Wednesday, September 24, 2008

* The real Reality Show - You get home after a long day, enter your house and find that the TV, stereo, jewelry and paintings are gone. You stagger for a moment and then reach for the telephone to call the police. Before you can dial, a voice from behind you says, ”Put the phone down and raise your hands. I still want everything that is left in your wallet.” Welcome to Wall Street, Bush Boulevard and Paulson Highway to Up Yours – I’ve Got Mine. The financial industry bailout proposals this week by the Bush administration made the Savings and Loan failures of the late 1980’s look as harmless as a broken piggy bank.

The bailout proposals being discussed will cost taxpayers amounts so far projected to be between $700 billion and $1.8 trillion. The initial Bush plan proposes that the Secretary of the Treasury, an unelected official, would administer the funds with no congressional or court oversight, his decisions can never be questioned or reviewed by any authoritative body and there will be no penalties for the previous actions of the Wall Street bandits. This next part is a classic: if financial industry executive compensation is restricted, it would be a deal breaker. Bush and Paulson then dust off the Iraq invasion marketing campaign: FEAR. Accept this proposal immediately because if we delay there will be a mushroom cloud over Wall Street.

As the crook takes the money from your wallet the police arrive, having been alerted by your silent alarm. The first thing they do is sit everyone down at the kitchen table and serve coffee and Cheese Danish. Then they let the perpetrator walk away with your TV, stereo, jewelry, paintings, cash and a wink.

Update: After Paulson was excoriated by Republicans, Democrats, the media, and public watchdog organizations for requesting a bailout plan with no oversight by anyone but himself he has changed his tune. Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee Paulson said, “I didn’t suggest oversight in the bailout plan because that would be presumptuous.” This is in contrast to almost every other sentient being who feels the plan as a whole is presumptuous. And, Paulson perjured himself when he made this statement. Paulson’s plan released last weekend explicitly denied any review at all of his actions: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.” What else would one expect from a Bush appointee but lies and arrogance?

* King Bush does cares about his subjects ~ at least the Barons of Industry – He is treating the greed-bloated conniving crooks and manipulators on Wall Street as if they were his close buds at Exxon Mobil, Hess, Chevron et al ad nausea. Run your businesses in a manner that will suck every dollar possible from the consumer, function with inadequate oversight toward the common good, be protected by the government regardless of the offense and if you get in trouble the taxpayer will cover your ass. And who is the taxpayer bailing out? “In 2007, Wall Street’s five biggest firms — Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley — paid a record $39 billion in bonuses to themselves... Those 2007 bonuses were paid even though the shareholders in those firms last year collectively lost about $74 billion in stock declines — their worst year since 2002.” But then again, George is not big on accountability.

*The sound of silence – There is one benefit to the financial crisis. Republicans have finally shut up about their flagship demand for free and unregulated markets. Abject failure will do that to soapbox charlatans.

* Ka-ching – One would think that with the billions of dollars lost by financial institutions there would be no resources left for political contributions. Wrong again! The LA Times is reporting that contributions from financial companies and their lobbyists to Obama amount to $22.5 million and to McCain $19.6 million. Additionally, the industry has given heavily to members of the congressional committees in charge of legislation and the bailout. Recall a previous time in American history when the battle cry was “No taxation without representation?” Can you say, “Public financing of elections?”

* Derriere Orifice of the Week 1 ~ and maybe the month – “Neil Cavuto, host of Fox News' Your World, conflated giving home mortgages to minorities with risky lending practices, suggesting that efforts to increase homeownership among minority borrowers contributed to financial problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” I am not sure if he is just stupid or a stupid racist. For those of us who are not challenged intellectually or morally, here is what did occur: “But even if 100 percent of bad debt had been produced by people of color, the reason for the financial collapse is that debt was chopped up and marketed as mortgage-backed securities to financial institutions all over the world. If the debt hadn't been sold, making many people very rich, the bad debt wouldn't have been integrated into the rest of the financial system and it would have just led to the collapse of the original institutions providing mortgages. In other words, it wasn't the debt itself; it was the very lucrative selling of the debt that got us where we are today.” Conservatives using white resentment as a political tool may have worked for Ronald Regan and George Bush but, I for one resent it. Mr. Cavuto, FOX you.

* “Good” is a relative concept –On Friday night I spilled a glass of 2005 Cline Zinfandel with dark fruit flavors on myself. It was a result of laughing at NY Times columnist David Brooks’ comment during PBS’ News Hour. He commented that Bush has had a pretty good past 3 years. Excuuuuuuse meeeee! If one considers that Bush has not been impeached, imprisoned or institutionalized for incompetence one can say he has had a pretty good 3 years. If one considers the state of our country…

* Poor judgment or dishonesty? – McCain’s campaign manager is Rick Davis, a lobbyist who fought regulation of financial institutions. This week McCain was adamant that Davis had no involvement with mortgage giant Freddie Mac for the last several years and said, “I'll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it.” The NY Times and Newsweek did look at it. Until last month mortgage giant Freddie Mac paid a firm owned by Davis $15,000 per month. The payments stopped when the federal government took over Freddie.

David Donnelly, director of the watchdog group Campaign Money Watch, said: "John McCain's campaign manager and Freddie Mac essentially had a secret half a million dollar lay-a-way plan. For almost three years, they made secret, monthly payments of $15,000 to Rick Davis for apparently no other work than for him to provide special access to a future McCain White House in exchange. If McCain knew about this, his presidential campaign should be over. If he didn't know about it, he ought to fire Rick Davis immediately."

* Shooting from the lip – In recent years the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Republican Party have bonded like a high-power scope on a sniper rifle. “The NRA is circulating printed material and running TV ads making unsubstantiated claims that Obama plans to ban use of firearms for home defense, ban possession and manufacture of handguns, close 90 percent of gun shops and ban hunting ammunition.” At the above link you can see details of how disingenuous these claims are as well as how the ad is designed to appear to be coming from the Obama campaign. Watching the world of politics and governance leaves one with a soiled feeling. It is the reason that most of us would rather watch Dancing with the Stars than a bunch of power hungry and less than honest leaders of what was once something close to a Great Society. The Great Tragedy is that by chasing us away they further empowered themselves.

* You can run but, you can’t hide forever – “A federal appeals court on Monday ordered the Bush administration to hand over photos depicting abuse of prisoners held by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.” ACLU staff attorney Amrit Singh said, “These photographs demonstrate that the abuse of prisoners held in U.S. custody abroad was not aberrational and not confined to Abu Ghraib, but the result of policies adopted by high-ranking officials. Their release is critical for bringing an end to the administration’s torture policies and for deterring further prisoner abuse.” It would not surprise me if one of these days an international authority investigates the possibility of war crimes committed by the United States. What is astounding to me is that I would ever imagine such a thought.

* A religious experience at the U.N. - On Tuesday President Bush gave his last speech to the United Nations. Those in attendance heard “Thank God” whispered in 102 languages.

* “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted."
James Madison (1751 – 1836) a Founding Father of the U.S. and its fourth President (1809 – 1817)

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