Sunday, March 15, 2009

On Chase Being on the Line for Madoff

Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo: From TPM Reader MM...
Granted they were different banks (North Fork vs. Chase), but you gotta love that Eliot Spitzer's transactions of a few thousands of dollars here and there raised alarms, led the bank to report them to the Feds, and resulted in wiretaps of Spitzer. Bernie Madoff's transactions of billions of dollars back and forth? Nah, nothing to see here; perfectly normal!
Not that it's a defense of Spitzer. But it does raise very serious questions about JP Morgan/Chase's behavior with Madoff. More on that here.

Obama v. Palin: America Picked the Right Family

John Ridley, From the time that "Family Values" became an empty phrase regularly trotted around the political arena with all the reverence of the last surviving soldier of a war that was never actually fought, the totality of the family which occupies the White House has reached the same level of curiosity as the quadrennial question of whether or not a presidential candidate can bowl above one hundred.
The shocking, never-saw-it-coming implosion of the forced relationship between Bristol Palin and self-described "f***in' redneck" Levi Johnston underscores the fact that America sent the right family to Washington.
With regard to Bristol and Levi, regardless of how loving, committed, devoted and generally available a parent is, no parent can guarantee how far an apple will fall from the tree. However, knowing that, no parent should seek higher office on the rhetoric of abstinence only/ sanctity of marriage/gays-are-ruining-family-for-us so let me impose my "values" on you for you. Especially when the empirical evidence is those "values" do not work beneath the very roof from which they are being espoused.
But the unfortunate choices of Bristol and Levi are the least of it.
What family values does one represent when he or she socks it to the taxpayers for government presidiums when staying at home, or chisels supporters out of tens of thousands of dollars in upscale campaign trail wardrobe?
What family values does one represent when one doesn't stand up to potential in-laws who are facing six felony counts of misconduct involving controlled substances, including the distribution of those substances?
And what kind of family values are represented when one's spouse quietly belongs to an anti-American secessionist organization to which you send a taped video welcome to their convention wishing them all the best?
And then there are the Obamas. The occasionally thrown "terrorist fist jab" seems quite tame in comparison.
Politically, those of us who are true Americans of any persuasion hope that President Obama succeeds.
As a First Family, the Obamas already have.

Palin v. Political Punch

Jake Tapper, Political Punch (ABC News): A very irate aide to Gov. Sarah Palin contacted ABC News today to explain why his boss's 31 requests for earmarks in the fiscal year 2009 budget, totaling $197 million, represent a victory for fiscally conservative values.
"I am disturbed by this item," wrote Bill McAllister, director of communications for Gov. Palin, referencing a blog entry from last night in which we referred to an article in the liberal magazine Mother Jones noting that Palin -- after what seemed like a campaign against earmark abuse -- was back at the proverbial trough.
"The headline doesn't seem very dignified for a major news organization," said the spokesman for the governor who repeatedly referred to then-Senator, now-President Obama as "palling around with terrorists." He also quibbled with our referencing Mother Jones. (We also reference conservative publications here. But anyway.)
"Let's start with the overwhelming mischaracterization of Gov. Palin's stance on earmarks that has been repeated and repeated since Aug. 29," McAllister wrote. "The governor never said that earmarks should be abolished or that the State of Alaska wouldn't seek or accept any. Didn't happen. What she said well before she was a national candidate (going back at least to October of 2007) was that earmark reform was necessary and the state would need to rely less on federal money than it had been."
McAllister then pointed out that Palin made 51 earmark requests for the FY 2008 budget, totaling $256 million; and 31 requests totaling $197 million, for the FY 2009 budget.
McAllister said that for next year's budget, Gov. Palin will only make eight requests, totaling $69 million, which will include "six ongoing federal appropriations and just two new projects: an upgrade at the Kodiak Missile Defense Facility, which is relevant to national security, and a bridge replacement critical to construction of the pending Alaska natural gas pipeline, also in the national interest."
"Governor Palin is a fiscal conservative," he wrote. "Literally moments ago, the Alaska State House of Representatives passed a budget that differed little from what she proposed, that spends less in the next fiscal year than this one. She has spoken out on reform of the federal process, and it is a disservice to her that her position was so egregiously mis-reported last year and that those same false stories are now being used to make her look like a hypocrite -- adding insult to injury, quite literally."
Alarmed, I asked McAllister how Palin was "literally" injured. Was she okay? Was she infirm?
"I didn't say physically injured," he wrote back. "Certainly her reputation was injured by the erroneous reporting."
In any case, the point is, Gov. Palin as a vice presidential candidate claimed that she "championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending of Congress."
And yet, she has asked for and is still asking for -- and receiving -- tens of millions of dollars in earmarks -- pork barrel spending that does not go through the normal appropriations process.
Including, you might be interested to know, moneys for alcohol bootlegging interdiction and North Pacific fisheries programs.
Her former running mate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., requests no earmarks.
That's a fiscally conservative position.
We've never hesitated to point out political mixed messages, on earmarks or other subjects, whether they come from Democrats such as President Obama (read HERE or watch HERE) or Republicans such as Gov. Palin.
We will continue to do so.

Cheney Shrugs At Economic Crisis: "Don't Blame Us" Don't blame the Bush administration for all the country's economic problems.
That's the message from former Vice President Dick Cheney.
President Barack Obama constantly talks about the enormous economic troubles that he inherited when he took office in January. Cheney agrees that Obama did indeed came into power amid very difficult economic circumstances.
But Cheney says he doesn't think the Bush administration can be blamed for creating the economic woes. Cheney says it's a global financial problem. He says the idea that fault can assigned to the previous administration is "interesting rhetoric" but he doesn't think people care about that.
Cheney spoke on CNN's "State of the Union." (Video)

AIG to Geithner: “Go Screw Yourself. We’re Paying the Bonuses.”

Richard Blair, All Spin Zone: As I watched CNBC’s Jim Cramer getting drawn and quartered by Jon Stewart this past week, it was quite clear that people like Cramer (and the rest of the money geniuses who operate in a hermetically sealed financial environment) just. don’t. fucking. get. it.
At some point very soon, the pitchfork-and-torches “angry mob” is finally going to get off the couch. And it’s not going to be pretty when it happens:
Despite receiving $170 billion in federal aid and recording a staggering loss for the last quarter, insurance giant American International Group is doling out tens of million of dollars in bonuses this week to senior employees.
…In a phone call on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told AIG Chairman and chief executive Edward M. Liddy (pictured) that the payments were unacceptable and needed to be renegotiated, according to an administration source.
The company has since agreed to change the terms of some of these payments. But in a letter to Geithner, Liddy wrote that the bonuses could not be cancelled altogether because the firm would risk a lawsuit for breaching employment contracts. Liddy also expressed concerns about whether changing the bonuses would lead to an exodus of talented employees who are needed to turn the company around…
They truly don’t get it. They just don’t get it. And I don’t think they care.
LSB: He's concerned about an "exodus of talented employees"... really? I mean REALLY? Where are these losers who got this company in this mess going to go?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Biggest Consumers of Porn? Try Utah

From the Left: A new nationwide study of anonymised credit-card receipts from a major online adult entertainment provider finds the states who consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption.
Utah, a state overwhelmingly populated by antigay, Mormon bigots, is the biggest porn consumer, averaging 5.47 adult content subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users. Montana, bought the least with 1.92 per 1000.
States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage,” bought 3.6 more porn subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed.
LSB: Even homophobic, hypocritical bigots need some online lovin'.

Barnes and Noble Displays Their Racism

From the Left: A Barnes and Noble bookstore in Coral Gables, FL recently came under fire for a window display featuring various book titles with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michell Obama. Prominently featured in the center of the window display was a book on monkeys.
The implication is clear and clearly intentional.
After the ensuing outrage, Barnes and Noble issued a mea culpa claiming their hands were clean. They blamed a nameless, anonymous customer for adding the book on monkeys to the window display without their knowledge.
This episode is just the latest in a string of vicious, racist attacks on Mr. Obama and his wife. The Rupert Murdock owned NY Post got in hot water over a cartoon featuring a chimp being shot by police under the headline “stimulus package.” This was followed by the disclosure the mayor of Los Alamitos, CA had distributed a cartoon showing the White House lawn covered in brilliant green watermelons.
Sorry folks, but I’m just not feeling this post-racial America thing now that we have an African American president. If anything, the signs and images of racism have increased. It’s as if the election of Barack Obama has given every racist clown Carte Blanche to crawl out from under their rocks and don their Klan robes. Racism in America is alive and well, and sadly, even the election of our first Black president has failed to tamp it down.
LSB: While I am somewhat inclined to believe B&N (Why would a major corporation act so irresponsibly? Oops, think Wall Street and banking industry), this was more likely an employee acting alone, and not a customer. (How would a customer get access to this display? Aren't they usually behind their sales counters?) Whatever, the point that racism is still rampant in America is a sad commentary on how far we have yet to go as a civilized nation.

Soft Toilet Paper 'Worse Than Driving Hummers'

Susie Madrak, Crooks and Liars: I normally don't put that much thought into toilet paper selection; I just buy what's on sale. But this campaign has convinced me to look for and purchase toilet paper made from recycled paper. From The Guardian:
The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country's love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or
McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public's insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products when they use the bathroom.
"This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous," said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council.
"Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution." Making toilet paper has a significant impact because of chemicals used in pulp manufacture and cutting down forests.
A campaign by Greenpeace seeks to raise consciousness among Americans about the environmental costs of their toilet habits and counter an aggressive new push by the paper industry giants to market so-called luxury brands.
More than 98% of the toilet roll sold in America comes from virgin forests, said Hershkowitz. In Europe and Latin America, up to 40% of toilet paper comes from recycled products. Greenpeace this week launched a cut-out-and-keep ecological ranking of toilet paper products.
LSB: I buy the sale stuff, too. Guess I need to rethink my TP purchasing decisions.

As Drug War Rages, AZ AG Talks Gun Control and the Benefits of Legalization

Logan Murphy, Crooks and Liars: Friday morning on CNN Kiran Chetry spoke with Arizona's AG Terry Goddard about the raging drug war taking place along our southern border and how U.S. gun and drug laws are perpetuating the violence. (Click on pic for vid.)
Since George Bush allowed the assault weapons ban to expire, the gun smuggling trade in the U.S. has skyrocketed and many of these weapons are ending up in the hands of Mexican drug lords and are responsible for thousands of murders. The right has been going bonkers, warning Democrats want to take everyone's guns from them and turn us into a nation of dopers, but it's high time they admit that our gun laws are aiding drug cartels and making it possible for them to get more drugs into our country.
Goddard points out that the vast majority of the drug cartel's income comes from the sale of marijuana which begs the questions - is it time to reinstate the assault weapons ban and legalize pot? Both President Obama and AG Eric Holder have said they want to reinstate the assault weapon ban, hopefully they will be successful. As for the legalization of pot, I think the time has come.
LSB: It's long past time, IMHO, that assault weapons were banned. This circular argument that we need more guns to protect us from the guns that criminals already have (and are constantly arming themselves with even more of these lethal weapons) doesn't make sense. It never did. The Second Amendment (right to bear arms) never anticipated assault weapons, and, in fact, was more about arming citizens - with muskets - as a means of creating a state militia. The Second Amendment has been co-opted but the NRA, and it is long past due to put some restraints in place. Even the First Amendment right to free speech has limitations. Surely banning assault rifles is just as important to the safety of our citizens as not yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theatre. And as for legalizing pot, ... cool!

Obama: My budget represents the change I promised -- and I'm ready for the fight to pass it. Really ready.

Joe Sudbay (DC), Obama is laying out in his weekly address today. He's telling the special interests that he's ready for the battle over his budget.
Here's an excerpt:

This budget also reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession. Given this reality, we’ll have to be more vigilant than ever in eliminating the programs we don’t need in order to make room for the investments we do need. I promised to do this by going through the federal budget page by page, and line by line. That is a process we have already begun, and I am pleased to say that we’ve already identified two trillion dollars worth of deficit-reductions over the next decade. We’ve also restored a sense of honesty and transparency to our budget, which is why this one accounts for spending that was hidden or left out under the old rules.
I realize that passing this budget won’t be easy. Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington. I know that the insurance industry won’t like the idea that they’ll have to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that’s how we’ll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs for American families. I know that banks and big student lenders won’t like the idea that we’re ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that’s how we’ll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won’t like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that’s how we’ll help fund a renewable energy economy that will create new jobs and new industries. In other words, I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this:
So am I.
"So am I." That's the kind of talk I like to hear. "So am I." I'll admit to being very pleasantly surprised by the Obama budget. It's just rare to see a politician keep his or her promises. But, he did a pretty good job, which, of course, is making the Republicans even more apoplectic. More importantly, Krugman was impressed.
So, Obama is ready to get into the right with the big lobbyists and special interests who think they own Capitol Hill. And, don't leave out the Rush "I want him to fail" Limbaugh Republicans who will be fighting to protect tax breaks for the really wealthy, you know, people like Rush.
LSB: This is why he is the right man at the right time. I'm praying that he succeeds!