Good Morning Conflucians!!
It’s been an amazing week with Blago and all the unseemly Chicago political dirt pointing to Obama and his henchmen at one end and Goldman Sachs and related financial revelations, or more accurately well timed releases of old news well after the damage was done for maximum benefit also pointing to Obama and his henchmen at the other. The corporatists and their puppet have been having a wild ride and collecting your money all the way. Ah, good times. Well, for those on the take.
It appears the efforts towards a bipartisan climate bill are collapsing:
In one of the proudest moments of his long legislative career, Senator John F. Kerry was poised to unveil a long-awaited climate change bill tomorrow that would put a price on carbon emissions and provide billions of dollars in incentives to industry to drastically cut greenhouse gases.
Kerry had brought business on board, and even forged something rare in Washington, a bipartisan compromise with a key Republican leader.
Then his effort ran headlong into the Senate’s partisan snarl, and last night the release of the bill was postponed indefinitely.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who had allied himself with Kerry on the issue, abruptly abandoned the effort last night, saying he was irate that the Senate’s Democratic leadership might proceed with a controversial immigration bill first.
“Moving forward on immigration — in this hurried, panicked manner — is nothing more than a cynical political ploy,’’ Graham said. “I know from my own personal experience the tremendous amounts of time, energy, and effort that must be devoted to this issue to make even limited progress.’’
Harry Reid signaled last week that he wanted to proceed with immigration reform before this climate bill. They had signaled just after the health insurance bailout catastrophe that they would likely postpone immigration reform until next year. I assume they got blowback from that and are pushing it forward. But who knows. This may be quite the political blunder, but it’s hard to imagine Republicans’ were really going to play along with a climate change bill anyway.
Though it’s been covered here this week, more fun bits about GS are worth monitoring. Here’s more WP on the GS emails cheering the housing market decline:
As the U.S. housing market began its epic fall nearly three years ago, top executives at Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs cheered the large financial gains the firm stood to make on certain bets it had placed, according to newly released documents.
The documents show that the firm’s executives were celebrating earlier investments calculated to benefit if housing prices fell, a Senate investigative committee found. In an e-mail sent in the fall of 2007, for example, Goldman executive Donald Mullen predicted a windfall because credit-rating companies had downgraded mortgage-related investments, which caused losses for investors.
“Sounds like we will make some serious money,” Mullen wrote.
Lawmakers said the internal e-mails, released Saturday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, contradict what they said are Goldman’s assertions that the bank was not trying to profit from the decline of the housing market in 2007 and was merely seeking to protect itself if prices collapsed.
The clash between Washington and Wall Street is intensifying ahead of the scheduled testimony this week of Goldman chief executive Lloyd C. Blankfein and fellow executives, which itself comes as Congress weighs legislation that would overhaul financial regulation in the United States. President Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing hard to finalize legislation that would much more strictly regulate the activities of Goldman and other Wall Street firms. The full Senate could begin to debate financial reform legislation — already passed by the House — as early as Monday.
“Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs . . . were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that helped trigger the crisis,” said Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate panel. “They bundled toxic mortgages into complex financial instruments, got the credit rating agencies to label them as AAA securities and sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system and all too often betting against the instruments they sold and profiting at the expense of their clients.”
Here’s my favorite part:
“We did not make a significant amount of money in the mortgage market,” Lucas van Praag, a Goldman spokesman, said Saturday. Van Praag said Goldman, which turned over 18 million pages of documents to the Senate committee, lost $1.2 billion in its mortgage business in 2008. “As a firm, we obviously could not have been significantly net short since we lost money in a declining housing market,” van Praag said.
Levin said the documents obtained by his committee contradict Goldman’s assertion that it didn’t seek to profit from the housing downturn. “Goldman made a lot of money by betting against the mortgage market,” Levin said.
With friends like these. Here’s something to ponder, compare the damage done to this country by our own financial corporations and their government henchmen over recent years vs. the money we wasted on our unjustified and probably illegal war in Iraq. Which is the greater threat and thus more of an enemy of the country? Here’s another thought exercise, if you put this and the last corporatist puppet presidents back to back and the damage done on their watch, esp. debt racked up, and compare that to all the years and money spent on the cold war, which has been worse for the country, the cold war with the old Soviet Union, or Bush-Obama? Sadly I don’t think Bush-Obama/Corporatist bleeding of this country is over yet. After all, the insurance companies haven’t had the better part of their cut yet. Stay tuned.
And speaking of, what do both parties have in common, why donations from Wall Street of course:
Although painting Republicans as pawns of Wall Street is a cornerstone of the Democratic strategy to overhaul financial regulation, financial interests have given campaign money generously to both political parties for years.
“No one party has any firm hold on righteousness here,” said David Levinthal, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks donations.
In the past two election cycles, when Democrats controlled Congress, the Democrats benefited most. So far in the 2010 cycle, the finance/insurance/real estate sector has given $65.2 million, or 56 percent of its contributions, to Democrats. Republicans have received $51.7 million.
People and political committees affiliated with securities and investment banking interests have been particularly kind to Democrats, giving them $21.7 million, or 63 percent of their donations so far.
Commercial banks, though, prefer Republicans; they’ve given GOP hopefuls $4.7 million so far, or 54 percent of their total.
In recent days, critics and journalists have been asking lawmakers to return certain funds, notably those from Goldman Sachs. Most lawmakers find the suggestion ridiculous.
“This is our system,” Cornyn said. “I think the system needs more transparency, so people can more easily reach their own conclusions. But if you didn’t have this system, the alternative would be to have taxpayers fund elections, and I’m not in favor of that.”
Ah, so John Cornyn doesn’t want taxpayers to fund elections. He wants GS and insurance companies and big oil, etc. to fund it. So that the taxpayers can then give all their money to bail them all out I guess. You know John, I think if we had to fund elections, we’d save money. If anyone votes for an incumbent, they need their head examined.
And with all that’s going on, and being more tied to Obama and his gang, here comes the koolaid sipping Joe Klein to say:
The anti-Obama forces, it seems clear, are rooted in classic American know-nothing populism–nativist, isolationist, paranoid.
He uses as his example for today Drudge saying really crazy things about the new $100 dollar bill. Yea, Drudge is nuts. What else is new. But notice how Joe ties that in with anyone who is anti-Obama. Keep sipping Joe. Notice anything else going on in the news Joe? You might want to put down that drug. Just maybe there are actual rational reasons for being against Obama.
In the technical universe, a big earthquake hit with Facebook making some massive changes. The gist of what they’re doing is to reach out throughout the internet and figure out everything you do and who you’re connected too, and bring that into Facebook. You know, for your own good, so you can more easily find people and manage your identity. The last bit is of course the money line. As in irony and big money for them. Here are a few article on the subject.
Slate has an article about how their planning on taking over the internet:
Your favorite Web sites are now plugged in to the Facebook brain. On the streaming music service Pandora, you can now press “Like” on any song you hear; that preference will get shuttled back into the social network, alerting your friends to your newfound musical interest. You can do the same for a movie on IMDb, a restaurant on Yelp, a news story on CNN.com, cosmetics at Sephora.com, jeans at Levi’s, and dozens of other products and services all over the Web, including everything published here on Slate. These tiny, new “like” buttons look quite friendly and unassuming. Don’t be fooled. They’re the vanguard of Facebook’s brilliant, unstoppable plan to catalog the entire Web, and there’s a good chance that over the next few years they’ll help the social network remake everything online.
Techcrunch has an article about Facebook’s misuse of the term open for their open graph announcement (the taking over the internet bit again):
Grab the popcorn. There is a serious nerd fight brewing.
Following Facebook’s big Open Graph announcements at f8 a couple days ago, many of the leaders of the so-called “open web” are taking exception to Facebook’s use of the term “open” for its grandiose plans. While the Open Graph may be a lot of things, it is not open, is the feeling many of them have, as Erick laid out earlier.
Specifically, most of them are targeting the new Like button that is appearing everywhere on the web (including on TechCrunch). It’s an obvious target as it’s the most visible part (at least so far) of the Open Graph protocol. Investor/Hunch co-founder Chris Dixon is leading the effort for a new OpenLike button (though he wants someone else to be in charge). And Google’s Open Web Advocate, Chris Messina, has already ripped apart Facebook’s Like button in a blog post.
And the best for last, BuzzMachine has a thoughtful article about how what Facebook is doing is the opposite of what we want:
My identity already exists online. It is my name, my email address(s), my URL(s) (for my blog, work, etc.), my Twitter account, my Flickr, my YouTube, my reputation culled from various services, and more. It is distributed. I have control over most of that.
What’s needed versus the present? Three things, I think:
* Organization. As Google organized our information, the war here is to organize us.
* Verification. No one, I hope, wants to verify as passports do. But Facebook has a leg ahead of everyone else on nearly verified identity simply because of how its service works: fake identities tend to be ejected from the bloodstream because they are irrelevant and irritating; Facebook is about real identities and real relationships and the one feeds the other.
* Connections. That, I think, is what Mark Zuckerberg means when he talks about making things social, about the social graph. He wants to link us to each other and information and that enhances our identities (what do I like and do and think….).
Fine. But I don’t think Facebook approached that opportunity asking first, “What can we do for the world of users online,” and second, “How can Facebook benefit?” If Facebook adds value, I have no objection to it benefiting, just as I believe Google should benefit by organizing our information and creating platforms; it’s what makes that benefit sustainable. But Facebook clearly asked the questions in the wrong order: It figured out what would benefit it most and then we get a few dividends: we get to tell our friends what we like and find out what our friends like.
But in the process, Facebook controls our identities with no relationship to our true identities online — that list above from email addresses to blogs to photos. Indeed, I’d argue that Facebook separates us from our true identities, for that is in Facebook’s favor; it gives Facebook control.
And of course, just as you’d suspect, all this stuff happens by default. And to opt out is a bit of work. Here’s an article about how to control these issues and opt out of the new features. I’ll write more about these and other privacy related issues.
That’s a brief summary of the week. There is a lot more so please chime in with other things you’ve found and with what’s on your mind.