Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Afternoon Music Club

"All You Need is Love."

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

National League Champions

The Philadelphia Phillies.

A fan reacts to the Phils' Game 4 win.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, October 09, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize winner

President Obama. Let's hope that this does indeed "contribute a little bit for what he is trying to do," as the Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes. Let's also hope it also emboldens Obama to base decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan on the best interests of the entire world and not just the interests of defense contractors.

Labels: , ,

Their real goal

with programs like NCLB, "issues" like gay marriage, networks like Fox News and amendments like this is to try to keep us ignorant. The less informed and more distracted from the real issues we are, the more crimes they can get away with.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, October 05, 2009

Game of chance

Eat ground beef and roll the dice.

Stephanie Smith, a children’s dance instructor, thought she had a stomach virus. The aches and cramping were tolerable that first day, and she finished her classes.

Then her diarrhea turned bloody. Her kidneys shut down. Seizures knocked her unconscious. The convulsions grew so relentless that doctors had to put her in a coma for nine weeks. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. The affliction had ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed.

Ms. Smith, 22, was found to have a severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli, which Minnesota officials traced to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner in early fall 2007.

“I ask myself every day, ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why from a hamburger?’ ” Ms. Smith said. In the simplest terms, she ran out of luck in a food-safety game of chance whose rules and risks are not widely known.

Meat companies and grocers have been barred from selling ground beef tainted by the virulent strain of E. coli known as O157:H7 since 1994, after an outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants left four children dead. Yet tens of thousands of people are still sickened annually by this pathogen, federal health officials estimate, with hamburger being the biggest culprit. Ground beef has been blamed for 16 outbreaks in the last three years alone, including the one that left Ms. Smith paralyzed from the waist down. This summer, contamination led to the recall of beef from nearly 3,000 grocers in 41 states.

Ms. Smith’s reaction to the virulent strain of E. coli was extreme, but tracing the story of her burger, through interviews and government and corporate records obtained by The New York Times, shows why eating ground beef is still a gamble. Neither the system meant to make the meat safe, nor the meat itself, is what consumers have been led to believe.
See, the trouble is, testing the beef supply to make sure it's safe and won't kill people who eat it is just so darn expensive. And you know that we like our money more than life itself.

Don't kid yourself: The beef supply isn't monitored closely enough and isn't safe.

Labels: , , , ,

Benefits cut

You can't make this shit up.
WellPoint Inc., the largest U.S. insurer, dismissed a "small number" of workers last week and announced cuts to employee health benefits Friday, in its latest attempt to deal with the recession's toll on enrollment.
I wonder if that "small number of workers" included those who excelled at saving the company money through recissions, that is, retroactively canceling people's coverage after they filed expensive claims. As noted in a previous post, one criterion used by WellPoint to evaluate employees' job performance was how well they condemned people by canceling their insurance at the moment they get sick and really need it. In other words, for some WellPoint employees, condemning people by canceling their insurance at the moment they get sick and really need it was part of the job.

The investigation has also found that at least one insurance company, WellPoint, evaluated employee performance based in part on the amount of money its employees saved the company through retroactive rescissions of health insurance policies. According to documents obtained by the committee, one WellPoint official was awarded a perfect score of five for exceptional performance based on having saved the company nearly $10 million through rescissions.

These practices reveal that when an insurance company receives a claim for an expensive, life-saving treatment, some of them will look for a way, any way, to avoid having to pay for it.
And if the company is cutting benefits for its own employees, what do you think it's doing to other policyholders?

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Three villages

Wiped out by landslides triggered by earthquakes.

An official says landslides triggered by an earthquake in western Indonesia obliterated at least three villages this week.

He says as many as 644 people including a wedding party were buried under mountains of mud and debris.

If all 644 are confirmed dead — as is likely — the death toll from Wednesday's quake would jump to more than 1,300. The government's death toll currently is 715.

Rustam Pakaya, the head of the Health Ministry's crisis center, said Saturday that Pulau Aiya, Lubuk Lawe and Jumena villages were completely wiped out by the landslides.
Click here to donate to Americares, which is working to help the survivors.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Show me the note, part deux

This expands on a previous post, which is referenced in the title of this one.

From Roger Ebert’s review of Michael Moore’s "Capitalism":

The second is the reckless, immoral gambling referred to as "derivatives." I've read that derivatives are so complex they're created by computers and not even the software authors really understand them. Moore asks three experts to explain them to him. All three fail. Essentially, they involve bets placed on the expectation that we will default on our mortgages, for example. If we do, the bets pay off. What if we don't? Investors can hedge their bets, by betting that they will fail. They hope to win both ways.

Our mortgages are the collateral for these bets. Moore says they are sliced and diced and rebundled and scattered hither and yon. He has an interview with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who advises her constituents: If a bank forecloses, don't move, and demand they produce a copy of your mortgage. In many cases, they can't.
And even if they can, the current holder of the "security" (that's starting to look like a rather ironic term, huh?) may not have the legal standing to foreclose, as mentioned in the previous post:

MERS as straw man lacks standing to foreclose, but so does original lender, although it was a signatory to the deal. The lender lacks standing because title had to pass to the secured parties for the arrangement to legally qualify as a “security.” The lender has been paid in full and has no further legal interest in the claim. Only the securities holders have skin in the game; but they have no standing to foreclose, because they were not signatories to the original agreement. They cannot satisfy the basic requirement of contract law that a plaintiff suing on a written contract must produce a signed contract proving he is entitled to relief.
After all, it's not the homeowners' fault that a bunch of traders have essentially paid off the mortgagee by buying fractions of the sliced-and-diced mortgage as part of various bundles, and left themselves with no legal recourse should the homeowner stop making payments, is it?

Once again, as before, I urge, warn and direct you to speak with an attorney with expertise in real estate law before taking any action. I am not an expert on real estate law, so acting on my impressions of the current landscape would be to act as irresponsibly as the securities traders who now appear to have paid through the nose for worthless paper.

In reference to millions of American homes, if it turns out that nobody can prove who owns what, millions of mortgages will be unenforceable. But what’s bad for the banking industry might just be good for the rest of the economy. Finally, a bottom-up solution to a bottom-up problem, which is how I think the government should have handled this mess in the first place: If the banking crisis was due to widespread mortgage defaults, why not just pay off the delinquent mortgages? The money ends up going to the same banks as it went to anyway, but that way at least someone got something for it instead of it being a simple giveaway of taxpayer money. Instead, the banks collected free money and still got to collect mortgage payments and foreclose on properties, which presumably will increase in value someday.

And just think of all the shit people could have bought to stimulate the economy with the money they no longer had to use for mortgage payments. The top 1 percent may have most of the money, but they aren't going to be able to support 100 percent of the economy. Even those greedy swine can buy only so many cars, TVs and houses.

UPDATE: More on the Kansas Supreme Court decision from someone who knows more about real estate law than I do.

Labels: , , , ,