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Not with temps in the 70s!

Not with temps in the 70s!

Good Tuesday to you Widdershins!

Madamab is still in holiday/travel mode, dear chat is still having arm issues and I believe our loquacious Prolix has come down with some seasonal maladies.  So, that leaves yours truly to come up with something that will:  entertain you, enlighten you or bore you to tears.  Personally, my bet is on the last one.  I’ve collected a few things from the news today and I’ll share them with you.


Do the holidays put you in a celebratory mood?

And do you like to imbibe in some seasonal adult beverages?  And do those seasonal, celebratory drinks continue long past the holidays?  If so, that’s not surprising according to this article from the Washington Post.  It seems that we Americans are drinking ourselves to death at an alarming rate.  But…if we’re drinking ourselves to death isn’t any rate of it alarming?

Alcohol is killing Americans at a rate not seen in at least 35 years, according to new federal data. Last year, more than 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis, which is primarily caused by alcohol use.

In 2014, there were 9.6 deaths from these alcohol-induced causes per 100,000 people, an increase of 37 percent since 2002.This tally of alcohol-induced fatalities excludes deaths from drunk driving, other accidents, and homicides committed under the influence of alcohol. If those numbers were included the annual toll of deaths directly or indirectly caused by alcohol would be closer to 90,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The article states that previously professionals in public health had been concentrating more on deaths from opioids or other prescription medications, “But in 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes (30,722) than from overdoses of prescription painkillers and heroin combined (28,647), according to the CDC.”.  Now there was one quote from the piece that struck me as absolutely hysterical and here it is:

“Since the prevalence of heavy drinking tends to follow closely with per capita consumption, it is likely that one explanation for the growth in alcohol-related deaths is that more people are drinking more,” he wrote in an email.

Okay.  So one reason for higher alcohol-related deaths is because more people are drinking more.  Alrighty then.  So moving on…

What’s in your wallet? A credit card or
possible lawsuit against you?

Some research done by ProPublica revealed that Capital One had a tendency to file a “disturbing” number of lawsuits against its cardholders and for relatively small amounts.

During the years of the recession, particularly 2008 through 2010, when the number of credit card defaults surged, many banks filed more lawsuits. But Capital One dwarfed them all, reaching levels never matched by any company before or since, according to ProPublica’s review of data going back to 1996.

By our estimate, the suits exceeded half a million per year nationally during those peak years.

Oscar Parsons got his first credit card from Capital One and he decided to accept it since he banked at a Capital One branch near where he lived.

Initially, he had little problem keeping up with the payments. But after a run of construction jobs came to an end, he fell behind and found himself ducking the bank’s collections calls, he said. Each time the company’s TV commercials popped up, asking, “What’s in your wallet?” Parsons thought: “It’s not enough to pay you back.”

This year, Capital One provided Parsons with another first: his first lawsuit. For failing to pay his $1,800 debt, the company took him to court. Currently on public benefits and in a job training program, Parsons has nothing Capital One can take. But should Parsons find work, Capital One could use a court judgment to seize money from his bank account or take a portion of his wages.

It turns out that Capital One Bank tends to market its cards to those folks who are “living on the edge”, “said Steve Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America. ‘A large majority of these cardholders carry balances from month-to-month, because they can’t afford to pay off the balance.’.

“A Capital One spokeswoman said the bank serves an important function by providing credit to large numbers of borrowers who might be unlikely to get it from other banks. When customers fall behind on payments, she said, the bank makes every effort to work with them.”  Uh-huh, sure.

ProPublica also found out this little interesting tidbit:

Debt collection lawsuits are especially prevalent in black neighborhoods, as ProPublica reported in October, where suits over smaller debts are more common. Capital One obtained judgments in mostly black neighborhoods at nearly twice the rate as in mostly white neighborhoods, a larger disparity than the other major card issuers, we found. Capital One’s spokeswoman said the bank did not take race into consideration when making a loan or filing a suit.

Yeah, okay, sure. Just remember all of that when you see the commercial that asks “What’s in your wallet?”.

This just in!

Mexican authorities caught that little b@stard who got off with probation based on the “affluenza” defense.

Mexican authorities have detained Ethan Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, in the beach resort town of Puerto Vallarta, the Tarrant County district attorney’s office confirmed late Monday.

Couch, 18, had been on the run since missing an appointment with his probation officer earlier this month — a violation of a 10-year-probation sentence he received for drunkenly killing four with his Ford F-350 pickup in 2013.

CNN first reported Monday evening that the Couches had been tracked down in Mexico.

Honestly, I can’t believe that the little turd got away with that 10-year probation to begin with.  And the prosecutor at the time warned:

In his closing statements, Richard Alpert, Tarrant County assistant district attorney, argued that if given a light sentence, Couch would likely veer off the path.

“There can be no doubt that he will be in another courthouse one day blaming the lenient treatment he received here,” Alpert said.

If anyone has a right to say “I told ya so”, it’s the A.D.A. Alpert.  And if he’s still with the Tarrant County D.A.’s office I hope he gets to try them both this time.

Welp, that’s all I got for today.  This is an open thread for anyone who stops by.  Take the comments in any direction you wish.  And in keeping with my visuals above here’s a sound effect to go with it.  Oh and Happy New New Year to all; I’ll see you in 2016.

And in keeping with the WaPo article, here’s some Sinatra to go with that one.






Good afternoon Widdershin friends.  A word of caution, I’m free-stylin’ today so logical congruity will be tenuous at best.  Keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times.

Who knew?  While trying to educate myself about the economic alchemy known as fracking, I came upon a Fracking Diagram 2surprising bit of trivia.  Who knew the burly, macho roughneck oil riggers were Alice in Wonderland aficionados?  But I digress.

Currently, the U.S. is producing 7.8 million barrels of oil a day, more than it has produced in a quarter-century.  There are accounts in the media that the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia by 2020 as the world’s largest oil producer.

That’s all well and good if you overlook the needed 50,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid to dissolve the limestone, the 1,000 gallons of antibacterial solution to kill microorganisms that chew up the pipes, the soapy surfactants to reduce friction, the scale inhibitor to prevent lime buildup, and the 2 million pounds of sand to prop open the fractures so the oil and gas can flow freely.  For the average well, these ingredients plus the regular costs bring the cost per well to about $3.7 million.

This means to be economically viable, the cost of oil must remain high — above $70 a barrel.

Still all well and good if you don’t mind sacrificing at the pump so big oil can wring the last drop of oil from what was once the shallow seas covering a large part of the Midwest.  But herein lies the rub and where our literary friend Alice comes into play.

You see these fracking wells don’t produce in perpetuity.  In fact, their production numbers are quite anemic.  For instance, a well near Oklahoma City came in as a gusher in 2009, pumping more than 1,200 barrels of oil a day.  Now that same well produces less than 100 barrels a day.  The dirty little fracking secret:  Shale wells start strong and fade fast.  Therefore, the fracking producers are drilling at a breakneck pace to just hold output steady.

The ThinkerThis incessant need to drill is known as the Red Queen syndrome, after the character in Through the Looking-Glass who tells Alice, “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

David Hughes, a geoscientist and president of Global Sustainability Research, has examined the life span of shale wells.  He says, “The Red Queen syndrome just gets worse and worse and worse.  The higher production goes, the more wells you need to offset the decline.”  What’s more, Hughes estimates the U.S. needs to drill 6,000 new wells per year at a cost of $35 billion to maintain current production.  His research also shows that the newest wells aren’t as productive as those drilled in the first years of the boom, a sign that oil companies have already tapped the sweetest spots.

The most sobering forecast prediction:  All this environmental carnage for oil recovery will peak in 2018.  What’s more, it will fall back to 2012 production levels by 2020.  So through our tithing at the altar of the pump, we are potentially harming the environment so that we may continue paying high prices in order to continue enriching the wealthiest corporations in the history of mankind for another five years.  Fracking unbelievable!

Read the rest of this entry »

The winners!

Happy New Year, Widdershins! I hope the holidays were good to you. I think we did get a nice collective present when Obama only partially caved on taxing the wealthy, and staved off some of the worst aspects of the fiscal cliff. I know that “progressives” are livid that the tax raise only went to those who were making $400,000 or more as individuals and $450,000 as a family, but I am pleasantly surprised that he finally did what he had been promising since 2008. Admittedly, it was in a half-assed Barackian way, but what else would you ever expect from him?

I said a while back that I would tell you who my top activists were in the year that is now past. Unlike most politicians, I do keep my promises. Without further ado, here they are!

Top activists of 2012: Environmentalists.

Whether it was stopping the XL Pipeline from being built, getting even the World Bank to understand the urgency of global warming, or fighting fracking in New York, environmentalists truly made an impact in 2012. Congratulations, you tree-hugging, chardonnay-sipping commie pinko hippies! You have my respect, admiration, and encouragement for 2013, when you start pressuring Obama to lead on this issue.

After mixed results in Obama’s first four years, environmental groups appear to have come to the conclusion they need to be more vocal about demanding action from the White House, to keep climate change from slipping off the president’s second term agenda.

The letter urged Obama to set new pollution controls for existing power plants. A report released last month by the Natural Resources Defense Council set out a plan for cutting carbon emissions from power plants 26% by the end of the decade.

The open letter also pressed Obama to put a stop to the Keystone XL pipeline project, designed to pump crude from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Obama put a hold on final approval of the pipeline early last year, but industry and environmental groups expect a decision early in his second term.

“We should not pursue dirty fuels like tar sands,” the open letter said. “The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest because it would unlock vast amounts of additional carbon that we can’t afford to burn.”

Read the rest of this entry »

First of all this post is going to be short but I don’t know how sweet though.

I just about had this piece written in my mind already so I was watching the MNF game and was over at another blog and got into something that I think got blown out of context.  Sooo I left there and came back to reply to a comment here and while typing I noticed one of my keys on the laptop was sticking.  Mr. Fixit here decided to just take the kepcap off and then clean out whatever crud might be underneath, preventing the key from working right.  This was my first time doing this so I got the keycap off and was removing some clumps of dust and stuff and was ready to put the keycap back on.   That didn’t turn out so well though because as I know now, there’s a little hinge thingie that hooks onto the base of the keyboard and when I took the keycap off I bent it.  😯    After doing some googling I found out I can order another one but until then, my Z key kind of juts out and is just “resting” on the keyboard.  This is very irritating to the hand and fingers as they rest on the “home” keys from the good ole days of typing .  Anyway, here we go!

Goldmanites fall out of the 1%

Apparently tis true, tis true!  From this piece at Fortune…

The average compensation at Goldman (GS) is likely to fall by nearly $100,000 by the end of next year as new regulations, fewer deals and legal payouts hurt the firm’s profitability. That’s the conclusion of a recent report from a European division of rival JPMorgan Chase.

I know, I know!  Shock!  Awe!  Gasp!  Horrors!  😯

But it gets even worse:

As recently as two years ago, Goldman’s annual pay, which includes everyone from the people who work in the firm’s IT department to CEO Lloyd Blankfein, had averaged $412,000. That salary put employees of the elite investment bank solidly in the top 1% of all earners in the United States. Last year, the cut off for the 1% was $368,000.

Well…that was then and this is now and my how things have changed.

But by the end of next year, though, analysts at JPMorgan Cazenove expect compensation at Goldman to average just $314,000. That will bump the average Goldmanite all the way down to near the bottom of the top 2% of all U.S. earners. The cut off for the 98% tops out at around $290,000.

Now as the article says, that’s average compensation; some are going to earn more…WAY more  Lloyd Blankfien, chairman of Goldman was paid $12 million in 2011.  But ya know…you have to feel for those poor schleps.  They are out of the oh-so-to-be-desired 1 percent.  They are inching closer to the rest of us in the 99%.  (giggle)  It appears that somehow Dodd-Frank did make just a teensie little bit of difference.  That and some new capital requirements.  The article goes further into matters involving return on equity and how that is projected to be down now due to some of the reforms that have occurred.  So how will Goldman handle this reduction in profitability?  Why they’re gonna throw some folks out on the street, what else?

the analysts believe Goldman will cut employees and salaries in order to lower costs and repair profits. Goldman is likely to send an additional 4,400 people from its investment banking division packing. As of the first quarter, Goldman’s staff had already shrunk by about 2,000 in the past year.

And this horror is also spreading to other investment houses.

The average comp at Morgan Stanley (MS) could drop to $244,000, which would put that firm’s employees in the top 3% of all U.S. earnings. Woe is Wall Street. [Mein Gott!  Down to the top three percent!]

I know it’s difficult to live in Manhattan with the cost of housing or rentals or whatever.  Lord only knows what it costs to find a decent garage to park your BMW “M” or your Z4 or your Mercedes S class or whatever else the 1% drive, but you know what?  As the old saying goes, “Yeah well, the world needs plumbers (or carpenters) too.”

This is an open thread, have at it!  (Note to front-pagers:  there is a comment in pending; please leave it there for now)

Good morning Widdershin friends — here’s hoping a magical Unicorn fertilizes your world with a little wonderment.

There’s so much to talk about and so little time.  Let’s get at it.

Aurora, Colorado

An unspeakable tragedy that has occasioned untold suffering on scores of families makes me alternatively sad and angry.  Here’s an anger making moment from last Sunday morning.

Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI and Lackey-NRA, was on Fox News Sunday.  The topic of this particular anger making moment was the shooter arming himself with an AR-15, the civilian equivalent of a military M16, that has the ability to fire 50-60 rounds a minute.  The shooter had acquired a mega “drum clip” containing 100 rounds that thankfully jammed.  When asked about limiting these mass murdering, extended killing mega-clips, Sen. Johnson replied, “To limit the size of clips is really to limit our freedom.”

I want to make sure I get this right — to insure the constitutional right of Sen. Johnson and his ilk the extra minute of orgasmic bliss before reloading their civilian M-16’s, we are to say to a dozen families and countless scores of other families to come, “Sorry about your luck, but it’s my constitutional right to have not one, but two solid minutes before I have to reload my automatic weapon.”

And what is gut-wrenchingly grotesque is that there are engineers and public relations people working right now to make and sell a new and improved 100-round clip that won’t jam the next time.  Oh, and by the way, did you know Wayne LaPierre, spokesthug and full-time arse for the NRA makes $970,300 a year — just thought you should know since he‘s the one who comes up with these “freedom“ arguments.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D- NY, a widow courtesy of a mass killing with an enlarged ammo clip has been one of the few lonely courageous voices for sensible gun control and has long been an advocate of limiting these mega clips — she is a profile in courage.

Banking Scandals Update

For those keeping tabs, the JPMorgan losses from its gambling in the great Craps game of derivatives has now grown from $2.0 Billion to just under $6.0 Billion.  Not to worry, we, the taxpayers, are helping out with a $1.7 Billion tax write-off in this quarter alone, but when JPMorgan is making $20.0 Billion a year in profits, who’s counting?

Turning to the LIBOR scandal — before you tune out, if you have a credit card or any variable rate loan, it affects you — it has gotten much more press in Europe than here in the U.S. since Barclays has already pled guilty and paid a half Billion dollars in fines.  Here’s all you need to know — LIBOR is the rate banks charge one another for lending one another money and it is the benchmark for virtually every variable rate consumer loan in the industrialized world.  The LIBOR rate was kept artificially low through an ongoing banking conspiracy so as to not set off any alarms as to the true economic condition of faltering banks.  The LIBOR investigation is just getting underway here in the U.S. — it has all the potential for being really big or being quietly swept under the Wall Street rug.

Finally, the biggest scandal no one has heard about has culminated in the conviction of three big time bid riggers in N.Y. Federal District Court.  I know you haven’t heard a thing about it, but it involves some names you might have heard like GE Capital, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia, and too many more to name.  The scheme was simple, but the apparatus was complicated — it was an ongoing conspiracy to divvy up the winning banks on the proceeds from bond sale auctions.

But wait, there’s more scandal!

Biden illustration: REBUILD WITH BIDEN

Nice picture of our gal

Madam Vice President

Our President


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