Revisionist History

Ken AshfordRandom MusingsLeave a Comment


The following are actual excerpts from history reports and tests from America’s finest high schools and colleges. Spelling has been preserved.

Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies and they all wrote in hydraulics.

The Egyptians built the Pyramids in the shape of huge triangular cubes.

They lived in the Sarah Dessert and traveled by Camelot.

The French Revolution was accomplished before it happened and catapulted into Napoleon. Napoleon wanted an heir to inherit his power, but since Josephine was a baroness, she couldn’t have any children.

Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.

The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.

Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100-foot clipper.

The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere.

Solomom had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.

The Bible is full of interesting caricatures. In the first book of the Bible, Guinessis, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree.

One of their children, Cain, asked, "Am I my brother’s son?"

Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread which is bread made without any ingredients.

Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. He died before he ever reached Canada.

The airplane was invented and first flown by the Marx brothers.

Hitler’s instrumentality of terror was the Gespacho.

Queen Elizabeth was the "Virgin Queen." As a queen she was a success. When she exposed herself before her troops they all shouted "hurrah."

Noah’s wife was Joan of Ark.

Middle Eastern history was written by Florence of Arabia.

The Soviets erected the Berlin Mall?

Plato invented reality. He was teacher to Harris Tottle, author of The Republicans.

Germany’s William II had a chimp on his shoulder and therefore had to ride his horse with only one hand.

The Germans took the by-pass around France’s Marginal Line. This was known as the "Blintz Krieg."

Corruption grew especially ripe in Zaire, where Mobutu was known to indulge in more than an occasional little armadillo.

The plurious of wealth was therefore uneven. The rural populous was reduced to tenement farming.

The Boston Tea Party was held at Pearl Harbor.

Americans wanted no involvement in the French and Indian War because they did not want to fight in India.

Moses was told by Jesus Christ to lead the people out of Egypt into the Sahaira Desert. The Book of Exodus describes this trip, including the Ten Commandments, various special effects and the building of the Suez Canal.

Zorroastrologism was founded by Zorro. This was a duelist religion.

During the Dark Ages it was mostly dark.

Christianity was just another mystery cult until Jesus was born. The mother of Jesus was Mary, who was different from other women because of her immaculate contraption.

The fall of empires has been a good thing, because it gives more people a chance to exploit their own people without outside interference.

Roman girls who did not marry could become Vestigal Virgins, a group of women who were dedicated to burning the internal flame.

Machiavelli, who was often unemployed, wrote The Prince to get a job with Richard Nixon.

History is nothing more than the behind of the present.

This gives incites from the anals of the past.

The British Empire is in a state of recline. Its colonies have slowly dribbled away leaving only the odd speck on the map.

Civil rights leader Martin Luther Junior was slain in the 1960s, shortly after making his famous "If I Had A Hammer" speech.

World War II began turning around when the Allies landed near Italy’s toe and gradually advanced up her leg.

Hitler shot himself in the bonker.

When the Davy Jones Index crashed in 1929 many people were left to political incineration. Some, like John Paul Sart, retreated into extraterrestrialism. The New Deal was an idea inspired by Franklin Eleanor Roosavelt.

Satan Husane invaided Kiwi and Sandy Arabia.

Spartacus led a slave rebellion in ancient Rome and then appeared in a movie about it later.

Judyism had one big God named Yahoo.

Martin Luther nailed 95 theocrats to a church door.

The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies, and comedies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet.

Romeo’s last wish was to be laid by Juliet.

Writing at the same time as Shakespeare was Miguel Cervantes. He wrote Donkey Hote.

During the Renaissance America began. Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic. His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe.

Later, the Pilgrims crossed the ocean, and this was called Pilgrim’s Progress. The winter of 1620 was a hard one for the settlers. Many people died and many babies were born. Captain John Smith was responsible for all this.

One of the causes of the Revolutionary War was the English put tacks in their tea. Also, the colonists would send their parcels through the post without stamps. Finally the colonists won the War and no longer had to pay for taxis.

Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented Congress.

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence.

Franklin discovered electricity by rubbing two cats backwards and declared, "A horse divided against itself cannot stand."

Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.

Soon the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility.

Under the constitution the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms.

Abraham Lincoln became America’s greatest Precedent. Lincoln’s mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands.

Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation.

On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposedly insane actor. This ruined Booth’s career.

The Greeks were a highly sculptured people, and without them we wouldn’t have history. The Greeks also had myths. A myth is a female moth.

The Greeks invented three kinds of columns, Corinthian, Doric and Ironic.

Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline.

In the Olympic games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the biscuits, and threw the java.

Eventually, the Romans conquered the Greeks. History calls people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long.

Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Dying, he gasped out: "Tee hee, Brutus."

Nero was a cruel tyranny who would torture his subjects by playing the fiddle to them.

Joan of Arc was burnt to a steak and was cannonized by Bernard Shaw.

Finally Magna Carta provided that no man should be hanged twice for the same offense.

In midevil times most people were alliterate. The greatest writer of the futile ages was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and verses and also wrote literature.

Another story was William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son’s head.

It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented removable type and the Bible.

Another important invention was the circulation of blood.

Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes and started smoking.

Meanwhile in Europe, the enlightenment was a reasonable time. Voltaire invented electricity and also wrote a book called Candy.

Gravity was invented by Issac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.

Johann Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large number of children. In between he practiced on an old spinster which he kept up in his attic.

Bach died from 1750 to the present.

Bach was the most famous composer in the world and so was Handel.

Handel was half German half Italian and half English. He was very large.

Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he rote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.

The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West.

Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years. She was a moral woman who practiced virtue. Her death was the final event which ended her reign.

The nineteenth century was a time of a great many thoughts and inventions. People stopped reproducing by hand and started reproducing by machine. The invention of the steamboat caused a network of rivers to spring up. Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick raper, which did the work of a hundred men.

Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis.

Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the Organ of the Species.

Karl Marx became one of the Marx brothers.

The First World War, caused by the assignation of the Arch-Duck by an anahist, ushered in a new error in the anals of human history.

How To Write Like Conservatives

Ken AshfordRepublicansLeave a Comment

From the Tufts Daily (which I used write for):

How to write like conservatives

In honor of Ann Coulter’s visit to Tufts last night, here are some helpful hints for all of you aspiring right-wing pundits out there. Follow these carefully, and soon you too could be a syndicated columnist dumbing down political discourse in the pages of America’s newspapers.

First, you have to choose what type of article you would like to write. While there are many types of conservative opinion pieces, three common categories are the following:

1. The Michelle Malkin Rantathon. First, choose an aspect of popular culture that you find offensive. This can be anything from Janet Jackson’s breast to "Desperate Housewives" to low-cut jeans. Label it un-American, and claim it is a symptom of the downfall of society. Then completely ignore the fact that popular culture is created by market forces and that most large media and entertainment corporations are owned by conservatives and contribute heavily to the Republican Party. Now you are free to blame popular culture, and by extension, the downfall of society, on liberals.

2. The Ann Coulter Two-Step. Step 1. Choose a topic. Step 2. Write whatever crazy thing pops into your head as long as it is demonstrably false.

3. The Generic Conservative Student Opinion Article. Anyone who reads the Daily is familiar with these. The process begins with intense viewing of President Bush speaking. The writer must fully open his mind and allow the President’s rhetoric to overcome his sense of reason. When the writer can take no more (allow plenty of time, this may take a while), he must quickly get out a piece of paper and regurgitate as much of what he has taken in as possible. The end product should include many uses of phrases such as "freedom is on the march," "ownership society," "culture of life," "compassionate conservatism" and, perhaps, "don’t mess with Texas." Remember to read your work, carefully checking to make sure that no well-constructed and empirically supported argument has hidden itself amidst your beds of flowery rhetorical nothingness.

Now that you are well on your way to becoming a right-wing pundit, here are some additional tips. These can make all the difference in determining whether you turn into the next Bill O’Reilly or become the Alan Keyes of the media world.

Get your history book. Throw it out the window. Now, as an exercise in Academic Freedom, write your own history book. Do not include references to separation of church and state, deism, slavery, the Great Depression, McCarthyism, the Vietnam War, Watergate or the Clinton surplus. Include only one chapter on the 1990s and instead of writing it yourself, simply copy and paste the entire text of the Ken Starr Report.

Now get out your Bible. With your Sharpie, black out all the sections which do not specifically mention homosexuality. Now print the remaining passages on a three-by-five inch note card. This is your new Bible. Have it laminated.

Pose nude and post the pictures on the internet. Start a male escort service. Do not attend journalism school and do not pay your taxes. Change your name. Congratulations, you are now qualified to be a White House press correspondent. If anyone has the audacity to question your qualifications or the process by which you received your White House press credentials, he or she is clearly a raging homophobe. And, quite obviously, a slandering, treasonous liberal. If you can find any patriotism within this person (which is unlikely, considering the fact that all liberals are French-terrorist-communists who hate America) be sure to publicly question its authenticity.

Take quotes out of context to support ridiculous claims. Lie incessantly. When people object to your methods and disagree with your point of view, attack their patriotism.

Insist that all sectors of society, the media and academia for instance, which value objectivity have a liberal bias. Now use this claim to demand balance, in the form of ideological rants from the right. If someone does not agree that the media and academia are the two great cogs in the liberal/terrorist machine, attack his or her patriotism.

Sometimes journalism does not pay as well as you would like. Do not worry. If you run short of cash, the government will be happy to support you financially as long as you support it. Just make sure you vote Republican. And if anyone attacks you or the government for what may seem like unethical behavior, this person is probably either a racist or a terrorist, and of course, a dirty, dirty liberal. In any case, vehemently question his or her patriotism.

If you ever run out of things to write about, return to the basics. Ask yourself, what is the root of all that is un-American? Who embodies terrorism, communism, socialism, and fascism? No, not Osama Bin Laden, Josef Stalin, or Adolf Hitler. The answer, of course, is Bill Clinton. What other man would have a quadruple bypass to boost his favorables?

These guidelines were garnered from observing the very best: America’s right-wing punditry dream team. Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and many others have proven just how much they love America by transforming public political debate into something truly American – show business. You, too, can share in the continued fictionalization of the media. Just keep this list close to you and keep anything resembling an objective fact very far away. Don’t believe me? Maybe you just don’t love America enough.


Ken AshfordPopular Culture1 Comment

One of the few times I was ahead of the culture curve was about two years ago when I bought my 40G iPod.  This was waaaaay before the latest Apple advertising scheme, with silohuettes and U2 and wild dancing.  That’s right — I (for once) was a trendsetter (and I still love my iPod).

But apparently, I was outdone by Nostadamus, who wrote about the iPod (some say) here:

Behold a great thunder in the ears; an orchestra in a deck of cards,
Falling from the wondrous tree of fruit.
The empire of the gates trembles at the white spaghetti noodles of the head.
Futile is the resistance, the base of all your earth harmony, belonging to a potato.

Well, that’s this guy’s theory.

The Jury Is Still Out . . .

Ken AshfordGodstuffLeave a Comment

even though it has been eighty years since it came back.

Look, folks.  The Earth revolves around the sun.  The Bible is wrong when it says otherwise.  And evolution is real.  The Bible is wrong if it says otherwise.  It is time to face facts.  If your belief in God is so shaky that you have to belief everything in the Bible is literal fact, then your belief in God must be on pretty shaky ground.

From Yahoo News:

Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens

WICHITA – Propelled by a polished strategy crafted by activists on America’s political right, a battle is intensifying across the nation over how students are taught about the origins of life. Policymakers in 19 states are weighing proposals that question the science of evolution.

The proposals typically stop short of overturning evolution or introducing biblical accounts. Instead, they are calculated pleas to teach what advocates consider gaps in long-accepted Darwinian theory, with many relying on the idea of intelligent design, which posits the central role of a creator.

The growing trend has alarmed scientists and educators who consider it a masked effort to replace science with theology. But 80 years after the Scopes "monkey" trial — in which a Tennessee man was prosecuted for violating state law by teaching evolution — it is the anti-evolutionary scientists and Christian activists who say they are the ones being persecuted, by a liberal establishment.

"Persecuted"?  Yes, because they cannot spread LIES in public schools, they are being "persecuted".  How ridiculous!

Worthless IOUs

Ken AshfordSocial SecurityLeave a Comment

From The American Street:

Next time you hear some trained Bush monkey echo Bush talking points and claim that the Social Security trustfund is stocked with nothing but a bunch of worthless “IOU’s,” pull out a $20 bill like this one:

A worthless IOU.

Explain to them that if the United States Bonds and Treasury Bills that make up the Social Security trust fund are “worthless IOU’s,” then so is this twenty dollar bill.

You see, Gvt. bonds, t-bills and this twenty are all inherently worthless pieces of paper with some printing on them. They have no real, intrinsic value.

Their only value comes from being backed by the “full faith and credit” of the United States.

So, in essence, what the Bush monkeys and Bush himself are saying is that you just can’t count on the “full faith and credit of the United States.”

A curious argument, and a dangerous one to make.

Dangerous because we are now running annual defecits in the neghborhood of $200 billion a year, based on Bush’s own questinable budget estimates. That means our Gvt does not have enough revenues from taxes, fees, etc to pay for all of its spending on an anual basis. We are $200 billion short…every year.

But, we still make our payments. We don’t print more money to do it. We BORROW that money. Yes, we borrow about $200 billion a year to pay for our Gvt spending habit.

But how, exactly do we borrow it? Do we go to a bank and say: “Hey bank, can you float the US Gvt a $200 billion loan this year?” And then repeat the process every single year for God know how long?

Of course not.

We borrow it by issuing Bonds and Treasury Bills that are bought by investors.

As it turns out, most of those who hold these “IOU’s,” happen to be foreign banks, and investors. Japan, China, Europe, Saudi Arabia…all invest in US Gvt Securities.

And we rely on their confidence in the “full faith and credit” of the United States to mainatin their habit of propping up our Goevrnment’s annual spending.

But what do you think these investors will do if Bush and his trained monkey minions keep saying that US Gvt. Securities are nothing but a bunch of worthless IOUs?

Yes. They will be much LESS likely to buy them because Bush is implying that we will default on them at some point. Thus, they will become more risky! So, in order to attrract buyers for these securities, we will have to RAISE THE RATE OF RETURN on them to make them more attractive. This will kill our economy because this will also raise longterm interest rates.

Or, we will have to massivley increase taxes by at least $200 billion to pay for our spending.

Or, we will have to cut our annual spending by at least $200 billion a year.

That means massive cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, defense and a whole host of other vital programs.

In other words, Bush and the GOP are willing to destroy the product of all the blood, moral authority, and hard work previous generations of Americans put into building up the “full faith and credit” of the United States in order to achieve a short-term short-sighted, cheap-ass propaganda victory on Social Security.

Who needs Al Qaeda when you have the Republican party?

UPDATE: It’s even worse than I thought!

The Rise of the Religious Left?

Ken AshfordGodstuffLeave a Comment

Let’s hope so.  From the Northeast Mississippt Daily Journal:

This past week, leaders of five mainstream Protestant denominations came together to speak in one voice. Standing shoulder to shoulder, leaders of the Episcopal Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church together condemned the 2006 Federal budget proposed by President Bush as unjust by biblical standards. They couldn’t be more correct.

"The 2006 Federal Budget that President Bush has sent to Capitol Hill is unjust," they said. "It has much for the rich man and little for Lazarus," harkening to Jesus’ parable of the beggar Lazarus at the gate of an anonymous rich man. Lazarus, you’ll recall, finds his reward at the side of Abraham in heaven when he dies, while the rich man burns in hell.

It’s a grand and ancient tradition. The biblical prophets would be on the White House lawn, the steps of the Capitol, in the chambers of Congress, the Law in one hand, a fistful of indignation in the other, condemning the outright aggression of this administration against the poor.

Consider Medicaid. The President’s budget cuts $45 billion from Medicaid; in Mississippi alone, this accounts for $679 million over the next ten years. How many thousands of Mississippi’s children, poor, and elderly will go without care because of these cuts?

The current Medicaid crisis in our state has already reached critical mass; Gov. Barbour seeks to raid the health care trust fund for $200 million to cover a $268 million gap in funding, and that’s just to cover Medicaid costs through the end of June. Let’s strip another $60 or $70 million a year and see how that helps matters.

James Winkler of the United Methodist Church asked, "How are we as a nation – the richest nation in the world—caring for our children? …The technical resources are available to protect children from the most common diseases, to provide them with the necessities of food, shelter, clothing, and health care. What is lacking are the vision and the moral will." Indeed.

America is the wealthiest, mightiest nation on the planet, spending billions of dollars perpetuating a foreign policy based primarily on threats of war, but when it comes to clothing the needy, sheltering the homeless, or feeding the poor, there is a sore lack of both vision and moral will coming from Washington. There is much for the rich man, and precious little for Lazarus.

The Iraq war drains $6 billion dollars a month from American coffers with no end in sight, and we are told there is no money for the poor, no money for health care, no money for education or homeland security. Difficult budgeting choices must be made, we are told by the politicians. Programs benefiting the poor will suffer unfortunate cuts. There is not much for Lazarus.

Yet somehow we are also told the president’s tax cuts, benefiting the extremely wealthy, the top few percent of Americans, vastly more than anyone else, must be made permanent. The ultra-wealthy are given safety exits within the language of the bankruptcy bill while soldiers, the ill, and the elderly were singularly dismissed, with the Senate shooting down amendments aimed at easing their very specific burdens.

Old Folks

Ken AshfordSocial SecurityLeave a Comment

Yglesius gives George Will the heel of his boot on social security:

George Will, like many other conservatives, is positively irate that old people won’t get behind the president’s plan even though the president has promised not to cut their benefits. In response, it’s worth noting first and foremost that senior citizens may have concerns about this subject other than naked self-interest. But on the subject of naked self-interest, it seems worth pointing out that Will and co. are almost certainly full of shit on this topic. If privatization is put in place, this will create a new, and large, financial gap in Social Security. It will also create a situation where younger voters — everyone under 55 on privatization’s Zero Hour — no longer have a stake in defending the generosity of older people’s Social Security benefits. Right now, if you’re my age, your future benefits depend, in part, on what today’s retirees get. Under privatization, that link will be broken. So when the shortfall starts getting big what, realistically, is going to get the ax?

I can’t say for sure that it will be benefits for current retirees, but it seems likely. At the same time, current retirees have nothing to gain from the creation of private accounts (it won’t apply to them), and nothing to lose from higher income taxes or higher payroll taxes (they’re retired). Privatization might not have a negative impact on older Americans, but from their perspective privatization is all downside risk with no upside reward. Some younger people certainly will wind up better off under privatization than they would be otherwise (and some will lose out), but absolutely no old people will benefit, while many stand a good chance of suffering.

Fake News

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

From the NYT:

"Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government’s role in their production."

Perhaps they should stop it.

Where Am I?

Ken AshfordRandom MusingsLeave a Comment

Via Yglesius, bold the places you’ve been, underline the places you’ve lived in, and italicize the place you live now:

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

I’m a Racist

Ken AshfordSocial SecurityLeave a Comment

… because I oppose Bush’s privatization of social security idea. 

Well, that’s what the President says.  Pretty amazing.  Here’s what he said yesterday:

And so there are guidelines as to what you can invest in. I was being somewhat facetious on the lottery — but really not. There’s a proper risk reward, a portfolio that will allow you as a younger worker to pick a mix of stocks and bonds. Oh, I know they say certain people aren’t capable of investing, you know, the investor class. It kind of sounds like to me, you know, a certain race of people living in a certain area. I believe everybody’s got the capability of being in the investor class.

This is surely a sign of desparation, when the opposition creates strawmen, i.e., "They say that if you support me, then you are a Nazi racist sexist blah blah blah.  But I say . . ."

Anyway, this all may be moot, because Bush’s so-called plan looks dead, dead, and dead.

“I Don’t Know”

Ken AshfordIranLeave a Comment

That’s what I was once told to say when I didn’t know.  I re-learned that lesson as a young lawyer: if a judge asks you a question, and you don’t know the answer, admit that you don’t know the answer.  That is how you maintain your credibility.

Sadly, the Bush Administration didn’t do that with respect to WMDs in Iraq.  But perhaps — just perhaps — they have learned how to say "we don’t know".

That’s why this is important (from today’s New York Times):

Data Is Lacking on Iran’s Arms, U.S. Panel Says


WASHINGTON, March 8 – A commission due to report to President Bush this month will describe American intelligence on Iran as inadequate to allow firm judgments about Iran’s weapons programs, according to people who have been briefed on the panel’s work.

The report comes as intelligence agencies prepare a new formal assessment on Iran, and follows a 14-month review by the panel, which Mr. Bush ordered last year to assess the quality of overall intelligence about the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

The Bush administration has been issuing increasingly sharp warnings about what it says are Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weapons. The warnings have been met with firm denials in Tehran, which says its nuclear program is intended purely for civilian purposes.

The most complete recent statement by American agencies about Iran and its weapons, in an unclassified report sent to Congress in November by Porter J. Goss, director of central intelligence, said Iran continued "to vigorously pursue indigenous programs to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons."

As they say, read the whole thing.

And Mr. President, say it with me: We.  Don’t.  Know.

Great Ad

Ken AshfordForeign AffairsLeave a Comment

This is a great advertisement that you will probably never see on American television because it concerns an issue that does not affect Americans.  Which is too bad, because the ad itself is specifically designed to speak to Americans.

The Bankruptcy Bill

Ken AshfordCongress, Corporate GreedLeave a Comment

Let’s start with a story ripped from today’s headlines:

In Cleveland, for example, a municipal court judge tossed out a case that Discover Bank brought against one of its cardholders after closely examining the woman’s credit card bill.

According to court papers, Ruth M. Owens, a 53-year-old disabled woman, paid the company $3,492 over six years on a $1,963 debt only to find that late fees and finance charges had more than doubled the size of her remaining balance to $5,564.

When the company took her to court to collect, she wrote the judge a note saying, "I would like to inform you that I have no money to make payments. I am on Social Security Disability….If my situation was different I would pay. I just don’t have it. I’m sorry."

Judge Robert Triozzi ruled that Owens didn’t have to pay, saying Owens "has clearly been the victim of (Discover’s) unreasonable, unconscionable and unjust business practices."

Read the whole thing.

Now, that is the rationale behind the new bankruptcy bill, laughingly called "The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 ". 

Consumer Protection?  Don’t be fooled.  All the bill will do is close the loophole on people like Ms. Owens.  In other words, it is so credit card companies, who already make a huge fortune off of people, can squeeze that last penny out of everybody.

I mean, are credit cards companies hurting because people are declaring bankruptcy?Blog_la_times_bankruptcy   Nope.  Take a look at this chart here on the right.  Credit card companies profits are skyrocketing.  Yet all this bill does is give protection to the credit card companies.

Let’s look at some more info about the credit card industry, this time from the Washington Post:

Penalty interest rates usually are about 30 percent, with some as high as 40 percent, while late fees now often are $39 a month, and over-limit fees, about $35, [Cardweb CEO Robert] McKinley said. "If you drag that out for a year, it could be very damaging," he said. "Late and over-limit fees alone can easily rack up $900 in fees, and a 30 percent interest rate on a $3,000 balance can add another $1,000, so you could go from $2,000 to $5,000 in just one year if you fail to make payments."

According to R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers, a California credit card consulting firm, banks collected $14.8 billion in penalty fees last year, or 10.9 percent of revenue, up from $10.7 billion, or 9 percent of revenue, in 2002, the first year the firm began to track penalty fees.

That’s a $4 billion increase in penalty revenue in two years in case you’re keeping score at home.

And you have to love this: that penalty rate of 30-40% can be imposed for missing a single payment — in fact, in can be imposed for missing a single payment on a different account, like your telephone bill — but a card spokesman said this was perfectly reasonable because it was "clearly disclosed on account applications." Something tells me that their idea of "clearly disclosed" is a wee bit different from most people’s.

Bottom line: credit card companies now make half their profits from penalties and late fees. They actively seek out customers who are likely to miss payments and end up in a penalty fee spiral, and they make a fortune from them.

In a normally functioning market there’s at least a small incentive to limit loans to these high-risk customers, namely the possibility that they might go bankrupt.  And what does this bankruptcy bill now before Congress do?  It is a brazen attempt to remove even that small but annoying incentive to act responsibly.

Credit card companies want the ability to make risky loans, but they also want federal protection that protects them from bearing the risk that goes along with making those loans. That’s a pretty cushy setup, as long as you can buy yourself enough politicians to make it happen.

And apparently they can.  This is corporate welfare at its worst.  Look at some of the amendments that were attached to the bill — ones that actually might help consumers — and looked how badly they failed to pass:

  • S.AMDT 16 to protect servicemembers and vets — VOTED DOWN 58-38
  • S.AMDT 17 to protect the elderly — VOTED DOWN 59-40
  • S.AMDT 28 to protect people whose own medical problems caused their debt — VOTED DOWN 58-39
  • S.AMDT 29 to protect homeowners with medical debt — VOTED DOWN 58-39
  • S.ADMT 31 to limit the amount of interest charged to 30% — VOTED DOWN 74-24
  • S.AMDT 32 to protect people whose debt is incurred from being caregivers to ill/disabled family members — VOTED DOWN 60-37
  • S.AMDT 37 to protect people whose debt was incurred through identity theft — VOTED DOWN 61-37
  • S.ADMT 38 to protect people from predatory lending practices — VOTED DOWN 58-40
  • S.ADMT 49 to protect employees & retirees from corporate practices that rob them of their earnings/retirement savings when the business files for bankruptcy — VOTED DOWN 54-40


There’s much more to write about.  But I will leave it to John Podesta from, whose strategy memo is reprinted below the fold.

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My Country’s Representatives Embarrass Me Again

Ken AshfordSex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

US Draws Jeers for Abortion Comments at UN
Fri Mar 4, 2005 08:35 PM ET

By Deborah Zabarenko

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Jeers and catcalls greeted the top U.S. delegate to a global women’s conference on Friday as she stressed Washington’s opposition to abortion and support for sexual abstinence and fidelity.

After withdrawing an unpopular anti-abortion amendment from a key U.N. document, the United States joined in approving the declaration that reaffirmed a 150-page platform agreed 10 years ago at a landmark U.N. women’s conference in Beijing.

The final approval prompted cheers, applause and a standing ovation by some participants.

However, top U.S. delegate Ellen Sauerbrey drew boos from the audience, which included some of the 6,000 activists who came from around the world, when she commented on Washington’s interpretation of the document.

"We have stated clearly and on many occasions … that we do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our reproductive health assistance," Sauerbrey said.

The loudest catcalls, unusual at the world body, came when she articulated U.S. policy on AIDS prevention for adolescents: "We emphasize the value of the ABC — abstinence, be faithful, and correct and consistent condom use where appropriate — approach in comprehensive strategies to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and the promotion of abstinence as the healthiest and most responsible choice for adolescents."

Earlier Friday, Sauerbrey said the United States was dropping its demand that the document be amended to say that abortion is a matter of national sovereignty and not a human right delineated by the 1995 conference in Beijing.