How Panhandlers Use Free Credit Cards

Jim Rankin, writing in the Toronto Star, describes how, over the past two weeks, he “wandered Toronto’s downtown core with five prepaid Visa and MasterCard gift cards, in $50 and $75 denominations, waiting for people to ask for money.”

What would happen if, instead of spare change, you handed a person in need the means to shop for whatever they needed? What would they buy? Can you spare your credit card, sir?

In New York City, an advertising executive recently handed over her American Express Platinum Card to a homeless Manhattan man after he had asked her for change. The man, who had been without home after losing a job, used the card to buy $25 worth of deodorant, water and cigarettes. And then he returned the card.

Concerns over the wisdom of sharing of credits cards and credit card fraud aside, the unlikely encounter became a talking point — a feel-good story about, as the New York Post put it in a headline: “A bum you can trust — honest!”

Rankin reports on a punk rocker who had a sign reading “Too ugly to prostitute. Spare some change.” When handed a $50 gift card, he came back a half hour later, right on time, and returned the card, having spent only $8.69, for food.

He tells Rankin that among his most effective panning signs are  “Like Obama, I like change” and “Smile if you masturbate. Spare change if you like it.”

Read this and other touching stories in this fascinating article, here.

Glenn Beck Proves He’s a Complete Fraud

Pretending to Cry

Preparing to Cry

I hesitate to post this devastating Media Matters video montage (below) of Glenn Beck contradicting himself at yesterday’s rally, because there are probably people out there — Fox News viewers?  — who could watch it and still find that he makes complete sense.

But the rest of you who are conscious should see this. It’ll probably confirm what you know already, that Beck is some kind of weird fraud, a dangerous showman, a pied piper leading his fans into his own nightmare vision of America … and all this only for the greater glory and — oh by the way — the greater prosperity of multimillionaire populist Glenn Beck. (Click on either of the two photos above if you still doubt this).

What’s Fox’s excuse for hiring this guy?

Answer: The politics of fear, their stock in trade.

Creepy.

Joe Miller Attacks the Interests of Alaskan Voters

Here Joe Miller on Face the Nation attacks many of the interests of his potential constituents: Social Security, Medicare, federal stimulus money. Apparently he believes most of these programs are unconstitutional.

What is this, a self-destructive candidacy based on insulting Alaskan voters?

Here is his 7-minute interview from this morning’s Face the Nation.

Opposition to Prop 23 Now Coming From Out-of-State Donors

It’s been known since the beginning of the campaign against AB32 that most of the money in support of Proposition 23 has come from two out-of-state oil companies, Tesoro and Valero. Now, according to Todd Woody, writing in Grist.com, “the No forces are tapping out-of-state donors.”

On Thursday, they got $250,000 from New York investor Nicolas Berggruen. Berggruen is head of Berggruen Holdings, which has made investments in wind energy projects.

Also last week, Nancy Burnett of Lummi Island, Wash., deposited $100,000 in the anti-Prop 23 coffers. Burnett is a daughter of David Packard, co-founder of Silicon Valley tech giant Hewlett-Packard, and a supporter of Democratic candidates.

And this week, David Bonderman, a Texas investor with TPG Capital, donated $7,500.

Woody also quotes Lawrence Goldenhersh, CEO of Enviance, a California firm that sells environmental compliance software, who calls the election “the Normandy Invasion of climate change:”

“If AB 32 is sustained by the voters of California, you will have the largest plebiscite in the history of the climate change debate cast by voters in the world’s seventh largest economy,” Goldenhersh told me Tuesday. “If AB 32 survives and Jerry Brown gets elected governor I think you’ll have cap-and-trade nationally by 2013.'”

” If Prop 23 passes and AB 32 is suspended or killed then I think there will not be a lot of drive and political appetite to take on a piece of grand climate legislation in Congress,” he says. “People will say, ‘if it’s too expensive for California then it’s too expensive for a little state.'”

Read the full report here.

Sometimes Reader Comments Are Better Than the Article

A reader comment following a Robert Scheer article this morning is worth quoting. The article, good in itself, takes Obama to task for failing to do more to alleviate the widespread foreclosure crisis that is threatening to stall the recovery, and calls on the President to fire the gang — starting with Summers and Geithner — that got us into this mess in the first place.

One reader said this:

” … the old law of supply and demand is kicking in. When too much of the money supply is accumulated in too few hands demand dies and the wheels fall off the economic train. Until wealth is redistributed and put back into the hands of consumers the economy can not recover.”

This cannot be repeated often enough. It sounds too simple to be true, but it is precisely true: “When too much of the money supply is accumulated in too few hands demand dies and the wheels fall off the economic train.”

Income inequality in the United States has now reached its greatest extent since 1929, on the eve of the Great Depression, and not coincidentally.

Where is the demand that will drive a recovery?

With unemployment high and manufacturing jobs fleeing to low-wage countries, with mortgage equities tapped-out, with the tax code jiggered to shift massive amounts of wealth from the middle class to the rich, where will the money come from for the spending necessary to drive a recovery?

Scheer raps the President for merely hoping the banks will do the right thing and help out distressed homeowners:

“The ugly reality that only 398,198 mortgages have been modified to make the payments more reasonable can be traced to the program being based on the hope that the banks would do the right thing. While Obama continued the Bush practice of showering the banks with bailout money, he did not demand a moratorium on foreclosures or call for increasing the power of bankruptcy courts to force the banks, which created the problem, to now help distressed homeowners.

When homes are foreclosed in a neighborhood the equity of those in the area who have faithfully paid their mortgages is slashed. And when the banks dump those foreclosed properties back on the market, prices drop even lower. Yet the administration has offered the most tepid of responses to stanch the fierce bleeding of home equity worth. A paltry $4.1 billion has been committed to efforts by the states to help the unemployed and other distressed borrowers stay in their homes. Compare that with the trillions spent on making the financial industry super-profitable once again.”

Keep all this in mind when you hear Mitch McConnell and John Boehner complain that the scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which Republicans designed into the law ten years ago, now constitutes a tax increase engineered by the Obama administration.

Isn’t it about time that the rich of this country step forward to make a small sacrifice — a return to the Clinton era tax rates — for the good of the whole country, the country for which they are endlessly and ostentatiously parading their patriotism?

Yeow! Nearly 100 Degrees!

The thermometer over our kitchen deck:

Fox News: Evil or Just Stupid?

Jon Stewart shows us — using Fox’s own style of reasoning — why the best way to “cut off funding to the terror mosque”  is to stop watching Fox News.

Of course, what he seriously shows us is how Fox rapes journalistic ethics (by not mentioning its own “ties” to the mosque funding) in order to promote its fear campaign.

What is the underlying purpose of the fear campaign? In this pre-election season, your guess is as good as — and probably the same as — mine.

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A Bill the Deficit Hawks Should Love

GOP Ethics

A Prescription for Ruin

(from Newsweek)

by Ezra Klein

I’ve got some good news for deficit hawks: earlier this year, Congress passed legislation reducing the deficit by about $125 billion over the next 10 years. But, as they say on the infomercials, that’s not all! The bill cuts the deficit by $1.3 trillion in the second decade. That more than pays for every dollar we’ve spent on stimulus since 2008. The bill also sets up a new—and actually credible—system to keep Medicare’s costs under control. So hear that, fiscal conservatives? Hear that, bond markets? This is progress, baby. We’ll lick our deficit problem, yet.

The bill in question is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as health-care reform. The numbers come from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. But as always, there’s a catch: the savings arrive only if the policies behind the savings are allowed to do their jobs. And in the GOP’s zeal to repeal a bill it considers a deficit-busting nightmare, Republicans are focusing their fire on the parts they should like: the cost controls.

More

Darkness is Spreading in America

Colorado Springs, to save money, has turned off a third of its streetlights.

Similar measures are taking place all over America, according to Paul Krugman, “from Philadelphia to Fresno.”

But it’s not just streetlights. It’s infrastructure of all kinds. Some states and local governments are breaking up their paved roads and returning them to gravel, because they can no longer afford to maintain them.

Teachers are being laid off.

In Hawaii, the school year itself is being shortened.

Krugman explains the cause of these events:

Our political class is showing its priorities: given the choice between asking the richest 2 percent or so of Americans to go back to paying the tax rates they paid during the Clinton-era boom, or allowing the nation’s foundations to crumble — literally in the case of roads, figuratively in the case of education — they’re choosing the latter.

In the short run, those state and local cutbacks are a major drag on the economy, perpetuating devastatingly high unemployment.

It’s crucial to keep state and local government in mind when you hear people ranting about runaway government spending under President Obama. Yes, the federal government is spending more, although not as much as you might think. But state and local governments are cutting back. And if you add them together, it turns out that the only big spending increases have been in safety-net programs like unemployment insurance, which have soared in cost thanks to the severity of the slump.

How did we get to this point? It’s the logical consequence of three decades of antigovernment rhetoric, rhetoric that has convinced many voters that a dollar collected in taxes is always a dollar wasted, that the public sector can’t do anything right.

To see a graphic representation of the results of these policies, look at this 36-second video (no audio). It shows the county by county unemployment rates from January 2007 to March 2010, with higher unemployment rates coded  in darker colors.

It’s a vivid illustration of the growing “darkness” in America.

The Dems Play Charlie Brown to the GOP’s Lucy

Here Rachel Maddow gives the most vivid illustration I’ve seen of how Obama’s obsession for bipartisanship and his willingness to barter away features of the stimulus legislation in the vain hope of getting Republican approval resulted in (1) less effective legislation and (2) criticism from Republicans for ineffective legislation.

The Democrats continue to play Charlie Brown to the Republicans Lucy, who keeps snatching the football away just as Charlie is about to kick it over the goal post.

Like Charlie Brown, the Dems keep falling for it over and over again.

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