Corruption


Welcome to our first regular installment of “Fixed That For You!”.

A little known fact about the 12 Angry Men is that we have an internal e-mail list wherein we discuss potential stories, troll one another, and in general have a good time. One of the frequent memes that tends to crop up is the comment “Fixed That For You!” followed by an edited version of someone’s statement. These tend towards gross misrepresentation, and hilarity, so we’ve decided to share them with you, dear readers!

This week’s topic began as a debate on whether the government or private industry was better suited to serve the needs of the public.


Herein lies the problem. Government types, especially LIBERAL government types believe they are smarter than your average American, and that they know what is best for you better than you do. It’s a sick and arrogant version of the “white man’s burden”, and they don’t even seem to realize how condescending it is. When coupled with corrupt government officials out for their own pocketbook, it creates an absurd system. Promising the moon, charging for the sun, and pocketing so much that you only deliver next to nothing.
-Angry Midwesterner
 

Excellent rant. But let me fix that for you! Here’s the Subprime Crisis edition:

Herein lies the problem. CEO types, especially conservative CEO types believe they are smarter than your average American, and that they know what is best for you better than you do. It’s a sick and arrogant version of the “white man’s burden”, and they don’t even seem to realize how condescending it is. When coupled with corrupt CEOs out for their own pocketbook, it creates an absurd system. Promising the moon, charging for the sun, and pocketing so much that you only deliver next to nothing.
-Angry New Mexican
 

Now, now, let’s give Barney Frank and Chris Dodd their due, please.

Herein lies the problem. Congressmen, especially Democratic Congressmen believe they are smarter than your average American, and that they know what is best for you better than you do. It’s a sick and arrogant version of the “white man’s burden”, and they don’t even seem to realize how condescending it is. When coupled with corrupt Congressmen out for their own pocketbook, it creates an absurd system. Promising the moon, charging for the sun, and pocketing so much that you only deliver next to nothing.

There, fixed that for you.
-Angry Overeducated Catholic
 

Let’s give Barney Frank and schloads of Republicans their… *ahem*, “due”, please.

Herein lies the problem. Congressmen, especially Democratic Congressmen believe they are smarter than your average American, and that they know what is best for you better than you do. It’s a sick and arrogant version of the “gay man’s burden”, and they don’t even seem to realize how condescending it is. When coupled with corrupt Congressmen out for their own pocketbook, it creates an absurd system. Promising the moon, charging for the sun, and pocketing so much that you only deliver next to nothing.

There, fixed that for you.
-Angry Midwesterner
 

Amazon.com, the world’s most popular on-line retailer has unveiled a new subscription service known as “Amazon Prime”. For just $79 a year Amazon.com is offering free two day shipping on all of your orders (except those which Amazon deems ineligible for the service). Sounds like a pretty good idea right? Especially if you make a lot of Amazon.com purchases. I’m certainly behind businesses trying to find that new competitive edge it takes to stay on top. Ordinarily I would just see something like Amazon Prime as a nice piece of new business strategy. The one problem is now that Prime is out Amazon is blackmailing users into using it.

You see recently my wife and I put in an order to Amazon.com for a guide book we wanted for a trip to Europe. We’re leaving in three weeks, so we wanted to be sure we’d get it on time. The book was in stock and was eligible for Free Shipping, with a listed shipping time of 3-5 days. We purchased it and checked out with no problems, all very routine. Imagine our surprise that evening when we got an e-mail estimating the delivery date at three weeks. We decided to call Amazon to see what the issue was. Maybe the guide was out of stock and their system had been incorrect? No problem there we’d just select another one, so we dialed in prepared to switch our order. The explanation we got blew our minds.

Evidently in the Amazon terms of service they have the right to hold your items for later shipping, and the 3-5 days is just the time it takes from leaving the warehouse. We’d never had this kind of delay before so we were a bit surprised, was there a problem? No. Amazon is just trying to get folks to sign up for Amazon Prime (which we were offered an upgrade to, one month free trial). In fact if we upgraded today our book would ship immediately.

How sneaky and dishonest! All of my respect for Amazon.com has just been flushed down the drain. We bit the bullet and upgraded, not to prime, but two day delivery as we couldn’t chance it with the guide given our travel date, but we will be thinking long and hard before buying from Amazon.com again in their future. Their sneaky little game may have just cost them two customers.

-Angry Midwesterner


For the geographically challenged, or (in the cast of Coasties) purposefully obtuse and arrogant, Bozeman isn’t a new computer virus, or a demon summoned from the 77th layer of the Abyss by Bill Gates. It’s a city in Montana, actually one of the largest in the state. Montana is normally a champion for personal liberties, but in a bizarre turn of events the city of Bozeman is asking all applicants for city jobs to turn over not just those sites on the internet for which they have accounts, but also the user names and passwords that go along with them.

City attorney Greg Sullivan had this to say about the decision:

“So, we have positions ranging from fire and police, which require people of high integrity for those positions, all the way down to the lifeguards and the folks that work in city hall here. So we do those types of investigations to make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the City,”

While one can’t fault him for his motives, it certainly is important for the city to have a good reputation and it is reasonable for them to want folks of good repute representing them, they’re going to frightening and drastic measures to do so. In essence asking applicants to turn over all shreds of privacy to the city, allowing people from the city to read their e-mail, private sections of facebook, and even access their bank accounts. Now maybe my situation has been unique, but I’ve never had a potential employer ask for permission to read my mail or tap my phone before hiring me. If they did, I’d tell them to take a hike. That kind of invasion of privacy is unheard of, and is unconscionable.

The worst thing is, I don’t know which I find more absurd and frightening, that a US city would ask this of potential employees, or the fact that so far not a single employee has withdrawn their application in protest when asked to tender their accounts and passwords.

-Angry Midwesterner


The White House today rebuffed pleas from California for cash. California, as anyone not living under a rock knows by now, carries an estimated $24 billion deficit and is in dire economic peril. Now they expect the rest of us to bear the penalty of their excess for them, and pay for the irresponsible behavior for which they reaped all of the rewards. Something must have hit Obama in the head this morning because for once he made the right choice.

He told those lazy, good for nothing, deadbeat, pot smoking, California Hippie Losers to bug off. Three cheers for Obama!

California has the largest GDP in the US, at over $1.8 trillion, one of the highest levels of taxation in the country, an annual tax revenue of over $114 billion, and one of the highest levels of tax revenue per capita. They have all the resources necessary to solve their own problems. The reason they cannot pay their bill is that, much like a bunch of trailer trash Wal-mart shoppers, they’ve lived beyond their means and run up a debt funding ridiculous programs, propositions, and other such folly to a point that no one in the damnable state even knows where or how the money is being spent. A full 50% of their yearly tax revenue is earmarked for propositions even before the budget is set, that’s more revenue than the total taxes brought in by 48 of the 50 states. And yet visit California and you’ll find a third world nightmare of poorly paved roads, one of the worst school systems in the nation (ranked 48th of 50), no public transportation worthy of the name, scant police coverage, and a wash of crime and poverty that stretches 800 miles from north to south.

California isn’t too big to fail. It’s too irresponsible, stupid, and mismanaged to succeed. Its practices, culture, and above all the arrogance of its people make it one of the largest threats to the American way of life in the world. So now California, we’re cutting you off and it’s time for you to reap what you have sown. Obama should strip your state of its sovereignty and readmit it as a federal territory.

-Angry Midwesterner


There is a statue in Dublin Ireland that stands atop the gates of the castle. It was meant to represent justice, but has a number of peculiar things about it. The first is that in Dublin, Justice wears no blindfold. Instead she is admiring a sword which she carries. Second, she has turned her back on the city and faces instead the castle. Lastly she carries a set of real scales that normally are perfectly balanced. Yet when the rains come in (as they often do in Dublin), one of the ends of the scales is sheltered by her arm, causing the scales of justice to tilt unfairly.

All of these facts were disturbing to the people of Dublin, and Ireland as a whole, as Dublin Castle, and the justice it represented, was made by their British oppressors. To them this statue represented the sort of “justice” they received from the crown. When Ireland won its independence one of the first things they did was to drill a hole in both sides of the scales, so they would never be unbalanced again. They could not reblind justice, nor make her face the people, but they made what changes they could.

In America we have long prided ourselves on the nature of our justice. In America Lady Justice has always been blind. Our constitution itself attempts to secure equality for all, and while we have not always achieved it, we have always strived for it. Until now. Now we have a President who wishes to do an abominable thing. Obama wants to remove the blindfold from Justice.

Obama’s nomination of Sotomayor is nothing less than this. He has even stated openly that he wants to appoint a Supreme Court Justice on the basis of “empathy”. This is a weasel term as much as calling attaching the label of “Patriot” to a well known and unjust act. Empathy has no place in our courts. Justice should be blind to empathy, and should be applied fairly to everyone regardless of their race, class, or situation. Empathy in the courts is just another way of saying “a different standard of justice for differing types of people”. While I will always support mercy in our law, when we apply our law it should be in a fair manner that is blind to circumstances. Everyone, low or high, should be treated the same. This standard for justice is one that has defined America for centuries.

But now we have a President who so hates America and our way of life that he wants justice to be applied unfairly. Make no mistake he has selected the right justice for the role. Sotomayor is a self avowed racist and sexist who believes latina women are endowed with more wisdom and grace than white men. For her a certain sort of “empathy” (better known as bigotry) is assured.

In the end, however, we should not be surprised by Obama, or his actions. After all he has already shown us that he would rather give our tax money with no strings attached to rich business men, than loan it with interest to blue collar workers. Why should we be surprised that he wants to apply justice unfairly as well?

-Angry Midwesterner

At noon on December 9th, Lt Dan Neubauer of Marine Corps Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101, a F/A-18D pilot, after a series of bad decisions all around, made a final bad decision to attempt to make the Miramar runway and crashed into a house killing three members of a family (Young Mi Yoon, who was in her mid-30s; her 2-month-old daughter, Rachel; and her mother, Suk Im Kim). The pilot, on a training mission off CVN-72, the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, ejected after the left engine failed. He was flying on one engine after being forced to shut down the right engine due to an oil leak.

On September 10, 2003, in a session of the House Financial Services Committee, Representative Barney Frank (D. Mass.), in response to concerns about the GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said “I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disaster scenarios.” On September 25, 2003, in response to the request for additional regulation on Fannie and Freddie, Frank opined “I do think I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness that we have in OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] and OTS [Office of Thrift Supervision]. I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing.” Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), speaking to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez said “Secretary Martinez, if it ain’t broke, why do you want to fix it? Have the GSEs [government-sponsored enterprises] ever missed their housing goals?” Senator Chris Dodd (D. Connecticut), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee which regulates mortgage lending, has been linked to preferential mortgage terms as a friend of Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo.

Countrywide Financial has crashed due to management and regulatory failures. The entire mortgage banking system crashed as a result of bad loans securitized by FNMA and FHLMC. See Fit to Fail.


So we have two crashes. One of an F/A-18D killing a family of four, and one of the entire US financial system and world banking market. What do we observe in the aftermath?

The marines, in court, brought charges and discharged four member of the Corps. The commander of the squadron, its maintenance officer and two others have been relieved of duty. Nine other Marines have received other disciplinary action. The disciplinary action cites deferred maintenance, faulty aircraft-ground communications, and bad decisions. The F/A-18D was flying on a left engine which had been logged with a faulty fuel-low sensor indicator, and rather than perform maintenance flew 146 additional missions. When the right engine was shut down on an oil leak, the left engine ran out of fuel. Poor maintenance decisions contributed to the crash. The pilot was also criticized in the report for failing to use his emergency checklist. While the Lincoln’s controllers advised of a North Island landing, the squadron officers requested the pilot to make for Miramar, a decision which relied on unrealistic assumptions about the aircraft’s condition. Collectively, the duty officer, the operations officer and commanding officer exhibited poor judgment. For all the criticism of the US Military, the US Marine Corp owned up to its mistakes and took decisive corrective action.

The US Congress has yet to own up to its role in the crises and in fact now wants us to believe that it, and more regulatory agencies, are in fact, the solution. When are we going to see an equivalent acceptance of responsibility? My suggestions:

  1. Rep. Barney Frank, discharged from Congress for gross incompetence and dereliction of duty.
  2. Senator Chris Dodd, discharged from the Senate, for ethics violations, conduct unbecoming, and gross dereliction of duty.
  3. Rep. Maxine Waters, discharged from Congress for incompetence and gross dereliction of duty.
  4. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, discharged from Congress and banned from ever holding a public office, for incompetence and gross dereliction of duty.
  5. Rep. Henry Waxman, discharged for cowardice in the face of the enemy, dereliction of duty, insubordination, and conduct unbecoming.

It was a little over a year ago I wrote about Ugo Chavez’s dramatic ability to run a fine country into the ground. Well the speculative bubble that held oil prices at record highs last year has popped and, with the global recession, oil is selling at $40/barrel, not the $80/barrel that Ugo needs to break even. (I don’t know about you but I make sure not to buy gas at Venezuelan-owned Citgo stations, to do my own nano-scale part to hasten Chavez’ demise.)

So today I wake up to snow, a cup of coffee and the Washington Post, and find this little gem by Edward Schumaker-Matos. Money quote:

Inflation in Venezuela is running at 31 percent, by far the highest in Latin America, and is expected to hit 45 percent this year. The official exchange rate is 2.15 bolivares to the dollar, but the black market is at more than 5 bolivares, a gap so large that the government will have no choice but to devalue the currency, which will cause local prices to rise still more. The government has enough reserves for the next year to continue subsidizing food prices, but that has caused food shortages. And the government is so far behind on payments to oil contractors that many have stopped working, cutting back production from the goose that lays the golden eggs. Oil accounts for 95 percent of Venezuela’s exports.

While I idly dreamed about a firing squad for Ugo, that reality may be closer than anyone thought. I doubt it, his pal Ah-ma-dinnerjacket will probably take him in, in style. Oh, wait, Ah-ma-dinnerjacket ain’t having so grand a time of it. Well there’s always, Tsar Vladimir, though he might not have too grand a time if oil stays down, either. If all else fails, they can always hot bunk on Radical Jack‘s couch….

Updates: Sigh.

And this.

Here’s a nice article on Tsar Vladimir’s current dilemmas.

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