Friday, February 27, 2009

Exclusive: Joe the Plumber suggests some members of Congress should be shot. from Think Progress

On Wednesday, Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher said that if he were in Congress, he would "probably be in jail" because he'd be charged with "slapping some member." He added, "And that's not [bull] either." ThinkProgress asked Joe at CPAC yesterday which members he would most like to slap. "Pretty much anybody that's stood there and said anything bad about our troops, pretty much anybody who sat there and talked treasonous talk about America," Joe said. He then implied that some members of Congress should be shot:

Back in the day, really, when people would talk about our military in a poor way, somebody would shoot 'em. And there'd be nothing said about that, because they knew it was wrong. You don't talk about our troops. You support our troops. Especially when our congressmen and senators sit there and say bad things in an ongoing conflict.

Watch it:


At CPAC, Jim DeMint Urges Conservatives to “Take to the Streets” to Stop Obama’s “Socialism” from Firedoglake

Day 2 of the Annual Wingnut Convention is off to an awesome start!

Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the only member of the senate to earn a perfect rating from the American Conservative Union, called President Obama "the world's best salesman of socialism" on Friday in describing his prime time speech earlier this week.

DeMint, a fierce opponent of government expansion, told the CPAC crowd that conservatives might have to "take to the streets to stop America's slide into socialism."

Now I know what you're thinking. Yeah, yeah, BT, the Birchers have their pitchforks and torches out at CPAC. What else is new?

But this year is getting so bad, it's even freaking out wingnut bloggers. Even my Senator Boxturtle was sufficiently unnerved to the point of pleading for moderation.


Bobby Jindal Revises His Katrina Story from Firedoglake

jindal.thumbnail.jpgThere's a whole host of evidence that Bobby Jindal's story about Katrina from his truly disastrous SOTU rebuttal was, shall we say,  fabricated.  Ben Smith reports Jindal is walking it back:

A spokeswoman for Bobby Jindal now says the Louisiana governor didn't intend to imply that an anecdote about battling bureaucrats "during Katrina" actually took place during the heat of the rescue effort or directly involved the governor, then a member of Congress.

The spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers, said the story Jindal told in his response to Obama actually took place some days later in Lee's office, as Lee was recounting his frustrations with the bureaucracy to someone else on the telephone.


"The audience erupted in cheers and laughter at the idea of Obama’s home city being obliterated. "

John Bolton picks Chicago as a city for terrorists to nuke

There's something about the annual Conservative Political Action Committee's annual convention that just draws out the ugly eliminationists. Every year it's someone -- usually Ann Coulter -- wishing aloud that someone would just blow away or lock up liberals and minorities en masse. This year it's John Bolton:

He [Obama] said during the campaign that Iran was a tiny threat. Tiny depending on how many nuclear weapons they ultimately are able to deliver on target. Tiny compared to the Soviet Union, but is the loss of one American city — pick one at random: Chicago — is that a tiny threat?

As Think Progress notes:

The audience erupted in cheers and laughter at the idea of Obama's home city being obliterated.

It's nice to see they've expanded their targets. When right-wingers wish aloud for terrorists to obliterate an American city, it's usually San Francisco.

Tom DeLay Channels Limbaugh: I Want Obama To Fail from Think Progress

Just days before the Inauguration, Rush Limbaugh famously declared, "I hope [Obama] fails." Since then, some conservatives have been hesitant to embrace this view. Pat Robertson said, "That was a terrible thing to say." "Anybody who wants him to fail is an idiot," said Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC). Responding to Sanford, Limbaugh reiterated his position yesterday, saying, the "hell we don't" want Obama to fail.

One of those "idiots" adopting Limbaugh's stance is former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX). In an interview with ThinkProgress at CPAC today, we asked DeLay whether he agrees with Limbaugh's statements. DeLay said Limbaugh was "exactly" right to root for Obama's failure:

TP: Do you agree with Rush Limbaugh that we shouldn't hope for President Obama to succeed?

DELAY: Well, exactly right. I don't want this for our nation. That's for sure.

Watch it:


Jindal Admits Katrina Story Was False from TPMmuckraker

Looks like the game is up.

Remember that story Bobby Jindal told in his big speech Tuesday night -- about how during Katrina, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a local sheriff who was battling government red tape to try to rescue stranded victims?

Turns out it wasn't actually, you know, true.

In the last few days, first Daily Kos, and then TPMmuckraker, raised serious questions about the story, based in part on the fact that no news reports we could find place Jindal in the affected area at the specific time at issue.

Jindal had described being in the office of Sheriff Harry Lee "during Katrina," and hearing him yelling into the phone at a government bureaucrat who was refusing to let him send volunteer boats out to rescue stranded storm victims, because they didn't have the necessary permits. Jindal said he told Lee, "that's ridiculous," prompting Lee to tell the bureaucrat that the rescue effort would go ahead and he or she could arrest both Lee and Jindal.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jindal is a deuche

FLASHBACK: Jindal Supported Federal Unemployment Funding After Katrina Devastated His District

On Friday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) announced that he would reject roughly $100 million in unemployment assistance from the federal recovery package, claiming the aid would lead to a tax hike on businesses. Jindal's decision ensured that at least 25,000 unemployed Lousiana residents would not be eligible for unemployment insurance.

As the congressman representing parts of Lousiana devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Jindal actively sought assistance from the federal government. Yesterday on MSNBC's Countdown, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) called the Republican Party a "heartless and insensitive organization" and criticized Jindal for rejecting the unemployment funds. Jindal, she noted, was singing a different tune about unemployment aid when Katrina hit his district:

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: This is a guy, who while I served with him in Congress, voted for that [unemployment] assistance twice, and is certainly willing to take funding from the federal when people are out of a job and out of their home as a result of a hurricane, but not willing to take that assistance when his constituents are out of a job and out of a home as a result of this economic crisis. I'm not sure what the difference is. A crisis is a crisis.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Money Is the Root of All Hypocrisy from Truthout


The great movie comic and professional curmudgeon W.C. Fields once said, "You can fool some of the people some of the time - and that's enough to make a decent living." Watching the news from Washington unfold this week, the truth of the late comedian's words never seemed more right.

    The antics of the august members of the House and Senate remind us once again that money is the root of all hypocrisy - especially in politics.

    Take United States Sen. Roland Burris, appointed by former Illinois governor and clown prince Rod Blagojevich to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama. Testifying before the impeachment committee investigating Blagojevich, Senator Burris claimed he had no conversations with anyone from the governor's clan of cronies prior to his appointment. Now he says, oops, I just remembered - the governor's brother asked me to raise $10,000. Or was it $15,000?

    Luckily, Senator Burris still has some space in Chicago's Oak Woods Cemetery on that spiffy mausoleum he had built with a list of all his accomplishments. Like some ancient Egyptian pharaoh ordering up the hieroglyphics for his made-to-order pyramid, the senator has room to have inscribed there one final act of public service. "Resignation" would seem to fit rather neatly.

    Then there are Republican Congressmen John Mica of Florida and Don Young of Alaska. As the McClatchy News Service reported, both stood with their party - good and true, cool conservative men - voting against President Obama's economic stimulus. So did every other GOP House member. Twice. But then, eager to ride a gravy train with a popular president at the throttle, each of them had the chutzpah to issue press releases praising aspects of the stimulus package - while never mentioning they'd actually voted "nay." This was followed by the spectacle of several other Republican House and Senate members who voted against the stimulus going back home during the Presidents' Day recess and touting the money the bill will provide their constituents.

    But the prize of the week - the ever-loving, loving cup - goes to the multitude of Congress members - both Democrats and Republicans - who enjoyed balmy Caribbean breezes and substantial campaign contributions thanks to the largesse of financier Robert Allen Stanford, now accused of bilking investors of some $9 billion and, like W.C. Fields, making a decent living at it.

    Stanford prefers being called "Sir Allen," as befits a Texas charlatan. He was knighted by the governor-general of the West Indies island of Antigua, offshore headquarters for his alleged con game. He bankrolled "fact-finding" missions to Antigua and other Caribbean ports-of-call for several members of Congress, including Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn and New York Democrat Charlie Rangel, chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

    Stanford Financial Group was a main sponsor of last month's Texas state pre-inaugural ball in DC and his political action committee gave $10,000 to help cover the costs of last year's congressional baseball game (the Republicans won, for the eighth year in a row, 11-10). "Sir Allen" partied with Nancy Pelosi and Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention last summer. And when Tom Delay was still House majority leader, he flew the friendly skies in Stanford's private jet 16 times in three years - including a trip to Houston for Delay's arraignment on money-laundering charges.

    Stanford showered millions on political campaigns, much of it from 2001-2002, the very time Congress was debating a bill to curb financial fraud with a computer network linking regulatory data bases. Two of the biggest recipients were Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida - who at the time was chairing the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, another big beneficiary of Stanford love - and Republican Sen. John McCain. Three key Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee - then Chair Paul Sarbanes, Charles Schumer and Christopher Dodd received checks, too. The reform bill never got out of the Senate.

    According to the nonpartisan and indispensable Center for Responsive Politics, over the last decade, Robert Allen Stanford spent nearly $5 million lobbying the Senate and House, on top of $2.4 million in campaign contributions to federal candidates. Now that he has been tracked down by the FBI and charged with "massive, ongoing fraud," many politicians are rushing to give the money back to charity, including President Obama, whose campaign received $4,600.

    Altogether, however, Stanford's contributions were a spit in the bucket of what he's alleged to have swindled, and just a tiny slice of the multibillion-dollar pie the lobbying business has become in Washington. Already, lobbyists are jumping all over President Obama's economic stimulus, so much so that the Washington, DC, Examiner newspaper renamed the bill "The Lobbyist Enrichment Act" and reported that, "In the first weeks of this year, about 50 companies, trade associations, municipalities or nonprofits retained new lobbyists explicitly to lobby on the stimulus bill."

    According to Washington Post associate editor Robert G. Kaiser, the lobby industry "has helped moneyed interests protect their status and privileges, undermined government regulation of business and turned our elected officials into chronic money-chasers."

    Kaiser, an intrepid, longtime reporter and native Washingtonian, has a new book out titled, "So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government." He appeared as a guest on the current edition of "Bill Moyers Journal" on public television.

    The fix is in, he told my colleague Moyers, eliminating a fair competitive system. We should ask for more transparency, Kaiser suggests. And campaign finance reform would go a long way to making a difference, but he doesn't think it likely anytime soon.

    The "everybody does it" syndrome took over in Washington a long time ago and, in general, an indifferent, cynical public seems unmotivated to do anything about it. "They do not expect Congress to do the right thing," Kaiser said, "They do not expect high ethical standards. On the contrary."

    So why should the lobbyists and the government stop their profitable roundelay if we fail to do anything to stop the music and fall for the "everybody does it" meme? Do we deserve what we get? The way lobbyists, special interests and politicians regard the citizenry brings to mind another W.C. Fields aphorism, the title of one of his movies: "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break."

Kucinich on Stanford Group Fraud: SEC Told to “Stand Down” by Unknown Federal Agency in 2006 from

Dennis Kucinich is trying to determine which federal agency told the SEC to stand down with regard to Allen Stanford in 2006.

Which agency?

Well, last Tuesday (17 February 2009), Allen Stanford was unable to charter a private jet to take him from Houston to Antigua. Then, of all the places he could have gone, where did he turn up two days later?

Virginia. With an unidentified woman. At a private residence. With the FBI waiting for him at that private residence.

Some guesses:

Maybe he had to come in from the cold to get instructions on how this was going to play out. He wants to stay alive. He wants his family to stay alive. Obviously, he's not going to talk on the phone. So he drives, and drives and winds up in Virginia.

Sure, it could be a Coincidence that Virginia just happens to be the home of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency… But why Virginia, of all places?

To meet the CIA case officer who has been tasking him?

Who was the unidentified woman in the car? Is she his handler? I doubt that his handler would show up for a meeting with the J Edgars, but who knows what arrangements were made?

Where is Allen Stanford right now? "…A day later Stanford was nowhere to be seen in the historic Virginia town."

Questions, questions.

This has to get rolled up. This has to go away.

UPDATE: The Woman's Name is Andrea Stoelker, She's Stanford's Girlfriend

This is just too much:



Obama's DOJ Quietly Sought Dismissal of Missing E-Mails Lawsuit from TPR: The Public Record

By Jason Leopold

One day after he was sworn in as President of the United States and in the same week signing executive orders ushering in a new era of government transparency, Barack Obama's Justice Department quietly filed a motion in federal court to dismiss a long-running lawsuit that sought to force the Bush administration to recover as many as 15 million missing White House e-mails.

In a legal briefs filed Jan. 21, the Justice Department admitted that a secretive restoration process implemented during George W. Bush's last months in office was still incomplete, and that a bulk of the e-mails sent between 2003 and 2005 were deleted from servers in the Executive Office of the President and unrecoverable. The missing e-mails cover a time-frame that included the lead up to the Iraq war, a lawsuit involving the identities of individuals and corporations who advised Dick Cheney on energy policy and the leak by White House officials of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

But despite it all, the newly minted Obama administration said in court papers that the issue revolving around the missing e-mails is "moot" because some steps, however incomplete, have been taken by the Bush White House to preserve and restore missing e-mails, even though the work has been conducted under the cover of secrecy by an unknown outside contractor hired by Bush administration officials.


US Bancorp Blasts TARP As Giant Bait And Switch On America from Consumerist

U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis took shotgun blasts to the TARP program for being a fat big lie. "We were told to take it so that we could help Darwin synthesize the weaker banks and acquire those and put them under different leadership," Davis said. OMG - truth alert!

"We are not even allowed to mention that. ...We were supposed to say the TARP money was used for lending." He went on to say he would be "darned" if US Bancorp were to become part of of the "collateral damage" from the government's "sloppy attempt at nationalizing the [banking] industry." In so doing, Davis became the first major banking CEO to not talk horseshit since the crisis began.


If Not Nationalization, Then What? from Think Progress

geith.jpgThe question that everyone seems to be asking about the Obama administration's plan for the financial system is: "Should the United States nationalize some banks?"

There's been a chorus of calls for nationalization — from Paul Krugman and Nouriel Roubini to Alan Greenspan and Lindsey Graham — which thus far the Obama administration has resisted. As Roubini noted, however, the "stress test" that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geither proposed in his financial stability plan naturally leads to nationalization:

[T]he reality is that Mr. Geithner is going to confirm the insolvency of the financial system. Once we face this truth, there really isn't much left to do but nationalize. We are not talking about the government operating the banks for the long-term. But, as was done in Scandinavia in the early 1990s, we are talking about orderly clean up, then reselling the banks to private investors.

Of course, there is the question of the political viability of nationalization. Obama has argued that "America's different," and won't stand for nationalization. And as The Hill noted, federal ownership of troubled banks would play into false claims that Obama is a socialist.

But if not nationalization, then what? Geithner's public-private investment fund may get toxic assets off the banks' books, but nationalization is a more straightforward process, and doesn't depend on Wall St. being willing to buy the junk currently clogging up the banks. And the longer nationalization is delayed, the longer the solvency of the entire banking system will be in question. Thus, more good banks will get dragged down into the mud with the bad.


Nearly 75% of ex-Bush staff seeking jobs unemployed from Raw Story Breaking News

Nearly 75% of ex-Bush staff seeking jobs unemployed

While the market for job-seekers in the United States might be sour, for most it isn't as impenetrable as it is for the nearly 3,000 former members of the Bush administration.

Between 70-75 percent who are looking for full-time work still haven't found new jobs, according to a Saturday report by the Wall St. Journal.

"That 'is much, much worse' than when Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton left the White House," Carlos M. Gutierrez, who served as Bush's commerce secretary, told the paper.

For many, the traditional refuge of conservative think tanks in Washington, D.C. has become a Fort Knox, with almost no positions available, and certainly not for lower-rung Bush officials.


Republican Congressman Says Republicans Will Cancel Stimulus Bill If They Retake Majority in 2010 from Crooks and Liars

It's good to have dreams and aspirations, isn't it? Too bad that the Republican party's aspirations appear to be centered on destroying the country. After two decades of nearly unfettered access to run the nation, the Republicans are trying their damndest to obstruct and torpedo the stimulus bill and any success that President Obama might have.

And they actually think this will win them supporters. Astonishing. Even David Frum, who hasn't seen a really bad idea he wouldn't cheerlead, as long as it came out of the mouth of a Republican, thinks the GOP is "brain dead".


"State of the Dream 2009" & How 30 Years of Conservative Economics Has Stiffled Black Progress from Open Left

On Thursday, Dedrick Muhammad, co-author of the new report "State of the Dream 2009: The Silent Depression", from United for a Fair Economy, appeared on Democracy Now.  Right off the top, he said:
I think one of the most important findings is that-the idea that the African American community never emerged out of the 2001 recession. As the country was talking about things were going well in 2005, 2006, we saw that African Americans were actually having a decline in the employment rate, a decline in per capita income.

Prompted by Juan Gonzales on the issue of the wealth gap, Muhammad continued:

The overwhelming majority of African Americans and Latinos do not even have a savings enough that would keep them going for three months. And as you see growing unemployment and, what's not talked enough about, underemployment, there is not that safety cushion to help you get through hard times. African Americans only have about 15 percent of the wealth of white Americans. And so, again, African American community, Latino communities, and also just working-class communities as a whole, are in a much more dire situation than I think is truly recognized. And we need some political courage to deal with these issues adequately.


Recession Watch: 14,000 Americans a Day Are Losing Health Insurance from Pensito Review

Layoffs are causing as many as 14,000 people to lose their health insurance every day, according to projections by the Center for American Progress and based on Urban Institute research:

Private companies — the health plans — have had at least since 1993 when they killed Hillarycare to come up with a solution. It's been 16 years. Not only have they not solved the crisis, it is getting worse by the minute.

The data [showed that] a 1 percentage point rise in the national unemployment rate causes 2.4 million people to lose employer-sponsored health coverage.

Of these, the think tank said, 1 million people turn to Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program and 1.1 million end up uninsured.

Data released on Thursday showed U.S. jobless numbers rose to a record high in early February of 4.99 million people, an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent.

The percentage of these uninsured people who will be forced into bankruptcy and maybe homelessness because they can't pay their medical bills is unknown.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Market Becomes Convinced That Banks Will Be Nationalized, Freaks Out from Consumerist

Shares of banking stocks are dragging down the markets as investors become increasingly convinced that the banks will be nationalized, says Reuters. Investors are shunning the companies, worried that shareholders will be wiped out in a government takeover, and are fleeing to U.S. Government bonds and gold, which rose to above $1,000 an ounce.


Utah state senator to lose his committee chairmanship after homophobic diatribe. from Think Progress

buttars-bw.jpgEarlier this week, documentary film makers released the audio portion of an interview with Utah state senator Chris Buttars (R), who called gay people "the greatest threat to America going down," labeled homosexuality "a sexual perversion," and compared gays to alcoholics. Today, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Buttars' Republican colleagues have decided to kick him out of the state senate judiciary committee:


Taking Credit for the Stimulus: Republicans Reach ‘Height of Hypocrisy’ from The Washington Independent

This was inevitable.

Despite unanimous opposition from House Republicans to the Democrats' $787 billion economic stimulus plan, members of the GOP are now cheering certain elements of the bill that will benefit their districts, The New York Times reports today.

Just hours after voting against the bill on the House floor last week, Representative John L. Mica of Florida issued news releases lauding the inclusion of $8 billion for high-speed rail projects around the nation. Mr. Mica said the bill would also help pay for a commuter train project in his Central Florida district.

"If we could put a man on the moon, we should be able to move people from city to city quickly instead of wasting time on a congested highway," said Mr. Mica, the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "I applaud President Obama's recognition that high-speed rail should be part of America's future."


Friday, February 6, 2009

Team of Zombies, Part II: The "Outside" Economic Advisory Board from Open Left


Just to reiterate, President Obama today announced his "outside" economic advisory board, which is supposed to give him alternative economic viewpoints from the team of zombies he has working directly in the White House. Sadly, this "outside" board is made up mostly of Establishment and corporate insiders. Here's the list:
- William H. Donaldson, George W. Bush's S.E.C Chairman

- Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President & CEO, TIAA-CREF

- Robert Wolf, Chairman & CEO, UBS Group Americas

- David F. Swensen, CIO, Yale University

- Mark T. Gallogly, Founder & Managing Partner, Centerbridge Partners L.P.

- Penny Pritzker, Chairman & Founder, Pritzker Realty Group

- Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO, GE

- John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers

- Jim Owens, Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar Inc.

- Monica C. Lozano, Publisher & Chief Executive Officer, La Opinion

- Charles E. Phillips, Jr., President, Oracle Corporation

- Anna Burger, Chair, Change to Win

- Richard L. Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO

- Professor Laura D'Andrea Tyson, board member of Morgan Stanley

- Martin Feldstein, former top economist in the Reagan administration

This is about as bad as it gets - labor outnumbered 2 to 13; Wall Street insiders like Tyson, Gallogly and Wolf (the latter who is the boss of Phil Gramm and whose bank was a central part of the meltdown); Reagan and Bush's just more proof that D.C.'s zombie culture is alive and well.




Investment bankers racked up $100,000s in prostitution charges

Visa, Mastercard or American Express? Or maybe a credit card from JP Morgan Chase?

Wall Street CEOs, lawyers, bankers and media executives chalked up thousands of dollars in prostitution charges on their corporate credit cards -- swiping their cards for $2,000 an hour prostitutes, according to a New York madam who pleaded guilty last year.

Kristin Davis, the madam in question, went public to ABC News this week; ABC will be broadcasting her interview Friday at 10 pm. Davis says she has a list of 9,800 clients, many of whom she says New York prosecutors deliberately avoided when taking her case, even though she offered them her annotated client list.

In what's sure to create a media firestorm parallel to that of when a Washington, DC madam announced that she was publishing her client list (which included at least one senator), Davis' comments come at a time where incredible ire is already focused on Wall Street and banking executives. The pressure for her to release the list will certainly be immense.

But the pressure from New York's finest prosecuting team was nearly zero, Davis said.

"They showed no interest," Davis quipped, alleging that they ignored that numerous corporate titans had used her services.

"Some of these guys, I was invoicing on corporate credit cards," she said. "I was writing up monthly bills for computer consulting, construction expenses, all of these things, I was invoicing them monthly so they could get it by their accountants."

District attorney Robert Morgenthau's spokesman was said to have "no comment" on the handling of Davis' case or her allegations.

Davis provided the network with a print-out of her computerized client list, the same one she says that she offered the district attorney.

Among the names the network says it confirmed

* a vice president of NBC Universal (owned by General Electric)
* the part owner of a Major League Baseball team who "loves Kelsey"
* the CEO of one of the country's largest private equity firms who met "Cameron" at the Peninsula Hotel
* a major New York real estate developer who, according to the list, "will come to the door wearing women's panties"
* a partner at the Wall Street law firm Cravath Swaine Moore "looking for a party girl to come fully equipped" and spent a total of $20,000
* an investment banker from Lehman Brothers who saw "Kelsey and Keely together" and later saw "Aria and Skyler at the same time"
* an investment banker at JP Morgan Securities who "loves Brooke" and spent $41,600
* an investment banker at Goldman Sachs who "only wanted all-American girls" and spent $27,000
* a managing director from Merrill Lynch who saw "Lana" using the name "Nataly"
* a managing director from Deutsche Bank "who called about seeing Nataly again"

ABC said in their broadcast that for the individuals mentioned above, they could not confirm that the payments were made on corporate cards.


"More to Promote Outsourcing Than Nearly Anyone Else In America" from Open Left - Front Page

Remember back in in 2004 when the Bush administration issued a report trumpeting the benefits of job outsourcing? And remember how Democrats correctly went apeshit? Well, let me pose a question: What's worse - issuing a report applauding job losses, or putting one of the biggest outsourcing advocates in America in a top government job?

Unfortunately, this isn't a hypothetical - it's very real. Check out this op-ed in the engineering trade journal EE Times. It's by Rochester Institute of Technology professor Ron Hira, one of the nation's leading progressive voices on the issue of jobs and trade:

On the very same day he was meeting with "CEOs [who] outsource American jobs"--a phrase he repeatedly and derisively used during his campaign, [Obama] named McKinsey's & Co.'s Diana Farrell to his National Economic Council, the inner circle of economic advisors in the White House. Farrell has done more to promote outsourcing than nearly anyone else in America.

Farrell was the lead author of the infamous "Offshoring: Is it a Win-Win Game?" Now she'll be operating at the highest levels of the Obama administration. Her phony "study" did more damage than any other in the debate over offshoring. And her propaganda was used to mislead the American public about the true impact of offshoring.

Moreover, Farrell's firm made millions of dollars consulting with companies, advising them to accelerate their offshoring. And she publicly made the rounds to convince policymakers and the public that offshoring was good for them and the country. It's also no coincidence that the IBM and Nasscom, the Indian IT outsourcing industry association, were major McKinsey clients. They benefited from McKinsey's lobbying as well as its consulting services.

As I said, Hira's a progressive, and one of the nation's most respected (and quoted) experts on the issue of job outsourcing. He's published terrific pieces on the issue in journals like the American Prospect that I highly recommend.

So considering the source - and the ample evidence he cites - I'd say this is a very problematic appointment, especially considering Farrell will be serving on a council headed by Larry Summers - not exactly a guy who has given a shit about reforming our trade/globalization laws.



Bush Treasury Sec. 'subsidized' his ex-firm with $2.5 billion

President George W. Bush overpaid $78 billion for investments in the nation's largest banks and brokerages, according to a Congressional report released late Thursday.

The findings showed that government investment in the banks amounted to a nearly $80 billion subsidy of an industry that seems to have recently excelled at flushing money down the drain.

Ironically, the "subsidy" itself was doled out by Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the former chief executive of investment bank Goldman Sachs. According to the report, Goldman got an effective $2.5 billion subsidy from the Treasury Department.

While at Goldman, Paulson earned upwards of $10 million a year and was the richest member of the Bush Administration at the cabinet level or above.

The largest other purported subsidies were paid to: Citigroup ($9.5 billion), JP Morgan Chase ($4.4 billion) and Morgan Stanley ($4.2 billion).

The second round of bailout financing also added another $10 billion to Citigroup's alleged subsidy, and the second AIG bailout, $25 billion.

By contrast -- the entire amount the US government spend on higher education in 2006 was just over $50 billion -- less than the "subsidies" issued to the banks in the first round.

Click here to see a chart detailing which companies got what -- and at what cost to the US taxpayer (via Pro Publica).


January job loss worst in 34 years

January job loss worst in 34 years

NEW YORK ( -- Employers slashed another 598,000 jobs off of U.S. payrolls in January, taking the unemployment rate up to 7.6%, according to the latest government reading on the nation's battered labor market.

The latest job loss is the worst since December 1974, and brings job losses to 1.8 million in just the last three months, or half of the 3.6 million jobs that have been lost since the beginning of 2008.

The loss since November is the biggest 3-month drop since immediately after the end of World War II, when the defense industry was shutting down for conversion to civilian production.

January's job loss was also worse than the forecast of a loss of 540,000 jobs from economists surveyed by



Drugs, weapons seized at home owned by high-ranking police official


Apartment complex at 4553 W.56th St. in Chicago where a search warrant was executed at the home of a high-ranking Chicago Police official. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

Drugs and weapons were seized last night at a condominium owned by a high-ranking Chicago police official, authorities said. A 28-year-old man, the boyfriend of the daughter of the police official, was taken into custody.

The condominium is owned by Assistant Supt. Beatrice Cuello (lower left), said police spokeswoman Monique Bond. Cuello's daughter lives in the condo with the suspect.


Officers recovered 175 grams of cocaine and four guns in the home, and the arrested man allegedly admitted "criminal involvement," Bond said.

He was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of ammunition and firearms. He was not identified.

"At this time the investigation has revealed the relative had no involvement with the offender's criminal activity," Bond said. No other arrests were made.

The condominium is in the 4500 block of West 56th Street.



As Economy Sheds 600,000 Jobs In One Month, Senate Conservatives Ask: What's The Rush?

Today, the Labor Department reported that the economy lost 598,000 jobs in January, the worst monthly jobs loss since 1974. 1.8 million jobs have been lost in the last three months alone, and U.S. unemployment now stands at 7.6 percent, the highest in nearly two decades.

While President Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing for a recovery and reinvestment plan that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts would create up to 3.6 million jobs by next year, Republicans are stonewalling action to help the economy recover. Even as millions of Americans are losing their jobs, conservative Senators insist that there's no rush to help them:

LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We do not need any more news conferences. What we need is getting more than 16 people in a room. We need to slow down, take a timeout, and get it right.

ROGER WICKER (R-MS): As Thomas Jefferson reminded Americans in his day — and I quote — "Delay is preferable to error." Let's not rush into doing this the wrong way.

JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV): So we need to act much more responsibly than this bill acts. It's still time. There is no hurry.

TOM COBURN (R-OK): There's no reason for us to hurry up, number one. There's no reason for us not to look at every area of this bill and make sure the american people know about it.


Why Republicans Object to Solis from Daily Kos

Republicans continue to hold up the nomination of Hilda Solis for Labor Secretary, today allegedly over her husband's tax liens.

Now, before we think about those tax liens, let's be clear: The delay in confirming Solis is not about taxes. It is about her support for working people. Specifically, as Trapper John wrote yesterday,

So in a nutshell, Solis's opponents are arguing that the US Secretary of Labor should recuse herself from advocating for passage of the most important labor law reform measure facing the United States. Needless to say this is completely insane -- it's akin to saying that the HHS Secretary shouldn't be involved in the health care debate, or that the Defense Secretary shouldn't talk about Iraq. But it's indicative of just how completely scared the Republican Party and its corporate masters are about the workplace democracy promised by the Employee Free Choice Act. No cabinet appointee other than Solis has been subject to such an assault, and it's because Solis is guilty of the GOP's unforgivable sin -- supporting the right of working people to join together and fight for their share of this country's wealth.  And if that kind of opposition from the lackeys of the multinationals isn't a sign to you of how good the Employee Free Choice Act would be for working Americans, I don't know what is.

It's important to remember also that the Republicans so opposed to a Secretary of Labor who has opinions on labor issues were happy enough to confirm Elaine Chao for George W. Bush. In that Labor Department, it was just hunky-dory to have an assistant secretary who

was a partner at Jackson Lewis, a well-known unionbusting law firm that trains companies on "How to Stay Union Free" and issues publications highlighting their corporate clients' success at preventing organizing in the workplace.

But having a Secretary of Labor who had an uncompensated position on the board of an organization in favor of unions and workers' rights? That would be beyond the pale to Senate Republicans.


8 Banks Took $153.4 Billion In Tax Payer Money, Spent $845 Million On Naming Rights from Consumerist


Should bailout out banks be buying naming rights? Dennis Kucinich doesn't think so, and last week he urged the Treasury department to cancel one such deal between Citibank and the New York Mets. Now Bloomberg says that seven more bailed out banks are spending money on stadium rights.

In 2006 when Citigroup signed the 20-year agreement with the Mets, the costliest in U.S. sports, the lender said the partnership would raise its profile among customers. Now the company may lose potential clients because of a backlash against the deal, said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

"It's quickly becoming the sports-marketing poster child for the entire financial meltdown," Carter said of Citigroup in an interview. "You may be harming the relationships you are trying to build."

The eight banks received a total of $153.4 billion from the $700 billion U.S. bailout and are spending a combined $845 million for naming rights. U.S. banks have had $745 billion in losses and writedowns since the subprime mortgage crisis began in 2007.

The bailed out banks who are paying to name stadiums are:

Wachovia/Wells Fargo, $40 million, Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers

PNC, $40 million, Pittsburgh Pirates

Bank of New York Mellon Corp., $18 million, Pittsburgh Penguins, not renewed

Comerica, $66 million, Detroit Tigers

M&T Bank, $75 million, Baltimore Ravens

Citibank, $400 million, New York Mets

Bank of America Corp., $140 million, Carolina Panthers

JPMorgan Chase & Co, $66 million, Arizona Diamondbacks

The following companies have applied for bailout money but not yet received it:

BankAtlantic Bancorp. Inc., $27 million, Florida Panthers

Raymond James Financial Inc., $45 million, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Citigroup, Seven U.S. Banks Spend on Stadium Deals (Update2) [Bloomberg]

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New RNC Chair Brings Fundraising Prowess to Post from Capital Eye

When former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele lost his bid for Senate in 2006, it wasn't because his Democratic opponent, Congressman Ben Cardin, had raised more money. Steele collected $8.4 million, just shy of Cardin's $8.7 million. His fundraising success is likely a big part of the reason the GOP picked Steele to chair the Republican National Committee (RNC) last week, charging him with the task of bringing in cash to help the party maintain--and win back--seats in 2010.

The donors that Steele appealed to the most during his Senate race are those that would seemingly give to the party regardless of the person at the helm of the RNC. In the 2006 election cycle, Republican and conservative groups gave Steele his largest chunk of cash at $566,900, followed by the leadership PACs of other lawmakers ($495,300). But he also attracted money from retirees ($447,800) and lawyers and law firms ($331,450), which usually favor Democrats. His most generous sector was composed of ideological groups, which gave him a total of $1.2 million, with finance, insurance real estate companies next, giving $885,700. The fiscally conservative Club for Growth sent $242,800 Steele's way, while employees of the State of Maryland gave him $39,625. Other donors included defense company Lockheed Martin ($13,850) and law/lobbying firm Blank Rome ($13,300).


ABC: Obama Is Hypocritical For Limiting Wall Street Pay While Having A ‘Lavish Lifestyle’ from Think Progress


airforceone25.jpgYesterday, President Obama instituted a pay cap on bailed out businesses after it was revealed that Wall Street doled out an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses last year. "If the taxpayers are helping you, then you've got certain responsibilities to not be living high on the hog," he explained.

In what appears to be an attempt to call Obama a hypocrite, ABC's Scott Mayerowitz "reports" today that the President also has a "lavish lifestyle." Under the title: "Obama's Perks: Private Jet, Chef Tax-Free," ABC notes that Obama earns $400,000 dollars a year and even has a private jet:

The president makes $400,000 a year, but hasn't received a raise from Congress since 2001. He also gets a $50,000 annual entertainment expense account (any unused money at the end of the year must go back to the Treasury.)

Then there is the use of two private jets, Boeing 747s better known as Air Force One. And of course the constant security details, drivers, a private chef, a country vacation estate and the rent-free use of a well-known, 132-room mansion called the White House. The president also used to have a yacht, until Jimmy Carter sold it.

As its evidence that "corporate America" is upset, ABC said that "some Wall Street bloggers" are angry with the compensation cap. But the article cited only one blogger,, who — apparently poking fun at Sen. Claire McCaskill's statement — remarked, "Some accountability needs to be put in place. We won't have them kicking sand in the face of taxpayers any longer." also suggests charging rent for White House tenants.

Comparing the President to Wall Street CEOs is absurd. The "private jet" that Obama uses is Air Force One, which is used as a security precaution and necessary for the dozens of staff and press that accompany the President on every trip. Each use of the jet by the President is regarded as a "classified military operation" in order to ensure the President's safety.

Furthermore, Obama's salary is set by Congress (whose members are elected by the public). CEO compensation is decided internally within the company, usually by its board of directors. The problem with recent excessive CEO compensation was that executives receiving federal funds were still rewarded for failure with tens of millions of dollars from their companies.

The President, on the other hand, does not get a bonus for his performance, good or bad. Indeed, Presidents Bush and Obama earn the same salary. County Fair at Media Matters has more.

Michael Wilson

Your guide to the economic stimulus bill from

As the Senate nears a final vote on the economic stimulus bill, we thought it would be helpful to pull together all of our Truth-O-Meter items on what's in the bill and what's not. You'll find our rulings summarized in the box on the right. If you've been reading the site over the past two weeks, you know that we found lots of hyperbole in the debate.


Another Nominee With Tax Problems from Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines

What exactly was the point of that endless questionnaire Team Obama famously had prospective worker bees fill out? A fifth Obama nominee has run into some controversy, the fourth due to a failure to pay taxes, although in the case of Labor Secretary-designate Hilda Solis, her husband is to blame.

It seems Mr. Solis recently had to settle $6,400 in tax liens on his business. Those aren't exactly Tom Daschle proportions, but it makes one wonder, given how rampant this has been among the select group of Obama nominees, whether anyone actually pays their taxes.

No wonder we have such a huge deficit.


California Agriculture in Peril From Climate Change from Truthout - All Articles

     "We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California," Steven Chu says. He sees education as a means to combat threat.

    Washington - California's farms and vineyards could vanish by the end of the century, and its major cities could be in jeopardy, if Americans do not act to slow the advance of global warming, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said Tuesday.

    In his first interview since taking office last month, the Nobel-prize-winning physicist offered some of the starkest comments yet on how seriously President Obama's cabinet views the threat of climate change, along with a detailed assessment of the administration's plans to combat it.

    Chu warned of water shortages plaguing the West and Upper Midwest and particularly dire consequences for California, his home state, the nation's leading agricultural producer.

    In a worst case, Chu said, up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water vital to agriculture.


Report: Big Apple Losing Its Middle Class from Open Left

This report from the Center for an Urban Future basically says that for the middle class, there really is no future in New York City. Because of idiotically high housing prices and massive gentrification, the Big Apple is losing its middle-class at an astounding rate.


Bank of New York Mellon's TARP deal worth $20 million from BailoutSleuth

The Government Accountability Office has spilled one of the Treasury Department's TARP secrets, revealing the value of the Bank of New York Mellon's contract to serve as master custodian for the financial-industry rescue program.


In a report issued late last week, the GAO estimated that Bank of New York Mellon would receive $20 million over three years.


The Treasury Department hired Bank of New York Mellon in October to keep tabs on the assets it would buy and sell through the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. But when it posted the contract on its web site, it blacked out the portion outlining how much the bank would be paid and how that pay would be calculated.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Talk-Radio Republicans Are Winning The Stimulus Battle from Crooks and Liars

I was going to write something like this today, but former Air America CEO Doug Kreeger beat me to it. I'll just add that Obama gave the GOP this opening by courting Republican opinion instead of loudly denouncing them as the party that gave us this economic disaster.

Not that they wouldn't have done this anyway, but Obama legitimized them at a time the nation should be attacking them with pitchforks:

Last week, Obama's plans were debated in Congress. His goal of creating 2 million to 3 million jobs in the next two years through a massive rebuilding program of our crumbling infrastructure, was countered by the Republicans' revised stimulus plan. Their plan was not detailed beyond more tax cuts.

Here's the catch: The Republicans said their plan would create 6 million jobs. Really. Remember "Mission Accomplished"? Just saying something doesn't make it true.

The Republican playbook is about standing in opposition, knowing full well that the Democratic Congress is going to pass a stimulus package. Their next step is to go home and sell to what's left of their constituencies the notion that if we had listened to them, things would be far rosier. As a minority, a control group is unlikely to emerge that can disprove false numbers based on false rhetoric. They can go back and campaign in two years whether or not Obama's plan creates anywhere close to the number he hopes and tell the world, and claim that their plan would have provided double the number.

A perfectly manipulative strategy which plays to the short-term memory of the American electorate.


Obama's Betrayal from


Just two weeks after his historic inauguration ceremony, Obama's presidency is lurching towards failure, and not because three or his administration picks have been found to be tax cheats, but because nearly all of his administration picks are corporate whores and shills.

The problem with the new Obama administration is that it is turning out to be not about change at all, as he claimed during the campaign, but rather about more of the same—and these are not times that call for more of the same. Nor is more of the same the reason Obama won the election.

The economic team President Obama has put in place is composed of the same Wall Street hacks and conservative economic theologians who helped produce the current crisis, many of them as part of the Clinton administration, and some, like Timothy Geithner, actually as appointees of the thoroughly discredited Bush administration.

Obama's military team is essentially composed of holdovers from the Bush administration, starting at the top with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and retreads from the Clinton administration.

Little wonder that the president's economic team is still talking about throwing more money at banks, with the only real tweak making this boondoggle different from the Bush administration's fall bailout that there will be some limits established on executive pay. Banks will still be able to use their taxpayer bailout cash to buy other banks. And there will still be no way to force them to lend money. Little wonder too that there is no real effort aimed at propping up the struggling public—no job sweeping job creation programs (except for expanding the military), no major income supplements for the poor, no expansion of welfare benefits, no mandatory mortgage renegotiations or mortgage payment holidays. And so far, no real effort to pass labor law reform to protect workers who try to form labor unions.

Little wonder too that Obama seems to be backing away from his key campaign promise to end the war in Iraq, and that the one area where he is moving rapidly is in expanding the war in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of western Pakistan.

If there is any new thinking going on in the new Obama White House, it seems focused on ways to neuter the progressive forces that put him in that building in the first place. In this, Obama is running true to form for a Democratic president. Traditionally, at least since the days of the New Deal, Democrats have run for office promising progressive government, and have then run away from their promises as quickly as possible. The difference with Obama is that he is betraying his base faster than any of his predecessors. His latest appointment of New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary is a case in point—a man deeply conservative, opposed to the very existence of the Commerce Department he will head, and to top it off, Obama worked out a deal to have the Democratic governor of New Hampshire fill Gregg's vacated Senate seat with a Republican appointee, forfeiting the right to add a Democrat to the Senate and eliminate any chance of Republican filibusters.

In this instance, Obama's strategy is growing increasingly clear. He and the Democrats in Congress don't seem to really want to pass progressive legislation, such as the Employee Free Choice Act, and they probably don't really want to appoint true liberal judges to the appellate and the Supreme Court, either. That being the case, they are happy to leave Republicans with 41 Senate seats and at least the theoretical power to block Democratic legislation. That way, they can simply not offer up such legislation or such nominees, claiming these efforts would be doomed by a Republican filibuster. It's a fraudulent claim, of course. When the Democrats were in the minority in the Senate during the penultimate four years of the Bush administration, they didn't use the filibuster weapon to prevent Republican legislation. And the Republicans today are in a much weaker position, with a Democratic president who, at least theoretically, could bring considerable pressure on Republican legislators to do his bidding, or see their home states suffer.

One can puzzle over why a Democratic president would so quickly abandon his base, when Republicans, in contrast, have always strived so mightily to cater to theirs. My guess is that people like Obama cling to the long-discredited theory that the way to win elections is to appeal to some mythical "middle-of-the-road" electorate, and that thusly, he and his advisers, their eyes already on the 2012 election, are trying to position him as the candidate of the center.

Sadly, for both him and for all of us, this is a doomed strategy. The economy and the wars in the Middle East both call for dramatic action of the kind that Obama's voters and especially his activist base wanted and expected from him when they backed him last fall: In the case of the economy, a return to a kind of modern New Deal that would vastly expand funding for education right through college, that would dramatically expand unemployment compensation, job training benefits and welfare and child-care programs, that would expand Medicare to everyone, and that would end the subsidies for outsourcing of jobs and the relocation of businesses overseas; In the case of foreign policy, a prompt end to the Iraq War, a winding down of the Afghanistan War, and a termination of the so-called "war" on terror, with a refocus on international police cooperation and action against terrorist organizations.

Some of these things may eventually come to pass, but only when it becomes painfully obvious that the half measures and worn out strategies being applied to the economy have failed, and after the US faces being driven out of Iraq and Afghanistan—and even then only after the people who elected this president have taken to the streets to demonstrate against his betrayals. That awareness, of course, will come after the wasted spending of trillions of misdirected "stimulus" dollars and the wasted loss of hundreds or thousands of American lives, not to mention perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, Afghani and Pakistani lives.

It is, of course, still early in the game. Perhaps, with Obama's shabby appointments of people like Geithner, Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer causing an uproar, with his top generals openly trying to undermine him, and with Republicans starting to regain their confidence and refusing to play his "non-partisan" game, opting instead for a strategy of political obstruction, he may realize that he needs his the enthusiastic backing of his liberal base. If this happens, that base needs to make him realize that, in the wake of his early betrayals, he is going to have to earn their support.

The "Kumbaya" and "This Land is Our Land" singing is over, and unless Obama starts singing a different tune soon, he will spend the next four years presiding over a shattered economy and a nation mired in a distant, pointless and unwinnable war.

Video: The reality about ‘clean’ coal. from Think Progress

The coal industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to convince the public that clean coal is more than a myth (it isn't). Its gimmicks have included "blogger brigades," cartoon "coal carolers," and countless ads. The Wonk Room's Brad Johnson has put together a short video spoofing these ads to show the truth about dirty coal. Watch it:


The Untold Daschle Story - The Blacklisting of Leo Hindery from The Big Picture


Very interesting post on "Open Left" came over the transom this AM.

Blacklisting Progressives: The Untold Story Beneath the Daschle Headlines
by: David Sirota
Tue Feb 03, 2009 at 16:46

Amid the swirling headlines about Tom Daschle withdrawing his nomination for Health and Human Service Secretary is a very dark, very foreboding story that tells us a lot more about what to expect from the Obama administration than a single nomination fight. It is a story that every single voter who supported Barack Obama because of his progressive economic platform should know about - and worry about.

As every newspaper in America has been happy to report, Daschle worked with venture capitalist Leo Hindery after he left the Senate. Hindery was a top economic adviser to John Edwards and later to Barack Obama, and many had floated his name for U.S. Trade Representative or Commerce Secretary. Now, though, that won't be happening, as anyone mentioned near the Daschle flap is being shunned by the Obama administration.

But is that really why someone as accomplished as Hindery was never seriously considered for a top economic post in the administration? The media and the Obama administration would like us to believe yes - but the answer is no. It has far less to do with the Daschle situation and far more to do with Hindery's progressive economic ideology.

Buried in a Politico dispatch, we get the real story:

Hindery did his best to carve out his own public profile, with generous contributions to a range of Democratic-leaning organizations and a 2005 book, "It Takes a CEO," decrying outsourcing, Wal-Mart, and "an ethical and aesthetic 'race to the bottom'" in the media industry.

He also hoped to land a job in the Obama administration, and he had a close Obama adviser - Daschle — in his corner, the two Democrats said. United Steeelworkers union officials also backed him.

But while Hindery complained that he "waited for the phone to ring," a source said, Obama's aides appear never to have taken his bid seriously. One possible source of friction: Hindery had set himself up in opposition to Obama's top economic advisors, many of whom were associated with The Hamilton Project, an economic think tank that was the inheritor of former Treasury Secretary Rubin's generally pro-trade position.

In the same story, of course, we get hedge fund shark Steve Rattner - a huge Democratic fundraiser on Wall Street - bashing Hindery for backing populist Democratic candidates for local and national office.

And that's the big story here: Leo Hindery, one of the few business leaders to use his wealth to challenge deregulation, corporate trade deals and anti-worker policies was blacklisted by the Obama administration well before the Daschle flap ever happened - and he was blacklisted because he dared to clash with the same Wall Street Democrats whose corporate-backed policies destroyed the economy.

You can go ahead and tell yourself that this is just theory - just a single example. But that's willful ignorance, as the Hindrey scalping is only one chapter in what has been one long narrative arc whereby economic progressives have been deliberately shut out of top administration jobs. Just step back and think about it for a minute: Amid a stable of eminently qualified and well-respected progressives like James Galbraith, Joseph Stiglitz, Dean Baker, Robert Reich, Paul Krugman and Larry Mishel, Obama has chosen Rubin sycophants like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner to run the economy - the same Larry Summers who pushed the repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act, the same Geithner who masterminded the kleptocratic bank bailout, the same duo whose claim to fame is their personal connections to Rubin, a disgraced Citigroup executive at the center of the current meltdown. And the list of Rubin sycophants keeps getting longer, from Peter Orszag to Jason Furman.

As the Nation's Chris Hayes shows, its the same in other key regulatory positions, as free market fundamentalists who created the problem take the helm of the regulatory agencies they tried to destroy. Indeed, the only movement progressive in a top economic position is Jared Bernstein, and he was relegated to an amorphous job in the Vice President's office.

And now we see that's not an accident. Though Obama won states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana on promises to challenge Wall Street and reform our trade policies, there has been a deliberate and calculated effort to stack the administration with the very Wall Street Democrats who created the problems he lamented, and shun those who have been fighting the good fight.

The Anger Behind Obama’s Executive Pay Limits from The Washington Independent

President Obama's expected moves today to limit pay, bonuses and perks for executives of companies that get government bailouts, reflect a kind of populist anger not seen in decades, Bloomberg reports.

Thomas Mann, a scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the anger hasn't been this pronounced since Franklin Roosevelt took office during the depths of the Great Depression in 1933.

Roosevelt gave voice to a public rage against "a generation of self-seekers," in his inaugural address. "Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion," said Roosevelt.

Along with imposing a $500,000 salary cap for top executives of firms that get significant amounts of government assistance, the Obama administration also wants to limit perks. From Bloomberg:

Any additional compensation will be in restricted stock that won't vest until taxpayers have been paid back, according to an administration official, who requested anonymity. The rules will force greater transparency on the use of corporate jets, office renovations and holiday parties as well as golden parachutes offered to executives when they leave companies.

I'm not sure the the corporate world really understands what's about to hit it. This will be just the beginning of a major overhaul of the financial system - something that will be popular with the American people. And Wall Street has no one to blame but itself, by flouting the economic pain of ordinary Americans with corporate jets, Super Bowl parties, and lavish retreats.


There Are 19 Million Vacant Homes In The US from Consumerist

19 million homes are currently vacant and for sale, either through foreclosure or bank seizure or just because no one feels like living there — and 19 million is a record.

From Bloomberg:


Idiot: Joe the Plumber: ‘I don’t know if the American public deserve me.’ from Think Progress

wurze.jpg Yesterday, the ubiquitous Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher — aka "Joe the Plumber" and "Joe the War Correspondent" — became "Joe the Economist" when he went and spoke to a House GOP breakfast on the economic recovery package. The New York Daily News caught with Wurzelbacher and asked about the meeting:

"It's not politically incorrect to say you're Republican or conservative," Joe said. "They need to dig their heels in and fight for what needs to be done." […]

One thing that needs to be done, he said, is killing this stimulus package, because it's just another example of "American government" — Republicans and Democrats — "kicking our butts left and right." He also called it welfare.


Madoff whistleblower: SEC “abject failure” from Politics in the Zeros.

Harry Markopolos, who told the SEC about Madoff in 2005, will testify before Congress today. (prepared statement PDF)

From financial journalist Gary Weiss

It is absolutely devastating. Among other things, Markopolos says that because of the SEC's "abject failure" to do anything, because of its "investigative ineptitude and financial illiteracy," he was in fear for the safety of his family.

No. It was not incompetence. It was quite deliberate. SEC was headed by free marketeer zealots who quite methodically set out to insure that nothing would "interfere" with the markets.

Of course there was certainly ample opportunity for corruption too. Not to mention Markopolos being, probably quite justifiably, scared for his life. "If Mr. Madoff was facing life in prison, there was little to no downside for him to remove any such threat," he said.

So Markopolos apparently thinks Madoff is quite capable of having someone killed. Tell me, just who is this Madoff fellow and most especially, who are those, still hiding in the shadows, that helped him pull this off?

This is an infuriating document. Infuriating to me personally, because I can tell you that if Markopolous had come to me or to anyone at Business Week — which at that time (May 2000) had editors who could actually understand such things — he'd have been taken seriously and his allegations would have been investigated thoroughly.


TARP Recipients Paid Out $114 Million for Politicking Last Year from Capital Eye

The companies that have been awarded taxpayers' money from Congress's bailout bill spent $77 million on lobbying and $37 million on federal campaign contributions, Center finds. The return on investment: 267,208 percent.

WASHINGTON--The struggling companies whose freewheeling business practices have contributed to the country's economic woes are getting a lucrative return on at least one of their investments. Beneficiaries of the $700 billion bailout package in the finance and automotive industries have spent a total of $114.2 million on lobbying in the past year and contributions toward the 2008 election, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has found. The companies' political activities have, in part, yielded them $305.2 billion from the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), an extraordinary return of 267,208 percent.

"Even in the best economic times, you won't find an investment with a greater payoff than what these companies have been getting," said Sheila Krumholz, the Center's executive director. "Some of the companies and industries that have received payments may now consider their contributions and lobbying to be the smartest investments they've made in years." 

While the Treasury Department, not Congress, doles out TARP funds to specific institutions, congressional lawmakers had to authorize that money in the first place, and lawmakers will determine in the future whether to release more funds to prop up the U.S. economy. During the bill-writing process, members of Congress were able to specify to some extent where the money should go, and they have lobbied regulators to urge them to inject funds into specific banks and financial institutions, including those in lawmakers' own districts.  

"Taxpayers hope their money is being allocated entirely on the merits, but with Congress controlling how much money the Treasury gets to hand out, it will be impossible to completely exclude politics from this process," Krumholz said.

Some of the top recipients of contributions from companies receiving TARP money are the same members of Congress who chair committees charged with regulating the financial sector and overseeing the effectiveness of this unprecedented government program. They include Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs (he received $854,200 from the companies in the 2008 election cycle, including money to his presidential campaign) and Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, chair of the Senate Finance Committee (he received $279,000). In total, members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Senate Finance Committee and House Financial Services Committee received $5.2 million from TARP recipients in the 2007-2008 election cycle. President Obama collected at least $4.3 million from employees at these companies for his presidential campaign.

Some, Not All, TARP Recipients Hired Lobbyists

Of the more than 300 companies that have been aided by TARP, 25 paid lobbyists a total of $76.7 million to represent them on Capitol Hill in 2008. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said recently that institutions collecting these funds won't be allowed to lobby the federal government going forward. In the 4th Quarter of 2008, when Congress was crafting bailout legislation, these companies spent $17.8 million on lobbying--less than what they spent in the prior three quarters, probably because they were strapped for cash.


Welcome America to Your Sizzlin’ Larry Summers Shitburger from Firedoglake

visual stylings by phoenix woman

Yum.  Get 'em while they're hot:

Instead of taking a single approach, the Obama administration plans to divide assets and other loans into three categories, each with its own solution, according to sources familiar with the discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity because the details are not finalized.

The government would buy and hold on to those assets whose falling prices are putting banks under the most pressure. Officials want to limit these purchases because of the vast expense.

The centerpiece of the plan would be a guarantee to limit losses on a second group of troubled assets that can be kept by the banks because they have more stable prices.

And it would allow banks to retain and profit from their healthiest assets.

Which means you, America, get shit.  Do you get to have better healthcare, more public transit, clean air, better schools or more jobs if the banks you've invested so heavily in make money?

No!   The bankers who built this shitpile get to keep that.  You just get the losses.


A Bit More on Obama’s Executive Compensation Stand from The Washington Independent

Following up on Mary's post, it's also worth noting that the $500,000 executive-pay limit for bailed out banks to be unveiled today by the White House seems to apply to total compensation — meaning salary, bonuses, stock options, everything.

That would be a sharp break from the Bush administration's Wall Street bailout bill, which did very little to rein in the enormous pay packages enjoyed by Wall Street executives, even after they'd run their companies into the ground. Under TARP, for example, the limits on golden parachute retirement packages applied only to the five top-paid employees of the bailed-out firm — and only if the firm accepted more than $300 million of taxpayer funding.

The Obama team's limits also seem poised to go further than the TARP-reform bill passed by the House last month. That proposal, which the Senate never considered, would have limited executive bonuses and incentive-based pay, but not salaries — a loophole that would have allowed bailed-out firms to pay their executives anything they pleased.