

If Citibank wasn't an evil, customer-hating band of fee vultures, I might not be quite so annoyed at the fact that its parent company, Citigroup, had just received $20 billion in direct investment plus $306 billion in loan guarantees from the U.S. government (i.e. us), of which I am a subsidiary. That's $1,100 per American citizen, plus compound interest paid to Chinese investors who buy U.S. Treasury obligations. The fact that Citigroup "didn't produce" has nothing to do with it. I would rather set $1,100 on fire than hand it over to Citigroup. ...

...I have a suggestion for Mr. Samuelson and the high-flying captains of industry he champions: If banks and insurance companies want taxpayers to save their steak-fattened butts, let them accept some changes that will make Americans like them better. For banks, no more fees on checking or savings accounts. Period. For credit card companies, reset all interest rates at one percent over prime. Give customers a full month to pay their bills. No more unilateral changes in rates. For insurance companies, the presumption should be that all claims are legitimate unless proven otherwise. If a doctor approves it, pay out without being asked twice.

Oh, and one more thing: Get rid of phone trees. Fire the half-a-world-away call centers. Ban voice recognition systems--"say yes or no--I'm sorry, I didn't get that." Hire actual people to answer the phone. Make them pick it up on the first ring and transfer calls to the proper department.

I'd pay $1,100 for that.

[complete article here]

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spending Money Just Because They Have Money To Spend

A letter I fired off today:

Office of Mayor Jerry Abramson
Metro Hall / 4th Floor
527 W. Jefferson St.
Louisville, KY 40202

c.c.: LMPD, Governor Steve Beshear, LG&E, Miller Pipeline Co., MSD, LEO Weekly, Louisville Courier Journal, Me Talk Big Noise blog

Re: wasted money

To Whom It May Concern:

There is a question that has bothered me for some time and today I sought an answer: “Why does every utility project require at least one, and usually two cops sitting in their cars with the engine running and lights flashing?” A half of a block on Clay Street, between Market Street and the alley was closed for work by the electric company today. That particular block is short to begin with and the distance from the corner of Clay and Market to the alley is less than 200 feet. There were two massive Louisville Gas & Electric Company trucks blocking the western lane. The eastern lane was blocked by traffic cones and two police cars with an officer in each. One of the cops was asleep, and the other was watching a movie on his laptop. There is very little traffic on that stretch of road as the street is closed at the end of the block. The absurdity of two cars being used to block this is staggering and I would go so far as to say it is a form of theft from the public coffers.

I asked the movie watching officer (the one that was awake) what the logic of this set-up was. He answered that they were “under contract” with LG&E and officers were required wherever work was being done. He couldn’t explain why and I don’t think anyone in government or at LG&E can either, at least not honestly. These two officers, being paid well over $25/hr while their two cars were burning gasoline were doing the job that could be done just as well by a pair of barricades with flashing lights.

This ludicrous use of our police force has bothered me for years. Several years back when I-65 was being resurfaced there was an officer at every single exit and entrance to the highway, sitting in a running police car all night long every single night for several weeks. Explain to me how it would be more expensive and less effective to place concrete barriers with flashing lights and a sign at each of these ramps and remove them at the end of the night. You can’t because it would, in fact, be cheaper and just as effective. Put a phone number on the barricade and pay one person to answer and give directions to those confused about getting out of town. Paying a cop to sit there (especially at the ends of exit ramps) is at best moronic.

Last year here in the Highlands the gas lines were being replaced and along the blocks where work was on-going police officers were stationed with their cars. As best as I can tell they were doing absolutely nothing other than accompanying their gasoline wasting, pollution producing police cars turned lighted barriers. For several days in a row there were large trucks and backhoes parked along the shoulder at Winter and Edward, a difficult intersection in good times and during this work it was impossible to see if there was traffic coming from either direction. Were the officers directing traffic? Were they letting the drivers entering blind from Edward know that it was clear or they should wait? No. They were standing around talking to people from the pipeline company, not directing traffic. Not once in the months the gas crews were working this neighborhood did I see any of these officers doing anything other than standing around, getting paid for breathing.

During heavy work on Bardstown road there were cop cars parked behind concrete barriers with their motors running and lights flashing. To what purpose? None. These cars were doing nothing that could not be achieved by placing flashing lights on the concrete barriers. They were wasting our money, they were wasting natural resources, they were adding age and wear to the vehicles, and they were most certainly not patrolling our streets and alleys, reducing crime.

I thought this stupid waste would have ended after a deputy sheriff was killed while playing barricade on I-64 last year. He was sitting in his car where there should have been a couple of big, dumb hunks of concrete with lights and signs when a truck ran over his car at highway speed, killing him instantly. Did anyone in government think, “Wow, having living people acting as a barricade to traffic may not be a good idea”? Of course not.

And best yet, after witnessing the absolutely moronic use of police officers on Clay Street I drove past Cherokee Park where a far more complicated and much busier set of streets were half closed by barricades and a couple of guys with signs directing traffic. Not a cop in sight and traffic seemed to be moving fairly smoothly.

The city of Louisville has closed parks, cut education funding and increased fees for services because of budget woes but we’re still pissing away thousands of dollars a day having police officers and police cars doing unnecessary jobs. I want these officers on foot patrols in the housing projects, or walking the Highlands at night, not sleeping in a car blocking a half a block of downtown street. Maybe if these fat cops (the officer watching the movie had a belly that would have embarrassed Homer Simpson) were hiking around the city bad things like babies being shot in the Shepherd Square projects or my elderly neighbor’s house being emptied by thieves in the middle of the night might not happen.

Every year I pay my taxes to this city and this kind of thing makes me more angry than I can express in words. Rather than protecting and serving, the Mayor and Chief of Police are going for pretending and soaking. You go to the rich, white parts of this city and wait an hour and you’ll see a police car cruise through, slowly. You can sit at the corner of Jacob and Jackson (huge open air drug market) for two weeks and you won’t see a single cop that’s not driving fifteen miles an hour over the speed limit, eyes forward, passing through. That is unless it’s the week where they try to get in their drug busts for the quarter so they can suck at the Federal teet of “drug enforcement” funding. Then there are dozens of cops being rude to everyone in the area, pushing people around and telling kids to shut the f#@! up while pulling over and searching everyone they profile (i.e. white people or black kids in nice cars). Again, a waste of money, a waste of time, and a waste of any good will of the people that live there.

I invested in property in Smoketown (the historically black part of Louisville) expecting the housing projects to be destroyed and a light rail system (streetcar) to run in front of my door. Neither of these things happened but I’ve kept up the property and lived there for years. Last year my brother and I were held up at gunpoint by three young boys with a very big revolver. It took over a half hour for an officer to arrive (we were two blocks from Broadway). When we called the detective about this, two weeks later, he hadn’t even looked at the case and implied we were criminals ourselves asking sarcastically, “What were you doing in Smoketown, huh?” As it was 11:30am on a school day you would think a quick check of absent male students that lived in that area would’ve solved the case. I doubt he did a thing as we never heard a word from him. Perhaps if the officers sleeping in their cars where street work was going on had been walking around that neighborhood those kids wouldn’t have decided to hold us up. Perhaps if officers were interacting with these children and acting as roll models they wouldn’t think of police only as the bastards that beat up their uncle or sent their mother to prison.

What the police department is doing by accepting these “living barricade” jobs is a form of theft. It enriches the officers that get paid for doing nothing and it fattens the coffers of the police department by payments from the utility companies while taking officers off the street and away from actually keeping the rest of us safe. All of us citizens end up paying for this stupidity whether it’s through our taxes or through the money we pay the utilities. The vehicles we buy are worn doing nothing, the air we breath is polluted by these senselessly running engines, and our police officers feel they deserve to be paid for sitting on their asses which might explain the crap attitudes so many Louisville officers bring to the public they harass and ignore. This just reeks of one thief scratching the back of another thief. The executives of the utility companies get to rub shoulders with the mayor, assuring there will be little examination of what they charge the city, the chief of police can do that bureaucratic thing of taking pride in controlling more money than necessary while doing as little as possible with it, and the mayor can pretend that he’s worried about the city’s budget as he closes parks and slashes pay and benefits and ignores flagrant wastes of money like this while making the donors to his campaigns feel safe by sending cop cars cruising through their crime free subdivisions.

If anyone can explain to me how this makes any sense whatsoever I will be amazed. It smells like business as usual to me and that business is not to the benefit of the vast majority of the taxpayers and utility customers of this community.

Alan Miller

Two Novels

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

[via Jeffrey Taylor thanks to Uncertain Times]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Whose Fault is this Mess?

The blame lays squarely with every dumbass that voted Republican the last 8+ years. The last administration (and preceding Congresses) gutted our regulatory agencies. What are we left with? A bunch of neutered bureaus that cannot do what they're supposed to do. We have poison food, poison assets, and a bunch of rich fucks that will remain rich while the rest of us suffer the consequences of their greed and immorality. Thanks, Republicans, for making sure government can't work... if it's run by Republicans.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The "Brain" of the GOP

Class Warfare

The last three decades of "economic expansion" has been built on the backs of the world's poor. Now that those backs are beginning to break, perhaps the poor will take back what was stolen.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Quote

Dorothy Parker on Atlas Shrugged:

"This is not a novel to set aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Open Letter to the Republican Traitors (From a Former Republican)

LINK to entire letter
Frank Schaeffer:
"You Republicans are the arsonists who burned down our national home. You combined the failed ideologies of the Religious Right, so-called free market deregulation and the Neoconservative love of war to light a fire that has consumed America. Now you have the nerve to criticize the "architect" America just hired -- President Obama -- to rebuild from the ashes. You do nothing constructive, just try to hinder the one person willing and able to fix the mess you created."
"And can you picture the gentlemanly and always polite Ronald Reagan, endorsing a radio hate-jock slob who crudely mocked a man with Parkinson's and who now says he wants an American president to fail?!"
"When your new leader Rush Limbaugh calls for President Obama to fail he's calling for more flag-draped coffins. Limbaugh is the new 'Hanoi Jane.'"
"You had the chance to put our country first. You utterly failed to rise to the occasion."

Favorite New Band: Los Po-Boy-Citos

Some close friends of mine in New Orleans discovered a blend of latin and funk called boogaloo and decided to form a band to play it. In typical New Orleans fashion they incorporated the sound of the Crescent City into their relatively faithful readings of the classic originals they cover as well as rendering New Orleans classics into the boogaloo style.

Their debut album New Orleans Latin Soul has got to be one of my favorite albums of 2008 and they are definitely one of the best live acts I've seen in years. The band grooves along as comfortably as your best dancing shoes, feeling at once tight and precise and easy and loose. You can hear the band's smiles in every note and sitting still is not an option. Live the band transmits an air of relaxed joy that infects an audience. This music is the kind that makes the ladies dance and the men folks boogie. It is fun. Do not miss them if you get a chance to see them live. They're that good.

Los Po-Boy-Citos' MySpace page features lots of free streaming music but you should just go ahead and buy the album here (and help out a great N.O. record store as well). It will be the best $13 you'll spend this year.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A little while ago an anonymous reader suggested I post to because it was somehow an instrumental place to post for loud-mouthed progressives. (see the comments under this topic)

I gave it a shot and found it is the place for limp wristed hippy wannabes to whine politely.

On my first post at (for which I received multiple compliments) I was reprimanded for using the word "rape" to describe what the banks and the recent right wing administration has done and continues to do to poor people. I already cross-posted this here.

Then came this e-mail:


There has been a new response posted to the following discussion on
Conflicting Interests in Obama's Housing Plan

Alan, please refrain from using the word "raping" as a verb here. It's extremely violent and unnecessary hyperbole that is upsetting in its imagery.

posted by Leigh Graham

Click the link below to view this discussion.

"Alan, please refrain from using the word "raping" as a verb here."?!? So I could say "the rape of the poor by the rich continues" but not "the rich are raping the poor"?

Now here's the first bit that makes me angry (other than being given a stupid order by a stranger): She did not post this on the forum but sent it to me personally, but via a blind e-mail that made her reply appear as if it were a post. I responded to her the only way available to me (the reply address for the e-mail is "" so I could not reply directly via e-mail) by posting her comment and a rebuttal which unfortunately I did not save a copy of. My response was that I was offended by her censorship and argued that there was class warfare being conducted and just like war in Darfur, this type of rape was being perpetrated against the poor by the rich. I explained in detail how rape was the perfect analogy for what's going on both because it is horrible but also because it can be repeated unlike most other acts of war that involve killing people. I did not use any commonly acknowledged profanity (unlike here in this blog) and the argument was well crafted.

I even argued that she should feel free to delete any of my language they find disagreeable as long as they put "[censored]" in its place.

Rather than reply in the forum Leigh Graham deleted the rebuttal and sent me this e-mail:

Alan Miller,

Your comment on the blog entry entitled 'Conflicting Interests in Obama's Housing Plan' has been removed from the Poverty in America community on by an administrator.

REASON: Alan, As I thought, your word choice has upset other readers. I was sent an abuse report and asked to consider deleting your comment. I am going to do so. My site, my rules, and I find your English degree pales in comparison to a rape survivor's emotional health as justification for using the word versus not.

If you have any questions please read the Terms of Service or contact us at

I replied to the e-mail notification despite the fact I'm sure it vanished into nothingness at, but here it is anyway:

Censorship is censorship.
Welcome to post freedom America

"My site, my rules." [self censored obscenity]. That's not Democratic, it's not politic, and it makes your forum worthless. If you can't argue then don't host a public forum. If opinions cannot be expressed in commonly acceptable language (i.e. if you can say it on the radio and not get fined) then expression is restricted and violated.

This is why I won't post on stupid, bullshit, politically correct sites like this. This is why the Democratic party will lose again to the Republicans. The Republicans make up a problem and then talk about it with fiery, populist rhetoric. The Democrats are so afraid they might offend someone even though they are totally right, all their language is watered down, milky, and devoid of passion or righteousness. Rather than call a spade a spade they feel they have to call it "that triple lobed playing card emblem." It's bogus, it's weak, and it's typical. Better not use the word "puppy" as a noun because someone might be allergic to dogs!

I don't want anything to do with a bunch of pussies like that. I will not be party to censorship of any kind, especially when it is of this overly aggressive politically correct variety. All has managed to do for me is make me angry. Fucking worthless.

Friday, March 6, 2009

John Stewart Has Something To Say About CNBC

"If only I'd followed CNBC's advice, I'd have a million dollars, provided I'd started with a hundred million dollars."

The Limbaugh Lie of the Day Podcast

conceptual gorilla radio

I used to listen to Limbaugh now and then in the mid 90's but was so frustrated by the lies and stupidity that constantly spewed from my speakers that I eventually had to quit listening to him for my own health.

Limbaugh says when he first met Bobby Jindal he thought he was "the next Reagan" and that we should like him even more after his unbelievably awful rebuttal to Obama's recent speech because we need someone who isn't articulate and well spoken. Those people are suspect. Through the looking glass, Alice. Just right through.

These days Limbaugh is in the news a lot. It's basically because he's a treasonous bastard but he whines that it's because he's "taken out of context." This from the king of taking people out of context (he edited an interview with Tom Brokaw to make it sound like Brokaw was afraid of Obama and knew nothing about him, for instance). I decided I should keep up with him from quotes I've read and clips I've watched in the last six months or so and then I found this podcast: The Limbaugh Lie of the Day. The host, Joe Lyles, is bombastic and blustering but he also refutes Limbaugh's lies with facts and reason. That combination might be what you need to get your right wing friends and family to actually listen to him. Lyles gets mad at Limbaugh and calls him out on his bullshit. The podcasts are usually around ten minutes long, and a lot of that is the intro and outro.

A quick perusal of Media Matters yields even more evidence of Limbaugh's activities.

I was considering running a series of all the Rush Limbaugh based editorial cartoons from the last week but decided it would take up way too much space. But I would like to post a couple:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Adjusted for Stupidity

From The BBC 4 News Quiz:

About a survey on the belief in evolution and the age of the earth:

"I think what you need to do with a survey like that is that figures need to be adjusted like we seasonally adjust unemployment figures. We should adjust surveys for stupidity. Essentially, so, according to raw data, one in three Britains believes God created the world in the last ten thousand years. But adjusted for stupidity, noone believes that."

This got huge laughs on the BBC. I wonder how it would go over on an American quiz show.

My one argument with this clever joke is that I think the adjustment should be for ignorance as opposed to stupidity. In my opinion the vast majority of people that believe the earth is literally from 6,332 to 6,579 years old (timeline here) really are stupid but they are also ignorant of the facts and the vastness of the evidence that proves the earth is, in fact, incredibly ancient. Ancient as in the incomprehensibly vast time span of 4.5billion years give or take 1%. There is this other group of people who are not stupid, who have seen the facts, and who remain ignorant nonetheless. These people are willfully ignorant. More often than not this type of person uses this willful ingnorance to manipulate and control the actual stupid people, reinforcing the "us v. them" mindset that is essential to the control of a cult. The truly stupid ignorant people that believe the Bible is a literal history of life on earth are also told, by the willfully ignorant, that if they doubt the Bible they will go to hell.

Sorry to end a humor post on such a down note. I live in the state with the creationist museum so I am perpetually ashamed of my fellow Americans whose brains are so effectively controlled by the most evil, hateful, and willfully ignorant humans in the world. But for a smile, here's a picture from inside the creationist museum:

Parenting FAIL.

Hope for Failure

The Wreck Meme Continues

Monday, March 2, 2009


From The Onion

Lovecraftian School Board Member Wants Madness Added To Curriculum

March 2, 2009 | Issue 45•10


ARKHAM, MA—Arguing that students should return to the fundamentals taught in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon in order to develop the skills they need to be driven to the very edge of sanity, Arkham school board member Charles West continued to advance his pro-madness agenda at the district's monthly meeting Tuesday.

"Fools!" said West, his clenched fist striking the lectern before him. "We must prepare today's youth for a world whose terrors are etched upon ancient clay tablets recounting the fever-dreams of the other gods—not fill their heads with such trivia as math and English. Our graduates need to know about those who lie beneath the earth, waiting until the stars align so they can return to their rightful place as our masters and wage war against the Elder Things and the shoggoths!"

The controversial school board member reportedly interrupted a heated discussion about adding fresh fruit to school lunches in order to bring his motion to the table. With the aid of a flip chart, West laid out his six-point plan for increased madness, which included field trips to the medieval metaphysics department at Miskatonic University, instruction in the incantations of Yog-Sothoth, and a walkathon sponsored by local businesses to raise money for the freshman basketball program.

Enlarge Image Lovecraftian

Artist's rendering of the Cthulhu, a hideous demon borne of pure malice that fewer than 3 percent of high school sophomores can identify.

"Our schools are orderly, sanitary places where students dwell in blissful ignorance of the chaos that awaits," West said. "Should our facilities be repaired? No, they must be razed to the ground and rebuilt in the image of the Cyclopean dwellings of the Elder Gods, the very geometry of which will drive them to be possessed by visions of the realms beyond."

West has served on the school board since 1997, when he defeated 89-year-old incumbent Doris Pesce by promising to enforce dress codes and refer repeat disciplinary cases to the three-lobed burning eye. He has run unopposed ever since.

"Charles sure likes to bang on that madness drum," fellow school board member Danielle Kolker said. "I'm not totally sold on his plan to let gibbering, half-formed creatures dripping with ichor feed off the flesh and fear of our students. But he is always on time to help set up for our spaghetti suppers, and his bake sale goods are among the most popular."

"I must admit, he's very convincing," Kolker added.

West's previous failed proposals include requiring the high school band to perform the tuneless flute songs of the blind idiot god Azathoth and offering art students instruction in the carving of morbid and obscene fetishes from otherworldly media.

Several parents attending the meeting were not impressed by West's outburst.

"Last month, he wanted us to change the high school's motto from 'Many Kinds of Excellence' to 'Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn,'" PTA member Cathy Perry said. "I asked if it was Latin, and he said that it was the eldritch tongue of Shub- Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young. I don't know from eldritch tongues, but I'm not sure that's such a good idea."

"We already changed the name of the school from Abraham Lincoln High to Nyalrothotep Academy," Perry added. "What more does he want?"

Immediately before the vote on his motion, which was defeated eight to one, West gave his final remarks, arguing that the children are our future and that it's the school board's obligation to make sure they are fully versed in the unspeakable horrors still to come.

"In the information age, it is easier than ever to gather knowledge about things that should not be but nonetheless are, and such wisdom could prepare our students to be better citizens amid the ruins of sunken cities infested with swarms of ravenous, bloated rats," West said. "Also, I believe that birth control should not be distributed by the guidance counselor."

All of West's remaining proposals were tabled so the board could debate repairing the hole in the locker-room wall, as five students have disappeared in the adjacent skull-filled catacombs since the opening was discovered last week.