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Going To Hell In A Local Rather Than An Express Handbasket

The unemployment figures for may show a loss of 345,000 jobs and a 9.4% unemployment rate. You can plot this on a graph and make it look preferable to the previous six months of extreme losses, and it is. But Felix Salmon notes:

Remember the stress tests? The baseline scenario had unemployment in 2009 at 8.4%, rising to 8.9% under the more adverse scenario. Well, we’re only up to May, and already it’s at 9.4%.

To be clear, the adverse scenario in the stress test was supposed to be the worst things could possibly get. If we've blown past that, the banks will face more losses and write-downs than suggested by the adverse scenario. More people out of work means more foreclosures, less consumer spending, higher deficits, etc. This is but one of the ways where the banksters are making themselves out to be healthier than they are.MORE

The Democratic Industrial Complex

If big business's old legislative strategy was centered on relentless opposition to progressive initiatives--an approach that continues in areas like EFCA--the new strategy is to subvert legislation through co-optation, as in healthcare and cap and trade. By converting themselves, ostensibly, from opponents to "partners," corporate lobbies are trying to have it both ways: to block reforms while changing overt power struggles over the future of the economy into seemingly cooperative negotiations. At these negotiations, to use the president's favorite phrase, "everyone has a seat at the table"--except, the lobbyists get by far the best seats. (Alinsky didn't have much patience for this approach. "This liberal cliché about reconciliation of opposing forces is a load of crap," he once said. "When one side gets enough power, then the other side gets reconciled to it.")

These efforts at co-optation are aided by our natural inclination toward narrative and fable. It is pretty irresistible to view politics through the lens of heroes and villains. Palin is a character; the ABA is just an acronym


Despite all the hype about the Obama campaign's tremendous online fundraising, the fact is that it also collected unprecedented massive amounts of corporate cash, as did all the campaigns. And that corporate cash is represented by lobbyists who are so much a part of the fabric of the political system that they function as staff members in the congress and kitchen cabinet in the administration. (Indeed, one of the most interesting tidbits of information I heard was that despite the fact that there are many progressive committee chairmen, they are almost all pretty conservative on the issues their committees oversee. Now why would that be do you suppose?)MORE

Supporting the Public Plan AKA Example No. One

The insurance lobby has had multiple tactics for stopping the public option idea, which they despise because they know if regular folks have choice to go to a public option, insurance companies won't have the same ability to treat their customers like garbage when they get sick. The first tactic was just to try to kill the public option outright, and the good news is that they appear to have failed at that. This so-called trigger proposal is the second tactic: the idea is to write a "trigger" that will allow for a public option only under certain conditions, but write the legislation so that those conditions would never get met in the real world. It's a classic DC tactic, right up there with calling for a commission to study something. Olympia Snowe is carrying the insurance industry water on their trigger proposal, proposing triggers that would only get tripped in some fairyland none of us have ever visited.

The great thing for the insurance companies in a tactic like this is that it gives "centrist" Senators (centrist in Washington, DC usually means those who have taken massive amounts of campaign contributions from the affected industry) an excuse to help the insurance industry while looking like they are open to the public option that their constituents have been demanding.
Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress have gotten some good things done so far, and are building real momentum in getting us moving in the right direction on health care. But if conservative Democrats force the adoption of the trigger, it will destroy Democratic unity and doom health care reform, because progressives will start attacking Democrats rather than insurance companies. We really are at a critical moment.WHat to do?

And this would be why I don't deal much with the corporate media:
Sweet Beat

This story
about Richard Wolffe's coverage of the Obama campaign is more than a little bit snotty and frankly not surprising. I knew he was writing a campaign book about Obama and his coverage of the candidate reflected his need for access --- and his access. He was clearly not objective, but then neither was Fox News. It all came out fairnbalanced, village style.

But this is just sickening:
Wolffe also continues to write and report for Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, and to offer his opinions on MSNBC, which identifies him as a political analyst, though he said he won’t talk about issues related to the firm’s clients.

And he suggested he’s not that different from other reporters in an era in which the business and the profession of journalism have gotten closer and closer.

“The idea that journalists are somehow not engaged in corporate activities is not really in touch with what’s going on. Every conversation with journalists is about business models and advertisers,” he said, recalling that, on the day after the 2008 election, Newsweek sent him to Detroit to deliver a speech to advertisers.

“You tell me where the line is between business and journalism,” he said.


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So. Cramdown Legislation. Senator Dick Durbin introduced legislation that would :

Under the provision, a judge would be able to lower the principal of homeowner’s mortgage and the interest rate and extend the terms of the mortgage, a process known as a “cramdown.” Judges are already allowed to do this for vacation rentals but not a borrower’s primary residence.

12 democrats joined with the Republican Senators in voting it down
- 12 Democrats (listed here) voted against allowing bankruptcy judges to compel banks to renegotiate mortgage terms so as to prevent homeowners from being foreclosed on and thrown out of their homes.
- Bankruptcy judges currently have this "cramdown" power to renegotiate mortgage terms on vacation homes and investment properties.
- Vacation homes and investment properties are disproportionately owned by very rich people.
QUESTION 1: Out of the hundreds of professional "journalists" who work in Washington, can someone - anyone - please ask these 12 Democratic senators why they believe it is perfectly fine for bankruptcy judges to cram down mortgages for very rich people's vacation homes and investment properties, but not mortgages for regular people's homes? IMHO, this is the most important question, especially because none of these 12 Democratic senators are sponsoring legislation to repeal the law that gives judges cram down power to help rich people.

Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher tells us how the lobbyists did it:with taxpayers money from TARP

The House passed the badly needed Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights yesterday, but they passed cramdown, too. We successfully fought off the efforts of the Mortgage Bankers Association, the American Bankers Association and other lobbyists to work through Ellen Tauscher and the New Democrats to tank it, but that just means the banks shifted their focus to the Senate, where they were wholly successful. And they plan to do the same thing for the Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights.MORE

See also Who are the Mortgage Banker Association (and what have they done with our country?)

Mortgage Bankers Celebrate Victory

Interesting articles: How Corporate Personhood Threatens Democracy

Morning Feature: Shoot, Ready, Aim ... at Corporate 'Persons' Part One

Installing a Conscience in Corporate 'Persons' Part Two

Sacling Down Corporate 'Persons' Part Three
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When the World Went Bust - 4 January 09 - Part 1

After years of unprecedented boom a financial firestorm, sparked in the US, is sweeping through much of the world.

In a special programme Al Jazeera's Samah el-Shahat charts the roots of the financial crisis and visits Iceland, one of the high-profile casualties where jobs are being lost and lives destroyed.

When the World Went Bust - 4 January 09 - Part 2

It wasn't as simple as the reporter makes it seem. however... )
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Money for Profit vs Money for People

Crisis in the auto industry is hardly limited to Detroit. Japan’s Toyota is hurting big time--a two-year old truck plant in San Antonio was shut down for a few months this year. And the opening of a new Prius plant in Mississippi was put on hold. Toyota’s U.S. production overall was cut 20 percent and China just loaned its Chery Automobile Company $1.45 billion after losses there.

Why aren't people buying cars? You can't blame the price of gas -- not this week. The problem is the lack of credit -- and that's masking what's really at fault. Falling wages. Check out your paycheck, if you still have one: since 2004, real wages in the U.S. are down despite huge profits for a few under George W. Bush.

People simply don’t make enough money to buy cars: hence the need for credit. The auto bailout is the first that might actually put some money in workers' pockets. And not just auto-workers' pockets. Today, one in ten Americans receive foodstamps and most of those recipients go to work everyday. Tax dollars pay for those stamps—so have we the taxpayers been subsidizing corporate profits? You bet. To allow corporate wages? You bet.

But money for profit is never as controversial as money for people. In today's crisis we have a chance to change that. MORE

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has ordered all state agencies to stop doing business with Bank of America until they resolve a standoff with employees of Republic Windows and Doors. According to Mark Meinster, an organizer for the United Electrical Workers Union (UE) on GRITtv, the employees are asking for wages owed them under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) as well as pay for vacation accrued and benefits. Meinster also noted that it is still unclear why the factory was closed. Whether Bank of America cut off the company’s line of credit or if the company is seeking to simply downsize and relocate. “We know we’re being lied to by one or both parties,” Meinster said.MORe

If you organize it, he will come

There are various threads to this story: A company that violates federal law by refusing laid-off workers 60 days severance plus owed vacation and sick time and the plant's connection to the federal Wall Street bailout bill (the company blames Bank of America, which got $25 billion from the feds supposedly so it could loan money, for imposing the condition that it not pay the workers; a claim the bank now denies).

Another is real estate: The factory sits on Goose Island, traditionally home to manufacturing but in recent years a target for gentrification and upper-income homes. The value of the property upon which Republic Windows and Doors sits has likely risen dramatically and the company probably wants to sell it at a healthy profit. This is one of the consequences of capitalism: factors that have little to do with supply and demand impinge upon the lives of everyday people, dislocate them and lead to hardship after tragedy, one family at a time. The way that real estate speculation imposes upon other industries is one of the grand failures of an unregulated "free market."

So far, the stated goal of the union is to assure that its workers get the severance pay owed them, with some vague rhetoric toward saving the factory and its jobs. What we haven't heard (yet) is a serious proposal that, since the company has shirked its responsibilities, the workers themselves take over ownership of the factory and share the profits it generates instead of continuing to see them surrendered to the middlemen in suits that push papers, count beans and sit on boards of directors.

As the US economy worsens (and this is absolutely related to international trade agreements like NAFTA that send US jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, where owners can violently repress unions and organizers and aren't subject to serious environmental or safety regulations) the union can choose to nibble at the margins - say, get 60 days pay and then it's goodbye - or push for the viable long-term solution: to own their own jobs.MORe
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via: [livejournal.com profile] giandujakiss

Remember this?

The article goes on to account how, in 1997, Greenspan got into a spat with the ead of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. She wanted to regulate derivatives; he didn't. Greenspan joined forces with Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his deputy, Lawrence Summers, to resist her plan.
“Greenspan told Brooksley that she essentially didn’t know what she was doing and she’d cause a financial crisis,” said Michael Greenberger, who was a senior director at the commission. “Brooksley was this woman who was not playing tennis with these guys and not having lunch with these guys. There was a little bit of the feeling that this woman was not of Wall Street.”

“All of the forces in the system were arrayed against it,” [Rubin] said. “The industry certainly didn’t want any increase in these requirements. There was no potential for mobilizing public opinion.”

Well then. Deja Vu!

And what do we find Barack Obama's Treasury Secretary, RUBIN's PROTEGE Tim Geithner, doing...

Oh dang! Rumor has it that Tim Geithner, our Treasury Secretary-to-be, does not care for our beloved Sheila Bair and her maverick ways. Bair is the chairman of the FDIC and one of the few high-profile Bush administration appointees to very repeatedly and publicly bang the drum about how if our financial crisis is ultimately due to people’s mortgages going south, maybe we ought to work on fixing those bad mortgages. She’s a working class hero! So naturally, Giethner hates her guts. The problem is that she isn’t a “team player” or a huge fan of Citigroup, and for this she must be banished forever from Washington:
Geithner became increasingly wary of Bair as she worked with the other regulatory agencies on emergency bailouts of banks in recent months. The New York fed chief has been concerned that Bair was more worried about keeping the FDIC’s insurance program protected than she was about the entire financial system, one person said.
Bair twice sparred with her colleagues at the Fed and Treasury over efforts involving Citigroup. In October, she acquiesced to Wachovia Corp.’s agreement to a takeover by Wells Fargo & Co. days after agreeing to back an initial deal with Citigroup. … Wells Fargo offered about $15 billion for Wachovia, compared with Citigroup’s $2.2 billion deal to acquire Wachovia’s banking operations, and didn’t need any FDIC aid.MORE

Speaking of Rubin:

Our economic terminators

Last week, the New York Times penned a paean to Citigroup executive Bob Rubin, gushing about how amazingly wonderful his power and influence is inside the Democratic Party, and noting that the incoming Obama administration is heavily influenced both by the man himself and his disciples. This, despite the fact that most of the policies Rubin and Rubinites are known for have been intimately involved in the current economic mess. What was amazing about this story was not that Rubin and his intellectual offspring remain credible voices in the political system. That's no surprise in a country where Iraq War proponents are regularly billed in the media and treated by both parties as more Serious and Pragmatic than those who opposed the war. No, what was shocking was that the reality the Times presented still persists even as Rubin heads a bank at the center of the current crisis. In other words, not only has the guy been proven wrong on policy, he's actually intimately intertwined in one of the largest corporations at the center of this scandalous meltdown - and yet retains his "star power," as the newspaper called it.
Now, the question is whether he can retain that "star power" and influence with the incoming administration in light of this new report:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An investor lawsuit contends that Citigroup Inc insiders, including senior counselor and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, sold more than $150 million of their own shares at inflated prices while concealing the bank's true financial health... The shareholders contend that Rubin, former Chief Executive Charles Prince and other current and former executives engaged in "suspicious" stock sales that were "made at times calculated to maximize the personal benefits from undisclosed inside information."
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A FDIC gift voucher for all

From the people that brought you GE Capital’s participation in the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program - FDIC is now insuring ‘Stored Value Cards’.
Exsqueeze me?
Yes, that would be Stored-Value-Cards (and other non-traditional access mechanisms). According to the definition provided by the NY Fed these are:
… one of the most dynamic and fastest growing products in the financial industry. Anyone who makes purchases with a merchant gift card, places phone calls with a prepaid telephone card, or buys goods or services with a prepaid debit card is using a stored value card.
In other words, gift voucher cards, pre-paid telephone cards and any other prepaid debit cards.


Is it just me, or is the FDIC getting just a tiny bit overextended here?
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That Sinking feeling - PNG

March 2007
The Carterets in the Pacific will be the first islands in the world to disappear because of global warming. Sea levels are rising at a phenomenal rate and sea walls, have vanished under the tide.

It's estimated that by 2015, the Carteret Islands will disappear under the sea. MORE

Industrial Ghosts - USA

June 2008
Detroit was once the symbol of America's industrial power; the birthplace of Ford, the assembly line and the home of GM. But now it feels more like a ghost town littered with abandoned buildings.

In 1913 Detroit was booming but when the Great Depression hit, this abruptly ended. Between 2006 and 2008 four of GM's plants in Michigan closed, and more than 15,000 are homeless in the city.MORE

The End Of Globalisation - World

We chart financial liberalisation in East Asia, privatisation in Latin America, the reckless transition to capitalism in Russia and Chinas more cautious evolution to a market economy. Our vision of the economy is a caring economy, an economy where the State has to be the fundamental engine, not the market explains economic reformer President Hugo Chavez. We ask whether the policies of lending institutions like the IMF have exacerbated financial crises, as its rescue packages have ended up servicing bank debt. Of course these packages end up rescuing private lenders from the consequences of their own actions, admits economist Paul Krugman, echoing concerns about bailout loans.
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[livejournal.com profile] giandujakiss has a roundup of exactly what the hell is going on in the financial markets today. If you don't read anything else in her round up, (and I REALLY would suggest you read all of it) I'm gonna NEED you to read Teh End of Wall Streets Boom, from beginning to end. Don't skip one sentence. And when you have finsihed reading that? Take a look at how Hank Paulson, is happily looting the Treasury and giving away free gov't money to all the little fucks who caused the whole meltdown in the first place

Then I'm gonna suggest that you read Naomi Klein's three articles The New Trough and The Bailout: Bush's Final Pillage and In Praise of a Rocky Transition

And yes, that sick feeling in your stomach? that is supposed to be there.
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This morning, we learned that AIG received yet another $150 billion handout.
And this afternoon, we learn that last week -- last week, people! -- AIG sent its top executives to a "secret gathering" at a posh luxury resort in Phoenix:
Even as the company was pleading the federal government for another $40 billion dollars in loans, AIG sent top executives to a secret gathering at a luxury resort in Phoenix last week.
Reporters for abc15.com (KNXV) caught the AIG executives on hidden cameras poolside and leaving the spa at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort, despite apparent efforts by the company to disguise its involvement.
"AIG made significant efforts to disguise the conference, making sure there were no AIG logos or signs anywhere on the property," KNXV reported.
The cost of the secret junket? $343,000

YO! I want my tax money back! Let that shit go UNDER, yo!
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Obama and the Presidential Security Challenge [as in the Secret Service]

The Secret Service Blames Palin For Obama Death Threats

And now Duanna Johnson Is Dead. How convenient for the Memphis Police. And of course, they have no suspects. Naturally

Apparently, there has been an uptick in Mormons resigning from the church Due to Prop 8 Site owner says about 250 and counting posted their letters on his site since last Thursday.

And the pirates are systematically looting the Treasury in the days before George BUsh leaves Seriously, you'll be astonished at what they are doing and the amounts of money involved.

I'm thinking like this guy Treat DC as one big crime scene
I want to be clear that I do not expect, or even want, Barack Obama to govern as I would govern. However, if I were president-elect, I would be planning quite an operation on inauguration day. As soon as I was sworn in, I would demand that Robert Mueller submit his resignation. Then I would instruct the FBI to lock down FBI Headquarters, the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency offices, the executive suites at the CIA, the National Security Agency's offices, the National Intelligence Agency's offices, and management's offices at the Department of Justice. I would tell them to put yellow police tape around all of these buildings and offices, and I would treat each as a crime scene. I'd have them preserve evidence from every safe, every email cache, every hard-drive. And then I would prosecute every violation to the fullest extent of the law.

In the meantime, in the new post racial America we have a police chief making comments that sound rather close to advocating racial profiling

White House to Establish Office of Urban Policy HOLY FUCKING HELL! HE SAID URBAN POLICY! HE"S GONNA LOOK AT THE CITIES!!!!!GLEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans

Apparently Bernanke, that wonderful bipartisan soul who is so competent and wonderful that everyone in the village thinks Obama should leave him in charge is refusing to identify who got almost 2 trillion dollars of Fed cash. Bloomberg News is suing to find out. Personally I really, really, really want to know. What exactly is Bernanke hiding? Who got the money he doesn't want us to know got the money?
This is money that was loaned in exchange for "collateral", by which we mean "trash no one else but the Fed would buy for anything but cents on the dollar". Barney Frank, embarrassing himself yet again, claims the Fed should keep its clap shut because if people know how bad it is, well, there might be a run. I think Barney's missing the point, as long as people don't know how bad it is, they won't trust anyone who might be borrowing large amounts of money from the Fed with crap collateral, because they don't know how bad it is and they suspect it's really really really bad. As in 10 cents on the dollar bad.
More to the point, that 2 trillion is taxpayer money, and taxpayers have a right to know what sweetheart deals Bernanke's been giving out, and who's been getting what. This whole "this information is too scary for citizens to know" schtick is so Bush regime. I thought we were moving into a new era of openness? Perhaps Barney should get with the program?MORE

What Economic Change We Can Believe In Would Look Like

I thought those jerks in the media were lying about the RNC lawyer coming to take the clothes back?

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[livejournal.com profile] giandujakiss? did you see this?

For insensitivity, Wachovia refuses to be outdone
As ailing Wachovia Corp. waits to see whether it will be acquired by Wells Fargo & Co. or Citigroup Inc. -- possibly with taxpayers paying the tab for hundreds of billions of dollars in bad loans -- some of the company's top brokers are preparing to depart Saturday for an all-expenses-paid cruise of the Greek Isles.

The weeklong trip for up to 75 employees of brokerage A.G. Edwards, which Wachovia acquired last year for nearly $7 billion, will also include spouses and significant others, said Teresa Dougherty, a Wachovia spokeswoman.

Indeed. Also

The TV keeps telling me that credit markets are frozen. Businesses can't get the loans they need to stay afloat. People can't get mortgages. But one groups seems to be doing just fine.

The NRCC just received an $8 million loan from Wachovia. The loan is totally unsecured, meaning if the NRCC defaults the bank gets NOTHING. That is about as sound an investment as giving a drunk some cash as he heads down to Tijuana.

So let me get this straight:

- Wachovia is on the brink of insolvency, to the point where is needs to be first sold to Citigroup with the help of the FDIC, only at the last minute to be bought by Wells Fargo.

- People cannot get mortgages and those are backed by houses, which while declining in price still have some value.

- But its financially sound to make unsecured multimillion dollar loans to their Republican buddies.
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Firedoglake lake brings us this text book example:

Friday Sept 2004
Yesterday, the chairman of CBS's parent company chose Hong Kong as a place to drop a little bomb. Sumner Redstone, who calls himself a "liberal Democrat," said he's supporting President Bush.
The chairman of the entertainment giant Viacom said the reason was simple: Republican values are what U.S. companies need. Speaking to some of America's and Asia's top executives gathered for Forbes magazine's annual Global CEO Conference, Mr. Redstone declared: "I look at the election from what's good for Viacom. I vote for what's good for Viacom. I vote, today, Viacom.

"I don't want to denigrate Kerry," he went on, "but from a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on. The Democrats are not bad people. . . . But from a Viacom standpoint, we believe the election of a Republican administration is better for our company."

Oct 11, 2008
Billionaire Sumner Redstone got caught in the credit crunch Friday.

The 85-year-old mogul, who has long bragged about his financial savvy and competitive drive, was forced to sell a fifth of his family's stake in his two media companies -- Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. -- on a day when the companies' shares were trading at record lows. It shows that even the wealthiest people are not immune to the meltdown in the markets and are being thrust into once-unimaginable situations.

On the most volatile trading day in the stock market's 112-year history, Redstone's family's holding firm, National Amusements Inc., had to dump $400 million of nonvoting B shares in Viacom and CBS to raise cash to "pay down debt to comply with covenants under [the company's] credit agreements," according to a statement from National Amusements.

Um. Oops????

I just wish the rest of us didn't have to go down with him.


Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:37 pm
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And so it was

What the hell is going on here?

The next Class War?

From the first bailout vote...

Rep. Brad Sherman says Congress threatened with Martial Law if bill is not passed

Funny how that didn't make the news...


Oct. 2nd, 2008 03:36 pm
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Idiocy taken to its logical conclusion
There is no way to measure the number of people who took out mortgages they knew they couldn't afford, of course, but for what it's worth, a 2007 report by the Mortgage Bankers Association reports that the FBI estimates "80 percent of all reported fraud losses arise from fraud for profit schemes that involve industry insiders." That means the lenders, not the borrowers.

Just imagine the flights of fancy that the theory of borrower malevolence and Wall Street victimization requires conservatives to take: All these no-account folks, you see, got together and forced investment banks to engineer subprime mortgages into highly leveraged securities. Then they tricked all manner of hedge funds and pension funds and financial institutions into buying these lousy products. Just for good measure, these struggling homeowners then persuaded bond-rating agencies to misrepresent the risk associated with these securities.

Now imagine what such a fantastic scheme, if true, would mean for capitalism itself. This economic system, glorified by all, dominates the globe today, bidding prices up and down, forcing entire nations to change their ways to better suit its needs, and yet it is so fragile that when challenged by the weakest members of society and a handful of community organizers it simply crumbles. Thank goodness the Soviets never figured this out.

Life ISN'T FAIR: The John McCain Edition )


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