Corzine headed fund misallocated customer money??

Dorothy Rodham, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s mother, died today at the age of 92.  Dorothy Rodham’s early life reminds me of my grandfather’s.  She grew up in a working class house, raised by her punishingly strict grandmother after her father sent her away.  She longed for a college education but girls like her were unlikely to get one.  Her life took a different path.  You can read more of her biography here.  We send our condolences to Hillary and her family.

*******************************************************************

MF Global, a brokerage firm recently run by Jon Corzine, filed for bankruptcy yesterday after it failed to close a deal with another brokerage firm to take it over.  The deal was scuttled when $700 million in customer deposits went missing.  Originally, it was thought nearly a billion was missing but some of that money later trickled in.  What happened to the $700 million?:

Regulators are examining whether MF Global diverted some customer funds to support its own trades as the firm teetered on the brink of collapse.

The discovery that money could not be located might simply reflect sloppy internal controls at MF Global.

Ahh, yes, the “internal controls”.  Does Sarbanes-Oxley apply to brokerage firms or does it just apply to every other corporation from CEO down to the glasswashers where every penny must be accounted for in mind numbing detail?  Oh, wait!  Here’s another article about Goldman-Sachs partners having extraordinary power over their internal controls and compliance and maybe *that’s* why Corzine got carried away (not that he did anything wrong).  It’s like the hazards of confidence  of people who believe in their own (godlike) abilities, the confidence in this case attributed to sitting on a pile of Goldman-Sachs cash and influence.  But what if you’re not at Goldman-Sachs anymore?  Where do you get the confidence to override your internal controls…?  Did I mention that Corzine was betting against the Sovereign debt crisis in Europe?  Yeah, he totally expected no countries to default and that the ECB and countries like Germany would bail everybody out.  Sure, go ahead and place a bet on all those bonds.  The European taxpayers will cover you.  How many other Wall Street firms did the same thing?  Well, we’ll all find out shortly.

But the investigation, which is in its earliest stages, may uncover something more intentional and troubling.

In any case, what led to the unaccounted-for cash could violate a tenet of Wall Street regulation: Customers’ funds must be kept separate from company money. One of the basic duties of any brokerage firm is to keep track of customer accounts on a daily basis.

Wait!  Didn’t Bank of America just transfer some of it’s shadier assets to the FDIC covered customer bank accounts side of its ledger sheet?  That sounds like mixing monies to me and sticking taxpayers with the responsibility to cover potentially catastrophic losses but maybe I’m just being one of those uninformed cotton-headed-ninny-muggins people who don’t really understand the glory of what the banking class is trying to accomplish.  

Jeez, you would have thought that Corzine, former governor of NJ who treated us New Jerseyans so tenderly by solving the property tax problem, oh wait, he didn’t actually do that.  Well, Corzine who was so respectful of New Jerseyans’ voter enfranchisement.  S%&#!  He was the one who gave away ALL of our delegates to Obama at the 2008 convention wasn’t he?  (the Obama contingent are rolling their eyes and can’t believe the rest of us haven’t gotten over that because after all, it was just hard ball politics.  OK, when it happens to YOUR votes, we’ll just tell you to suck it up and quit whining.  I mean, it’s only your vote.  It’s not like it actually counts for anything, as the Obama administration has proven again and again.  And again.)

So, what did Corzine do here?  Not that we’re claiming that Jon Corzine did anything wrong or anything because that would be slander or libel or something we never prosecute anymore and, anyways, there’s no proof!  No proof whatsoever that he did anything the least bit out of the ordinary.  Yep, he was just sitting quietly, with his hands neatly folded in his lap not bothering anyone…

When he arrived at MF Global — after more than a decade in politics, including serving as a Democratic United States senator from New Jersey — Mr. Corzine sought to bolster profits by increasing the number of bets the firm made using its own capital. It was a strategy born of his own experience at Goldman, where he rose through the ranks by building out the investment bank’s formidable United States government bond trading arm.

One of his hallmark traits, according to the 1999 book “Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success,” by Lisa Endlich, was his willingness to tolerate losses if the theory behind the trades was well thought out.

He made a similar wager at MF Global in buying up big holdings of debt from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium and Ireland at a discount. Once Europe had solved its fiscal problems, those bonds would be very profitable.

But when that bet came to light in a regulatory filing, it set off alarms on Wall Street. While the bonds themselves have lost little value and mature in less than a year, MF Global was seen as having taken on an enormous amount of risk with little room for error given its size. By Friday evening, MF Global was under pressure to put up more money to support its trading positions, threatening to drain the firm’s remaining cash.

Hmmm, it sounds to me like Corzine risked a little too much, had to cover his bets and found that he had insufficient funds to do so, but that’s just my uninformed interpretation.  And if he dipped into his customers’ accounts to take out a temporary loan?  Just enough to tie him over until the next paycheck?  I’m sure everything was going to turn out fine.  It’s not like he was supposed to have enough collateral around, because that might have been in that finance industry reform bill that got watered down to tincture of remedy status.  It seems like the other banks have been howling screams of pain over their obligations to cover their bets.  It sounds so onerous that I thought maybe that weak tea of a bill might have been too much.  Apparently not.

By late Sunday evening, an embattled MF Global had all but signed a deal with Interactive Brokers. The acquisition would have mirrored what Lehman Brothersdid in 2008, when its parent filed for bankruptcy but Barclays of Britain bought some of its assets.

But in the middle of the night, as Interactive Brokers investigated MF Global’s customer accounts, the potential buyer discovered a serious obstacle: Some of the customer money was missing, according to people close to the discussions. The realization alarmed Interactive Brokers, which then abandoned the deal.

Later on Monday, when explaining to regulators why the deal had fallen apart, MF Global disclosed the concerns over the missing money, according to a joint statement issued by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Regulators, however, first suspected a potential shortfall days ago as they gathered at MF Global’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters, the people briefed on the matter said. It is not uncommon for some funds to be unaccounted for when a financial firm fails, but the magnitude in the case of MF Global was unnerving.

[...]

But the firm has yet to produce evidence that all of the $600 million or $700 million outstanding is deposited with the banks, according to the people briefed on the matter. Regulators are looking into whether the customer funds were misallocated.

With the deal with Interactive Brokers dashed, MF Global was hanging in limbo for several hours before it filed for bankruptcy. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York and a number of exchanges said they had suspended MF Global from doing new business with them.

It was not the first time regulators expressed concerns about MF Global.

MF Global confirmed on Monday that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the S.E.C. — had “expressed their grave concerns” about the firm’s viability.

Presumably, the regulators let the customers know when they first had “grave concerns” about the firm’s viability so they could reconsider where they put their funds… or not.  “Grave concerns” sounds pretty ominous. Well, it’s not like his customer’s desires should have any bearing on what Corzine actually did with their money.  It’s just not his way.  I seem to recall that he was accused of playing with the NJ state workers’ pension funds but let’s not cast aspersions until I find some links that aren’t in virulently conservative Republican sites.  Still, the pensions are in trouble and this latest information about how Corzine plays fast and loose with money does make one wonder…

And people wonder why OccupyWallStreet has become so popular.

Hey!  Here’s a blast from the past.  Remember when Jon Corzine was at the Democratic National Convention giving away all of his state’s delegates to a candidate that lost the state primary by 10 points?  Memories, it brings a tear to the eye.  Sobbing, actually.  It’s a good thing that Corzine knows people in high places who owe him *big* favors.

Corzine: “She would have been able to handle this Congress”

Corzine knew better

So, the former governor of New Jersey attended a birthday party for the Big Dawg and in one sentence managed to sum up everything that is wrong with the Democratic party right now:

“…Susan and Alan Patricof watched the slenderized and beaming couple kick it up to “You’re Still the One” as former New Jersey Senator John Corzine looked on wistfully. “I just wish,” Corzine said shaking his head, “I mean I knew — she would have been able to handle this Congress… but it was just Obama’s time.”

Stand back, Myiq, I can handle this.

Dear Jon, this statement exemplifies why you aren’t the Governor of New Jersey any more.  I voted for you for Senator and Governor.   After Christie Whitman left, I thought it was time for a Democrat to take control of the state and work on property tax reform.  You remember property taxes?  Those things that increase mortgage payments by roughly 50%?  Yeah, the voters of NJ expected you to do something about that, like adopt a more Pennsylvania like tax system.  You know, spread the responsibility, move towards a more equitable income tax solution, or hit your buds to pony up more, maybe consolidate some municipalities so they shared services, work with the teacher’s unions to make sure teachers proved themselves before they got tenure.  You know, stuff like that.  But you examined the problem only briefly, threw up your hands and declared yourself powerless and expected us to just kind of suck it up and vote for you again.

It reminds me of some of Obama’s legislative “victories”.  His supporters say he’s powerless to influence the big bad, nasty, wasty Republicans so his proposals are weak tea and do nothing to alleviate the suffering of millions of Americans.  But, Golly!, he certainly has a record of legislative accomplishments, doesn’t he?  No one since FDR has dones so much.  I guess all that Civil Rights legislation and Great Society stuff and Medicare doesn’t count.  LBJ must be rolling in his grave.  But isn’t Reagan delicious??

But I digress.  Let’s look at what your statement actually says.  We’ll break it down for the slow witted.

1.) “I knew — she would have been able to handle this Congress”.  That’s a very interesting admission, Jon.  Presumably, you had insight into Hillary’s capacity to govern because you had seen her in action.  You were in the Senate at roughly the same time.  You worked with her.  And she would have had a very powerful mentor at her side at all times who she could have asked for advice.  Initially, you were a Clinton Superdelegate.  That’s because even you could see that after eight years of George Bush’s devastating disaster of a presidency, the country was going to need a responsible, capable, experienced leader to clean up.  It would have been a thankless job too.  Because avoiding a financial crisis like the one we have now wouldn’t have the same impact as fixing it now that the economy is totally broken.  If Hillary had been elected and structured the TARP in such a way that the big banks had been taken over, that homeowners had been able to keep their houses and paid the banks on time and real, ready-to-go infrastructure projects had put people back to work, she would have just looked like a good president.  If we elect her in 2012 and she does all of these things, she will look absolutely Rooseveltesque!  Obama might not like that much but, trust me, the American people will love it.

2.) “…but it was just Obama’s time.”  No, Jon, it was OUR time.  That is, the American people’s time.  It was time for us to stop being terrified of scary Muslims.  It was our time to stop the slide of the middle class towards destitution.  It was our time to invest in infrastructure and our future.  We needed a leader who was ready and able to help us do that.  It wasn’t feminists’ time or African Americans’ time.  The prize of the presidency of the United States was not a personal accomplishment for Barack Obama.  He wasn’t ready for a commitment as big as this one.  And this is where you made your fatal mistake.

Where the hell do you get off substituting your opinion for expressed wishes of the voters of your state?  As a superdelegate, you can do whatever fool thing you want with your vote.  But you don’t have the right to take the primary results of millions of people of the state you govern and dump them in nearest waste paper receptacle because you are dazzled by a Wall Street shmoozer who thinks it is his destiny to rule the world.  You may have thought the local Democratic machine wouldn’t stand in your way if you did it anyway but the voters had the right to hold you accountable for your lack of effort and your bad judgment.  That’s why you’re not Governor anymore.

If there’s anyone to blame for Chris Christie’s win in NJ, it’s YOU, Jon.  All you had to do was act like you actually cared about the voters in your state.  Instead, you behaved with arrogance, detachment and wrong headed stupidity.  You saddled a lot of New Jersey residents with taxes they struggle to pay and you deprived them of a voice in the most crucial election of their lifetimes.  And for that, the voters held you personally responsible.

And that’s going to happen to Congress this fall.

Thanks for nothing.

BTW, Happy Belated Birthday, Bill.

(And so’s your wife)

Martha Coakley and the Despicable Democratic Spin Meisters

The Dems are fashioning a pre-emptive strike in advance of Martha Coakley’s potentially disastrous loss on Tuesday.  Let the record show that the Democrats are starting to parrot the Fox News pundits.  From the NY Times this morning comes these tasty tidbits to savor:

“It comes from the fact that Obama as president has had to deal with all these major crises he inherited: the banks, fiscal stimulus,” said Senator Paul G. Kirk Jr., the Democrat who holds the Massachusetts seat on an interim basis pending the special election. “But for many people it was like, ‘Jeez, how much government are we getting here?’ That might have given them pause.”

and…

Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, said the atmosphere was a serious threat to Democrats. “I do think there’s a chance that Congressional elites mistook their mandate,” Mr. Bayh said. “I don’t think the American people last year voted for higher taxes, higher deficits and a more intrusive government. But there’s a perception that that is what they are getting.”

I love this stuff.

Presumably, the 2008 primary voters of Massachusetts realized that Obama would inherit a lot of crap from his predecessor.  This is not news to them.  That’s probably why they didn’t vote for him. Maybe it’s just me but when I was written off by my own party as an inconvenient vote, a rage simmered in me just waiting for an opportunity to strike back.  Maybe, if Jon Corzine had acted like a real Democrat and had spent his four year term making the NJ tax system fairer, he would have gotten a second chance.  But Corzine wasn’t done in by more Republicans voting so much as he failed to get Democrats to the polls.  You can call it an enthusiasm gap if you want.

Or you can parrot the Republican line and say that people are objecting to more big government.  {{snort!}} Yes, that may be the perception that they’re getting because that is the perception that Democrats like Bayh are promoting.  But if that’s true, why the heck is my email account cluttered up with appeal after appeal for money for Coakley in Massachusetts.  I mean, don’t Democrats want government that works for voters?  So, they are saying one thing to the cable news audience and another thing to their (former) Democratic base?  Whoda thunkit?

Could you Democrats just cut the crap already?

If Martha Coakley loses on Tuesday it will be because she succumbed to a trait common to most tragic heros: arrogance.  Everyone thought that she was a shoe in when she won the primary, including the candidate herself.  What she is instead is a very bad politician.  Politics requires some showmanship.  You have to be able to read your audience.  But Martha Coakley is stupidly honest about what she thinks of her sucker voters.  She roped in her liberal Massachusetts constituents by presenting her liberal credentials in the primary and then did a 180 on them a short time later by embracing the health care reform act.  She signalled in advance that she didn’t really give a damn about what her liberal constituents thought.

Martha didn’t have to do this.  This is Massachusetts.  Democrats outnumber Republicans by millions.  It remains a mystery why she tacked right in a state where tacking right is a non-starter.  I can’t imagine what DC Democrats thought they could get from it unless they wanted her to lose.  But then, why all of the appeals for cash?  Why the sense of panic and desperation?  What nitwit in Washington thought it was a good idea for Coakley to broadcast the fact that she was going to screw her voters?  The loyalty pledge to Obama and the powers that back him up has finally met its match.

I wouldn’t presume to tell Massachusetts how to vote on Tuesday and they’re not looking for me for guidance anyway.  But we can look at the likely outcome.  It’s going to be Democrats that determine this thing, either by defection or by staying home.  If they elect Scott Brown, they send a potent message to the party and the country that they’re sick and tired of being jerked around by Democrats In Name Only that pretend to share their values but are really beholden to a small evil group to which no one they know belongs.  That gives national Democrats about 10 months to get their shit together and quit playing games.

If they vote for Coakley, even if the outcome is close, they signal to Washington that they are perfectly willing to be suckers but they end up with a woman who will get them closer to that 30% critical mass of female legislators that will eventually have the power to tell the Rahm Emannuel types to go take a long walk on a short pier when it comes to selling out their gender for the sake of some uber shmoozer’s political reputation. Unfortunately, that 30% level is still a loonnnng way off. Still, going forward is a potent argument.

But it Coakley loses on Tuesday, the Democrats would be wise to yank the Kirks and Bayhs from the airwaves.  The base won’t be buying it anymore.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Daggett wins second debate for NJ Governor

Daggett's Sea of Green

Daggett's Sea of Green

I got a call the other day from the Daggett campaign, the independent candidate for governor of New Jersey, to meet for a rally before the second and last debate in the race.  The debate was yesterday at William Paterson University in Totowa NJ.  All of the usual suspects were there.  Corzine’s crew brought in a lot of union guys.  The Republicans had their anti-choice crowd.  There were a surprising number of conspiracy theorists who turned out to protest childhood vaccinations and specifically the H1N1 vaccine.  Don’t even get me started.

And then there was the Daggett campaign.  We had about as many ralliers as the other two campaigns and some nifty bright green signs and T-shirts.  Green sort of speaks to Daggett’s environmental creds. He’s been endorsed by the Sierra Club. By the way, Daggett’s campaign staff is drop dead gorgeous.  His rally coordinator is so hot you could bake cookies on him.  One of his staff, a tall beautiful blonde, was wearing a very fashionable sweater minidress that showcased the most amazingly long, perfect legs.  Just before the debate started, she strutted across the loge, like Joan Holloway on a mission, right in front of a bunch of Corzine supporters.  Their jaws dropped and every pair of eyes, mine included, followed her shapely gams right up to her callipygian butt.  Well done!  You can be smart and smokin’ hot.  Too bad you missed it, myiq.

The debate was sponsored and obviously controlled by the local Fox affiliaate.  I managed to snag a ticket for the debate literally minutes before it began. (Thank you, hot cookie guy!)  I don’t know the criteria that was used to give out advanced tickets but it was clearly rigged in Chris Christie’s favor.  Like I said, there weren’t an overwhelming number of Republicans outside but, judging by the cheering and applause, Republicans inside Shea PAC outnumbered the other campaigns by about 2:1.  Bostonboomer, who liveblogged the debate last night, reported that the Fox commentators talked over Daggett’s responses and occasionally Corzine. allowing Christie to pontificate in his big beefy goodness without interruption.  As we were outside during the rally, one Republican operative approached our group and said, “How does it feel to be marginalized?”  He seemed disturbed.  We were cheerily unperturbed.  We know there are a lot of New Jerseyans who are registered ‘unaffiliated’. All they need is a good reason to vote for the third guy.  (Note to Daggett’s campaign: I know your poll position is crappy.  So, why not take a cue from Joe Lieberman’s senate campaign in 2006 and create and ad with a snappy mnemonic so that voters can find you?)

Now, onto the debate.  I was transfixed.  I’ve never been to a live debate before.  And while this wasn’t as high stakes as a presidential debate, I have to give a lot of credit to the organizers and the candidates for sticking to the rules.  There were no gotcha questions.  The Lightening Round was a chance for the candidates to reveal their personalities and turned out to be pretty funny.

In short, this should be a model for all debates going forward.  I learned a lot about all three candidates and their approach to fixing what ails New Jersey.  But it was Daggett who stole the show.  Seriously, guys, I could vote for this man for president.  He’s got that Hillary Clinton policy wonk thing down cold.  He was well prepared for most questions and for the ones where he didn’t have an immediate answer, I got the sense that his mental gears were clicking.

Daggett could have a lot of appeal to both Democrats and Republicans.  He is liberal on social issues, prudent and conservative on fiscal issues.  He emphasizes tax cuts for homeowners and corporations.  I’m a little worried by how he intends to pay for it but his idea of expanding the sales tax to items that the upper middle and upper class purchase is a step in the right direction.  In fact, he could go even further and impose a small sales tax on most consumer goods (2-4%?  It would still be lower than surrounding states).   In New Jersey, we don’t have a sales tax on food or most consumer items.  There is a restaurant tax but if you go to the grocery store, no tax on most products.  New York, by contrast, has up to a 9% tax on just about everything (See Ann’s comment for more precise details).  So, you can see why New Jersey is an attractive place to shop.  On the other hand, our property taxes are through the roof.  For example, I pay more than $500 on my little townhouse – per month.  Yep, after the ridiculous federal, social security and state income taxes are paid from my generous paycheck, reducing me to just average Jane Bagodonuts, I pay more than $500 per month on a house with no property.  Personally, I don’t mind shifting some to that tax to consumable goods.  Let the people who buy the luxury cars and high end consumables pick up the tab.  Daggett also proposes a tax on gas to pay for transportation infrastructure and mass transit.  I think this is a good idea, especially if it encourages more use of mass transit in a state as congested as New Jersey.

Where I had some issues with Daggett was his approach to health care.  His opposition to the public option is not necessarily a dealbreaker for me.  I think policy wonks are able to see permutations to solving these kinds of problems because they understand the mechanisms of government.  So, if we ended up with a German type of health care, ie private insurance but highly regulated, that would be Ok with me as long as everyone is covered, insurance companies and health care providers are held accountable with mandates  for basic policies  and public funds are used to provide subsidies for those individuals who can’t afford it.  I don’t think that’s what we’re getting with Obamacare where the mandates seem to be falling more heavily on the individual and choice of insurance company is limited.  While single payer would eliminate a lot of our administrative headaches and it works for other countries, it’s not the only answer.  There’s no reason to suppose it couldn’t work here but we can’t rule out other models that check the health care industry just as well.

Daggett also didn’t have an answer for how to fund state colleges and universities.  Well, he’s got a couple of weeks to come up with an answer.  To be fair, Corzine and Christie weren’t any better on this question.  Corzine points to state financial aid grants as a sort of bandaid on the problem. Christie got all sentimental about sending his four children to local schools but added nothing to the conversation.  Daggett at least acknowledged that there was a problem with the underlying structure of state aid to colleges and universities that needed to be addressed.  He just needs to find a funding mechanism.  Might I suggest one?  Ok, this is going to sound crazy and bring out the MADD crew but most New Jersey restaurants do not have liquor licenses.  Yep, if you want to go out to a nice, new restaurant for a special dinner, you’d better call ahead because you might have to brown bag it, and drink everything you bring with you.  There aren’t that many licenses available and most of them are bought up by big chain restaurants and, I suspect, the mafia.  If you go to New York or Pennsylvania, this is never an issue.  You can get a nice glass of chard just about anywhere.  So, sell more liquor licenses, license grocery stores to sell wine and beer and watch the revenue flow in.  This leftover from Prohibition is only benefitting organized crime.

The dynamics of the debate were also pretty interesting to watch.  After Daggett’s responses to questions, Corzine frequently agreed with him in response but never once referred to him by name.  Corzine continued to frame the debate as between two party representatives, him and Chris Christie.  I think that might have worked in any other year when there wasn’t such a strong, articulate, engaging third party candidate.  I’m not sure it will work this year.  In Daggett’s closing statement, he makes a point of reminding the audience that in spite of what Corzine and Christie’s wishful thinking, there *is* a choice this year.  There is a third party candidate who offers something new, different and positive.

Go, Daggett, GO!

PS:  This race is phenomenally expensive and Daggett has chosen to run on public funds.  Corzine has spent $20 million on ads attacking Chris Christie’s waistline.  Daggett is trying to run a positive campaign on limited funds.  Just sayin’.

Note: The second debate will be televised tomorrow.  I’ll try to do another live blog because I think it is important to think outside the box, especially when there is a viable third party candidate like Daggett.  These people need more attention and support to give voters more choices and keep the other parties on their toes.

digg!!! tweet!!! share!!!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Furl | Newsvine

NJ’s largest paper endorses Chris Daggett for Governor and rejects the two party system

Chris Daggett, Independent Candidate for NJ Governor

Chris Daggett, Independent Candidate for NJ Governor

Man-o-man, I should’ve been paying closer attention.  Guys, this is the Big Kahuna.  The Star-Ledger, one of New Jersey’s largest papers, has endorsed Independent Chris Daggett for governor.  The reasons for this endorsement are spectacular.  Let’s have a read:

The Star-Ledger today endorses independent candidate Chris Daggett and recommends his election as the next governor of New Jersey.

The newspaper’s decision is less a rejection of Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie than a repudiation of the parties they represent, both of which have forfeited any claim to the trust and confidence of the people of New Jersey. They share responsibility for the state’s current plight.

Only by breaking the hold of the Democratic and Republican mandarins on the governor’s office and putting a rein on their power will the state have any hope for the kind of change needed to halt its downward economic, political and ethical spiral.

New Jersey needs radical change in Trenton. Neither of the major parties is likely to provide it. Daggett’s election would send shock waves through New Jersey’s ossified political system and, we believe, provide a start in a new direction.

It would signal the entrenched leadership of both parties — and the interest groups they regularly represent — that an ill-served and angry electorate demands something better.

The lamentable fact is that the two parties are, themselves, little more than narrow special interests. Their competition for short-term political and/or monetary gain has jeopardized the state’s long-term economic health and left it with a tarnished national reputation.

For disappointed Democrats and Republicans, a decision to vote for Daggett will mean a break with party loyalty — no easy thing. What we’re suggesting is a temporary suspension of that loyalty as a way to begin changing the corrosive culture of Trenton. Daggett would owe nothing to either party establishment; he’d be free to recruit best talent wherever he found it. As he told The Star-Ledger editorial board, he’d feel no obligation to honor the traditional Democratic-Republican deal that requires bipartisan balance on the Supreme Court. He’d apparently take the best he could find regardless of party affiliation — or lack thereof.

Just go read the whole thing.  This is potentially a shot heard round the country.  Daggett is still polling behind Jon “I’m awarding all of Hillary’s delegates to Obama” Corzine and Chris Christie.  But in recent weeks, he’s gone from nowhere to capturing almost 20% of the vote.  It wouldn’t be the first time a state has elected an Independent for Governor, think Jesse Ventura in Minnesota.  But New Jersey is huge compared Minnesota.  There’s still several weeks left for Daggett to make up ground.  I’ve seen Daggett/Esposito signs on my way to work and I understand that his performance at the first debate was really good.

I do worry about Daggett’s intention of taking on the unions, especially the teacher’s union.  But having served on a NJ Board of Ed, I also understand that the union wields a big stick but doesn’t always deliver results.  Lifetime tenure is granted to teachers in my district after 3 years with little or no expectation that they will acquire new skills or expertise for a changing global marketplace.  It does concern me when Daggett pledges to take on the pensions of public servants.   We also need to demand more of NJ’s wealthiest  residents who like the tax system as it is- balanced on the backs of middle class homeowners.  I hope he will address this problem.  The last thing we want is to hobble the unions so much that they cease to be examples of labor strength.  Daggett needs to find a happy medium.

As the Star-Ledger says, here’s the way to take back your government.  What our current crop of politicians need right now is discipline and for the voters to hold them accountable for their bad behavior.  With the election of people like Daggett, we are capable of issuing the parties a warning.  Shape up or it’s four years on the Naughty Step.  And then we keep putting them back on that step until they get the message and do what we tell them to do.  All we lack is the courage and determination to carry through on our warnings.

If we end up with better politicians in the meantime, so much the better.

If you want to help send shockwaves around NJ and the rest of the country, you can contribute to Daggett’s campaign here. The next debate for Governor will be October 16 and will be broadcast on October 18.

Oh, and one more thing for our NJ readers out there.  Jon Corzine and the Democratic party has absolutely no respect for you as a voter.  Don’t forget that Hillary Clinton won our state by 10 points but didn’t get a single delegate from our state at the 2008 Democratic Party Convention in Denver.  Instead, Jon Corzine handed all of our votes, every last one of them, over to Barack Obama.  They didn’t listen to us last year.  That’s why they aren’t listening to us this year.  Corzine is sadly mistaken if he thought we would ever forget the disgraceful behavior of our superdelegates at the Convention.  If you want your vote to actually mean something again, start by throwing this guy out of office:

NJ has a place to go! Chris Daggett airs his first campaign ad

If you’ve been following this blog for the past couple of months, you should know that Democrat Jon Corzine, the incumbent, is trailing Republican Chris Christie for Governor of New Jersey.  Christie’s lead over Corzine has dwindled in the past week.  He now has about 6 points over Corzine.  But the curious thing is the actual poll numbers.  Christie is at about 47%, Corzine is at 41%.  So, what accounts for the missing 12%?  Undecideds account for some of that missing 12%.  And then, there are some newly unaffiliated voters, such as myself, who are taking a hard look at THIS guy:

Independent candidate, Chris Daggett got his PhD in education but he’s been working for and with both Republicans, like former governor Thomas Kean, and with Democratic administrations in NJ on environmental issues for many years.  He recently received an endorsement from the Sierra Club and his stance on social issues puts him in the moderate to liberal camp.   He has some daring ideas on education and has about as good a chance as either of the other two candidates in reforming the property tax issue. He may be a relative unknown now but Daggett has a slot at the candidate’s debate in early October and from what I understand, he can think and speak in coherent sentences.

The property tax issue is what is dragging down Jon Corzine.  This ad depicts Corzine’s attitude perfectly.  He is detached and uninterested in the crushing tax burden that most homeowners face, including yours truly.  In his first term as governor, he did diddly squat to reform the state’s funding mechanism.  Christie is a Bush Republican.  ‘Nuff said.  Neither one of them is a prize.

Jane Hamsher and her readers should take note.  What we have here is a “teachable moment”.  Remember Lamont, Jane?  I do.  I answered your call and canvassed for him in CT on the weekend before the primary.  We changed the narrative in 2006. This is an opportunity to scare the bejeesus out of the Democratic party.  You know, the one that told us we had no place else to go?  This election is a referendum on Obama, so saith Bloomberg.   And THIS year, I do have someplace else to go.

digg!!! tweet!!! share!!!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Furl | Newsvine

NJ Governor’s race is a referendum on Obama

Taffeta, darling.  It wrinkles so easily.

"Taffeta, darling. It wrinkles so easily."

I’ve been a little quiet lately, mostly because just about all I needed to say about Obama and what a disaster he was going to be to the party was said last year.  It’s nice to see that the rest of the blogosphere is finally coming to the same place that the PUMAs were in back in 2008.  (See here and here)  We’re all old, postmenopausal, uneducated, working class racists now, even Kos.  Welcome to the club, buddy!  We’ll put your white sheet and estrogen replacement therapy starter pack in the mail.

But the scorched earth Obama primary campaign of 2008 continues to have collateral damage in other not so obvious ways.  Take the governor’s race in NJ, for example.  Jon Corzine is still trailing Chris Christie, in some polls by 10% or more.  Bloomberg now says that this off-year election race is a referendum on the Obama presidency:

The elections offer a test of whether the electricity Obama generated with voters during his campaign will power other Democrats.

Obama has been campaigning for both Governor Jon Corzine, 62, of New Jersey and Creigh Deeds, 51, a state senator running for governor in Virginia. The president’s push for health-care legislation and unprecedented federal spending on the worst financial crisis in 70 years has created headaches for his fellow Democrats, who both trail their opponents in the polls.

“The political bounce on everything that’s happened this summer has made people much more cautious, much more conservative and fearful of change,” said Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Support for Obama and his policies has eroded over the summer. The percentage of Americans who disapprove of his handling of health care has jumped to 50 percent from 29 percent in April, an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted Aug. 13 to 17 found.

There’s a reason why support for Obama and his policies have eroded over the summer.  He didn’t start out of the gate with the hope and change he promised, didn’t protect taxpayers from the bankers and didn’t present a strong health care policy that takes the profit out of insuring people’s health.  He didn’t do those things because he’s never really been much of a Democrat, much less a liberal one.  He has no core Democratic principles, something Jane Hamsher, Chris Bowers and Markos Moulitsas didn’t think was so important last year.  Well, that was before they became racists.

The problem is that a little more than half of the Democratic base didn’t vote for Obama in the primaries last year.  They voted for the other guy.  After 8 years of Bush, patiently waiting for 8 F&*%ing years, they wanted the most Democratic president they could get.  But the party shoved Obama down our throats instead in a frenzy of money lust and as a teachable moment on race.  (as if teachable moments on gender were not very important, but I digress.)

This is the situation we have in NJ as well, where we voted for Clinton by more than 10 points but saw Corzine give every one od our delegates to Obama at the convention.  You know, if I were Corzine, I’d be regretting that decision right about now because he’s been trailing Christie by about 10% all election season.  Primary voters usually are party loyalists.  Messing with them was a really baaaad idea. It doesn’t help that, like Obama, Corzine really isn’t much of a Democrat.  In spite of the fact that the state Assembly is in Democratic hands, he has done nothing about restructuring the tax system here in NJ, which funds EVERYTHING on the backs of homeowners.  You redstaters out there who think you have it bad with taxes should see the tax bill I have on my modest little townhouse.  Corzine didn’t take that issue seriously, just like Obama isn’t taking health care seriously or the financial crisis seriously or Afghanistan seriously.

If you’re going to act like a Republican anyway, as well as being permanently associated with Goldman Sachs, does it matter if we vote for you?  There are choices, by the way.  We don’t have to vote for Chris Christie.  I know Corzine would like everyone to believe that Christie is his only competition.  Corzine even tried to move the debate from the beginning of October to the end  so no one would know there was a third candidate.   Corzine can’t afford to lose any more ground to any other candidate.

The Star-Ledger says Daggett speaks in coherent sentences!

The Star-Ledger says Daggett speaks in coherent sentences!

But Independent Chris Daggett, who’s going to be at that debate,  just got an endorsement from the Sierra Club so I’m taking a second look at him.  Plus, he’s got some ideas about education and lifetime tenure of new teachers that I find interesting, especially since this has the potential of improving the preparation of teachers in NJ schools in the area of Math and Science. Daggett could pick up a lot of support in the growing Asian community if he emphasized a math and science component of his education plan.  And those of you who have had enough of Bush’s and now Obama’s rambling speeches and non-sequitors will appreciate this comment from our local Star-Ledger:

Daggett stands to be the most articulate of the three as well. Christie piles on the platitudes like a pie-man piles on the pizza toppings. Corzine tends to get lost in the funhouse of his own thoughts. Daggett speaks in coherent sentences….So this race promises to be a real roller-coaster ride. Fasten your seat belt.

That’s a good sign.  It means that Daggett’s at least engaged his mind before he’s opened his mouth.  He’s pretty reasonable on social issues as well.

As for Corzine, what goes around, comes around.   Maybe he can get a job in his old pal, Barack Obama’s administration, for what ever is left of his term.

Please Digg!!! Share!!! Tweet!!!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Furl | Newsvine

Thursday Morning News and Note to the DSCC

The last time I saw Paris...

The last time I saw Paris...

Before we get to the cafe au lait and croissants, I’d like to relate an encounter with the remnants of what *used* to be my party.  A few days ago, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, the DSCC, called me at home to hit me up for a donation.  Almost immediately, I told them to save their breath.  I had no intention of contributing money to any arm of the Democratic party after what transpired during the primaries last year.  I told the phone guy (and it’s ALWAYS a guy) that I had left the party over the primary debacle.  He sounded confused, like a boyfriend who can’t possibly understand why you are mad at him for acting like a jerk.  He asked me to explain so he could pass the information on.  So, I told him: I voted for Hillary in the NJ primary, a primary she won by more than 10 points, and watched every one of our delegates go to Obama during the convention.  Does my vote count or not?  If it doesn’t count, then why does the party expect me to give it money?  I’m not stupid.

The guy laughed at me.  It was a laugh of both nervousness and contempt.  Contempt, I suspect, because old, uneducated, working class, sino-peruvian lesbians aren’t supposed to really count even when they are not old, not uneducated, and are professional straight, scientific researcher women such as myself.  If you’re not twenty three and impressionable, I guess you might as well apologize for living and forcing people to gaze upon your aging visage.  Your intellect is of no interest to the guys of the Democratic party.

The nervousness was new.  Yep, the guy tried to pull off a mocking laugh, the kind you reserve for losers, but there was something behind that mockery that belied the confidence.  I don’t know how many women had turned this guy down on the phone but maybe I was the first that gave him an actual reason that made sense.  It must suck to find out that you’re no longer the guy you thought you were and women are on to your lies and your secret viagra stash.

Get a clue, guys.  You took our votes and forced Obama down our throats in your primary rape fantasy and we’re not ever going to forget it.  He turned out to be exactly what we said he was: an overly ambitious, shmoozing, political opportunist without a political philosophy, experience and hard earned relationships necessary to get things done.  There’s no 11 dimensional chess going on here.  Just a bunch of jerks who thought they could write off the votes of millions of people, many of them women, and get away with it.  Go ahead and laugh.  You’ll never get a penny from me.  And you may never get my vote again.  You don’t have to be a crazy nutcase birther to know the devils by the look in  their eyes.

Now, onto the news:

Slate’s The Big Money is behind the curve when it comes to Sheila Bair.  I believe we covered this months ago.  (In January, and  July, not to mention Dakinkat‘s stuff from two days ago) But, hey, it’s nice to see other media types are getting with the program and realizing that sexism costs.

The NYTimes reports White House Affirms Deal on Drug Prices.  I’m not sure what that means ultimately.  As I have pointed out before, the pharmaceutical industry has some very legitimate reasons for wanting to work with Congress and the WH on issues concerning the drug industry and health reform.  But it’s really cutting its throat going with a lobbyist like Billy Tauzin and jumping in with the health insurance industry’s public relations team.  Big Pharma’s concerns are not the same as the health insurance company’s concerns.  We actually produce something of value, remember guys?  Ah, Jeez, there are those *guys* again the ones who run the drug industry.  The clueless ones who still think that the most important activities in a pharma company happen in marketing, advertising and acquisitions instead of the lab.  Just forget it.  Lay us all off now and get with dismantling the US research community and moving it overseas.  Just get it over with already.

Jon Corzine is still behind and Christie’s lead seems to be widening. Cue the schadenfreude. {{snicker}}  Corzine’s campaign is planning to launch a spot featuring Pres Barack Obama himself when he came to NJ to rally for the governor.  Polls indicate Obama’s appearance mattered not a whit.  But this little bit from Obama on Corzine’s accomplishments had me laughing:

“Jon Corzine has not only protected funding for New Jersey schools, he reformed them with tougher standards and now students in New Jersey rank at the top of the country in reading and math because of Jon Corzine.”

Yes, indeedy. If your kid is an average to bright learner in NJ, or if you have a special needs kid, NJ public schools are pretty good. Not the best with clear, concise, non fuzzy standards that over romanticize the child. But not bad.
However, if you have a kid who is very gifted, you enter into a Kafkaesque nightmare of educational ideology exacerbated by almost complete lack of funding from state and local governments. How much non-funding of the state’s gifted and talented program is unclear at this time. There is no information on whether there was any funding for these underserved students for 2009 but recent years indicate that these programs in the state of NJ got zip, zilch, nada. There are also virtually no standards or mandates regarding their education, leaving them at the mercy of teachers who have never been trained in the care and feeding of gifted youth.

Yep, here in NJ, the home of Einstein and Edison, the birthplace of telecom, the home to research laboratories that crank out cures for cancer and schizophrenia, the gifted and talented students are treated as inconveniences. As the mother of one of these kids, who absolutely hates school here, I can attest to the whack-a-mole approach to getting her educated at her developmental level. I and many of my colleagues have had to scramble to meet our gifted kids’ educational needs through a series of summer courses at local prep schools, distance learning through programs for gifted youth at Stanford University and by homeschooling. That’s what my outrageous property taxes in NJ buy me in NJ- a school system and education department that is completely unresponsive to the needs of my kid. And Corzine during his tenure, has done less to improve this situation than many states in the south to service this population of students who could potentially solve the energy crisis, invent a new cure for cancer or be our next political leader. Your gifted kid gets better treatment in Texas and Georgia than in NJ. NJ ranks right down there with Alabama.

Gifted by State

Gifted by State

Thanks for nothing, Jon. It’s just one more reason to skip the election this year.

Well, that and the clueless idiots of the Democratic party.

Please Tweet!!! Dig!!! Share!!!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Furl | Newsvine

Thursday Morning Breakfast

A month from now, I will have lost the muffin top and will be lounging around somewhere in Maui drinking Bad Ass Coffee for breakfast.  I will toss my red hair in the trade winds and laugh, “ha-hahhhh!”  Until then, four more weeks in frickin’ New Jersey with an eighth grader who is making my life miserable because I decided to do an academic intervention and send her to an intense five weeks of algebra this summer.  (No, she didn’t fail anything.  She’s just an underachieving G&T kid who refuses to do her homework).  Seven more days of adolescent sturm and drang before she aces the final and killing her becomes a lot less attractive as a coping mechanism.  I can’t wait.

Bad Ass Coffee

Bad Ass Coffee

In the meantime, lean your surfboard against the wall, grab a cup of kona and read the news.

Corzine *still* trails Christie by 10+ points in the NJ Governor’s race.  {{smirk!}}  Karma’s a bitch, Jon.  Oh, by the way, Hillary hasn’t completely ruled out running for President but she says it’s really unlikely.

Obama has pulled out all of the stops and is asking the public to support his health care plan. First bloggers, now a direct appeal to the rest of us.  What’s the hurry?  It won’t take effect until 2013 anyway and as reform goes, it isn’t that great.  As long as we have four years to implement it, why not take it niiiiice and sloooow and work all of the bugs out of the system.  if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?  Color me suspicious on the rush job.  For instance, take this “Oh, really?” bit of BS:

With Republicans and some moderate Democrats on Capitol Hill balking at both the specifics of the legislation and Mr. Obama’s timetable for House and Senate passage of the bills, the White House is now trying to rally legislative support and public opinion by linking health care to the nation’s economic health and offering the promise of tangible benefits to Americans.

“If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit,” he said. “If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket.” He acknowledged that Americans were anxious, saying, “Folks are skeptical, and that is entirely legitimate.”

Folks are skeptical because for the vast majority of us, reform ain’t gonna happen.  We’ll be locked into our current plan and insurers can continue to maximize profits.  Costs and deficits are going to continue to rise for four more years until this baby takes effect and eve the Congressional Budget Office says the current plan will do nothing to curb costs.  The insurance industry seems to be getting a great deal out of this one.  Maybe that’s why they want to seal this deal before anyone finds out.  Call it Son of TARP.

And this is just silly:

At first, House Democrats were weighing a tax on Americans making more than $280,000 a year; now there is talk of imposing the tax on those households earning $1 million or more, an idea Mr. Obama said he favored because it would not put the burden of paying for the bill on the middle class.

“To me, that meets my principle, that it’s not being shouldered by families who are already having a tough time,” he said.

Mr. Obama also signaled that he might be open to another idea under consideration in the Senate : taxing employer-provided health benefits, as long as the tax did not fall on the middle class.

I don’t think the middle class who make less than a million a year would mind a small tax increase if the quality of the health care insurance that everyone received improved.  You can make a small tax very attractive if the results are significantly better than what we’ve got.  Think Social Security.  That’s not what this bill proposes.  But it doesn’t surprise me that Obama would throw out this not-very-well-thought-out, disjointed statement. He doesn’t lead from principle.  He doesn’t lead.  He follows.  And it’s becoming clear that he is worried about media driven public opinion but not terribly worried about doing the right thing.  So what else is new?

Meanwhile, back in Sudan, Iraq, Iran, China and Kyrgystan (Kyrgystan??)…  There are a heck of a lot of foreign news stories on the frontpage.  What’s up with that?  Are these all turning into hotspots or are they just bright shiny objects?

The Birthers are back. Birther prophylactic: we are not nor ever have been associated with the birther movement.  It’s a pointless distraction.  I figure that the Clinton Campaign would have been perfectly within its rights to have Obama disqualified if he were not a natural born citizen.  It wouldn’t have been character assassination.  It would have been a constittuional issue.  But Bill Clinton himself said that Obama met the minimum requirements for being president, which I interpret to mean that they looked into it and there’s no THERE there.  I don’t know why Obama needs to produce the exact original of his birth certificate to satisfy the birther crowd but I can think of a really good reason why he wouldn’t: it makes the birthers look like a bunch of complete loonies if he occasionally stirs up the issue.  Birthers, please don’t try to defend yourselves on this blog.  We’re really not interested.

For those of you who are getting blindsided by the shifting frames of the media on who’s who in the Democratic caucus and who’s screwing up health care reform, check out The Blue Dogs Flunk Obedience School. In summary, Obama, who doesn’t have a political philosophy but for some reason really, really likes bipartisanship for its own sake, has ignored his progressive base and has now become hostage to conservative blue dog Democrats.  These DINOs come from conservative districts where voters are vulnerable to media messaging about tax and spend liberals.  So far as I’ve seen, our current Congressional session skews heavily to the right.  There’s still a lot of taxing and spending going on but nary a liberal intiative in sight.  And as long as the blue dogs remain unprimaried, that’s the way it will stay.

H1N1 is laying low for now but could be a real problem in the fall.  Still no need to panic.  Get your flu shot if you’re offered one, have your doctor’s phone number available if you get sick, ask your employer about plans in case of a public health emergency and follow your public health official’s guidelines to prevent spread of infection.  Let’s hope our precautions make this the biggest non-story of the year.

Podcasts of the day: I have heard it said recently that the world is undergoing a shift in consciousness in a way that is similar to the shift from polytheism to monotheism.  It is a shift away from traditional monotheism to a more logical, holistic vision of the universe and its source of wonder.  It was difficult to see this shift while the country was in the grips of the fundamentalist evangelical base and their Christ for Rich People stuff.  It’s funny that so many religious people vote for politicians who do not believe in holding people accountable for bad behavior.  I might be wrong but it feels like it is time for the country to regain its sense of ethical behavior.  And as we know from bitter experience, it isn’t always to be found in the pews of your nearest megachurch.  Here are several podcasts that have common themes though they aren’t all obvious at first. There is a lot of material to chew on about reason, first principles, inclusiveness and the evolution of the human spirit:

Melvyn Bragg’s in Our Time discusses the Vienna Circle’s Logical Positivism

Bill Moyer’s interviewed Robert Wright on The Evolution of God

Anything from Krista Tippett’s Speaking of Faith.  I have really become addicted to her podcasts. There’s something here for everyone, atheists included.  Tippet is the Terry Gross of the divine but what passes for divine these days may surprise you.   Most of her interviews are not overtly about religion at all but are more about how different faith and ethical  experiences allow individuals to view life, the universe and everything from a more holistic point of view. The Ecstatic Faith  of Rumi won a Peabody and it’s easy to hear why.  It’s poetic and beautiful.  But Tippett also explores The Biology of Spirit with neurosurgeon Sherwin Nuland, freelance monotheism with Karen Armstrong and a more modern form of logical positivism with Echard Tolle.  Her interview with Rick Warren and his wife Kay was fascinating.  The Warrens initially sound like shallow, corporate religious types and don’t quite shake that image with the listener in spite of all of their recent philanthropic efforts. Quite revealing in completely unexpected ways.  All highly recommended.

Heartless employer of the day: Drugmaker Wyeth, in the process of merging with equally heartless Pfizer, sent an email offering a resume writing workshop to all employees. (no link.  I was informed by some former colleagues) I love the way they are promoting the fiction that there are any companies, not in India and China, where their employees have any hope of actually finding a job.  All of the companies I know are in the midst of their own layoffs and endless hiring freezes, leaving projects short staffed and scrambling for outside contractors.  The Pfizer-Wyeth merger will result in the loss of thousands of scientific jobs, burdening further the unemployment rolls of NJ, PA, CT and NY.  I’m sure the workshop is  going to lead to greater productivity between now and when the real layoffs begin.  Just write off real drug development from that new behemoth for the next several years.  The Wall Street guys and the mega shareholders just won’t be satisfied until these companies are reduced to cheap, overseas scientific staff and a bunch of stateside marketers and executives.  So much for American innovation.  Contracting your brain trust from overseas is incredibly short sighted.  It’s like eating your seed corn.  Pretty soon, all that will be left are MBAs.  And what have they innovated lately?

Please Digg!!! Share!!! Tweet!!!

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Furl | Newsvine

Friday Morning at The Confluence

North Dakota sunflower field (posted just because I like it)

North Dakota sunflower field (posted just because I like it)

Rather than posting lots of links this morning, I decided to highlight just a few stories that interested me.

New Jersey Governor’s race

First up, a story that will warm the cockles of Riverdaughter’s heart: Jon Corzine’s wealth has deteriorated so much that he has to beg for campaign donations. Karma’s a b&tch, ain’t it?

Mr. Corzine, 62, famously spent $60 million of his own money on a record-shattering Senate race in 2000, then $43 million more laying siege to Trenton four years ago.

But now, after a costly divorce and a steep decline in his net worth, Mr. Corzine, the onetime chief executive of Goldman Sachs, is in the unfamiliar position of seeking donations to help foot the bill for his campaign.

Awww…poor guy. Thanks probably to Corzine’s sellout of Hillary Clinton voters (Clinton won the New Jersey primary by 10 points) at the Democratic Convention last August, President Barack Obama showed up yesterday at a $5,000 to $10,000 a plate luncheon expected to raise around $1 million. But that’s just a downpayment on the $15 million Corzine hopes to raise from donations so he doesn’t have to spend more than $25 million of his own money.

Bernard L. Schwartz, the retired chairman of Loral Space & Communications, said a somewhat downcast Mr. Corzine visited him in Manhattan recently to ask for money. The governor offered a clear-eyed assessment of his chances against Christopher J. Christie, a former federal prosecutor and the Republican nominee, telling Mr. Schwartz the race would be costly and he could not guarantee a victory as a return on Mr. Schwartz’s investment.

“He said it was going to be a tough race,” said Mr. Schwartz, a major Democratic donor. “He was not happy about it.”

Mr. Schwartz wrote a $25,000 check.

Obama also attended a rally with Corzine, who is trailing in the polls behind Chris Christie, his Republican opponent. Ha. ha. ha.

Goldman-Sachs and the Bilking of the American Taxpayer

Matt Taibbi has a new post up about Corzine’s former employer Goldman-Sachs and their massive second quarter profits–even more massive than predicted.

So what’s wrong with Goldman posting $3.44 billion in second-quarter profits, what’s wrong with the company so far earmarking $11.4 billion in compensation for its employees? What’s wrong is that this is not free-market earnings but an almost pure state subsidy.

Last year, when Hank Paulson told us all that the planet would explode if we didn’t fork over a gazillion dollars to Wall Street immediately, the entire rationale not only for TARP but for the whole galaxy of lesser-known state crutches and safety nets quietly ushered in later on was that Wall Street, once rescued, would pump money back into the economy, create jobs, and initiate a widespread recovery. This, we were told, was the reason we needed to pilfer massive amounts of middle-class tax revenue and hand it over to the same guys who had just blown up the financial world. We’d save their asses, they’d save ours. That was the deal.

Instead the big investment banks–Goldman-Sachs most of all–are laughing their asses off at us taxpayers who were suckered into handing over the contents of the U.S. Treasury to a bunch of bankster greedheads. Instead of returning any of the money to taxpayers, the banksters are using their profits to pay out more million dollar bonuses to themselves.

Taibbi lists five types of government funding that have enabled Goldman to rake in the huge profits they just reported, including $10 billion in TARP funds and $13 billion more from the AIG bailout. Goldman has now paid back the $10 billion, which was basically an interest-free loan from you and me; but the government still holds warrants to buy G-S stock at low prices in order to make some money back for us taxpayers. Guess what? Goldman is trying to weasel out of that deal now; and they’ll probably succeed, since they are pretty much in control of our government.

Taibbi:

Taken altogether, what all of this means is that Goldman’s profit announcement is a giant “fuck you” to the rest of the country. It is a statement of supreme privilege, an announcement that it feels no shame in taking subsidies and funneling them directly into their pockets, and moreover feels no fear of any public response. It knows that it’s untouchable and it’s not going to change its behavior for anyone. And it doesn’t matter who knows it.

Here is an interview with Taibbi and Mike Lux on the Goldman-Sachs “coup” by Laura Sanders.

How the Corporate Media Cannibalized Michael Jackson

I’m going to be honest. I never enjoyed Michael Jackson’s music or had any interest in him as a person other than realizing that he probably had a rather interesting psychological disorder: Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). People who suffer from BDD are obsessed with perceived flaws in their appearance and go to extremes to correct these imagined or exaggerated defects, often having multiple cosmetic surgeries. Jackson may very well have had several other types of psychological disorders. When Jackson died, it really had little effect on me and I was surprised to see how many Conflucians were very upset by his death. Nevertheless, Chris Hedges, a very fine writer, has a long piece at Alternet about Jackson that gave me a lot to think about. I highly recommend it. Here are just a few of excerpts:

The commercial exploitation of Michael Jackson’s death was orchestrated by the corporate forces that rendered Jackson insane. Jackson, robbed of his childhood and surrounded by vultures that preyed on his fears and weaknesses, was so consumed by self-loathing he carved his African-American face into an ever-changing Caucasian death mask and hid his apparent pedophilia behind a Peter Pan illusion of eternal childhood. He could not disentangle his public and his private self. He became a commodity, a product, one to be sold, used and manipulated. He was infected by the moral nihilism and personal disintegration that are at the core of our corporate culture.

[....]

The stories we like best are “real life” stories—early fame, wild success and then a long, bizarre and macabre emotional train wreck. O.J Simpson offered a tamer version of the same plot. So does Britney Spears. Jackson, by the end, was heavily in debt and had weathered a $22 million out-of-court settlement payment to Jordy Chandler, as well as seven counts of child sexual abuse and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent in order to commit a felony. We fed on his physical and psychological disintegration, especially since many Americans are struggling with their own descent into overwhelming debt, loss of status and personal disintegration.

[....]

The moral nihilism of our culture licenses a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Education, building community, honesty, transparency and sharing are qualities that will see you, in a gross perversion of democracy and morality, ridiculed and voted off any reality show….Life, these shows teach, is a brutal world of unadulterated competition and constant quest for notoriety and attention. And life is about the personal humiliation of those who oppose us. Those who win are the best. Those who lose deserve to be erased. Those who fail, those who are ugly or poor, are belittled and mocked. Human beings are used, betrayed and discarded in a commodity culture, which is pretty much the story of Jackson’s life….Compassion, competence, intelligence and solidarity are useless assets when human beings are commodities. Those who do not achieve celebrity status, who do not win the prize money or make millions in Wall Street firms, deserve their fate.

It’s an angry article. Hedges used Michael Jackson’s life and death to demonstrate the cruel emptiness of our media culture. But he could have found many other celebrity examples. We build these people up, and then we tear them down. And we tear ourselves and each other down at the same time.

Health Care “Reform”

Will we actually get reform? Frankly I doubt it, but you never know. A miracle could happen. Here are few health care stories I came across late last night.

Senator Max Baucus is complaining because Obama is opposed to taxing health care benefits.

Maybe Montanans will return Baucus to the Senate if he makes them pay taxes on their employee benefits. I don’t think it would go over that well here in Massachusetts. What about in your state? Could it be that public rejection of Baucus’s idea is the reason Obama changed his mind about using a benefits tax to pay for a windfall for insurance companies?

Someone leaked the news that more than 50 House Democrats have banded together to oppose a health care plan they see as unsatisfactory.

Progressive Democrats are taking a hard stand on health care reform, with a majority committing to oppose any health care reform package that doesn’t include a robust public option. On Wednesday, they got an inadvertent assist by an anonymous leak of their “whip list.”

A whip list, which is generally tightly guarded, is used by congressional leaders to keep track of the private pledges made by members before a vote. The list is kept private to encourage frank answers from members so that leadership can gather accurate intelligence.

Ezra Klein claims Senator Ron Wyden has an idea that will “save health care reform.” Then he goes into a long, complicated explanation of something that sounds to me like a very bad idea. What is heck is wrong with just expanding Medicare to cover everyone? Why not single payer?

Please feel free to use the comments to post any stories that have piqued your interest.


Digg!!! Tweet!!! Share!!!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Furl | Newsvine

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 414 other followers