Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, September 6, 2010 6:05 pm

Crime wave

If you read/listen to the mainstream financial press, you probably presume that the primary responsibility of the Federal Reserve is to control interest rates.

That’s true, but it also is required by law to do something else:

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Open Market Committee shall maintain long run growth of the monetary and credit aggregates commensurate with the economy’s long run potential to increase production, so as to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.

So, in addition to interest rates, the Fed also is required to seek maximum employment.

Has it done so? Obviously not. For one thing, it (or, for that matter, Congress) could have required banks and other firms that got bailed out to increase hiring, or to increase lending in ways that reasonably could be expected to lead to increased hiring. Instead, the money mostly went to bonuses and other nonproductive uses.

As Ryan Grim noted last December:

The Fed is mandated by law to maximize employment, but focuses on inflation — and “expected inflation” — at the expense of job creation. At its most recent meeting, board members bluntly stated that they feared banks might increase lending, which they worried could lead to inflation.

Board members expressed concern “that banks might seek to reduce appreciably their excess reserves as the economy improves by purchasing securities or by easing credit standards and expanding their lending substantially. Such a development, if not offset by Federal Reserve actions, could give additional impetus to spending and, potentially, to actual and expected inflation.” That summary was spotted by Naked Capitalism and is included in a summary of the minutes of the most recent meeting. The bank keeps secret the actual transcript. Likewise, because of Fed secrecy, it’s unknown which or how many members voiced such concerns.

Suffering high unemployment in order to keep inflation low cuts against the Fed’s legal mandate. Or, to put it more bluntly, it is illegal.

But, as is true of every other illegal thing banksters do, there will be no consequences. Remember, right after Grim wrote this, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was reconfirmed. And things have only gotten worse since, and neither Obama nor Congressional Democrats nor Congressional Republicans nor business is doing one damn thing about it.

Relatedly, and unfortunately, Crimes Against the Economy is not a capital offense, which is a lucky thing for former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan because Gonzalo Lira is standing by for the prosecution with a blindfold, a cigarette and one heck of a case.

UPDATE: Oh, and here’s a best-case projection of how long it’s going to take us to get back where we were, jobs-wise, in December 2007. And by best-case, I mean this chart outright ignores growth in the labor force, currently in the vicinity of 90,000 people per month.

Seven years. Best case. Reality: given that growth in the labor force since the Great Recession began in December 2007 means that instead of 7.6 million jobs lost in the past 32 months, we’ve actually lost 11.2 million jobs, it’ll be a lot longer than that.

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Friday, March 19, 2010 8:29 pm

Somebody’s lying …

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 8:29 pm
Tags: ,

… and Zero Hedge thinks it wasn’t Merrill Lynch, it was Fed chairman Ben Bernanke … who was under oath at the time. But remember, kids: Lie about a consensual extramarital affair, get impeached. Lie about screwing the American taxpayer, get TV appearances and cocktail wienies.

Sunday, February 7, 2010 12:27 am

Odds and ends for 2/6

New York’s attorney general comes down hard on Ken Lewis and Joseph Price in a civil lawsuit, alleging that the Bank of America CEO and CFO misled not only the bank’s shareholders but also their own board, the company’s lawyers and the public as to the amount of water Merrill Lynch was taking on when BAC acquired it — an amount sufficient to have taken BAC down too without a taxpayer bailout. While we wonder why Lewis and Price remain unindicted comes news that Lewis’s attorneys intend to call Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke to testify in his defense. If my 401k and kids’ college funds weren’t so devastated, I’d be buying popcorn.

The United States attorney general comes down hard on Mitch “WATB” McConnell and other Republicans who think there’s any sort of basis in fact or law for trying the Underpants Bomber anywhere but U.S. District Court. Read the whole thing; it is full of Win.

If he legally changed his name to “Enormous Genitals,”* do you think it would help?: Pakistani career diplomat Akbar Zeb has been rejected by Saudi Arabia as ambassador to that country because his name translates into Arabic as “biggest d**k.” You laugh, but the United Arab Emirates rejected him earlier for the same reason. (h/t: Fred)

*Movie reference:

UPDATE: Fred says we missed a chance by not including this, and I agree:

Shredding the Constitution. Again: The U.S. government was surveilling an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, for months and months and never came up with any basis for indicting him. And yet, somehow, he ends up on an assassination list, in apparent violation of at least three different amendments to the Constitution. Someone want to explain to me how this works?

Fritz Kraemer: the biggest warmonger you’ve never heard of.

How good are you at assessing risk — in particular the risk that what you think about a particular subject might be wrong? You can take a test here to find out. The higher your score (perfect is 100), the more willing you are to consider the possibility that what you think you know is actually wrong. I scored 93, which probably comes as a surprise to everyone who considers me dogmatic. It doesn’t surprise me for two reasons: 1) In 25 years of journalism, you learn to do your homework. So on stuff that I was confident I was right on, I was confident for a reason, and I didn’t hedge my bets, so to speak, during the test. 2) In 25 years of journalism, you also learn not to lean too hard on stuff of which you’re not confident, because the consequences can be much worse than just getting a fact wrong. They can include getting fired and sued. So on questions where I wasn’t certain, particularly those containing multiple factual assertions, I usually chose the “just have no freakin’ idea” option and didn’t feel any shame about doing it.

Tom Tancredo thinks we need a “civic literacy test” that people must pass to be able to vote. So Eli says, OK, fine, let’s get some answers to these questions.

Obama’s ugly budget would look even uglier if Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac liabilities — which, since Christmas Eve, have been potentially unlimited — had been on budget. But, in a trick Bloomberg calls “worthy of Enron,” they were left off.

Multiple personalities; or, IOKIYAR: Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who went all “Pulp Fiction” on Nancy Pelosi months ago for accusing the CIA of lying to Congress, is accusing the CIA of lying to Congress.

What is the Obama Justice Department hiding, and why are Senate Democrats helping them?: Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to head Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel should have been approved months ago; instead, it’s “hung up.” Again. For reasons that make sense only if you believe that Obama doesn’t really want her but also doesn’t want to take the PR hit for pulling her nomination. Memo: Dumping all over your friends is a real good way to get your base fired up to turn out in a challenging midterm election. Not.

How Republicans are trying to recruit more women: “Women sometimes need a little more handholding, or they need their friends to help them make a decision,” Republican National Committee co-chair Jan Larimer said. Ooooo-kay.

Given how often someone tries to repeal important parts of the Bill of Rights, I’m not entirely certain that such Senate traditions as filibusters and the hold should end. But I think we can safely say that when one senator — in this case, Richard Shelby of Alabama, whom no one will ever accuse of sentience — can put at least 70 presidential nominations on hold just because he’s not getting the pork he wants, it really is time to rethink some things. It’s also worth remembering that 1) the pork Shelby is seeking is 10x as much as Ben Nelson got for signing on to the health-care reform bill and 2) Shelby tried to kill GM and Chrystler bailouts because foreign auto makers have plants in his state. This isn’t about the good of the nation; this is about Shelby doing things because he can. But the national media appear to agree that IOKIYAR.

In light of the impending Super Bowl, a few words on the football players about whom almost nothing good is ever said. One reason I like Dan Dierdorff as a football announcer is that, having been an O-lineman, he’s conscious of what they do and how often it makes a big, big difference that most announcers never even pick up on.

Republicans can’t work with Democrats because they want Obama impeached, believe he’s a socialist, think he was born outside the U.S. and therefore is ineligible to be president, aren’t sure if he wants the terrorists to win, think it’s at least possible ACORN stole the 2008 election, consider Sarah Palin more qualified to be president than Obama, don’t want sex education taught in public schools and do want Biblical creationism taught in public schools. But the media think our biggest political problem is that Democrats aren’t sufficiently bipartisan. Sigh.

I’m beginning to understand why Tennessee fans hate Lane Kiffin: He has secured a verbal commitment from a quarterback who’s currently in seventh grade.

Former HP CEO and current Senate candidate Carly Fiorina has unleashed sheer madness in the form of a campaign ad that runs for 3.5 minutes and includes everything from a totally bass-ackwards metaphor to some poor schlub crawling on all fours in a sheep suit. I know it’s California, but still:

One of Jason Linkins’ commenters tips us to the artistic inspiration for the ad:

I want to see this movie. The California election, not so much.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 11:06 pm

Odds and ends for 1/27

And people think I’m crazy for suggesting that Obama is as bad as Bush: Marcy flags something that the Washington Post’s Dana Priest wrote down but apparently failed to grasp the significance of: “Somewhere there’s a list of Americans who, the President has determined, can be killed [by their own government] with no due process.” OK, I’ll say it: Impeach him. I’m dead serious. Because if what Priest reports is true, the president has illegally and extraconstitutionally conspired to commit murder.

Think George W. Bush will watch on teevee?: Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair testifies Friday in the inquiry into that country’s decision to join the war in Iraq. Even if he escapes indictment — and that is far from certain — Blair’s place in British history appears sure to fall into the Brit equivalent of Warren Harding country.

Cue ominous music: The SEC voted 4-1 today to suspend automatic redemptions from money-market funds. People who value these investments for their liquidity now have no reason to value them. Let the stampede begin. What’s the larger meaning? I have no idea, but I’m about 98% sure it ain’t good.

The banksters screw us again: Citi temporarily tamped down some of the criticism of its big bonuses by announcing that every part of anyone’s bonus over $100,000 would be paid in stock, not cash. The idea is, you tie employees in to the company’s goal of long-term growth and profitability. Which would be great if the stock weren’t redeemable for a couple or three years. But this stock? Will be redeemable in April. As stock bonuses go, that’s practically cash.

How the banksters screwed us the first time: The so-called “Schedule A,” the list of crap mortgage-backed securities that the New York Fed took off AIG’s hands at 100 cents on the dollar when they were actually worth around half that, has finally been made public. Not sure exactly what it will mean, but inasmuch as the NYFRB tried to keep this list secret until 2018, you can be reasonably sure it’s nothing good.

Smoking gun: Goldman Sachs could and should have had to eat some of its bad investments in 2008, but the New York Fed let it off the hook, documents show. That’s the same New York Fed then run by our current SecTreas, who REALLY needs to be returned to the private sector posthaste. Oh, wait: He has been a “public servant” his whole life. Well, that’s OK. After what he appears to have done for Goldman, they should pay him a princely sum for life and not even require him to show up for work. Then they’d have a slight taste of how we taxpayers feel, except for the part where they NEVER ACTUALLY DID ANYTHING FOR US, not that I am bitter.

Cops bumping into each other: Joining the House Oversight Committee in looking into the New York Fed’s bailout of Goldman Sachs and AIG is Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as the bank bailout program, who testified today before Congress.

Oh, and lookee what Mr. Barofsky had to say: “According to these [Federal Reserve Bank of New York] executives, then-President [Tim] Geithner ‘acquiesced’ to the executive’s proposal. When asked by [Barofsky’s office]  if the executives felt they had received their ‘marching orders’ from then-FRBNY President Geithner to pay the counterparties par [instead of the roughly 48 cents on the dollar they actually were worth], one FRBNY official responded ‘yes, absolutely.'” But … but … Geithner and the White House both say Geithner wasn’t involved in the decision to screw taxpayers by paying AIG customers (including Goldman Sachs) more than they should have. So somebody’s lying. And Barofsky’s the one under oath.

And the hits just keep on coming: A report from Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, nails Tim Geithner’s butt to the wall.

Memo to commenters on this article: Genocide is not a contest. There is no prize.

If Steven Pearlstein were president, he’d say the state of the union sucks.

Mixed blessing: In his article “Appalled in Greenwich Connecticut [sic],” downloadable (.pdf) from his site StumblingonTruth.com, Clifford Asness of AQR Capital Management, whom I have not read before, combines grossly unfortunate metaphor (“Unfortunately for this President, he will, I hope, find the financial community not cowering from his Cossacks on a shtetl in the Pale of Settlement (Greenwich, CT), but meeting his accusations with logic and patriotism.”) with both an entitlement mentality AND common sense (“So, how do you fix too-big-to-fail? Well, this is complicated, give me a moment. I got it. You let them fail.”). For a quant, he manipulates words real purty. I may return.

The problem with cutting Medicare and Medicaid: Abe Sauer explains.

Tax the rich! Tax the rich! Oregon’s doing it. Sort of. A little. For the first time in 80 years. But the media is all Scott “Our Next President” Brown, so if you don’t hear about this, that’s why.

Wrong AND lame: President Obama’s proposed 3-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending is not only exactly not what the economy needs in a time of depressed consumer demand, it’s also almost meaningless in its effects on the budget deficit, given that it doesn’t affect big-ticket items like defense, wars, interest on the national debt or entitlements. It’s one more example of trying to appear to people who believe you incapable of doing the right thing that you’re doing the right thing. You will never win those people over, so you ought to just go ahead and do the right thing. Simpler. More effective. Pisses off the people who are wrong. Everyone’s a winner.

Rhodes Scholar tackles spending freeze, president loses.

Related: A roundup of amusing reactions to the quote freeze unquote.

And if you want to look for budget savings, here’s a suggestion. Even George W. Bush’s last Defense Secretary thinks we’re spending too much on defense, and spending it the wrong way. Observes Spencer Ackerman, who covers this stuff for a living, “Everyone in Washington who studies the Pentagon budget quickly finds gobs and gobs of wasteful spending. Not some people. Not dirty hippies. Every. Single. Defense. Analyst.”

Can we like ACORN again? Reminder: O’Keefe’s videotapes were doctored. And August J. Pollak’s commentary on the case is short enough and good enough for you to hie thee hence and read it in its entirety. Go on. I’ll wait.

(pause)

Oh, good, you’re back. Moving on, then …

Conflict of interest: Tyler Durden points out reason to believe that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a quite personal reason for wanting to see Bumbling Ben Bernanke reconfirmed as Fed chairman as early as Thursday.

Whoops! Not so fast, there, Fast Harry: Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., claims to have documents showing that Bernanke overruled his advisers in approving the AIG bailout. And here we thought Harry Reid was just venal. Y’know, nothing is becoming Jim Bunning’s Senate career like his leaving of it. Maybe the old guy is going senile, but he’s actually, at long last, acting in the public interest here. Or maybe he just hates Democrats. Either works for me.

Hard cases make bad law, and this hard case has led a judge to make some awful case law.

You might want to put down the knife, Ms. Quinn, because the Secret Service does NOT mess around: Obama has been advised to make sure the bunny is secure. Commenter El Cid at Balloon Juice adds, “I think it’s kind of funny that Sally Quinn goes to the trouble of asking her readers to ‘indulge [her] for a moment’, as if that woman spends the tiniest femtosecond of her life not being indulged.” And this would be funny if every other Washington journalist weren’t just like her.

The teabaggers are “good Republicans even if they don’t know it.” That’s about the best description I’ve seen.

Speaking of good Republicans, the ones doing PR for the party are just top-notch: The GOP response to the State of the Union tonight was given in — I am not making this up — the hall where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated.

The public option: C’est popular. Corporations: pas tellement: In a Research 2000 poll in 10 swing congressional districts whose seats are currently held by Democrats, a majority of Republicans favor a public option, and a plurality of Republicans, 43%, say Democrats need to do more to fight big corporations.  In the single N.C. district polled, Larry Kissell’s NC-08, voters overall favor a public option by 73% to 16%, with 11% undecided, and a 59% majority of voters, the biggest majority of any of the 10 districts, said Democrats need to do more to fight big corporations. It’d be interesting to see the results if the vague “big corporations” was changed to “banks” or “health-insurance companies” or both.

Against it for all the wrong reasons: Polling ace Nate Silver points out that part of the reason health-care reform isn’t polling as well as its supporters wish is that sizable chunks of the population believe (bad) things about the bill that are objectively untrue.

Why wouldn’t a combination of high-deductible health-insurance plans and Health Savings Accounts fix the problem? That’s pretty much the question one of my cousins asked me in an e-mail the other day. Well, Nancy, here’s your answer.

It would be funny if these people didn’t effectively control the entire U.S. school textbook market: The Texas Board of Education [sic] bans Bill Martin Jr.’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? from its third-grade reading list after confusing its author with that of the book Ethical Marxism.

Afghanistan Fail: The guy who once held Stanley McChrystal’s job running the U.S. military in Afghanistan and is now ambassador to Afghanistan says McChrystal’s anti-insurgency effort in Afghanistan is doomed.

Good news, for a change, for vets: Iraq and Afghanistan vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder but denied monthly disability benefits from the VA can join a class-action lawsuit to get their disability ratings increased to the level required by law, which will make them eligible for benefits. The relevant law was quite clear on what disability rating vets with PTSD are supposed to be assigned, so the fact that someone even had to sue over the issue is a disgrace and an outrage.

CBS: Morons: They won’t let people run factual advertisements about George W. Bush’s war crimes, but they’ll let Christianist wingnuts Focus on the Family run a forced-pregnancy ad during the Super Bowl. I think maybe I’ll just skip the game, then — all the best parts (i.e., the other commercials) will be on YouTube next day anyway. Also, I hope all the fans of Tim Tebow, who’ll star in the commercial, read this. The money quote comes from “an NFC South talent evaluator” who is most likely with the Bucs, since the Saints and Falcons are fixed for starting QBs and the Panthers have neither the money nor the draft pick to go after a potential first-round QB.

Don’t don’t-ask-don’t-tell: That well known military-hater, retired Gen. John Shalikashvili, who implemented “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says it’s time to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay people. I’d say that time actually was 1775, but I’m happy to welcome J-Shal to the bandwagon.

The lessons of Stuyvesant Town: But by all means, let’s re-confirm Ben Bernanke. Jesus wept.

Rush Limbaugh confesses that he AND the world would be better off if he killed himself: Only on The Onion, unfortunately.

Why Howard Zinn and not Rush Limbaugh?: Zinn, who came up with the radical idea that the history of a democracy shouldn’t be by and for aristocrats only, is dead at 87.

Would it be irresponsible to speculate that since he’s getting a divorce, Karl Rove is now free to woo and wed Jeff Gannon? It would be irresponsible not to.

OK, this is just weird:

You’re looking at the performance of Apple stock earlier today. That big dip came right around the announcement of the iPad. I’m not sure what it means, but I’m pretty sure it ain’t what the Apple board expected.

Best. Apple. Humor. Ever.: The Wikipedia Entry for the iPad (until today): “iPad was a prototype for a feminine hygiene product that purported to digitize a woman’s menstruation cycle and store it on a password-protected Web server.[1]” More iPad humor here, but guys may want to give it a miss.

Keith Richards, sober? Because he was so upset by how hard Ron Wood fell off the wagon? I think The Awl says it all: “If Keith Richards stops drinking because he thinks you have a problem, well, you have a problem.”

This cannot possibly end well: George Lucas is producing a computer-animated musical.

And you thought Blog on the Run was minor-league: I’ll have you know this blog has just 35 fewer paying customers than Newsday.com, so there. And that’s after spending $4 million less on my site design than Newsday spent on theirs!

And you thought my carpal-tunnel syndrome happened because I type a lot.

How Japan intends to win the World Cup (this one goes out to my friend Beau):

(Note that the numbers on the radar are kph, not mph.)

And, finally, things journalists should know about polls:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 12:17 am

Odds and ends for 1/25

Enron may be dead, but its ghost continues to mess with us: “White House and Congressional Democratic leaders say they now believe that they have the 60 votes needed to block a filibuster of Mr. Bernanke’s reappointment.” … “… strategy on the Bernanke confirmation was being led by former Enron lobbyist Linda Robertson, who is viewed as an effective advocate for the banking chief on Capitol Hill.” But don’t worry — the president’s going on TV Wednesday night to assure us he feels our pain.

Heckuva job, Bernanke: The Fed is required by law  (12 U.S.C. § 225a) to manage monetary policy so as to create jobs for as many people as possible. True story. It also is required to report semiannually on what steps it has taken to comply with this and other requirements. What did its most recent report say about creating jobs? Not bloody much. So explain to me again why this guy should get another four years in the job.

You can pay me now or pay me (a lot more) later: Cutting early-childhood programs hurts jobs now, costs society more later, research shows. My experience covering politics leads me to believe that the kind of people who oppose this sort of spending are not, in general, the type who tend to be convinced by science/research, but, what the hell, I’ll post it anyway.

Yo, Pat, it wasn’t the devil who cursed Haiti. It was Thomas Jefferson. (h/t: Jill)

How could we help Haiti long-term? Cancel its debt, for one thing.

If anything more progressive than the Senate health-care bill is politically dangerous for Democrats, then why is the guy charged with getting Democrats elected to Congress telling Obama and the Senate to shove it?: Maybe because he has seen this polling. Retiring Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., on the other hand, clearly has not.

Memo to HuffPo: Your games are no fun when you let the irony-impaired play. (h/t: Beau)

Holy crap: December existing-home sales, expected to be down 10% (or, per Goldman, 15% at worst), were in fact down 16.7% from November, the biggest one-month decline in history.

Speaking of real estate, the biggest real-estate transaction in history has gone into default. Corollary: Apparently it’s OK for real-estate giant Tishman Speyer to walk away from its debts, but don’t try this with your underwater home, kids.

Prisoner’s dilemma, in that everyone who doesn’t work for Goldman Sachs is kind of a prisoner of everyone who does: Goldman Sachs’s chief bull, Jim O’Neill, has gotten somewhat ursine. So does that mean that they know the economy’s going to get worse because they’re running it, or does it mean they want us to think they think it’s getting worse so that they can bet on improvements, engineer those improvements, and win? Decisions, decisions.

Priorities in a post-peak-oil reality, from James Kunstler: “The money that went into propping up the automobile companies could have been used to rebuild the entire railroad system between Boston and the Great Lakes, and the capital squandered on AIG and its offshoot claimants could have rebuilt everything else the rest of the way to Seattle. Is it really so hard to imagine what history requires of you?”

Classifying information to cover up a crime is, itself, a crime. So it makes me very curious to know not only what about the New York Fed’s plans to bail out AIG was kept secret from the SEC on “national-security” grounds, but also why that was done.

Health-care reform: a pictorial timeline (w/generous dollops of snark).

Shorter Michael Barone: How DARE we let the people who actually know what they’re doing decide things? Bonus Stoopid: He talks about knowing how to “manipulate words” like it’s a BAD thing.

We are a polarized nation, and because that’s the case, anyone hoping to prevail in an off-year election probably needs to forget about trying to appeal to the “broad middle” because there ain’t one.

Question for Sen. Bill Nelson: What, exactly, does “the left” control? Because it sure ain’t the White House, Congress or the Supreme Court.

Memo to Andrew Breitbart: Insisting that your questions are serious is no substitute for asking serious questions.

Memo to Harold Ford: Hell, no, we’re not going to cut taxes for you and your rich friends. In fact, jackhole, you’re lucky this country does not tax Stoopid. Hey, do me a favor, dude: PLEASE run for Senate from New York with that platform. I could do with a laugh.

The stimulus saved 1.2 million jobs, but the government needs to do even more, according to a USA Today survey of 50 economists.

They say hope is not a plan, but apparently, for the Obama administration (shorter WaPo), hope was a plan. Oy.

Which is more of a plan than Congressional Democrats have on finance reform.

If you’re going to believe Hitler was a leftist, then you also have to believe … Oh, the places you’ll go!

How to steal a trillion (and a half): John Hussman explains how it’s done.

Pity the rich and their oh, so difficult lives.

Prince Charles is part switchblade. Almost literally.

Sunday, January 24, 2010 12:08 am

Odds and ends for 1/23

Insider trading at the Fed?: Or tied to the Fed, anyway. Yet one more reason to audit the thing, and I don’t mean just routine annual audits, either.

Meanwhile, over at the New York Stock Exchange, one can also find hinky goings-on.

Prop-trading ban will hit Goldman Sachs a lot harder than Goldman says, according to an independent credit analyst. In the immortal words of Al Capone, I’ll send flowers. If you own Goldman stock, you should consider the strong probability that you’re being lied to.

Roundup of stories on the prop-trading ban and related issues, here.

Whose Kiss of Death is deadlier, Fred Mishkin’s or Alan Greenspan’s? I don’t care as long as at least one of the two works as advertised and Ben Bernanke slithers back off to the private sector.

So if Bernanke doesn’t stay as Fed chair, who should get the job? Zero Hedge nominates John Taylor, whose thoughts on the roots of the current crisis can be found here. I do not agree with everything Taylor believes, but I believe that on balance he would be a substantial improvement on Bernanke. I’d like to know whether someone else might be even better.

Paul Volcker’s rise from exile to the president’s right hand helpfully resurrects a short (well, compared with Barney Frank’s 1,100-page bill) paper on restoring security and stability to the U.S. financial system.

Rx from Ezra Klein: “If Democrats abandon health-care reform in the aftermath of Brown’s victory, the lesson will be that they can’t govern. … A plumber and I both agree that my toilet should work. But if he can’t make it work, I’m not going to pay him any money or invite him into my home. Governance isn’t just about ideology. It’s also about competence and will. That’s where Democrats are flagging.”

Another Rx: The California Supreme Court ruled this week that people with prescriptions for medical marijuana can have/grow all they need, not subject to arbitrary state limits. Yeah, that increases the likelihood of abuse, but there was no medical basis for the old limits. Let doctors make that call.

My BS meter just pegged: The same Lord Hutton who certified, despite questionable evidence, that British weapons inspector David Kelly committed suicide has ordered all records in the case sealed for 70 years.

My BS meter just pegged again: Walter Isaacson reviews the new book by John Yoo in today’s NY Times without ever using the word “torture.”

S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer says we need to stop feeding poor people because they breed: I am not making this up: “You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior.” He also called for drug testing for the parents of the 58 percent of S.C. schoolkids who receive free or reduced-price lunch. I think I know who needs the drug test.

Obama adopts another trick from the Bush bag: This time, it’s having the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel retroactively legalize illegal surveillance. So that’s why the Senate never took up Dawn Johnsen‘s confirmation as head of OLC: There’s no way she’d have signed off on this crap.

The pope says priests should blog. I think that’s a great idea, but I think they’ve got other things to do first.

And finally, DJ Earworm’s annual remix of the Billboard magazine Top 25 pop songs of the year, for 2009. This year’s is called “Blame it on the Pop”:

Friday, January 22, 2010 8:21 pm

Odds and ends for 1/22

Double dip: There were 482,000 new unemployment claims for the week ending 1/16, which was 36,000 more than the previous week and 42,000 more than expected. Worse, new emergency unemployment claims, for those who’ve exhausted regular benefits, were up 652,364 to 5,654,544. If this is a green shoot, it’s the kind of green you see when things are rotting.

Theft of a lifetime: The chief strategist for a major international bank accuses the U.S. and U.K. central banks of conspiring to steal wealth from their respective countries’ middle classes. It’s actually a little more complicated than that, but only a little.

Risky business: President Obama has proposed ending proprietary trading by bank holding companies to reduce the level of risk in the market and, therefore, the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out more banks, something Paul Volcker supports. Banks have protested that this is unnecessary on the grounds that prop trading really isn’t a big part of their business (Goldman Sachs puts its prop-trade revenue at 10% of the total). However, observes Zero Hedge with a nice little chart, “the market begs to differ.” Goldman’s own analysis suggests that while prop trading accounts for perhaps 10% of Bank of America’s revenues, because of prop trading’s high margins it accounts for up to 45% of BAC’s earnings. If that’s true, BAC stock, which is supposed to double in price by the end of 2011, could fall 50% instead.

Related: Real conservatives like Obama’s proposal. American “conservatives,” however, not so much.

So, will Goldman Sachs stop being a bank holding company so that it can continue its proprietary trading?: Probably, although it’s kind of in a pickle because currently it has almost 21 billion reasons not to.

Best health-care reform political analysis. Ever: I don’t think it’s correct on the substance, but whether it is or not, I just love the pretty words: “The only path to national health care reform is to pass the Senate bill. Unless Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership can herd three distinct groups of cats — the Blue Dogs, the Stupak coat-hanger crowd and the progressives — HCR is going down in flames, quite possibly for another generation. This is where we’re at. It sucks. It also blows, a seemingly self-canceling phenomenon that is only witnessed in the rarest, most [rear-end]-tasting conditions. And we are witnessing such conditions this very day — a perfect storm of sucking and blowing. That said, if passing the Senate bill verbatim is a once-in-a-lifetime Suckicane meeting a Category 5 Blowphoon head-on, then NOT PASSING ANYTHING AT ALL takes us into the Bruckheimer-Emmerich territory of summer blockbuster-class suckstinction-level blowvents.”

Quote of the day, from Matt Taibbi, on the prop-trading restrictions: “Obviously this is good news, but what I find irritating about it is that the government only starts listening to its voters once the more corrupt option turns out to be untenable.” Yo, Matt, that ain’t true only about banking, either.

The New York Fed and AIG: A timeline, by Bloomberg. Nice.

People thought Rupert Murdoch wouldn’t ruin the Wall Street Journal. People were wrong, although the author concedes the problem is a bit more nuanced than he first claimed.

So if Glenn Beck isn’t talking about going after progressives through the political process, then what’s he talking about? Because when you say you’re going after your political opponents like the Israelis went after Eichmann, you probably know your audience understands that what awaited Eichmann was a gallows.

Barney Frank may actually have a good idea: Blowing up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and creating a new system of housing finance. F&F didn’t cause as much of the current housing-bubble crisis as most of their critics claim, but they did contribute, oh, yes, they did.

And they say this like it’s a bad thing: ABC thinks there may not be enough votes in Congress to reconfirm Ben Bernanke. Let’s hope they’re right. Bernanke is a big reason we’re in as much trouble as we are right now.

They’re the Christian Taliban, they’re stone (no pun intended) killers, and they’re based in Newark: Yeah, that’s right: Read about the connections between the PrayforNewark social-action group, the bill in Uganda to execute gays, and the Dominionist movement in the U.S. These are scary people.

If this had been my daughter, the lawsuit would’ve been filed before the sun went down: TSA employee plants bag of white powder in college student’s carry-on luggage. Plenty of witnesses — who were afraid to speak up. Excellent! Just what you want when you’re trying to prevent terrorism — people who see something hinky but are afraid to speak up for fear of being arrested!

Apparently they can use lasers to zap away fat!: Which sounds cool, and I am so on board (assuming I can find the money) … just as soon as they figure out where the fat goes.

Monday, January 18, 2010 8:53 pm

Odds and ends for 1/18

Memo from the NY Times to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission: Public hearings are good, but subpoenaing documents is better. Yup. Banksters committed fraud on a massive scale. This commission isn’t a law-enforcement agency, but what it finds can help Justice and SEC investigators do their jobs. In fact, it may force them to do their jobs, which a mere sense of duty has not, so far, sufficed to do.

More from the FCIC: The head securities regulator for the state of Texas testifies about how the feds have kneecapped state investigators/investigations, not because they would do a better job but to protect the very people they’re supposed to be regulating. Biggest. Fraud. In. History.

Memo to right-wing nuts (and anyone else, although I suspect only the wingnuts would be stupid enough to try this): Do not invite journalists into your home, sit for an interview and then demand their tapes at gunpoint, because your ass will go to prison and your wallet will go to the journalists. Having once covered the Klan, I’m taking particular satisfaction in the outcome of this case.

The Fed elides oversight and political meddling because it thinks you and I are too stupid to know the difference. Stupid Fed.

Darrell Issa wants Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson to testify about the AIG bailout. So do I, but Issa has a little more leverage than I do. Uh, Democrats, that slamming sound you hear is Issa walking out the back door with your populist mandate for 2010.

More fraud uncovered: This time, short-sale fraud. And wonder of wonders, it’s CNBC that has uncovered it. Memo to Mary Schapiro: When CNBC looks both more honest and more industrious than the SEC, then you are officially Teh Suck.

For once, J.P. Morgan outperforms Goldman Sachs … if, by “outperform,” you mean, “directs an even more inexcusably large percentage of its total revenues to banker bonuses”64 percent of revenues. Not of profits, of revenues. Remember, Morgan, like the other 37 banks reviewed by the WSJ, has significant amounts of crap disguised as assets on its balance sheets, and even more crap off the sheets that soon will have to be moved onto the sheets. And are the banks setting aside capital to cover the inevitable write-downs? No, they’re buying helicopters and Hamptons houses.

If voters could vote on Obama’s financial appointments they way they can vote on Chris Dodd, Obama would be paging a lot of empty offices. For good reason.

Liberal academia? Yes — because conservatives choose disproportionately not to become college professors. These findings, albeit not yet published, are consistent with some earlier research.

Who killed Pat Robertson? Why, it was Lily Coyle, in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (2nd letter down), with a clue.

Freedom’s just another word for no one left to screw: Retiring Sen. Chris Dodd could be scrapping the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency before he goes.

Well, it’s a step: The U.S. releases the names of 645 detainees at Bagram. Good. But some  of those people have been held for years without even being told why. Not good.

PhrMA theatens to blow up health-care reform. A friend of mine has proposed that any attempt to make a profit off health care should be made a crime. I think that’s extreme, but when stuff like this happens, I understand the anger that gives rise to such suggestions.

Dawn Johnsen might say torture is illegal. Therefore, she cannot possibly be allowed to run Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, or else the terrorists win.

Memo to special prosecutor John Durham: In the marathon investigation of the destruction of CIA torture videos, the DFHs are eating your lunch. Bet they aren’t charging the government as much as you, too.

All of a sudden, “conservatives” are in favor of privacy. And it’s interesting how the kind of privacy they favor dovetails neatly with protecting them from being held accountable for their actions. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

If you’re following Perez v. Schwarzenegger and it sounds awfully like Dover v. Kitzmiller, well,  there’s a reason for that: In both cases, science is/was under siege. Science won in Dover. Let’s see what happens in Perez.

Republicans, having fed off the productive among us for so long, are now simply outraged that one of their own is doing it to them. More specifically, their cynical selection of Michael Steele as national chairman to try to appeal to African American voters now means that even though he needs firing and is daring them to fire him, they can’t do it.

Why does Rush Limbaugh hate the troops? And why do the troops continue to air him on Armed Forces Radio when he hates them?

More map pr0n! Geocurrents has created a map blog tied to news events.

Thought for the day: Requiring drug tests for welfare recipients makes sense only if we also drug-test recipients of federal earthquake relief, tax credits and bank bailouts. Despite what you may have been told, your odds of getting into Heaven do NOT increase in direct proportion to the number of times you kick poor people.

“Never (annoy) a walrus.” Because if you do, the bucket is the least of your problems.

Friday, January 8, 2010 11:26 pm

Odds and ends for 1/8

Wellnow. AIG, Tim Geithner and PricewaterhouseCoopers could all be in trouble. I don’t know much about PwC, but as far as the other two go, trouble couldn’t happen to a more deserving pair. Unfortunately for Democrats, AIG and Geithner are now their problem, as at least some recognize.

And regarding Geithner, etc., this Republican says “amen”: Says “washunate”: “If we [Democrats] don’t clean house, Republicans eventually will. … We are at the bizarre point now where situations that should be case studies for everything that’s wrong with the crony capitalism of the Reagan-Bush era are being turned into defend-the-ramparts or remember-the-Alamo entrenchment by Democratic leaders.”

NO MASterCard!: Consumer borrowing plunged by a seasonally adjusted all-time record $17.5 billion in Novemer.

Freemasonry unveiled!: And it’s not nearly as entertaining as Dan Brown would have us believe.

Evidence that Teh Sm4rt Kid2 aren’t going into journalism: Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter suggests that President Obama meet personally with Dick Cheney to tell him to STFU ask him to stop bad-mouthing administration terrorism policy. Pshyeah. The only reason Obama should meet personally with Dick Cheney is to personally clap him in irons and haul his war-criminal ass off The Hague. (“Clap him in irons.” I love that phrase. So pirate.)

Jackassery unveiled!: The manager and assistant manager of Maricopa County, Ariz., will testify before a federal grand jury against Joe Arpaio, the unrepentantly abusive, bigoted thug currently occupying the office of sheriff.

People ask me why I think private, for-profit health insurers are a mistake: This is one reason why.

As she has done in the past on Republican apologists for Plamegate, Marcy Wheeler is laying a hurting on the Obama administration’s main academic apologist for its health-care reform plan.

Another hold on Ben Bernanke, this one from Byron Dorgan, at least until Bernanke opens the Fed’s books. Good! So good, in fact, that Teddy Partridge thinks we should replace Geithner with Dorgan. More background on Dorgan here. Remember, Dorgan is not only the person who said it would take us less than a decade to regret repealing Glass-Stegall, he’s also the guy who was warning us of the dangers of “too big to fail” — in 1974.

Love’s Labors Lebowski’ed: Nance (actually, strictly speaking, some of Nance’s commenters) and others have been bugging me for years to see The Big Lebowski. And it’s not that I don’t want to, but I just haven’t had, or made, the opportunity. But it now appears that I’m going to have to rent it or something just so that I can fully enjoy this.

Another fight the Obama team appears likely to try to back down from: ‘Net neutrality. At some point, some presidential candidate is going to have to openly run against corporate lobbyists (and win by about 20 million popular votes, so that there’s no question about a mandate), or else there will never be the political will to put these weasels back in their cages.

Shorter Ellen Malcolm, departing head of the pro-choice lobbying group Emily’s List, as channeled by Jane Hamsher: “Every single person we elected [to Congress] is determined to vote for the biggest setback to abortion rights in my lifetime, and I don’t want to be here and eat s— for it from big donors when it happens.”

And, finally, yes, I’m probably going to have to watch this: (OK, Vimeo had a trailer for the new “A-Team” movie up today that looked really, really cool, but it has been taken down.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:36 pm

Odds and ends for 12/17

All your drones are belong to us: A readily available, $26 piece of software has allowed Iraqi insurgents to intercept video from U.S. Predator drones. The government has known about this flaw since the weapons’ use in the Balkans in the 1990s but never did anything about it because it “assumed local adversaries wouldn’t know how to exploit it.” As Attackerman (h/t) comments, “Arrogance like this gets people killed.”

All our money are belong to the devil, so send us yours: Televangelist Rod Parsley’s Web site sets a Dec. 31 deadline for contributions and urges, “Will you help take back what the devil stole?” The ministry is in financial trouble primarily because it had to pay a $3.1 million judgment to the parents of a 2-year-old whom a teacher at the ministry severely beat.

Bill Gates sez, “Go ahead, make my day tax my estate!”: The Microsoft founder says we shouldn’t let the estate tax expire. I agree with him. Raise the cap, sure. Index for inflation, of course. But scrap? Nuh-uh.

Relatedly, if you have both money and heirs (Hi, Mom!), you might not sleep very well next year.

Wall Street is killing health care: That’s what taking your company public will do. (Previously.) Just ask the newspaper industry.

Odd couple: Sens. John McCain and Maria Cantwell have jointly introduced legislation to reimpose Glass-Steagall standards on banks. Comments HuffPo’s Jason Linkins: “Give McCain and Cantwell a big round of applause for their effort, because in Washington, this seemingly obvious response to the financial crisis is considered the domain of wild-eyed hippies (and Paul Volcker).”

Which raises a damn good question: Why, in Washington, has the obvious become the domain only of wild-eyed hippies and Paul Volcker, and not of the “serious” politicians/bureaucrats/journalists?

Worthwhile related point: Byron Dorgan warned us at the time that within 10 years we’d be sorry we repealed Glass-Steagall. BZZZT! Wrong! We were sorry within nine years.

Speaking of banksters, looks like Ben Bernanke is going to get reconfirmed. Which would be fine if, like a large majority of the American public, he gave the first damn about putting people back to work. But he doesn’t. Memo to Congressional Democrats: You can steal this issue from the Tea Party, or you can let the Tea Party steal your Congressional seats from you. Your call.

On the bright side, for Democrats and the jobless: A $154 billion economic-stimulus bill passed the House … without a single Republican vote. I’m a longtime deficit hawk, but part of the reason that I am is that I understand that there are times when only fiscal policy can jump-start the economy. So you have to balance the budget or run a surplus in good times to be in position to spend in bad times. And as I’ve said before, the biggest problem of the earlier stimulus package was that even at $787 billion, it was only about half as big as it needed to be (second biggest problem was it relied too heavily on tax cuts, not enough on direct spending).

Here are three more questions to be asked about health-care reform, based on public pledges Obama has made in the past. No one who wanted reform in any form or fashion is going to like the answers. Actually, this piece was so good that I’m going to deviate from standard Odds & Ends formatting and quote from it at some length:

I’ll be evaluating the bill according to three principles:

1. When this plan goes into effect, will it bring an end to the battles that health insurance consumers must wage to retain their coverage, or will the practice of rescission continue?

2. When this plan goes into effect, will it bring an end to the long-term, intractable debt that millions of hard-working Americans incur, simply because they get sick, get injured and grow old?

3. When this bill is signed into law, will Obama truly be in the position to say he’ll be the last president to “take up the cause,” or will it be obvious that we’ve only kicked the can down the road, and that more needs to be done?

In truth, the way I see things shaping up, I don’t believe that the eventual reform legislation will achieve any of these things. At the same time, I think that if it makes it to Obama’s desk, he’s going to sign it. But, pursuant to the cause of Not Kidding Ourselves, he’d better not call it a victory.

Sounds about right.

Is the Senate health-care bill comparable to the (successful) Dutch health-care system?: No, not really.

Republicans are crawling back toward sanity: Yesterday, Laura Ingraham was likening health-care reform to the Holocaust. Today, Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour is saying it’s only as bad as Jonestown. Whew. I was really afraid they were going off the deep end.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009 10:56 pm

Odds and ends for 12/16

Like Willie Sutton said, you rob banks because that’s where the money is: And if you want to cut the deficit, you also go where the money is:

Health-care reform: Nate Silver has 20 questions for people who want to kill the health-care bill, and Jon Walker has 20 answers. Go read this. Seriously, right now. I’ll wait. Because this might be the best combination of comprehensive and clear that you’ll find on whether or not the current Senate bill deserves to live. Kudos to both bloggers.

Glenn Greenwald says Obama is getting the health-care bill he really wanted. I find it hard to disagree.

But it isn’t the health-care bill WE wanted: 63% of Americans say they wanted Medicare expanded to cover 55- to 64-year-olds; only 33% disagree.

It isn’t the health-care bill doctors wanted, either: UC-San Francisco physicians explain, among other things, why the patents-forever provision is such as bad idea.

Indeed, health-care reform is JUST LIKE the Holocaust: Hey, if Laura Ingraham says it, it must be true, right?

Matthew Yglesias on Time magazine’s choice of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke as Person of the Year, for the win: “[I]t demonstrates a very specific class skew — extraordinary intervention into the market place just long enough to fix the situation from the point of view of asset-owners while leaving wage-earners holding the bag. But the owners and managers and editors of Time Magazine and the companies that advertise in it probably don’t care so much about that.”

What could possibly go wrong?: Western military leaders are seeking additional support in Afghanistan from … wait for it … Russia.

But … but … but … Republicans believe global warming is a myth!: A poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds Democrats significantly more likely than Republicans to have visited a fortuneteller or to claim to have seen ghosts or talked to the dead. (Interestingly, whites, blacks and Hispanics all reported having seen ghosts at about the same rate.)

“One more such victory and we are ruined”: The Pentagon actually wins a Gitmo detainee’s habeas-corpus case … but comes out looking like dirt.

And the fun doesn’t stop with health care: John Cole of Balloon Juice observes, “The best thing about health care reform is that it is a primer for Banking and Financial Regulation. We get to look forward to watching the House bill get neutered down by the conservadems, the GOP will be aligned in unison with industry against, and then when the final bill is not up to Howard Dean’s standards, the progressives can sink it because it isn’t good enough, and noted liberals like Tom Harkin, Ron Wyden, and Russ Feingold will be labeled sellouts to the cause just like they were with health care. Also, I’m sure this will all be Rahm’s fault.”

John Cole was right: Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., indeed is getting ready to screw us over some more on bank bailouts. His 2010 re-election already is in serious jeopardy. Good.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 10:50 pm

Odds and ends for 12/15

A way to balance the budget?: For the second straight month, the U.S. Treasury auctioned 1-month T-bills at 0.0% interest. The national budget gets significantly smaller if you whack out interest on the national debt, y’know.

All I want for Christmas is a repeal of Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

BOHICA: As part of “paying off” its multi-billion-dollar loan from the taxpayers, technically insolvent bank holding company Citigroup gets to keep $38 billion in tax credits that regulations normally would require it to give up. That figure will easily overshadow any profit the taxpayers may get from selling Citigroup shares. Merry. Freaking. Christmas.

But maybe Christmas is coming early; or, Who are you and what have you done with Sen. Jim Bunning?: Remember those 15 questions that the Cunning Realist suggested should be asked of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke during his reconfirmation hearings? Unbelievably, a senator asked them. Even more unbelievably, the senator in question was Jim Bunning, heretofore a leading candidate for the title of Biggest Waste of Carbon in the U.S. Capitol.

You may now kiss the D.C. City Council: The District of Columbia has legalized gay marriage. Congress, per the Constitution, gets 30 legislative days to review the law once D.C.’s mayor has signed it, but the Democratic leadership will keep that puppy bottled up until the deadline has safely passed.

No room to talk: Panthers defensive backs Chris Harris and Chris Gamble need to STFU about Patriots WR Randy Moss. While they are having good years, and they did shut Moss down on Sunday, they apparently chose to ignore Wes Welker’s presence on the field. And what really matters is that yet again, the Panthers have failed to achieve consecutive winning seasons, while the Pats almost certainly are going to the playoffs.

Wardrobe police: Is Roy Williams gonna have me thrown out of North Carolina for wearing a Panthers jersey in Chapel Hill?

Shorter Janet Tavakoli: Except for Paul Volcker, the bankers don’t get it.

Brother can you spare your Visa card?: The Miami Herald, which recently laid off 199 people, is now attaching to each article a link through which people can contribute money online … to the paper, not the laid-off employees. The last time I can remember anything like this happening was when I was a kid and Ted Turner went on the air in Charlotte to ask people to send him money to keep Channel 36 on the air. (Yes, that’s Turner Broadcasting’s Ted Turner, and, yes, he repaid it.)

CBS Sports: “If any of our announcers talk about Tiger Woods, we’ll shoot this dog fire them.”

Best banking idea I’ve heard in a while: If Barney Frank has his way, only retail banks will be able to borrow from the discount window. At worst, this gets some banksters off the federal teat. It may even significantly ease the current credit crunch.

Quote of the day: “You’re either part of the solution or you’re a tool of ACORN.” — Conservative Brown, Boy Detective, by Tom Tomorrow.

Smarter Washington Post, please: The Post publishes a bunch of contextually challenged nonsense regarding the national debt. Economist Dean Baker rips them a new one. Yes, the national debt is too high and rising, but the bigger and more urgent problem is joblessness. The Post wants to scrap Social Security and Medicare but just doesn’t have the stones to say so.

Smarter Washington Post, please, cont.: Charles Lane criticizes colleague Ezra Klein’s criticism of Joe Lieberman … while also conceding that Klein’s factual claim is correct. Idiot. All you need to know about Lane is that he was Stephen Glass‘s editor. All you need to know about Klein is that Joe Lieberman finds him bothersome. (But here’s useful background on the contretemps.) Also, I posted the one-word comment “FAIL” on Lane’s blog post earlier; as of 10:30 p.m., it had been deleted, which fact I shortly thereafter commented upon. We’ll see if the 2nd comment stays up.

Smarter judges, please: U.S. District Judge William Duffey tells two Muslim defendants at a sentencing, “I’ll say this, our Gods are very different.” Uh, no, infidel; Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

If you like what Joe Lieberman is doing to health-care reform, wait’ll you see what he has planned for Social Security and Medicare.

Terminated; or, Cue the Limbaugh smears in 3 … 2… 1 …: Arnold Schwarzenegger throws Sarah Palin under the (hybrid?) bus.

Jerome “Swiftboat” Corsi asks,”Could it be that President Obama intends to bankrupt the USA in order to destroy free-enterprise capitalism itself?” Sounds like fun! Let’s play! Could it be that Jerome Corsi is a paranoid psychotic? Could it be that Jerome Corsi wouldn’t recognize the destruction of free-enterprise capitalism THAT’S NOW GOING ON, LED BY INVESTMENT BANKS, if it bit him in the ass? Could it be that Jerome Corsi has a financial motivation to misrepresent what the president is trying to do? Hey, this is fun! I could do this all day!

Paying for your wars: The Greatest Generation, so revered by conservatives, had no problem with this concept; indeed, they inculcated it in their children. So why do today’s Congressional leaders have such a problem?

Why is private health insurance such a bad idea? Let me the Main Street Alliance draw you a picture:

Back from the dead and ready to incriminate?: Some 22 million White House e-mails from the first Bush 43 administration have been “found,” four years and change after they “went missing.” In a perfect world, Karl Rove will be going to prison as a result for having 1) outed undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame and 2) obstructed a criminal investigation into the outing thereof. In the world we live in, we’ll probably find out that the missing $12 trillion in U.S. wealth, much of it sucked out of the home values and retirement savings of the middle class, is now in some Nigerian barrister’s bank account.

Math: About fifteen times as many people die in the U.S. every year as a result of lack of health insurance as died in the 9/11 terror attacks.

No methaqualone for you, says the Methaqualone Nazi!: The new Republican Party-sponsored Web-link shortener, GOP.am, includes this in its terms of use: “If you use it for spamming, illegal purposes or to promote lude content, your GOP.AM URL will be disabled.” Earlier, bloggers and commenters for Balloon Juice were using the site to provide links to bondage sites. Hee.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 11:33 pm

Odds and ends for 12/9

The seat’s hot and he ain’t even in it yet: Bank of America’s chief risk officer, Greg Curl, considered a leading candidate to succeed Ken Lewis as CEO, is under investigation by the New York attorney general for his role in what BofA shareholders were and weren’t told about the bank’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

Your incompetence. Let me show you it: Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker calls for the return of Glass-Steagall and tells the Wall Street Journal’s Future of Finance Initiative, a group of financiers and policy makers, “Your response [to the economic crisis], I can only say, is inadequate. You have not come anywhere close.”

Quote of the day, also from Volcker at this session: “I wish somebody would give me some shred of evidence linking financial innovation with a benefit to the economy.” For good measure, he said the best financial innovation of the past 25 years was the ATM. (Which actually was introduced earlier … but, hey, forget it, he’s rolling.)

Bonus quote of the day, from Gavin M. at Sadly, No!, characterizing hinky academic Stanley Fish: ” …oleoresinous of eye, exuding cheap 1970s tenure …”

Congressman Alan Grayson to Fed Chair Ben Bernanke: Dude, you’re screwing the taxpayers directly AND committing tax fraud!

Oh, snap!: Dick Cheney (laughably) claims trying terrorism suspects in New York will generate more terrorism and calls it treason, so Alan Grayson tells him to “STFU.” This will give Official Washington another case of the vapors, but when Cheney himself once told a senator on the Senate floor to “go [have sex with] yourself,” he really has no room to whine and neither does anyone else.

Crying poor: AIG’s general counsel is leaving because she can’t make it on $500,000 a year. Given her track record of driving companies into ditches, I’m sure she’ll be snapped up in no time. And, yes, I’m being snarky — twelve digits’ worth of my tax money going into AIG in one year entitles me — but, no, I’m not being snarky about her getting snapped up in no time.

“Extreme victimisation,” but not in the way he thinks: Britain slaps a 50% tax on bankers’ bonuses. Will the U.S. follow suit?

Memo to Howard Kurtz: There’s a reason we call you Howie the Putz. And you’re soaking in it.

Well, yeah, if, by “socialism,” he means “a scary word that conservative wankers scream to try to scare people”: Charles Krauthammer calls environmentalism “the new socialism.”

Well, the federal government can just rock *me* to sleep tonight: The TSA posts some of its most sensitive security information on the Internet. But let’s talk about White House party crashers. Or Tiger Woods.

Sauce for the goose other gander: Paul Wolfowitz lost his job for trying to line up a job for his girlfriend. Will Max Baucus?

Zero tolerance for zero tolerance: Confronted with indisputable evidence of an on-screen error, Fox News decides to abandon its zero-tolerance policy for on-screen errors.

Sarah Palin, Woman of the Year?: Pollak says it could happen.

Friday, December 4, 2009 9:40 pm

Odds and ends for 12/4

Hmm, roasted or fried? Um, I mean, we come in peace: Kara Swisher renders Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Wall Street Journal op-ed into plain English.

Is your boss stealing from you? Could well be.

Good news/very bad news: In the week ending Nov. 28, first-time unemployment claims fell from 462,000 the previous week to 457,000. The very bad news: Emergency claims by people whose unemployment benefits have run out rose by 265,000. In one week. The total was more than 3.8 million, compared with 777,000 a year ago.

Will wonders never cease?: Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., does one worthwhile thing in his miserable, misanthropic life and carves Ben Bernanke a new orifice. Fellow tool Jim DeMint, R-S.C., actually asks helpful questions.

Yes, apparently wonders will cease: Sarah Palin, birther.

And then wonders that already have happened will un-happen: Sarah Palin Goes Rogue Fail.

Shorter Mitt Romney economic plan: “More money for me and my friends!”

You’re worried about health care and the deficit? Fine: Let’s talk about that: Republicans and some “centrist” Democrats say they worry about what health-care reform will do to the deficit. They need to worry more about what will happen to the deficit if health-care reform doesn’t pass. (But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of Bush 43’s head of Medicare.)

Pwn3d!: Sens. Tom “Sanctimonious” Coburn and David “Diapers” Vitter introduce what they intend to be a poison-pill amendment to health-care reform that would require members of Congress to enroll in the public option … only to be swarmed by Democrats who think that’s a great idea and sign on as co-sponsors. Hee.

Quote of the day, from commenter “paradoctor” at Hullabaloo, on the douchiness of Senate Republicans: “To them, corporations are people and women are an abstraction.”

Nature strikes back: Asian carp are invading fresh waters of the upper Midwest and the Great Lakes. Bye-bye, trout. And apparently you shouldn’t use a motorboat to go fishing for them because the sound of the motor just pisses them off. (h/t: Nance)

New Internet meme: “There’s far too much detail here for this to be a fabrication.”

And he’d have lived forever if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids and their dog: Aaron Schroeder, composer of hundreds of pop hits ranging from “It’s Now or Never” and “Good Luck Charm” to the theme from the TV cartoon “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?,” is dead at 83.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 9:15 pm

Odds and ends for 12/3

With friends like these: Iraqi lawyer helps U.S., gets tortured by Iraqis for his trouble and now is suing U.S. for $200MM for trying to murder him.

With friends like these, cont.: Someone else unhappy with U.S. conduct in Iraq — the head of Blackwater (now Xe), Erik Prince.

Women’s rights: I wouldn’t say I expect to enjoy reading this book, but I’m looking forward to it. Nick Kristoff can be an insufferable ass sometimes, but on this issue he is doing God’s work and has been for a long time. (h/t: Janice)

Reality check: Who are we, Zbigniew Brzezinski asks, to criticize Afghanistan about government corruption? “Americans, of course, hate hypocrisy,” the LA Times’ Andrew Malcolm observes, “by everyone else.”

Elizabeth Warren for president: “America today has plenty of rich and super-rich. But it has far more families who did all the right things, but who still have no real security.”

The Republicans have a plan for health-care reform: Prevent it by any means necessary.

They also have a plan for fixing the deficit: killing Social Security and Medicare. Actually, that’s backward. It’s not that they want to kill SocSec/Medicare to fix the deficit. It’s that they’re making a big deal about fixing the deficit (now; not so much when it was Bush’s deficit) because that’s a plausible excuse for what they really want to do, which is pulling the New Deal and Great Society up out of our culture by the roots. Unfortunately, they lack the intellectual integrity to say so forthrightly. When they did say so forthrightly, about Social Security, in 2005, they got their heads handed to them.

Call this bluff: The banksters at Royal Bank of Scotland, which got the world’s largest bailout, say they’ll quit if they don’t get their bonuses. Don’t let the door hit you in the bum as you leave, tools.

Dylan Ratigan FTW: Reject Bernanke. He started the damn fire.

Shorter Jonathan Weil: FDIC, man up. Banks, pay up. Amen.

Jason Linkins points out a bit of a discrepancy in criticism of the Afghanistan withdrawal date: Critics suggest that setting a start date for withdrawals will just embolden terrorists to wait until we leave. This ignores the fact that even while we’ve been threatening “to go hard, forever,” the average yearly number of global jihadi terror attacks  has increased 607% since we invaded Iraq. Oops.

Relatedly: George Will takes a couple of cheap shots at Obama, and embraces the flawed slippery-slope argument in the item above, and mistakenly believes that Afghanistan is winnable anymore, but he also believes the right thing for most of the right reasons: This will not end well.

To all the first-time voters who supported Obama because you thought he’d get us out of George Bush’s ill-conceived wars: Here’s to the loss of your political virginity.

Lou Dobbs’ presidential aspirations = FAIL: Anti-immigrant group pulls support. Bwa!

Monday, November 30, 2009 10:56 pm

Odds and ends for 11/30

Somebody make this guy a senator: Vermont’s Bernie Sanders on reappointing Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Fed: “No, I absolutely will not vote for Mr. Bernanke. He is part of the problem. (If) he’s the smartest guy in the world, why didn’t he do anything to prevent us from sinking into this disaster that Wall Street caused and which he was a part of?” Now all we need is 50 more just like him.

More Sanders, just because it’s so damn refreshing to hear someone standing up to banksters on behalf of taxpayers: “If the taxpayers of this country have spent $700 billion bailing out Wall Street because they are too big to fail, why is it that 3 out of the 4 largest financial institutions today are bigger than they were before the bailout, why is it ok that 4 large financial institutions write half the mortgages, two thirds of the credit cards, and control 40% of the deposits. The bottom line to me is that the middle class in this country is collapsing. We have seen this trend downward for many many years. We need a new direction. We need President Obama to take this country in a new way,new economic policies and you don’t appoint the same old guys if you’re going to do that.”

Relatedly: Fifteen questions the Senate Banking Committee should ask Bernanke but probably won’t.

Shorter McKinsey: The European commercial real estate market to the contrary, 2 + 2 != 5. Even shorter McKinsey: If you own a dime of European commercial real-estate financing, you’re so screwed.

Sex scandals can be/Grounds for excellent haiku/Enter this contest: Talking Points Memo is having a contest to see who can submit the best haiku about one (or more) of 2009’s political sex scandals. Send yours to talk@talkingpointsmemo.com.

AIG? Is not, after all this talk of bonuses for its employees, out of the woods, which means taxpayers aren’t, either. Sigh.

Sarah Palin’s “bus” tour? Also included some trips by chartered private jet. Which would be fine if she’d just, you know, either said that up front or not even made mode of travel an issue. But no.

Even Republicans think Newsweek’s Jon Meacham is an idiot: Meacham said Cheney should be the GOP presidential nominee in 2012. But a WashPost poll of Republicans finds that only one respondent out of about 800 — 0.125% — thinks Cheney best represents Republican principles. And when respondents were asked an open-ended question about who the nominee should be, no one suggested Cheney.

Memo to John Harris of Politico: Explain to me again why thinking rationally about how to solve the country’s problems is a bad thing. Because we tried that whole deciding-with-the-gut thing already and look where that got us.

Reason No. 5,677 why Obama ought to do the right thing on Afghanistan, rather than what Republicans say he should do, courtesy of Andrew Sullivan: “If he ramps up Afghanistan and delays Iraq withdrawal, he will lose his base. If he does the full metal neocon as he is being urged to, he should not be deluded in believing the GOP will in any way support him. They will oppose him every step of every initiative. They will call him incompetent if Afghanistan deteriorates, they will call him a terrorist-lover if he withdraws, they will call him a traitor if he does not do everything they want, and they will eventually turn on him and demand withdrawal, just as they did in the Balkans with Clinton.”

Because if we don’t know about it, then we don’t have to do anything about it: The Supreme Court, overruling an appeals court, lets the Obama administration keep secret some photos of torture. Dammit. We will regret this ruling, and probably sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 10:46 pm

More odds and ends

  • The Galleon insider-trading case, in which billionaire Raj Rajaratnam was charged and the securities-rating firm Moody’s was implicated? Has been assigned to Judge Jed Rakoff. Yeah, this Jed Rakoff. (I hope the judge is taking extremely good care of his health, if you know what I mean, because he is making life intolerable for some very, very wealthy and powerful people.)
  • Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who got us both into and out of the ’81-’82 recession, thinks we need to kind of restore the Glass-Steagall Act, which kept commercial banks from doing investments (and being dragged under when those investments went south) before its 1999 repeal. But he’s having trouble selling that idea to all the Goldman Sachs alumni on Team Obama.
  • If this hearing in fact happens tomorrow — I read or heard somewhere it could get delayed — it could get real ugly real fast for Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Hell, it might even get ugly for current Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. I’d be OK with any and/or all suffering some consequences, because you don’t have to be a Harvard MBA to know Bank of America shareholders got screwed.
  • Speaking of Hank Paulson, turns out that while he was still secretary, he met in Moscow with the board of Goldman Sachs. But nothing improper happened. Really. Move along; nothing to see here. These are not the droids banksters you’re looking for.
  • Dana Perino, concern troll. Memo: advice on how to conduct yourself from a PR standpoint from someone who used to take money to call people traitors and supporters of terrorists is probably not worth what you’re paying for it.
  • Shorter Congressman Jeb Hanserling (R-Texas): I’m here to protect banks; screw the consumers.
  • Another Republican, this time John McCain, thinks another earmark, this one $325,000 for earthquake study in Memphis, is a waste of money, and once again is wrong. Three words: New Madrid Fault.
  • Shorter Timothy Noah: Whatever happened to, you know, reporting?; or, The public option was always popular, you morons — you just pretended otherwise or weren’t paying attention.
  • More Noah, because this is just so good and so true: “Political reporters are momentum junkies, forever plotting out momentary trends to infinity. If they were meteorologists, they’d interpret 90-degree temperatures in July to predict 160-degree temperatures in December.”
  • John Cole righteously dopeslaps neocon pinhead Pete Wehner.
  • Sure, Sarah Palin’s $29 book can become a bestseller — when you sell it for $9 or give it away with a magazine subscription.
  • The Bush and Obama administrations actually threatened not to share intelligence with the U.K. if it released evidence of our torture of a guy named Binyam Mohammed. (Yeah, let’s stop sharing info with our oldest and most trusted ally. Genius.) Fortunately, Britain’s highest court is calling their bluff.
  • The maker of Tasers, which has long claimed that Tasers aren’t lethal, now concedes that they might be, potentially, well, a little bit, um, lethal. I’m guessing someone finally talked to their lawyer and figured that just maybe they might want to do a little butt-covering.
  • Socialism … and its potential benefits.
  • OTOH, let’s foster competition and innovation, not hinder it.

Finally, a bit of a health-care roundup:

  • The House Judiciary Committee voted 20-9 today to strip the health-insurance industry of its federal antitrust exemption. This is such a good idea that three Republicans even went along with it. I dearly hope my own representative, Howard Coble, was one of them. (thomas.loc.gov hasn’t been updated yet so I don’t know.)
  • You can too get a hip replacement under the Canadian health-care system even if you’re of retirement age. Ignore the urban legends/propaganda.
  • Sen. Richard Burr’s health-care reform plan: fail. Not epic fail, not actual sabotage of what the bill purports to support, but also not enough recognition of certain economic and financial realities.
  • Expand Medicare to include — well, anyone who wants in? That’s a public option even some Blue Dogs can believe in.
  • And even if we choose a real public option, the Congressional Budget Office says it won’t cost as much as opponents have been claiming.
  • Apparently, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter had no idea that some people were unable to start their own businesses, or stuck in jobs they hate or aren’t suited for, because they can’t afford the health insurance costs they’d have to pay if they made those moves. I mean, c’mon, how imaginative do you have to be before that possibility occurs to you?
  • Last but not least, Al Franken humbles a Hudson Institute hack on health-care finance:


Senator Al Franken: I think we disagree on whether or not the healthcare reform we’re talking about now in Congress should pass. And you said that, kind of the way we’re going will increase bankruptcies. I want to ask you, how many bankruptcies because of medical crises were there last year in Switzerland?

Diana Furchtgott-Roth: I don’t have that number in front of me but I could find out and get back to you.

Franken: I can tell you how many it was. It’s zero. Do you know how many medical bankruptcies there were last year in France?

Furchtgott-Roth: I don’t have that number but I can get back to you if you like.

Franken: The number is zero.
…

Thursday, October 1, 2009 11:26 pm

Ken Lewis: Hasta la vista, baby

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis is retiring. Or “retiring.” Take your pick.

It is a measure of the debasement of American journalism that the man can be due $53 million in retirement payouts and CNN can say he “doesn’t have a golden parachute” (it relies on the bank’s own, very attenuated definition of the term).

Questions of criminality aside for the moment, Lewis was a lousy fiduciary, by any measure at all and by the only one that matters. “Lewis took a bank in good shape into the credit crunch – and steered it into a position of needing a $45bn bailout,” England’s Guardian writes. And even CNN acknowledges that “people who bought the stock when he took the reins in 2001 are underwater on their investments.”

Lewis will now have both means and leisure with which to prepare his defense. We can only hope that that defense will include rolling over on then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for their roles in forcing the BofA takeover of Merrill Lynch on undisclosed terms that royally screwed the bank’s stockholders. But because we live in an Era of Diminished Expectations, I confess I’d be deliriously happy even if all that were to happen was that Lewis and a few members of his board and BofA’s lawyers spent even a few years in Club Fed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 8:26 pm

535 members of Congress …

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:26 pm
Tags: , ,

… and approximately one of them appears to be working in the best interests of the taxpayer at the moment: my current political hero, Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida:

Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge calls the play-by-play:

  • At minute 1:30, Bernanke can’t say which financial institutions got the money.
  • At minute 3:19, Bernanke says that the 30% rise in the dollar which took place at the same time as the Federal Reserve lent out $500B to foreign central banks was just a coincidence.
  • At minute 3:45, Bernanke and Grayson discuss the Constitutional basis for the Federal Reserve lending a half a trillion dollars to foreigners

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