Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, May 28, 2010 8:08 pm

Having stolen all it can from the living …

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:08 pm
Tags: ,

… Citi apparently has now resorted to stealing from the dead.

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Friday, May 14, 2010 11:07 pm

Good news, bad news

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 19, 2010 8:36 pm

Odds and ends for 1/19

He got that nickname the old-fashioned way: Blogger Ben Shapiro betrays such staggering ignorance of how the world and people work that he was long ago dubbed “The Virgin Ben.” He has branched out into writing about cinema for know-nothing blogger blowhard Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood site, and his virgin effort there suggests that he has never so much as held hands in a movie theater, either. (Tintin has better snark on this subject than I do.)

Dead. Bank. Walking: Citi lost $7.6B in 4Q2009. It should have been nationalized a year ago.

Why does Lisa Murkowski hate clean air and her own constituents’ villages?: On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on a measure sponsored by Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who is the leading beneficiary of utility-industry political contributions, to gut the Clean Air Act. Murkowski’s bill was written by two staffers she hired away from lobbying positions with the utility industry.

You know all those YouTube clips from the movie “Downfall” that have Hitler raging about everything from subprime mortgages to “The Tonight Show”?: The director of “Downfall” loves ’em. It makes me happy to know that.

So far the good guys are winning: Blogger Marcy Wheeler, herself a lawyer, says the plaintiffs’ attorneys in Perez v. Schwarzenegger are outlawyerin’ the attorneys for the defendants (i.e., gay-marriage opponents). She also says science is winning, which is even better news.

More from Marcy: “Call me crazy, but …”: The FBI, between 2002 and 2006, illegally collected more than 2,000 U.S. telephone-call records. “Call me crazy,” Marcy says, “but since we know the FBI and NSA were illegally wiretapping organizations like al-Haramain in 2004, you have to wonder whether this was an attempt to clean up poison fruit from earlier, even more illegal surveillance.” OK, Crazy Lady, yes, we do have to wonder this. But only ’til the forthcoming Inspector General report proves it, I suspect. UPDATE: IG report here (306pp .pdf); as of early 1/21, I haven’t read it.

Some of the best and worst of local-TV journalism, all in one clip. (h/t Neill McNeill on FB) Contrast with this, on an arguably far more serious subject.

Racism is dead. OK, maybe not. (Warning: If you read the comments under that column, your brain cells that die will not be replaced.)

Public service: Alan Wolfe reads Game Change so you don’t have to. Bonus: He concludes that the DFHs are right.

Public screwing: The Charlotte Observer lays off more people. Memo to newspapers: You can’t cut your way out of this crisis. Memo to commenters: It ain’t the bias, it’s the advertising, and, oh, by the way, I’d really like a 7.0 earthquake to take out your house tonight while leaving your neighbors’ untouched, you self-righteous jackasses.

Shorter James Kunstler: Reality will not ignore YOU (Where have I heard that before?): “… reality doesn’t care what anybody believes, or what story they put out.  Reality doesn’t ‘spin.’ Reality does not have a self-image problem.  Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management. These days, Americans don’t like reality very much because it won’t let them push it around. Reality is an implacable force and the only question for human beings in the face of it is: what will you do?”

RIP: Carl Smith and Kate McGarrigle.

Have they found a real, live (dead) chupacabra?: Nah. But it sure looked like one.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 8:54 pm

Numbers don’t lie, but sometimes stock tickers do

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:54 pm
Tags: ,

Shorter Zero Hedge to Citi: If no one, not even high-frequency-trading computers, wants to buy your stock, that’s because it’s way overpriced.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 9:21 pm

AIG and Citi in the government’s crosshairs?

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 9:21 pm
Tags: , , ,

Could be:

Elizabeth Warren, chief watchdog of America’s $700bn (£472bn) bank bailout plan, will this week call for the removal of top executives from Citigroup, AIG and other institutions that have received government funds in a damning report that will question the administration’s approach to saving the financial system from collapse.

Warren, a Harvard law professor and chair of the congressional oversight committee monitoring the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (Tarp), is also set to call for shareholders in those institutions to be “wiped out”. “It is crucial for these things to happen,” she said. “Japan tried to avoid them and just offered subsidy with little or no consequences for management or equity investors, and this is why Japan suffered a lost decade.” She declined to give more detail but confirmed that she would refer to insurance group AIG, which has received $173bn in bailout money, and banking giant Citigroup, which has had $45bn in funds and more than $316bn of loan guarantees.

Warren also believes there are “dangers inherent” in the approach taken by treasury secretary Tim Geithner, who she says has offered “open-ended subsidies” to some of the world’s biggest financial institutions without adequately weighing potential pitfalls. “We want to ensure that the treasury gives the public an alternative approach,” she said, adding that she was worried that banks would not recover while they were being fed subsidies. “When are they going to say, enough?” she said.

Relatedly, some circumstantial evidence (very circumstantial, I should caution) that Citi’s days as an independent entity may be numbered.

Thursday, March 12, 2009 9:47 pm

Nice stock you got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.

I don’t know whether the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, introduced Tuesday, is a good idea or not. But when tactics like this are being used to oppose it, it pushes me at least a bit in the pro direction:

Embattled financial giant Citigroup Inc., which has received at least $50 billion in federal bailout funds, hosted a private conference call on Wednesday to build opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. …

Wednesday’s conference call was led by Glenn Spencer, a senior executive at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an ardent EFCA opponent. It was promoted as “An Update on the Employee Free Choice Act,” but much of the content was focused on demonizing the legislation. EFCA will “inhibit flexibility,” “hamper companies from competing effectively,” and prove “cumbersome” for business, declared Spencer. “From the Chamber’s perspective, and I would say probably from the whole business communities perspective, there are really no amendments you could make to this bill that would make it acceptable.”

The lines of attack from the Chamber official were familiar. But Citigroup’s participation, led by retail analyst Deborah Weinswig, raised some eyebrows. The bank has received ample taxpayer-funded aid through the TARP program, leading some to question whether rallying support for an anti-union effort was the best use of its time or that money. …

And with Citigroup lowering Wal-Mart’s rating one day before the call [Weinswig herself lowered Wal-Mart’s stock from “buy” to “hold” — Lex], some were left wondering whether the bank was deliberating trying to frame EFCA as so calamitous for business that Congress would recoil from touching it. Indeed, as pointed out by one Democratic observer, Weinswig was high on Wal-Mart just a few weeks ago, giving the company a 9.5 rating out of 10.

Having spent almost all of my career in North Carolina, among the most anti-union states in the nation, I have no direct experience with unions. But I do know that the unionization movement of the mid-20th century, whatever its flaws, was a key factor in the development of a strong middle class. Whether a revived union movement would produce broad benefits to the middle class in the current economic climate, I do not know. But it sure looks to me as if Citi is rigging the game here and using our tax dollars to do so. Why, if EFCA is so bad on the merits?

UPDATE: Turns out some anti-EFCA research that’s been widely reported is so badly flawed it shouldn’t be taken seriously, even before we get to the pro-corporate leanings of its author.

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