Friday Mashup (5/24/13)

May 24, 2013
  • I get it that this Andrew Marcus character is trying to hawk his “documentary” called “Hating Breitbart” on the site of The Daily Tucker, and he’s pretty much trying to do whatever he can to get people to pay attention to him, but even by wingnut standards (low as they are), I would say that trying to draw some sort of equivalence between John Podesta of the Center for American Progress and H.R. Haldeman, former chief of staff to President Richard Nixon, is pretty lame (here)…

    In “Hating Breitbart,” John Podesta emerges as someone who perfectly embodies the left’s penchant for creating an environment of corruption, abuse and personal attacks. As the co-chairman of Obama’s 2008-2009 transition team, Podesta obviously enjoys a very close relationship to this White House. Today he runs the Center for American Progress, a far-left think tank, and exerts a great deal of influence in media circles. The political culture he has helped create is exactly what Andrew Breitbart so passionately resisted and despised.

    Let me be clear: I have no evidence that Podesta has been personally involved in any of the scandals that are currently rocking the Obama presidency. But what I do know about Podesta is that his Center for American Progress has been instrumental in dehumanizing Obama’s political opponents. In doing so, he has created fertile ground for these scandals to take root.

    As far as “scandals” that are “rocking” the Obama presidency (and, as usual, there’s no actual evidence of wrongdoing on Podesta’s part, just more guilt by association), this tells us that the stuff on the IRS and the Teahadists, the AP and Eric Holder and BENGHAZI!! are pretty much being met with a collective yawn (to the point where even Republican staffers are wondering if the elected officials they support have lost what little is left of their minds here).

    And this is just REALLY way too damn funny from Marcus (page 3)…

    Ultimately, it’s people like H.R. Haldeman and John Podesta who build the nests and turn the eggs — though Richard Nixon’s crimes pale in comparison to what has been recently alleged of the Obama administration. Congress was never able to establish any broad-based abuse of the IRS against Nixon’s “enemies list,” but even Nixon’s comparatively modest abuses merited an article of impeachment. Obama’s IRS has already admitted to misconduct. Who knows what other scandalous evidence may ultimately emerge?

    Let me know if and when John Podesta is convicted of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice and sentenced to 18 months in the federal pen, OK, as noted here (although this is cause for a bit of concern about CAP, though when it comes to undisclosed foreign donations to the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce, it’s a speck by comparison – here).

    And as far as the “Obama vs. Nixon” stuff goes, here is my answer.

  • Next, it looks like former Repug Senator and potential Obama Commerce Secretary Judd Gregg has decided to cash in, as noted here

    Former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) has been named CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), a powerhouse trade group for Wall Street.

    The top job at SIFMA was one of the hottest openings on K Street, and it comes with a hefty payday. The group’s last leader, Tim Ryan, earned $2.9 million in compensation in 2010, according to the group’s tax form for that year.

    Gregg said he plans to use his new platform to champion the message that Wall Street is good for the economy.

    “I suspect what I’m going to be doing is what we have talked about, which is reorient ourselves on the issue of how you communicate the importance of this industry to people on Main Street America and their jobs,” Gregg told reporters on a conference call.

    SIFMA, which represents financial giants such as Bank of America and Morgan Stanley, lobbies extensively on Capitol Hill and at regulatory agencies, and has been particularly active on the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

    (“Particularly active” being Beltway media-code-speak for trying to gut Dodd-Frank every way possible, as noted here, which is what I think this is really all about anyway.)

    And as noted here, “Skank” of America was one of the banks that made yet another fortune off fees charged to the city of Detroit while that once-great metropolis restructured its debt (and as noted here, the financial rogue colossus recently asked a judge to throw out a lawsuit over the mortgages Countrywide wrote for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac…totally on their own and without any prompting from anyone, BOA took over Countrywide in 2008).

    And as far as Morgan Stanley is concerned, this tells us about the toxic CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligations) they peddled, which basically were collections of mortgage-backed securities that the investment banking geniuses at M-S knew would blow up, so they sold them to the Chinese…what a cunning plan; antagonize the country holding the single largest volume of our debt among all others. Brilliant!

    And these are the people Gregg will be shilling for in his cushy new gig.

    “Them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose…”

  • Continuing, I’d at first planned to stay away from commenting on the tornado disaster in Moore, Oklahoma earlier this week (and if you are able to assist in any way, please click here), but I really felt like I had to say something in response to this from Seth Borenstein of the AP (here…kind of laughable to me that he’s the “science” writer after reading this)…

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Everything had to come together just perfectly to create the killer tornado in Moore, Okla.: wind speed, moisture in the air, temperature and timing. And when they did, the awesome energy released over that city dwarfed the power of the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima.

    I don’t have any information to contest that claim, but I think, based on this, that any comparison between the Moore tornado and the Hiroshima atomic bomb explosion is ridiculous. And that is because, as deadly as the Moore tornado was, it was only the wind at work, not the combination of wind, blast-furnace heat and radiation that was inflicted on Hiroshima (and I’ve heard many scholarly arguments against dropping the bomb, including that of Oliver Stone in his “Untold History of the United States” here, but sorry – I still believe it was the right thing to do; Stone, for example, argued that the Soviet Union would have assisted the U.S. in an invasion of mainland Japan, but I don’t think his evidence on that is totally credible).

    And get a load of this bit of wankery (returning to Borenstein)…

    Scientists know the key ingredients that go into a devastating tornado. But they are struggling to figure out why they develop in some big storms and not others. They also are still trying to determine what effects, if any, global warming has on tornadoes.

    Really? I guess, as far as Borenstein and his denialist pals are concerned, 97 percent of a consensus on the subject just isn’t good enough, as noted here (h/t Wonkette…think “more extreme weather patterns,” and maybe this too).

  • Further, I thought I should let you know what at least one of Willard Mitt Romney’s confidants is up to now that we haven’t sworn The Mittster in as our 45th president (thank God), along with Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv as his veep – I’m referring to Glenn “Give It Your Best Shot” Hubbard here

    The United States itself has a larger GDP and higher productivity than 10 years ago, but its long-term growth rate has slowed by half. That’s a reflection of internal imbalance – budget deficits, heavy taxes that hinder incentives to work and innovate, unfunded entitlements and more.

    Actually, there’s no freaking demand, you soulless parasite, as noted here (unless he considers that to be part of the “and more,” and the sequester is doing absolutely nothing to help of course, as noted here…and isn’t this encouraging also – not!).

  • Finally, I’d like to point out the utterly obvious fact that Memorial Day weekend is basically upon us, and it is quite appropriate for us to ponder the sacrifices made by the men and women in our military who have given much (and, in many cases, given all), and say a prayer of two in gratitude, wish good thoughts for them, visit cemeteries to pay our respects, and engage in all manner of solemn events for the occasion to express our gratitude (or assist the VA and/or veterans groups as our means allows).

    The heroism we appreciate on this occasion takes place in the name of maintaining our freedom, a thought that occurred to me as I read an otherwise generic (in its wingnuttery, I mean) opinion column from Repug Louisiana Governor Bobby “Don’t Call Me Piyush” Jindal here (and I apologize in advance for conflating notions of honor and courage here with rank political claptrap)…

    Look at liberalism across every issue, from healthcare to energy to spending, and one thing is crystal clear: Liberals don’t believe in the dynamic and transformative power of freedom. Bigger government and more power in the hands of a few means the interests of the public will be violated.

    With this idiocy in mind, I’d like to offer the following in response from Mike Malloy (here)…

    Why do conservatives hate freedom? The question may be startling. After all, don’t conservatives claim they are protecting liberty in America against liberal statism, which they compare to communism or fascism? But the conservative idea of “freedom” is a very peculiar one, which excludes virtually every kind of liberty that ordinary Americans take for granted.

    In the cases of freedom from racial discrimination and freedom from sexual repression, American conservatives have been solidly on the side of government repression of the powerless and unprivileged. The same is true with respect to workers’ rights, debtors’ rights and criminal rights.

    To listen to their Jacksonian rhetoric, American conservatives are the champions of the little guy against the “elites.” But not, it appears, in the workplace or the bank. The American right is opposed to anything — minimum wage laws, unions, workplace regulations — that would increase the bargaining power of workers relative to their bosses.

    What would America look like, if conservatives had won their battles against American liberty in the last half-century? Formal racial segregation might still exist at the state and local level in the South. In some states, it would be illegal to obtain abortions or even for married couples to use contraception. In much of the United States, gays and lesbians would still be treated as criminals. Government would dictate to Americans with whom and how they can have sex. Unions would have been completely annihilated in the public as well as the private sector. Wages and hours laws would be abolished, so that employers could pay third-world wages to Americans working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, as many did before the New Deal. There would be far more executions and far fewer procedural safeguards to ensure that the lives of innocent Americans are not ended mistakenly by the state.

    That is the America that the American right for the last few generations has fought for. Freedom has nothing to do with it.

    4991033-american-flag
    And with that in mind, please allow me to extend best wishes to one and all for a happy and healthy Memorial Day weekend.


  • Saturday Mashup (5/4/13)

    May 5, 2013
  • This recent opinion column in the Murdoch Street Journal by Repug U.S. House Rep John Campbell of California tells us the following…

    There were many contributors to the 2008 financial crisis—including unsound housing loans and mortgage-backed securities, Fannie Mae FNMA -0.12%and Freddie Mac, FMCC -0.85%excess leverage by major financial institutions, and regulatory failures. Car and truck loans were not among the problems, and their lenders in any event pose no “systemic” risk to the financial system.

    And yet, amazingly, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—a creature of the Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed to correct and prevent the causes of, and problems that led to, the 2008 crisis—wants to change the way car loans are made. The CFPB’s proposal is a noxious attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and is likely to make a mess of one part of the consumer-loan industry that works.

    I’ll explain what is wrong here shortly.

    Currently, if you apply for a car loan through a bank, credit union or one of the car manufacturers like Ford Motor Credit or Toyota Financial, you are judged on matters such as your credit score, income and debt. The financial institution won’t know your race or ethnicity or even necessarily your gender. It will approve or disapprove the application and offer you an interest rate based on the data. That’s just as it should be.

    But it is not good enough for the CFPB. In a quest to make sure that all individuals falling within the “protected classes” under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act get the same interest rate as those who are not covered by it, the agency wants financial institutions to guess your race, ethnicity and gender based on your name and the address on your application. Put bluntly, they want lenders to profile you.

    The CFPB should withdraw this outrageous and abusive guidance immediately and focus on helping consumers in those areas in which the need for reform truly exists.

    Campbell is actually right about most of that without the vitriol (shocking, I know), but here is the problem. The “financial institution” may not have the demographic information on the person trying to purchase a vehicle, but the dealer sure does. And auto dealers have been known to engage in a practice called “dealer markup,” which the CFPB is trying to address, as noted here

    When consumers finance automobile purchases from an auto dealership, the dealer often facilitates indirect financing through a third party lender. The dealer plays a valuable role by originating the loan and finding financing sources. In this indirect auto financing process, the lender usually provides the dealer with an interest rate that the lender will accept for a given consumer.

    Indirect auto lenders often allow the dealer to charge the consumer an interest rate that is costlier for the consumer than the rate the lender gave the dealer. This increase in rate is typically called “dealer markup.” The lender shares part of the revenue from that increased interest rate with the dealer. As a result, markups generate compensation for dealers while frequently giving them the discretion to charge consumers different rates regardless of consumer creditworthiness. Lender policies that provide dealers with this type of discretion increase the risk of pricing disparities among consumers based on race, national origin, and potentially other prohibited bases. Research indicates that markup practices may lead to African Americans and Hispanics being charged higher markups than other, similarly situated, white consumers.

    Oh, and Campbell is a former auto dealership owner who apparently rents properties to dealerships, as noted here (um, want to try and find someone a little more objective to write a column like this? And Campbell is #40 on the list, by the way).

    If auto dealers and the lenders weren’t engaging in this type of nonsense, then there would be no need for the CFPB to step in (more info is here). But since they do…

  • Next, I know I teed off a bit on South Carolina a day or so ago, and with good reason I believe. And here is more cause for indignation…

    The Supreme Court may have ruled ObamaCare is constitutional, but implementing the controversial federal law would become a crime in South Carolina if a bill passed by the state House becomes law.

    The bill, approved Wednesday by a vote of 65-39, declares President Obama’s signature legislation “null and void.” Whereas the law that Obama pushed and Congress passed is known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, South Carolina’s law would be known as the Freedom of Health Care Protection Act.

    It would prohibit state officials and employees from “enforcing or attempting to enforce such unconstitutional laws” and “establish criminal penalties and civil liability” for those who engage in activities that aid the implementation of ObamaCare.

    So it looks like “The Palmetto State” is going to try the whole tenther, “nullification” BS to get around that socialist, big gumint Kenyan Muslim Marxist pre-dee-dint of ours.

    However, as noted here

    Steering South Carolina’s uninsured residents away from seeking primary treatment in emergency rooms and into free health clinics is a worthy idea. But it wouldn’t come close to matching the benefits of expanding Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income South Carolinians.

    Last week, S.C. House Republicans launched a proposal designed to serve as an alternative to complying with the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. The proposal would pay hospitals $35 million next year to guide the uninsured to the state’s 20 free federally qualified health clinics.

    The plan also calls for giving the clinics $10 million next year to treat those patients. The money would come from $62 million the state Department of Health and Human Services received last year but did not spend.

    The plan also includes $20 million – $6 million in state money and $14 million from the federal government – to pay rural hospitals for the entire cost of uncompensated care they provide for low-income patients. Smaller amounts would go to other efforts to expand and improve care, such as $3 million for a program to repay the student loans of doctors who agree to work in underserved areas of the state.

    But not a single new person would be insured under the plan. By contrast, expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would result in about 500,000 more uninsured residents being covered.

    Also, here is some background on Bill Clinton’s 2012 Democratic National Convention speech in which he outlined the threat to Medicaid expansion from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and her pals in charges of states across this country (oh, and has noted here, South Carolina ranks 44th out of 50 states in median income).

    Truly a miracle of Republican Party “governance,” my fellow prisoners…

  • Further, Charles Lane of the WaPo “wanks” as follows here

    Of all the arguments for the Obama administration’s green-energy loan program, one of the worst is that federal aid leverages private capital.

    Consider Fisker Automotive. In August 2009, this wannabe plug-in electric hybrid car company was hard up for cash to pay suppliers and faced potential layoffs.

    A green-energy loan was the only hope, Fisker executive Bernhard Koehler explained in an e-mail to the Department of Energy — because it would help bring in private money. “We are oversubscribed in this equity round with the DOE support — and nowhere without it,” Koehler pleaded.

    A month later, in September 2009, the Energy Department approved a $529 million low-interest loan. Vice President Biden stood before the proposed site of a Fisker plant in Delaware and described the department’s program as “seed money that will return back to the American consumer in billions and billions and billions of dollars of good new jobs.”

    Alas, government loans could not overcome Fisker’s fundamental problem: no experience mass-producing automobiles, let alone the complex battery-powered luxury cars that it proposed to sell for more than $100,000. Today, the company is nearly bankrupt; taxpayers are on the hook for $171 million, and private investors are probably nearly wiped out. (The story is well told, with documents, at PrivCo.com.)

    In response, I give you the following from here

    First, Fisker originally requested the federal funds it received in 2008, before President Obama took office. Why? Because the Bush/Cheney administration urged the company to participate in the federal loan program, seeing it as a worthwhile investment. If Republicans are convinced Fisker should never have received aid in the first place, they’re lashing out at the wrong president.

    Second, to condemn the federal loan program because one company struggled after receiving assistance is silly — some of the companies in the Department of Energy’s program fared well, some didn’t. It happens. As Michael Grunwald explained a while back, “That’s capitalism. That’s lending. That’s life. As one Obama aide told me: Some students who get Pell grants are going to end up drunks on the street.” It’s not as if those failures discredit the entire Pell grant program.

    And third, (House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell) Issa may want to get off his high horse — in 2009, he urged the Department of Energy to extend federal support to an electronic car manufacturer named Aptera, which declared bankruptcy soon after.

    In the case of this one company, it didn’t work out well, but others have fared far better. There’s no reason for Republicans to throw a fit.

    Silly Steve Benen – what else are the Repugs going to do besides throw a fit? Engage in the tedious, difficult work of actual governance? What a quaint notion (removing my tongue from my cheek).

  • Continuing, I came across this curious item from Think Progress recently…

    The Florida legislature passed a bill this week to impose new obstacles on challenging the death penalty in a state with the greatest number of exonerations. The bill’s intent was to shorten the time inmates wait for execution by imposing time limits for appeals and post-conviction motions, but DNA and other evidence often emerges years after a crime is committed – a concern that didn’t seem to faze Republican proponents of the bill who said swift justice is “not about guilt or innocence”:

    “Is swift justice fair justice?” asked Democratic party Senator Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa attorney who voted against the bill. “We have seen cases where, years later, convicted people were exonerated,” she said. […]

    But Republican Senator Rob Bradley said, “this is not about guilt or innocence, it’s about timely justice.” Frivolous appeals designed only for delay are not fair to victims and their families, he said. […]

    “Only God can judge,” Matt Gaetz, a Republican who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives, said last week during House debate. “But we sure can set up the meeting.”

    For the record, Matt Gaetz is the son of Don Gaetz, who is in charge of the Florida State Senate. And this tells us that Gaetz the Younger worked in 2010 to defeat amendments that would prevent voting districts from being gerrymandered (which the Repugs have elevated to an art form…the surprisingly forthright excuse – though still a morally bankrupt one – is that the amendments would blunt a “conservative comeback”).

    Florida’s junior state representative also favored repealing Florida’s “Cap and Trade” law here (and get a load of his full-on wingnut language attacking former governor Charlie Crist…some BS about California romance, or something). And based on this, Gaetz the Elder is no prize either.

    However, I don’t believe that M. Gaetz has a right to involve himself on legal matters, at least not for a good while anyway, based on this.

  • Finally, William McNabb wrote the following in the Journal recently (returning to the “money” theme…McNabb is CEO of The Vanguard Group, the mutual fund investing behemoth based in Malvern, Pa.)…

    We estimate that since 2011 the rise in overall policy uncertainty has created a $261 billion cumulative drag on the economy (the equivalent of more than $800 per person in the country). Without this uncertainty tax, real U.S. GDP could have grown an average 3% per year since 2011, instead of the recorded 2% average in fiscal years 2011-12. In addition, the U.S. labor market would have added roughly 45,000 more jobs per month over the past two years. That adds up to more than one million jobs that we could have had by now, but don’t.

    At Vanguard we estimate that the spike in policy uncertainty surrounding the debt-ceiling debate alone has resulted in a cumulative economic loss of $112 billion over the past two years. To put that figure in perspective, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that sequestration may reduce total funding by $85 billion in 2013. Clearly, the U.S. debt situation is the economic issue of our generation.

    Spoken as a charter member of the “pay no price, bear no burden” investor class that continues to skate while the “99 percent rabble” lives paycheck to paycheck…

    Fortunately, Ezra Klein responded as follows here, citing the work of fellow “Wonk Blog” contributor Mike Konczal…

    How do (the authors of the “uncertainty” studies McNabb based his column on) construct the search of newspaper articles for their index, which generates a lot of the movement?

    Their news search index is constructed with four steps. They first isolate their search to a set of articles from 10 major newspapers (USA Today, the Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal). They then search articles for the term “uncertainty” or “uncertain.” They then filter again for the word “economic” or “economy.” With economic uncertainty flagged, they then filter again for one of the following words to identify government policy: “policy,” “‘tax,” “spending,” “regulation,” “federal reserve,” “budget,” or “deficit.”

    See the problem? We don’t know what specific stories are in their index; however, we can use their search terms listed above to find which articles would have likely qualified. Let’s take a story from their first listed paper, USA Today, “Obama taking aim at GOP pledge on campaign trail,” from August 28, 2010 (for the rest of this post, I’m going to underline the words in quotes that would trigger inclusion in their policy uncertainty index):Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the House GOP lawmakers who crafted the pledge, said “it’s laughable that the president would try to lecture anyone on.” [….] Buck said the pledge was developed to address voter worries about high unemployment and record levels of government and debt.

    “While the president has exploded federal spending and ignored Americans who are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’, the pledge offers a plan to end the economic uncertainty and create jobs, as well as a concrete plan to rein in Washington’s runaway spending spree,” Buck said.

    Spokespeople for the conservative movement tell reporters that President Obama’s policies are causing economic uncertainty. Reporters write it down and publish it. Economic researchers search newspapers for stories about economic uncertainty and policy, and create a policy uncertainty index out of those talking points.

    It’s about jobs. It’s about generating demand. It’s about the utter failure of austerity not just in this country, but all over the world.

    I understand that McNabb and those in his orbit won’t admit the complete and total collapse of their wrongheaded ideology, but it’s despicable to watch them try and craft a narrative justifying their mistakes to the utter ruination of working men, women and families all over the world.

    On a bit of a happier note, though, this tells us that, while our supposed geniuses of finance have a collective freak out over pending “Too Big To Fail” legislation co-sponsored in the Senate by Sherrod Brown (no surprise) and David Vitter (WHAAA????), local community banks appear to have no problem with it.

    And those are the folks (and the credit unions also, let’s not forget) that are gradually digging us out of the financial mess created by the corporate Wall Street criminals. Those are the institutions releasing the loans and making the credit available to return the key sectors of our economy to life, thereby increasing demand and leading to better hiring numbers such as these (a long way to go I know, but improvement).

    community-banks
    And given all of this, I would say that this is a sign o’the times.


  • Little Ricky’s House Of Cards Tumbles Down

    May 19, 2010


    I give you Former Senator Man-On-Dog in the Inky today (here)…

    Over the past year, Americans watched President Obama and congressional Democrats use caustic anti-business rhetoric to rally support for nationalizing major parts of the auto industry, increasing government involvement in health care, limiting executive compensation, and abolishing much of the private sector’s role in student loans.

    Next up, Democrats have set their sights on the financial-services sector. One would think that reforming the government-created entities at the epicenter of the 2008 crash, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, would be first on their agenda. One would be wrong.

    Why? Because these quasi-governmental entities were created and are controlled by Democrats in Washington. If Fannie and Freddie were a creation of the marketplace, Democrats would have made them public enemies Nos. 1 and 2 long ago.

    Little Ricky then goes on to criticize President Clinton for inflating the housing bubble.

    Yes, I’m serious.

    And as far as blaming the Dems for what has transpired with the mortgage giants, this tells us that former Dem Sen. Paul Sarbanes (of “Sarbanes-Oxley” for the uninitiated) warned that “ideologues” have created an impasse over trying to pass GSE reform legislation in 2003 (GSE stands for “government sponsored enterprises,” but for our purposes, we’re basically talking about Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Bank System; S.1508, the reform bill championed by former-Dem-turned-Repug Richard Shelby, was opposed by Bushco because “its receivership provisions were not strong enough,” which, somehow, I think could have been addressed if they weren’t more concerned with scuttling it outright).

    As noted in the prior post, though, a fight took place in 2005 over GSE reform in which “conservative Republicans (were) already bracing…if Shelby’s bill contains any measure that would require the two lending giants to divert a portion of their profits.” And the National Association of Home Builders opposed the 2006 bill from Shelby because it “failed to adequately address the nation’s housing needs” (not sure exactly what that was all about, but again, couldn’t that have been worked out with the NAHB first? After all, they’re a “trade association based in Washington, D.C.,” which automatically makes me inclined to think lobbyists and big bucks, the primary audience for Repugs and too many Dems also).

    So what eventually happened? It was taken over in 2008 by Republican President Former Highest Disapproval Rating in Gallup Poll History and put under the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (here) under James B. Lockhart III, who rebuffed New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo when the following occurred the year before (from here)…

    WaMu has not yet been included in the (Cuomo) suit but earlier this week Cuomo demanded that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae each appoint an Independent Examiner to review mortgages and the underlying appraisals that the two GSEs have purchased with particular emphasis on those purchased from WaMu.

    And remember, this action occurred in ’07 before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were fully taken over by OFHEO (and in response, Lockhart basically told Cuomo to get lost, since it was a federal matter).

    I think it might have made more sense for Lockhart to cooperate with Cuomo in the investigation since, as noted here, we’re still dealing with the fallout of the housing crisis that was fully underway when Cuomo decided to act, as opposed to Lockhart.

    And just to remind us all, Cuomo is a Democrat and Lockhart is a Republican (and here is a timeline of Bushco telling Congress – which, at that time, was run by Repugs – basically where they can go with any notion of reform for real).

    I’m not going to tell you that the Dems are completely innocent in the matter of the economic mess caused by the explosion of the mortgage bubble either; after all, they didn’t get “cramdown” legislation passed either to get underwater mortgages restructured, though they did try. However, they are a hell of a lot less culpable here than the opposition party.

    Rick Santorum is an utterly unrepentant partisan liar. The fact that he parades himself as a Catholic of piety and still writes these noxious words just about makes me physically ill (and more fool the Inky for continuing to give him column space).


    Monday Mashup Part One (5/3/10)

    May 3, 2010

  • 1) Are you as under-whelmed by the entry of billionaire speculator Jeff Greene into the Florida Senate race as I am?

    As the Murdoch Street Journal tells us here, Greene made a fortune on credit default swaps against the collapsing Florida housing market; also, somewhat astutely I think, Greene had previously donated to the campaign of real Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek (here).

    Oh, and I got a kick out of the Journal highlighting the fact that Meek is supposedly a “high roller” because he has $3.8 million in campaign funds; gee, wouldn’t it have been “fair and balanced,” as it were, if they pointed out that presumptive Repug nominee Marco Rubio raised very nearly that amount in the first quarter alone (here)?

    Also, the fact that Greene has brought on board DLC Dems Joe Trippi and especially Doug Schoen tells you all you need to know about Greene’s allegiances (didn’t Terry McAuliffe try this in Virginia, ultimately helping to elect Repug Bob McDonnell as governor?).

  • 2) Also, I’m glad some news organization somewhere on this planet is calling out Laura Bush for that claim that she was supposedly poisoned in Germany in 2007 (here)…

    We see absolutely no evidence to support (these allegations) at all,” said Christian Ploeger, a spokesman for the Fundus Group that owns the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm in northern Germany where the Bushes stayed for a G8 summit.

    “The food was checked by security staff,” he said.

    “I suspect that this may be just to try and sell more copies of the book.”

    Word to that, yo (and how disgusting is it for her to make a charge like that when, for example, the enemies of our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin routinely seemed to be ingesting exotic chemicals that ultimately killed them – I mean, when they weren’t falling out of buildings to their deaths, that is?).

    Oh, and speaking of the former first couple, just when you thought that only David Broder was concocting the dreaded “Bush bounce” stories, I give you this.

  • 3) Finally, I’m scratching my head over this bit of Old Gray Lady wankery from John Harwood (here)…

    Bush administration officials had multiple arguments for war with Iraq. But to anchor their public case, Paul D. Wolfowitz, the former deputy secretary of defense, once explained, “We settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction.”

    For similar reasons, Republicans accused Mr. Obama and fellow Democrats of perpetuating bank bailouts through their proposal for shutting down failing Wall Street institutions. Though the plan explicitly aimed to prevent bailouts, Republicans seized on potential loopholes in hopes of capitalizing on public resentment.

    Senator Bob Corker questioned fellow Republicans’ arguments, helping shift debate toward issues like Senator Blanche Lincoln’s derivatives spinoff plan.

    But Mr. Obama called that argument “cynical and deceptive,” and Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, publicly questioned its credibility. Senate Republican leaders could not hold rank-and-file members against beginning floor debate, especially as Democrats signaled willingness to compromise on disputed provisions.

    OK, the last paragraph is pretty much rooted in the real world, so I think that’s OK. However, the line about “Democrats…perpetuating bank bailouts through their proposal for shutting down Wall Street institutions” is factually wrong.

    As noted here…

    STEPHANIE DHUE, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Republicans oppose this idea of a bail-out fund, saying it will institutionalize “too big to fail.”

    FRANK: Well, there is no bail-out fund. Your use of the phrase, frankly, ought to make Mitch McConnell happy, because there is no bail-out fund. A bail-out fund suggests that there is money that is going to help an institution.

    DHUE: So we should call it a “dissolution fund”?

    FRANK: Yes, it is — actually, it is a “funeral expenses fund.” And it’s a dissolution fund, which is, in fact, what we do call it.

    A bail-out fund suggests that you take money from the tax-payers and give it to institutions that have screwed up to keep them alive. None of that applies to our fund. In the first place, what it is is money that is raised from financial institutions, not from the tax-payers. Secondly, it can only be spent to help put the institution to death. What we do in this bill, first of all, is to say that unlike the current law, the regulators don’t have to pay — they don’t have to choose between paying all of the debts and none of the debts. They can pay only those debts of an ongoing — of an institution that are necessary to avoid a collapse.

    But there is no bail-out. There is no public money. And more importantly, the institution is dead. Not a penny can be spent until the shareholders lose everything, the CEO is fired, the board of directors is fired, the company is basically dissolved.

    Of course, since Senate Democrats lack the spine of House Democrats, the fund was dropped, as noted here; also, for reasons that utterly escape me, President Obama bought into the wingnut talking point that the fund would be used for bailouts, when, as Barney Frank already pointed out, no such thing would have occurred.

    It should also be noted that the whole “bailout fund” talking point has been echoed everywhere by our corporate media, including former Bushco flak Dana Perino here, who defended the GOP’s actions on financial reform, saying the party was “leading” (as noted here, though, this is one of many topics about which she is not an expert – claims from the prior post include misinformation about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the entire question of whether or not our economy was even in a recession as far as she knew while her boss’s term in office mercifully concluded).

    And just to make sure that Perino’s misinformation is current on financial matters, I give you this also.

    Oh, and one more thing, Harwood – Iraq’s WMD were never found (apparently it is necessary for me to remind you of that).


  • Tuesday Mashup (3/30/10)

    March 30, 2010

  • 1) I must tell you that I came across something that was utterly hilarious in the Op-Ed section of the Bucks County Courier Times today.

    Editorial Page Editor Guy Petroziello published a letter in which he wrote that the paper could not publish letters in favor of health care reform and thanking U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy who voted for the law because Petroziello believed that the letters were orchestrated by the Democratic National Committee, and “we cannot publish letters that are part of an organized campaign” (he also pointed out that the paper’s editorial submission policy, as stated in the Op-Ed section, does not allow publishing of thank you notes; he made it sound as if he was making an exception to the policy by publishing any thank-you letters to Murphy at all).

    Which begs the question – is Petroziello actually naïve enough to believe that anti-Murphy letters actually aren’t part of an organized campaign also?

    Check out PA Water Cooler or (especially) BucksRight every so often, Guy. Right-wing social networking is very much alive in this state and can easily lend itself to letter-writing campaigns also. Besides, when you get about a hundred letters all complaining about a “Patrick Murphy/Pelosi/Reid” axis, “Obama-care,” “taking over one-sixth of our economy,” “trillion-dollar tax hike” and (in particular) “tort reform to lower health care costs,” as well as everyone complaining that Patrick Murphy didn’t hold an in-person town hall so the teabaggers could stage their antics, then I definitely do not believe that you are talking an organic phenomenon, however much you may believe to the contrary. And those letters apparently run into no obstacles at all before they are printed.

    Also, in the right-wingnuttia department, J.D. Mullane (in between recycling columns as to whether or not college is “necessary”) opined as follows on the subject of someone at a Burger King who, it is alleged, recently viewed porn on a PC provided at one of their eateries (the company’s defense is that it blocks porn sites and the individual was reading an E-mail attachment, or something)…

    What’s the big deal, when even former Sen. John Edwards has a sex tape – and he could have been president of the United States.

    I’m the last person who is going to defend the lies and stupidity of John Edwards, but as noted here, his mistress Rielle Hunter acknowledged that she created the tape (I don’t know if Edwards ever consented to the recording, for the record, not that it really matters much I suppose). And as nearly as I can tell, the tape traveled in one way or another between Hunter and former Edwards campaign staffer (and tell-all book author) Andrew Young. To my knowledge, Edwards never “had” the tape.

    If you’re going to shamelessly demagogue as you attack Dems, J.D., at least go to the trouble of getting your facts straight.

  • 2) And if that isn’t enough yuks for you, Pantload Media’s Helen Smith tells us here how Jeff Goldstein and others of the right-wing world of bizarro reality should deal with “the Left’s disrespect and lack of empathy.”

    This is what Goldstein said when Ben Domenech, co-founder of the blog Red State, was nailed in 2006 on allegations of plagiarism after Domenech was given a forum for his diatribes at the Washington Post…

    Ben has owned up to his mistakes. He has, as I anticipated he would, taken that most difficult first step to rehabilitating his credibility. Now it’s time for other folks to do the same: Molly Ivins; Larry Tribe; Stephen Ambrose; Dan Rather; Jason Leopold; Joe Biden; Micah Wright; Ward Churchill; Eason Jordan; CNN’s agreement with Saddam’s Iraq; Joe Wilson; Steve Erlanger—we’re looking at you.

    And of course, Goldstein provided no citations for his charges (and as Atrios points out, historian Stephen Ambrose died in 2002).

    I report, you decide.

  • 3) And finally, N. Gregory Mankiw appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times and told us the following (here)…

    When I was chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, I spoke openly about the need to reform regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I did not know when or how these government-sponsored enterprises would come crashing down, but I thought they posed undue risks for the economy and for taxpayers.

    I was not alone in that judgment. While working on the issue, I consulted privately with an economist who had held a high-ranking position in the Clinton administration. He shared precisely my concerns, as did Alan Greenspan, who was then the Fed chairman.

    I would say that this exchange between Greenspan and Henry Waxman, then head of the House Oversight Committee speaks volumes (deflating Greenspan’s “magical thinking” on the markets).

    Continuing with Mankiw…

    Why was nothing done (about reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)? Many members of Congress were worried less about financial fragility than about expanding access to homeownership. Moreover, lobbyists from these companies assured Congress that there was no real problem, while the sheer complexity of these institutions made it hard for legislators to appreciate the enormity of the risks.

    I recount this story not because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the main cause of the recent financial crisis — they were only one element — but because it shows the kind of problem we’ll encounter on a larger scale as we reform oversight of the financial system.

    I have to reluctantly point out that Mankiw is correct when he says that he warned of risks to so-called government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs (here, primarily Fannie and Freddie…of course, Mankiw cheered the deficit and offshoring at the same time also, but those are subjects for another day). The problem, as noted in this Wikipedia article about Congressman Barney Frank, is as follows…

    In 2003, while the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, Frank opposed a Bush administration proposal, in response to accounting scandals, for transferring oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to a new agency that would be created within the Treasury Department. The proposal, supported by the head of Fannie Mae, reflected the administration’s belief that Congress “neither has the tools, nor the stature” for adequate oversight. Frank stated, “These two entities…are not facing any kind of financial crisis…. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”[50] Conservative groups criticized Frank for campaign contributions totaling $42,350 between 1989 and 2008. They claim the donations from Fannie and Freddie influenced his support of their lending programs, and say that Frank did not play a strong enough role in reforming the institutions in the years leading up to the Economic crisis of 2008.[51] In 2006 a Fannie Mae representative stated in SEC filings that they “did not participate in large amounts of these non-traditional mortgages in 2004 and 2005.” [52]In response to criticism from conservatives, Frank said, “In 2004, it was Bush who started to push Fannie and Freddie into subprime mortgages, because they were boasting about how they were expanding homeownership for low-income people. And I said at the time, ‘Hey—(a) this is going to jeopardize their profitability, but (b) it’s going to put people in homes they can’t afford, and they’re gonna lose them.’” [10]

    So Bushco, including Mankiw, wanted to further remove Fannie and Freddie from visibility by sticking them in Treasury away from congressional oversight because they were supposedly in trouble, and pushed them towards higher risk home mortgages at the same time to make sure they would be in trouble.

    And here is something else to consider (from Wikipedia)…

    Frank further stated that “during twelve years of Republican rule no reform was adopted regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2007, a few months after I became the Chairman, the House passed a strong reform bill; we sought to get the [Bush] administration’s approval to include it in the economic stimulus legislation in January 2008; and finally got it passed and onto President Bush’s desk in July 2008. Moreover, “we were able to adopt it in nineteen months, and we could have done it much quicker if the [Bush] administration had cooperated.”[54]

    Also, I thought this post was amusing, in which Mankiw claimed that people with “good genes” make lots of money and pass their intelligence off to their kids who then get high SAT scores.

    And if they’re really lucky, they get a column in the Sunday Times from which they can create partisan mythology about once or twice a month.


  • More Housing Fairy Tales From Former President “Bubble Boy”

    May 29, 2009

    large_canby_explode1
    So how exactly did everything go for Dubya last night in Michigan (as a follow up to this earlier post)?

    Well (from this AP/WaPo story)…

    About eight people protested Bush’s appearance outside the venue, carrying signs that called him a murderer and a traitor.

    God bless them for their efforts. And what exactly did Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History have to say?

    He talked about the economy, blaming “a lack of responsible regulation” in the lending industry for the recession and said that the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., or Freddie Mac, shouldn’t have engaged in certain financial practices.

    “I don’t want to sound like a self-serving guy, but we did try to rein them in,” Bush said.

    Oh really?

    I think this post does a really great job of explaining the “cause and effect” behind the Gramm-Leach-Bliley atrocity signed into law by President Clinton (with Daily Kos poster RachelMO quite rightly noting that the Repugs had enough votes to override a Clinton veto), which ended up creating a demand for mortgage-backed securities.

    To feed that demand, President 43 and his Republican playmates did their best to loosen restrictions on home ownership through the so-called American Dream Downpayment Act in 2003 (subsequent to making riskier loan products available to minority and low income buyers), and the Zero-Down Payment Initiative in 2004, which “(eliminated) the statutory requirement of a minimum three percent down payment for FHA-insured single-family mortgages for first-time homebuyers.”

    “Rein them in” my ass, you fraud!

    So where are we now in this mess? Well, as the New York Times tells us here (h/t Atrios)…

    More defaults by unemployed homeowners could shunt more houses onto an already saturated market, economists said, dragging prices down farther.

    “We’re still caught in this vicious cycle,” said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight. “These numbers were horrible, and they’re going to get worse. This problem’s going to be with us for a while.”

    And what exactly does Dubya miss now that he’s no longer taking up space in An Oval Office?

    Flying on Air Force One, eating meals prepared by the White House kitchen staff and drawing inspiration from his encounters with U.S. military personnel were among things former President George W. Bush missed since leaving office, he said Thursday.

    So basically, he misses the trappings of power, and that’s about it.

    Figures.


    Slightly Old McBush B.S. On The Bailout

    October 2, 2008


    I probably should’ve gotten to this a couple of days ago, but better late than never.

    This Tuesday White House briefing from Tony Fratto on the bailout tells us…

    Q Tony, in the past, on important controversial issues, the administration has really worked the conservative base, reached out to them in advance, laid the groundwork. Do you, in hindsight, think the White House perhaps could have done better with that on this issue, seeing as how it was the conservative Republicans who were the ones predominantly who did not vote for this?

    MR. FRATTO: Look, I know that yesterday afternoon erupted into, as only Washington can, a number of hours of great finger-pointing. You didn’t see that coming from here. We’re not going to engage in finger-pointing on this issue. What we’re focused on is fixing the problem and trying to get it to a solution that can pass.

    And, shockingly, I can find no evidence to the contrary on that (maybe it got churned up in the news cycle before I could get to it, but there you are).

    However, this Yahoo News story tells us…

    (John) McCain spoke at a campaign round-table a few hours later.

    “I call on everyone in Washington to come together in a bipartisan way to address this crisis. I know that many of the solutions to this problem may be unpopular, but the dire consequences of inaction will be far more damaging to the economic security of American families and the fault will be all ours,” he said.

    At the same time, a less high-minded skirmish broke out.

    McCain’s commercial quoted the Washington Post as saying he had “pushed for stronger regulation” of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two disgraced institutions that dominate the devastated mortgage industry, “while Mr. Obama was notably silent.”

    The commercial continues: “But, Democrats blocked the reforms. Loans soared. Then, the bubble burst. And, taxpayers are on the hook for billions.”

    The Republican National Committee unveiled an even tougher commercial that it said would air in the battleground states of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

    “Wall Street squanders our money and Washington is forced to bail them out with — you guessed it — our money.

    “Can it get any worse? Under Barack Obama’s plan, the government would spend a trillion dollars more, even after the bailout. A trillion dollars. Who pays? You do.”

    Putting aside for a moment the lies that Obama did nothing (and his supposed “trillion dollar plan” isn’t even worthy of comment) and Democrats “blocked reforms” while the crisis spun out of control, I would ask that, in response, you read this and try not to laugh too hard, OK?

    (By the way, the Senate recently passed the latest version of the bailout, noted here.)


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