Good Morning Conflucians!!! I’ve got a bit of a news potpourri for you this morning. There isn’t any huge story that the media is hyping at the moment. Are the corporate media trying to downplay financial “reform?”
Before I begin, Lambert at Corrente is involved in organizing a Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In Counter-Conference and he’s trying to raise funds for a trip to DC to live-blog the event. It seems like a good cause to me. What do you think?
Harry Reid is still planning to bring the financial “reform” bill up for a test vote in the Senate today, according to Reuters.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has set a procedural vote to begin debate on the bill for late on Monday. Republicans have vowed to vote to block consideration of it, although closed-door talks about a bipartisan agreement carried on….the bill will include provisions that would require banks to spin off business units involved with trading swaps, which is a type of financial contract implicated in the fall of bailed-out insurer AIG.
Sources said the bill will contain proposals being put forward by Democratic Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, whose approach to new rules for the unpoliced, $450-trillion over-the-counter derivatives market has been harder-hitting than earlier proposals.
Other controversial parts of the Democrats’ bill include forming a new consumer protection watchdog and devising a new government process for dismantling troubled financial firms.
Only in America are consumer and taxpayer protections considered “controversial.”
Robert Kuttner is still sipping the Koolaid, I see: He actually believes that Obama will stand strong against the Republicans and the lobbyists and support meaningful regulation. ROFLOL!
Although Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd and his sometime Republican ally Richard Shelby continued to make noises on the Sunday talk shows about a possible bipartisan deal, both President Obama and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank have personally urged Dodd not to cut a deal with Republicans. I asked Frank point blank why Dodd would want such a deal, and he said–on the record–”I have no idea, but both President Obama and I have urged him not to.”
This is a welcome sign that Obama realizes that public opinion is moving in the direction of tougher banking reform, and that he learned from the health debate that bipartisan compromise on key reform issues is a snare and a delusion. Kudos to Chairman Frank and to the President.
I wouldn’t hold my breath, Bob. You’re a nice guy, and it’s too bad your hopes are going to be dashed again. When will you wake up for good?
Matt Taibbi published a piece in the Guardian over the weekend. It’s supposedly about the SEC suit against Goldman Sachs, but Taibbi focuses mostly on trying to make the case that what happens in this suit will be a reflection of the long-running love affair of many Americans with Ayn Rand’s philosophy: Will Goldman Sachs prove greed is God? The title is a riff on Lloyd Blankfein’s famous claim that Goldman is doing “God’s work.” Here’s Taibbi’s conclusion:
People have to understand this Randian mindset is now ingrained in the American character. You have to live here to see it. There’s a hatred toward “moochers” and “parasites” – the Tea Party movement, which is mainly a bunch of pissed off suburban white people whining about minorities consuming social services, describes the battle as being between “water-carriers” and “water-drinkers”. And regulation of any kind is deeply resisted, even after a disaster as sweeping as the 2008 crash.
This debate is going to be crystallised in the Goldman case. Much of America is going to reflexively insist that Goldman’s only crime was being smarter and better at making money than IKB and ABN-Amro, and that the intrusive, meddling government (in the American narrative, always the bad guy!) should get off Goldman’s Armani-clad back. Another side is going to argue that Goldman winning this case would be a rebuke to the whole idea of civilisation – which, after all, is really just a collective decision by all of us not to screw each other over even when we can. It’s an important moment in the history of modern global capitalism: whether or not to move forward into a world of greed without limits.
Simon Johnson has a much more realistic and serious article at The Atlantic: “The Quiet Coup” Here’s the gist:
The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.
MEDIA OBSESSIONS: OBAMA AND PALIN
I guess this was a slow news weekend, because Time and New York Magazine chose to publish long, meaningless articles on Barack Obama and Sarah Palin respectively. Naturally, the Time piece by professional Obama sychophant Mark Halperin is an embarrassing verbal blow job, while the Palin article by Gabriel Sherman is just one more nasty hit piece on the woman liberals love to hate.
Let’s start with the competence Obama has shown. As he proved in the campaign, he is a master of personnel decisions, choosing people who are excellent at what they do, but also requiring that they play nicely with others. In the two most vital areas, national security and economic policy, all the President’s women and men generally get along well and have had critical roles in advancing the agenda. It is true that the economic team in particular has some rivalries, and the administration still hasn’t figured out how to overcome its collectively weak public communications skills on the economy. But overall, the White House is populated by hard workers who are rowing in unison to advance the cause, and rarely take their disagreements public through damaging leaks.
Obama’s two best personnel decisions were probably the two men serving right below him — Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Yes, Biden still falls victim to caricature as an irrepressible bigmouth and is the butt of late-night jokes. And Emanuel can be overly brash and flutter nerves both on Capitol Hill and among administration allies. But Obama knew what he was getting in both men and they have performed up to or above his expectations.
Gabriel Sherman on Palin: “Sarah Palin is already president of right-wing America—and it’s a position with a very big salary.”
The article begins by retelling the *horrifying* story of Palin’s resignation as Governor of Alaska. And guess what? She did it to make money! So shocking in the current atmosphere of government fighting against public and corporate corruption. Oh wait…
Oh and, Palin is stupid! But she still figured out ways to get really really rich! Because she’s “shrewd”–but still not intelligent.
…no one else has rolled politics and entertainment into the same scintillating, infuriating, spectacularly lucrative package the way Palin has or marketed herself over multiple platforms with the sophistication and sheer ambitiousness that Palin has shown, all while maintaining a viable presence as a prospective presidential candidate in 2012.
The numbers are staggering. Over the past year, Palin has amassed a $12 million fortune and shows no sign of slowing down. Her memoir has so far sold more than 2.2 million copies, and Palin is planning a second book with HarperCollins. This January, she signed a three-year contributor deal with Fox News worth $1 million a year, according to people familiar with the deal. In March, Palin and Burnett sold her cable show to TLC for a reported $1 million per episode, of which Palin is said to take in about $250,000 for each of the eight installments.
Oh yeah, and she gets $100,000 for a speech, just like George W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani:
Palin commands $100,000 per speech, putting her in the same league as fellow Speakers Bureau clients Colin Powell, George W. Bush, and Rudy Giuliani.
ODDS AND ENDS
Speaking of George W. Bush, his memoir is scheduled for release in November, to coincide with Republicans retaking Congress. And Laura Bush has a memoir coming out next month, according to the article in the Independent.
While he was in North Carolina over the weekend, President Obama paid a visit to ancient evangelical preacher Bill Graham. I honestly thought he was dead.
During the visit, Obama and the ailing Graham, 91, shared a private prayer and a conversation.
“I am pleased to have had President Obama in my home this afternoon,” Graham said in a statement.
“I want to encourage Christians everywhere to pray for our President, and for all those in positions of authority, and especially for the men and women serving in our military.”
Bla bla bla…who cares? How come Presidents always hang out with these nutty evangelists? And why is America so anti-intellectual? Is there somewhere I can go and get away from this? I feel like moving to northern North Dakota and living like a hermit in the middle of nowhere.
Obama National Security Advisor James Jones told a Taliban-Jewish joke over the weekend. It seems like a pretty bad choice.
National Security Adviser James L. Jones doesn’t necessarily come across as the amusing guy at policy events. Rather, the veteran general is known for his measured and careful wording, and his somewhat monotonic delivery.
Maybe that is why some were surprised when Jones decided to open his remarks at the 25-year anniversary gala of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy with a joke. Not just any joke — a Jewish joke that some say was in poor taste.
Here’s the “joke”:
A Taliban militant gets lost and is wandering around the desert looking for water. He finally arrives at a store run by a Jew and asks for water. The Jewish vendor tells him he doesn’t have any water but can gladly sell him a tie. The Taliban, the jokes goes on, begins to curse and yell at the Jewish storeowner. The Jew, unmoved, offers the rude militant an idea: Beyond the hill, there is a restaurant; they can sell you water. The Taliban keeps cursing and finally leaves toward the hill. An hour later he’s back at the tie store. He walks in and tells the merchant: “Your brother tells me I need a tie to get into the restaurant.”
[Dr. Henry S.] Heine, one of the few scientists at the Army lab with the skills to grow large batches of anthrax, told ProPublica it would have taken around “100 liters of liquid anthrax culture,” or more than 26 gallons, to grow all the dried spores that killed five Americans and infected 17 others.
“He couldn’t have done that without us knowing it,” said Heine.
Other biodefense scientists who didn’t work with Ivins have done the same calculations and reached the same conclusion as Heine.
How conveeeenient for the FBI that Ivins “committed suicide” in 2008.
Schaefer was serving a 20-year sentence at the national penitentiary in Santiago for sexually abusing children at the notorious commune known as Colonia Dignidad (The Dignity Colony).
The commune in southern Chile, also called Villa Baviera, was created as a place to safeguard Germanic traditions….Former members of the colony have admitted that human rights violations and sexual abuse of children occurred there…led by Schaefer’s influence.
Please excuse my response, but good riddance.
So what are you reading this morning? Please share your links in the comments, and have a marvelous Monday!!!!
Filed under: Barack Obama | Tagged: Anthrax case, Ayn Rand, Barack Obama, Financial Reform Bill, Fiscal Sustainability, Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, Matt Taibbi, Nazis, Palin Derangement Syndrome, Rep. Barney Frank, Robert Kuttner, Sen. Chris Dodd, Simon Johnson | 52 Comments »