More On “Money Matters Tuesday”

September 23, 2008

Returning to the New York Times, this story in the business section tells us how Sweden managed to recover from their financial turmoil in the prior decade that bears a striking resemblance to what we currently face (that is, “after years of imprudent regulation, short-sighted economic policy and the end of its property boom… its banking system was, for all practical purposes, insolvent,” according to the story).

But in response…

Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government.

That strategy held banks responsible and turned the government into an owner. When distressed assets were sold, the profits flowed to taxpayers, and the government was able to recoup more money later by selling its shares in the companies as well.

“If I go into a bank,” Bo Lundgren, who was Sweden’s finance minister at the time, told The Times, “I’d rather get equity so that there is some upside for the taxpayer.”

Sweden told its banks to write down their losses promptly before coming to the state for recapitalization. Facing its own problem later in the decade, Japan made the mistake of dragging this process out, delaying a solution for years.

Then came the imperative to bleed shareholders first. Mr. Lundgren recalls a conversation with Peter Wallenberg, at the time chairman of SEB, Sweden’s largest bank. Mr. Wallenberg, the scion of the country’s most famous family and steward of large chunks of its economy, heard that there would be no sacred cows.

The Wallenbergs turned around and arranged a recapitalization on their own, obviating the need for a bailout. SEB turned a profit the following year, 1993.

“For every krona we put into the bank, we wanted the same influence,” Mr. Lundgren told The Times. “That ensured that we did not have to go into certain banks at all.”

By the end of the crisis, the Swedish government had seized a vast portion of the banking sector, and the agency had mostly fulfilled its hard-nosed mandate to drain share capital before injecting cash. When markets stabilized, the Swedish state then reaped the benefits by taking the banks public again.

I hope at least some (or, dare I imagine – all?) of these ideas are being discussed within Congress, though, given the fact that moonbats such as this gentleman are given credence on this matter, I hope you’ll forgive me for my cynicism.

And in other indebtedness news, a full-page ad in the Times today reminded us that the U.S. currently owes the U.N. approximately $1.2 billion (actually, it’s closer to $1.3), though this Wikipedia article tells us that the so-called Helms-Biden legislation of 1999 (now there’s a combination!) was able to reduce our payments to the U.N. and related agencies based on negotiated reforms.

It should be noted that, of the $1.3 billion, according to the article, “$612 million is payable under Helms-Biden. The remaining $700 million result from various legislative and policy withholdings; at present, there are no plans to pay these amounts.”

Meanwhile, we canceled Iraq’s $4.1 billion debt here, even though, as noted here, that country now has a surplus of $79 billion.

O to be governed by adults again (118 days and counting, people).

(And by the way, what Bowers sez here – h/t Atrios.)

Update: In a related vein, here’s “some straight talk you can believe in, my friends”; ka-chiiing! (and please don’t try to argue that Obama’s $126K of contributions from the employees is somehow worse).


Keep Up The Attack

September 23, 2008

Words to remember from Bill Maher; Obama is doing some of this, but we need to keep doing it.

Update: I forgot to note that Maher will be at the Tower Theater in these parts on Saturday (Philly to be exact); no idea if tickets are still available.


Hacks Like Thee

September 22, 2008


I don’t know who else noticed besides your humble narrator, but Ron Fournier and Charles Babington of the AP took turns this weekend writing two stories on the same poll concerning the election.

I’ll give you Fournier first (here)…

WASHINGTON (AP) — Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them “lazy,” “violent,” responsible for their own troubles.

The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about two and one-half percentage points.

And now Babington (here)…

(The poll) shows that a substantial portion of white Americans still harbor negative feelings toward blacks. It shows that blacks and whites disagree tremendously on how much racial prejudice exists, whose fault it is and how much influence blacks have in politics.

One result is that Barack Obama’s path to the presidency is steeper than it would be if he were white.

And in other news, the sky is blue, water is wet, the Pope is German, and Dubya’s job approval rating is now at 19 percent (here – doesn’t have anything to do with this post, really, but what would I be if I missed an opportunity to take a shot over that?).

Yes, race is an issue, but Fournier and Babington both throw around a lot of statistics from Stanford University (which I’ve never identified as a hotbed of progressive political thought anyway) that I’m not going to waste anyone’s time trying to analyze (I’m a blogger, not an insurance actuary). I put more stock in reporting on this matter like the type that Dave Davies of the Philadelphia Daily News provided here (not trying to impugn him in the post title, by the way).

And if I can “go meta” for a second on this, I just want to make the personal observation that, as a white male living in the Northeast, I no longer feel any implied sense of entitlement or superiority over anyone living in any other region of this country on the matter of race. It’s true that I should not have felt that way anyway, and I’m sorry about that. But after watching or hearing of the conduct of a great many people who I thought knew better than to disqualify Barack Obama merely because of the color of his skin over these last few months, I have to tell you that I have found myself truly sobered into recognizing this fact (and I have found that conduct to be utterly shocking – say what you want, but that’s the way it is, as that news guy used to say).

That being said, though, I would just like to remind us all of this Gallup poll from last February which, among other things, showed steeper numbers for Hillary Clinton in a matchup with John W. McBush when it came to white male voters (40 HRC- 55 McBush versus 45 Obama – 50 McBush) and showed better numbers among overall voters for Obama against McBush than HRC against the Repug nominee (with the exception of voters 65 and older).

And though Hillary Clinton fared better than Obama in a McBush matchup when it came to rating the two Dems on their experience, I personally think that’s a wash given the fact that our corporate media would have recycled every conceivable negative Clinton narrative to negate her edge had she won the nomination. I think it works to Obama’s advantage that he’s more of a “blank slate,” the nonstop Tony Rezko-Reverend Wright caterwauling by Fox Noise and right-wing attack radio notwithstanding (a lot harder for Broderella, for example, to go sniffing around in the Obama’s underwear drawer than the Clinton’s).

Also, please keep in mind here that I would have been happy with Hillary as the nominee (yes, really). She and Obama were both excellent candidates, but what decided it for me was the precision of Obama’s campaign, versus all of the pratfalls from the people who were supposed to be serving Hillary (and both she and her husband had their stumbles also – those contrasts told me how each of them would have governed). I’m not trying to use “analysis” from Fournier, Babington or anyone else to justify my selection (and either way, that selection would have been historic from the moment John Edwards left the campaign, which, we now know, was an act of providence).

I don’t know how much of an issue race is going to play in this election, and I have news for you: nobody else does either. And unless the AP is going to walk us step by step through exactly how this study was conducted (e.g., they note that photos of Caucasians versus African-Americans were shown to measure responses in the Stanford study; why can’t we see the photos?), they shouldn’t try acting like they do (at the very least, the Fournier and Babington pieces should have been labeled “analysis”; why was even that slight gesture too much trouble?).

Update: As soon as I pressed Enter on this, I realized I’d forgotten to point out that there are a bunch of nested links for both the Fournier and Babington pieces providing more information on the survey methodology, though it takes some digging to get to this information.

Update 9/23/08: This is a recording…


The “Insider’s Insider”

September 20, 2008

Well, can you? (h/t The Daily Kos)


McBush’s Feeble Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Attack

September 19, 2008

Never one to miss an opportunity to make political hay out of a catastrophe, John W. McBush tells us the following today (here, from the National Review Online)…

Two years ago, I called for reform of this corruption at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Congress did nothing. The Administration did nothing. Senator Obama did nothing, and actually profited from this system of abuse and scandal. While Fannie and Freddie were working to keep Congress away from their house of cards, Senator Obama was taking their money. He got more, in fact, than any other member of Congress, except for the Democratic chairmen of the committee that oversees them. And while Fannie Mae was betraying the public trust, somehow its former CEO had managed to gain my opponent’s trust to the point that Senator Obama actually put him in charge of his vice presidential search.

This CEO, Mr. Johnson, walked off with tens of millions of dollars in salary and bonuses for services rendered to Fannie Mae, even after authorities discovered accounting improprieties that padded his compensation. Another CEO for Fannie Mae, Mr. Raines, has been advising Senator Obama on housing policy. This even after Fannie Mae was found to have committed quote “extensive financial fraud” under his leadership. Like Mr. Johnson, Mr. Raines walked away with tens of millions of dollars.

The former Fannie Mae CEO is Jim Johnson, who resigned as head of Obama’s vice presidential search team after it was revealed that he got a sweetheart deal on a mortgage from Countrywide Financial (as McBush acknowledges). And I believe McBush is also correct, amazingly enough, about Obama ranking #2 in donations, with Chris Dodd at #1 (and how is that an issue anyway? Is McBush serious about alleging corporate influence in the Obama campaign? Just how many lobbyists work for McBush at this point anyway, about a thousand??!!).

And by the way, former Fannie Mae chairman Frank Raines has issued the following statement in response: “I am not an advisor to Barack Obama, nor have I provided his campaign with advice on housing or economic matters.”

All of this is corroborated by Time’s Swampland reporter Karen Tumulty here, in her story about McBush’s latest vile campaign ad, implying some nefarious activity between Obama and Raines while an elderly white woman appears distressed and vulnerable.

Of course, if McBush had been interested in accuracy, as Tumulty reports, it could have shown Obama and Johnson, but it didn’t because Johnson is white and Raines is black, and what McBush is going for is a racial smear as opposed to a legitimate shot over Johnson’s role in the Obama campaign.

And I’m not going to bother researching how much money Johnson and Raines got for “walking away” (though, as you can read here, being told by a company to go away and receiving way too much damn money to do so is a familiar scenario for at least one senior McBush adviser).

Instead, I want to take note of this “call for reform of the corruption” that McBush is talking about (and actually, it was over three and a half years ago, not two – also, has anyone noticed besides me how McBush flails away at everyone in sight when he has a hissy fit? Otherwise, why on earth would he blame “the administration”?).

This takes you to information on S. 190, the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005 (and as you can see, the sponsor of the bill was Senator Chuck Hagel, though McBush was a co-sponsor). It was introduced on January 26, 2005.

Pop quiz: which Congress was in session at that time? The current 110th Democratic congress? The 108th?

Nope – it was the utterly-beyond-useless 109th, my friends (as it states on the linked page).

The fact that this bill was introduced but never scheduled for debate isn’t the fault of the Democrats. Hell, it isn’t even Dubya’s fault, for a change.

It’s the fault of the ReThuglican Congress that never bothered to move it along! And they could have done so easily since they, being the majority party, ran all the committees! Blame then-Majority Leader Bill “Cat Killer” Frist for never scheduling a debate over it!

Using allegations of malfeasance against your opponent to launch sickening racial attacks is no more going to solve this mess than it will win the election for you (and by the way, Hunter at The Daily Kos has some similar concerns here also – and if you think this latest stunt is going to improve these numbers, McBush, you’re crazier than I thought).

Update: “As we have done” indeed.


Upbraiding “Governor Hottie” on UNCLOS

September 19, 2008


This Think Progress post tells us that Our Gal Sarah Palin, despite being a self-professed “energy expert,” misstated the energy production of her home state, claiming that Alaska “produces 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy,” when it fact she would have been more on the mark to say that her state produces that much in oil; I mean, she still would have been wrong (the number is about 14 percent), but at least she would have been closer to the truth (this was noted in the excellent report on her by NBC News, the video of which I embedded last night here).

So I’ll tell you what, Governor “I-Didn’t-Blink-Well-Then-Again-Maybe-I-Did,” I’ll give you a chance to reclaim your footing a bit on this issue, you might say.

What do you think of UNCLOS?

I mean, I can pretty much guarantee that you would oppose it, since it enables the U.N. to be arbiter of jurisdictional matters regarding a country’s marine assets (it should be noted that the Wikipedia article states that Bushco favors ratification, which to me is a shocking acknowledgement that we belong to a community of nations from our ruling cabal of outlaws).

Here is a prior post on the matter so you can read more about it, as they say (it should be noted that Jim Inhofe leads the opposition to UNCLOS in the Senate, which tells you a lot right there, along with the fact that Lou Dobbs opposes it also, as noted here).

And just to make it easier for you, I should note that your opposite party VP nominee Joe Biden favors it. So for a self-professed “energy expert” such as yourself, you shouldn’t have too difficult of a time formulating a stand, particularly since it has such a nearby impact, you might say (and also, Medvedev and Russia have ratified UNCLOS and are ready to seize “black gold” right in your backyard, as noted here).

Oh, and one more thing: I really can’t see how you lose on this issue, when you think about it. Even if you support UNCLOS and it is eventually ratified by Congress but you still end up losing out on the oil to Medvedev, you and your AIP pals can always secede and join Russia, accomplishing your professed goal and getting a piece of the petroleum action in the bargain.

Update: And by the way, in other “Governor Hottie” news, would you call this the “nuclear option” for trying to bring the “Troopergate” investigation to a screeching halt?


Obama On Failed Repug Economics

September 19, 2008

Yep, I would say that it’s “back to the drawing board” also.


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