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Happy Thanksgiving

Posts may be a bit spotty for the next week or so. Enjoy your Thanksgiving and take a break from politics (especially from talking about politics at the Thanksgiving table)!


Toothless Dog

The list of crimes committed by large banks is long: money laundering for terrorists and drug cartels, manipulation of interest rates to defraud investors, rigging commodities markets to raise the prices you pay, mortgage fraud (including breaking state and federal laws when kicking people out of their homes and foreclosing on them), and manipulating municipal debt markets. And these are just the ones we know about.

Yet no bankers have actually gone to jail for these crimes. No wonder people believe the system is rigged — it is!

So it comes as little surprise when during testimony in front of Congress, one of the top bank regulators admits that not only have they been afraid to prosecute bankers for fear that doing so would cause damage to the financial system, but in fact they don’t even think that it is their job to do so. William Dudley, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said that he didn’t think that the focus of bank regulators was to act like a cops or to investigate banks. Instead, their primary focus is “ensuring that the bank is safe and sound, that it’s run well”.

I guess Dudley just guaranteed himself a high paying job at a big bank when he leaves the Fed.


Late Night Political Humor

“President Obama is in China now for an economic summit in Beijing. The president wore a traditional purple silk shirt along with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. That’s after they taught Putin how to put a shirt ON.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama is in China. Also in China is evil Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. They’re both in China at the same time. It’s like running into your ex-girlfriend on vacation.” – David Letterman

“It is Veterans Day, when we honor everyone who served in all of the campaigns. We honor them with dignity and respect, and of course mattress sales and tire discounts.” – Craig Ferguson

“Today is Veterans Day. It’s a day we honor those who serve and have served in our armed forces. So thank you for your service to our country and the sacrifices that you made. I’m talking about actual veterans. Playing ‘Call of Duty’ does not count. I don’t care how many missions you’ve completed.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Today is Veterans Day. Thank you to all our men and women who have served the United States armed forces. In honor of Veterans Day we are marching out a few jokes that have already served.” – David Letterman

“After President Obama announced his support for net neutrality yesterday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that ‘Net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet.’ While Ted Cruz continues to be the Taylor Swift of not getting over Obamacare.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Here in New York City you can now walk around smoking weed and all they will do if they see you is write you a ticket. Unfortunately, the ticket will be to a Jets game.” – David Letterman

“You’ve got to be careful smoking weed. It causes memory loss. And also, it causes memory loss.” – David Letterman


Late Night Political Humor

“Both President Obama and former President George W. Bush were interviewed on ‘Face the Nation’ over the weekend. President Bush said there’s a 50 percent chance his brother Jeb will run for president in 2016. Then he said, ‘But there’s an 80 percent chance he won’t.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“This weekend George W. Bush said it’s a toss-up whether his brother Jeb will run for president in 2016. Bush said there’s a 40-40 chance.” – Seth Meyers

“It was the 60th anniversary of ‘Face the Nation.’ During his interview, President Obama said, ‘Our country doesn’t fear the future. We grab it.’ Nothing says you grab the future like going on a 60-year-old show hosted by a 77-year-old-man to speak to a 90-year-old audience.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama and Vladimir Putin are both in China attending the same economic summit. Obama saw Putin and said, ‘After those midterms, it’s nice to finally see a friendly face.'” – Conan O’Brien

“Obama took a tour of the Great Wall of China and said, ‘We need one of these things around the White House.'” – David Letterman

“President Obama is in China. Today he visited the kids who make our cellphones.” – David Letterman

“A pastor at a controversial church in Harlem said last week that Starbucks is ground zero for Ebola. Unless ‘Ebola’ is a new Norah Jones CD, I’m betting he’s wrong.” – Seth Meyers

“Pepsi has a new Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew. No, we don’t have an Ebola vaccine, but we do have the Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew.” – David Letterman

“You know Kim Jong Un, the evil dictator of North Korea? Apparently, a guy in his inner circle used his ashtray while smoking and Kim Jong Un had him executed. I remember the same thing happened when a guy used Martha Stewart’s personal lemon zester.” – David Letterman


Preemptive Attack

The GOP is promising to “swiftly counter Obama’s immigration moves“. Senator Mitch McConnell even gave a speech today and declared that Obama would regret ignoring the wishes of the American people.

McConnell said “We’re considering a variety of options”, which is a reference to shutting down the government or impeaching Obama.

According to the NY Times a steady stream of Republicans are condemning Obama for what they expect him to announce. Senator John Cornyn accused the president of “provoking a constitutional crisis” that would be “deeply harmful to the future of our democracy”. Rep Steve King said that Obama was “throwing this nation into a crisis”. And Senator Tom Coburn warned of “violent reactions” from people who disagree with Obama, saying “the country’s going to go nuts” and we could see “instances of anarchy [and] violence”. Is he talking about a lynching?

They don’t even know exactly what he is going to announce, but whatever it will be, they condemn it and will act quickly to reverse it, most likely by threatening to shut down the government. And if that doesn’t work, by impeaching Obama.

They can’t even wait for him to make the announcement, they are practically salivating.

UPDATE: What I find truly ironic about this whole thing is that the reason why the two big examples of executive action to allow illegal immigrants to stay here were done by Reagan and Bush I is that big business wanted cheap labor. Republicans were behind most efforts at immigration reform. Democrats were traditionally against this because labor unions didn’t want cheap illegal labor undercutting wages. Now things have flipped entirely.


Impeach President Obama

[excerpted from an article by Leonard Pitts Jr. in the Miami Herald]

Dear Republican Party:

Impeach President Obama.

Go ahead, you know you want to do it. The very thought makes you warm and gooey inside.

You have already floated many rationales for doing so. You’ve wanted to impeach him both for things he’s done and for things you only think he’s done: failing to protect the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi; trading Taliban fighters for a captured American soldier; passing legislation — the Affordable Care Act — you dislike; making unconstitutional appointments to executive branch offices. You’ve also wanted to impeach him for things he’s only been reported to be thinking about: sending troops to Syria or using executive orders to change the immigration system.

Pick one of those. Or just impeach him for being from Kenya. At this point, does the rationale even matter? Impeach President Obama.

Do it for America.

The U.S. electorate, after all, has a short memory and shorter attention span. It periodically needs what you have periodically provided and what impeachment proceedings would provide yet again: a reminder that something has gone awry in the Grand Old Party. It is no longer the party of Eisenhower or Reagan, nor the party of Bush the elder nor even the party of Bob Dole, your 1996 standard bearer who said in April, “I thought I was a conservative, but we’ve got some in Congress now who are so far right they’re about to fall out of the Capitol.”

The ever-blunt Dole was only saying what other GOP elders and other concerned observers have been saying for years: You have become an outlier, a haven of cranks and extremists. And you are driven by hatred — the word is not too strong — of the 44th president.

You’ve refused to accept the legitimacy of his presidency, though he was twice elected without Supreme Court help. You’ve supported false theories of foreign birth. You’ve damaged the nation’s credit rating rather than pass a routine authorization. You’ve killed your own legislation when you learned that he supported it. You’ve made compromise a curse word. You’ve raised obstruction to high art and made getting nothing done a badge of perverse honor.

Yet, you haven’t managed to get rid of him. What’s left except the ultimate sanction? So for yourself and for the rest of us, please put up or shut up:

Impeach President Obama.

Show America what you’re made of. Yet again.


Racist Rebrand

Matt Bors
© Matt Bors

You gotta admire the irony of a country of immigrants that hates immigrants.

AnonymousMeanwhile, the Klan has threatened to use lethal force against protestors in Ferguson, Missouri.

In retaliation the hactivist group Anonymous hacked into the Klan’s twitter account and started posting messages, including an image of a unicorn complete with rainbow sunset (see image at right).


Late Night Political Humor

“The Democrats were crushed in the midterm elections. The Republican juggernaut pounded the Democrats, and the pundits say they will not really know what happened to the Democrats until they find the black box.” – David Letterman

“It is a great day for the great state of Texas. The last person being tested for Ebola has come back clean. So Texas is now Ebola free. This was a big week for them. They’re now free of Ebola – and Democrats.” – Craig Ferguson

“Here’s the plot of ‘Interstellar.’ Refugees – they’re known as Democrats – they’re looking for a new planet.” – David Letterman

“Democrats in state legislatures are at their lowest level since the 1920s. President Obama has a can’t-miss strategy to save the party in 2016. He’s leaving.” – Craig Ferguson

“New York City has 2 million rats. We used to have 8 million rats. Now we’re down to 2 million. You know what that means? We lose four electoral votes.” – David Letterman

“Director Oliver Stone says he’s going to make a movie about Vladimir Putin. I can’t believe anyone would want to work with that insane communist. And Putin is a little crazy as well.” – Craig Ferguson


GOP Irony

So in the aftermath of the midterm election, some emboldened Republicans are making plans. For example, Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) has said that impeachment “would be a consideration” if Obama moves forward with executive action to solve our immigration problems. In addition, Republicans have said that they will force the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, which Obama has delayed pending resolution of a court case in Nebraska over the pipeline.

Now here is where it gets ironic. Since June, the price of oil has decreased by 28%. Tar sands oil, which is what Keystone will be carrying, costs between $85 to $110 per barrel to produce. But crude oil is currently selling for $77 a barrel, so the tar sands oil would have to be sold at a loss. Even if we allow the Keystone pipeline to be built, it would go unused unless the price of crude oil goes up dramatically.

And about that impeachment thing. Obama has repeatedly said that if the Republicans would send him a bill he would not take executive action, but if they don’t, then somebody needs to do something to solve the immigration crisis. So Obama has said that he will take executive action to avoid breaking up families by deporting people who are illegal immigrants, but are married to US citizens.

Where were the protests when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush both did the same thing? They extended amnesty to family members by executive action and there was barely a peep out of anyone. I guess if St. Ronnie does it, it is ok, but if Obama does it, it is grounds for impeachment.

Once again, the Republicans are against anything Obama does.

Steve Sack
© Steve Sack


Late Night Political Humor

“Now that the midterm elections are over, President Obama has invited congressional leaders from both parties to a meeting at the White House tomorrow. When asked if he’s nervous, Obama said, ‘Oh, I’m not going to be there. I just invited them over. They can figure it out themselves.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“How about that election night? Here’s the breakdown. The Republicans won the popular vote. The Democrats won the unpopular vote.” – David Letterman

“On Tuesday, Utah Candidate Mia Love became the first black Republican woman elected to Congress. She’s also a Mormon. Yeah, a black female Republican Mormon. Even unicorns are saying, ‘Not buyin’ it.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“After Michael Jordan recently criticized President Obama’s golf game, Obama responded by saying that Jordan should spend more time thinking about his basketball team, the Charlotte Hornets. Then Jordan said, ‘Do you really want to talk about whose team got crushed this week?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“What a day. It’s 53 and gloomy — like President Obama.” – David Letterman

“President Obama has two years left as president. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets to appoint two new Kardashian husbands.” – David Letterman

“It’s been announced that a Union soldier who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama over 151 years after his death. Even better, he finally got an appointment at the VA hospital.” – Seth Meyers

“A new study shows that despite previous estimates there are only 2 million rats living in New York City. I guess the other 10 million are commuting from New Jersey.” – Seth Meyers


Merger Mania

What, are we crazy? After all the “too big to fail” failures, why do we keep letting mega-companies merge and eliminate competition? After all, competition is the fuel that drives free market capitalism.

The New Yorker has a fascinating article that is poorly titled “Why I Left United Airlines“. Not that there isn’t enough to write about United Airlines and their rapid decline after their merger with Continental.

Like how the newly combined airlines raised prices by as much at 57% on routes that were newly uncompetitive. And that United now has the worst quality rankings in the nation, even worse than discount airlines. And that they have more consumer complaints than any major airline. The only winner in that merger seems to be the now ex-CEO of United, who pocketed $17 million.

But the article is actually far more interesting, talking about mergers in general, saying: “The sinkhole effect — which is not confined to airlines — means that we need to take a much closer look at mega-mergers in the essential industries whose services are hard to avoid and which have a disproportionate effect on quality of life.”

Did you know that multiple studies (including by the FTC) have confirmed that when hospital chains merge, two things inevitably happen: prices increase, and more dead patients. Oh, and there is one more result: increased profits for the chain (at the expense of your wallet and possibly your life). That sounds like the archetypal bad merger. After all, the FTC is supposed to stop mergers that are bad for consumers. How much worse can you get?

Bottom line is, why are we even thinking of allowing cable and Internet giants Comcast and Time Warner to merge? Seriously, are we crazy?


Late Night Political Humor

“The big news is the midterm elections. Last night Republicans picked up a dozen seats in the House to give them their biggest majority since World War II. Or as they put it, ‘Time to party like it’s 1939!'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Yesterday was Election Day. If we have any Democrats in the audience, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to give up your seats.” – David Letterman

“Republicans also took control of the Senate after gaining another seven seats. I haven’t seen the GOP get this many seats since Chris Christie made an airline reservation.” – Jimmy Fallon

“The Republican Party had a big day in yesterday’s midterm elections and now controls the House and Senate. And don’t ask me how this happened, but the Republican Party also gained control of three seats in our show’s band.” – Conan O’Brien

“Republicans now have a majority in the Senate and House of Representatives for the first time in eight years. I guess when it was all said and done, the Republicans just had the better lawn signs.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Republicans won enough seats to gain a majority in the Senate and increase their majority in the House. For those Democratic candidates who wanted to distance yourselves from Obama, congratulations. You did.” – Seth Meyers

“Yesterday was Election Day. Republicans picked up a lot of seats and won control of both chambers of Congress. That’s key because whoever controls Congress controls the lunch menu at the cafeteria.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Was the election a drubbing or was it a shellacking? That’s my only question. It’s embarrassing. Even the Washington Redskins are demanding that the Democrats change their name.” – David Letterman

“Thank heaven Election Day is over. No more campaign ads, no more mud-slinging, no more candidates pretending they’re straight. It’s over! ” – Craig Ferguson

“Republican Scott Brown lost his bid for Senate in New Hampshire last night, two years after he was voted out as Senator in Massachusetts. When asked what he was planning to do next, he said, ‘Are they still looking for a mayor in Toronto?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“For the first time ever, a black Republican woman has been elected to Congress. President Obama told her, ‘You are all set. This country never turns against a black anything.'” – Conan O’Brien

“According to data from yesterday’s midterms, only 13 percent of voters were under 30 years old. So America didn’t rock the vote so much as we soft-rocked the vote.” – Seth Meyers

“A lot of issues were on the ballots. In New York City there was Proposition 14. That would put a ceiling on the number of late-night talk shows. And California passed Proposition 21. That would change guacamole officially to ‘guac’.” – David Letterman

“You know what happened today? When is this going to stop? There was another fence jumper at the White House. This time it was Obama trying to get out.” – David Letterman

“For the first time in history, Congress has 100 women in it. Congratulations. Welcome to modern times, America. It’s great having 100 women in Congress. Unless you’re in line for the congressional bathroom.” – Craig Ferguson

“Washington, D.C., voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Vice President Joe Biden celebrated quietly at home, contemplating the infinite nature of the universe.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Imagine Washington, D.C. If you thought Congress didn’t get a lot of work done before, just wait until they get legal pot.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“It’s fantastic that Congress has an increasing number of women. Experts call an increasingly female presence in a previously male space ‘the Bruce Jenner effect’.” – Craig Ferguson

“Clay Aiken ran for Congress in North Carolina. But he didn’t make it. Clay Aiken is famous for coming in second in a TV popularity contest that most people got fed up with years ago. He also lost on ‘American Idol’.” – Craig Ferguson


Cleanliness is next to Godliness

I love what Pope Francis and others are doing.

A chance meeting between a Catholic bishop and a homeless person in Rome resulted in the bishop inviting the street person to dinner. But he demurred, saying that he was too smelly to eat with a bishop. The bishop prevailed, and at the dinner the homeless man said that while Rome did a good job of making sure that the homeless are not starving, it was more difficult for the homeless to stay clean.

The bishop took this to heart, and created a groundswell of action. A construction firm volunteered to install showers in parishes that don’t already have them. Famous singer Andrea Bocelli made a substantial donation to the cause, and Pope Francis is having the toilets at the Vatican itself, which are close to his personal apartment, upgraded to include public showers for the millions of pilgrims and visitors who come to the Vatican every year.

When asked if well-off visitors would object to sharing the toilets with the homeless, the bishop said “The Basilica exists in order to keep the Body of Christ, and we serve Jesus’s suffering body by serving the poor.” He also echoed the statement that Pope Francis said when he became pope, that the church should be a “poor church, for the poor”.

An unrelated story finds an apprentice barber in Melbourne Australia giving haircuts to the homeless on the street for free. It is amazing how one’s physical image can affect their self image. One homeless person said right after his haircut “I’ve gone from questioning why am I sitting here to … it’s good to be alive”. Another homeless man, who can’t recall the last time he had a haircut or a shave, looks in a mirror afterward and says “Oh my god! Who is that guy?” and “I’m more than happy with the result. I’m actually rapt!”.

The barber is modest about what he is doing, saying “People think that I’m doing them a favour, nah… it’s actually a 50/50 relationship. They’re helping me do something I love and in return they get a fresh look.”


Religious Education

There is some educating going on in Florida, but it looks like the main group being educated is the local school board.

The whole thing started in January 2013 when the Orange County school board decided to allow a religious group to distribute free bibles in their public high schools. The Orange County school district is one of the largest in the nation, so this got a lot of attention. It is illegal (and unconstitutional) for any government entity to favor one religion over others, so if the school board was going to let one religious group distribute materials in public schools, they had to allow any religious group to do the same.

And they did. First an atheist group started distributing materials, and then the Satanic Temple. I’ve posted about the Satanic Temple before. Their main goals are not so much to spread satanism as to keep government out of the religion business. They created a brilliant “coloring book” that included activities like connecting the dots to create satanic symbols. (You gotta love a group that uses humor to defend freedom).

In reaction, the school board is doing what they should have done in the first place – shutting down religious proselytizing in their schools.

I find it amazing that some people think freedom of religion only applies to Christians.


Late Night Political Humor

“Today is the midterm elections. The Washington Post is predicting that there’s a 98 percent chance of the Republicans taking the Senate and The New York Times says there’s a 75 percent chance. And CNN said, ‘Wait, that’s today?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“In the midterm elections, a 102-year-old woman voted for the first time in a U.S. election. Unfortunately, she voted for Woodrow Wilson.” – Conan O’Brien

“During a speech on Sunday, President Obama said to the crowd, ‘We’ve got to vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.’ This went on for an hour until someone finally fixed his teleprompter.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Kim Kardashian tweeted that she is supporting President Obama in the midterm elections. I think it worked because all of the polls are predicting that after tonight Barack Obama will still be president of the United States.” – Conan O’Brien

“Democrats have been doing everything they can to get young people and college students to vote in the midterms. Though if you want students to participate in something, maybe you shouldn’t call them midterms.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Utah could elect its first black Republican woman to Congress. In other words, Utah finally got one black person and the first thing they want to do is send her to Washington.” – Conan O’Brien

“In Montana, a math teacher is running for the Senate. Win or lose, she plans on demanding a recount because math is fun.” – Conan O’Brien

“President Obama spent Election Day away from any press coverage, attending closed-door meetings inside the White House. But on the bright side, it is nice to see some doors actually closed at the White House. It’s a whole new Secret Service security thing.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Today isn’t just Election Day. It’s National Candy Day today. I don’t know. Didn’t we just have National Candy Day — Halloween? That’s National Candy Day. Today should be National Candy Nobody Wanted to Eat But It’s the Only Thing Left in the Trick-or-Treat Bag Day.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Tomorrow is National Healthy Eating Day. But tomorrow is also National Doughnut Day, which seems like bad planning.” – Jimmy Kimmel