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Gone Fishing: Open thread

May 18, 2009

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    May 18, 2009 8:57 am

    A selection from the album I have owned and lost about 18 times and now own again thanks to a very nice gift I received over the weekend. For Geithner, Paulson, Summers, Rubin and the rest of the Wall Street crooks – if it’s OK to give my money to GoldmanSux, how ’bout a little something something back my way. Might help you keep the mob away from your door eventually.

    • Stemella permalink*
      May 18, 2009 10:58 am

      Such a classic film! I heard recently that those guys are touring this summer for reals. Yep, here’s their site: Unwigged

      They’ll be out East until the end of this month looks like. Talented and funny too!

      As to getting some money back, I think we’ll need a new Robin Hood for that. Maybe Spitzer can help. He’s pissed at Geithner and is starting to speak out about it.

      • cometman permalink*
        May 18, 2009 1:44 pm

        Ha! Looks like their new tour is an unplugged type of deal. I had a ticket to go see their Break Like the Wind Tour in 1992 in Denver when they were in full hairgod regalia. Some stuff came up and I ended up moving a few weeks earlier than I’d planned and I missed the show. It looks like they actually have a new album coming out next month too. The song clip at the link sounds tremendous! Of course maybe it’s all a joke too and there isn’t really a whole new album…

  2. cometman permalink*
    May 18, 2009 9:40 am

    Maureen Dowd gives me hope to carry on with blogging. Maybe someday if I keep honing my skills, I’ll get my stuff printed in the NYT too:

    New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has admitted to using a paragraph virtually word-for-word from a prominent liberal blogger without attribution.

    Dowd acknowledged the error in an e-mail to the Huffington Post on Sunday, the Web site reported. The Times corrected her column online to give proper credit for the material to Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall.

    ~snip~

    Dowd, who won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1990, told the Huffington Post that the mistake was unintentional. She claims she never read Marshall’s post last week and had heard the line from a friend who did not mention reading it in Marshall’s blog.

    She heard it from a “friend”. Uh huh. Was that “friend’s” name Doreen Mowd by any chance? By as long as she was just plagiarizing a friend and not Josh Marshall, I guess that makes it OK.

    • Stemella permalink*
      May 18, 2009 11:01 am

      MoDo is a douchebag. I met her in person at the first klub kumquat gathering and found her to be all hat, no cattle. She is nothing more than a gossip. Not surprised in the least that she steals other people’s work in order to include some analytical substance.

  3. Stemella permalink*
    May 18, 2009 11:10 am

    NY AG Cuomo is still hot on the trail of pension fund scams. Here’s an interesting story that reveals yet more corruption:

    How Pension Placement Agent Exploited Political Ties

    After raising more than $1 billion for Democratic candidates, Eileen Kotecki transformed herself into a marketer for hedge funds and private-equity firms, eventually racking up more than $6.5 billion in sales.

    Within weeks of wrapping up the 2000 campaign, Kotecki’s own attorneys said later in a lawsuit, she had begun “seeking to exploit” an “impressive network of contacts” gained in part from “extensive experience as a political fundraiser” to sell investment services to public pension funds and endowments.

    Taking advantage of political work for private gain isn’t illegal. Yet Kotecki’s career shift from former Vice President Al Gore’s chief fundraiser into the placement-agent business illustrates how it has become the province of the well- connected, including campaign operatives, out-of-office politicians, former public pension officials and even a Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver.

    “When you look at some of who the placement agents are, you say these are people who are really not in the financial business,” said Orin Kramer, who oversees pensions as head of New Jersey’s Investment Council. “These are politically connected intermediaries, and that’s not a way it ought to operate.”

    There is also discussion of the Carlyle Group involvement,

    After New Mexico agreed to invest $20 million in Carlyle Group, the Washington private-equity firm paid $150,000 to Morris’s employer, Searle & Co.

    “We have no idea who the hell Hank Morris is,” Kulka said. “You have to start wondering what is going on. We recognize there’s a problem here.”

    Cuomo has said he uncovered “a national network” that “victimized states and taxpayers all across the country” and shows “the inherent risks” that placement agents pose.

    He said May 14 that Carlyle will pay $20 million, cease using placement agents and restrict campaign donations to resolve its alleged role in the scandal. Cuomo said New York invested about $730 million in Carlyle-related funds after the firm retained Morris, who shared in $13 million in finder fees from the deals.

    Unspecified Losses

    Cuomo previously had announced guilty pleas from one fund manager and one agent and charges against four others: Morris, 55, who allegedly orchestrated a kickback scheme by exploiting political work he did for former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, 68; one-time state Liberal Party chief Raymond Harding, 74; Hevesi’s ex-deputy, David Loglisci, 39; and Saul Meyer, 38, a Dallas money manager for Aldus Equity Partners, which New York has also sued for unspecified losses.

    All the defendants deny wrongdoing and face SEC civil actions, too. “There was no fraud,” William Schwartz, Morris’s lawyer, said in March. Schwartz didn’t return three phone calls for this story.

    The fallout has spread to other states, including some of the 36 Cuomo asked to join his probe. He announced sending more than 100 subpoenas to investment firms and agents. Two members of the Los Angeles fund’s oversight commission, Sean Harrigan and Elliott Broidy, quit May 7 after the SEC queried them about ties to firms under scrutiny in New York; both denied wrongdoing. Aldus was fired or suspended by officials in Los Angeles, New Mexico, Connecticut and Louisiana.

    and Hopey McNotChangery

    Even President Barack Obama was drawn in. Steven Rattner, head of his auto industry rescue effort since February, ran New York-based Quadrangle when the private-equity firm paid Morris about $1.1 million for a $100 million investment from New York’s pension fund. Adam Miller, a spokesman for Rattner and Quadrangle, declined to comment. Neither has been charged.

    Kotecki’s career in the industry began in February 2001, after two years as Gore’s national finance director, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority records show. “She designed, implemented and managed the campaign’s financial plan, raising over $1.2 billion in total,” says the Web site for High Water Women, a nonprofit group that lists Kotecki on its board.

    Hmmm, Cuomo better not have consorted with any hookers lately.

  4. Stemella permalink*
    May 18, 2009 11:16 am

    And guess what? Timmeh doesn’t support capping CEO pay on Wall St., now! No! It can’t be!

    Geithner Says Government Shouldn’t Set Limits on Compensation

    Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the U.S. government shouldn’t set limits on executive pay and instead should seek to ensure compensation packages don’t encourage excessive risk taking.

    “I don’t think our government should set caps on compensation,” he said in answering questions at an event at the National Press Club today in Washington. “What I think we need to do is make sure we put in place some broad constraints on the incentives compensation systems create.”

    Geithner’s remarks indicate the administration’s proposals may focus more on principles than on specific prescriptions for how financial companies compensate their executives. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair made similar comments last week, while calling for broad application of guidelines to include traders as well as corporate chiefs.

    They are going to focus on principles rather than, you know, regulations? Guidelines instead of law? Oh yeah, that’s gonna work real well. Jesus humping a Jehovah. I am actually laughing out loud at the gall. Fuck. What a joke.

  5. cometman permalink*
    May 19, 2009 6:45 am

    Hillary puts Greek group on the terrorist list:

    The United States announced Monday that it is listing Revolutionary Struggle as a foreign terrorist organization after the Greek leftist group attacked US diplomatic and business interests.

    ~snip~

    “RS is a Greek terrorist organization responsible for numerous terrorist acts against Greek, US and other targets since 2003,” according to the statement.

    It cited a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the US embassy in Athens in 2007 as well as the detonation of a bomb outside a Citibank branch in the Greek capital on March 9 this year.

    It said the chief US diplomat took the action in consultation with Attorney General Eric Holder and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

  6. cometman permalink*
    May 20, 2009 6:50 am

    Noise being made about holding credit rating agencies accountable. Check the link and you’ll see they are using your acronym again ;)

    Via Reuters:

    Credit rating agencies should not be exempt from liability in their forward looking statements, the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement pension fund said on Monday.

    At a hearing on Tuesday, Congress will examine whether rating agencies like Moody’s Corp and McGraw-Hill Cos Inc’s Standard & Poor’s need to be regulated further after they assigned top ratings to complex securities that later deteriorated in value.

    The Colorado pension fund, which holds more than $29 billion in assets, urged Congress to pass legislation to make the rating agencies more accountable.

    Congress must remove rating agencies’ exemption from liability for forward looking statements and as experts under federal securities laws, said Gregory Smith, the pension fund’s general counsel, in remarks to be delivered to the House Financial Services subcommittee on capital markets.

    ~snip~

    Senator Jack Reed is expected to soon introduce legislation that would allow investors to sue credit rating agencies if they failed to “conduct a reasonable investigation” of a rated security. Reed, a Democrat, is the chairman of the Senate Banking subcommittee on securities.

  7. cometman permalink*
    May 20, 2009 9:50 am

    Great article from Michael Hudson today discussing the problems facing our economy, specifically how the failure to tax income unrelated to labor like rent is turning us into a feudal state.

    It looks like bookstores are about to be swamped this summer and fall by advisories which publishers commissioned a year ago, as the economy was going off the rails. The preferred marketing strategy is to offer advice by celebrity insiders on how to restore the happy 1981-2007 era of debt-leveraged price gains for real estate, stocks and bonds. But the Bubble Economy was so debt-leveraged that it cannot reasonably be restored.

    ~snip~

    There are no calls to restore state and local property taxes to their Progressive Era levels so as to collect the “free lunch” of land rent and use its gains over time as the main fiscal base. This would hold down land prices (and hence, mortgage debt) by preventing rising location values from being capitalized and paid out as interest to the banks. It would have the additional advantage of shifting the fiscal burden off income and sales (a policy that raises the price of labor, goods and services). Instead, most reforms today call for further cutting property taxes to promote more “wealth creation” in the form of higher debt-leveraged property price inflation. The idea is to leave more rental income to be capitalized into yet larger mortgages and paid out as interest to the financial sector. Instead of housing prices falling and income and sales taxes being reduced, rising site values merely will be paid to the banks, not to the local tax authorities. The latter are forced to shift the fiscal burden onto consumers and business.

    There are, in this current crop of books, the usual pro forma calls to re-industrialize America, but not to address the financial debt dynamic that has undercut industrial capitalism in this country and abroad. How will these timid “reforms” look in retrospect a decade from now? The Bush-Obama bailout pretends that banks “too-big-to-fail” only face a liquidity problem, not a bad debt problem in the face of the economy’s widening inability to pay. The reason why past bubbles cannot be restored is that they have reached their debt limit, not only domestically, but also the international political limit of global Dollar Hegemony.

    What don’t these books address? Everything economics really is all about: the debt overhead; financial fraud and crime in general (one of the economy’s highest-paying sectors); military spending (a key to the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit and hence to the buildup of central bank dollar reserves throughout the world); the proliferation of unearned income and insider political dealing. These are the core phenomena that “free market” choristers have relegated to the “institutionalist” basement of the academic economics curriculum.

    ~snip~

    What have been lost are the Progressive Era’s two great reforms. First, minimizing the economy’s free lunch of unearned income (e.g., monopolistic privilege and privatization of the public domain in contrast to one’s own labor and enterprise) by taxing absentee property rent and asset-price (“capital”) gains, by keeping natural monopolies in the public domain, and by anti-trust regulation. The aim of progressive economic justice was to prevent exploitation – e.g., charging more than the technologically necessary costs of production and reasonable profits warranted. This aim had a fortuitous byproduct that made the Progressive Era reforms seem likely to conquer the world in a Darwinian evolutionary manner: Minimization of the free lunch of unearned income enabled economies such as the United States to out-compete others that didn’t enact progressive fiscal and financial policy.

    A second Progressive Era aim was to steer the financial sector so as to fund capital formation. Industrial credit was best achieved in Germany and Central Europe in the decades prior to World War I. But the Allied victory led to the dominance of Anglo-American banking practice, based on loans against property or income streams already in place. Today’s bank credit has become decoupled from capital formation, taking the form mainly of mortgage credit (80 per cent), and loans secured by corporate stock (for mergers, acquisitions and corporate raids) as well as for speculation. The effect is to spur asset-price inflation on credit, in ways that benefit the few at the expense of the economy at large.

    ~snip~

    Unfortunately for us – and for reformers trying to rescue our post-bubble economy – the history of economic thought has been rewritten in infantile caricature, to give an impression that today’s stripped-down, largely trivialized junk economics is the apex of Western social history. One would not realize from the present discussion that for the past few centuries a different canon of logic existed. Classical economists distinguished between earned income (wages and profits) and unearned income (land rent, monopoly rent and interest). The effect was to distinguish between wealth earned through capital and enterprise that reflects labor effort, and unearned wealth stemming from appropriation of land and other natural resources, monopoly privileges (including banking and money management) and inflationary asset-price “capital” gains. But even the Progressive Era did not go much beyond seeking to purify industrial capitalism from the carry-overs of feudalism: land rent and monopoly rent stemming from military conquest, and financial exploitation by banks and (in America) Wall Street as the “mother of trusts.”

    ~snip~

    Today, the financial sector is translating its affluence (at taxpayer expense), into the political power to pry yet more public infrastructure away from state and local communities and from the public domain at the national level, Thatcher- and Blair-style as it is sold off to absentee buyers-on-credit to pay off public debt (while cutting taxes on wealth yet further). No one remembers the cry for what Keynes called “euthanasia of the rentier.” We have entered the most oppressive rentier epoch since feudal European times. Instead of providing basic infrastructure services at cost or subsidized rates to lower the national cost structure and thus make it more affordable – and internationally competitive – the economy is being turned into a collection of tollbooths Small wonder that this year’s transitory wave of post-bubble books fail to place the financialization of the U.S. and global economies in this long-term context.

    That’s a lot of cuts and snips. Probably better to just read the whole thing ;)

  8. cometman permalink*
    May 21, 2009 8:43 am

    Dave Lindorff has a good article on the current labor situation today and mentions that even as Congress backtracks on their promises to pass the Employee Free Choice Act companies still continue to break existing labor laws with impunity. He suggests that maybe the unions should get off their butts and hit the streets to at least try to get this into the public eye.

    A new study of 1004 union organizing drives conducted by the director of labor education research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations has found that two-third of the companies involved were violating US labor law by holding one-on-one interrogations of workers, by threatening workers about their union support, by firing union organizers or using half a dozen other illegal tactics to defeat unionization campaigns.

    Prof. Kate Bronfenbrenner, author of No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition ot Organizing, says that these illegal tactics by employers have been used to drive union representation at American companies down to only 12.4 percent from a level of 22 percent just 30 years ago.

    ~snip~

    Right now the US labor movement is desperately trying to win passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill which, if passed as currently written—a long shot at this point—would address some of the issues raised in Prof. Bronfenbrenner’s study by eliminating the need for secret ballot unionization votes. Those elections, companies and their labor-busting lawyers have long ago learned, can be delayed for years while they illegally whittle away at union support. But because the unions are trying to keep the support of a wavering President Barack Obama and of Democrats in Congress for passage of EFCA, in the face of massive lobbying by big business interests, they are avoiding the kind of street politics that would make this corporate crime wave a big story.

    What should be happening is mass marches in the nation’s cities, and especially in Washington, demanding action on EFCA. President Obama and most Democrats in both Houses of Congress, all campaigned saying they backed EFCA, but now many are backing away from that promise.

    A million angry workers massed and shouting on the Washington Mall would stiffen their spines, as would big demonstrations in the major cities of the country.

    If Congress is going to renege on their promises regarding the EFCA which seems very likely as support now seems tepid at best, would it really be to much to ask that they enforce the laws already on the books? I seem to remember the rationale for continuing to hand out huge bonuses to Wall Street execs was that contracts had to be honored. Well how about honoring the damn LAW where other workers are concerned?

  9. cometman permalink*
    May 21, 2009 8:55 am

    Feeling a little exuberant again today thanks to starting the morning by (hopefully) murdering all the little vermin on my shrubbery. I have an azalea which little green worms attack even before the leaves completely unfold. Last year they defoliated 2/3 of the bush before I even noticed them since they blend in very well with the leaves. I saw them this morning and doused them with a nice bacterial broth. Once the little buggers get some of that into their gullets, the bacteria start eating them away from the inside. Isn’t science great? :)

  10. cometman permalink*
    May 21, 2009 9:34 am

    Tax revolt! Ted Rall calls for one in light of the massive fraud being perpetrated on the public with the bank bailout.

    Anyway, here we are $12-plus trillion in the hole–$40,000, plus compound interest paid to Chinese and other foreign investors, for every man, woman and child in the United States. That’s more than the national debt was at the beginning of the current mess. What have we got to show for it? Zip.

    ~snip~

    Well, it’s not too late to get back our money. We need it a hell of lot more than AIG.

    We should withhold our taxes, mortgage checks and credit card payments until the banks, insurance companies and other assorted Wall Street dirtbags who stole it give it back.

    Unrealistic? That’s what my girlfriend thought when I led a rent strike. The landlord hadn’t provided heat, so I organized the tenants in my building to pay their rent into an escrow account until things improved. My girlfriend doubted that everyone would participate. “That’s OK,” I said, “we don’t need everyone.” We didn’t. A 60 percent income drop was enough to get the landlord’s attention. The heat came back on and a judge awarded us several months free rent.

    We don’t need everyone either. If millions of Americans were to pay their taxes, mortgages and debt payments into escrow (to show that we’re not deadbeats), it wouldn’t take long before we got some action from Obama and his gang of bank-loving technocrats.

    I like that idea. Don’t know if you could realistically get enough people to do it, but I suspect it would get the attention of the parasites in DC. You can write and call and yell and scream at your Congressperson until you’re blue in the face and nothing will happen. But money talks and that is the only language the oligarchs can understand these days.

  11. cometman permalink*
    May 21, 2009 10:00 am

    Great article from Danny Schechter today. Most of what he mentions we have talked about quite a bit, but you can’t mention the F-word enough if you ask me and Schechter isn’t afraid to use the word FRAUD. The banksters can use all the weasel words they want, but they knew damn well what was going on and did nothing about it.

    Flash back with me now to March 2007, just a few months before the markets melted down. Slate reported then on testimony by the two top economy watchers in America. They insisted that problems that were unleashed like a tsunami had been “contained.”

    ~snip~

    At that time, and for years leading up to the popping of an artificially created bubble, there was a white collar crime wave underway with large scale corporate fraud that was duly reported and duly ignored. In 2004, The FBI first reported publicly on an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud that had been going on for years charging 80% of the losses were the result of deceptive practices by lenders backed by our biggest financial institutions.

    Criminologist William K Black, a former bank regulator and expert on crimes committed by the men at the top-so-called “control frauds” referencing the practices of CEOS in control at big corporations, studied these reports pointing out that by 2008, there were only 62,000 “criminal referrals” in this industry with only agencies reporting crimes “mandated” by law to do so. Only 1/3 of these illegal practices were even reported and, then, hardly any, in unregulated sectors which, in turn, dispensed 80% of them. These were the mortgages Wall Street bought, securitized, sliced and diced, borrowed against, and resold under false pretenses. Did they know? You bet they did.

    ~snip~

    Two economists, one a Nobel Prize winner, George A. Akerlof, who along with Paul M Romer published a fascinating paper on deliberate looting using bankruptcies. Their thesis; ‘Our theoretical analysis shows that an economic underground can come to life if firms have an incentive to go broke for profit at society’s expense (to loot) instead of to go for broke (to gamble on success). Bankruptcy for profit will occur if poor accounting, lax regulation, or low penalties for abuse give owners an incentive to pay themselves more than their firms are worth and then default on their debt obligations.”

    Sound familiar?

    In a lecture he gave recently in Iceland, a country’s whose government collapsed because of other frauds and speculation, William Black noted that ratings agencies involved in setting the price of assets never even looked at the loan files when certifying many of these deals as ‘triple A” thus inflating their value, aided and abetted by phony appraisals. This is what was behind the rash of no-doc or “liars” loans that deliberately misled borrowers.

    After securities based on this allegedly asset-backed mortgage paper (with no assets behind it) began to fail in large numbers, one agency, FITCH, went back and reviewed the underlying information only to conclude in a low key way that “the results were disconcerting because of the appearance of fraud in every file we review.”

    “Disconcerting?” How about infuriating, because more that $2 TRILLION dollars worth of these “toxic” assets were sold and bought contaminating the global economy. These crimes need to be fully investigated. A commission that investigated the S&L crisis concluded that in the big losses they studied “fraud was invariably present.”

    Three questions: why didn’t anyone read that report? Secondly, what do you think an investigation of this crisis will reveal? And finally, why isn’t William Black speaking more in America?

  12. cometmanto a permalink*
    May 21, 2009 12:10 pm

    Obama sides with the Bushies AGAIN, this time on the Plame case:

    The Obama administration has decided to oppose the reinstatement of a civil lawsuit filed by outed CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.

    The move represents the first public position by the administration on the issue. Obama’s position mirrors that of President George W. Bush, whose aides found themselves in the cross-fire after the agent, Plame Wilson, was outed by conservative columnist Robert Novak.

    A Washington, D.C. district court dismissed the suit — Wilson v. Libby et al. — which posited that key Bush and Cheney officials violated the constitutional rights of Plame and her husband, a former ambassador. Those sued included former Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and Richard Armitage for their gross violations of the Wilsons’ constitutional rights, as well as “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff who was convicted of obstruction of justice in the case.

    Obama’s Justice Department says the Wilsons have no legitimate claim to sue. They also put forward another startling claim.

    “The Obama administration has gone one step further, suggesting Mr. Wilson failed to provide any evidence that Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rove or Mr. Libby harmed him,” Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility reported on their blog Wednesday. “This is particularly ironic because the government had moved to have the case dismissed before the Wilsons had the opportunity to uncover the details of how Ms. Wilson’s covert identity was revealed.

    Don’t know what else to say about StatusQuo O at this point except to ask what the fuck is his problem.

  13. cometman permalink*
    May 21, 2009 12:17 pm

    Holy crap I think I actually believe Dick Cheney! Congress has declined to investigate Nancy Pelosi on what she knew about torture and when she knew it, surprise surprise. Dick Cheney had this to say:

    “As the House was voting, former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered his verdict on Ms. Pelosi as he recounted his view of the interrogation program during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute,” noted The New York Times.

    The paper added: “’On numerous occasions leading members of Congress, including the current speaker of the House, were briefed on the program and on the methods,’ Mr. Cheney said, later adding: ‘Some members of Congress are notorious for demanding they be briefed into the most sensitive intelligence programs. They support them in private, and then head for the hills at the first sign of controversy.’”

    So if they aren’t going to investigate Pelosi, looks like they won’t be looking too hard at the republicans who ordered the torture either, as that would very likely show that Cheney was correct and many Congresspeople in both parties knew about this all along. Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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