Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We’re the Feds: How to Keep Hooverism from Hocking the Country from Firedoglake

Krugman underlines the outbreak of Hooverism in state budgets. States can't tax, because corporations and the wealthy can move their point of presence for the cost of a tax break and a post office box. Part of Reagan's plan was what cartoonist Feiffer presciently called "The New Feudalism." Smaller, weaker, government entities are easier to blackmail, bully, or bribe. One of the most pressing projects of a new progressive America is to Federalize. And the outbreak of Hooverism offers a golden moment.

Libertarian looters are salivating over getting hard assets. Republican governors like Pawlenty are eager to enrich their friends by selling assets at fire sale prices. Strangely this same logic was rejected in the case of private assets, where the government was forced to buy up non-voting junk bonds in drag rather than getting any say in how the companies were actually run. What's sauce for the government, is gravy for the goperment, I suppose.

rest at http://firedoglake.com/2008/12/30/were-the-feds-how-to-keep-hooverism-from-hocking-the-country/

Former U.S. Atty: Blagojevich appointment shows he’s ‘crazy like a fox,’ playing to future black jurors. from Think Progress

Earlier today, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) appointed Roland Burris, the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois, to take Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat. Democratic leaders have indicated they are planning to block the appointment. Speculating on Blagojevich's motives, former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey told CNN that the Illinois governor may be acting "crazy like a fox" and looking ahead to his own potential trial. Coffey said Blagojevich's "conniving strategy" may be an effort to persuade future African-American jurors:

REST AT http://thinkprogress.org/2008/12/30/blago-af-am-jurors/

A Hundred Eyes for an Eye from Truthout - All Articles

A Palestinian family in Gaza.
A Palestinian family rushes past the wreckage of an Israeli missile strike. (Photo: Eyad Baba / AP)

  At the epicenters of the conflict - where the belief that "only force can assure justice" seems to be even stronger than when I. F. Stone wrote about it 41 years ago - the conclusion has been drawn and redrawn so many times that deadly repetition has become paralytic. While some Palestinian "militants" have terrorized and murdered, the Israeli government has terrorized and murdered on a much bigger scale, using a vast arsenal largely financed by US taxpayers.

    From afar, in the United States, it's too easy to shake our heads at the lethal loss of moral vision. Don't they know that "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"? But the cycle of violence is extremely asymmetrical - while the US government provides Israel with billions of dollars and invaluable "diplomatic" support.

    What's going on in Gaza right now is not just an eye for an eye. It's a hundred eyes for an eye. And the current slaughter is not only an ongoing Israeli war crime. It has an accomplice named Uncle Sam.

rest at http://www.truthout.org/123008A

Israel Continues Killing, Bars Journalists from Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines

Israel Did This

Be it due to danger or the ever-present desire for security, the Israeli government has always found reason to forbid journalists to enter the Gaza Strip at times of "conflict." The current brutal assault on Gaza is no different, but this time an association of journalists has filed a petition in the Israeli Supreme Court to demand access to the occupied territories.

For good up-to-date information on the attacks in the Gaza Strip, check out the Institute for Middle East Understanding.

rest at http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/20081230_israel_continues_killing_bars_journalists/

Senate Dems Says They Won’t Seat Burris In Caucus — But Can They Keep Him Out Of The Senate? from Firedoglake

Roland Burris is very likely to be a U.S. Senator until the Illinois Legislature can hold a special election to replace him, which they may now decide to do quickly.  It's clear that if Burris were elected and duly qualified, the Senate couldn't refuse to seat him.  That's the Supreme Court's holding in the Adam Clayton Powell case, Powell v. McCormack (1969).  The question is whether there is a different rule for appointments by governors rather than elections.  Those are covered by the Seventeenth Amendment, which lets states give the appointment power to governors "until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct."

But what if Blago gave the seat to someone who bribed him?  The Senate could probably refuse to seat that person as not genuinely fulfilling the "qualifications" of the seat (which it gets to decide under Article I of the Constitution) because the appointment would be unlawful under other provisions of federal and state law (due to the bribery) and therefore not a valid exercise of the appointment power under state law.  But there presumably was no bribe with respect to the Burris appointment, which means that he gets the seat.
The Senate's remaining option would be to seat Burris but then turn around an expel him by a 2/3 vote (another power under Article I).  But that would open up another can of worms because Burris will not have engaged in misbehavior and it would be an obvious attempt to circumvent his right under the Constitution to be seated.

Burris is on TV saying he had no idea that he gave $14,000 to Blago.

Lesson learned by Illinois legislature:  you snooze, you lose.

Update:  Illinois' Secretary of State Jesse White will refuse to certify the Burris appointment.

rest at http://firedoglake.com/2008/12/30/senate-says-they-wont-seat-burris-in-caucus-but-can-they-keep-him-out-of-the-senate/

Why Are Palestinians Expected to Do What Americans Would Never Do? from Firedoglake

One of the things I don't understand about the debate over Israel and Hamas is what, exactly, people expect Palestinians to do.  I constantly read that Palestinians need to never use violence, and that non-violence will do the trick.  This may or may not be true, but it's odd, because folks want Palestinians and Hamas to do something their own governments would never, ever, do.

Let's put this in context, first.  The truce was not broken by Hamas:

"The escalation towards war could, and should, have been avoided.  It was the State of Israel which broke the truce, in the 'ticking tunnel' raid ...  two months ago," the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom wrote in a press release. "Since then, the army went on stoking the fires of escalation with calculated raids and killings, whenever the shooting of missiles on Israel decreased."

So.  Israel attacks Palestinians.  Hamas responds by counter-attacking.  If a nation bombed the US, would the US counter-attack?

Of course it would.  The question is absurd. 

rest at http://firedoglake.com/2008/12/30/why-are-palestinians-expected-to-do-what-americans-would-never-do/

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The West's Pathetic Response to Israeli Massacre from THE DAILY BANTER.COM

By Ben Cohen

The United States has remained completely silent on Israel's massacre of over 200 Palestinians, while Gordon Brown has asked Israel to 'Show restraint'.

The Bush Administration spoke only to condemn Hamas. Condoleezza Rice stated:

"The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza. The cease-fire should be restored immediately."

The massive assault was in response to repeated rocket attacks from Gaza militants that have done little actual damage to Israelis, but have irritated Israel into responding. The response, as usual, has been completely disproportionate, illegal, and counterproductive.

rest at http://www.thedailybanter.com/tdb/2008/12/the-wests-pathetic-response-to-israeli-massacre.html

GOP Chairman 'Shocked' That Obama Parody Sent Out from AfterDowningStreet.org

GOP chairman 'shocked' that Obama parody sent out | Comcast.net

The chairman of the Republican National Committee said Saturday he was "shocked and appalled" that one of his potential successors had sent committee members a CD this Christmas featuring a 2007 parody song called "Barack the Magic Negro."

In spite of RNC Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan's sharply negative reaction, former Tennessee GOP leader Chip Saltsman said that party leaders should stand up to criticism over distributing a CD with the song. He earlier defended the tune as one of several "lighthearted political parodies" that have aired on Rush Limbaugh's radio show.

Saltsman, who managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign, is seeking the RNC chairmanship. During the presidential campaign, GOP officials denounced efforts by those in the party who criticized or mocked Democratic nominee Barack Obama along racial lines. Obama was vying to be the nation's first black president.

A spokesman for Obama, now the president-elect, declined to comment on the matter.

rest at http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/38521

Where'd the bailout money go? Shhhh, it's a secret - from sfgate

Think you could borrow money from a bank without saying what you were going to do with it? Well, apparently when banks borrow from you they don't feel the same need to say how the money is spent.

After receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending it. Some won't even talk about it.

"We're choosing not to disclose that," said Kevin Heine, spokesman for Bank of New York Mellon, which received about $3 billion.

Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money, said that while some of the money was lent, some was not, and the bank has not given any accounting of exactly how the money is being used.

"We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to," Kelly said.

The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers.

"We're not providing dollar-in, dollar-out tracking," said Barry Koling, a spokesman for Atlanta, Ga.-based SunTrust Banks Inc., which got $3.5 billion in taxpayer dollars.

Some banks said they simply didn't know where the money was going.

"We manage our capital in its aggregate," said Regions Financial Corp. spokesman Tim Deighton, who said the Birmingham, Ala.-based company is not tracking how it is spending the $3.5 billion it received as part of the financial bailout.

The answers highlight the secrecy surrounding the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which earmarked $700 billion — about the size of the Netherlands' economy — to help rescue the financial industry. The Treasury Department has been using the money to buy stock in U.S. banks, hoping that the sudden inflow of cash will get banks to start lending money.

There has been no accounting of how banks spend that money. Lawmakers summoned bank executives to Capitol Hill last month and implored them to lend the money — not to hoard it or spend it on corporate bonuses, junkets or to buy other banks. But there is no process in place to make sure that's happening and there are no consequences for banks that don't comply.

"It is entirely appropriate for the American people to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent in private industry," said Elizabeth Warren, the top congressional watchdog overseeing the financial bailout.

But, at least for now, there's no way for taxpayers to find that out.

Pressured by the Bush administration to approve the money quickly, Congress attached nearly no strings to the $700 billion bailout in October. And the Treasury Department, which doles out the money, never asked banks how it would be spent.

"Those are legitimate questions that should have been asked on Day One," said Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., a House Financial Services Committee member who opposed the bailout as it was rushed through Congress. "Where is the money going to go to? How is it going to be spent? When are we going to get a record on it?"

Nearly every bank AP questioned — including Citibank and Bank of America, two of the largest recipients of bailout money — responded with generic public relations statements explaining that the money was being used to strengthen balance sheets and continue making loans to ease the credit crisis.

A few banks described company-specific programs, such as JPMorgan Chase's plan to lend $5 billion to nonprofit and health care companies next year. Richard Becker, senior vice president of Wisconsin-based Marshall & Ilsley Corp., said the $1.75 billion in bailout money allowed the bank to temporarily stop foreclosing on homes.

But no bank provided even the most basic accounting for the federal money.

Some said the money couldn't be tracked. Bob Denham, a spokesman for North Carolina-based BB&T Corp., said the bailout money "doesn't have its own bucket." But he said taxpayer money wasn't used in the bank's recent purchase of a Florida insurance company. Asked how he could be sure, since the money wasn't being tracked, Denham said the bank would have made that deal regardless.

Others, such as Morgan Stanley spokeswoman Carissa Ramirez, offered to discuss the matter with reporters on condition of anonymity. When AP refused, Ramirez sent an e-mail saying: "We are going to decline to comment on your story."

Most banks wouldn't say why they were keeping the details secret.

"We're not sharing any other details. We're just not at this time," said Wendy Walker, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based Comerica Inc., which received $2.25 billion from the government.

One didn't even want to say they wouldn't say.

Heine, the New York Mellon Corp. spokesman who said he wouldn't share spending specifics, added: "I just would prefer if you wouldn't say that we're not going to discuss those details."

The banks which came closest to answering the questions were those, such as U.S. Bancorp and Huntington Bancshares Inc., that only recently received the money and have yet to spend it. But neither provided anything more than a generic summary of how the money would be spent.

Lawmakers say they want to tighten restrictions on the remaining, yet-to-be-released $350 billion block of bailout money before more cash is handed out. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the department is trying to step up its monitoring of bank spending.

"What we've been doing here is moving, I think, with lightning speed to put necessary programs in place, to develop them, implement them, and then we need to monitor them while we're doing this," Paulson said at a recent forum in New York. "So we're building this organization as we're going."

Warren, the congressional watchdog appointed by Democrats, said her oversight panel will try to force the banks to say where they've spent the money.

"It would take a lot of nerve not to give answers," she said.

But Warren said she's surprised she even has to ask.

"If the appropriate restrictions were put on the money to begin with, if the appropriate transparency was in place, then we wouldn't be in a position where you're trying to call every recipient and get the basic information that should already be in public documents," she said.

Garrett, the New Jersey congressman, said the nation might never get a clear answer on where hundreds of billions of dollars went.

rest at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/n/a/2008/12/22/national/w000319S05.DTL

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Google Execs Pay $150,000 for Obama Bash from Gawker

It's Google's presidency. We're just watching it. Six Google executives, including CEO Eric Schmidt and cofounder Larry Page, have donated $25,000 apiece to fund President Barack Obama's swearing-in party.

Taken as a whole, the Googlers' cash is one of the largest corporate donations to Obama's inaugural committee. Marissa Mayer, an early Google employee who now oversees its search engine, and David Drummond, the company's top lawyer, also donated, as did YouTube cofounder Chad Hurley and Dick Costolo, the former CEO of FeedBurner, an advertising startup acquired by Google last year,

Unlike election spending, donations to cover the expenses of an inauguration are relatively unlimited. Obama's committee has capped donations at $50,000.

rest at http://valleywag.gawker.com/5119039/google-execs-pay-150000-for-obama-bash

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Come Out of Hiding, Bret Jacobson from Firedoglake

Hilda Solis

Hey, all, this is from Seth Michaels at AFL-CIO Now.

OMG. A labor secretary who might look out for workers?

As an op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times makes clear, President-elect Barack Obama's selection of Rep. Hilda Solis as secretary of labor is too terrible to contemplate. "A Disastrous Pick for Labor Secretary," shouts the headline by author, Bret Jacobson, who tries to terrify readers by telling them that Solis is—gasp—looked on favorably by leaders in the union movement and worst of all, supports the Employee Free Choice Act.

Solis doesn't hide the fact that she's a longtime friend to workers and will be a great advocate for safe workplaces, fair treatment and the freedom to form unions and bargain.

But what's Bret Jacobson hiding, and why is he so scared of a pro-worker secretary of labor?

Jacobson isn't a neutral observer and he isn't, as the L.A. Times credulously allows him to calls himself, simply a "research and communications" consultant. In fact, he's the sidekick to slime-lobbyist Rick Berman, the corporate hack whose career features attacks on Mothers Against Drunk Driving for the alcohol industry. (Jane, Gregg and Scarecrow have done a great job of keeping an eye on Berman and the media outlets who rely on him for anti-union quotes.)

Jacobson and Berman founded the misnamed "Center for Union Facts," one of the central corporate front groups in the long-standing campaign against workers' rights. And Jacobson is the founder of a firm specifically hired to protect corporations from unions, consumers and public oversight.

rest at http://firedoglake.com/2008/12/23/come-out-of-hiding-bret-jacobsen/

Starbucks (SBUX) May Take Another Chance To Screw Employees from 24/7 Wall St.

R218533_855025_2Merry Christmas you underpaid, overworked coffee barista boys and girls. Uncle Howard Schultz, your founder and CEO, has found another way to screw Starbucks (SBUX) employees, if he wants to. According to The Wall Street Journal, "Starbucks Corp. told employees the company won't guarantee that it will make a company match to their 401(k) accounts next year."

Keep in mind that Starbucks still makes lots of money. In the last reported quarter, the coffee retailer improved revenue by 3% to $2.5 billion. Operating income was down to $14 million from $248 million in the same period in 2007. But, Starbucks did take a $99 million restructuring charge this year.

rest at http://www.247wallst.com/2008/12/starbucks-sbu-1.html

Profitable American Express (AXP) Gets $3.4 Billion In TARP Funds from 24/7 Wall St

So, why did the company take $3.39 billion of TARP money today in exchange preferred stock and warrants to purchase shares of common stock for up to 15% of that amount? The preferred shares will pay dividends at a rate of 5% annually for the first five years and then 9% annually thereafter.

American Express doesn't need the money. Maybe it should go to taxpayers who are delinquent on their Amex payments instead.

rest at http://www.247wallst.com/2008/12/profitable-amer.html

The Rachel Maddow Bank Holding Company Wants Federal Help from Crooks and Liars

The Rachel Maddow Bank Holding Company Wants Federal Help
icon Download | Play   icon Download | Play (h/t Heather)

Rachel Maddow shows how ridiculously easy the Feds have made it for financial institutions to apply for relief, so much so that she's tempted to create "The Rachel Maddow Show Bank Holding Company" to get in on the action.

It also shows the rank hypocrisy of Republicans now screaming that the bailout of the auto industry must come with strings attached, since they felt no similar compunction while handing over trillions of taxpayer dollars to financial institutions. Further, the financial institutions feel no compunction to be accountable for how they've used the money, nor how they compensate their employees and executives.

rest at http://crooksandliars.com/nicole-belle/rachel-maddow-bank-holding-company-wa

Is this true? "Letters From Kerry Collins from Kissing Suzy Kolber by " - Titans Quarterback Kerry Collins is a racist?

from http://kissingsuzykolber.uproxx.com/2008/12/letters-from-kerry-collins.html

Titans quarterback Kerry Collins, in addition to being an alleged racist, is quite active in his personal correspondance. His frequent letter-writing to corporations and other organizations have become the stuff of legend in the inner circles of the NFL. Such was the case with this particular letter, written in 2005 to a popular fast-food restaurant.

AEI Scholar: ‘Bush’s Legacy May End Up Better Than You Think’ from Think Progress

As the New York Times reported recently, as early as 2006, Bush and his top advisers "dismissed warnings from people inside and outside the White House that housing prices were inflated and that a foreclosure crisis was looming. And when the economy deteriorated, Mr. Bush and his team misdiagnosed the reasons and scope of the downturn."

In the last line of Gillespie's piece, he writes, "And one last fact: Our homeland has not suffered another terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. That, too, is part of the real Bush record." Matt Yglesias takes issue with Gillespie's comment:

This is like saying that except for the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover had a good economic record. … Nine or so months later by far the largest terrorist attack on American soil was perpetrated. That's a fantastically enormous failing. If you only look at Bush's final seven years, you'll see that he was as good as every other president at preventing terrorist attacks. And if you include his entire presidency, you'll see that he was by far the worst.

Despite Hassett and Gillespie's revisionist efforts, Americans may unfortunately find that Bush's legacy is even worse than they think.

rest at http://thinkprogress.org/2008/12/23/bush-legacy-aei/

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bush's ownership society scam exposed by the NY Times from Crooks and Liars

The Bush economy was based mostly in part on the housing and mortgage markets. With no regulations in place, a wild west type monetary explosion hit and fueled Bush's "ownership society." While the scam worked, it infused tremendous amounts of cash into the economy which consumers spent very aggressively while also racking up their credit card debt. This also made the rich, much richer. 1920's rich. When that unraveled we had a complete economic meltdown. The NY Times hits it up with a piece called: White House Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire

rest at http://crooksandliars.com/john-amato/bushs-ownership-society-scam

Nut: Limbaugh’s Crazy Conspiracy Theory: Democrats Started The Economic Crisis To Help Elect Obama from Think Progress

limbaugharm.jpg Today, the New York Times had an article about how right-wing talk radio is gearing up to aggressively go after President-elect Obama over the next four years. Rush Limbaugh demonstrated his commitment to this crusade today on his radio show by blaming Democrats — especially Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — for starting the current economic crisis.

Here's how Limbaugh's conspiracy theory goes: Schumer caused on run on IndyMac bank in California this summer, in order to create a feeling of financial panic amongst the public. Democrats then capitalized on this panic with electoral wins in the White House and Congress. The purpose of gaining this power, according to Limbaugh, was to nationalize U.S. industries:

LIMBAUGH: Who's benefiting? Aside from the people being bailed out. The Democrat party and Barack Obama are benefiting.

rest at http://thinkprogress.org/2008/12/22/limbaugh-democrats-indy/

1,350 Murdered in Juarez in 2008

It is a time of extraordinary violence all over Mexico. Feuding drug-trafficking groups and the federal government's military crackdown against organized crime have left 5,376 dead this year.

Nowhere has the bloodletting been worse than in Ciudad Juarez, a sprawling border city that has registered more than 1,350 slayings in 2008, about a fourth of the country's total. The city's main drug-smuggling group, known as the Juarez cartel, is battling with rival traffickers from the northwestern state of Sinaloa for a piece of the lucrative drug trade into the U.S.

The gangland-style violence has left almost no corner of Ciudad Juarez untouched. Drug-related slayings take place in houses, restaurants and bars, at playgrounds and children's parties, and in car-to-car ambushes.

The dead, mostly little-known foot soldiers but also innocents caught in the crossfire, make up a ceaseless procession of clients for harried coroner's workers and daily fodder for the so-called red pages of local newspapers.

The killings here are carried out in a style best described as baroque, with bodies hung headless from bridges, stuffed upside down in giant stew pots, lined up next to a school's playing field. Often, they are accompanied by taunting, handwritten messages, the hit man's equivalent of an end-zone dance.

In a country that each month finds new ways to scare itself with violence, Ciudad Juarez has become emblematic of how nasty things can get.

Bank Execs Have Personally Pocketed $1.6 Bil from Bailout - So Far from Pensito Review

Corporate socialism has now officially run amok. According to a new report from the Associated Press, as much as $1.6 billion of the $350 billion in taxpayer revenues allocated to bail out U.S. banks has gone directly to top executives at America's leading financial institutions.

Even at banks where compensation was reduced, executives still received millions in salary, bonuses and perks:

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

rest at http://www.pensitoreview.com/2008/12/22/bank-execs-have-personally-pocketed-16-bil-from-bailout/

$1.6B Of Bank Bailout Went To Execs, AP: Money Given To Struggling Banks Went Toward Bonuses, Stock Options, Country Club Memberships - CBS News

(AP) Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services committee and a long-standing critic of executive largesse, said the bonuses tallied by the AP review amount to a bribe "to get them to do the jobs for which they are well-paid in the first place.

"Most of us sign on to do jobs and we do them best we can," said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. "We're told that some of the most highly-paid people in executive positions are different. They need extra money to be motivated!"

The AP compiled total compensation based on annual reports that the banks file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 116 banks have so far received $188 billion in taxpayer help.

Among the findings:

  • The average paid to each of the banks' top executives was $2.6 million in salary, bonuses and benefits.

  • Lloyd Blankfein, president and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, took home nearly $54 million in compensation last year. The company's top five executives received a total of $242 million.

    This year, Goldman will forgo cash and stock bonuses for its seven top-paid executives. They will work for their base salaries of $600,000, the company said. Facing increasing concern by its own shareholders on executive payments, the company described its pay plan last spring as essential to retain and motivate executives "whose efforts and judgments are vital to our continued success, by setting their compensation at appropriate and competitive levels." Goldman spokesman Ed Canaday declined to comment beyond that written report.

    The New York-based company on Dec. 16 reported its first quarterly loss since it went public in 1999. It received $10 billion in taxpayer money on Oct. 28.

  • Even where banks cut back on pay, some executives were left with seven- or eight-figure compensation that most people can only dream about. Richard D. Fairbank, the chairman of Capital One Financial Corp., took a $1 million hit in compensation after his company had a disappointing year, but still got $17 million in stock options. The McLean, Virginia-based company received $3.56 billion in bailout money on Nov. 14.

  • John A. Thain, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $83 million in earnings last year. Thain, a former chief operating officer for Goldman Sachs, took the reins of the company in December 2007, avoiding the blame for a year in which Merrill lost $7.8 billion. Since he began work late in the year, he earned $57,692 in salary, a $15 million signing bonus and an additional $68 million in stock options.

    Like Goldman, Merrill got $10 billion from taxpayers on Oct. 28.

    Your Tax Dollars At Work: Chauffeurs, Club Dues

    The AP review comes amid sharp questions about the banks' commitment to the goals of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), a law designed to buy bad mortgages and other troubled assets. Last month, the Bush administration changed the program's goals, instructing the Treasury Department to pump tax dollars directly into banks in a bid to prevent wholesale economic collapse.

    The program set restrictions on some executive compensation for participating banks, but did not limit salaries and bonuses unless they had the effect of encouraging excessive risk to the institution. Banks were barred from giving golden parachutes to departing executives and deducting some executive pay for tax purposes.

    Banks that got bailout funds also paid out millions for home security systems, private chauffeured cars, and club dues. Some banks even paid for financial advisers. Wells Fargo of San Francisco, which took $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money, gave its top executives up to $20,000 each to pay personal financial planners.

    At Bank of New York Mellon Corp., chief executive Robert P. Kelly's stipend for financial planning services came to $66,748, on top of his $975,000 salary and $7.5 million bonus. His car and driver cost $178,879. Kelly also received $846,000 in relocation expenses, including help selling his home in Pittsburgh and purchasing one in Manhattan, the company said.

    Goldman Sachs' tab for leased cars and drivers ran as high as $233,000 per executive. The firm told its shareholders this year that financial counseling and chauffeurs are important in giving executives more time to focus on their jobs.

    JPMorgan Chase chairman James Dimon ran up a $211,182 private jet travel tab last year when his family lived in Chicago and he was commuting to New York. The company got $25 billion in bailout funds.

    Banks cite security to justify personal use of company aircraft for some executives. But Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, questioned that rationale, saying executives visit many locations more vulnerable than the security-conscious U.S. commercial air terminals.

    Sherman, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said pay excesses undermine development of good bank economic policies and promote an escalating pay spiral among competing financial institutions - something particularly hard to take when banks then ask for rescue money.

    He wants them to come before Congress, like the automakers did, and spell out their spending plans for bailout funds.

    "The tougher we are on the executives that come to Washington, the fewer will come for a bailout," he said.

  • rest at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/12/21/business/main4680508.shtml?tag=main_home_storiesBySection

    Saturday, December 20, 2008

    The Cost of Conservatism, in Trillions from Firedoglake

    excerpt from http://firedoglake.com/2008/12/20/the-cost-of-conservatism-in-trillions/

    So what does this exercise mean? It's really very simple: we can afford a decent retirement and decent living standards, and decent medicine for ourselves and our children and grand children, or we can afford the casino games that we have played, and the massive parade ground military that we have built over the last generation. But not both. The costs of the war and bad economic policy flow all through the economy.

    The reality is that liberalism isn't broken. The reality, contra the film IOU-USA, is that the national debt is a symptom not a cause. The real cause is that Americans have voted for certain things - a huge military, a casino economy, and an anti-science bias - cost be damned. Well the cost is damning, it is damning us to this recession, and it is going to damn us to a very poor recovery on the other side of it.

    Yes, these are back of the envelope numbers, but we've been living on pulled from flatulant air numbers on things like WMD in Iraq, the cost of the Bush tax package, the future of global warming, and the value of Mortgage Backed Securities.

    Friday, December 19, 2008

    Congress Gives Itself a Raise

    Alaskan Officials In Hot Water Over Racist Obama Emails from Chicagoist

    Trouble's a-brewing way up north as the Associated Press has obtained several emails by state government officials in Alaska that make racists jokes about President-Elect Barack Obama. One of the emails "asks about the outcome of the Democrat's victory after all the time and money invested and concludes: 'Another black family living in government housing!'" Another of the alleged emails which was forwarded often was titled "Night Befo Crizzmus" Damn. Just...damn. Administration Commissioner Annette Kreitzer confirmed three of the emails were found via a search of the government's email system, adding, "It's embarrassing to the state." Palin's spokesman, Bill McAllister, said, "My understanding is that the Department of Administration is following up on this with the individuals who took action to forward the offensive e-mails. This is, of course, a confidential personnel and disciplinary matter that has nothing to do with the governor's office."

    rest at http://chicagoist.com/2008/12/18/alaskan_officials_in_hot_water_over.php

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    Ariz. police say they are prepared as War College warns military must prep for unrest; IMF warns of economic riots from Phoenix Business Journal:

    A new report by the U.S. Army War College talks about the possibility of Pentagon resources and troops being used should the economic crisis lead to civil unrest, such as protests against businesses and government or runs on beleaguered banks.

    "Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security," said the War College report.

    The study says economic collapse, terrorism and loss of legal order are among possible domestic shocks that might require military action within the U.S.

    International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned Wednesday of economy-related riots and unrest in various global markets if the financial crisis is not addressed and lower-income households are hurt by credit constraints and rising unemployment.

    U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., both said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson brought up a worst-case scenario as he pushed for the Wall Street bailout in September. Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO, said that might even require a declaration of martial law, the two noted.

    State and local police in Arizona say they have broad plans to deal with social unrest, including trouble resulting from economic distress. The security and police agencies declined to give specifics, but said they would employ existing and generalized emergency responses to civil unrest that arises for any reason.

    "The Phoenix Police Department is not expecting any civil unrest at this time, but we always train to prepare for any civil unrest issue. We have a Tactical Response Unit that trains continually and has deployed on many occasions for any potential civil unrest issue," said Phoenix Police spokesman Andy Hill.

    rest at http://phoenix.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2008/12/15/daily34.html

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Elitism in Senate appointments from Daily Kos

    Chris Bowers lays out the case for a Constitutional Amendment that would eliminate the power of governors to fill Senate vacancies -- a process that has become rife with corruption and elitism.

    The top political story over the past week has been a corruption case surrounding the appointment of a Senator to Barack Obama's vacant seat in Illinois. At the same time, a woman whose family lineage is her primary qualification to be a Senator has begun a "public" campaign to reach out to local political elites using Joe Lieberman's "fixer" in order to secure the seat. Earlier, a long-time aide to Vice-President-elect Joe Biden was picked to serve his Senate seat. In 2010, Biden's seat is expected to be filled by his son, Beau Biden. In the coming days, Representative John Salazar will be considered one of the leading candidates to be appointed to his brother's now vacant seat in Colorado.

    There is an endemic problem of dynasties and elitism in our political process. The power of Governor's to appoint vacant Senate seats is one of the more egregious examples of this. The four examples we are looking at right now are not isolated incidents, either. Six years ago, former Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter to fill his vacant Senate seat. Two years before that, when Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash, his wife, Jean Carnahan, served two years in the Senate to replace him. The previous year, Lincoln Chafee was appointed to serve when his father died unexpectedly.

    rest at http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/12/16/172311/33/470/673803

    Obama's Betrayal of Public Education? Arne Duncan and the Corporate Model of Schooling from Truthout

    President-elect Barack Obama with Arne Duncan.
    President-elect Barack Obama with his nominee for secretary of education, Arne Duncan. (Photo: Reuters)

    Since the 1980s, but particularly under the Bush administration, certain elements of the religious right, corporate culture and Republican right wing have argued that free public education represents either a massive fraud or a contemptuous failure. Far from a genuine call for reform, these attacks largely stem from an attempt to transform schools from a public investment to a private good, answerable not to the demands and values of a democratic society but to the imperatives of the marketplace. As the educational historian David Labaree rightly argues, public schools have been under attack in the last decade "not just because they are deemed ineffective but because they are public."[1] Right-wing efforts to disinvest in public schools as critical sites of teaching and learning and govern them according to corporate interests is obvious in the emphasis on standardized testing, the use of top-down curricular mandates, the influx of advertising in schools, the use of profit motives to "encourage" student performance, the attack on teacher unions and modes of pedagogy that stress rote learning and memorization. For the Bush administration, testing has become the ultimate accountability measure, belying the complex mechanisms of teaching and learning. The hidden curriculum is that testing be used as a ploy to de-skill teachers by reducing them to mere technicians, that students be similarly reduced to customers in the marketplace rather than as engaged, critical learners and that always underfunded public schools fail so that they can eventually be privatized. But there is an even darker side to the reforms initiated under the Bush administration and now used in a number of school systems throughout the country. As the logic of the market and "the crime complex"[2] frame the field of social relations in schools, students are subjected to three particularly offensive policies, defended by school authorities and politicians under the rubric of school safety. First, students are increasingly subjected to zero-tolerance policies that are used primarily to punish, repress and exclude them. Second, they are increasingly absorbed into a "crime complex" in which security staff, using harsh disciplinary practices, now displace the normative functions teachers once provided both in and outside of the classroom.[3] Third, more and more schools are breaking down the space between education and juvenile delinquency, substituting penal pedagogies for critical learning and replacing a school culture that fosters a discourse of possibility with a culture of fear and social control. Consequently, many youth of color in urban school systems, because of harsh zero-tolerance polices, are not just being suspended or expelled from school. They are being ushered into the dark precincts of juvenile detention centers, adult courts and prison. Surely, the dismantling of this corporatized and militarized model of schooling should be a top priority under the Obama administration. Unfortunately, Obama has appointed as his secretary of education someone who actually embodies this utterly punitive, anti-intellectual, corporatized and test-driven model of schooling.

        Barack Obama's selection of Arne Duncan for secretary of education does not bode well either for the political direction of his administration nor for the future of public education. Obama's call for change falls flat with this appointment, not only because Duncan largely defines schools within a market-based and penal model of pedagogy, but also because he does not have the slightest understanding of schools as something other than adjuncts of the corporation at best or the prison at worse. The first casualty in this scenario is a language of social and political responsibility capable of defending those vital institutions that expand the rights, public goods and services central to a meaningful democracy. This is especially true with respect to the issue of public schooling and the ensuing debate over the purpose of education, the role of teachers as critical intellectuals, the politics of the curriculum and the centrality of pedagogy as a moral and political practice.

    read the rest of this very informative piece at http://www.truthout.org/121708R

    Anti-choice, anti-gay, pro-assassination pastor to give inaugural invocation. from Think Progress

    Pastor Rick Warren will deliver the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20. While he is a recognizable celebrity and best-selling author, Warren also advocates a number of deeply anti-progressive views. He supported California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 and has likened gay marriage to polygamy and incest. He is strongly anti-choice, and has equated abortion to the Holocaust. Warren also supports the assassination of foreign leaders. Appearing on Fox's Hannity and Colmes on December 3, Warren agreed with Sean Hannity's assertion that "we need to take him [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] out," saying that stopping evil "is the legitimate role of government." He added, "The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers." Watch it:

    rest at http://thinkprogress.org/2008/12/17/warren-invocation/

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    Nobody Better Than Arne Duncan from Freakonomics Blog by By Steven D. Levitt

    Arne Duncan is expected to be announced as the next secretary of education later today. Freakonomics readers will remember Arne as the hero of our chapter on teacher cheating. He was head of the Chicago Public Schools when Brian Jacob and I were investigating how teachers and administrators were doctoring standardized test sheets.

    With seemingly nothing to gain and much to lose, Arne embraced our results, even allowing us to do audit testing to confirm our hypotheses. Eventually, a handful of teachers were fired.

    rest at http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/nobody-better-than-arne-duncan/

    Rove Tries To Link Obama To Blagojevich Scandal Despite Previously Arguing There Is No Link from Think Progress

    Last night on Fox News, former Bush political operative Karl Rove tried desperately to link President-elect Obama to the scandal surrounding Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL). When co-host Alan Colmes noted that conservatives are "looking for anything they can to try to drag him into this," Rove obliged, saying that Obama is "parsing words" and "making it look like there was no contact" between Obama's team and the Illinois governor.

    Rove also said that Obama should ignore U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's request to not discuss the case, saying "the president-elect ought to decide what is in his best interest." Further suggesting that Obama has something to hide, Rove — who knows a little bit about hiding information — claimed that he doesn't "buy" that Obama's team "is resisting giving out this information only because they're being held back by the prosecutor's office," later adding that the whole affair is "troubling."

    rest at http://thinkprogress.org/2008/12/16/rove-obama-blagojevich/

    The Top Ten Ethics Scandals of 2008 from All Content | Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

    16 Dec 2008 // Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has released its year-end list of the "top" 10 ethics scandals of 2008. Why isn't the recent criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on the list? Well, for one, it's not a Washington-centered problem. But Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, adds that while the Blagojevich case may be the flavor of the week right now, she thinks the scandals on her administration's list will have more of an impact in the long run. Here they are:

    1. "Unchecked Congressional Ethics": CREW wants Congress to have a high-powered ethics office with subpoena power. MoJo Blog covered the vote on this earlier this year; we looked at this issue last year, too.

    2. "No Guarantee that Bush Administration Records will be Properly Archived": We've been keeping you up to date on the ongoing missing White House emails problem.

    3. "Speech or Debate Clause": Lots of politicians who are charged with crimes seek to have their indictments dismissed under the "Speech and Debate" clause of the Constitution, which they claim protects anything in their congressional office from being used against them in court on the grounds that its "legislative material." Sloan says that this may be the biggest of the ten scandals her organization highlighted. If Blagocevich had been a member of congress, Sloan says, he would have been protected from much of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation. Law enforcement would not have been able to tap his office phone or include anything he did in the course of his legislative work as part of an indictment, Sloan says. And both Democrats and Republicans are protecting this hard-line interpretation of the speech and debate clause. "This is a bipartisan issue of protecting members accused of corruption from investigation and prosecution," Sloan says. Mother Jones covered this problem as early as 2006, with the raid on the offices of now ex-Louisiana Democratic Rep. William Jefferson.

    4. "The Pay-to-Play Congress": You've heard about this from John McCain and Barack Obama, who both talked about the power of earmarks to corrupt the legislative process. Every year, CREW notes the most egregious instances of earmark abuse, when campaign donors get earmarks from the politicians who they support. We wrote about corruption expert Lawrence Lessig's Change Congress effort and will have more with Lessig next week.

    5. "Enriching Family with Campaign Cash": CREW has released two reports on this problem, "Family Affair - House" and "Family Affair - Senate." We noted the most recent offender, Charlie Rangel.

    rest at http://www.citizensforethics.org/node/36105

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Open for Questions: Response from Change.gov

    via http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/open_for_questions_response/

    We've launched several features recently that are opening up the two-way dialogue between the Transition team and the Change.gov community.

    The feedback has been encouraging and constructive. Each new feature gives us the chance to refine the ways we facilitate these discussions, and it allows readers to chime in on the process as we grow.

    Last week, our Open for Questions feature was particularly well-received: more than 20,000 people cast nearly 1,000,000 votes on questions posed by the community. Overall, just over 10,000 questions were voted up or down and ranked by visitors to the site.

    The result is a snapshot of the issues you're concerned about as the pieces for the next administration move into place.

    Below are some of the top questions, and the answers that our transition team members have put together as part of the Open for Questions feature:

    Q: "Will you lift the ban on Stem Cell research in your first 100 days in office?" James_M, Nashville, TN

    A: President-elect Obama is a strong supporter of Federal funding for responsible stem cell research and he has pledged to reverse President Bush's restrictions.

    Q: "What will you do to establish transparency and safeguards against waste with the rest of the Wall Street bailout money?" Diane, New Jersey

    A: President-elect Barack Obama does not believe an economic crisis is an excuse for wasteful and unnecessary spending. As our economic teams works with congressional leadership to put together a plan, we will put in place reforms to ensure that your money in invested well. We will also bring Americans back into government by amending executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public. In addition all appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies will be required to conduct the significant business of the agency in public so that every citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.

    Q: "What will you do to promote science and mathematics education to Elementary and Middle School students?" JasonWyatt, Raleigh, NC

    A: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will put children first by investing in early childhood education, making sure our schools are adequately funded and led by high-quality teachers, and reforming No Child Left Behind. They will recruit math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession and will support efforts to help these teachers learn from professionals in the field. They will also work to ensure that all children have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels.

    Q: "Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?" S. Man, Denton

    A: President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

    Q: "What will you do as President to restore the Constitutional protections that have been subverted by the Bush Administration and how will you ensure that our system of checks and balances is renewed?" Kari, Seattle

    A: President-elect Obama is deeply committed to restoring the rule of law and respecting constitutional checks and balances.That is why he has pledged to review Bush Administration executive orders. President-elect Obama will also end the abuse of signing statements, and put an end to the politicization that has taken place within the Department of Justice and return that agency to its historic and apolitical mission of fair and impartial administration of justice.

    The next Open for Questions feature will go live in the coming days.

    Until the next round of questions, check out some of the other features on the site: from community discussions and video responses, to behind-the-scenes video and a "Seat at the Table" with outside groups.

    Electoral College weighs in for Obama from Politico

    Electors in all 50 states and the District of Columbia met Monday and officially cast their votes in one of the final steps in the 2008 presidential election.

    By constitutional requirement, each state's electors meet on the first Monday following the second Wednesday in December. Electors must cast ballots for both president and vice president and sign six "Certificates of Vote" and "Certificates of Ascertainment" that report the results to the nearest federal judge, each Secretary of State, the National Archives and Vice President Dick Cheney. On January 6, Cheney will read the results and certify the election in front of a joint session of Congress before Obama is sworn in on January 20.

    The vote is largely a formality as electors in many states are legally required to vote for the same candidate chosen by the majority of the state's voters.

    rest at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1208/16610.html

    Petition to make clean water a human right from Boing Boing

    via http://www.boingboing.net/2008/12/15/petition-to-make-cle.html

    The Article 31 petition is trying to get the UN to add a new article to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one that recognizes a fundamental right to water. It comes from the people who made the amazing documentary on water rights, Flow.
    In 1948, the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were ratified by all the nations of the world. These 30 articles guaranteed a broad sweep of human rights across many human endeavors, from Life to Liberty to Freedom of Thought.

    Now, sixty years later, recognizing that over a billion people across the planet lack access to clean and potable water and that millions die each year as a result, it is imperative to add one more article to this historic declaration, the Right to Water.

    We, the undersigned, respectfully call upon the United Nations to add a 31st article to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, establishing access to clean and potable water as a fundamental human right.

    We believe the world will be a better place when the Right To Water is acknowledged by all nations as a fundamental human right, and that this addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represents a major step toward the goal of water for all.

    Please join us. Water is a right, not a privilege.

    Article 31

    Obama's Weak National Security Team from TPR: The Public Record

    Sixteen years ago, President-elect Bill Clinton headed for Washington with a national security team that was unprepared for a new age of foreign policy marked by the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. Clinton proclaimed upon arrival that "foreign policy is not what I came here to do," and the weakness of his national security team confirmed his attitude.

    Unlike his economic team, which was marked by such stars as Lloyd Bentsen, Robert Rubin, Gene Sperling, and Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Clinton's foreign policy team was mediocre at best. Members of it were soon replaced. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin lasted less than a year; CIA director Jim Woolsey lasted less than two years; Secretary of State Warren Christopher and national security adviser Tony Lake lasted through Clinton's first term, but neither distinguished himself.

    President-elect Barack Obama's appointments similarly demonstrate that his focus is on economic policy and that he is willing to put foreign policy on the backburner.  His economic team is star-studded and clearly prepared to take on the economic challenges we face. His national security team is comprised of disparate individuals with world views at odds with each other and with Obama. There appears to be no commitment to reverse the militarization of American foreign policy and no willingness to confront a Pentagon that the Bush administration has placed at the top of the decision-making ladder on foreign policy. The Bush legacy includes the weakening of the State Department and the militarization of the intelligence community, which finds nearly all of the intelligence departments and agencies led by active-duty and retired general officers.

    Obama also has inherited a Clinton legacy marked by an unacceptable level of military influence over U.S. national security and foreign policy. Clinton capitulated to military opposition to agreements dealing with the International Criminal Court, a ban on landmines, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the Chemical Warfare Convention. These decisions by Clinton need to be reversed. During the campaign, Obama took strong positions on stopping ethnic violence in Africa and elsewhere, but he should understand that the Pentagon opposes humanitarian missions for military force.  It dragged its heels on intervention in Bosnia to stop ethnic cleansing and advocated that the United States block U.N. efforts to stop the genocide in Rwanda. 

    rest at http://www.pubrecord.org/commentary/566-obamas-weak-national-security-team.html

    Petition to "Get a Secretary of Real Food appointed" in Obama Administration from Boing Boing

    Bonnie Powell, who covers the ethics and politics of foodover at the marvelous blog Ethicurean, says:

    Obama still hasn't named a Secretary of Agriculture, which is one of the most important appointments in the Cabinet, overseeing a $94 billion budget that directly affects not just farmers, but public health, the environment, animal welfare, and so much more. For years this post has been held by shills for "Big Farma" and pandered to those corporations like Cargill, Smithfield, Monsanto, and Archer Daniels Midland with massive lobbying clout. As Nicholas Kristof wrote in his NY Times column "Obama's Secretary of Food?", appointing a reformer to head the USDA would send a "powerful signal" that U.S. food policy was finally about to become more palatable.

    Kristof linked to a petition at fooddemocracynow.org that asks Obama's transition team to consider six candidates — all experienced, viable names of people who are ready and willing to serve — for Secretary of Agriculture who could potentially mend our broken food system. Already, after only six days, 36,000 people have signed the petition, including Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Bill Niman, and the Obama transition team appears to be paying attention. But for some reason, the current names still being floated in the media are not those of reformers at all.

    rest at http://www.boingboing.net/2008/12/15/petition-to-get-a-se.html

    Bush sneaks through host of laws to undermine Obama from The Observer

    The lame-duck Republican team is rushing through radical measures, from coal waste dumping to power stations in national parks, that will take months to overturn, reports Paul Harris in New York

    After spending eight years at the helm of one of the most ideologically driven administrations in American history, George W. Bush is ending his presidency in characteristically aggressive fashion, with a swath of controversial measures designed to reward supporters and enrage opponents.

    By the time he vacates the White House, he will have issued a record number of so-called 'midnight regulations' - so called because of the stealthy way they appear on the rule books - to undermine the administration of Barack Obama, many of which could take years to undo.

    Dozens of new rules have already been introduced which critics say will diminish worker safety, pollute the environment, promote gun use and curtail abortion rights. Many rules promote the interests of large industries, such as coal mining or energy, which have energetically supported Bush during his two terms as president. More are expected this week.

    America's attention is focused on the fate of the beleaguered car industry, still seeking backing in Washington for a multi-billion-dollar bail-out. But behind the scenes, the 'midnight' rules are being rushed through with little fanfare and minimal media attention. None of them would be likely to appeal to the incoming Obama team.

    The regulations cover a vast policy area, ranging from healthcare to car safety to civil liberties. Many are focused on the environment and seek to ease regulations that limit pollution or restrict harmful industrial practices, such as dumping strip-mining waste.

    rest at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/14/george-bush-midnight-regulations

    Assholes: Bush Administration - "it has eviscerated the regulations in the original bailout bill limiting executive compensation"

    Wall St. Bailout: Exec Pay Limits 'Effectively Repealed' By WH from Daily Kos

    At the same time that the Bush Administration won't say whether or not it will use TARP funds to save the auto industry, we learn that it has eviscerated the regulations in the original bailout bill limiting executive compensation:

    Executive Pay Limits May Prove Toothless
    Loophole in Bailout Provision Leaves Enforcement in Doubt

    Congress wanted to guarantee that the $700 billion financial bailout would limit the eye-popping pay of Wall Street executives, so lawmakers included a mechanism for reviewing executive compensation and penalizing firms that break the rules.

    But at the last minute, the Bush administration insisted on a one-sentence change to the provision, congressional aides said. The change stipulated that the penalty would apply only to firms that received bailout funds by selling troubled assets to the government in an auction, which was the way the Treasury Department had said it planned to use the money.

    rest at http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/12/15/44444/030/49/673199

    CUNT: Ann Coulter: Minnesota Senate race 'being openly stolen' from Raw Story

    Also comments on Iraqi shoe-thrower, 'liberalism and terrorism ... same disease'

    Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter told the hosts of Fox & Friends on Monday that the Minnesota Senatorial race, in which an ongoing recount has Democrat Al Franken gaining ground against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman, "is being openly stolen in front of our eyes."

    Coulter was reported in late November to have broken her jaw and had it wired shut, leading her to reschedule a December 3 speaking engagement. However, she appeared to be back in fighting form on Monday.

    "Coleman won and the election is going to be stolen out from under him unless the media focuses on this," Coulter insisted. "Democrats can't get these things through when people are paying attention, but nobody's really paying attention. You've got the Republican governor up in Minnesota saying, 'No, it's fine, Coleman won.'"

    rest at http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Ann_Coulter_compares_liberalism_to_terrorism_1215.html

    Adorable VP Adopts Adorable Puppy from Gawker

    FROM http://gawker.com/5110161/adorable-vp-adopts-adorable-puppy

    President-elect Barack Obama famously promised his daughters—and the nation!—a puppy, once the election was over. Well, Mr. President-elect, the election is over. Where is the puppy?

    Bob Corker [The first-term Republican] just led the charge to kill the American auto industry, and with it some 10% of the American economy, because he wasn't allowed to bust the UAW

    FROM http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/12/15/11452/422/255/673017

    Let's make this very plain.  Bob Corker just led the charge to kill the American auto industry, and with it some 10% of the American economy, because he wasn't allowed to bust the UAW.  As such, Bob Corker is definitionally one of the most traitorous and despicable human beings ever to track slime across the floors of the Senate. He is attempting to take advantage of the financial crisis to literally dismantle the American middle class. He is beneath the contempt with which partisans regard even their most radical and craven domestic political opponents.  And to see three of the most prominent leaders of the party that portrays itself as the party of working Americans line up to commend this sanctimonious puppet of big money, this enemy of working Americans . . . well, it's disgusting.  There's really no other word for it.

    There is a sickness in the Senate if the people who are supposed to fight for working Americans have anything but utter revulsion for Bob Corker.

    Saturday, December 13, 2008

    Two Heroes Now Homeless from AfterDowningStreet.org

    via http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/38221

    By Mark Crispin Miller

    Micheal Stinson--a/k/a Symbolman--and Julie Sigwart, the couple behind Take Back the Media, are now homeless. Like millions of their fellow citizens, they lately had the hideous experience of watching as their house was auctioned off:

    Although they're not people of means (obviously), over the years they've spent at least $200,000 on their work against the Bush regime; and that work has been invaluable. It was they, for instance, who first interviewed Don Siegelman, on video, about the theft of his re-election in 2002; and they've done lots more in the same bold investigative spirit (much of it with a certain piercing humor).

    So if there's any way to help them out, even if it's just by helping spread the word, please do so.

    Bank of America Spends $7 Billion on Chinese Bank, Then Lays Off 30,000 Workers from Firedoglake

    american-dollar-toilet-paper.thumbnail.jpgAh, the sweet smell of your TARP money being used to batter the US economy senseless. First Bank of America gets $15 billion of TARP funds, and issues $9 billion worth of bonds guaranteed by the FDIC, then it spends $7 billion to buy a big stake in a Chinese bank.

    Now Bank of America announces it's laying off 30,000 to 35,000 workers. Why? In part because it took over Merrill Lynch and wants to "eliminate redundancies". Now, that's entirely rational for Bank of America, as is spending $7 billion to buy up shares in a bank cheap (they got a below market price). But it's not good for the US because that money was meant to be loaned to Americans and because layoffs make the economic situation worse (and those laid of workers will immediately cost the government a ton of money.)

    rest at http://firedoglake.com/2008/12/13/bank-of-america-spends-7-billion-on-chinese-bank-then-lays-off-30000-workers/

    Homelessness, hunger rise in US from Raw Story Breaking News

    Homelessness and hunger increased in an overwhelming majority of 25 US cities in the past year, driven by the foreclosure crisis and rising unemployment, a survey showed Friday.

    Out of 25 cities across the United States surveyed by the US Conference of Mayors, 83 percent said homelessness in general had increased over the past year while 16 cities, or nearly two-thirds of those polled, cited a rise in the number of families who had been forced out of their homes.

    In Louisville, Kentucky, the number of homeless families increased 58 percent in 2008 to 931 families from 591 people in 2007, with the rise blamed on soaring food, health care, transportation and energy prices.

    Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island blamed the rise in family homelessness on evictions by landlords whose rental properties were foreclosed.

    Meanwhile, the number of people seeking food assistance for the first time was up in all 21 cities with data on the issue, and was "particularly notable among working families stressed by the increase in food prices and the slowdown in the economy," the report said.

    Officials in Philadelphia told the survey that "new people coming to food cupboards are people that are employed with children.

    "With food prices increasing as much as 30 percent and incomes either staying the same or decreasing, it is impossible for them to feed their families," the report said.

    When asked to identify the three main causes of hunger, 83 percent of cities cited poverty, 74 percent cited unemployment and 57 percent cited the high cost of housing.

    And while demand for food assistance was up, providing it was more difficult for cities as the faltering economy and rising joblessness -- two key reasons for the increased demand -- also caused the number of donations to fall.

    Greater efficiency in large grocery stores and food suppliers has also shrunk the availability of food assistance because it has decreased food donations from the large organizations, which are the main donors to food banks.

    rest at http://rawstory.com/news/afp/Homelessness_hunger_on_rise_in_US_c_12122008.html

    Obama’s Economic Team Planning for Global Economic Collapse

    It's quite unsettling to talk to members of Barack Obama's transition teams these days, especially those who are helping with the economics portfolio. Without going into details, the sense I get from them is that they are very worried that the economy will get a lot worse before it gets better. Not just worse... a lot worse. As in -- double digit unemployment without the wiggle factors. Huge declines in aggregate demand. Significant, persistent deficits. That's one reason why the Obama administration seems to be open to listening to every economist with an idea and is stocking the staff with the leading lights of the field. In one sense, the general level of concern among Obama advisers and transition staffers is reassuring; they get the magnitude of the problems, and they're not going to assume that, just because the bottom has never dropped out before -- certainly not in the lifetimes of most people doing policy these days, the bottom will never drop out.

    Where the discussion isn't going, at least in public,  (or the PR level), is the possibility that the first foreign policy crisis the administration will face will be the complete economic collapse of a large, unstable nation. To be sure, Pakistan is nearly broke, and U.S. policy makers seem to be aware of that; but a worldwide demand crisis could lead to social unrest in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, Singapore, the Ukraine, Japan, Turkey or Egypt (which is facing an internal political crisis of epic proportions already). The U.S. won't have the resources to, say, engineer the rescue of the peso again, or intervene in Asia as in 1997.

    This video is infuriating - its about the ceo compensation of the big bailout reciepents


    Trib: Rahm and Blagojevich Discussed Senate Seat from Chicagoist

    2008_12_13_rahmblago.jpgThis morning, the Chicago Tribune had an answer for President-Elect Barack Obama as to whether or not any of his staff talked to Gov. Rod Blagojevich about filling in Obama's vacant senate seat: yes and it was Rahm Emanuel. While the Tribune's story is careful to point out that Rahm and Blago's chats do not at all implicate Rahm, Obama, or anyone else in the Obama Administration as a participant in Balgo's pay-to-play scheme, it does raise questions about how much Rahm - who's been the source of a shit-ton of speculation this week - might or might not have known about the entire plan.

    One source confirmed that communications between Emanuel and the Blagojevich administration were captured on court-approved wiretaps.

    Another source said that contact between the Obama camp and the governor's administration regarding the Senate seat began the Saturday before the Nov. 4 election, when Emanuel made a call to the cell phone of Harris. The conversation took place around the same time press reports surfaced about Emanuel being approached about taking the high-level White House post should Obama win.

    Emanuel delivered a list of candidates who would be "acceptable" to Obama, the source said. On the list were Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Illinois Veterans Affairs director Tammy Duckworth, state Comptroller Dan Hynes and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Chicago, the source said. All are Democrats.

    rest at http://chicagoist.com/2008/12/13/trib_rahm_and_blago_chatty_cathies.php

    Pentagon Pro-Troop Group Misspent Millions from Truthout

        While the Pentagon preps for a new administration, a scandal from an earlier era is rearing its head.

        A Defense Department project, supposedly designed to support U.S. troops, was used instead to channel millions of dollars to personal friends and allies of its chief. The "America Supports You," or ASY, program was led in a "questionable and unregulated manner," according to a Department of Defense Inspector General report, obtained by Danger Room. At least $9.2 million was "inappropriately transferred" by the project's managers. Much of that money served only to further promote ASY, instead of assisting servicemembers.

        In 2004, the office of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld set up ASY as a six-month effort to showcase the U.S. public's backing for the troops and their families. "If you're serving overseas, and you watch the mainstream media coverage, sometimes you can't tell if America knows you're there," one official overseeing the program says. America Supports You was seen as a way to counteract that sense.

        In time, however, the program grew. Pro-troop rallies were organized. Special wristband and dog tags were made. Special-edition comic books were printed up. Processions were held on the National Mall, on the 9/11 anniversary. Sesame Street characters were enlisted to make DVDs that encouraged families with young children to talk about overseas deployments. America Supports You became a kind of umbrella group for all sorts of charity-related work for service members and military families.

        Meanwhile, ASY began to spend millions - not to help the troops, the Inspector General says, but to help itself. "Instead of focusing on its primary mission of showcasing and communicating support to the troops and their families, the ASY program focus [turned to] building or soliciting support from the public," the Inspector General's report notes. In 2006 and 2007, for instance, more than $600,000 was spent ginning up support for America Supports You among schoolchildren. Another $165,000 went to a pro-ASY concert aboard the USS Intrepid, docked on Manhattan's west side. And $15,000 went to actor and musician Gary Sinise's "Lt. Dan Band" to play a separate show. The report calls all of these "questionable and unregulated actions."

    rest at http://www.truthout.org/121308C

    Friday, December 12, 2008

    Saving the Middle Class Is Ideological, Too from Open Left - Front Page

    highlights: from http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=10419

    "I do take issue with one aspect of DH's writing, though: the part where he argues that the desire to destroy a union instead of saving the economy makes someone an ideologue. This is because wanting to save three million middle class jobs is itself an ideological position. It isn't so much that Senate Republicans are being ideologues, and those who want to save the three million jobs are not being ideologues, but rather that it is a clash of ideologies. Wanting to save three million jobs instead of destroying the UAW is itself an ideological position."

    "For example, DHinMI writes:

    So, it's possible that the GOP Senators like Corker and McConnell are stupid, and just don't understand some of the basics of the global auto industry.  But we shouldn't dismiss the possibility that the ultras who've taken over the GOP, the people for whom ideology is more important than consequences and reality, would rather risk destroying one of our most important industries in an attempt to destroy a labor union."

    "This isn't about a clash between ideology and reality. This is, instead, about different ideological desires for what should happen in reality."

    "There is no non-ideological ground in this fight. This is the case with most political fights. Values like helping the middle class, ensuring civil rights, and protecting the environment are, in fact, ideological positions. These fights are not about defeating ideology altogether since, without ideology, then there would be no reason to work for civil rights, a clean environment, or broad economic prosperity. This isn't about defeating ideology altogether, but rather about defeating certain ideologies. Specifically, it is about defeating ideologies that consider busting a union more important than saving three million jobs. Beliefs like that are extremely dangerous to those who hold a different, progressive ideology: the belief in broad, economic prosperity for all."

    How The Republicans Intend to Win in 2012 from Firedoglake

    excerpt from http://firedoglake.com/2008/12/12/how-the-republicans-intend-to-win-in-2012/

    The only free market left

    What happened last night and how it's being played in the press tells us exactly how the next 4 years are going to be played by Congressional Republicans.  They will do everything they can to make sure that economic packages necessary to turn the economy around either don't get passed or get badly compromised.   

    They will blame the failure of such bills, and of the economy itself, on unions and on not adhering to "free market" principles.  Every time they kill a bill, they will say that it's because they have rediscovered their conservative ideological roots and now understand that bailing out big companies with public money is bad, and that the free market needs to be allowed to run. 

    They will seize the mantle of principle and stick to it, as they are doing with the auto bailout, when they voted against an industry which has given much more money to Republicans than Democrats:

    For many conservatives in Congress, the idea of government rescuing any industry is simply unpalatable -- and that trumps any contributions from Detroit.

    "The tension for Republicans is that it's an industry that's been staunchly in their camp for many years, but this is legislation calling for billions of dollars of government spending," said Massie Ritsch, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. "It's a conflict between their principles and their longtime supporters."

    rest at http://firedoglake.com/2008/12/12/how-the-republicans-intend-to-win-in-2012/

    The Case Against Retaining Geren as Army Secretary from TPR: The Public Record

    In 2004, Geren participated in the infamous Pentagon Christian Embassy video, a promotional video filmed inside the Pentagon that, at the request of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), led to an investigation by the Department of Defense Inspector General. In July 2007, the IG issued a 45-page report finding seven officers, including four generals, guilty of violating a number of DoD ethics regulations. But, because of the IG's narrow choice of which regulations to focus on, the civilian DoD officials who appeared in the video, including then Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Geren, got off scot free.

    The IG also chose to completely evade the issue of religion in its investigation by plucking the catchall words "non-federal entity" from the regulations that were violated, although those same regulations do specifically name certain types of entities that cannot be endorsed by DoD personnel, including sectarian religious organizations. So, even the charges against the military officers who were found guilty were essentially placed on the same level as endorsing a car dealership or some other miscellaneous private enterprise while in uniform. Apparently, the IG just didn't see what the prohibition of government promotions of religion had to do with DoD personnel participating in a fundraising video at the Pentagon promoting a religious organization and a particular religion.

    The Christian Embassy endorsed by Secretary Geren in the video is an arm of Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC), a fundamentalist Christian organization whose far reaching Military Ministry has become entrenched in every part of the military. Geren, who was a Congressman from Texas from 1989 to 1997, first became involved with Christian Embassy through their Capitol Hill branch. He continued this relationship when he came to the Pentagon in 2001, joining the organization's Senior Executive Fellowship. To understand why having a Secretary of the Army with long time ties to any part of this organization is of such great concern, here are a few examples showing what the goals of CCC are for our military.

    One of CCC's "strategic goals" is to "Evangelize and Disciple All Enlisted Members of the US Military. Utilize Ministry at each basic training center and beyond. Transform our culture through the US Military." Another goal is to transform the military into a force of "government paid missionaries." Describing the duties of a position at Lackland Air Force Base and Fort Sam Houston, for example, the Military Ministry website stated:

    "Responsibilities include working with Chaplains and Military personnel to bring lost soldiers closer to Christ, build them in their faith and send them out into the world as government paid missionaries."

    A former CCC program director at the Air Force Academy, Scott Blum, said in a promotional video filmed at the Academy, CCC's purpose is to "make Jesus Christ the issue at the Academy" and for the cadets to be "government paid missionaries" by the time they leave.

    With Secretary Gates staying on in the new administration, MRFF is strongly requesting that both President-elect Obama and his Defense Secretary make a serious effort to rid our military of unconstitutional religious activity, and to weed out those DoD officials who have been complicit in promoting or endorsing what has in recent years evolved into a full-fledged constitutionally prohibited religious test for countless members of our armed forces.

    Replacing Secretary Geren would be a very good start.