Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, September 25, 2010 5:55 pm

Playing catch-up

As blogging goes, I have been slackeriffic of late, so let’s see what I can do to get caught up here.

Damn. Maybe I should just stop now.

Ah, well, like the man said, I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

  • But we’re not giving it up without a fight: Barack Obama believes he has the power to order American citizens executed without charge or trial. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights are fighting that.
  • Some of America’s greatest leaders? Would be considered terrorists today.
  • They’re everywhere: Government at multiple levels in this country is blurring the distinction between dissent and terrorism. In Pennsylvania, where activists are opposing new oil drilling (entirely understandable, if not ultimately a good idea, in the wake of Deepwater Horizon), opponents are being monitored by the state Department of Homeland Security, and when the governor was asked about it, he at first defended the program.
  • And it ain’t just government: Monsanto hired Blackwater to monitor activists who oppose genetically modified seeds, despite the risks they pose.
  • Double standard: When the Democrats nominate someone who’s insane for the U.S. Senate, they disown him. When the Republicans do it, they embrace her and give her lots of money.
  • But, no, we’re not racists: The National Federation of Republican Women has Sen. Glenn McConnell attend dressed in a Confederate Army uniform and pose with African Americans dressed as slaves. In 2010. For reals.
  • Enthusiasm gap: If Democrats and the White House wonder why their base is so much less motivated to turn out in November than the GOP base, they might consider issues such as this and conclude that warning against “the return of George W. Bush” is pretty pointless when you’re going Bush one better.
  • In deep: How could the Deepwater Horizon disaster happen? When Interior Department regulators are being bullied by the industry they oversee and undercut by their managers, I’d say anything is possible.
  • Risk assessment: Emptywheel poses a very good question: Is the greatest danger to our financial system really terrorism?
  • Well, at least he’s honest: U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R- Okla., tells the American people to, quite literally, eat shit.
  • Scheduling an election is not rocket science. So would it be too much to ask that states get ballots to troops overseas in time for those ballots to be cast? Sheesh. (h/t: Fred)
  • Questions of ownership: GMAC, one of the nation’s largest home-financing firms, tries to foreclose on a home whose mortgage has been resold only for a judge to conclude, quite reasonably, that, hell, no, it can’t foreclose on something it doesn’t own; further investigation suggests GMAC may be executing 10,000 fake documents a month related to mortgages. As a result, GMAC foreclosures are on hold in 23 states. But the real fun, not obvious at first glance, is that dealing with this issue is going to make it harder for a lot of insolvent banks to hide the fact that they’re insolvent.
  • Maybe somebody should have shot the deputy: Charlie Munger, populist billionaire Warren Buffett’s right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway, recently suggested that America’s unemployed and underemployed should “just suck it in” and added, “Thank God for bank bailouts.” Why would he say such a thing when BH took no bailout money? Uh, because companies in which BH is invested took $95 billion, maybe?
  • You will know him by his trail of dead: Howard Fineman, one of the most relentlessly conventional journalists in American history — and, therefore, a guy who has whiffed on most of the significant political stories of the past 15 or so years — is deserting the sinking ship at Newsweek to go work for the Huffington Post. Conservatives everywhere should be of good cheer; if he does there what he did at Newsweek, HuffPo will be dead inside of three years.
  • Who broke the Senate?: Something called “Gingrich senators.” That’s a very short way of describing what is actually a pretty well-documented phenomenon.
  • Apparently we need another war on poverty. Sigh.
  • Fight the police state: Reason magazine offers tips on how.
  • The Washington Post’s problems in just three words: It. Can’t. Think.
  • Funniest line ever posted at PowerLine, by Paul Mirengoff on Christine O’Donnell: “It’s great to hear that O’Donnell learned from her experiences dabbling in witchcraft. You wouldn’t want a U.S. Senator who dabbled in witchcraft and learned nothing from it.” Heh. Indeed.
  • Genetically, we’re not only close to apes, we’re pretty close to jackals: Nancy Nall on scrapping, physical and financial.
  • Corruption in Afghanistan: Not that big a deal after all, the administration decides.
  • When was the last economic recovery that WASN’T jobless?: Oh, about 20 years ago.
  • Question for everyone who still believes in “the liberal media”: What do you think would happen if DEMOCRATS had filibustered a defense appropriations bill? And, naturally, John McCain lied about the reasons for it.
  • He is the egg man: Austin “Jack” DeCoster, whose company was implicated in the recent problem with salmonella-tainted eggs, may have been the guy responsible for introducing salmonella into the U.S. egg supply in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
  • Larry Summers gone: The problem is, unless his replacement is named Warren, Krugman, Bakker Baker, Shiller or DeLong, we’re going to have the same problems we have now.
  • Fannie and Freddie weren’t the ones who broke the economy: So said Barry Ritholtz a while back; so says the FHFA now.
  • Alternatives to bank bailouts: Let me show u them. We did, in fact, have some, which is worth remembering two years on.
  • Chain of command: I’ve got little but contempt for Bob Woodward’s “reporting” these days, but if he has accurately reported that Gen. David Petraeus told colleagues that President Obama “is f—ing with the wrong guy,” then Obama should fire Petraeus and thank Woodward for bringing that insubordination to his attention.
  • The Tea Party isn’t just about deficits and taxes and spending: Whether it started out this way or not, it is rapidly being taken over, if it has not already been, by the Christian Taliban. (More here.) Despite already having called for Obama’s impeachment, I’m not under any illusions about what else is going to happen next year if the GOP regains control of Congress in November. Nobody else should be, either.
  • Kidding themselves: Even such normally sensible outlets as Zero Hedge are buying into this silly-assed notion that businesses aren’t hiring because of an “atmosphere of uncertainty.” No. There’s always uncertainty in the business world, not least every election year. The problem this time isn’t uncertainty, it’s that no one is buying anything because no one has any money because they’re in debt up to their eyeballs, unemployment/underemployment is at its highest level in three-quarters of a century and even the people who have jobs are afraid they’re going to lose them. Moreover, consumers are afraid, probably with good reason, that things will get worse before they get better.
  • Stop the presses!: The new version of the GOP Contract on America was written by a former lobbyist for Exxon and AIG.
  • Pre-emptive strike: Is a newly discovered super computer virus the means by which Iran’s nuclear threat will be nullified? And did the virus originate in Israel?
  • Apparently neither a joke nor an urban legend: Good news, ladies! Having unprotected sex, although it can put you at increased risk of sexually transmitted disease if you’re not really careful and picky and can, of course, get you pregnant, also can render you significantly less likely than your latex-dependent friends AND your chaste friends to suffer from depression. And there’s actually a chemical reason for this!
  • Even Napoleon thought the third time was enemy action: Glenn Fine, inspector general of the U.S. Justice Department, expects us to believe that three separate FBI investigative efforts of the Thomas Merton Center’s anti-war activities during the Bush administration were isolated, coincidental and in no way politically motivated. He also expects us to believe in unicorns, too, I guess.
  • On the road to recovery: Uh, not so much, says well-known liberal Paul Volcker.
  • Here’s the thing about Republican congresscritters and stimulus spending: The most offensive thing isn’t that they’re hypocrites for criticizing the program while still trying to land some of its money for their districts. It’s that they’re lying when they say it doesn’t work.
  • Good news, bad news, Internet edition: Radio spectrum being abandoned by TV as it moves to hi-def could be made available for next-generation WiFi at little cost to the public or, in the alternative, be auctioned off for that purpose at huge benefit to the Treasury. But that’s not going to happen.
  • I want to play Roy Blount in poker: The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri challenged Democratic opponent Robin Carnahan to six debates … and then backed out of four of them after she took him up on it.
Advertisements

Thursday, June 17, 2010 10:17 pm

Well, it could have been worse

So if all the bad loans currently on banks’ books get dumped onto Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which — let us face it — is probably what is going to happen, the taxpayers are going to have to eat a total of about $1 trillion.

That sucks. Indeed, that sucks roast confit of donkey hindquarters.

It is, however, better than “unlimited,” which, thanks to Congress, is what we’d been looking at up to this point.

Monday, May 10, 2010 10:38 pm

More good news

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 10:38 pm
Tags:

Fannie Mae had $3 billion in revenue in the first quarter — and lost $13.1 billion.

Yes, you read that right.

And remember: You’re on the hook for every dime of that.

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, February 3, 2010 11:57 pm

Odds and ends for 2/3

Penn State “Climategate” scientist cleared of falsifying data: Three of four charges are dropped, including one claiming he destroyed e-mail; the investigating committee decides it isn’t competent to assess the fourth and punts to a different committee.

Eated: The FDIC closed six banks Friday, bringing the total for the month to 15. Six was the total for the month of January a year ago.

A cautionary note about the strong 4th quarter of GDP: Never, in 50+ years’ worth of data, has a quarter’s GDP growth of 5.7% coincided with a drop in private hours worked (-0.5%). Not sure what that means, but given that we know that productivity growth right now is being driven by layoffs, not capital investment or technological advances, and that 90% of that GDP growth was attributable to stimulus spending only, something’s fishy here.

Lessons from the AIG meltdown from one bureaucrat who sat at the table: I suspect that his conclusions are good because of, not in spite of, the fact that he worked for a state and not the feds.

Contributing factors vs. “but for” factors: Barry Ritholtz divides contributing factors from “but for” factors in deciding how much blame to apportion where for the economic crisis. What’s a “but for” factor? But for X, the crisis wouldn’t have happened. His three major but-for factors? “Ultra-low [interest] rates; unregulated, non-bank subprime lenders; ratings agencies slapping AAA on junk paper.” What about Fannie and Freddie? Contributors, yes, but not but-fors because they arrived so late to the subprime game.

MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan carves the president a well-deserved new one. Perhaps he hasn’t heard what happened to Ashley Bancroft when she did the same to his predecessor. Who’s she, you ask? Indeed.

If the Democrats had the brains God gave a billy goat, this wouldn’t be happening, but Republican pollster Frank Luntz has laid out a strategy for Republicans to use in fighting financial reform, and I’m pretty sure that because of previous Democratic inaction, Luntz’s strategy will work.

David Rosenberg (via Zero Hedge) says this is all far from over: “We ran some simulations to see what would have happened in 2009 without all the massive amounts of fiscal and monetary stimulus. Instead of real GDP contracting 2.4% for all of 2009, it would have been close to a 4.0% decline. And, as for the last two ‘positive quarters’ — well, Q3 would have been -1.0% QoQ [quarter over quarter] at an annual rate and -1.5% for Q4 (as opposed to the +5.7% annualized print). Still no sign of organic private sector growth and here we have the Fed discussing exit strategies and the Obama team about to soak it to the rich (for anyone who makes over $250k). This is what is otherwise known as a ‘low quality’ recovery.” On the bright side, at least he puts paid to all this “The stimulus didn’t help!” nonsense.

James Fallows explains how circumstances now prevent the traditional conception of bipartisanship from functioning in American politics (at least in Congress). I understand all this — quite well, in fact. Indeed, millions and millions of ordinary Americans understand all this probably as well as Fallows does. The question is: Why is it that so many of the people whose job it is to understand this — David Broder, Chris Matthews, Maura Liaason, and I could go on and on and on — do not understand this? Relatedly, because they do not understand this, why do they still have jobs? Digby gets it: “Can anyone argue that the village just sees all electoral losses as a result of the losing party failing to be “centrist” and “bipartisan” enough?  It doesn’t matter what  the real factors are that drove the electorate.”

Way-cool animated model of the solar system: Go here for hours of family fun!

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.

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.

Sunday, January 3, 2010 9:44 pm

Odds and ends for 1/3

Cliff May really wishes his penis were bigger.

Why it’s important to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court in New York City, by Cynthia Kouril: “Treat him like what he is, a common criminal. Not a great boogeyman, not an arch criminal, not a martyr, just a guy who could not make a success in life living within the social contract and resorted to life on the wrong side of the law. Or in other terms, a failure.”

“People who suck … at analyzing events in real time really, really shouldn’t try to do it a year in advance”: John Derbyshire, Katherine Jean Lopez, Mark Hemingway and especially Jonah Goldberg, call your office. It’s called “reporting,” guys. Learn it. Love it. Live it. Hell, just try it once.

We’re the land of Joyce, but we don’t like to talk about that much.: In the Republic of Ireland it is now punishable by a 25,000-Euro fine (about $40KUSD) to commit blasphemy, defined as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion.” This is just a power grab by some “religious” earthly authorities. Memo to, just for starters, the Roman Catholic Church: Given all your pedophile priests and abusive nuns in Ireland alone, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. Memo to Muslims: I know you want to try to pull this same crap at the global level, but don’t hold your breath.

“Danger, Will Robinson!”: The aforementioned Cynthia Kouril also goes through the string of AIG e-mails recently released and finds that some of those e-mailers are facing, shall we say, significant legal exposure. Interesting how one blogger attorney is laying more prosecutorial groundwork than the SEC.

A moment in time, not a long-term shift: Micah Sifry examines how and why Obama has let down his base. Digby thinks he’ll pay a political price. I think she’s right … and that Congressional Dems will, too, first.

And about those Congressional Dems: They need to listen carefully to what White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual says and then do the exact opposite.

The good news: New unemployment claims came in at 432,000 for the week ending 12/26, down 22,000 from the week before and lower than expected.

The bad, and more significant, news: The number of people receiving emergency unemployment compensation — money for people whose regular unemployment benefits have been exhausted — hit an all-time record of 4.2 million in November. For the week ended Dec. 12, the number of new EUC claims came in just under 192,000, bringing the overall total to 4.5 million. With numbers like those, consumers won’t be driving any recovery for a long, long time to come.

Follow the money: The Labor Department claims that X number of Americans are unemployed and receiving unemployment or EUC payments. However, cash-flow reports from the Treasury Department suggest that the amount of money going out for such payments would mean that either check amounts have gone up — which hasn’t happened — or the number of people receiving such payments is actually 32% higher than Labor says. That means that if the “official unemployment rate” is roughly 10%, the actual unemployment rate may be more like 13%.

Privacy is so 1984: In case you didn’t know already, police can obtain info from your cell-phone carrier on where you are (or, to be precise, where your phone is) whether or not you have the GPS function enabled, and they don’t need a warrant to do it. The only way you can hide your phone’s location effectively is to remove the battery.

The Bush White House expected congressional Republicans to obstruct justice: So says Alberto Gonzalez in this Esquire interview (how did I miss this earlier?): “We should have abandoned the idea of removing the U. S. attorneys once the Democrats took the Senate. Because at that point we could really not count on Republicans to cut off investigations or help us at all with investigations. We didn’t see that at the Department of Justice. Nor did the White House see that. Karl [Rove] didn’t see it. If we could do something over again, that would be it.”

Fannie and Freddie really are to blame, Marla Singer says, but not in the giving-mortgages-to-poor-black-people-who-shouldn’t-have-gotten-them way that some conservative pundits are arguing. No, it’s worse than that.

What do you call one investment banker out the door? A good first step: A senior AIG officer quits rather than accept a federally imposed salary limit of $500,000 a year. Door. Ass. Of course, for some unfathomable reason the federal “pay czar” let her keep the $2.8 million in severance she claimed she was entitled to, but, hey, at least we’ve called one bankster’s bluff. Sort of.

Speaking of bankers, if you have a money-market fund, you might want to put that money someplace safer because the government may be ending instant redeemability.

Thursday, December 31, 2009 2:13 am

Odds and ends for 12/31

Enough already: GMAC wants another $3-4 billion from the taxpayers. Just. Say. No.

Our arrogant national culture is letting our soldiers/marines die unnecessarily: “Indeed, off-the-shelf solutions [to military problems in Iraq and Afghanistan] were there for the asking within Coalition partner states, but no one asked.”

Some good news for a change:Q: Obama says America will go bankrupt if Congress doesn’t pass the health care bill. A: Well, it’s going to go bankrupt if they do pass the health care bill, too, but at least he’s thinking about it.” So we’ve got that going for us.

A question: If the guy accused of being the pants-on-fire would-be terrorist on Flight 253 is “cooperating” with investigators, as investigators say, then why are people calling for him to be tortured?

News flash: U.S. corporate governance sucks, at least at publicly held companies.

Another news flash: Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., send the president a letter asking him not to release six Guantanamo detainees to Yemen. Just one problem: too late. A big deal? Of course not. But imagine how this would have been played if three Democratic senators had done this with George W. Bush still in the White House.

The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein, unlike McCain, Graham and Lieberman, is NOT too late. Not that it helps: Indeed, he warned us a year ago that Obama’s choice of Mary Schapiro to run the SEC would suck. And it has come to pass as it was foretold.

Well, at least we’re going to have a national election contested on a clear issue: Newt Gingrich has been calling on Republican Congressional candidates in 2010 to pledge to repeal health-care reform (should it finally pass) if elected. Now the White House is double-dog-daring them to do it, too.

How to keep your recently deregulated, greedy, rapacious, out-of-control industry from being intelligently re-regulated: First, get the majority party to assign a bunch of politically vulnerable rookies, who will therefore be desperate for lots and lots of re-election campaign cash, to the committee that oversees you.

Worst financial footnote of the year: By the time this post sees the Interwebz, results should be posted.

Dennis Kucinich may see flying saucers, but he also sees some incredibly bad policy (if not actual crime) and is calling it out.

From the banksters’ own fingers: Some internal AIG e-mails are finally being made public. We need many, many more, and we need many, many people to go through them looking for evidence of crime.

Sigh. More Calvinball*. Better journalists, please.

Newt’s getting predictable.

Memo to Andrew Sullivan: There’s a difference between accountability and kabuki, and John Cole, being smarter than you, explains the difference. Pay attention; this will be on the exam.

*Term explained here.

Monday, December 28, 2009 9:09 pm

Odds and ends for 12/27

Hmm, what else can we screw up in a way that screws poor people worst? Hey, I know! The estate tax!

John Fox can have another year if he wants: So say the Panthers, although they’re not talking any kind of contract extension with him now (he has a year left). I have mixed feelings about this, upon which I’ll elaborate in a separate post.

Utterly un-self-aware: Jonah Goldberg presumes to pass judgment on someone else’s competence.

Utterly un-self-aware, cont.: Before Republicans criticize Democrats on national-security issues, they need to take a few history lessons, starting with the 9/11 commission report.

Related memo to Joe Lieberman, on the off-chance that he can read: How ’bout before we start a third war, let’s take a minute and figure out how this would-be airplane bomber got a visa? (Newsweek offers the strong beginning of an explanation.) Because the purview of the Senate Homeland Security Committee you chair does not extend to foreign policy or strategic (let alone tactical) military planning. You ass.

At least one legitimate criticism can be leveled at the Department of Homeland Security, and John Cole levels it.

One thing liberals applaud Obama on: Tightening restrictions not only on lobbying, but also on when and how ex-industry officials can go to work for the government, so that agencies aren’t “captured” by the companies they’re supposed to regulate. Watch that change get undone the second a Republican retakes the White House.

Which is fine, except that I haven’t heard them come up with an alternative solution to the problem: Blue Dogs Bayh, Landrieu and Conrad say cap ‘n’ trade is DOA. Relatedly, chemicals from power plants in their states are killing trees in the mountains of mine.

Your tax dollars at work: Despite the recent removal of caps on taxpayer assistance to Fannie and Freddie, which already totals $111 billion, they’re resuming foreclosures next week. You’re welcome, guys.

Not just no, but, hell, no: Not content to throw women’s rights under the health-care bus, the evangelistas are now trying to get the failed policy of abstinence-only sex education incorporated into health-care reform. Guys, we tried your flavor of Teh Stoopid once already and got a big jump in unwed pregnancy to show for it. Go. Away.

Tremors: The last time Iran got this shaky, the Shah was ousted. That may or may not mean the current regime will fall. But it almost certainly means blood in the streets, much of it likely innocent. Great.

Antiterrorism 101, which means most current and former government officials probably haven’t read it: Spencer Ackerman: “It’s never sufficient just to observe that a terrorist group has a presence in Country X. We have to ask ourselves: what are the conditions that allowed for said terrorist group to take root? If we don’t, we simply can’t devise an effective strategy against the terrorist group; and we come close to guaranteeing that we’ll flail and make the situation worse.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009 10:24 pm

Take my money — please!

That’s basically what President Obama has decided to say to the banking industry, although, strictly speaking, the money in question isn’t his. It’s yours and mine.

Item the first: the CEOs of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are going to be getting between $4 million and $6 million apiece, with tens of millions going to a few other senior executives at both places. This is happening even though both agencies, ostensibly independent, are now, as the result of a combined $111 billion in federal bailout, essentially owned by taxpayers.

In other words, these guys are getting these millions despite being, for all intents and purposes, federal employees. The highest-paid federal employee, the president, makes $400,000, and the incumbent president arguably had a much better year in 2009 than did the CEOs of Fannie and Freddie … even accounting for the fact that he decided it was OK to give millions to the heads of Fannie and Freddie.

The government, to justify this ridiculous scheme, has trotted out the old notion that they need to pay these guys this much to keep them from leaving. To which I respond: Unemployment is over 10 percent, the banking industry has been hard hit, and you’re telling me you couldn’t find people to run these agencies even at the base salary level of $900,000? [insert Belushi Bluto fake sneeze here, which I would do myself if I had the time to scroll through the movie looking for that bit of audio]

Item the second: Up until Thursday, Fannie and Freddie had been operating under caps of $200 billion in federal assistance each. But the administration has removed the caps for at least the next three years.

That’s right. Between now and the end of 2012, Fannie and Freddie can lose as much money as they like, and you, the taxpayer, will be on the hook for every dime of it.

Why would the government do that?

Well, as you know, 1) private banks still have a lot of “nonperforming” home mortgages on their books, and 2) sooner or later, those mortgages are going to have to be entered at their real market value, i.e., zero. If the mortgage is still on the bank’s books when that happens, the bank’s stockholders and bondholders take the hit. But if the bank has somehow managed to sell that mortgage to Fannie or Freddie at some price greater than zero, then the bank’s owners don’t take the hit. You do.

Why would the government do this now? Two reasons.

First, because after Dec. 31, congressional permission would have been required to raise the funding caps. And even this Congress wouldn’t approve eliminating funding caps for Fannie and Freddie. In fact, it’s questionable whether even this Congress would have approved one more dime for Fannie and Freddie.

Second, because, conveniently, Fannie and Freddie currently have no Inspector General, the guy/gal who’s supposed to keep an eye out for — and, we taxpayers hope, prevent — waste, fraud and abuse.

Well, why don’t they have an inspector general?

Glad you asked. They had an acting inspector general, Ed Kelly. But he got pushed out of that job earlier this year under the terms of a law that was pushed through the Congress by then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill. That’d be the same Rahm Emanuel who left the House to become Barack Obama’s chief of staff. Which he still is.

But why did Kelly get pushed out?

I don’t have the first idea. But both liberal blogger Jane Hamsher and conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist believe it’s because Kelly was getting too close to some things that happened while Emanuel, before getting elected to Congress, did while sitting on Freddie’s board in 2000-01. Specifically, they believe Emanuel conspired with other board members to misstate Freddie’s earnings to make sure they got paid their bonuses for hitting Freddie’s earnings target. That’s a crime, and if a grand jury isn’t empaneled to investigate it sometime before the 10th anniversary of the related illegal acts — those anniversaries fall in 2010 and 2011 — Emanuel and the others will never be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations.

On its face, what the Obama administration is doing is bad policy. It also looks, to this nonlawyer, a lot like obstruction of justice, fraud and conspiracy, among other crimes.

But it also is incredibly bad politics for the Democrats, for a couple of reasons.

First, people are already mad at the banksters and mad at Obama and his allies (and rightly so) for enabling the banksters. This is only going to make that sentiment worse.

Second, although it’s a fact that Fannie and Freddie have far less to do with the current economic mess than does deregulation, Republicans have been doing their best to blame the mess on F&F. What the Democrats are doing now just plays right into the Republicans’ hands. Not only that, it distracts attention from the facts that 1) Democrats are trying to undo the problems caused by deregulation and 2)  the Republicans have unanimously opposed that effort.

Other than protecting his friends, I don’t know what Obama is trying to do here. But if the Democrats want to hang on to the White House and Congress in 2012, they need to do something about this right now. And if the Republicans aren’t able to make political hay of this without muddying the issue with lying, then they need serious PR help.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: