31 March 2009
In a letter to the Senate Finance Committee, Sebelius, President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department, said she repaid nearly $8,000, including interest, because of "unintentional errors."
I can't even believe this.
These tax scandals scream for two things.
(1) simplifying the tax code
(2) real ethics reform
Exhibit B would be Nick Nolte's mug shot.
Most women don't look this good out of jail.
The warheads were built using plutonium extracted from North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear plant, Kyodo reported, citing Daniel Pinkston, who said he got the information from a government official without divulging which country.
30 March 2009
Armed with a .40-caliber Glock pistol, he entered the building to confront Robert Stewart, 45, in the hallway. Officer Garner fired his weapon once, hitting Stewart in the chest, even though he had already been shot three times in his foot and leg.
A day later, Garner was being praised as a hero in this small town in North Carolina's Sandhills region, about 60 miles southwest of Raleigh, for forging into the nursing home without waiting for backup to stop a man authorities say shot and killed eight people — many of them elderly and frail — inside.
Justin Garner is a hero. He stopped a killer and in the process put his life on the line. He used his training and did what he had to do. But most importantly, he was armed.
A man shooting up a nursing home, or a factory, or a college campus, or a Post Office, acts with near impunity to carry out their deeds because they know they are the only ones armed. If more of us were armed in public, less of this would happen.
1) They leave their jobs.
Forty million instant job openings -Unemployment fixed.
2) They each buy a NEW American car.
Forty million cars sold -Auto Industry fixed.
3) They either buy a house or pay off their mortgage -
Twenty million real estate transactions - Housing Crisis fixed.
And it will cost less than we have already spent.
Uh huh. And when was the last time you believed anything China said?
Is the FED fully staffed? Treasury? Not the last time I checked. And we're in the worst economy since the Great Depression. You would think these would be priorities.
I don't think the Obama Administration is moving fast enough! Not that I support what they are doing anyway.
Its becoming more evident every day that we have elected a fascist dictator.
The White House says neither GM nor Chrysler submitted acceptable plans to receive more bailout money, setting the stage for a crisis in Detroit and putting in motion what could be the final two months of two American auto giants.Obama Admin Gives Failing Grades To GM, Chrysler Plans
Administration officials, briefing reporters ahead of a speech Monday morning by President Barack Obama, said the government will give the auto makers enough working capital to work with stakeholders to craft more aggressive strategies. It warned, however, that a "quick and surgical" bankruptcy may be each company's best chance for survival.Wow. I'm not saying it's not the right decision, but I am amazed that they would let these two go under, just as a political matter.
I guess they didn't pay off the right people.
As a practical matter, Chapter 11 is probably the best route for GM, although pensioners will get screwed, that is unavoidable at this point.
Chrysler's only remaining chance is to team up with Fiat. If they can get the financing to work, the Chrysler/Fiat deal would actually be beneficial to both.
29 March 2009
My first thought : ah, avoid fascism, that doesn't sound so hard!
IF YOU were unfortunate enough to buy equity when the Dow was at 14,000, how long will it be before you see a positive return on your investment?
American equities always yielded some positive return over a twenty year period in the last century, but not over a ten year time frame. The return on equities from 1965 to 1974 was -4%, for instance. So if you expect the future to mirror the past in America, then someday you might not kick yourself for buying at the top of the market. But you just might have to wait until 2027 to feel that way.
Of course, that assumes the future reflects the past. If we’ve entered a new paradigm of slower rates of growth in exchange for more stability, it could take longer. More worrying, the experience of American markets is not typical.
What if you followed the advice of economists and held a globally diversified portfolio? If you bought equity in Japan at the wrong time it could take 50 years to realise a positive return. America is one of only three countries for whom every twenty year period yielded positive equity returns.
It’s not shocking that countries like Germany, Italy, and Spain had a few twenty year periods of negative equity returns.
If we can just steer clear of fascism during the next twenty years we'll have a much better shot.
Then I remembered that I have read Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left.
So now I don't feel so good...
[T]he case for broadening regulators' oversight to include investment banks and other financial institutions is based on three flawed assumptions.
The first is that the same factors that justify expansive powers to close banks and take control of their assets are equally applicable to investment banks and other financial institutions. But the FDIC's interest in commercial banks is unique -- because it guarantees deposits up to $250,000, the FDIC is a bank's most important creditor and has a stake in its health as the representative of American taxpayers. The government's stake and the need to assure that depositors do not lose access to their deposits, even temporarily, arguably justify the FDIC's extraordinary powers. Those factors are not present with investment banks or other financial institutions.
The second flawed assumption is that our bankruptcy laws are not adequate for handling defaults by investment banks or other financial institutions. ...
Contrary to the widespread myth that bankruptcy is time-consuming and ineffectual, Lehman sold its major brokerage assets to Barclays less than a week after filing for bankruptcy. It is now in the process of selling its tens of billions of dollars of less time-sensitive assets at a more deliberate pace. ...
The third flawed assumption is that financial firms flirting with distress are somehow worse decision makers than federal regulators. But the opposite is likely true. If the Treasury, FDIC and Fed had authority over investment bank failures, troubled banks would have a strong incentive to negotiate for rescue loans, and their pleas would be heard by regulators influenced as much by political as financial factors.
The involvement of three different regulators (and mandatory consultation with the president) would magnify this risk. With bankruptcy, in contrast, the decision of whether and when to file is made by an institution's managers and creditors, who have the best information and their own money on the line.
As we switch over to alternative energy, the complete conversion away from fossil fuels will not be realistic for some time without advances in battery technology. By converting coal into gas, we can at least reduce our dependence from foreign sources for the fuel we will still need.
Move from coal-fired power plants to nuclear, wind, solar, and geothermal, and significant progress in reducing pollution will still have been made. Political opposition to the reduction of coal mining would be reduced by converting coal to fuel for our plug-in hybrid cars, and we can let Hugo Chavez and the Saudi princes pay their bills with someone else's money.
Bad News: Scientists Make Cheap Gas From Coal
Electric cars have been getting a lot of buzz lately, but a more immediately viable transportation fuel of the future could be liquid derived from coal. Scientists have devised a new way to transform coal into gas for your car using far less energy than the current process. The advance makes scaling up the environmentally unfriendly fuel more economical than greener alternatives.
The list of contenders to replace oil is long and diverse. Alternative fuels could include next-gen ethanol, algal biofuel, hydrogen and natural gas, or cars could go largely electric. But the problem with all the new fuels is that they have to scale up — and that's harder than it sounds.
Plus, many fear that biofuels could cause massive, negative land-use changes.
Republican Tax Travesty
On March 19, the House of Representatives voted to impose a 90% tax on the incomes of certain executives of financial institutions receiving federal funds. What was remarkable about this vote is that 85 Republicans voted for this travesty. The consequences will be felt for years to come.
Particularly dismaying is the fact that supporters of the tax increase included senior members of the Republican leadership.
Ironically, Barack Obama may save the Republicans from their own craven cowardice. He and his advisers have signaled that the administration has serious problems with the confiscatory tax bill--including doubts about its constitutionality. Liberal legal scholar Lawrence Tribe thinks the 90% tax might violate the Constitution's prohibition against bills of attainder--laws that single out specific people for punishment.
It's appalling that 85 Republican congressmen never gave any thought to this consideration in their rush to pander to ignorant fools.
The worsening of the government's budget deficit virtually ensures that higher taxes will be required in the not too distant future. When that day comes, Republicans will undoubtedly claim that anti-tax purity prevents them from supporting such action.
However, in the case of 85 House members this won't be the case. We already know what they are; it's just a question of negotiating the price.
Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me.
Once Again, With Feeling: Republicans Claim To Return to Principles
Republicans Lost Their Way
To Hell With the Republican Party
The Results of Pandering to the Republican Kooks
Why am I always posting about red-light cameras? No, I've never gotten a ticket at one. I have never even gotten a ticket for running a red light.
I do not care for the idea of being monitored by the government as I go about my daily business.
Free people do not need to be monitored for wrong-doing by a government that is hoping I will break the law so they can collect a fine. It is degrading.
The dollar's role as the world's dominant currency is coming under intense scrutiny.
It is worried that the dollar's value is being eroded by the steps the US is taking to rescue its economy from the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.
The US currency recorded its biggest weekly slide since 1985 last week, after the Federal Reserve said it would begin buying government debt to try to boost the economy, underscoring concerns.
"Calls for a new global currency come at a time when the US dollar is probably at its most vulnerable in many years," says Mitul Kotecha, global head of foreign exchange strategy at French financial services firm Calyon.
Face It -- You Have To Pay Your Taxes. (Unless You Are Nominated For A Cabinet Position In The Obama Administration)
Not paying taxes — or at least not wanting to — is as American as apple pie. Just consider the recent tax travails of Tom Daschle and Timothy Geithner: Daschle was forced to withdraw his nomination as Barack Obama’s secretary of health and human services because of his failure to pay taxes on unreported income and a limousine and driver; and while Geithner was ultimately confirmed as Obama’s Treasury secretary, he now finds himself in the somewhat awkward position of running the I.R.S. after once owing it $34,000 in unpaid taxes.
Some claim, based on elaborate, conspiracy-minded historical research, that the 16th Amendment was not in fact ratified by three-fourths of the states — contrary to the assertions of the secretary of state at the time, Philander Knox. Others maintain that they are citizens not of the United States but only of the state in which they live. Or that they don’t fit the definition of “person” as the term is used in the Internal Revenue Code. The truly persnickety contend that the 1040 form doesn’t display a valid control number from the Office of Management and Budget, as addressed in the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, and thus the income tax is invalid.
Since 2001, the Justice Department’s tax division has obtained more than 350 civil injunctions against people selling or promoting frivolous tax arguments and has successfully prosecuted most of them, recouping an estimated $600 million. “There are a few people who want real information, but most of them just want to argue with us,” says the I.R.S.’s acting chief counsel, Clarissa Potter. “They’ll say they’ve spent many hours studying the code, and this is what they believe. They don’t necessarily want to be enlightened to the fact that their argument is frivolous.”
Nathan Hochman, who until recently served as the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s tax division, notes that if a tax denier is taken to court, the odds are overwhelmingly against him.
The video purports to show Ashley Biden, 27, snorting lines of white powder at a house party in her home state of Delaware.
The video surfaced only a few days after Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, declared that the United States shared the blame for Mexico's violent drug wars. “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” Mrs Clinton said.
Didn't Joe Biden coin the term “drug czar” in the early 80's campaigning for tougher action against illegal drugs?
I'm not going to pick on Ashley Biden, although she is too old to claim this was all a stupid teenage mistake. She's an adult and she does what she wants at her peril. That's assuming the tape is genuine. It has gotten to the point of being ridiculous that we hear another scandal from those related to the Obama Administration on a weekly basis. There have got to be higher standards.
In the midst of what Obama calls the "worst economy since the Great Depression" he takes staff of 500 to Europe
When Barack Obama visits Europe this week he will be accompanied by a staff of 500. But he is Barack Obama, and this is Europe, where we have been told he is beloved. I don't know how many troops have been deployed to protect Obama. The 500 includes secret service, but as far as I can tell that does not include additional military protection.
The idea of an entourage of 500 accompanying The One to Europe certainly makes a statement, but it isn't one of sacrifice and fiscal responsibility. I wonder what kind of impression this big show will have on the British after he so successfully dissed them on their trip to America? What kind of impression will this have on those AIG executives who were shamed by the President into giving back their bonuses and were threatened by angry mobs and a 90 percent tax by Congress? If I were one of them I would sure feel punked right about now.
"We asked him to step down and he agreed," a senior administration official told the Daily News.
Agree that Wagoner needs to go or not, its not President Obama's decision to make. That's fascism.
A senior Spanish judge has ordered prosecutors to investigate whether key Bush aides should be charged with crimes over the Guantanamo Bay detention center, a lawyer said Sunday.
Investigating magistrate Baltasar Garzon has passed a 98-page complaint to prosecutors that accuses former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and five others of being the legal architects of system that allowed torture in violation of international law, human rights lawyer Gonzalo Boye told CNN.
Prosecutors will review the document to determine if a crime has been committed.
The prosecutor's office will make a decision within five days, said Boye, one of the report's authors. Garzon accepted the complaint under Spanish law because there were several Spaniards at Guantanamo who allegedly suffered torture.
The complaint was filed in March 2008 by Boye and the Association for the Rights of Prisoners.
It names Gonzales -- who was President George W. Bush's counsel when the Guantanamo Bay detention center was established -- and other top Bush administration officials John C. Yoo, Douglas J. Feith, William J. Hayes II, Jay S. Bybee and David S. Addington.
A former top aide to Colin Powell, who was secretary of state in the early days of the Bush administration's "war on terror," testified before Congress last summer that the six officials "colluded" to develop a legal rationale for allowing detainees to be subjected to harsh treatment.
It will be interesting to see how far this goes and if other countries take up the measure as well. It will also be interesting to see what the official position of the Obama Administration will be.
28 March 2009
Kim Jong-il, the North Korean dictator, has hinted that if the missile is destroyed, his country will strike back violently, conduct a second nuclear weapons test and ruin years of American disarmament diplomacy.
Wouldn't it be cool to see Japan shoot North Korea's missile out of the sky like a wounded goose?
I wonder if Secretary of State Clinton will claim that North Korea's aggression is also America's fault.
Here’s Keith Olbermann explaining how social networking sites work:
Hat tip: IMAO
MSNBC is the Special Olympics of Cable News.
I claim credit for the two weeks I went without power last September after Hurricane Ike. Let's see, that's about 336 hours.
The rest of you can have fun pretending to be hurricane victims for an hour, though. If you really want to replicate the experience, go without water for a three days, shut down the gas stations for a week, and empty the grocery stores.
Me? Tomorrow night, I'll be watching my HDTV in a well-lit air-conditioned room while surfing the net.
You? You still have some catching up to do.
27 March 2009
Some are interpreting the attacks as a warning to Iran that Israel is prepared to launch attacks if it believes it is threatened.
Strategy Page: Holy War Against Hamas
And of course: Hamas denies link with convoy hit in Sudan
Israel revealed that it has sent warplanes down the Red Sea to attack a convoy of trucks, near the Egyptian border in Sudan, carrying Iranian long range rockets destined for Gaza. Iran brings the rockets (and other weapons) in through Port Sudan, and then trucks them to Egypt. Sudan is an ally of Iran, and thus does not interfere. Egypt is not a friend of Iran, but the border police can be bribed.
The January attack destroyed 17 truckloads of weapons, and killed the 39 men operating the vehicles. Since then, the smugglers have resorted to individual trucks, and the use of small boats moving up the Red Sea coast.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army is preparing for a second round of fighting in Gaza. With a new Israeli government formed (after the recent elections), decisions on military operations in Gaza can be made. Most Israelis believe that Hamas is beyond redemption, and that the only solution is to go in and do major damage to Hamas in Gaza. The Israelis feel that you can't really negotiate with a group who keeps insisting that the only end game here is the destruction of Israel and the death to all Jews.
This one is about plans underway in California to ban black cars. Really.
CARB So Crazy: California To Ban Black Cars?
Reading this makes me want to buy a black car.
In fact, I have now decided that my next vehicle purchase must be black.
Take that, California!
Sayonara Social Security Surpluses Video at the link.
And that $2.5 trillion Social Security trust fund politicians talk about? Pure fantasy. There is no money. The past surpluses were just used to fund the national debt.
The federal budget deficit is set to quadruple in 2009 to $1.75 trillion and President Barack Obama’s budget will add another $4.9 trillion in public debt from the beginning of 2010 through 2016. But our fiscal future is in even worse shape than that. As PBS’s Nightly Business Report noted last night, the recession is rapidly making our entitlement crisis worse.
Darren Gersh finds that due to slower projected payroll tax receipts combined with higher payments for early retirements and cost of living adjustments, “the era of large Social Security surpluses is over.” According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Social Security surplus will only be $16 billion this year, and only $3 billion next year. In total the recession will shave $150 billion off of the surplus over next three years.
Last year the trustees estimated that Social Security would have a negative cash flow by 2017. But analysts expect that number to move up significantly in this year’s trustees’ report.
I always thought citizens should be giving orders to the government, not taking orders.
With almost no public attention, both chambers of Congress in the past week advanced an alarming expansion of the Americorps national service plan, with the number of federally funded community service job increasing from 75,000 to 250,000 at a cost of $5.7 billion. Lurking behind the feel-good rhetoric spouted by the measure’s advocates is a bill that on closer inspection reveals multiple provisions that together create a strong odor of creepy authoritarianism.
It anticipates the possibility of requiring “all individuals in the United States” to perform such service – including elementary school students. The bill also summons up unsettling memories of World War II-era paramilitary groups by saying the new program should “combine the best practices of civilian service with the best aspects of military service,” while establishing “campuses” that serve as “operational headquarters,” complete with “superintendents” and “uniforms” for all participants. It allows for the elimination of all age restrictions in order to involve Americans at all stages of life. And it calls for creation of “a permanent cadre” in a “National Community Civilian Corps.”
But that’s not all. The bill also calls for “youth engagement zones” in which “service learning” is “a mandatory part of the curriculum in all of the secondary schools served by the local educational agency.”
This updated form of voluntary community service is also to be “integrated into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula” at all levels of schooling. Sounds like a government curriculum for government approved “service learning,” which is nothing less than indoctrination.
Now, ask yourself if congressmen who voted for this monstrosity had a clue what they were voting for. If not, they’re guilty of dereliction of duty. If yes, the implications are truly frightening.
Before its portfolio of bad loans helped trigger the current housing crisis, mortgage giant Freddie Mac was the focus of a major accounting scandal that led to a management shake-up, huge fines and scalding condemnation of passive directors by a top federal regulator.
One of those allegedly asleep-at-the-switch board members was Chicago's Rahm Emanuel—now chief of staff to President Barack Obama—who made at least $320,000 for a 14-month stint at Freddie Mac that required little effort.
As gatekeeper to Obama, Emanuel now plays a critical role in addressing the nation's mortgage woes and fulfilling the administration's pledge to impose responsibility on the financial world.Emanuel's Freddie Mac involvement has been a prominent point on his political résumé, and his healthy payday from the firm has been no secret either.
What is less known, however, is how little he apparently did for his money and how he benefited from the kind of cozy ties between Washington and Wall Street that have fueled the nation's current economic mess.
Instead, we're funnelling billions to Geithner's banking pals.
Billions for high-speed rail; anyone aboard?
Popular in Europe and Japan, bullet trains have gone nowhere in the U.S.
Yet President Barack Obama, intent on harnessing new technology to rebuild the devastated economy, made a last-minute allocation of $8 billion for high-speed rail in his mammoth stimulus plan. It sounds good, but that amount isn't enough to build a single system, or to dramatically increase existing train speeds, transportation experts say.
Talking with reporters recently, Obama said he'd love to see such trains in his former state of Illinois linking Chicago to Wisconsin, Missouri and Michigan. The economic benefit is enormous, the president said. "Railroads were always the pride of America, and stitched us together. Now Japan, China, all of Europe have high-speed rail systems that put ours to shame." New Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman also from Illinois, said developing high-speed rail is the country's No. 1 transportation priority.
"Here's what's going to happen: The (Obama) administration will issue these funds in dribs and drabs — to this project and that project — and the result will be an Amtrak train from Chicago to St. Louis that takes maybe 15 minutes off the travel time."
Ross Capon of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, an advocacy group for rail travel, is a member of the anything-is-better-than-nothing group when it comes to improving train service.He's also blunt in describing America's inability to make speedy tracks. "The reason why high-speed rail has never taken off is because this country is determined to live on cheap gasoline and airplane travel," he said.
The State Board of Education signed off Friday on new science curriculum standards for Texas schools that protect the teaching of evolution championed by many scientists.
The new standards, debated for weeks and watched closely across the country, will influence what Texas public school children learn about biology and other sciences and what is published in new science textbooks for the next 10 years, starting in the 2010-11 school year.
Board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, and six other social conservatives lost several key votes designed to cast specific doubt on evolution.
The new standards no longer contain a provision allowing educators to teach the “weaknesses” of evolutionary theory, part of the current standards.
By an 8-7 vote, the board removed specific references to insufficiencies of evidence for common ancestry and natural selection and to “the arguments for and against universal common descent in light of fossil evidence.” All are key parts of evolutionary theory.
Freeways to tollways -- no way?
Disagreements over toll road legislation are more the rule than the exception, but a bill approved today by the Texas Senate takes he said-she said to new heights.
Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, says his Senate Bill 220 "locks the door to converting existing free roads into toll roads."
So you'd think toll foes would be celebrating today's Senate passage of the measure, right?
Well, no. At least not everyone.
Toll activist Terri Hall of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom contends, "Instead of locking the door and throwing out the key, they've just opened the Panora's box to allow it to happen everywhere."
chron.com: Feds pay illegal immigrants for jobs while in custody
If you were to stop on a street corner anywhere in America and knowingly hire an illegal immigrant to do your laundry or clean your basement, you would be breaking the law.
But for years, the federal government has been paying immigration detainees $1 a day to perform menial work in the nation’s public and private detention centers.
But the irony of the program is not lost on some.
“Why can the U.S. government hire undocumented immigrants? And not only hire them, but get a day’s work for a dollar?” said Brittney Nystrom, senior legal advisor at the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. “It really is an absurdity.”
26 March 2009
The pushback against federal power began under Bush, but may now be accelerating.
[T]oday's debates are really about whether there's any power left for the states to carve out of the Constitution.
"If you set up the principle where the federal government can do everything, then, yes, eventually they will do everything. If not, where's the line they can't cross?" says Michael Boldin, president of the Tenth Amendment Center in Los Angeles. "That's the Constitution, I believe."
The courts mainly stood by as federal power expanded by great leaps in the 1930s and the 1960s. There's been another burst of federal expansion in the 2000s, including Mr. Bush's USA Patriot Act and Obama's proposed overhaul of banking regulations.
The fact is, "there's no longer any effective limitations on federal power," says Randy Barnett, a Georgetown law professor who argued for California's medical marijuana law in front of the Supreme Court.
Yet the state sovereignty movement is by no means frivolous and could have significant political firepower. The medical marijuana case in California, for instance, showed that Washington can be forced to scale back its ambitions in the face of populist sentiment.
Texans would be allowed to stow their guns and ammo inside their locked cars or trucks while at work and parked on employer property under a controversial bill passed Wednesday by the state Senate.
The Senate voted 31-0 to prohibit employers from enforcing restrictions against employees possessing a legally owned handgun or ammunition inside a locked vehicle while in a company parking lot. Firearms and ammo must be stored out of sight.
“Here in Texas people like their firearms and … if they want to bring them to the workplace they are going to do it whether there’s an employee policy against it or not,” said state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, the measure’s author. “This is designed to stop employers from punishing employees who legally bring weapons to work .”
When the White House put out a call for town hall questions, it might not have been expecting this.
The more than 92,000 people who responded either have a Cheech and Chong sense of humor or there is a deep concern in America — undetected by the media — about the decriminalization of marijuana, its possible use for medicinal purposes and its potential as a new source of tax revenue.
Given the opportunity to say what’s really on their minds without going through the filter of the mainstream media, people “buzzed up” a series of questions that seemed to suggest broad interest in legalizing marijuana and taxing it.
In this moment of national economic crisis, the top four questions under the heading of “Financial security” concerned marijuana; on the budget, people voted up questions about marijuana to positions 1-4; marijuana was in the first and third positions under “jobs”; people boosted a plug for legalizing marijuana to No. 2 under “health care reform.” And questions about decriminalizing pot occupied spots 1 and 2 under “green jobs and energy.”
Mr. Geithner’s most specific proposal, which Democratic lawmakers hope to pass in the next few weeks, would allow the federal government to seize control of troubled institutions whose collapse or bankruptcy might jeopardize the broader financial system.
In the months ahead, Mr. Geithner said, he will unveil more detailed proposals to set up a new regime for tighter regulation of most segments of the financial services industry. He has also said the government should more actively regulate executive compensation, not just at companies that are receiving federal bailout money, but at all companies that might be providing incentives for excessive risk-taking.
Geithner's Power Grab
Where the power lies is a potential stumbling block for Mr Geithner.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which has resolution authority over deposit-taking banks, may end up with the authority but Mr Geithner wants the president, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to weigh in on any initial decision.
House Republican leader John Boehner said on Tuesday that Mr Geithner’s plan sounded like “an unprecedented grab of power”.
In a nutshell, the Treasury wants the same kind of authority over non-bank financial companies that the FDIC has over banks -- they want to be able to step in and shut them down if and when deemed necessary.
25 March 2009
Hey! This idea would push some major cash in the Septimus family budget. We promise to spend it all too!
Nothing on this yet from Congress or The One, but a Facebook group dedicated to the proposal has 138,000 members and counting. No typo. My sense of personal responsibility says no but my debt-crushed monthly budget cries proceed.
Forgiving student loan debt would have an IMMEDIATE stimulating effect on the economy. Responsible people who did nothing other than pursue a higher education would have hundreds, if not thousands of extra dollars per month to spend, fueling the economy NOW. Those extra dollars being pumped into the economy would have a multiplying effect, unlike many of the provisions of the new stimulus package. As a result, tax revenues would go up, the credit markets will unfreeze and jobs will be created. Consumer spending accounts for over two thirds of the entire U.S. economy and in recent months, consumer spending has declined at alarming, unprecedented rates. Therefore, it stands to reason that the fastest way to revive our ailing economy is to do something drastic to get consumers to spend…
The Obama administration appears to be distancing itself from its predecessor's favourite foreign policy euphemism, as the "war on terror" becomes the "overseas contingency operation".I guess the War on Terror News will have to pick a new name.
Comments Blackfive: "Man-caused Disasters" complicate "Overseas Contingency Operations"
Anyone who thought the new administration wasn't serious about fighting terrorism better just sit down and STFU! The new sheriff and his gang of euphemizers who won't discuss shooting straight have shown their mettle.
They will put the fear of [God] [Allah] Teleprompter Jesus into those [Islamist] [terrorists] Disaster causing men overseas who keep [blowing up] creating localized incidents of an explosive nature where [innocents are slaughtered] inconvenienced in a big way.
Here are some excerpts from a report in the LA Times on the sources of the military-style weaponry that the drug cartels in Mexico are using.
Drug cartels' new weaponry means war
More here: ‘Common Sense Gun Laws’: Obama’s Attack on the Second Amendment
Traffickers have escalated their arms race, acquiring military-grade weapons, including hand grenades, grenade launchers, armor-piercing munitions and antitank rockets with firepower far beyond the assault rifles and pistols that have dominated their arsenals.
Most of these weapons are being smuggled from Central American countries or by sea, eluding U.S. and Mexican monitors who are focused on the smuggling of semiauto- matic and conventional weapons purchased from dealers in the U.S. border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
These groups appear to be taking advantage of a robust global black market and porous borders, especially between Mexico and Guatemala. Some of the weapons are left over from the wars that the United States helped fight in Central America, U.S. officials said.
The enhanced weaponry represents a wide sampling from the international arms bazaar, with grenades and launchers produced by U.S., South Korean, Israeli, Spanish or former Soviet bloc manufacturers. Many had been sold legally to governments, including Mexico's, and then were diverted onto the black market. Some may be sold directly to the traffickers by corrupt elements of national armies, authorities and experts say.
UPDATE: More here on the Kansas referendum on gun rights.
The impact of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) on the used-book industry is being compared to the world of 1984 and Farenheit 451.
From Ed Driscoll.com, New Silicon Graffiti Video: “2009: A Book Banning Odyssey” Video at the link.
Previous posts on the CPSIA:
On February 10th, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) went into effect, impacting thrift stores throughout the nation, as this February news report from an Omaha TV station highlights. CPSIA was originally passed to reduce and ideally eliminate lead paint in toys, but it’s had sweeping repercussions.
Used clothes have been removed from shelves for fear of lead in zippers, and even motorbike sales have been curtailed–apparently the writers of CPSIA were worried that teenagers would eat their bikes’ handlebars, or something. And sales of these various products have plummeted, during a time when the nation needs all the help it can get re-strengthening its economy.
But perhaps the most worrisome aspect of CPSIA is that it’s led to books being banned. Lead in printers’ inks wasn’t outlawed until 1985; so books published in 1984 or earlier have had to be removed from used book sellers’ shelves, and even some libraries. And don’t think booksellers haven’t noticed the ominous sound of that cut-off date: 1984.
Clueless NY Times Editorial Dismisses Fears Over CPSIA
Fury Over the CPSIA
Government Policies Help The Big, Hinder The Small
Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) To Ruin Small Business
The dollar plunged earlier in the morning after Mr. Geithner, in response to another question, said China’s suggestion “deserves some consideration,” though he added that he had not read the proposal.
The dollar rebounded later on Mr. Geithner’s clarification.
With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.
A Senator Cardin spokesman said the bill had yet to attract any co-sponsors, but had sparked plenty of interest within the media (no kidding?), which has seen plunging revenues and many journalist layoffs.
Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.
What a load! Its no wonder half the newspapers in the country are going broke. Most of them aren't worth reading. Why not just nationalize the media like Venezuela and North Korea? We Are steaming towards their socioeconomic make-up at break-neck speed anyway. We may as well have "Ministry of Information" offices located in every city. They already know how to tow socialist party line.
So what if these papers go under. I'm sure we can find something else to put in the bottom of the bird cage.
24 March 2009
The government is taking money from productive parts of the economy and giving it parts of the economy that can not compete in order to preserve the status quo. It's another example of the sclerotic political system. Those with established interests are protected. Those with prospective interests are squished. And money that could be used to lay the groundwork for future growth, in infrastructure, and education, is spent to counter economic forces.
The bailouts and stimulus, while they may help at the margins, also pose an enormous opportunity costs. On the one hand, they impede necessary and long-deferred economic adjustments...
On the other hand, there is the classic question: What better and more effective things might have been done with these trillions? That’s for historians to ponder and decide. But the combination of the massively misallocated resources produced by the bubble (plus the costs of military adventures) combined with humongous bailout spending puts the U.S. behind the economic eight-ball in a way it has not been in more than a century. Having hold on the reserve currency helps, but it cannot absolve all these compounded sins. Sooner or later the money will run out; bills will come due.
That creates a wide open structural opportunity to accelerate what Fareed Zakaria has dubbed the “rise of the rest” to accelerate. Crises are periods where the relative position of nations and regions can and do change dramatically.
But, just think of all the ways the trillions of bailout money could be used to build the economy of the future. And while you’re doing that imagine that some other places outside the United States that have been patiently building and conserving their resources may start to figure out how to do just that.
The clock of history ticks on. Over time, it tends to leave behind those places who get stuck, get trapped, or try too hard to breathe life back into the old order, neglecting the new one that is emerging. And that’s what really worries me.
All agree that housing prices were inflated, and that many families and individuals were priced out of the market. What about those who can now possibly afford a house? Money is being taken from them by the government and transferred to those who are trying to prop up the overly inflated prices, even in the face of economic forces screaming that house prices need to come down. The status quo is defended, and the prospective benefactors of a new economic situation are given a cold shoulder, with their own resources.
The same is taking place on a larger and more massive scale in the financial sector and the automotive sector.
Of course, what else to expect from a Congress chock-a-block full of incumbents of 30 and 40 years. And the once-dynamic American economy dies a bit more.
Prague's Franz Kafka International Named World's Most Alienating Airport
The book will be called "Our Choice" and will describe solutions to global warming, the environmental crusader and U.S. publisher Rodale Inc. said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Now that the need for urgent action is even clearer with the alarming new findings of the last three years, it is time for a comprehensive global plan that actually solves the climate crisis. 'Our Choice' will answer that call," Gore said.
Full story here.
Global warming hasn't been fixed yet? We're so sorry.
You would think Al would get tired of talking about global warming in the middle of snow storms.
Hmmm, change "Republican" to "Whig" in the above, and now you're on to something.
The last time I felt this hopeless was when the Democratic Party and its cohorts in the media sold us on the false premise that we lost the war in Iraq. In the process, they also sought to demonize the very man that led us out of our peril.
His name is Gen. David H. Petraeus.
Less than two months into the Obama presidency, which appears to be lost somewhere in the Mojave Desert, I have decided to try to soothe my anxieties by placing my hope in a political surge.
In the election of 2010, Republicans should run heroic veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom who exhibited the will and fortitude to defeat the enemy and to rebuild a torn nation, even while too many of their fellow countrymen wrote them off.
And in 2012, the man President Obama's staunchest allies called "General Betray Us" should come in with guns blazing and defeat the man whose only weapon to lead us to victory is a teleprompter.
I like this quote about Petraeus:
“David Petraeus is the best general in the US Army, bar none. He also isn’t half as good as he thinks he is.”
The debate over whether the Rudd government should be allowed to filter the internet - or create what critics are calling the "Great Firewall of Australia" - highlights all sorts of ideological, ethical, legal, religious and political questions.The Australian government is setting up a still-secret list of websites to which it's citizens will not have access. Of course, it's all for the children, you see.
How can a country call itself free if it's government decides what can and cannot be seen and read?
China is reported to have blocked the YouTube video-sharing website because it has been carrying video of soldiers beating monks and other Tibetans.
Some updates on Charter 08 and the struggle for freedom in China:
Human rights award for Liu Xiaobo and for Charter 08
The prize for Liu, under house arrest since December, is intended to recognize his struggle for human rights and freedom of speech. Meanwhile, the family of the activist lawyer Gao Zhisheng has fled to the United States, and is denouncing constant intimidation and torture.Peking Uni transfers outspoken prof to west China
Time: Chinese Internet Censorship
University authorities reassigned an outspoken Beijing law professor to teach in remote western China — a move he said Thursday may be retaliation for his signing a landmark petition calling for political reform.
Charter '08 is one of the bolder political statements to emerge from political critics of China's authoritarian government and attracted more than 300 signers, mainly lawyers, scholars and others in the educated elite. The petition challenges the Communist Party's political monopoly, urging greater respect for human rights, a free press and multiparty democracy.
Chinese government: No Western democracy
Previous Post on Charter 08 here.
23 March 2009
The process of how this societal change takes place is very important. Measures passed by the legislature will have a broader acceptance across society. Consider the political angst caused by court-ordered gay marriage in other states. Expect to see an absence of this issue in Vermont in the future.
Some who have read this blog previously may have interpreted my past opposition to court-imposed gay marriage as opposition to gay marriage. Not so. The proper place for the enactment of gay marriage is in the state legislatures. It is much healthier for our system of government, and for society in general, to place this responsibility where it properly belongs.
Same-sex marriage measure sails through Vt. Senate
More here: Same-sex marriage vote worries Vt. politicians
The Vermont Senate on Monday evening overwhelmingly passed a bill legalizing gay marriage, making the state the first in the nation to take legislative rather than judicial steps toward granting marriage rights to same-sex couples.
The state Senate voted 26-4 in favor of the measure introduced by Democratic state Sen. John Campbell. The bill now goes to the state House, where Speaker Shap Smith, also a Democrat, predicted a majority would vote in favor of the "marriage equality" act. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to begin debating the bill Tuesday. A second vote in the state Senate also is expected Tuesday.
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, has refused to answer questions about whether he would sign the measure, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. He has said that he believes marriage should be between one man and one woman.
If the marriage bill becomes Vermont law, the state would be the first in the country to enact gay marriage by a vote of the Legislature. Other states that permit homosexual couples to wed have done so by court order.
UPDATE 27Mar: More discussion here.
You know, maybe getting involved in all of this TARP funding wasn't such a good idea...
Embattled bank JPMorgan Chase, the recipient of $25 billion in TARP funds, is going ahead with a $138 million plan to buy two new luxury corporate jets and build "the premier corporate aircraft hangar on the eastern seaboard" to house them, ABC News has learned.
Now, he suggested the "Tea Party Protests" but I will suggest a more durable plan of action: go check out the Modern Whig Party and join.
The American center and right have slowly been drawn into the orbit of the "nanny state." George W. Bush perfectly captured this ethos with his "Compassionate Conservatism."
The Republicans, prior to the capture of the Congress by the Democrats, became indistinguishable form Democrats in their propensity to spend without any particular concerns about actually paying for their wish list.
Our entire country has been living beyond our means with the unstated infantile fantasy that "someone" will rescue us for our profligacy. Reality is painful, yet we see signs that the sleeping giant of America may be waking up.
This is hardly reason to be in despair. Barack Obama's fantasies cannot survive long exposure to reality and the American people are already speaking out. This is real "power to the people" not the vapid inanities of the infantile Left.
We have very difficult times ahead of us but American resiliency has been underestimated before and those who have done so have been the sorrier for it. If people are in despair it is up to them to refuse indulge in the passivity that is the only way Obama succeeds in remaking this country, and take action.
Turning passive into active is a time honored treatment for depression.
I think we are in a period of what I call open field politics. Since 2004, starting around the time of Katrina and increased violence in Iraq, the generic vote and party identification have been considerably more unstable and volatile than they were in the years 1995-2005.
That instability worked to Democrats' advantage in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Now it seems to be working against them—I was going to write to Republicans' advantage, but I think what we are seeing is more disillusionment toward Democrats than any positive feeling toward Republicans.
In the short run, Republicans can benefit from this. In the longer run, they need to offer voters a better vision for the future, or they risk losing once again if there is a revival of enthusiasm among Democrats and warm feeling toward them among independents.
So to my question—Republicans doing better?—the answer is—no, Democrats doing worse.
When even Zo is blasting unprincipled Republicans, it's bad for the Republicans.
So what does all this really mean? Most people who can count votes in Congress have figured out that EFCA is going nowhere — at least for the foreseeable future. So the scramble begins for pro-Big Labor operatives and their allies to find ways of retreating and declaring victory in the face of defeat. But make no mistake: the central planks of EFCA — doing away with the secret ballot and mandatory arbitration – are withering on the legislative vine, no matter what the spinners say.
22 March 2009
Another Trillion Dollars? Well, OK. It's a Good Thing We've Got It, And Haven't Been Wasting Our Credit. Oh, Wait ...
The Obama administration's latest attempt to tackle the banking crisis and get loans flowing to families and businesses will create a new government entity, the Public-Private Investment Program, to help purchase as much as $1 trillion in toxic assets on banks' books.
We’re in a once-a-century financial crisis, and yet we’ve actually descended into politics worse than usual. There don’t seem to be any adults at the top — nobody acting larger than the moment, nobody being impelled by anything deeper than the last news cycle. Instead, Congress is slapping together punitive tax laws overnight like some Banana Republic, our president is getting in trouble cracking jokes on Jay Leno comparing his bowling skills to a Special Olympian, and the opposition party is behaving as if its only priority is to deflate President Obama’s popularity.
“There is nothing more powerful than inspirational leadership that unleashes principled behavior for a great cause,” said Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, and the author of the book “How.” What makes a company or a government “sustainable,” he added, is not when it adds more coercive rules and regulations to control behaviors. “It is when its employees or citizens are propelled by values and principles to do the right things, no matter how difficult the situation,” said Seidman. “Laws tell you what you can do. Values inspire in you what you should do. It’s a leader’s job to inspire in us those values.”
Right now we have an absence of inspirational leadership. From business we hear about institutions too big to fail — no matter how reckless. From bankers we hear about contracts too sacred to break — no matter how inappropriate. And from our immature elected officials we hear about how it was all “the other guy’s fault.”
Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people.
Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.”
-- Robert Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
So now the feds will be deciding pay levels for a large and important sector of our economy. Never ones to "waste a good crisis", the Obama Administration's plans now include ALL PUBLICLY TRADED COMPANIES. Good lord.
The Obama administration will call for increased oversight of executive pay at all banks, Wall Street firms and possibly other companies as part of a sweeping plan to overhaul financial regulation, government officials said.
The new rules will cover all financial institutions, including those not now covered by any pay rules because they are not receiving federal bailout money. Officials say the rules could also be applied more broadly to publicly traded companies, which already report about some executive pay practices to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Only a small step from there to all wage levels of everyone, everywhere.
They should announce the creation of the Ministry of Plenty and be done with it.
The birth rate rose slightly for women of all ages, and births to unwed mothers reached an all-time high of about 40 percent, continuing a trend begun years ago. More than three-quarters of these women were 20 or older.
Even happy couples may be living together without getting married, experts say. Some cited a growing trend among all adult women to have children regardless of their marital status.
Nearly 72 percent of the births to black women were out of wedlock. Mothers were unmarried in about 51 percent of Hispanic births and 28 percent of non-Hispanic white births.
What implications does this trend have for the future? If you believe as Obama does:
President Obama understands the gravity of high out-of-wedlock birth rates and the importance of marriage.
From his book The Audacity of Hope:
[C]hildren living with single mothers are five times more likely to be poor than children in two-parent households. Children in single-parent homes are also more likely to drop out of school and become teen parents, even when income is factored out. And the evidence suggests that on average, children who live with their biological mother and father do better than those who live in stepfamilies or with cohabiting partners…. In light of these facts, policies that strengthen marriage for those who choose it and that discourage unintended births outside of marriage are sensible goals to pursue.
This new data should serve as a wake up call that more efforts need to be focused on educating the population on the vast benefits of marriage. Not only do children fare far better being raised in a two-parent married families but society is made stronger, communities prosper and poverty declines.