Losing big

So you think you've got it bad just because your 401(k) is now a 201(k) and your house is worth less than the mortgage? What if you lost 20 or so billions and you were now down to your last billion? How would you face the boys at the club? What would you do about the yacht and the jet and the nifty little place on St. Barts? Here are some guys who have really had it rough. Sort of.

It was exactly a year ago (give or take a day) when the Dow Jones Industrial Average established its all-time high of 14,279. Friday morning it will open at 8,579—a 40 percent drop. Most of us whose meager wealth is tied up in 401(k) plans have suffered a beating of similar magnitude. But just how have the obscenely affluent fared? VF.com took a look at the nation’s 25 richest people whose fortunes are primarily derived from one or two publicly traded stocks.

[From The Stock Market’s 25 Biggest Losers: Peter Newcomb | Vanity Fair]

–Paul Knue

Cheney Dunk Tank Raises $800 Billion For Nation

WASHINGTON—Organizers reported Sunday that the 44th White House Carnival was a rousing success, raising a record $800,000,066,845 for the federal government—$800 billion of which came from a dunk tank featuring former vice president Dick Cheney.

According to Secretary of the Treasury and carnival volunteer Timothy Geithner, the 5-foot-deep tank has provided a much-needed boost to the nation's flagging economy.

[From Cheney Dunk Tank Raises $800 Billion For Nation | The Onion - America's Finest News Source]

"Damn! We had to go to a crappy pot-luck dinner -- with three different kinds of lasagna and four versions of mac and cheese but, mercifully, none of Aunt Millie's spiced turnips this year -- and I missed my chance. I would have tried the ol' bean ball," says Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue.

Doesn't "covert" mean "secret"?

WASHINGTON -- Over the past week, the Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the CIA inside Pakistan, launching attacks against a militant network seeking to topple the Pakistani government.

[From CIA steps up covert war inside Pakistan]

–Noted by our Seattle Bureau

Well, yeah. More or less.

THE RIGHT WORDWhile all of these adjectives describe an attempt to do something without attracting attention or observation, secret is the most general term, implying that something is being concealed or kept from the knowledge of others (: a secret pact; a secret passageway).Covert suggests that something is being done under cover, or concealed as if with a veil or disguise (: a covert attack; a covert threat), while clandestine suggests that something illicit or immoral is being concealed (: a clandestine meeting between the two lovers).Someone who is deliberately sneaking around and trying to do something without attracting notice is best described as stealthy (: the cat moved toward the bird with a slow, stealthy pace), and furtive connotes even more slyness and watchfulness, as revealed not only by movements but by facial expressions (: a furtive glance; a furtive movement toward the door).Surreptitious connotes guilt on the part of the person who is acting in a stealthy or furtive manner (: a surreptitious attempt to hide the book before it was noticed).Underhanded is the strongest of these words, implying fraud, deceit, or unfairness (: underhanded business dealings).

So, take your pick.Or you could say it's secret until everybody knows about it, in which case it pretty much isn't any more. Ain't that wonderful?

More underwater news: sunken French battleship found

ROME -- A French battleship sunk by a German submarine during World War I has been discovered in remarkable condition on the Mediterranean seabed off Sardinia, officials say.

The Danton, a 410-foot-long (125-meter-long) warship that was one of the largest French naval vessels of her era, was spotted by a company conducting an underwater survey for a gas pipeline between Algeria and Italy.

[From Sunken French battleship found]

–Noted by our Seattle bureau

Fine with me

A handful of Republican governors say they may reject portions of the federal stimulus money...

[From 6 Governors May Reject Portions of Stimulus - NYTimes.com]

Send it on up here. We can use it.

Big wheel

Photo: Phil Compton

Atlantis found?

A "grid of streets" on the seabed at one of the proposed locations of the lost city of Atlantis has been spotted on Google Ocean.

The perfect rectangle, which is around the size of Wales, was noticed on the search giant's underwater exploration tool Photo: GOOGLE EARTH

The network of criss-cross lines is 620 miles off the coast of north west Africa near the Canary Islands on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.

The perfect rectangle – which is around the size of Wales – was noticed on the search giant's underwater exploration tool by an aeronautical engineer who claims it looks like an "aerial map" of a city.

The underwater image can be found at the co-ordinates 31 15'15.53N 24 15'30.53W.

[From Google Ocean: Has Atlantis been found off Africa? - Telegraph]
Site is in a likely spot, says expert.

All things considered, it might have been better to leave it in the bank

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German businessman lost more than 10,000 euros ($13,000) in a plastic bag after forgetting the cash in a public toilet, authorities said on Thursday.

[From Man forgets thousands of dollars in toilet | U.S. | Reuters]

I don't understand this and I think I don't want to know

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Renowned investor George Soros said on Friday the world financial system has effectively disintegrated, adding that there is yet no prospect of a near-term resolution to the crisis.

Soros said the turbulence is actually more severe than during the Great Depression, comparing the current situation to the demise of the Soviet Union.

[From Soros sees no bottom for world financial collapse | U.S. | Reuters]

But that reminds me I've been meaning to learn how to make borscht.

It's a whole different world

Bushies can't find jobs. Go figure.

The jobless rate is hanging high -- for many of the roughly 3,000 political appointees who served President George W. Bush. Finding work has proved a far tougher task than those appointees expected.

"This is not a great time for anyone to be job hunting, including numerous former political appointees," said Carlos M. Gutierrez, Mr. Bush's commerce secretary.

[From Jobs Still Elude Some Bush Ex-Officials - WSJ.com]


Either way, I'll wait for the DVD

For this year's Oscars...

The best picture contest will thus be decided between people who want to feel good about themselves ("Slumdog Millionaire") and those who mistakenly see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" as innovative. ... The membership will split along age lines, too. Older voters, attracted to the original message that mortality is a really, really lousy thing, will favor "Benjamin Button," and younger voters, who confuse muscular editing for passion, will favor "Slumdog."

[From Nominations cloud 'Milk's' Oscar chances]

Too many bones

Twenty descendants of the legendary Apache chieftain Geronimo are suing government officials, the University and the society Skull & Bones in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to seek the return of his remains as well as punitive damages.

One hundred years ago today, Geronimo died of pneumonia at Fort Sill, Okla., but the suit alleges members of the society exhumed his remains in 1918 or 1919 and transported them to the society's High Street tomb in New Haven. The group rumored to have stolen Geronimo's skull, bones and other items from his gravesite is said to have included Prescott Bush, the father of former President George H. W. Bush '48 and grandfather to former President George W. Bush '68.

[From Yale Daily News - Skull & Bones sued for Geronimo's remains]

Wasn't he the guy who went around being nice to poor people?

After watching liberal allies of President Barack Obama flood the airwaves in support of the stimulus bill, a conservative third-party group is countering with a provocative new commercial using Jesus Christ to emphasize the scale of the $787 billion package. ...

The ad, titled “Every Single Day,” represents the first television campaign by conservatives in opposition to a bill that won only three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House.

[From VIDEO: Group counters stimulus with Jesus in TV ad - Jonathan Martin - Politico.com]

Please hold your applause

After months of private rumination and public mixed signals, Governor Deval Patrick will propose a 19 cent increase in the state's gasoline tax today...

[From Patrick set to propose 19 cent increase in gasoline tax - The Boston Globe]

I don't know, Bunky, this sounds grim

Peter Payack is nearing the end of his term as Cambridge's first poet populist, an elected position designed to encourage the appreciation of poetry. Payack has been busy inventing the job, organizing a scavenger hunt for famous-poet sites, creating fortune cookies with original poems inside, visiting schools, and giving readings. Now he's working on his most ambitious project: the Cambridge Community Poem.

[From Cambridge, Mass., poet populist gathers submissions citywide to weave a verse - The Boston Globe]

Never work for a politician

Back in the day - I'm talking about a previous century here, boys and girls - you couldn't even get a copy service to run off a box of flyers absent cash in advance. I donated time to a few, but work for one? Are you kidding? If they lose, they're broke and if they win, they're in jail (I'm talking Illinois politics here) and even if they're not, you were thinking about sending a bill collector to City Hall? Or the White House?

Chicago has yet to recoup the $1.74 million cost of President Obama's victory celebration in Grant Park -- despite a burgeoning $50.5 million budget shortfall that threatens more layoffs and union concessions.

"The Democratic National Committee has not yet paid us,'' Peter Scales, a spokesman for the city's Office of Budget and Management, said Thursday after questions from the Chicago Sun-Times. "We're reaching out to them this week."

[From Obama victory bash owes city $1.74 mil. :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: 44: Barack Obama]

World, officially, ends

Given the falling fortunes of Playboy magazine, perhaps it's inevitable that the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue would fail to make the splash it has in past years....

The issue's latest cover model, Israeli model Bar Refaeli, has been romantically linked to actor Leonardo DiCaprio. She's been mildly criticized, too, in conservative circles, for her how-low-can-you-go tug on her bikini bottom.

But … yawn.

[From Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue not the controversial magazine it once was -- chicagotribune.com]

"Reality bites, but power bites harder"

(John Kass in the Chicago Tribune)

Watching the Chicago media pack take chunks out of Roland Burris this week—and after taking a few bites out of the lying weasel myself—I couldn't help but wonder:

When it comes to covering corruption, is there a media double standard, one for weak black politicians and another for powerful white guys?

African-Americans like the hapless Sen. Tombstone, or Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, the Urkel of local politics, deserve the thwackings they get. When Burris or Stroger give a foolish non-answer, that or even a no-comment becomes news, evidence of their nefariousness. Not so with the much pinker bosses, like Mayor Richard Daley or Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Lisa's Daddy), two bullies who believe in democracy as long as they can play king.

[From Coverage of corruption has hypocritical scent -- chicagotribune.com]


Top-of-the-line geezer music

Now in our Work Avoidance list, thanks to e.

Welcome to The 1920's Radio Network

Web 2.0.1

Welcome to Geekamania, your full-service, Web 2.0 personality enhancer™. For a small monthly fee, we do the social networking for you, so you can feel remotely relevant and even slightly connected to the sexy youth culture of today, without lifting a finger, remembering a single login, or buying some of those ridiculous $200 jeans. It couldn’t be simpler!

[From Welcome to Geekamania]

Just keep Cheney out of the state

MERTZON, Texas – Millions of wild pigs weighing up to 300 pounds have been tearing up crops, trampling fences and eating just about anything in their path in Texas. But now they had better watch their hairy backs. A state lawmaker is proposing to allow ordinary Texans with rifles and shotguns to shoot the voracious, tusked animals from helicopters.

[From Texas may let hunters shoot pigs from choppers]

Otherwise - hey, it works with wolves.

Hypocrisy Alert

Last week, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) slammed President Obama’s recovery and reinvestment plan. “Hold on to your wallets folks because with the passage of this trillion-dollar baby the Democrats will be poised to spend as much as $3 trillion in your tax dollars,” Bond said. “Unfortunately, this bill stimulates the debt, it stimulates the growth of government, but it doesn’t stimulate jobs,” Bond insisted.

However, today Bond is touring Missouri to tout the very stimulus plan he railed against. In a press release, Bond boasted about an amendment he included in the bill to provide more funding for affordable housing — and that will create jobs...

“This is the type of emergency stimulus spending we should be supporting — programs that will create jobs now and help families,” Bond said.

[From Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans take credit for the stimulus plan after they voted against it. | Crooks and Liars]

And they ain't talking bimbos here

Wild animals around town

Watch 'em run

In the hush-hush world of Swiss banking, the unthinkable is happening: secrets are spilling into the open.

UBS, the largest bank in Switzerland, agreed on Wednesday to divulge the names of well-heeled Americans whom the authorities suspect of using offshore accounts at the bank to evade taxes. The bank admitted conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and agreed to pay $780 million to settle a sweeping federal investigation into its activities.

[From The Swiss Bank UBS Is Set to Open Its Secret Files - NYTimes.com]

You gotta appreciate the entertainment value here. In 2002 or thereabouts there was a bill in Congress called the Financial Services Antifraud Network Act which was about creating a computer network to link bank databases as a way to combat banking fraud - it was passed by the House but defeated, after heavy (and bipartisan) lobbying by some big-bore financial groups, in the Senate. So now we have a government that claims to be able to track money sent to "terrorist" groups and consequently makes donating to certain charities a terrorist act, and subjects people who write checks for more than a few grand to investigation, but at the same time can only know if some heavy US hitters are defrauding the IRS by hoping some Swiss bank spills the beans. And was shocked - shocked! - do discover the entire banking system was stuffed with funny money.

It's like the whole thing's being run by Larry, Curly, and Moe.

A snowman snow

That's what we had last night. About two inches, heavy and wet. I'd call it a spring snow but it's still February and I don't want to jinx myself for the rest of the year. (Not on account of the snow, that is - maybe for other things.) It would have been good for making a snowman if your ambition were to just sit around for the rest of the day and watch it melt - it's 43º now. It'll be cold again tomorrow so all the puddles will spend a day being ice.

The good news is, all the grimy blackish snow got covered up for a few hours by a coat of nice, fresh white. So if white is what you like, there you go.

Blue Eye

Photo: Phil Compton

(Note to Editor:  Keeping an eye out for breaking news here on Siesta Key.  So far nothing is breaking except the surf and various components of the YAME NewsMobile.  More later...)

Republicans: Steer for the iceberg

BATON ROUGE, La. – A handful of Republican governors are considering turning down some money from the federal stimulus package, a move opponents say puts conservative ideology ahead of the needs of constituents struggling with record foreclosures and soaring unemployment.

[From GOP governors consider turning down stimulus money]



And experts are just the people who would know

Eight to 10 dollars a week? How is that supposed to stimulate the economy?

Experts say a little goes a long way.

[From Stimulus package tax credit should mean $8 to $10 a week -- chicagotribune.com]

"Dan Quayle with a ponytail"

Our girl Sarah encounters tough sledding. Let's all shed a tear. Or not.

Would the governor, a smiling Stevens asked, like to share some of her plans and proposals for the coming legislative session?

Palin looked around the room and paused, according to several senators present. "I feel like you guys are always trying to put me on the spot," she said finally, as the room became silent.

[From Back Home in Alaska, Palin Faces Scrutiny and Second-Guessing From All Sides - washingtonpost.com]

-Paul Knue

Poster children for the effects of wrong-headed policies

Meanwhile, Bristol tells the truth...

Feb. 18, 2009 | All over the news on Tuesday were clips of 18-year-old new mother Bristol Palin stuttering awkwardly in an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren and saying what many Americans already know all too well: that the idea of teenage abstinence is unrealistic.

[From Rebecca Traister on Bristol Palin's televised interview | Salon Life]

-Paul Knue

The babies know

-Noted by Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue

This equator must come down

The Muencher Weisswurste need not be made within the borders set up by the "sausage equator" of the Alps and Main River as the German Patent Office had attempted, Federal Patent Court judges ruled on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

The court ruled that the name "Munich" defines the type of sausage made, not a geographic boundary limiting where the sausages can be produced.

[From Munich's White Sausage Production Extends Beyond City Limits | From the Fringe | Deutsche Welle | 18.02.2009]

But who's counting?

Automakers Seek $14 Billion More in Aid

[From Automakers Seek $14 Billion More in Aid - NYTimes.com]

GM Seeks $16.6 Billion More in U.S. Aid

[From GM Seeks $16.6 Billion More in U.S. Aid - WSJ.com]
(Once upon a time, boys and girls, a woman I worked with in New York, giving up on finding an elegant way to describe a very large number of things in a feature story, wrote "gobs and gobs," which phrase I now propose for inclusion in the official bailout style book.)

Another rock kicked over

The US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), the Army's criminal Investigation Command and the Justice Department are investigating US soldiers and officials in the alleged misuse of a portion of the $125 billion initially sent to Iraq for reconstruction shortly after the fall of Saddam.

Monday, The Independent's Iraq correspondent Patrick Cockburn reported the inspectors believe misuse may account for over $50 billion, exceeding the scope of Bernie Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme and making it potentially the "greatest fraud in US history."

[From The Raw Story | Missing Iraq billions could be 'greatest fraud in US history']

Pack up all your GOP

CONGRESS GETS APPROVAL BOOST.... Republicans have spent quite a bit of time lately criticizing Congress. By now, the arguments are probably familiar: the Democratic leadership hasn't been "bipartisan" enough. They completed a stimulus package behind closed doors. They passed a package filled with pork and radical policy ideas.

With all of this in mind, I can only imagine how annoyed GOP leaders will be with the new Gallup poll.

[From The Washington Monthly]

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's latest congressional job approval rating, from a Feb. 9-12 poll, shows a sharp 12 percentage-point increase from last month, rising from 19% to 31%. While still quite negative on an absolute basis, this is the best rating for Congress in nearly two years.

[From Congress' Approval Rating Jumps to 31% ]


In a court brief quietly filed Monday, Michael Hertz, Obama's acting assistant attorney general, said it was necessary to delay an effort to force Rove to be deposed in a congressional investigation into the firing of nine US Attorneys and the alleged political prosecution of a former Alabama governor.

Hertz said an effort was underway to find a "compromise" for Rove...

[From The Raw Story | Obama, not Bush, now seeking delay of Rove deposition]

Wait. Compromise?

Dismay: It won't buy you a cup of coffee anywhere in town

[Alan Greenspan] who ran the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, has been rethinking his assumptions about how financial markets work best since the U.S. economic crisis deepened sharply last year; he now sees a much larger role for government regulation.

...He said he was "deeply dismayed" to realize in mid-2007 that the premise that firms were enlightened enough to monitor their own risks had "failed."

[From The Raw Story | Greenspan says recession will be 'longest and deepest' since '30s]


Well, OK, "enjoy" may not be the perfect word but thanks anyway

Here's a web site that lets you see where the money goes - or that's what it claims to do, at least.

Thank you for your interest in how the federal government is spending its money and we hope you enjoy USAspending.gov

[From About This Site]

Next, people will start eating hats

Just as the Bush era was defined by the notion that sorry was for wimps, the new era is defined by a manly gusto for apologia. The bow has replaced the shrug. Smirks are so yesterday. Humble pie is the new sushi.

[From BBC NEWS | Programmes | World News America | Washington diary: Sorry times]

But see, they wouldn't talk about a male bandit that way

The "Cross-dressing Bandit" wore a black and pink floral print dress; a pink, wide-brimmed sun hat; long white gloves and white sandals and carried an oversize black purse as he held up the MB Financial Bank branch at 1014 Busse Highway shortly before 7 p.m. Aug. 13, the FBI said in announcing the reward.

[From $10,000 reward offered for 'Cross-dressing Bandit' - Chicago Breaking News]

Imagine my surprise

Seeking to jump-start the economy, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner last week said he will seek private-sector help for the banks, offering loans at favorable rates and putting up government backing to reduce the risks to investors like Carlyle.

[From Carlyle Sees Profit in Distressed Bank Securities - washingtonpost.com]


Presidential leadership

Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue notes:

A group of prominent historians was asked to rank the nation's presidents. Honest Abe comes out on top, with W coming in at 36. Given time, he'll drop on down to his rightful place.

See the ranking here at C-SPAN.

Google take note

Figure out how to do this, will you? I want to be able to search...

Why am I standing in this room?


What was that thing I was going to do just as soon as I finished the last thing I did?

Things we don't really want to think about

But with both nations keeping at least one nuclear-armed submarine constantly at sea for the past 40 years, he said it was no surprise that they had eventually ended up in the same area of ocean.

"Even in an ocean the size of the North Atlantic the submarines are eventually going to be in the same patch of water at the same time," he said.

[From British, French nuclear submarines collide - CNN.com]

Everybody out of the pool

As the great American economist Irving Fisher pointed out in the 1930s, the things people and companies do when they realize they have too much debt tend to be self-defeating when everyone tries to do them at the same time. Attempts to sell assets and pay off debt deepen the plunge in asset prices, further reducing net worth. Attempts to save more translate into a collapse of consumer demand, deepening the economic slump.

[From Op-Ed Columnist - Paul Krugman - Decade at Bernie’s - NYTimes.com]

Taking no chances

A bill moving through the Arkansas state legislature would allow worshippers to bring concealed weapons into churches if the church has approved that as its policy.

[From The Raw Story | Arkansas considers allowing concealed weapons in churches]

And throw the canary another seed

Never in American history has so much money been appropriated in such a careless fashion.


15,800 ways out

A little over a year ago, a routine audit at Wal-Mart reported a few missing exit signs at the company's stores and warehouses. As the audit continued, more and more signs turned up missing, and a month ago, Wal-Mart revealed that as many as 20% of the 70,000 signs at its 4500 facilities cannot be accounted for, a stunning total of 15,800 signs in all.

This would be of no particular concern -- except that the signs are radioactive. They contain tritium gas, a form of hydrogen which is used for emergency exit signs because of its ability to glow in the dark when the power goes out.

[From The Raw Story | Could missing Wal-Mart signs wind up as dirty bomb?]



Mitch McConnell is the meanest, nastiest, most unlikable person I ever met. John Boehner is working hard to gain that distinction. This Saturday Night Live skit captures their cluelessness, but not the venomous personalities. It would be funny if it weren't so very sad.

-Paul Knue

Ahhh, for the good old days

As a new and more secure network becomes widely adopted, the current Internet might end up as the bad neighborhood of cyberspace. You would enter at your own risk and keep an eye over your shoulder while you were there.

[From Do We Need a New Internet? - NYTimes.com]

Govspeak at its best

"After 9/11, we moved almost 2,000 criminal investigative resources over to national security matters, particularly counter-terrorism," FBI Deputy Director John Pistole told Leahy's committee.

[From The Raw Story | FBI turns to fraud after focus on terror]

I'm guessing - but it's just a guess - he means people there. Also, good name for a cop: John Pistole.

OK, so...

"The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications," National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told a Senate panel Thursday.

Does that mean we can have another color code?

Extra dry, on the rocks, with a possible olive

North Korea offers possible olive branch to U.S.

[From North Korea offers possible olive branch to U.S. - USATODAY.com]