Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Preserving California’s Constitution
California voters will have a chance in November to protect the rights of gay men and women, and to preserve the state’s Constitution. They should vote against Proposition 8, which seeks to amend that Constitution to prevent people of the same sex from marrying.
The measure would overturn a firmly grounded State Supreme Court decision that said everyone has a basic right “to establish a legally recognized family with the person of one’s choice.” It said the state’s strong domestic partnership statute was inadequate, making California the second state to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. Massachusetts did so in 2004.
Whether this important civil rights victory endures is now up to California voters. Opponents of giving gay couples the protections, dignity and respect that come with marriage are working furiously to try to overturn the court ruling through Proposition 8. It is our fervent hope that Californians will reject this mean-spirited attempt to embed second-class treatment of one group of citizens in the State Constitution.
If passed, Proposition 8 would add language to the State Constitution stating that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Supporters of the amendment complain about the “activist” judges who wrote the court decision. But the majority in the 4-to-3 ruling was acting to protect a vulnerable group from unfair treatment. Enforcing the state’s guarantee of equal protection is a job assigned to judges.
It is true that in 2000 California voters approved a ballot measure recognizing only heterosexual marriages as valid. But since then, the public has grown more comfortable with idea of marriage equality. The California Legislature passed a measure to let gay couples marry in 2005, and another in 2007. Both were vetoed by the Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took the wrong position — that the change had to come either from the courts or through a ballot initiative.
To his credit, Mr. Schwarzenegger is now among those opposing Proposition 8. To his discredit, John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, is in favor of restoring marriage discrimination. Barack Obama opposes the initiative, as do California’s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats.
The proponents of Proposition 8 make the familiar claim that legalizing same-sex marriage undercuts marriage between men and women. But thousands of gay and lesbian couples have been married in California since the May ruling and marriage remains intact.
Similar discriminatory measures are on the ballot in Arizona and Florida. They also should be rejected.
(To see the editorial, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/29/opinion/29mon3.html?_r=2&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y&oref=slogin&oref=slogin)That says it all. I hope my fellow Californians will agree and reject Prop 8.
Tuesday's Political News #1 - Michael
Monday, September 29, 2008
My first post on this venerable blog will be a discussion about single-issue voters. It’s an issue that truly gets under my skin. We all know them. We sit at dinner parties and listen to them go on and on about the one issue they care about. It’s often taxes (money), abortion (enforced morality), the Middle East (Jewish and born-again Christians), social security (the elderly), and the latest, single-sex marriage (the closed minded).
I don’t wish to debate each issue on this blog, only the fact that single-issue voters base their voting decisions on that one issue. Some might call them passionate. I often call them narrow-minded and unbalanced. It’s a shame, but single-issue voters and so-called “independents” are the swing vote in pretty much every election. Studies seem to suggest that single-issue voters wait to make their final decision based on who addresses their issue most favorably prior to Election Day. Who knows about independents – it’s still a mystery. Single-issue voters are the ones targeted most by the candidates and special interest groups. They receive a lot of attention. They respond well to negative ads. It’s kind of creepy.
So, I would like to appeal to the single-issue voters out there. You need to open up to more issues. You need to vote based on multiple, important critical issues. If you love this country like you say, then you need to do your homework. As I tell my own single-issue friends, we have so many problems in this country that nobody has the luxury of voting based on a single issue. If you do, then I believe you are ignoring the other problems that are threatening our future. As voters, we must all take responsibility for the future of the whole nation, not just part of it.
For those who feel that voting based on a single issue is about the future of the nation, I would argue that you are kidding yourself. There are always multiple factors. Those of you who only consider lower taxes when trying to understand the economy should consider the cost of borrowing from our children as a price we cannot afford to pay. “Borrow and spend” is worse than “tax and spend” any day. Oh yes, and for those who actually believe McCain’s promise to cut enough spending, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. You need to learn more about economic issues, and how tax policy is only one tool in a government’s economic strategy.
In the end I’ve discovered that most single-issue voters don’t like debating their favorite issues. They seem to use them more as a crutch – a sort of personal voter cheat sheet. It’s what helps them decide who’s right and who’s wrong. Defense is a great example. Whenever I try to make a case that American voters seem myopic about defense spending, and how we need to cut spending and share the role as the world’s police force, my single-issue voting friends simply say that it’s impossible. Nothing’s impossible if you try hard enough. We need to open our eyes on this and other issues. Let’s throw away our blinders. There are billions of dollars available to us if we could only change our single-issue, military-industrial mindset.
I think I’ve “blogged” enough on this one. I hope each of us has the opportunity to sit down with a single-issue friend before the election and succeeds at getting them to tear up their cheat sheet and consider other issues. Remember, help them see the downside. There is always another side to any issue. Thanks for listening.
Monday's Political Rant #3 - Michael
However, there is plenty of evidence that proves a lack of government oversight under the Bush Administration is the real culprit. There were plenty of laws and regulations in place, but predatory lending was allowed to go unchecked over the past eight years.
I owned an Internet company here in LA from 1999 to 2004 and just after Bush's inauguration a major supporter opened a quick and dirty mortgage resale company across the hall with cubicles filled with mortgage sellers pitching their wares. I spoke to many of their twenty-something year old staff at the time, and remember being shocked by the way they were compensated - mostly by commission. They called their work "pitching the poor" at the time. I'll never forget it. Something told me what they were doing was wrong at the time, and I hate to say it but my instincts were correct. If somebody like me knew something was wrong, why didn't the government, the press, and the whole business community? It was common sense. They were the predators, and that company was a good example of one that should not have been allowed to exist.
Here are excerpts from another article that might help clarify the situation for my more hard-headed Republican friends: Viewpoint: Minorities a convenient scapegoat for U.S. financial woes
"In the midst of a severe financial crisis - a meltdown fueled by clueless homebuyers, greedy lenders and money-grubbing financiers - some observers have decided to blame "minorities" for the mess. Though wiser heads have proclaimed the emergency too serious for partisan gamesmanship, some in the conservative commentariat still can't resist playing the race card."
Several days ago, Neil Cavuto, host of Fox News' Your World, proclaimed, "Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster." On WorldNetDaily, a compendium of loopy half-truths, pundit Drew Zahn declared that "when federal regulators demanded parity between racial groups in lending, the only way to achieve a quota would be to begin making intentionally bad lending decisions." The conservative National Review Online trotted out a favorite whipping boy, the Community Reinvestment Act, claiming that the legislation was the result of "racially inflammatory campaigns" that forced banks to "make mortgages available to people without much in the way of income, assets or credit."
"Why would anyone inject skin color into a debate over credit? There is certainly no evidence to support this claptrap. Federal regulators have never "demanded parity between racial groups in lending." Not ever. The CRA - designed to stop banks from "redlining," or withholding loans from entire neighborhoods - has long been under attack by conservatives, but for entirely different reasons. Critics called it vague, contradictory and useless. They claimed it was unfair to banks and thrifts, which were regulated, while other financial institutions were left to lend money as they saw fit."
"That's where the argument tying the CRA to the credit crisis breaks down. The lending frenzy developed during the past few years, a period during which banks and thrifts made less than 25 percent of mortgage loans. (The law has been in place for 30 years, during most of which time there was no mortgage meltdown.) "The heart of the crisis was caused by unregulated and lightly regulated mortgage brokers and independent mortgage bankers and affiliates that are not subject to the CRA. It would be quite odd if an act ... caused institutions not subject to its purview to do things that were inappropriate," said law professor Michael Barr, who has studied this legislation. I hold no brief for dumb homebuyers, be they white, black or brown."
"But minority homeowners were frequently the victims of aggressive practices by mortgage brokers who received higher commissions for steering buyers into high-cost, subprime loans, even if the buyer would have qualified for a prime loan. The Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit research group, examined 50,000 subprime loans nationwide and found that blacks and Hispanics were 30 percent more likely than whites to be charged higher interest rates, even among borrowers with similar credit ratings. Again, lenders didn't push those loans to comply with any "affirmative action in lending" programs. They did it to make money. That's the same reason Wall Street's masters of the universe created all those exotic investment vehicles - instruments they didn't understand any better than some homebuyers understood their adjustable rates."
(Read the whole article at: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.viewpoint28sep28,0,6004405.story)
So, I hope that my Republican friends and fans who keep insisting the lending crisis was caused by forced lending would stop it. You are not allowed to pick and choose the facts. You must let it go. People who blame the borrowers are not looking at all the facts. We should not accept parsed debates in this country. The Bush years are almost over and it is time to go back to insisting that all the facts are considered.
Monday's Political News/Rant #2 - Michael
Republican IT consultant subpoenaed in case alleging tampering with 2004 election
"A high-level Republican consultant has been subpoenaed in a case regarding alleged tampering with the 2004 election. Michael S. Connell was served with a subpoena in Ohio on Sept. 22 in a case alleging that vote-tampering during the 2004 presidential election resulted in civil rights violations. Connell, president of GovTech Solutions and New Media Communications, is a website designer and IT professional who created a website for Ohio’s secretary of state that presented the results of the 2004 election in real time as they were tabulated. "Connell is refusing to testify or to produce documents relating to the system used in the 2004 and 2006 elections, lawyers say. ..."Connell is a long-time GOP operative, whose New Media Communications provided web services for the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Republican National Committee and many Republican candidates. This in itself might have raised questions about his involvement in creating Ohio’s official state election website."
(Read the whole story at:http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Republican_IT_consultant_subpoenaed_in_case_0929.html)
Toxicology tests are being conducted to try to establish if he suffered a reaction to the food. An inquest was told that Mr Lee, from Edlington, West Yorkshire, was in perfect health and had just passed a medical examination at work. He was a keen cook and would often prepare meals for his parents. It is believed that Mr Lee had never prepared a dish as hot as the one he made the night before his death.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
WHO WON THE DEBATE?
- Obama 39%
- McCain 24%
- Tie 37%
- Obama said McCain adviser Henry Kissinger backs talks with Iran “without preconditions,” but McCain disputed that. In fact, Kissinger did recently call for “high level” talks with Iran starting at the secretary of state level and said, “I do not believe that we can make conditions.” After the debate the McCain campaign issued a statement quoting Kissinger as saying he didn’t favor presidential talks with Iran.
- Obama denied voting for a bill that called for increased taxes on “people” making as little as $42,000 a year, as McCain accused him of doing. McCain was right, though only for single taxpayers. A married couple would have had to make $83,000 to be affected by the vote, and anyway no such increase is in Obama’s tax plan.
- McCain and Obama contradicted each other on what Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said about troop withdrawals. Mullen said a time line for withdrawal could be “very dangerous” but was not talking specifically about “Obama’s plan,” as McCain maintained.
- McCain tripped up on one of his signature issues – special appropriation “earmarks.” He said they had “tripled in the last five years,” when in fact they have decreased sharply.
- Obama claimed Iraq “has” a $79 billion surplus. It once was projected to be as high as that. It’s now down to less than $60 billion.
- McCain repeated his overstated claim that the U.S. pays $700 billion a year for oil to hostile nations. Imports are running at about $536 billion this year, and a third of it comes from Canada, Mexico and the U.K.
- Obama said 95 percent of “the American people” would see a tax cut under his proposal. The actual figure is 81 percent of households.
- Oama mischaracterized an aspect of McCain’s health care plan, saying “employers” would be taxed on the value of health benefits provided to workers. Employers wouldn’t, but the workers would. McCain also would grant workers up to a $5,000 tax credit per family to cover health insurance.
- McCain misrepresented Obama's plan by claiming he'd be "handing the health care system over to the federal government." Obama would expand some government programs but would allow people to keep their current plans or chose from private ones, as well.
- McCain claimed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had drafted a letter of resignation from the Army to be sent in case the 1944 D-Day landing at Normandy turned out to be a failure. Ike prepared a letter taking responsibility, but he didn’t mention resigning.
Overall, I think they both did a good job. I think Obama - being a poker player - is keeping his cards close to his chest. I think he plans to poke McCain more and more over the next three debates, hopefully leading to an angry McCain in the end. Like Reagan in 1980, all Obama has to do is communicate competence and strength, and I think the American people will accept him in November. Your reactions?
Friday, September 26, 2008
Excerpts: The Paulson Plan Will Make Money For Taxpayers
"My analysis suggests that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (a former investment banker, no less, not a trader) may pull off the mother of all trades, which could net a trillion dollars and maybe as much as $2.2 trillion -- yes, with a "t" -- for the United States Treasury."
"There is a saying on Wall Street that goes, "The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent." Long Term Capital Management learned this lesson 10 years ago when it got its portfolio picked off by Wall Street as its short-term financing dried up. I had thought the opposite -- hedge funds picking off Wall Street -- would happen today. But in a weird twist, it's the government that is set up to win the prize."
"Here's how: As short-term financing dried up, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's deteriorating financials threatened to trigger some $1.4 trillion in credit default swap payments that no one, including giant insurer AIG, had the capital to make good on. So Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson put Fannie and Freddie into conservatorship. This removed any short-term financing hassle. He also put up $85 billion in loan guarantees to AIG in exchange for 80% of the company."
"Taxpayers will get their money back on AIG. My models suggest that Fannie and Freddie, on the other hand, are a gold mine. For $2 billion in cash up front and some $200 billion in loan guarantees so far, the U.S. government now controls $5.4 trillion in mortgages and mortgage guarantees."
"Fannie and Freddie each own around $800 million in mortgage loans, some of them already at discounted values. They also guarantee the credit-worthiness of another $2.2 trillion and $1.6 trillion in mortgage-backed securities. Held to maturity, they may be worth a lot more than Mr. Paulson paid for them. They're called distressed securities for a reason."
"Firms will haggle, but eventually cave -- they need the cash. I am figuring Mr. Paulson could wind up buying more than $2 trillion in notional value loans and home equity and CDOs for his $700 billion. So the U.S. will be stuck with a portfolio in the trillions of dollars in bad loans and last-to-be-paid derivatives. Where is the trade in that? Well, unlike Mr. Buffett or any hedge fund, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve get to cheat. It's not without risk, but the Feds, with lots of levers, can and will pump capital into the U.S. economy to get it moving again. Future heads of Treasury and the Federal Reserve will be growth advocates -- in effect, "talking their book." While normally this creates a threat of inflation and a run on the dollar, and we may see dollar exchange rates turn south near term, don't expect it to last."
"You can slice the numbers a lot of different ways. My calculations, which assume 50% impairment on subprime loans, suggest it is possible, all in, for this portfolio to generate between $1 trillion and $2.2 trillion -- the greatest trade ever. Every hedge-fund manager will be jealous. Perhaps Mr. Buffett is buying a small piece of the trade via his Goldman Sachs investment. Over 10 years this could change the budget scenario in D.C., which can also strengthen the dollar. The next president gets a heck of a windfall. In the spirit of Secretary of State William Seward's purchase of Alaska for $7 million in 1867, this week may be remembered as Paulson's Folly."
(Read the whole Andy Kessler Wall Street Journal article at : http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122230704116773989.html)
So, if he's right, then things might not turn out that bad after all. I think the conservative Republicans who are currently holding back their support should rethink their positions. Of course, this is only one man's opinion. I hope he's right. I do think he's wrong about one very critical thing in the piece though. He gives Paulson too much credit for selling at the right time to benefit the US taxpayer.
If I'm correct, Paulson is a free-marketer who would probably rather see private enterprise take those profits. Paulson's original plan did not guarantee taxpayers ANY benefit from any increases in value. It only gave the Treasury Secretary the right to buy and sell - he could easily sell at break-even, or a loss, and not worry about profits (http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/20/news/economy/treasury_proposal/index.htm?postversion=2008092011). He would probably want to sell them to Wall Street friends who would then make a profit on the US taxpayer - a typical Republican position. It's subsequent Democratic Party congressional proposals and changes that are trying to guarantee an upside for the American people.
How unusual for the WSJ to try and spin it to make the Republicans look good. It is Paulson's Folly, but not for the irony like the original, because Paulson really doesn't want to help us in the end. Your views?
Friday's Political View #1 - Michael
"If the British banks tap the rescue fund being set up by the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve to the maximum, they could secure one quarter of the $700 billion being made available. Under the terms of an outline agreement that appeared to have been reached by US policymakers last night, Britain’s lenders will be able to use the facility. However, the prospect that the US Treasury could pay for UK banks’ bad assets is likely to infuriate some American politicians and taxpayers, who would foot the bill. As Congress edged closer to agreeing a plan for the central bank to take on lenders’ toxic assets, HSBC appeared to be the UK-based bank best placed to benefit."
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Political Observation #1 - Michael
Excerpt from the Washington Post:
Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime
How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers
By Eliot SpitzerThursday, February 14, 2008
Several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. Some were misrepresenting the terms of loans, making loans without regard to consumers' ability to repay, making loans with deceptive "teaser" rates that later ballooned astronomically, packing loans with undisclosed charges and fees, or even paying illegal kickbacks. These and other practices, we noticed, were having a devastating effect on home buyers. In addition, the widespread nature of these practices, if left unchecked, threatened our financial markets.
Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers.
Predatory lending was widely understood to present a looming national crisis. This threat was so clear that as New York attorney general, I joined with colleagues in the other 49 states in attempting to fill the void left by the federal government. Individually, and together, state attorneys general of both parties brought litigation or entered into settlements with many subprime lenders that were engaged in predatory lending practices. Several state legislatures, including New York's, enacted laws aimed at curbing such practices.
What did the Bush administration do in response? Did it reverse course and decide to take action to halt this burgeoning scourge? As Americans are now painfully aware, with hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure and our markets reeling, the answer is a resounding no.
Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye.
Let me explain: The administration accomplished this feat through an obscure federal agency called the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The OCC has been in existence since the Civil War. Its mission is to ensure the fiscal soundness of national banks. For 140 years, the OCC examined the books of national banks to make sure they were balanced, an important but uncontroversial function. But a few years ago, for the first time in its history, the OCC was used as a tool against consumers.
In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government's actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules.
But the unanimous opposition of the 50 states did not deter, or even slow, the Bush administration in its goal of protecting the banks. In fact, when my office opened an investigation of possible discrimination in mortgage lending by a number of banks, the OCC filed a federal lawsuit to stop the investigation.
Throughout our battles with the OCC and the banks, the mantra of the banks and their defenders was that efforts to curb predatory lending would deny access to credit to the very consumers the states were trying to protect. But the curbs we sought on predatory and unfair lending would have in no way jeopardized access to the legitimate credit market for appropriately priced loans. Instead, they would have stopped the scourge of predatory lending practices that have resulted in countless thousands of consumers losing their homes and put our economy in a precarious position.
When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners, the Bush administration will not be judged favorably. The tale is still unfolding, but when the dust settles, it will be judged as a willing accomplice to the lenders who went to any lengths in their quest for profits. So willing, in fact, that it used the power of the federal government in an unprecedented assault on state legislatures, as well as on state attorneys general and anyone else on the side of consumers.
The writer is governor of New York.
Well, more food for thought. The evidence is building. Any comments Republicans?
Thursday's Political News #1 - Michael
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
My theory is that those 30% must be comprised of the "George Costanza-fearful-types" who would do anything to keep the fighting over there - it's an extreme example of "not in my backyard" when you think about it. I'm sorry, but we're talking about people who simply ignore massive death and destruction - proven collateral damage worldwide - being conducted in their names, and who choose to take no responsibility - they just ignore it or say that's it's the "only way." They even choose to vote for more with McCain and Palin. I'm sorry, but I think that qualifies as people who are scared and in serious denial.
Anyway, I digress. I was moved to write this post after visiting my favorite morning website http://www.bbcnews.com/, where I was struck by the headline, North Korea Nuclear Seals Removed. In my opinion North Korea sums up a lot of the incompetence and disintegration of the Bush Administration. The Bush-North Korea relationship reads like a common thread spun throughout the Bush Administration: shoot from the hip, spew uninformed bravado and bluster, squirm in a stalemate, ask friends to help negotiate a solution, screw them by not delivering, and finally assume that history will vindicate you. I think Bush and his fans simply hope nobody noticed.
Anyway, I digressed again. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is a very smart lady. I love her radio show and now I love her television show thanks to MSNBC. She prides herself on being a bit of an historian - her hobby is the history and excellence of cocktails, something I can relate to - so I loved how on Monday she - along with other authorities - discussed how George W. Bush will find a place in the presidential failure hall of fame alongside Herbert Hoover and Warren G. Harding.
"Barring yet another disaster of unimaginable scale, we now know that the presidency of George W. Bush will be defined by massive, country-changing failures," stated Maddow . She went on to cite 9/11, the "mendacious launch of the Iraq War," the drowning of New Orleans, and now an economic meltdown in which "we're borrowing $700 billion dollars, probably mostly from China, to stem off utter collapse."
Maddow was joined by Thomas Frank, author of The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, who told her, "These things are connected, with the exception of 9/11...it's judgment day for the conservative philosophy of governing," Frank asserted. He pointed out that Bush isn't personally responsible for the housing bubble, "but conservatism is, with its idea of 'let the markets do what they want, the markets will always find equilibrium, the markets can self-regulate." In the end, Bush mostly failed to regulate or enforce - he basically abdicated his responsibilities.
Frank blamed not only the current economic problems but also the missteps with Iraq and New Orleans on Bush's philosophy of privatization and outsourcing. "This is a problem of letting people run government when they believe that government can't work and ought not work." What I wonder is whether or not Democrats are going to get off the Reaganeseque conservative trip they've been on since Clinton and stop following the Republicans down into their own dark places. I personally feel we need to dump the Clinton legacy too. Btw, I would like to credit Raw Story as a source for most of Rachel's quotes.
So, that's pretty much it. We're beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and the presidency of George - the screw-up - Bush is looking dim and grim with each passing day. With news that the war in Afghanistan isn't going well (see my post), it would appear that his legacy will be: stalemate, economic disintegration, war, torture, broken agreements, broken or stretched laws, ease-dropping, disregarding habeas corpus, disregarding posi comitatus, lies, conspiracies, cover-ups, war-profiteering, murder, fear-mongering, kidnapping, rendition, worldwide corruption, and the LARGEST BAILOUT IN WORLD HISTORY - to name just a few already investigated by legitimate sources worldwide.
Btw, one thing I've found about most Republicans I talk to - they never admit they were wrong or take responsibility for any damage done. Many say they didn't even vote for Bush! Prove me wrong people!
To my Republican friends, all I can say is that I hope you're not happy with past results. Get a clue people! Stop with the denial and help us THROW THE BUMS OUT!
Wednesday's Political Rant #1 - Michael
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Therefore, I'm stumped regarding what is the best solution. Despite my research on bailouts showing some positive effects in the past, I still do not trust Republicans and the Bush Administration, and remain concerned that it's simply one more dirty scheme to harm government and line their pockets with ill-gotten gains. I still do not trust their version of a bailout.
- The Hoover administration created the Reconstruction Finance Corp. (RFC) in 1932 to spur economic activity by first lending money to financial, industrial and agricultural institutions, then injecting capital into thousands of banks by investing in their preferred stock. By the time it closed up shop in 1957, it had made loans of about $50 billion.
- The same held true for the Home Owners' Loan Corp., started under FDR in 1933 as part of the New Deal. The agency helped stop a flood of foreclosures by buying $3 billion worth of defaulted mortgages and refinancing more than a million loans at lower rates and longer terms.
- The government also created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) the same year, guaranteeing the safety of checking and savings deposits in member banks following a wave of bank failures.
- The '70s and '80s brought a series of government rescues of corporations — including Lockheed and Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust.
- 1979 brought the bailout of Chrysler Corp. - the nation's 10th-biggest company had fallen into near-collapse amid high oil prices that tanked demand for its big cars, and the Carter administration arranged for $1.2 billion in subsidized loans. That spurred a Chrysler comeback and ultimately netted a profit for the government when Chrysler made good on its obligations.
- The S&L crisis in 1989 was the costliest intervention ever, creating the Resolution Trust Corporation, a government-owned asset management company charged with taking over troubled assets and paying depositors who lost funds. It involved over 700 failed S&Ls.
Come on people, we need to insist that this bailout is done properly. We need to admit that Paulson owns over $600 million in Goldman Sachs stock, and that he might wish to bail himself out of danger. Please contact your legislator - http://www.votenobailout.org/ is one website that will force Congress to consider their actions more carefully. In the end they will want to vote yes OUT OF FEAR (they won't want to be blamed), but there's nothing wrong with forcing them to consider all options, and to make sure they do it right.
Every bone in my body tells me that any bailout has to focus on the people at the bottom of the economy - their actual mortgages, not the institutions at the top. In the same way derivatives are mostly diluted junk, buying the institutional mortgage paper will not restore confidence. The homeowners themselves need to be bought-out. The government's plan to buy the risk or the paper will not effect the floor of the economy. To put it in terms Democrats can understand, IT WILL NOT TRICKLE DOWN TO US! So, I see the Bush/Paulson bailout as flawed, unlike some of the bailouts in the past. The people who spend to create this economy will not feel more secure. The institutions will tighten credit in the end anyway. The dollar will fall. There are too many flies in the ointment for my taste. I think we need another plan.
Overall, I still believe that we have many more problems in this country than bank/institutional debt, so my gut tells me there must be a better way to spend a trillion dollars of borrowed money - why does it have to be borrowed anyway, isn't that a red flag in itself. We should try to create more jobs and spur more domestic growth, and develop programs focused on people, not institutions. I'm nervous that we're being fleeced again, and that the American people keep trusting the same lying crooks who keep stealing from them - over and over. So, in the end, I think it would be better to wait and do it right, then to do it wrong and waste money we do not have to waste. I also question whether the Republicans are using the bailout issue to set us up - it could be the "October Suprise" we fear from them. Please offer your own opinion. Thanks for listening.
Tuesday's Political News/Rant #2 - Michael
Monday, September 22, 2008
Dodd bill more aggressive than Treasury plan
"Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd is taking [a] much more aggressive approach to the Treasury bailout plan, demanding foreclosure assistance, limits on executive compensation and profit sharing for taxpayers if the Treasury begins to make money back on the bad debt it plans to purchase."
"Dodd's legislation, obtained this morning by Politico, has just started to circulate among Senate legislative directors. His plan addresses many of the concerns raised by Democrats and Republicans who are concerned about handing over $700 billion blank check to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson."
"While the Treasury would receive much of the authority that it wants to buy up distressed assets, Dodd's add-ons have many of the populist ideas that will appeal to skeptical Democrats. His plan is also broader than the one unveiled by House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D), so there will be significant negotiations in the days ahead between the House and Senate if Congress is to pass a bill by the end of the week."
"Among the major provisions Dodd is adding:
- Authority for bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure. This was considered a poison pill in a housing bill that passed Congress earlier this summer, but it has gained much more currency now that Washington wants to bail out Wall Street.
- A provision that would require the Treasury to take a 65 percent portion of 20 percent any profits it makes from the newly purchased assets and put it into the federal government's HOPE program, an affordable housing program.
- An oversight board that not only includes the chairman of the Federal Reserve and the SEC, but congressionally appointed, non-governmental officials.
- Limits on executive compensation. This is a major stumbling point for Paulson in his negotiations with Congress, but cracking down on Wall Street executive salaries will be a major selling point for lawmakers. Dodd and Frank have put in place what's known as a "claw back" provision aimed at revoking compensation that executives received based on fraudulent claims.
- An independent inspector general to investigate the Treasury asset program, appointed by the president."
Tuesday's Political News #1 - Michael
No matter how you spin it, it's BS! Every serious community improvement law passed by Congress since the sixties (and supported by some Republicans) has included protections for investment and mortgage companies. The reason was easy; neither party wanted to be responsible for harming the US housing market. I worked for a time at the National Association of Home Builders in DC, so I know a little about the issue. Federal institutions and agencies have always been responsible for making sure things stay healthy, and are supposed to make sure something like today's crisis DOES NOT HAPPEN.
So, it's NOT THE DEMOCRATS AND THE LAWS, it's the BUSH ADMINISTRATION AND REPUBLICAN NEGLECT that caused the problems. If you want to read more, visit a few good resources:
- Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System FRB
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation FDIC
- Officer of the Comptroller of Currency OCC
- Office of Thrift Supervision OTS
So please stop defiling perfectly reasonable legislation with your absurd spin. As usual, you are not telling the whole truth. Then again, it's hard for you guys, isn't it? Perhaps you should ask Mr. Bush, Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Bernanke why they didn't do more to follow the law. It would be a lot more productive than spinning around and screaming into the political wind.Monday's Political Rant #2 - Michael
Gawker.com (http://gawker.com/5052329/scientists-explain-why-people-vote-for-republicans) and the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-sci-politics19-2008sep19,0,3434467.story) chime in on the possibilities.
The Gawker article is research from Rice University that asks questions like "why are conservatives scared a lot" and "why do they refuse to believe facts." The LA Times article is derived from research conducted at many universities, and includes lots of data about the differences between liberals and conservatives. They are both interesting. Enjoy!
Monday's Political News #2 - Michael
Political Comment: Senator Bernie Sanders on the Wall Street Bailout: The Middle Class Must Not Be Forced to Bail Out Wall Street Greed
This proposal as presented is an unacceptable attempt to force middle income families (and our children) to pick up the cost of fixing the horrendous economic mess that is the product of the Bush administration's deregulatory fever and Wall Street's insatiable greed. If the potential danger to our economy was not so dire, this blatant effort to essentially transfer $700 billion up the income ladder to those at the top would be laughable.
Let us be clear. If the economy is on the edge of collapse we need to act. But rescuing the economy does not mean we have to just give away $700 billion of taxpayer money to the banks. (In truth, it could be much more than $700 billion. The bill only says the government is limited to having $700 billion outstanding at any time. By selling the mortgage backed assets it acquires -- even at staggering losses -- the government will be able to buy even more resulting is a virtually limitless financial exposure on the part of taxpayers.) Any proposal must protect middle income and working families from bearing the burden of this bailout.
I have proposed a four part plan to accomplish that goal which includes a five-year, 10% surtax on the income of individuals above $500,000 a year, and $1 million a year for couples; a requirement that the price the government pays for any mortgage assets are discounted appropriately so that government can recover the amount it paid for them; and, finally, the government should receive equity in the companies it bails out so that when the stock of these companies rises after the bailout, taxpayers also have the opportunity to share in the resulting windfall. Taken together, these measures would provide the best guarantee that at the end of five years, the government will have gotten back the money it put out.
Second, in addition to protecting the average American from being saddled with the cost, any serious proposal has to include reforms so that we end the type of behavior that led to this crisis in the first place. Much of this activity can be traced to specific legislation that broke down regulatory safety walls in the financial sector and allowed banks and others to engage in new types of risky transactions that are at the heart of this crisis. That deregulation needs to be repealed. Wall Street has shown it cannot be trusted to police itself. We need to reinstate a strong regulatory system that protects our economy.
Third, we need to address the needs of working families in this country who are today facing very difficult times. If we can bail out Wall Street, we need to respond with equal vigor to their plight. That means, for example, creating millions of jobs through major investments in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and creating a new renewable energy system. We must also make certain that the most vulnerable Americans don't freeze in the winter or die because they lack access to primary health care.
Finally, we need to protect ourselves from being at the mercy of giant companies that are "too big to fail," that is, companies who are so large that their failure would cause systemic harm to the economy. We need to assess which companies fall into this category and insist they are broken up. Otherwise, the American taxpayer will continue to be on the financial hook for the risky behavior, the mismanagement, and even the illegal conduct of these companies' executives.
These are the last days of the Bush administration, the most dishonest and incompetent in modern American history. It is imperative that, at this important moment, Congress stand up for the middle class and for fiscal integrity. The future of our country is at stake.
(Reprinted from the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-bernie-sanders/the-middle-class-must-not_b_128046.html)
For the record, we at Our Rants & Raves agree with the Great Senator from the State of Vermont. He is an Independent, and America's Senator in many ways. We admire his great work.
Monday's Political Comment #1: A Rants & Raves Contributor
The report, “Voting in 2008: Ten Swing States,” assesses how much progress has been made in the past two years to improve the voting process after massive voter theft in 2000 and 2004. It identifies real problems that have not been fixed, and made worse in some cases. The 2008 general election will be historic, with election officials expecting record-breaking turnouts. Unfortunately, we may experience a repeat of the last two presidential elections, where objective state officials in Florida, Ohio, Georgia, Alabama, and Maryland, to name just a few, have since proven massive voter fraud.
- long lines at polling places
- inadequately trained poll workers
- voter registration problems
- disenfranchisement due to voter identification laws and/or their poor implementation
So, in the area of waste, I would like to point out the wonderful article posted by Think Progress this morning that lists just a few of the large financial screw-ups of the Bush Administration and the Republicans. Do you really want to vote for McCain and risk another eight years of this nightmare?
A Small Snapshot of the Bush Administration's Legacy of WASTE! according to a few Reputable Sources
- $700 billion minimum - Yesterday, President Bush announced his $700 billion plan to buy out troubled financial institutions. As proposed Bush's plan places no restrictions on the administration other than requiring semiannual reports to Congress. Incredibly, Bush and Paulson propose outsourcing much of the work to their Wall Street buddies. It needs to be adjusted to protect against Bush and his gang of thieves.
-$142 million wasted on reconstruction projects that were either terminated or canceled. [Special Inspector General for Iraq, 07-28-08]
-“Significant” amount of U.S. funds for Iraq funneled to Sunni and Shiite militias. [GAO Comptroller, 03-11-08]
-$180 million payed to construction company Bechtel for projects it never finished. [Federal audit, 07-25-07]
-$5.1 billion in expenses for Iraq reconstruction charged without documentation. [Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction report, 03-19-07]
-$10 billion in spending on Iraq reconstruction was wasteful or poorly tracked. [GAO, 02-15-07]
-Halliburton overcharged the government $100 million for one day’s work in 2004. [Project on Government Oversight, 10-08-04]
-Millions wasted on four no-bid contracts, including paying $20 million for an unusable camp for evacuees. [Homeland Security Department Inspector General, 09-10-08]
-$2.4 billion in contracts doled out by FEMA that guaranteed profits for big companies. [Center for Public Integrity investigation, 06-25-07]
-An estimated $2 billion in fraud and waste — nearly 11 percent of the $19 billion spent by FEMA on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as of mid-June. [New York Times tally, 06-27-06]
-“Widespread” waste and mismanagement on millions for Katrina recovery, including at least $3 million for 4,000 beds that were never used. [GAO, 03-16-06]
-A $50 million Air Force contract awarded to a company with close ties to senior Air Force officers, in a process “fraught with improper influence, irregular procedures, glaring conflicts of interest.” [Project on Government Oversight, 04-18-08]
-$1.7 billion in excessive fees and waste paid by the Pentagon to the Interior Department to manage federal lands. [Defense Department and Interior Department Inspectors General audit, 12-25-06]
-$1 trillion unaccounted for by the Pentagon, including 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units. [GAO, 05-18-03]
(To read their article, visit http://thinkprogress.org/2008/09/21/bush-legacy-taxpayer-funds/)
So, for all you Republicans who like to claim that Democrats tax and spend, and mostly spend, then I challenge you to provide a list of government waste that can out do the one provided here. Can you? I doubt it. It is clear that George Bush and his Republican supporters have wasted billions and possibly trillions on projects that in the end hurt the American people.
I can't believe it when I read that list - and to think it's only a small percentage of the waste. If Democrats had done damage even close to this I suspect the Republicans would have found a way to destroy the party or ignited a civil war. It's inexcusable incompetence. It's beyond corruption - it's stupidity and negligence to the point of immorality.
I suggest that you Republicans who are continuing to support your party take a long hard look at the damages, and rethink your absurd loyalty. Just ask yourself, why should you trust your Republican leadership? I wouldn't trust my Democratic ones if they had done the same. You need to see them for who they are: incompetent, immoral, corrupt, deceitful, thieves.
Monday's Political Rant # 1 - Michael
Friday, September 19, 2008
I know that many of you are going to tell me that it's unavoidable, and that we have to spend the money to avoid a depression. Fine, but that doesn't change the fact that taxpayers are being asked to assume hundreds of billions in banking and other debt, which only occurred because of the way the Republicans destroyed the firewalls between different financial sectors, causing banks and small lenders to loan money willy-nilly, conning borrowers, and ultimately making billions reselling the paper for incredible profits.
It also doesn't change the fact that we're printing money so fast that our inflation rate will skyrocket, and probably next year, after Obama becomes president. It will be just in time for you Republicans to blame the entire mess on us. It just isn't fair. You screw everything up and will probably get away with blaming us. It's MADNESS! I wish you would all wake up tomorrow with a bloody conscience. HOW CAN YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELVES! You're screwing your own children, grand-children and great-grand-children. You're all nuts! You take, take, take, and when you destroy the system, you want to be bailed out - and then want more. You cannot be trusted running government.
I know many of you Republicans blame the borrowers. It's convenient, isn't it? You claim the borrowers lied their way into their loans - supposedly having no intention of paying them back. I think that's your way of coping with your own party's outrageous screw-up - no, THEFT! You can't blame people for wanting a better life! The Bush Administration, the SEC, the Treasury, and the Fed should have all be watching for this! Government and its institutions are supposed to make sure this doesn't happen - by law - and they dropped the $1 trillion pound ball!
If John McCain is elected and these policies are allowed to continue, then the proposed bailout will be paid for by the American worker and more bailouts may be required in the future because the greed and "casino culture" as McCain describes will be allowed to continue. There are so many thieves in this scenario that I don't have enough time to describe them all, so I will simply say that I believe the Republican Party and the Bush Administration should now be considered the most successful thieves in the history of our nation, and possibly in the history of mankind.
Btw, if you try and argue that FDR spent a lot of money to pull the nation out of depression, my response is that the money was spent on the American worker to create jobs and build infrastructure that serves us today. The trillion dollar bailout being discussed today bares no resemblance. It's simply stealing money from hard working people and giving it to large international institutions that will continue to steal from us.
I warn you, unless we elect Barack Obama and the laws are changed to repair the damage, this will go on, and on, and on. You will keep letting the fox into the proverbial chicken coop. We are screwed, and unless we all act now, we will be even more screwed!
Friday's Political Rant #1 - Michael
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Please Urge Your Representative to find Karl Rove in Contempt before Congress Adjourns in 2 Weeks!
Email your Member of Congress now!
Thousands of friends -- including you -- have already signed a petition, written, or called Congress, urging them to hold Karl Rove in contempt. Thank you so much for speaking out! Now that a U.S. District Judge has ruled that White House aides like Rove can't claim immunity in order to refuse to testify before Congress, there's no room for Karl Rove to hide any longer -- but our time is running out. If Congress adjourns at the end of September without holding Karl Rove in contempt, our chances at restoring democracy may very well be kaput. So now we must pull out all the stops and turn up the heat. That's why I'm asking you to call and write your Member of Congress again and urge the full House to vote to hold Karl Rove in contempt. It is time for Karl Rove to come clean and tell the truth about what he has done. If you speak out, and Congress votes contempt for Rove, he'll have to speak out too -- and for the first time, under oath!