There are holes…

There are big holes…

There are really, really, big holes…

And then there’s this…

… a really, really, really big hole…

That’s the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, southwest of Salt Lake City in Utah. The world’s largest open pit mine, the Bingham is two and a half miles wide, three-quarters of a mile deep, and covers approximately 1,700 acres, or a little over two and half square miles.

You gotta admit… that really is… quite… the… hole. I came across that picture by accident the other day, just surfing the Intertubes, and it kinda blew me away… that is one big farker, and man-made to boot.

It got me to thinking about the really nasty things that we humans do to our planet, and usually in the name of making as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, and the long term consequences be damned.

Another truly notable, really, really, really big hole that humans made is the grotesquely spectacular Mir Diamond Mine Crater, in Russia. The picture is real, btw… it has not been photoshopped for effect.

Located at Mirna in Eastern Siberia, the Mir is over 1,722 ft deep (1/3 of a mile) and has a diameter of 3,900 ft (3/4th of a mile). Helicopters are forbidden from flying over the Mir; several have been sucked in by the down drafts. Here’s more about the Mir if you’re interested, and here’s a nice collection of some of the biggest man-made holes on the face of the Earth, if you can stomach it…

Of course, not all holes are made just for money… some result when we disagree with each other…

This beauty…

… believe it or not, isn’t a picture taken on the face of the Moon, it’s the Sedan Blast Crater in Nevada, the result of a nuclear test back in 1962. If you look carefully at the picture, around five o’clock (lower right side) you can see a viewing platform for visitors, with the road leading up to it. Yes… the Sedan Crater really is that big. According to the good people of Wiki, “Because the craters at the NTS had features similar to the topography of Moon craters, Astronauts for Apollo 14 visited Sedan in November 1970”.

Though nowhere near the size of some of our other holes, it is still nonetheless impressive, considering it was created in mere seconds, the aftermath of this explosion

Here are some stats for you to grok over… the Sedan was a mere ten kiloton blast and still managed to move 6.6 MILLION cubic yards of dirt, or 12 MILLION tons of weight, and left a hole over 300 feet deep and more a quarter of a mile across…

That is one incredible hole… all the more so for being produced by flipping a switch, whereas the Bingham is the byproduct of a century’s steady mining. Here’s an overhead shot of the Nevada Test Area that’s home to the Sedan Crater… it’s like the Earth has broken out in some sort of nasty rash, huh?

Weighing in at niggling 10 kilotons, the Sedan would be considered tiny when compared to today’s bombs with their 10 megaton yields (that’s 10,000 kilotons…). You read that right… we now have nuclear bombs a thousand times more powerful than the Sedan, or Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

I can only imagine the size of the hole one of those would leave in the Earth. And not only are some of those nukes a thousand times more powerful, we have, en toto, an estimated 8,500 of them and the Russians 11,000. Overwhelming, innit?

Here’s a truly frightening collection of atomic test photos… click on one of them and you’ll get a slide show… the pictures are even more impressive that way…

And yet all it took to produce this mess was eighteen guys with box cutters… go figure…

Then… there are other kinds of really, really big holes that human beings are capable of producing, intentionally or otherwise…

Like the kind our beloved banking class blew in the country’s economy back at the heights, er… the depths… of the subprime mortgage fiasco…

The above chart shows the value of the S&P 500 over the last ten years. Note the enormous slide in the index starting in late 2007 just as the economy was beginning to bear the first brunt of massive numbers of bad mortgage defaults, soon to be followed by even bigger losses due to bad bonds based on those bad mortgages.

The S&P 500 index is such a broad based index that it is commonly used to gauge the overall health of the stock market and even the US economy. Please note just how much it finally dropped at the low point in early 2009, losing nearly half its value.

Now THAT is one spectacular hole and represents several TRILLION dollars of value vanishing in a greasy puff of smoke. Thank you ever so much, Wall Street! No wonder Warren Buffet once described derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction”.

It’s now way half past 2011 and with an estimated million homes in foreclosure, several million more in the pipeline, and 870,000 already in the hands of banks, we’re STILL climbing out of that last crater and will be for quite some time to come…

And of course, the usual suspects (the bankers) saw nothing… heard nothing… and know nothing… ‘cept that CEO Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, the bank that has become the poster child for Wall Street shenanigans, has lawyered up…

And that other hole, earlier in the decade… around 2002 to 2003? That’s the hole blown in our economy by the dot-com collapse… again gratis our beloved banksters. And the smaller, yet significant drop in late 2001? That’s the aftermath of 9/11.

It makes one think… it do. It seems that as our machines grow more and more powerful and our ability to manipulate our environment increases, the potential for destruction, deliberate or otherwise, grows proportionally too.

Dr. Frankentstein, meet your monster.

I think it’d be fun to start a list of really, really big holes here… we could call it the “A List of Really, Really Big Holes”… but that’s too many words, so maybe we should just call it “The ‘A’ Hole List” for short…

Soooooooooooo… which really, really big holes do you think should be on our little A List?

***TRoS snaps fingers***

One more just came to mind… and this humongous ‘A’ hole definitely belongs on the list…

There… if that hole doesn’t belong, then none of them do… talk about yer weapons of ass destruction…

Here’s what the Occupy Wall Street protesters are angry about

via Business Insider

1. Unemployment is at the highest level since the Great Depression (with the exception of a brief blip in the early 1980s).

2. At the same time, corporate profits are at an all-time high, both in absolute dollars and as a share of the economy.

3. Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low. In other words, corporate profits are at an all-time high, in part, because corporations are paying less of their revenue to employees than they ever have. There are lots of reasons for this, many of which are not the fault of the corporations. (It’s a global economy now, and 2-3 billion new low-cost employees in China, India, et al, have recently entered the global workforce. This is putting pressure on wages the world over.)

4. Income and wealth inequality in the US economy is near an all-time high: The owners of the country’s assets (capital) are winning, everyone else (labor) is losing.

The United States is one of the most unequal developed countries in the world.  We can’t continue this way, and the Occupy Wall Street protesters are marching GLOBALLY to bring attention to the problems we’re facing because of the greed of the top 2% and the policies that enable them.

It’s Was Just A Matter of Time

The greedy Republicans want ALL of our money.  Last Friday, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), introduced a bill that would allow workers to immediately stop contributing 6.2% of their pay to Social Security and instead, put this money in a “Savings Account for Every American” (SAFE).

That would take the place of the 6.2 percent the workers now contributed to Social Security.

Another 6.2% is sent to Social Security by employers. Under the Sessions bill, employers would continue to make this matching contribution to Social Security, but after 15 years, employers could also send that amount to the employee’s SAFE account.

(Source:  The Hill)

Under the bill, employees would be able to make tax free contributions to their SAFE account, and take tax-free distributions at retirement age. The bill would also allow employees to stay with the Social Security program if they wish.

From “the bill”…

‘‘(2) The trustee is a bank (as defined in sec20
tion 408(n)) or such other person who demonstrates
21 to the satisfaction of the Secretary that the manner
22 in which such other person will administer the trust
23 will be consistent with the requirements of this sec24
tion.

A bit more from “the bill”…

‘‘(3) No part of the trust funds will be invested
2 in life insurance contracts.
3 ‘‘(4) The interest of an individual in the bal4
ance in his account is nonforfeitable.
5 ‘‘(5) The assets of the trust will not be commin6
gled with other property except in a common trust
7 fund or common investment fund.

H/T Blatant Liberal

So here it is, the privatization of Social Security.  This is what the Republicans have been working towards since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

To the Republican plan, I’ll be saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.  I’ll be staying with Social Security.”

Watering Hole – September 13, 2010 – I Want My Country Back

Yes, you heard me.  I want my country back… back from the Tea Party and the big corporations that financially support them.  I do NOT want my country to return to the Tea Party and Republican principles of:

  • Repealing the Civil Rights Act because the central Government should not tell States how to treat American citizens.
  • Eliminating the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  Women should not be voting.  They don’t have time for politics because they need to be in the kitchen cooking and they should be waiting on their husbands.  The bible tells us that women are subservient to men.
  • Returning to slave labor and sweat shop labor practices because businesses should be free to abuse their employees without Government interference.
  • Dismantling Social Security because seniors should have planned better for their retirement.  Too bad and too sad if Wall Street bankers stole most of their IRA money.  Tough luck if the seniors worked at jobs that didn’t have a pension program or 401K program.  If these seniors worked for minimum wage, they still should have thought ahead even if it required providing less food and clothing for their children so that they would have that extra money to save for their retirement.  Some Republican candidates are claiming that Social Security is unconstitutional.
  • Dismantling Medicare because health care is not a right, it is a privilege and the Tea Party does not approve of privileges except when it comes to their idols and themselves.  Besides, only the privileged deserve health care.
  • Eliminating disability payments because people need to be more responsible and not get injured on the job.  This includes our military veterans.  They should stop whining because after all, they volunteered.
  • Forcing Catholics, Jews and Muslims to commit sins by having to read and study the protestant bible in public schools.
  • Allowing property owners to create toll roads.  People have a right to collect money from anyone that crosses their property line.  Good luck with getting to work on time and having any money left over from your paycheck after paying all the tolls.
  • Supporting “Second Amendment” solutions as a means of conflict resolution.  This might also work as a method of population control.
  • Returning to the glory days of lords and serfs.

I want my country back from hate mongers like Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, Malkin, Kristol, Bachmann, Rove, Cheney, and all the rest that appear on Fox News, the opinion network.  The goals for these people are to divide our country and to make piles of money while undereducated people do their dirty work for them.

I want my country back from racists such as Beck, Laura Schlesinger, the Tea Party and the Larouches.  These people are so upset because there is a black family living in, what they perceive as, the White(‘s only) House.

I want my country back from people that profit from the suffering of others (Beck, Palin and Limbaugh).

I want my country back from politicians that place Wall Street above and before Main Street.

Yes, I want my country back.  The one where everyone is treated with respect and  equality, the one where everyone receives good health care, the one where everyone receives a livable wage, and the one where everyone is free to practice their religious beliefs without interference from other religions.

I want back, the country that was progresing forward.  Not the one that is currently heading in Reverse.

This is our Open Thread.  What do you want back?  Speak UP!

How to Ground The Street

How to Ground The Street
By Eliot L. Spitzer (published in the Washington Post)

[..] First, we must confront head-on the pervasive misunderstanding of what constitutes a “free market.” For long stretches of the past 30 years, too many Americans fell prey to the ideology that a free market requires nearly complete deregulation of banks and other financial institutions and a government with a hands-off approach to enforcement. “We can regulate ourselves,” the mantra went.

Those of us who raised red flags about this were scoffed at for failing to understand or even believe in “the market.” During my tenure as New York state attorney general, my colleagues and I sought to require investment banking analysts to provide their clients with unbiased recommendations, devoid of undisclosed and structural conflicts. But powerful voices with heavily vested interests accused us of meddling in the market.

When my office, along with the Department of Justice, warned that some of American International Group’s reinsurance transactions were little more than efforts to create the false impression of extra capital on the company’s balance sheet, we were jeered at for attacking one of the nation’s great insurance companies, which surely knew how to balance risk and reward.

And when the attorneys general of all 50 states sought to investigate subprime lending, believing that some lending practices might be toxic, we were blocked by a coalition of the major banks and the Bush administration, which invoked a rarely used statute to preempt the states’ ability to probe. The administration claimed that it had the situation under control and that our inquiry was unnecessary.

Time and again, whether at the state level, in Congress or at the Securities and Exchange Commission under Bill Donaldson, those who tried to enforce the basic principles that would allow the market to survive were told that the “invisible hand” of the market and self-regulation could handle the task alone.

The reality is that unregulated competition drives corporate behavior and risk-taking to unacceptable levels. This is simply one of the ways in which some market participants try to gain a competitive advantage. As one lawyer for a company charged with malfeasance stated in a meeting in my office (amazingly, this was intended as a winning defense): “You’re right about our behavior, but we’re not as bad as our competitors.” [..]

Go read it ALL!

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GOP Ties To Bush Kill Chances

With 23 Republican Seats up for grab this November, polls are showing GOP candidates are plummeting. The likelihood of the Democrats getting a 60 seat majority looks very possible. Best news I’ve heard in eight years.

Rasmussen Reports show that Bruce Lunsford (D) is leading Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) 49-44 for McConnell’s Kentucky seat. Kay Hagan (D) has been leading Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) is the North Carolina race. These two races in particular are going to be close; but the Democrats seem to be gaining steadily every week since the economic meltdown.

Democrats have now polled ahead or within the margin of error in 11 Republican-held seats, as polls conducted in recent weeks show openings in second-tier targets including Mississippi, Texas, and in other states.

“I don’t know whether to put too much stock or too little into one given poll; each poll is a piece of data,” DSCC spokesman Miller said. “But those certainly aren’t the only polls that show these incumbents in trouble.”

Democrats have also polled ahead in at least some of the polling in Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Virginia, polling substantial leads in the latter three. They have also been within the margin of error in Minnesota and Oregon.

If these leads hold or continue to grow the Senate race this year could be the most important change we have seen in a long time. The magic number is 60, the closer the Democrats get to that, the more political strength they will have next year to make the changes this country so desperately needs.

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Bailout follows the 10 Normal Principles for how our Government Functions

Salon

The word being used most frequently to describe the bailout package that is about to pass is “extraordinary.” That adjective may apply to the amounts of money being transferred from taxpayers to Wall Street, but the process by which this is all happening is anything but “extraordinary.” All of the “principles” that drive how our Government functions in general — what explain the last eight years at least — are perfectly evident in what has happened here:

(1) Incredibly complex and consequential new laws are negotiated in secret and then enacted immediately, with no hearings, no real debate, no transparency. Nancy Pelosi has praised herself for decreeing that the new law will be online for 24 hours before Congress votes on it — a full 24 hours for the American public to understand and assess a law that forces them to subsidize Wall St.’s losses in a way that may impact them for decades, if not generations. The most significant and consequential pieces of legislation over the last eight years — the Patriot Act, the various expanded surveillance laws, the Military Commissions Act — were the by-product of identical anti-democratic processes.

(2) Those who created the crisis, were wrong about everything, drive the process. Experts who dissent from the prevailing Washington orthodoxy, particularly ones who were presciently warning about what was happening, are simply ignored — systematically excluded from the process. Professor Nouriel Roubini:

It is pathetic that Congress did not consult any of the many professional economists that have presented — many on the RGE Monitor Finance blog forum — alternative plans that were more fair and efficient and less costly ways to resolve this crisis.

Last week, Hank Paulson — who bears responsibility for the crisis in numerous ways — demanded that $700 billion be transferred to him in order to purchase toxic assets from his Wall St. friends, and while there was much howling of outrage in many quarters, no other framework was ever considered.

(3) Public opinion is largely ignored, as always, and public anger is placated through illusory, symbolic and largely meaningless concessions. Much is being made over the allegedly strong oversight provisions to limit the Treasury Secretary’s power, accomplished through the creation of two oversight panels.

“During its weeklong deliberations, Congress made many changes to the Bush administration’s original proposal to bail out the financial industry, but one overarching aspect of the initial plan that remains is the vast discretion it gives to the Treasury secretary.”

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Bailout Won’t Keep Wall Str. From Outsourcing Overseas

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ComputerWorld

While we are being forced to bailout the Financial Institutions, Wall Street is going to be sending more jobs offshore. Let’s dump some more salt on the wound. Here is the latest from Thibodeau at ComputerWorld.

The collapse of Wall Street may prompt financial services firms to increase their use of offshore outsourcing and cut more jobs in the U.S. on top of the layoffs they have already announced.

And that job cutting will happen even with a taxpayer-backed $700 billion bailout. These firms will be under too much pressure to cut costs, and offshore outsourcing will be one way to do it, according to outsourcing consultants.

The financial services industry, including banking and insurance, is already the most aggressive industry in the US when it comes to offshore outsourcing. It is the biggest single source of revenue for Indian offshore companies.

A good example of this is.

For instance, Infosys Technologies Ltd., which finished its most recent fiscal year in March with $4.18 billion in revenue, reported that nearly 36% of that revenue came from banking, financial services and insurance. For the same period, Wipro Ltd., reported that financial services contributed 25% to its annual revenue of nearly $5 billion. Satyam Computer Services Ltd. reported $2.13 billion in revenue for that same period and recently told investors that financial services would contribute 24% to 26% in revenue in this fiscal year.

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Bailing on the Bailout

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The following is a comment by John Smith in response to this article on Bush’s Give Us $700 Billion Dollars Unfettered By Any Oversight Whatsoever Wall Street bailout.

Dear Member of Congress:

You are being asked to assign unprecedented powers to an unelected, and unaccountable former Wall Street banker, under the guise of bringing stability to the markets and solvency to our banking system. With one hastily thrown together vote, you are going to create the most powerful human being in world history – Henry Paulson.

This is being done for the purposes of fixing a “crisis” that has suddenly, in the last hour, been presented to Congressional leaders. This act would remove the constitutionally mandated powers of regulation of the money supply, and the value thereof, from Congress and give it to an unelected member of the President’s cabinet. According to the act, this person would be above judicial review, and be allowed a $700,000,000,000 revolving line of credit to print money on behalf of the United States government. That is more power than anyone has ever had – anyone. Caesar did not have this power.

This should sound eerily familiar.

In March of 1933, after the “crisis” of the Reichstag Fire, newly named Chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler, petitioned the German Reichstag to give him plenary powers over the affairs of German government. The Reichstag transferred its power, on an emergency basis, to the Cabinet of Germany for a period of four years, and this was called “The Enabling Act”. This was to deal with the perceived “crisis” of Communists within the German government, when the “crisis” was never fully substantiated. It is believed by most historians that the Reichstag Fire was a deliberate act to coax the Reichstag into giving up its power.

That history did not end well.

You are being goaded into giving Henry Paulson plenary powers over the economy and government spending, money supply, and value of that money. Those powers belong to you, held in trust for the citizens of the United States. Our Founders gave you those powers TO PREVENT THE VERY SCENARIO THAT SECRETARY PAULSON HAS PRESENTED TO YOU.

You are being manipulated.

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Henry Paulson, Goldman Sachs and the good old buddy system

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The bailout plans for Wall Street are the biggest rip off of taxpayers ever. But wait a minute. There was the Savings and Loan crisis from the 1980s and 1990s.That was bad, wasn’t it?

In a nutshell: The Savings and Loans’ interest rates on deposits were regulated since the 1930’s and found themselves up against the competition of money market funds which could pay higher interest. Deregulation led to increasingly risky investment strategies and ultimately 747 Savings and Loans failed, leaving the taxpayer with $ 120 billion bill. The ensueing large budget deficits may have contributed to the recession of the early nineties.

Taking inflation into account the then $ 120 billion would amount to roughly $ 200 billion today. And it helped causing a two year recession.

That was bad really. And today? Continue reading