Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, June 3, 2010 8:50 pm

How things work

Today at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York, Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake gave a speech called, “Can the Internet Fix Politics?” My answer is no. Her answer is, not surprisingly, more nuanced.

It’s a good speech, but I have to say my favorite part, and one of the most truthful parts, was her throwaway opening line:

I appreciate the opportunity to speak on today’s topic: “Can the internet fix politics?” Which raises the obvious question – who broke it?

I guess this is the appropriate moment to mention what an honor it is to follow Newt Gingrich.

Newt was the guy who popularized the campaign imperative of using language to distinguish yourself from your opponent in ways that are almost inevitably dishonest: using terms such as “sick,” and “out of the mainstream” to characterize your opponent, irrespective of his actual identity and platform.

That’s a small part of the whole speech, which focuses on how corporations leverage political tribalism to get what they want. It’s well worth reading.

(Full disclosure: I’ve gotten an invitation to every PDF since the original, probably because of my previous work with online communities. I’ve never attended.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 10:54 pm

“Oh, WAR-riors! Come out and PLAY-aaaay!”

Filed under: Reality: It works — Lex @ 10:54 pm
Tags: , , ,

Jane Hamsher first dope-slaps and then calls out the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after her polling shows Dems in trouble in swing districts and the DCCC denies it but refuses to release its own polling numbers.

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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 11:07 pm

Odds and ends for 12/23

Psych! That $45 million in bonuses that AIG executives promised earlier this year to return? Ain’t happening.

Climate-change treaty murder mystery solved: It was China in Copenhagen with an attitude, but at least one witness survived. China’s playing a dangerous game: The average elevation of Shanghai (pop. 20 million) is only 13 feet above sea level.

House to Senate: Oh, no, you di’nt!: Three House Democratic leaders, including the Rules Committee chairwoman, who gets to decide what does and does not constitute an acceptable conference bill, are saying they won’t sign off on anything without a public option. Wellnow. This is about to get interesting.

Republicans are still riding the crazy train: Now they’re complaining that the health-care bill’s death panels can’t be abolished even if the rest of the bill is repealed. There’s a flaw in that logic, but I can’t quite put my finger on it….

Republicans are still riding the crazy train, cont.: Not content to lie, Sarah Palin is now lying about her lie.

Out of the frying pan …: Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama’s 5th Congressional District switched parties from Democrat to Republican this week. I speculated on Facebook and elsewhere that he’d get primaried by a more-conservative-than-thou candidate next year, not realizing that there already are three other Republicans in that race. That oughta be entertaining. For those of you keeping score at home, the primary is 6/1/10 and a runoff, if needed, will be 7/13/10.

This is not a trick question: What could bring liberal Firedoglake blogger Jane Hamsher and drown-government-in-a-bathtub conservative Grover Norquist together? The idea that Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, during his service on the Freddie Mac board in 2000-01, may have violated his fiduciary obligations, then used his subsequent election to Congress and current role to prevent any investigation. They want Emanuel to quit, they want a criminal investigation before the 10-year statute of limitation kicks, and they want to prevent the showering of almost $1 trillion on Freddie, which currently lacks an inspector general and other appropriate oversight. Presented with that information, so do I. Here’s a petition you can sign.

A multi-voice oral history of Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of Dow Jones, produced by GQ, comes off as more circular firing squad. Nobody, but nobody, ends up looking good, and only former managing editor Marcus Brauchli comes close.

Sunday, February 22, 2009 5:51 pm

Quote of the day …

Filed under: Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 5:51 pm
Tags: , ,

… by Jane Hamsher of firedoglake:

“I like to watch CNBC because it’s like someone took Spengler’s Decline of the West and made it into a cartoon.”

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