Monday, March 30, 2009

Out: More Automotive Bailouts, GM CEO Wagner

GM CEO Rick Wagoner Stepping Down

Channel 7 - WXYZ, March 30, 2009:

Last Update 4:26 am

President Obama is tightening the screws on both GM and Chrysler. The President’s task force believes the companies are not viable and the reports they submitted last month fall short of proving the carmakers can survive.

The news comes as the task force pushed out GM CEO Rick Wagoner, saying they needed a clean slate to help rebuild the company. Chief Financial Officer Fritz Henderson will now take over as interim CEO.

Senior Administration Officials tell Action News that GM will have 60 days to reach a compromise with the UAW and bondholders. Chrysler will get thirty days. During those short windows the government will provide financial aid to both companies. If either fails to reach agreements with their stakeholders the government is likely to send them into bankruptcy.

On the Chrysler-Fiat potential merger, we’re told it’s still in the works, but far from complete. The task force will not let Fiat take a majority stake in Chrysler unless the company pays back the money they owe the government.

Finally, in yet another surprise move, our sources tell us the government will back-up auto warranties to encourage the public to buy from GM and Chrysler in spite of their uncertain futures.

Channel 7 Action News Video Player:

White House Releases Auto Restructuring Plan

Channel 7 - WXYZ, March 30, 2009:

Last Update: 4:21 am

These documents are broken down into 4 parts.

First, the viability study for GM, then Chrysler.

Next, it's an overall look at both companies and finally, the Obama Administration's new warranty committment program.


The Loan and Security Agreement of December 31, 2008 between the General Motors Corporation and the United States Department of the Treasury (“LSA”) laid out conditions that needed to be met by March 31, including the approval of Labor Modifications, VEBA Modifications, and the commencement of a Bond Exchange (all as defined in the LSA).

As of the date of this memo, the above steps have not been completed, nor are they expected to be completed by March 31.

As a result, General Motors has not satisfied the terms of its loan agreement. Additionally, after substantial effort and review, the President’s Designee¹ has concluded that the GM plan, in its current form, is not viable and will need to berestructured substantially while GM operates under an amendment to the existing LSA. It is strongly believed, however, that such a substantial restructuring will lead to a viable GM.

This determination of viability was based on a thorough review, as conducted by the Task Force and its outside advisors and as summarized below, of the Company’s submitted plan and prospects. While there were many individual considerations, no single factor was critical to the assessment. Rather, the ultimate determination of viability was based upon a total consideration of all relevant factors, taken as a whole.

General Motors is in the early stages of an operational turnaround in which the Company has made material progress in a number of areas, including purchasing, product design, manufacturing, brand rationalization and its dealer network.

Despite these steps, a great deal more progress needs to be made, and GM’s plan contemplates initiatives that will take many years to complete. In the end, GM’s plan is based on a number of assumptions that will be very challenging to meet without a more dramatic restructuring in which many of its planned changes are accelerated. A few highlights:

- - - - -


The Loan and Security Agreement of December 31, 2008 between Chrysler, LLC and the United States Department of the Treasury (“LSA”) laid out various conditions that needed to be met by March 31, including the approval of LaborModifications, VEBA Modifications, and the commencement of a Debt Exchange (all as defined in the LSA).

As of the date of this memo, the above steps have not been completed, nor are they expected to be completed by March 31.

As a result, Chrysler has not satisfied the terms of its loan agreement. Additionally, after substantial effort and review, the President’s Designee¹ has concluded that the Chrysler plan is not likely to lead to viability on a standalone basis, and that Chrysler must seek a partner in order to achieve the scale and other important attributes it needs to be successful in the global automotive industry while Chrysler operates under an amendment to the existing LSA.

This determination of viability was based on a thorough review, as conducted by the Task Force and its outside advisors and as summarized below, of the Company’s submitted plan and prospects. While there were many individual considerations, no single factor was critical to the assessment. Rather, the ultimate determination of viability was based upon a total consideration of all relevant factors, taken as a whole.

The Plan that was submitted by Chrysler on February 17, 2009 reflects some progress that has been made under current management but ultimately is insufficient due to several structural issues that Chrysler, as a standalone entity, is highly unlikely to overcome. In particular, Chrysler’s limited scale in an increasingly capital-intensive global business, the inferior quality of its existing product portfolio and its heavy truck mix leave the Company poorly positioned. Chrysler’s plan to address these issues is based on overly optimistic assumptions that are inconsistent with its current products and its resources. A few key challenges:

Feds declare GM, Chrysler not viable, refuse more aid

McClatchy Newspapers, March 29, 2009:

President Barack Obama on Monday will reject requests for almost $22 billion in new taxpayer bailout money for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler, saying the car makers have failed to take steps to ensure their viability.

The government sought the departure of GM chief Rick Wagoner and said the company needed to be widely restructured if it had any hope of survival. It said it would provide the company with 60 days operating capital to give it time to undertake reforms.

The government will grant Chrysler 30 days operating funds, but said it must merge with another carmaker in order to remain viable. Talks with Italian carmaker Fiat are underway.

The administration also announced a warranty guarantee plan that administration officials hope will give consumers enough confidence that they will continue to buy the companies' vehicles.

GM and Chrysler have already received $17.4 billion in government rescue money. The two companies faced a Tuesday deadline for the government to approve plans they'd submitted weeks ago in hopes of persuading the Obama administration that they could remain in business anad deserved additional money.

But the decision from Obama was no.

The administration, however, did not demand repayment of the earlier loans. It also did not completely slam the door on the additional $21.6 billion the carmakers sought, but sent the two back to the drawing board.

A senior administration official, briefing reporters late Sunday night on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, said Obama will call for more sacrifice from carmakers, their investors and automotive unions.

McClatchy PDFs:

Government Fact Sheet on Auto Industry

Chrysler Viability Assessment

GM Viability Assessment

Government's Car Warrantee Program

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Friday, March 27, 2009

It's A Fudge It

Countdown video: Republicans fudge the budget

March 26: The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza talks about the Republican budget which doesn’t contain an actual number in it nor indictations of spending parameters or any costs.


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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Drop The Act

FBI Director Pushes to Renew PATRIOT Act Surveillance Powers

Robert Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that key provisions set to expire this year are 'exceptionally helpful.'

Liliana Segura, AlterNet:

Earlier this month, the ACLU released a report taking stock of the USA PATRIOT Act, almost eight years after its passage. The study, titled "Reclaiming Patriotism," identifies key sections of the law that codified the most radical abuses of power under the Bush administration, interweaving stories of people who were unlawfully spied on, coerced, and intimidated through the PATRIOT Act's sweeping powers.

"More than seven years after its implementation, there is little evidence to demonstrate that the Patriot Act has made America more secure from terrorists," the report's authors write. "But there are many unfortunate examples that the government abused these authorities in ways that both violated the rights of innocent people and squandered precious security resources."

The ACLU report highlights three specific provisions of the PATRIOT Act that have led to unprecedented surveillance against Americans:

Section 215 -- which drastically broadens the kinds of information the government can demand under FISA to "any tangible thing" (while lowering the burden of proof to obtain an order). As the Washington Post explains, this measure "allows investigators probing terrorism to seek a suspect's records from third parties such as financial services and travel and telephone companies without notifying the suspect. The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the provision, saying it violates the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens."

Section 206 -- which grants the authority to use secret "roving wiretaps." "In the past, authorities had to seek court approval for each electronic device carried by a suspect, from a cellphone and a BlackBerry to a home computer," writes the Post, "But under the provision, one warrant can cover all of those machines." "Unlike roving wiretaps authorized for criminal investigations," the ACLU explains, "section 206 does not require the order to identify either the communications device to be tapped nor the individual against whom the surveillance is directed, which is what gives section 206 the Kafkaesque moniker, the "John Doe roving wiretap provision."

Section 6001 -- or the "lone wolf" provision, which allows for secret FISA surveillance orders against people who have no connections to a terror group or foreign nation. "The government justified this provision by imagining a hypothetical "lone wolf," an international terrorist operating independently of any terrorist organization," explains the ACLU, "but there is little evidence to suggest this imaginary construct had any basis in reality."

All three provisions are set to expire on December 31st.

Yesterday, however, during an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller made it clear that he considers these PATRIOT Act provisions valuable tools in intelligence gathering and will pressure Congress to keep them past their expiration date.

Questioned by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) about the "three major provisions that will sunset in 2009" and which have proven to be "somewhat controversial" in the past, Mueller said, "My hope, quite obviously, is that they will be less controversial as they come up this time, because we have seen their use and have some track record with it." . . .

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Toxic assets from China

First it was the lead in paint on toys. Lead based paint has been illegal in the United States for years because it can cause lead poisoning which can lead to among other things blindness and mental retardation in children, but that didn't stop a lot of Chinese factories from using lead based paint in toys. Lead paints are noted for their bright, new-looking colors. Apparently it was all about appearance, trying to get people to buy a product rather than the risks consumers might be subjected to.

Then it was the melamine which first showed up in pet food, resulting in the deaths of thousands of animals in the U.S. Later, melamine was found in some hard candy sold in the U.S. but it was in China itself that the most tragic stories were told concerning melamine. Apparently baby formula made with melamine looks nice and healthy, with a vigorous luster. But that luster concealed the death that lurked inside. The melamine damaged or destroyed the kidneys of thousands of children who drank the formula and several of them died. Worse, the Chinese government concealed the scandal and kept it out of the news for months while more children drank the tainted formula and died. Finally, they were forced to do something, and a handful of low level food executives were found guilty and sentenced to death. But if you believe that the handful put on public trial and convicted were responsible for the whole thing then you probably don't think that Donald Rumsfeld had anything to do with Abu Graib either.

Now, we are hearing about strontium sulfide in drywall that originates in China. It's not about the appearance, to be sure, since you usually don't see your drywall unless someone knocks a hole in the wall, but the drywall can be hazardous in at least two ways. The first is that it can give off gases when heated that corrode copper wiring. That in turn could cause a short and start a fire. The other is that the gases have been blamed for headaches and other ailments.

My issue is this: In the United States we have a lot of regulations for what can and can't be used in various products and almost all of those regulations have their foundation in hard science that is designed to ensure the safety of products that we use in our homes every day. In American factories those regulations are strictly enforced and their violation can lead to fines, jail time or the shutdown of entire companies (like the peanut company that was responsible for the recent salmonella outbreak and has since been forced to shut down.) Those regulations may be a bureaucratic mess for some businesses but they are written with a very clear directive-- that the basic safety of the consumer is the first and foremost concern.

In China, the same regulations either do not exist or they are not enforced. Sure, there was apparently a law somewhere that they used to convict the melamine scapegoats but they had been doing it for years with no consequence so if the law was there then someone had to make a conscious decision to either ignore it or choose not to look very closely to see if regulations were being followed. I might add that I don't know if it played a role in this case, but communism has not stamped out the centuries old tradition of bribery, especially in rural China.

Supposedly the stuff we import from other countries meets U.S. standards, but considering that even today we can't even inspect three percent of the cargo that comes into U.S. ports for things like nukes or biological weapons, I think it's safe to say that the percentage that get a chemical analysis for purposes of verifying product safety is something like zero (in fact it probably is zero.) Wait until people start showing up with symptoms, then they will investigate and order a recall.

There are still some countries whose labels I might be inclined to trust. But with this latest episode, I'd say that's strike three on China. I will try and avoid all Chinese made goods until I'm sure they've made the reforms necessary to ensure that their products are as safe as those made in the U.S., and then prove they can maintain those standards for a good long time.

Chinese made goods may cost less than American made ones, but my health and my families' health is too important to gamble on a few pennies saved at the store.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

George Kell, RIP

Bless You Boys:

George Kell: 1922-2009

We have terribly sad news in Tiger Town today, as Hall of Famer George Kell passed away at the age of 86. According to reports, he died in his sleep early this morning at his home in Swifton, Arkansas.

Kell was a 10-time All-Star, six of those honors coming during his years with the Detroit Tigers (1946-1952). He also played with the Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Baltimore Orioles in a 15-year major league career.

Perhaps his most sterling achievement as a ballplayer was beating out Ted Williams for the American League batting title in 1949, edging him out by mere percentage points. Kell was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983 by the veterans committee.

Kell was a third baseman almost exclusively throughout his career. And he pretty much remains the gold standard for that position in Tigers history. Just the other day, The Daily Fungo posted an item about the team's all-time third basemen, and the list is basically Kell and everyone else. (No offense to Aurelio Rodriguez.) The Spot Starters had him ranked #24 on its list of Top 100 Tigers.

I imagine most everyone reading this, however, remembers Kell more as a broadcaster for the Tigers from 1959 to 1996. And from 1975 to 1996, he was the team's television play-by-play man with Al Kaline. With all due respect to Ernie Harwell, for those who grew up watching the Tigers on TV, Kell was the voice of baseball, the voice of summer.

As a kid developing into a baseball fan, I remember being fascinated when my father told me that Kell once played for the Tigers. The whole idea seemed so amazing to me. I think it was my first realization that there was a history to the game, so much bigger and richer than what I was watching on TV.

The Bluhm Memorial Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame: George Kell

Born in a little town in Arkansas called Swifton, George Kell came to Detroit in 1946 by way of a trade by Philadelphia Athletics’ owner Connie Mack, a trade that changed the face of Tiger baseball for almost a half-century. Arguably the greatest third baseman in team history, Kell combined determination and a clean-cut lifestyle to make him an outstanding defensive player as well as a terrific hitter for seven years with the Tigers. When his playing career was over, he worked just as hard at his craft as a radio announcer, a second career with the organization that began in 1959 for Kell. Serving as Van Patrick’s partner during a handful of contests that season, Kell went on to work with Ernie Harwell from 1960 until 1963. He returned to the booth in 1965 as a TV commentator and held that role until 1996, becoming just as well known for his broadcasting as he ever did for his on-the-field exploits. Kell was well known for his slight southern drawl; his "Hello everybody – I’m George Kell" became a familiar sound to millions of Tigers fans for many years. But his first gift was at third base. He batted over .300 in every full season with Detroit. In 1949, he batted a league-best .343, beating out Ted Williams on the last day of the season for the American League batting title. He led the AL in hits twice and was the league leader in doubles in 1950 and 1951. Never a great power hitter, Kell nonetheless drove in 101 runs in 1950 and scored at least 90 three times in Detroit. A four-time All-Star as a Tiger, he also completed one of the greatest defensive plays in Tiger history during the 1948 season. During the play, Kell had his jaw broken by a Joe DiMaggio line drive. Instinctively, he picked up the ball, crawled to third, and got the force out before fainting. It was just this type of determination that made Kell great and earned him a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.

Talkin' Motor City Baseball Hello Everybody, I'm George Kell


Monday, March 23, 2009

Phone Karma

The Greatest Prank Call Ever

Just when you thought it was safe to get a job at a call center, this prank phone call proves that Karma exists, and American's can fight back when it comes to unsolicited calls.


Friday, March 20, 2009

She Can't Live on $53,000... A Week!

Wife divorcing ex-CEO: $43 million not enough

36-year-old Swedish countess says she needs more than $53,000 a week

A 36-year-old Swedish countess divorcing a former CEO says she cannot live on $43 million.

Marie Douglas-David, a former investment banker, says she has no income and needs her 67-year-old husband, George David, to pay her more than $53,000 a week — more than most U.S. households make in a year — to cover her expenses.

David stepped down last year as chief executive at Hartford-based United Technologies Corp. but is still chairman of the board and has an estimated net worth of $329 million. He and his wife accuse each other of extramarital affairs. Their divorce trial started Wednesday. [...]

Douglas-David has filed court papers showing she has more than $53,800 in weekly expenses, including for maintaining a Park Avenue apartment and three residences in Sweden. Her weekly expenses also include $700 for limousine service, $4,500 for clothes, $1,000 for hair and skin treatments, $1,500 for restaurants and entertainment, and $8,000 for travel.

At that rate, Douglas-David would burn through $43 million in less than 16 years. The Census Bureau estimates that the median U.S. household income in 2007 was just over $50,000. [...]

In court papers, Douglas-David said she quit her job as an investment banker for Lazard Asset Management to travel and entertain with David, who still earns $1 million a year from United Technologies. While chief executive in 2007, David made nearly $27 million in salary and bonuses. [...]

United Technologies is the parent company of Carrier, which makes air conditioning units, and Otis Elevators. It also owns Sikorsky, which makes commercial and military helicopters, and Hamilton Sunstrand, an aerospace manufacturer that makes components for NASA's space program.
Let me repeat this:
Douglas-David has filed court papers showing she has more than $53,800 in weekly expenses, including for maintaining a Park Avenue apartment and three residences in Sweden. Her weekly expenses also include $700 for limousine service, $4,500 for clothes, $1,000 for hair and skin treatments, $1,500 for restaurants and entertainment, and $8,000 for travel.

Are you kidding me?

So many of the regular working-class folks in this country are having to cut back, or are having a really hard time these days and here she is complaining that she doesn't have enough?


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Legislation to Return Excessive Bonuses Passed In House

Bonus Recoupment

As a result of extraordinary abuses of the public trust by companies rewarding employees with excessive compensation while receiving billions in taxpayer assistance, today the House passed legislation (HR 1586) to hold companies, including American International Group (AIG), accountable for the bonuses that were paid to their executives. After receiving more than $170 billion in taxpayer funds, AIG paid $165 million in retention payments to executives – most of whom have mismanaged their company into near bankruptcy. The top recipient received more than $6.4 million and more than 73 of these executives were paid over $1 million in retention bonuses. After receiving their retention bonuses, at least eleven recipients left the company.
Edward Liddy is the GOP Hypocrite of the Week for killing bonuses at Allstate but not at AIG
Boy, when it comes to the Wall Street Bailout/AIG scandal, just point a finger and find a hypocrite. What about all the Republican senators who were opposed to restricting bonuses and now are outraged -- we tell you -- just outraged! [...]

But the hypocrisy for Liddy, as we pointed out in a BuzzFlash Editor's Blog on March 19 is that he knew he could hold the AIG execs who helped destroy our financial system accountable -- and deny their bonuses -- without legal repercussions because he did it at Allstate, according to the Chicago Tribune.
...The agents sued. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued -- twice. Liddy fought those lawsuits, and Allstate has won at every stage.

And none of the Allstate agents helped crater an economy by selling snake oil default swops and derivatives beyond what AIG could cover so that it would increase their bonuses.

Moral Decay Swirls Around Banking Bailout: Time for a Criminal Investigation
Those who stole billions in 401(k)s of innocent victims were rewarded handsomely, rarely needing to break the laws their lobbyists purchased. [...]

Instead of taking bonuses, the culprits should be taking perp walks.

I'm not just referring to the swindlers in the Financial Products Subsidiary of AIG who devised and sold those insurance policies on derivatives that brought the world economy to its knees. They do seem deserving of a special place in hell, and presumably the same divine power that according to Scripture labeled usury a high moral crime and threw the money-changers out of the temple will consider that outcome.

However, the enablers are the AIG leaders who, as New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo revealed Tuesday, signed those bonus contracts a year ago to reward the very people "principally responsible for the firm's meltdown." That's a cool $44 million divided among the top 10 shysters, even though the depth of their chicanery was well known to top management.

As Cuomo noted in a letter to Rep. Barney Frank: "The contracts shockingly contain a provision that required most individuals' bonuses to be 100% of their 2007 bonuses. Thus, in the spring of last year, AIG chose to lock in bonuses for 2008 at 2007 levels despite obvious signs that 2008 performance would be disastrous in comparison to the year before."

The lame argument that those bonus-baby employees needed to be retained in order to sort out the mess they had created was also shot down by Cuomo, who revealed after his office's initial investigation had pierced AIG's veil of secrecy that "[e]leven of the individuals who received 'retention' bonuses of $1 million or more are no longer working at AIG, including one who received $4.6 million."

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIG Blarney Day

McCain flips on AIG bailout one more time: We never should have rescued them.

Last fall, as AIG teetered on the edge of collapse, then-Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) came out against using government resources to rescue the firm. Less than 24 hours later, McCain decided that a bailout was necessary [...] after learning of the AIG’s plans to award $165 million in bonuses to its employees — McCain apparently decided that saving “literally millions of people” from financial ruin wasn’t worth it...

Grassley clarifies his call for AIG execs to commit suicide: I want ‘contrition,’ ‘remorse,’ ‘full responsibility.’
Angered over the AIG’s decision to dole out bonuses to its top employees, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) yesterday caused a stir when he suggested the company’s executives should follow “the Japanese example” and resign or kill themselves. Grassley appeared this morning on Bloomberg TV, where he was given a chance to clarify his views.

Conservatives Suggest Torture Tactics For AIG Execs: ‘Exemplary Hanging,’ Guillotine Party, ‘Boiling In Oil’

Politicians and pundits from both sides of the aisle have expressed outrage at the recent news that bailed-out insurance giant AIG will be paying $165 million in bonuses to the same executives who “brought the company to the brink of collapse.”

Perino Defends AIG Bonuses: They Are ‘Middle Class People’ Who ‘Are Expecting To Get This Bonus’
Reports over the weekend that bailed-out insurance giant AIG will be paying $165 million in bonuses to executives “in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year” have sparked bipartisan outrage. [...] However, it seems that Dana Perino, former President Bush’s press secretary, didn’t receive the memo. On C-Span’s Washington Journal on Sunday, Perino defended the bonuses:
PERINO: And the people who are working there that are middle-class people, are expecting to get this bonus. If they do not get it, maybe they won’t be motivated enough to try to help the company turn around and getting the company to turn around and be more profitable is important for all of us.
Perino then chastised the “rhetoric in Washington” that “can try to make things so black and white, and make things sound so easy — demonize people when I don’t think that that’s fair.”

It appears that Perino either doesn’t know who is set to receive the bonuses or is unaware what it means to be “middle class” (i.e. those American households that generally make between $40,000 and $70,000 per year). In fact, while as of Sunday, it was unclear what the salary range is for the executives who are set to get the bonuses, as The New York Times reported at the time, some of them will receive more than $3 million in bonuses alone.

ANALYSIS: Current Bush Tax System Saves AIG Traders More Than $7.5 Million
According to our analysis, thanks to the Bush tax system, these traders are taking home $7.5 million more then they would have in the 1990s.

CNBC's Rick Santelli says the 165 Million dollar AIG bonuses are 'no big thang'
He's baaaack. Rick Santelli, the right wing hero and the man who too cowardly to represent CNBC on The Daily Show is now calling the payouts of bonuses to AIG executives nothing more than a bathroom product compared to other monies being spent.

Barney Frank on Maddow: We Own AIG so there should be no bonuses
Barney Frank is one of the only Democrats that can speak succinctly about the economy and knows how to mix it up with the obstructionism that rules the GOP and FOX News.

Barney Frank: It’s ‘Nonsensical’ To Retain AIG Employees To Undo The Mess They Created
That’s nonsensical. It’s clear they made a lot of mistakes and we need to undo what they did. If they really understood what they did in the first place, seriously, they probably wouldn’t have done much of it. Secondly, when you are trying to undo something, it is often not the case that the people who did it are the ones to put in place. People are sometimes committed to not admitting mistakes. … So that argument I think is in fact almost counter, because the argument that you take the people who made the mistake and put them in charge of undoing the mistake goes against the human impulse not to admit a mistake.

Rep. Frank: Systemic Risk Regulator Will Be Able To Say To Any Entity, ‘No You Can’t Do That’
Today, the House Financial Services committee held a hearing to examine the regulation of systemic risk in the financial services industry. Committee chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) has been outspoken in his desire to see a systemic risk regulator — most likely the Federal Reserve — that would oversee all activity, across the spectrum of financial institutions, and flag behavior that is threatening to the entire system (like that undertaken by, oh, AIG).

Frank sat down with ThinkProgress today to explain his vision for the regulator and why the role should be filled by the Federal Reserve...

McConnell misleadingly suggests he favored Wall Street salary caps.
This afternoon on CNN, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pretended as though he had favored capping the salaries of bankers whose firms accepted TARP funds, claiming that his position has been that bailed-out companies “are going to have to operate in a different sort of way.”

The day in AIG diaries
Sometimes the most interesting stuff is right under your nose, and that is certainly the case today with diaries on AIG. Here's a selection of some of the diaries on the subject from Tuesday as of around 5:30PM Pacific time, ordered by recency. (Please note: this is only a subset, there were many great diaries tagged AIG, and this post only mentions a few of them.)

An Irish Toast To Ye All

Here's to me, and here's to you,
And here's to love and laughter-
I'll be true as long as you,
And not one moment after.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wacky Weekend

Summers: ‘It Would Be A Manifest Abdication Of Responsibility’ If Obama Didn’t Walk And Chew Gum

Earmarks only became prominent when GOP took House in 1995, so Republicans are the party of earmarks

Earmarks and the People's Business

Meghan McCain proves there are new young faces for the GOP, but the new ideas aren't there

Make Your Republican Race to the Bottom Picks Starting Today

Republican Districts Lead the Way in Foreclosures - and Bailout Need

Mark Sanford puts SC unemployed at risk, turning down $700 million in federal stimulus bill

McConnell Bumbles When Asked For GOP Alternative To Obama’s Budget: We’re ‘Getting Down In The Weeds’

McHenry's game is classic Republican Destruction Politics: bring down support for Democrats

Jindal Budget: Let's Un-employ MORE Folks!

After string of gaffes, Steele ‘has called a halt to his television appearances.’

There's Mythmaking, Then There's Propaganda

Karl Rove Falsely Claims He Never Threatened Anybody Who Disagreed With Him

Cheney on Limbaugh: ‘I love him.’

Cheney’s Excuse For Economic Failures Under His Watch: ‘Stuff Happens’

What about all the attacks under Cheney's watch?

Five Alarmer: Seymour Hersh Says Assassination Squad Reported Directly to Dick Cheney

Bush policy institute ‘unlikely’ to ‘emphasize’ the Iraq war.

Dear Republicans: Your toe tags are ready

There is such a plethora of alleged criminality in the G.W. Bush Administration that the mind boggles.

Truth or Reconciliation? Bush's Family of Secrets

They are really coming. Official investigations of the George W. Bush Administration are on the way.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Conservative Class Warfare

Conservatives Are Blind, Deaf and Dumb to Class Warfare

Are right-wingers really claiming that the U.S. has never been riven by class resentment? Get out your history books.

Jim Hightower, Creators Syndicate:

David Brooks was upset. You can tell when this conservative and rather-professorial columnist for the New York Times gets upset, because his words almost sag with disappointment -- you can practically hear the tsk-tsks and the heavy sighs in each paragraph. When most commentators on the right see things that offend them, they get snarling mad; Brooks gets sad.

What saddened Brother Brooks this time was Barack Obama's budget. In a recent column, he noted that the $3.6 trillion total is "gargantuan" (we columnists are paid to make keen observations like that), but what really upset him was that the tax burden to finance universal health care, energy independence and other big initiatives in Obama's budget "is predicated on a class divide." [...]

Leaving aside the fact that such things as health-care coverage for every American and a booming green energy economy will benefit the rich as well as the rest of us, Brooks' column was echoing a prevalent theme in all of the right's attacks on Obama's economic proposals: Class War! Indeed, the Times' columnist even suggested (sadly) that Obama's budget was fundamentally un-American: "The U.S. has never been a society riven by class resentment," he sniffed.

Whoa, professor, get a grip! Better yet, get a good history book (Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" would be an eye-opening place to start). While our schools, media and politicians rarely mention it, America's history is replete with class rebellions against various moneyed elites who act as though they're the top dogs and ordinary folks are just a bunch of fire hydrants. [...]

If Brooks & Co. are so isolated as to imagine that our citizenry harbors no class resentment, they should go to any Chat & Chew Cafe across the land and listen to the locals express their innermost feelings about today's greedheaded Wall Streeters who wrecked our economy for their own enrichment. There is a fury in the countryside toward these plutocratic purse-snatchers who are being allowed to keep their exalted executive positions, draw fat paychecks and get trillions of dollars in bailout money from common taxpayers. People don't merely resent them, they yearn for the legalization of tar-and-feathering!

Yet, Brooks and his political brethren are now bemoaning the plight of the plutocrats, assailing the "redistributionists" who talk of spreading America's wealth. In his column, Brooks cried out for a conservative vision of "a nation in which we're all in it together -- in which burdens are shared broadly, rather than simply inflicted on a small minority."

Do we look like we have suckerwrappers around our heads? Where were these tender-hearted champions of sharing throughout the last 30 years, when that same "small minority" was absolutely giddy with redistributionist fervor -- redistributing upward, that is?

With the full support of their political hirelings from both parties, this minority created tax dodges, trade scams, corporate subsidies, deregulation fantasies, financial hustles, de-unionization schemes, bankruptcy loopholes and other mechanisms that turned government into a redistributionist bulldozer, shoving wealth from the workaday majority into their own pockets.

Brooks might have missed this 30-year class war, but most folks have been right in the thick of it and are not the least bit squeamish about supporting a national effort to right those wrongs. After all, even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over -- and being kicked.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Freudian slips expose GOP vultures

Last week, Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky had to apologize after predicting the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

So then Rush Limbaugh predicted that the health care bill now making its way through the Senate will be called, "the Ted Kennedy memorial health care bill."

Excuse me, but both Justice Ginsburg and Senator Kennedy are very much alive, thank you. It is true that they are both battling very dangerous forms of cancer, but with advances in medicine it is no longer true that a diagnosis of a brain tumor or pancreatic cancer means a certain and quick death sentence.

At the very least, you'd hope these folks on the right would cool their heels a bit. It's probably asking too much to expect them to have the decorum to not be talking about someone's death while they are still alive, but the ease with which they talk about it makes me wonder how much they've been ruminating on the subject and whether they are hoping for Justice Ginsburg and Senator Kennedy to die soon.

It certainly reminds me of how a couple of years ago when South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson suffered from a ruptured blood vessel in his brain, within hours right wing news outlets were flooded with pundits reminding us that South Dakota has a Republican governor who would have picked his replacement. Which would have been true, in fact, except for one little detail-- Senator Johnson recovered from his stroke and was just re-elected to the Senate last year. He now has a clean bill of health.

It's bad enough when the GOP calls out the attack dogs, but please at least keep the vultures at home in a cage.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Corrupt Deals And The Financial Meltdown

An article well worth reading:

$5 Billion in Lobbying for 12 Corrupt Deals Caused the Multi-Trillion Dollar Financial Meltdown

Robert Weissman, Multinational Monitor:

What can $5 billion buy in Washington?

Quite a lot.

Over the 1998-2008 period, the financial sector spent more than $5 billion on U.S. federal campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures.

This extraordinary investment paid off fabulously. Congress and executive agencies rolled back long-standing regulatory restraints, refused to impose new regulations on rapidly evolving and mushrooming areas of finance, and shunned calls to enforce rules still in place.

"Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America," a report released by Essential Information and the Consumer Education Foundation (and which I co-authored), details a dozen crucial deregulatory moves over the last decade -- each a direct response to heavy lobbying from Wall Street and the broader financial sector, as the report details. (The report is available at: Combined, these deregulatory moves helped pave the way for the current financial meltdown.

Here are 12 deregulatory steps to financial meltdown:

  1. The repeal of Glass-Steagall ...

  2. Off-the-books accounting for banks ...

  3. CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] blocked from regulating derivatives ...

  4. Formal financial derivative deregulation: the Commodities Futures Modernization Act ...

  5. SEC removes capital limits on investment banks and the voluntary regulation regime ...

  6. Basel II weakening of capital reserve requirements for banks ...

  7. No predatory lending enforcement ...

  8. Federal preemption of state enforcement against predatory lending ...

  9. Blocking the courthouse doors: Assignee Liability Escape ...

  10. Fannie and Freddie enter subprime ...

  11. Merger mania ...

  12. Credit rating agency failure ...

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Friday, March 06, 2009

The Going Gets Tougher, The Weird Gets Weirder

Bad, Bad, Bad Jobs Report: Unemployment at 8.1 Percent

Econopocalypse: Unemployment Climbs Even Further

1/3 Of America Is Crazy: They Think Their Jobs Are Safe

Solis: "Destructive Cycle of Job Loss"

Biden to AFL-CIO: Employee Free Choice Act Key to Rebuilding Middle Class

Fox News characterized not-so-secret Biden appearance at AFL-CIO meeting as "secret"

Emerging Research on Health Care as a Human Right: They Get It

Limbaugh the Ultimate 'Straw Man'

Limbaugh runs with homeless-cell phone smear

Democrats blast Limbaugh for comment on Kennedy

It's like deja vu all over again

Are Republicans Suddenly Concerned About Deficits or Do They Just Want to Embarrass Obama?

The Dittohead Party: Why the GOP Is Screwing Itself

Michele Bachmann: A Wordsmith She Ain't

Joe Scarborough Health Care Plan: Socialism and Murder

Scarborough baselessly claimed "we're spending ... $2 trillion this year ... just to pay interest on the national debt"

Michael Steele Rejects Calls for His Resignation: 'Not Me Baby!'

Steele takes down his blog.

50 Signs That Conservatives Are Screwed

Dept. Of Pots And Kettles

Republicans Living a Fairy Tale, Ayn Rand Style

The repugs lie about Obama raising taxes

$250,000 Lie - The Truth Behind The Tax Increase

When is a Tax Cut for 98% of Us Considered a Tax Increase?

Newsweek: Obama? Yes! GOP? Thanks, But No Thanks!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Right becoming unhinged, comparing Barack Obama to Stalin

I can't say I'm surprised.

President Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthy back to what they were under Bill Clinton (during which the 'job-producing class' did in fact use the money they had left after paying their taxes to produce 20 million jobs). He wants to make sure that affordable private (read that again, private) health insurance is available to all Americans, and he wants to begin moving us towards green energy that will do less to poison the planet.

And what is the reaction on the part of conservatives?

Well, they've begun comparing Obama with some of history's most brutal communist despots. No, I'm not making this up. They are calling up their favorite bogeyman, namely a murderous communist dictator from more than half a century ago.

Last weekend at CPAC, the annual conservative conference, Rush Limbaugh (whether he is the leader of the GOP or not is irrelevant-- nobody else is) said,

“So here we have two systems. We have socialism, collectivism, Stalin, whatever you want to call it, versus capitalism.”

Not to be outdone, former Arkansas Governor and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said of Obama's agenda,

"Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead, but a Union of American Socialist Republics is being born".


Let's stop and remember what the U.S.S.R. under Stalin was. It was a nightmarishly perverse dictatorship where tens of millions of people were murdered out of political expediency. Millions more were arbitrarily rounded up and sent to slave labor camps, where they remained often for the rest of their lives. There was no such thing as private property at all-- quibbling about marginal tax rates didn't happen in the U.S.S.R because there was only one tax rate-- 100%, and it applied to everybody. Only one man-- Josef Stalin-- had a vote, and what he said was the absolute law.

The most memorable innovation by Stalin and his syncophants was the "midnight trial." If someone was suspected of a crime-- or worse, of dissent-- they might be taken from their homes in the middle of the night, accused of some crime they had no knowlege of, stand trial in a kangaroo court and be found guilty and sentenced to death with the sentence carried out immediately, often within an hour from start to finish. By the time the sun rose the next morning they would be buried miles away in an unmarked grave and their apartment would be occupied by someone who to all appearances had been living there for a long time (though if anyone came by looking for the now non-existent previous occupant that someone might be added to a list for some future midnight trial.)

This is what the right is accusing Barack Obama of being. Because he wants to commit the 'unpardonable crime' of letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire on schedule in 2011.

For the countless millions who perished under the monstrosity of Soviet communism, to compare their experiences to those privileged people who are upset because their marginal tax rate is going back up to what it was a few years ago is an outrage. Such a comparison cheapens and diminishes the horror of what happened during one of the darkest periods in human history and is an insult and an injustice to their memory.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

GOP: Friends Of Fail

They are failing as good and respectable Americans, and they are failing the best interests of our country. Must there be a complete and utter failure of the GOP before they finally realize that this is one country and we're all in it together, and that we all need to work together for the common good? If they ever do finally wake up, I think it will belong under the miracle category. In the meantime, it is really sad to watch this party's continued crazy march to the bone yard.

Rick Santelli's rant was a preplanned right-wing scam to torpedo Obama's economic agenda

Rick Santelli is a traitor to this country and he should be fired immediately along with all those that participated in this fraud. The rest should be exposed and made to answer for this charade.

Eric Cantor Tries To Distance Himself From Rush: ‘I Don’t Think Anyone Wants Anything To Fail’

Limbaugh reiterated his hope that Obama fails ... But Limbaugh is not alone. In fact, as ThinkProgress has documented, the list of right-wing conservatives who hope Obama fails is growing. Just this week, the following conservatives joined Limbaugh:

Rick Santorum: “Absolutely we hope his policies fail.”

Tom DeLay: Asked whether he wants Obama to fail, DeLay responded, “Well, exactly right. I don’t want this for our nation.”

Michelle Malkin: “Yes, I hope that fails.”

On Friday, Limbaugh conceded, “The dirty little secret…is that every Republican in this country wants Obama to fail, but none of them have the guts to say so; I am willing to say it.” According to Limbaugh, Eric Cantor must be one of those Republicans without the guts to say what he really feels.

Limbaugh at CPAC: It’s Not Over Until the Fat Man Rants.

Rushbo cemented his GOP "party leadership" role as the unapologetic spokesman for the "Mad as Hell" crowd of the top 1% of wealthy Americans who see Rushbo as a Gift for God because of his ability to lure low income white Americans into thinking that they are victims of big government, minorities, and Feminism. And while Limbaugh has played the Pied Piper to the hilt, the ultra wealthy continue to pickpocket and ruin the economic opportunities for Rush's "lowbrow audience" that gets its feeling of victim hood daily stoked by the hedonist (and with which sex remains open to question), Oxycontin illegal drug use, and $40 million dollar man. [...]

In reality, conservative no longer means what it did before the right wing boiled up into a juggernaut after the defeat of Barry Goldwater. As Limbaugh tossed out "red meat" right wing jihad proclamations like confetti during Mardi Gras (eat your heart out Bobby Jindal), he touched the emotional core of modern "conservatism": greed and F*ck anyone who’s not wealthy.

Limbaugh misquotes Constitution while arguing Obama policies are ‘bastardization’ of Constitution.

During his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, Rush Limbaugh got some of his loudest applause when he declared that President Obama’s policies represent a “bastardization of the Constitution.”

Rush is to GOP as OxyContin is to Rush

...Rush Limbaugh is like a drug to the GOP: he makes them feel better about themselves.

But his advice for them is truly terrible. The last thing they need to do is stick with the same old ideas that have failed this country for the past 8 years, and the second-to-last thing they need to do is spend all their energy trying to destroy the Democratic Party.

The way to win is by helping the country win. Rush Limbaugh's strategy for victory is to have the country fail. That's stupid, and it will lose every time.

From Ditto to Dodo! ...Now with half the nausea!

At first I felt a twinge of fear, some doubt and confusion, but then listening to him... (I know that thought is nauseating, but hold your nose if you must) and listening to his audience's reactions... I began to experience relief, joy and then yes... LAUGHTER!

Limbaugh actually calls for NO compromise on conservative ideology. And you have to wonder: "How in the hell does he expect to win politically in 21st century multi-cultural America with that shit?"

And then it hit me!

...he doesn't know...

His audience never got the memo...!

The Ditto-heads have no clue...!

They actually think that they still represent most of Americans!!

CPAC's popularity contests tell us a lot about the Right

And for some perspective on how completely out of synch with the rest of the American public they are, remember this:

RNC Chair Michael Steele on Limbaugh: ‘Yes, it’s incendiary. Yes, it’s ugly.’

Last night, RNC Chairman Michael Steele appeared on D.L. Hughley’s show on CNN and disputed Hughley’s statement that Rush Limbaugh “is the de facto leader of the Republican Party.” “I’m the de facto leader of the Republican Party!” Steele insisted. Steele admitted that Limbaugh’s shtick is “incendiary” and “ugly”:

STEELE: So let’s put it into context here. Let’s put it into context here. Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it’s incendiary. Yes, it’s ugly.
Transcript: More

‘Fair and Balanced’ Fox News allows only Republicans to debate Obama’s budget.

...on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace welcomed Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to discuss President Obama’s budget plan — with not a single congressional Democrat or White House representative present to defend it.

Kyl’s Earmark Hypocrisy: Requested $118 Million For Earmarks In Budget, But Railed Against Them In Stimulus

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) requested $118 million in earmarks in fiscal year 2008. On Fox News Sunday yesterday, host Chris Wallace pressed Kyl about his earmarks, saying it is an example of how Republicans have “lost credibility on the issue of spending restraint.” “Who are you to lecture the Democrats on spending?” asked Wallace.

Vanden Huevel rips Rove: ‘It’s laughable for you to talk about fiscal responsibility.’

It’s laughable for you to talk about fiscal responsibility from someone who helped plunge this nation into trillion dollars of debt, through tax cuts for the very rich and a war we never should have fought. And also starving the beast. Starving government has been a Republican role in terms of government.

What Are These 'Better Solutions'?

Newt Gingrich told the CPAC audience the other day, "It's not our job to be the opposition party. It's our job to be the 'better solutions party.'" Sounds good to me. Let's hear some of those "better solutions."[...]

Half of the agenda -- six of the 12 -- are proposals for more tax cuts.

The Insanity and Depravity of the GOP

It is stunning to think with our country in a deep recession, the GOP is taking a political path to self-incineration grounded forever in tax cuts, mainly for the richest Americans. Yet, this is the path they continue to follow. However, they have become wackier and wackier now that we have seen the new leaders of the GOP, which include Joe The Plumber, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, and crazier-than-a-loon Eric Cantor. These folks are their rising stars? [...]

Yet astonishingly, after the November 4 election in which Republicans lost the presidency and seats in both houses of Congress, the Republican response to the gargantuan economic collapse that they created is to repeat over and over the bromide that tax cuts are the answer to the economic catastrophe.

After Bush left office, he bequeathed to Barack Obama a $1.2 trillion budget deficit, two wars, soaring unemployment, near-total collapse of our banking system, escalating bankruptcies and home foreclosures, and Wall Street Ponzi scheme swindlers who had free run of investors' money that they squandered on get-rich financial contrivances such as derivatives, junk bonds, hedge funds, and credit default swaps (even the name sounds dishonest). [...]

We're only a little over one month into Barack Obama's administration, yet the level of incendiary rhetoric and heightened call for violence by the Republicans is only in its incipient stages. It's not enough for the GOP to just say "no" to the stimulus bill. Their real and dangerously treasonous agenda is to advocate armed rebellion, disorder, and sabotage of our government. [...]

Now, the GOP is threatening to take their frenzy of physical force to a domestic level.

I like the Robin Hood Metaphor

Several Republican talking heads have compared Obama's budget to Robin Hood.

It's amazing that they would choose this comparison since it is so apt, but they haven't followed it to its logical conclusion. If Obama and the Democrats are Robin Hood, that would make Republicans the Sheriff of Nottingham, protecting the corrupt and the powerful from the weak and the downtrodden. Robin Hood was merely reclaiming what had been stolen from them.

And isn't it ironic that chest-beating Republicans heap praise and admiration, as we all should, on those in the armed forces who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, their lives, yet whine like little girls about giving up another three or four percent of their net income to save not only the U.S., but the world?

This Is the 'Vision' Republicans Want for Americans

If comments like these are called loving your country and patriotic -- We're totally doomed.

For my part, I'm praying Americans will shun this type of cheer leading and instead help the current administration to make their vision work.

No matter how you 'get there', every politician claims to want the same thing in the end. They all want a booming economy, a safe and secure nation, peace on earth, energy independence and a environmentally safe earth.

For those reasons alone, we should 'all' want our leadership to succeed.

Economy Heads Towards Depression

The NY Times is finally reporting what economic blogs have been saying for months: this "recession" will be deep and long. And at some undefined subjective point, a "deep recession" becomes a Depression.

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