Friday, November 28, 2008

The Clue Phone Is Still Off The Hook

Bush contemplates how he’d like to be remembered


President George W. Bush, nearing the end of his final term in office, says he most wants to be remembered as someone who came to Washington and didn’t lose his values.

Someone who didn’t sell his soul to the political process.

Somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace.

So he told his sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, in an interview for StoryCorps, the national oral history initiative. [...]

“I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process,” Bush said in the interview. “I came to Washington with a set of values, and I’m leaving with the same set of values. And I darn sure wasn’t going to sacrifice those values.”

“I’d like to be a president (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace; that focused on individuals rather than process; that rallied people to serve their neighbor,” the president added. [...]

Bush hands over power to President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009.

As he heads into the final weeks of his presidency, Bush’s job approval ratings remain low. Only about 26 percent approve of his performance, while some 70 percent disapprove.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect
on the changes, and to remember
that we, too, grow and change
from one season of life to another.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

GM vs Citi: A Fiscal Responsibility Point Made

Someone Finally Gets It

Rep. Elijah Cummings:

After months of headlines highlighting profligate spending by the very same companies coming to the federal government begging life support, it would appear that someone finally gets it. GM's decision to end its endorsement deal with Tiger Woods is demonstrative of the type of action that every company seeking federal assistance needs to take.

I can only hope that GM's sound judgment will be contagious to other companies seeking federal assistance -- particularly Citigroup, which within the span of one week announced that it will eliminate another 52,000 jobs, that it is 'committed' to spending $400 million to plaster its name on the new Mets stadium, and that it needs an additional $20 billion from the government to stay afloat. Similarly, I pray that AIG -- which still seems to think that the Troubled Asset Relief Program was designed to sneak executives off to the spa to relieve the stress of driving their company into the ground -- will take heed of GM's example. This type of spending is indefensible and unacceptable, and it must come to an end.

My constituents in Maryland did not turn over their hard-earned wages to fund a baseball stadium in New York, a soccer jersey in the UK, or a multi-million dollar bonus for an executive whose poor judgment helped put us here in the first place.

Until now, the institutions seeking and receiving TARP funds have adopted the attitude of business as usual, expecting the American taxpayer to subsidize their parties and favorite sports teams. It is very encouraging that GM has taken the lead in exercising fiscal responsibility. Perhaps the Citigroups and AIGs of the world will soon follow suit.


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Monday, November 24, 2008

Bailing Out Taxing Taxpayers

Citigroup Bailout: ‘A Lousy Deal For The Taxpayers’

Wonk Room, Think Progress:

Last night, federal regulators “approved a radical plan to stabilize Citigroup in an arrangement in which the government could soak up billions of dollars in losses at the struggling bank.” The rescue package “shields the bank from losses on toxic assets and injects $20 billion of capital, bolstering [Citi’s] stock after its 60 percent plunge last week.”

Citigroup is a huge financial institution, with $2 trillion in assets tied up in over 100 countries. It really is the epitome of “too big to fail.” However, the bailout of Citigroup is symbolic of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s continued flailing about with the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

As the Wonk Room noted last week, Paulson’s declaration that the banking system “has been stabilized” was followed by Citigroup’s dive into the tank. Now, after assuring everyone that he didn’t need to use any more TARP funds to secure troubled assets, Paulson has done just that to save Citigroup. As Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution asks, “Didn’t Paulson tell us just a few days ago that TARP wasn’t needed after all? Doesn’t this mean that Paulson should speak less frequently?”

The emerging consensus from economists is that Citigroup received a sweetheart deal, which is not in the taxpayer’s interest. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote that “A bailout was necessary — but this bailout is an outrage: a lousy deal for the taxpayers, no accountability for management, and just to make things perfect, quite possibly inadequate, so that Citi will be back for more.” […]

As James Kwak as The Baseline Scenario notes, Paulson’s message amounts to “We will protect some (unnamed) large banks from failing, but we won’t tell you how and we’ll decide at the last minute. As long as that’s the message, investors will continue to worry about all U.S. banks.”

Indeed, Paulson is not inspiring any level of confidence, moving haphazardly from one proposal to the next, and focusing solely on salvaging the financial sector while doing nothing for the people whose money is financing the salvage effort.

Executive pay at Citigroup draws scrutiny amid rescue


Citigroup Inc's top executives could forego some of their compensation as a condition of the bank's bailout, but that may not satisfy critics who want firm limits on the earnings of leaders at companies getting government help.

Citigroup, the latest financial institution lining up for federal help to shore up its finances, must submit an executive pay plan for government approval as part of its rescue. The plan should focus on rewarding long-term performance and contain "appropriate limitations," the bailout agreement says. […]

Earlier rules announced by the U.S. Treasury Department aiming to curb payouts at various banks participating in a federal cash infusion apply to a company's chief executive, chief financial officer and the next three most highly compensated executive officers.

The prospect of big payouts to executives at banks getting federal aid amid the economic crisis has infuriated some politicians and shareholders who say these managers -- among the highest paid in corporate America -- helped create the financial crisis through risky business practices. […]

The public wants "strict limits on executive pay," said Sarah Anderson, a pay expert at the Institute for Policy Studies, which has pressed for executive pay curbs.

"We've been told for so long that these guys are such geniuses that we have to pay them this kind of money or these companies will collapse," she said. "Now these companies are collapsing and they are still telling us these guys are geniuses who need to make this amount of money."

Citigroup's Spending Indefensible and Unacceptable

Rep. Elijah Cummings:

After reading yesterday morning that Citigroup--which has already received $25 billion in bailout money--is adamant in maintaining its $400 million naming rights to the new New York Mets stadium, I was shocked to learn that the company came to the federal government asking for an additional multi-billion dollar lifeline. Surely, if the company has the funds to paste its name to a recreational facility, it has the money to maintain its operations and keep the 52,000 jobs it announced last week it would be eliminating.

While I understand that Citi is under a contractual obligation with the Mets, I cannot understand why the organization seems to be refusing at the very least to explore options out of that contract. This type of spending is indefensible and unacceptable to Citigroup's new partner and largest investor: the American taxpayer. My constituents in Maryland did not turn over their hard-earned wages to fund a baseball stadium in New York.

One would think that the Mets would be open to finding a new sponsor, as well. Why would any team want its new stadium, the symbol of a new era of victories, to be named after and symbolized by a company claiming to be on the brink of collapse?

General Motors, Tiger Woods end endorsement deal


General Motors Corp and popular professional golfer Tiger Woods said on Monday that they would end their endorsement deal at the end of the year.

GM, which has warned it will soon run short of cash and is asking the U.S. government for financial support amid the economic slowdown, and Woods, who is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, called the arrangement "mutual and amicable." […]

GM has deals through 2010 as the title sponsor of two PGA Tour events: the Buick Invitational in La Jolla, California, and the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Michigan.
Buick has been involved with golf since 1950, when it became one of the PGA Tour's initial sponsors, and it is still the tour's official car through 2010. […]

GM also is in talks with the PGA of America about its sponsorship contract, Ternes said.

President-Elect Obama Unveils His Economic Team

Full prepared remarks and video at Crooks and Liars:

With the economy in tatters, President-Elect Obama held a news conference this afternoon to announce the nomination of four members of his core economic team.

Tim Geithner - Secretary of the Treasury

Larry Summers - Director of the National Economic Council

Christine Romer - Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors

Melody Barnes- Director of the Domestic Policy Council

"Again, this won't be easy. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes to this crisis, which has been many years in the making - and the economy is likely to get worse before it gets better. Full recovery won't happen immediately. And to make the investments we need, we'll have to scour our federal budget, line-by-line, and make meaningful cuts and sacrifices as well - something I'll be discussing further tomorrow."

In other economic news, Citigroup just received a much-needed transfusion from the government:

Wall Street showed clear relief Monday over the government's plan to bail out Citigroup Inc. — a move it hopes will help quiet some of the uncertainty hounding the financial sector and the overall economy. The major indexes jumped more than 2 percent, extending Friday's big rally.

In case there was any doubt about how serious this crisis is, President Obama plans on signing an economic stimulus package into law on the very first day he takes over.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

JFK's Death: It Changed Everything

On November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. No one then alive can forget where they were when they heard the news. The shock and sorrow of that event and the three subsequent days became embedded in the national consciousness.

Images of the funeral, the boy's salute, the widow's composure, these are tucked away but never forgotten.

Here you will find the story of those four days in November when a nation stopped to mourn.

JFK's Death Still Hurts Us, Still Haunts Us

Detroit Free Press - November 22, 1983:

It changed everything.

Twenty years ago on a Friday afternoon in Dallas, the bullet that killed President John F. Kennedy lodged itself in America's heart.

It is still there.

The angry scar tissue has never healed the hurt, nor closed the wound that brought an end to the era of the American Dream and the American Hero.

The moment is still alive in my mind. So vivid it's as if I'm once again standing over the Associated Press news wire machine with clattering keys and clanging emergency bells exploding in my ears. The newsroom swam before my eyes in a numbing moment of dizziness, fright and tears.

If you were of the age of reason then, you probably had your own moment of fear, doubt, hopelessness. Maybe even a frightened few seconds, as I had, when you feared, quite possibly, that the world was coming to an end.

The world didn't, but worlds of things did.

The end of innocence

Our national innocence ended.

We didn't know it, but the American Hero was dead and the American Dream was over with the bullet in Dallas.

How vulnerable we seemed at that moment. We sensed that nothing would ever be the same again, and we were right.

It changed our national attitude.

We were invincible, argumentative among ourselves, but united and comfortable in our role as the best nation in the world, the savior nation.

Our symbol was this Hollywood-handsome, intelligent, humorous, rich, sophisticated young president with a pretty wife, cute kids and a large loving family.

He had our confidence, admiration and a love few before him had enjoyed. We knew the country was in great hands.

Regardless of party affiliation, whether you were Catholic or not, whether you liked his show business friends or father's past, John Kennedy looked liked this country's best chance, maybe ever.

I remember this country thinking John Kennedy was a pretty sensational fellow. We liked his youth, his vigor. He'd faced some hard problems, he'd come down on the side of right and he certainly seemed to be leading us toward attainable goals.

I'm prejudiced. John Kennedy was the first president I actively supported and worked hard to see elected, first one I really cared about and felt close to, could identify with.

It was also as if a part of my family -- a favorite relative -- had been killed. Eisenhower was somebody else's grandfather. Nixon was someone's uncle I didn't like. Johnson was the sort of backroom politician you couldn't warm up to.

Kennedy's shooting changed a lot of us. It changed our media habits overnight. For four days, the nation watched television. Freeze-framed forever -- in black and white: Jackie's blood-spattered dress. Oswald shot in the hallway. The riderless horse in the funeral procession. John-John saluting. Television took over our lives after that.

But nagging my mind forever is one question: Would this American Hero have led us all to that American Dream of world peace and prosperity?

John Kennedy -- memories that won't go away, questions that go unanswered.

~ Bob Talbert
(1936 - 1999)


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Treasury secretary: A buffet (t) of choices

According to at least two polls out, the public is very interested in who will be named as the most important Obama cabinet appointment: Secretary of the Treasury.

There is no doubt that we are heading into trying economic times (that may be an understatement.) It seems that every day we get more news of economic disaster at home or abroad, and in the interconnected global markets it feels like we are in one neverending domino chain as markets crash all around the world and then feed into the next market crash. Over one million jobs have been lost in the United States just since January. Trillions of dollars in assets have been wiped off the books, while trillions more in debt have become delinquent or the debtors have gone bankrupt. Wages are flat or declining and both crime and bankruptcies are on the rise. Further, with trillions of dollars in Federal debt and no prospect of any real growth in the foreseeable future it looks like this situation will last for years.

Into this cauldron, there will come a new economic team (not completely new, of course-- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke serves a staggered term so he will have to be included in any decisions that are made now.) The most important appointment that President-Elect Obama will make is that of Secretary of the Treasury. Whoever he picks will be the administration's point man (or woman) on the economy, and they will be facing the biggest economic challenge that any incoming administration has faced in at least three quarters of a century. Armed for the challenge though, the next Treasury Secretary will have been made flush with as much as a trillion dollars of taxpayer money to bail out some, but not enough to bail out all, of those whose ships are sinking. His or her job will be to try and keep the economy from sinking, and probably making some very tough decisions about where to put down a huge, but limited supply of chips. Then beyond that it will be up to the Treasury Secretary to craft much of the administration's economic policy on issues like taxes, trade and regulation, with a goal of turning things around and setting up a firm foundation for future growth.

I'd like to look at some who are rumored to be leading candidates.

During the campaign we heard the name of Warren Buffett, who both candidates lavished praise on and who is known to be a close economic advisor to Obama and endorsed him during the campaign. Buffett is an American legend, parlaying a $12,000 per year job as a stockbroker into one of the world's greatest fortunes. He has displayed an uncanny understanding of how markets work and rarely made a bad investment. During the present economic meltdown, Buffett personally did his part in stabilizing the banks. During a run on the investment bank Goldman Sachs, Buffett publically announced that he was investing five billion dollars in the bank. This announcement stabilized the bank's share price and gave it some hard assets. There is no doubt that Obama will continue to seek Buffett's advice on economic issues. However I don't think that Obama will ask him to be Secretary of the Treasury, nor that Buffett wants the job. Buffett, who is 77, has largely given up day to day operation even of his own company (Berkshire Hathaway) in order to focus on his own extensive philanthropic pursuits and is far more likely to be used only as a resource or consultant than to be asked to manage the entire economy.

Another name that has been bandied about is Jamie Dimon, the CEO of Wall Street bank JP Morgan Chase. Dimon has run the bank well, and it has avoided many, though not all, of the pitfalls that have befallen other banks (in fact earlier this year it was JP Morgan Chase that stepped in and swallowed up the assets of the defunct Washington Mutual.) One of Dimon's biggest assets, and one reason Obama seems to like him, is that Dimon isn't shy about telling the truth instead of sugar coating bad news. That quality was on full display this week as Dimon said that rising unemployment was likely to add to the number of delinquencies his bank (and other banks) could face, prompting banking analyst Richard Bove to cut his price target on Dimon's bank from $45 per share to $37. I doubt if Obama will choose Dimon either though. Dimon's biggest liability may be where he works now. Many people blame Wall Street banks for getting us into this mess (though that is in fact a gross oversimplification, at best they were only a piece of a larger whole.) So choosing the CEO of a big Wall Street Bank might not go over well with the public, and just recently Barry L. Zubrow, the chief risk officer for JP Morgan Chase had to answer questions about whether the bank was using government bailout money to acquire smaller banks instead of to give loans to customers. That may be a mess that the Obama administration doesn't want to step in.

One person who has been frequently mentioned as a possible Treasury Secretary is Timothy Geithner. Geithner is the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. There is no doubt that Geithner has experience commensurate with the job, but on the other hand he has been a member of the Federal Reserve (and therefore was in on all the decisions they made) since 2003. This again suggests that while some people may be pushing for Geithner, Obama won't pick him. Like Dimon, Geithner can be blamed for helping create the current mess, and he doesn't even have the cover of a public record like Dimon has of sometimes bucking the trend to suggest that he would be willing to make the hard decisions that the next Treasury Secretary must be willing to make. Another knock on Geithner is that as a free marketeer and advocate of deregulation (at least he was when it had some advocates) he is unpopular with organized labor. There is no question that unions were a huge part of the Obama coalition and helped him hold together the working class voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania this year. That doesn't automatically disqualify Geithner but realistically Obama won't want to begin his tenure by ticking off some of his most critical supporters.

If Obama wants experience in the post, he may turn to either of two former Clinton treasury secretaries: Robert Rubin or Lawrence Summers. Both served as treasury secretary during a time of economic prosperity and both have the advantage that they will come in already knowing the abilities and limitations of the position so that they can hit the ground running. My guess is that if Obama follows this path he is tempermentally more inclined to go with Summers, more of a low-key 'get things done' kind of guy instead of the sometimes outspoken and bombastic Rubin. On the other hand, Summers made some sexist comments last year in his job as President of Harvard University. While he apologized for them it might be tough to swallow for some feminists if Summers were named to Treasury-- especially if someone other than Hillary Clinton becomes Secretary of State.

Another Clinton official who may get a look is Laura Tyson, who served as the chair of Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors. Her advantage would also be that she served and advised during prosperous times, and has been away from both government and Wall Street (teaching economics at the University of California at Berkeley) while everything has been going to pot. If Tyson is selected then she would also be the first ever female Treasury Secretary (we've had two female treasurers, Francine Neff and Mary Ellen Withrow, but that is a lower level position often confused with the Secretary of the Treasury.)

One problem with any former Clinton official is Obama's expressed desire to steer a different path. Undoubtedly he will have some former Clinton administration officials but he doesn't want to be overburdened with them.

If he instead opts for something out of the ordinary, there are a couple of possibilities out there that could shake things up a bit. One of these is Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google and also an economic advisor to Obama. Certainly in today's rapidly changing and increasingly technological economy, Schmidt would fit right in with Obama's perspective on painting the future in broad brush strokes rather than doing what others have expected, tested and possibly found wanting. No one questions Schmidt's business acumen, and with Obama's belief in technology as a path to a better future it's no wonder that Schmidt's name has come up in some discussions about Treasury Secretary. Last week Schmidt took his name out of the running for another proposed cabinet position, Chief Technology Officer but Secretary of the Treasury might be too big a prize for Schmidt to turn his nose up at. Another name that I've seen once or twice and which would also confound the experts is Mitt Romney, who ran for President as a Republican earlier this year. After losing to John McCain in a bitter primary, Romney endorsed and worked for McCain and proved he could be a team player, and he did run a successful business. Obama has pledged to include Republicans in his cabinet, but I'd be surprised if he did so in such a high profile position-- that would also be a break with the past (Bill Clinton appointed Republican William Cohen as Secretary of Defense and George W. Bush appointed Democrat Norman Mineta as Transportation Secretary.) Obama might also run the risk of setting up a Republican known to have higher ambitions to run against him in 2012; if Romney were named and then the economy turned around and boomed then Romney would rightly or wrongly claim a lot of the credit. One other name has been mentioned-- Paul Volcker. Volcker has served as a chairman of the Federal Reserve-- between 1979 and 1987 (having been appointed by Carter and reappointed by Reagan.) Volcker is so old, he'd be new. On the other hand, he's also so old, he's old. In fact Volcker is eighty-- three years older than Warren Buffett.

To be honest, I've not got a clue as to who the President-Elect will choose. There are some very strong candidates, but each of them also comes with some drawbacks-- so there is no obvious choice. But who Obama picks may well give us an insight into exactly what his strategy is for dealing with the economy.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Parting Gift: Borderline Illegal Bailout

Naomi Klein: The Borderline Illegal Deals Behind the $700 Billion Bailout

The bailout is a parting gift to the people that George Bush once referred to jokingly as "my base."
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now:

Amy Goodman: ...According to Naomi Klein's latest article in The Nation, "The more details emerge, the clearer it becomes that Washington's handling of the Wall Street bailout is not merely incompetent. It is borderline criminal." The article is called "In Praise of a Rocky Transition." ... "Criminal"? Explain.

Naomi Klein: Well, there's a few elements now that are being described as illegal that we're finding out. First of all, the equity deals that were negotiated with the largest banks and also some smaller banks, representing $250 billion worth of the bailout money, this is the deal to inject capital into the banks in exchange for equity. The idea was to address the so-called credit crunch to get banks lending again. The legislation that enabled this was quite explicit that it had to encourage lending. [. . .] It is going to bonuses. It is going to shareholders. And it is not going to lending. The banks have been quite explicit about this. Citibank has talked about using the money to buy other banks.

Then there's other aspects of this that are borderline illegal. We found out that in the midst of the crisis, the Bush Treasury Department pushed through a tax windfall for the banks, a piece of legislation that allows the banks to save a huge amount of money when they merge with each other. And the estimate is that this represents a loss of $140 billion worth of tax revenue for the US government. Many tax attorneys who were interviewed by the Washington Post said that they felt that the way in which the Treasury Department went about this by unilaterally changing the tax code was illegal, that this had to include Congress. Congress only found out about it after the fact.

There's another piece of this puzzle that is also borderline illegal, which is that in addition to the $700 billion that we are discussing, the $700 billion bailout, there's another $2 trillion that's been handed out by the Federal Reserve in emergency loans to financial institutions, to banks, that actually we don't really know who they're handing the money out to, because, apparently, it's a secret. [. . .] Once again, that represents an additional $2 trillion.

The other thing that the Fed won't disclose is what they have accepted as collateral in exchange for these loans. This is a really key point, because, of course, at the heart of the financial crisis is -- are these so- called distressed assets. The value of these assets is enormously controversial. They may be worth very little. So if the Fed has accepted distressed assets as collateral in exchange for these loans, there's a very good chance the taxpayers aren't going to be getting this money back. So Bloomberg News has launched a lawsuit in federal court to find out who has received the loans and what has been accepted as collateral, because they believe that this lack of transparency is illegal. So that's why we're calling this the "trillion-dollar crime scene" or the "multi-trillion-dollar crime scene." And they're really challenging lawmakers to call them out, the Treasury is. [. . .]

Goodman: Just underscoring what you wrote on the whole issue of the difference in the bailouts, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown extracting meaningful guarantees for taxpayers, voting rights on banks, seats on their boards, 12 percent in annual dividend payments to the government, a suspension of dividend payments to shareholders, restrictions on executive bonuses, a legal requirement banks lend money to homeowners and small businesses. Here in the United States, Washington Post reporting major US banks are on pace to spend more than half their bailout money on rewarding their shareholders. The thirty-three banks are set to receive some $163 billion in government bailouts; half of that sum will go to paying off shareholders over the next three years.

Klein: Yeah, this bailout is really not a bailout at all; it's a parting gift to the people that the Bush -- that George Bush once referred to jokingly as "my base." You know, in one of my columns recently, I likened it to what European colonial rulers used to do when they finally realized they had to hand over power; they would loot the treasury on the way out the door.

And the reason why there has been this dramatic change in policy just in recent days, where Henry Paulson has said, "OK, well, we're not going to do what we originally had said at all," which is use the bailout money to buy distressed assets, to buy bad debts, "Now we're going to go from these equity deals with the banks to bailing out credit card companies" -- the reason for that is that that first $250 billion was essentially money down the drain. They are admitting that it didn't do what it was supposed to do, which was increase lending. So, now they're making it up as they go along. It's take three, take four, take five. But we're supposed to somehow not notice that $250 billion, an astronomical sum, was just wasted, going to bonuses, going to shareholder payouts, going to CEO salaries. And now they're trying another method to get lending going. But it really was the parting gift.

And if we think about what this money means, and this is -- you know, this crisis isn't over, and the same people who justified this bailout, who clamored for this bailout, are the very people who are going to turn around and say to Barack Obama, "We can't afford for you to make good on your election promises. We can't afford universal healthcare. In fact, we can't afford what meager services Americans get in exchange for their tax dollars, like Social Security payments." We're already hearing this lowering of expectations now in the national discourse. So, the money -- this really is, you know, reverse Robin Hood gone mad. The money has been given to the people who needed it least, and it's going to be used to justify austerity measures imposed against those who need it most. It's going to be used to justify cuts to food stamps. It's going to be used to justify cuts to Social Security, to healthcare, let alone being used to justify why more ambitious plans for a national healthcare program, for green energy are not affordable. So people have to be ready for this. You know, the next shock is yet to come.

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Bailout: Who Got What?

$2 Trillion Handed out by Paulson and Bernanke, But Who Got It, Nobody Knows

We have no idea who got this money or the conditions or collateral put up in return for the loans.
Nicholas von Hoffman, The Nation:

With his latest policy switch to buying stock in banks and other companies, Henry Paulson has more zigs and zags to his credit than a fox trying to escape a pack of hounds.

The fox and the hounds, of course, have a clear idea of what they want to do and how they want to do it, which is more than you can say of Paulson. Sums of incalculable size are being spent or pledged by Paulson and his playmate, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and nobody outside their organizations, or maybe inside them either, knows who got what, how much they got, and under what conditions they got it.

In the past couple of months Bernanke has loaned out $2 trillion to unnamed companies under eleven different programs and all but three of them were slapped together in the past fifteen months of financial crisis.

To repeat, we do not know who got this money or what collateral was put up in return for the loans or what conditions were attached to them.

The sums involved are almost three times as large as Paulson's $700 billion muddled bailout efforts that Congress voted for last month. Bernanke does have the legal authority to pass out these trillions without Congressional authorization and without explanation, but secrecy breeds suspicion and loss of confidence.

These officials preface every speech by talking about "transparency," their favorite word, at the same time they are handing off $2 trillion and they won't say to whom, and leading Bloomberg News to file suit under the Freedom of Information Act.

Paulson has made off with $50 billion to give to AIG for the purpose of setting up a special entity by which the company's lousiest loans are to be kept off the books and the unknown debtors protected. When asked about this by the New York Times, Lynn E. Turner, who sits on the Treasury Department's Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession, complained that "We've had way too many things here that nobody knows anything about…. That's why no one has faith in the capital markets."

Paulson appears to have given away, invested, loaned or lost about $300 billion of the first $700 billion Congress gave him. But he has lost more than money: Nobody believes him or Bernanke anymore.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Survey says: Epoch GOP Fail

Fed survey says recession started last spring

Chris in Paris:

This pretty much confirms what people in the real world already knew. Warren Buffet had been saying this for a while and the right - knowing that this would destroy their hopes of clinging to power - dismissed such talk as nonsense. [...]

If this recession is over by next summer or even the end of 2009 we will be very fortunate and I will be the happiest person on the planet. Unfortunately, I just don't see it. (True to form, the architect of this mess still thinks he was right and everyone else is wrong about this crisis.) Even when we come out of this, without something bold (and I hope something is in the works) the economy may be looking at extended slow and minimal growth for a few more years.

It Never Gets Old


Watching the battle for the future of the Republican Party never gets old.

Some conservatives want a return to basics, arguing that President Bush abandoned conservative principles by expanding government and driving up spending. Others draw just the opposite conclusion, warning that Republicans have tried to appeal to too narrow a base and that the party must update the focus of conservatism, especially at a time when voters are thinking more about issues like jobs and health care than about abortion and gay rights.

Translation? Republicans can't decide whether they should return to pretending to be all about fiscal responsibility and small government, or to continue pretending they care about God, guns and gays every two years.

At this point, it seems that that ever-dwindling breed, the moderate Republicans, aren't getting much traction with their suggestion that if the Party didn't tie themselves to the flat-earth, furthest extremes of rightwing whack-a-doodlehood, they could get some of moderate and independent voters on their side. . .

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Keith O: Lame Duck Legacy

Bush legacy a cautionary tale

Nov. 14:

The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson talks about a conversation between President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in which Sarkozy urged Putin to be careful to avoid ending up like President Bush.


That's correct, Duhbya: world leaders don't want to end up like you...
A specially condensed comment (sir!)

Nov. 13:

Courtesy of, Keith Olbermann in a minute.


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Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama/Biden Transition Project

Video: Transition Update from Valerie Jarrett

Transition co-chair Valerie Jarrett provides a web-exclusive update on recent personnel decisions and the latest steps taken on ethics reform.

Obama-Biden Transition Project Co-Chair Valerie Jarrett took some time on November 13th 2008 to give the viewers of Change.Gov an update on how the transition is progressing and highlighting some of the major moves that have occurred thus far.


Obama-Biden Transition Team Announces
Broad List of Agency Review Team Leads

The Obama-Biden Transition Team today announced a broad list of Agency Review Team leads that will complete a thorough review of key departments, agencies and commissions of the United States government, as well as the White House, to provide the President-elect, Vice President-elect, and key advisors with information needed to make strategic policy, budgetary, and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration.

The list includes teams that will review the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Energy, Department of Education, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Commerce, and the Department of Agriculture.

The teams will begin their efforts today, and will ensure that senior appointees have the information necessary to complete the confirmation process, lead their departments, and begin implementing signature policy initiatives immediately after they are sworn in.

To view the entire list, click here.

Obama-Biden Transition Team Announces Agency Review
Team Leads for Depts of Treasury, State, Defense

The Obama-Biden Transition Team today announced the Agency Review Team leads for the Department of Treasury, Department of State, and Department of Defense. The Obama-Biden Transition Team also announced the Agency Review Team co-chairs, who will oversee the entire review process, as well as the Agency Review Working Group, which will manage and review the Teams' work and coordinate with other transition teams, including those handling personnel, policy and the budget.

The Agency Review Teams will complete a thorough review of key departments, agencies and commissions of the United States government, as well as the White House, to provide the President-elect, Vice President-elect, and key advisors with information needed to make strategic policy, budgetary, and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration. The Teams will begin their efforts by the end of the week, and will ensure that senior appointees have the information necessary to complete the confirmation process, lead their departments, and begin implementing signature policy initiatives immediately after they are sworn in.


Obama Names Valerie Jarrett Senior White House Advisor


President-elect Barack Obama has formally named his friend Valerie Jarrett to be a senior adviser in the White House. Her official title will be "senior advisor and assistant to the President for Inter-government relations and Public Liaison in the Obama White House," according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet.

Jarrett is a co-chair of Obama's transition team and was a top advisor to him during the presidential campaign.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Long Goodbye List

Goodbye and Good Riddance

Paul Waldman, The American Prospect:

Since last week, I have stopped short and shaken my head in amazement every time I have heard the words "President-elect Obama." But it is equally extraordinary to consider that in just a few weeks, George W. Bush will no longer be our president. Let me repeat that: In just a few weeks, George W. Bush will no longer be our president. So though our long national ordeal isn't quite over, it's never too early to say goodbye.

Goodbye, we can say at last, to the most powerful man in the world being such a ridiculous buffoon, incapable of stringing together two coherent sentences. Goodbye to cringing with dread every time our president steps onto the world stage, sure he'll say or do something to embarrass us all. Goodbye to being represented by a man who embodies everything our enemies want the people of the world to believe about America - that we are ignorant, cruel, and only care about foreign countries when we decide to stomp on them. Goodbye to his giggle, and his shoulder shake, and his nicknames. Goodbye to a president who talks to us like we're a nation of fourth-graders.

And goodbye, of course, to Dick Cheney. Goodbye to the man whose naked contempt for democracy contorted his face to a permanent sneer, who spent his days in his undisclosed location with his man-sized safe. And while we're at it, goodbye to Cheney's consigliore David Addington, as malevolent a force as has ever left his trail of slime across our federal institutions.

Goodbye, indeed, to the entire band of liars and crooks and thieves who have so sullied the federal government that belongs to us all. We can even say goodbye to those who have already gone, to Rummy and Scooter, to Fredo and Rove, tornados of misery left in their wake.

Goodbye to the rotating cast of butchers manning the White House's legal abattoir, where the Constitution has been sliced and bled and gutted since September 11. Goodbye to the "unitary executive" theory and its claims that the president can do whatever he wants - even snatch an American citizen off the street and lock him up for life without charge, without legal representation, and without trial. Goodbye to the promiscuous use of "signing statements" (1,100 at last count) to declare that the law is whatever the president says it is, and that he'll enforce only those laws he likes. Goodbye to an executive branch that treats lawfully issued subpoenas like suggestions that can be ignored. Goodbye to thinking of John Ashcroft as the liberal attorney general. Goodbye to the culture of incompetence, where rebuilding a country we destroyed could be turned over to a bunch of clueless 20-somethings with no qualifications save an internship at the Heritage Foundation and an opposition to abortion. Goodbye to the "Brownie, you're doin' a heckuva job" philosophy, where vital agencies are turned over to incompetent boobs to rot and decay. Goodbye to handing out the Medal of Freedom as an award for engineering one of the greatest screw-ups of our time. Goodbye to an administration that welcomed gluttonous war profiteering, that was only too happy to outsource every government function it could to well-connected contractors who would do a worse job for more money.

Goodbye to the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war. Goodbye to the lust for sending off other people's sons and daughters to fight and kill and die just to show your daddy you're a real man. Goodbye to playing dress-up in flight suits, goodbye to strutting and posing and desperate sexual insecurity as a driver of American foreign policy. Goodbye to the neocons, so sinister and deluded they beg us all to become fevered conspiracy theorists. Goodbye to Guantanamo and its kangaroo courts. Goodbye to the use of torture as official U.S. government policy, and goodbye to the immoral ghouls who think you can rename it "enhanced interrogation techniques" and render it any less monstrous.

Goodbye to the accusation that if you disagree with what the president wants to do, you don't "support the troops."

Goodbye to stocking government agencies with people who are opposed to the very missions those agencies are charged with carrying out. Goodbye to putting industry lobbyists in charge of the agencies that are supposed to regulate those very industries. Goodbye to madly giving away public lands to private interests. Goodbye to a Food and Drug Administration that acts like a wholly owned subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry, except when it acts like a wholly owned subsidiary of the fundamentalist puritans who believe that sex is dirty and birth control will turn girls into sluts. Goodbye to the "global gag rule," which prohibits any entity receiving American funds from even telling women where they can get an abortion if they need it.

Goodbye to vetoing health insurance for poor children but rushing back to Washington to sign a bill to keep alive a woman whose cerebral cortex had liquefied. Goodbye to the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

Goodbye to the philosophy that says that if we give tax cuts to the rich and keep the government from any oversight of the economy, prosperity will eventually trickle down. Goodbye to the thirst for privatizing Social Security and to the belief that the success of a social safety-net program is what makes it a threat and should mark it for destruction. Goodbye to the war on unions and to a National Labor Relations Board devoted to crushing them. Goodbye to the principle of loyalty above all else, that nominates Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court and puts Alberto Gonzales in charge of the Justice Department. And goodbye to that Justice Department, the one where U.S. attorneys keep their jobs only if they are willing to undertake bogus investigations of Democrats timed to hit the papers just before Election Day. Goodbye to a Justice Department where graduates of Pat Robertson's law school roam the halls by the dozens, where "justice" is a joke.

Goodbye to James Dobson and a host of radical clerics picking up the phone and hearing someone in the White House on the other end. Goodbye to the most consequential decisions being made on the basis of one man's "gut," a gut that proved so wrong so often. Goodbye to the contempt for evidence, to the scorn for intellect and book learnin', to the relentless war on science itself as a means of understanding the world.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye to it all. [...]

This presidency is finally over. We can say goodbye to an administration whose misdeeds have piled so high that the size of the mountain no longer shocks us. In our lifetimes, we will see administrations of varying degrees of competence and integrity, some we'll agree with and some we won't. But we will probably never see another quite like the one now finally reaching its end, so mind-boggling a parade of incompetence and malice, dishonesty, and immorality. So at last - at long, long last - we can say goodbye.

And good riddance.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Edmund Fitzgerald, Legend Of The Big Fitz

The fateful voyage of the Edmund Fitzgerald:

Fierce autumn storms on the Great Lakes have claimed their victims for centuries. Thousands of vessels have sunk and countless lives have been lost. Native Americans and the French voyageurs in turn mourned their dead. The first recorded tragedy was the sinking of the Le Griffin, belonging to the explorer LaSalle, with a load of furs in autumn of 1680.

Perhaps the most famous of the lakes' tragedies was immortalized by singer Gordon Lightfoot:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake it is said never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore 26,000 tons more
than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
that good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
when the gales of November came early

On Nov. 8, 1975, in the Oklahoma panhandle, the beginnings of a storm stirred the air. Picking up force, the storm moved through Iowa and Wisconsin. On Nov. 9, gale warnings were issued for Lake Superior.

By 2:15 p.m. on Nov. 9th, a giant lakes freighter had filled her cargo hold with 26,116 tons of taconite pellets in Superior, Wis., and was on her way south to Detroit, as an uneventful shipping season ran down. That vessel was the Edmund Fitzgerald. [...]

There were 29 men aboard on that November day, captained by Ernest McSorley, 63, of Toledo. [...]

The Fitzgerald came within 20 miles of the vessel Arthur Anderson, under the helm of Captain Jessie B. Cooper, near Two Harbors, Minnesota. The Anderson was also loaded with taconite pellets. The captains commiserated by radio over the storm's increasing intensity, and at 2:am Monday, the morning of the 10th, they decided to change course and take the northern route along Superior's north shore. This would put them in the lee of the Canadian shoreline, which hopefully would protect them from the gale force winds which were whipping up the seas.

At 7 a.m. Captain McSorley contacted his company to report that weather would delay his arrival at the Soo Locks. The Anderson was following the Fitzgerald at a distance of nearly 16 miles and keeping in contact.

Winds were high, and getting worse. Waves were eight to 10 feet in the early afternoon and increasing in power and size as the day wore on. [...]

As heavy snow began to fall, visibility became nil and the Edmund Fitzgerald disappeared from the Anderson's view. Waves reached 12 to 16 feet, whipped by winds gusting up to 90 miles per hour at the Soo Locks, which were shut down. The Coast Guard issued an emergency warning: all ships were to find safe harbor. By 6 p.m. the crashing waves were 25 feet high.

By Captain Cooper's reckoning, the Fitzgerald passed closer to the Caribou Island Six Fathom Shoal than he would have taken his own vessel.

McSorley's radar went out so he slowed his ship to allow the Anderson to catch up and guide him. He was unable to pick up the Whitefish Point radio beacon or see its light. The Fitzgerald also had two vents damaged, he reported, and was listing.

At 7:10 p.m. the Anderson radioed the Fitzgerald to warn of another vessel nine miles ahead, but they assured McSorley that on present course the ship would pass by to the west. The first mate of the Arthur Anderson signed off by asking, "How are you making out with your problem?" The Fitzgerald replied: "We are holding our own."

It was the last contact with the ship.

The snow was letting up and the Anderson crew began sighting other ships. None were the Fitzgerald. The 729-foot mammoth was missing.


Videos are available for purchase at Edmund

You've heard the story of the ill-fated Edmund Fitzgerald, the 729-foot freighter that sank in a violent Lake Superior storm in November 1975. There has been no greater loss in Great Lakes history and very few disasters anywhere have captured the imaginations of marine enthusiasts in such a compelling fashion. Southport Video takes you to the site of the famous vessel's resting place. Compelling underwater footage of the wreck as it is today, and rare footage of her launch and sailing, combined with numerous rare photographs, beautiful artwork, computer animation, and exclusive expert testimonials, present the story of the Fitzgerald's colorful past and tragic demise.

* * * * *

A low-pressure system moved towards the Great Lakes in the early morning hours of November 9th, 1975. By the time this system reached Lake Superior it would be called a Cyclone by the American Meteorological Society. Twenty-nine men stood in the path of this storm, the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is arguably the most famous shipwreck story told around the Great Lakes. Yet the question remains in the middle of all who hear her tale. What really happened to the Mighty Fitz that cold November night? Some say Lake Superior split her in two and sent her to the bottom, others say she hit a rocky outcropping or shoal that punched a hole clean through her belly. Still others say it was the crew or faulty equipment or an unidentified object. The movie explores all of the possibilities and takes a serious look into the Edmund Fitzgerald Controversy.

With the greatest collection of Edmund Fitzgerald experts and historians investigating all the possible theories behind the famous modern iron ore carrier’s fate, stunning underwater footage, rare photographs and beautiful artwork. This fascinating and educational film is a comprehensive look into one of the biggest questions the maritime community has ever faced.

The Edmund Fitzgerald at

S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald Online

Storm Warning: The Story of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald - November 10, 1975

National Transportation Safety Board: "Marine Accident Report SS EDMUND FITZGERALD Sinking in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975", May 4, 1978. (pdf)

The Witch of November: Saga of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Mary A. Dempsey (pdf)

Sonar Image of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Here is a short video of the 767 ft. Arthur M. Anderson of the Great Lakes Fleet as it sails southbound under the Ambassador Bridge getting "mail by pail" from the J. W. Westcott, the "floating post office" with its own zipcode:


Previous Night Bird's Fountain tributes: 2005, 2006 and 2007.

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Tribute To Our Veterans

Lord, bid war's trumpet cease;
Fold the whole earth in peace.

~Oliver Wendell Holmes



Sunday, November 09, 2008

Happy Birthday, Carl Sagan

Carl Edward Sagan

November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996

"The world is so exquisite, with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better, it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look Death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides."

~ Billions and Billions, "Thoughts on Life"

The Pale Blue Dot


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Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama On The Economic Crisis

Excerpts from President-elect Obama's news conference:

This morning, we woke up to more sobering news about the state of our economy. The 240,000 jobs lost in October marks the 10th consecutive month that our economy has shed jobs. In total, we've lost nearly 1.2 million jobs this year, and more than 10 million Americans are now unemployed.

Tens of millions of families are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills and stay in their homes. Their stories are an urgent reminder that we are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime, and we're going to have to act swiftly to resolve it. [. . .]

First of all, we need a rescue plan for the middle class that invests in immediate efforts to create jobs and provide relief to families that are watching their paychecks shrink and their life savings disappear.

A particularly urgent priority is a further extension of unemployment insurance benefits for workers who cannot find work in the increasingly weak economy. [. . .]

Second, we have to address the spreading impact of the financial crisis on the other sectors of our economy: small businesses that are struggling to meet their payrolls and finance their holiday inventories; and state and municipal governments facing devastating budget cuts and tax increases.

We must also remember that the financial crisis is increasingly global and requires a global response.

The news coming out of the auto industry this week reminds us of the hardship it faces, hardship that goes far beyond individual auto companies to the countless suppliers, small businesses and communities throughout our nation who depend on a vibrant American auto industry.

The auto industry is the backbone of American manufacturing and a critical part of our attempt to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

I would like to see the administration do everything it can to accelerate the retooling assistance that Congress has already enacted. In addition, I have made it a high priority for my transition team to work on additional policy options to help the auto industry adjust, weather the financial crisis, and succeed in producing fuel-efficient cars here in the United States of America.

And I was glad to be joined today by Governor Jennifer Granholm, who obviously has great knowledge and great interest on this issue. [. . .]

Third, we will review the implementation of this administration's financial program to ensure that the government's efforts are achieving their central goal of stabilizing financial markets while protecting taxpayers, helping homeowners, and not unduly rewarding the management of financial firms that are receiving government assistance. [. . .]

Finally, as we monitor and address these immediate economic challenges, we will be moving forward in laying out a set of policies that will grow our middle class and strengthen our economy in the long term. We cannot afford to wait on moving forward on the key priorities that I identified during the campaign, including clean energy, health care, education and tax relief for middle-class families.

My transition team will be working on each of these priorities in the weeks ahead, and I intend to reconvene this advisory board to discuss the best ideas for responding to these immediate problems.

Let me close by saying this. I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead. We have taken some major action to date, and we will need further action during this transition and subsequent months.

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Job Losses Rise

Jobless rate at 14-year high as losses continue


The unemployment rate shot to a 14-1/2 year high last month as employers slashed jobs by an unexpectedly steep 240,000, suggesting President-elect Barack Obama will face a deep recession when he takes office.

The Labor Department said on Friday the jobless rate rose a steep four-tenths of a percent to 6.5 percent in October, the highest since March 1994, and that job losses in September and August were deeper than previously thought.

So far this year 1.2 million U.S. jobs have been lost, with 651,000 in the past three months alone as the slide in the national labor market picked up in intensity.

"We have entered the phase of serious recession conditions. Unfortunately we will encounter more of this," said Richard DeKaser, chief economist for National City Corp in Cleveland.

Goldman Sachs economist Jan Hatzius said the data implied the U.S. economy was sinking into a deep recession in which the jobless rate could climb to 8.5 percent by the end of 2009.

. . . . .

About 284,000 jobs were shed in September, the most since November 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks on the United States, and 127,000 were lost in August. In all, 179,000 more jobs were cut in August and September than previously thought.

Michael Feroli, an economist with JPMorgan Chase, said the surprising weakness in August and September suggests the economy headed into recession even before the worst of the credit crisis hit.

"Whereas it had been thought the financial crisis pushed a teetering economy over the edge, it now looks like that crisis kicked an economy that was already down," Feroli said.

Fear about job security has led U.S. consumers to cut spending, and that has reverberated around the globe, with China and other low-cost goods producers feeling the impact of slacker American demand.

. . . . .

In a separate report, the Commerce Department said wholesale inventories dipped in September, but sales were off for a third straight month and a stocks-to-sales gauge suggested businesses were holding more inventory than desired.

The National Association of Realtors said pending sales of existing U.S. homes dropped 4.6 percent in September because of tighter credit and worsening economic conditions.

The jobs report showed the construction industry shed 49,000 jobs last month, the 16th straight monthly loss.

It also showed a whopping 90,000 manufacturing jobs were cut in October -- reflecting in part 27,000 striking workers at Boeing Co and marking the 28th consecutive month in which factory employment has fallen.

Earlier this year, job losses had been concentrated on the goods-producing side of the economy. But the latest data showed the pain spreading further into the vast services sector.

Service industries cut 108,000 jobs last month, on top of 201,000 lost in September.

Why the jobs report is so ominous

What gives today's October employment report an unmistakably ominous twist is the almost uniformly downbeat message from nearly all of its components. No matter how deep one digs into the specifics of the data, it is hard to identify any encouraging news. Not only did the economy lose a massive 240,000 jobs in the non-farm sector, but the previously reported declines of 159,000 in September and 73,000 in August were revised sharply lower to 284,000 and 127,000 respectively as well. As a result, the economy has now lost a total of 1.2 million jobs since the beginning of the year, with nearly half of those losses occurring in the last three months alone, pointing to an acceleration in the pace of erosion in labor markets.

Losses were widespread in all of the key categories except the government sector, which gained 23,000 last month. Manufacturing jobs were down by 90,000 for a cumulative decline of over 200,000 in the last three months, while construction jobs fell by 49,000 last month, for a total decline of over 100,000 in the last three months. Jobs in the retail trade sector declined by 38,000, down by 111,000 in the last three months. That downbeat message goes on and on in most of the other categories.

. . . . .

There is little chance that the bleak numbers are a statistical fluke. Here's why: Since the payroll data and the unemployment rate are the results of two separate surveys conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (, those two series sometimes send a mixed message about the state of labor markets for a particular month because of the statistical noise associated with the methodology of those surveys. However, in a dramatic demonstration of consistency in October, both the jump in the rate and the sharp declines in payrolls sent a very powerful message that labor markets are deteriorating precipitously.

. . . . .

Any doubt that we're officially in a recession can be put aside.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Michigan Passes Proposal 1 and Proposal 2

Michigan Passes Medical Marijuana and Stem Cell Research

CBS Election Results:

Voters in the State of Michigan have passed Proposal 1 — Allow Medical Marijuana — with 3,005,678 votes; and Proposal 2 — Allow Stem Cell Research — with 2,520,240 votes.

Proposal 1:
A Legislative Initiative To Permit The Use And Cultivation Of Marijuana For Specified Medical Conditions

  • Permit physician approved use of marijuana by registered patients with debilitating medical conditions including cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, MS and other conditions as may be approved by the Department of Community Health.

  • Permit registered individuals to grow limited amounts of marijuana for qualifying patients in an enclosed, locked facility.

  • Require Department of Community Health to establish an identification card system for patients qualified to use marijuana and individuals qualified to grow marijuana.

  • Permit registered and unregistered patients and primary caregivers to assert medical reasons for using marijuana as a defense to any prosecution involving marijuana.

Proposal 2:
To Amend The State Constitution To Address Human Embryo And Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research In Michigan
  • Expand use of human embryos for any research permitted under federal law subject to the following limits: the embryos

    • are created for fertility treatment purposes;
    • are not suitable for implantation or are in excess of clinical needs;
    • would be discarded unless used for research;
    • were donated by the person seeking fertility treatment.

  • Provide that stem cells cannot be taken from human embryos more than 14 days after cell division begins.

  • Prohibit any person from selling or purchasing human embryos for stem cell research.

  • Prohibit state and local laws that prevent, restrict or discourage stem cell research, future therapies and cures.

Source: Newsletter — Kathleen Law, State House Representative

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

'Change Has Come To America'

Barack Obama elected 44th president

Barack Obama, a 47-year-old first-term senator from Illinois, shattered more than 200 years of history Tuesday night by winning election as the first African-American president of the United States.

A crowd of 125,000 people jammed Grant Park in Chicago, where Obama addressed the nation for the first time as its president-elect at midnight ET. Hundreds of thousands more — Mayor Richard Daley said he would not be surprised if a million Chicagoans jammed the streets — watched on a large television screen outside the park.

“If there is anyone out there who doubts that America is a place where anything is possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” Obama declared.

“Young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans have sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of red states and blue states,” he said. “We have been and always will be the United States of America.

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America,” he said to a long roar.

Congratulations, President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden!

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Monday, November 03, 2008

It's Time For Change

You can help change our country.

"The only way to change is to vote."

~ Paul Wellstone


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Going To The End Of The Line

Well, it's alright, we're going to the end of the line.

Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Roy Orbison:

The Traveling Wilburys - "End Of The Line"




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