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    • The Class War the Rich Won And the End Of NeoLiberal Capitalism
      Many years ago now, I wrote a post called “There Was a Class War And %he Rich Won.” Ironically, post the financial meltdown of 07/8, and thanks to Bush, Obama, Bernanke and Geithner both bailing them out and immunizing them from their crimes, that victory has accelerated. This chart, from Harvard, tells the story of […]
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Saturday Morning News and Views: Populist Uprising Edition

Good Morning Conflucians!!!

President Obama was in Ohio yesterday trying to impersonate a populist.

“I won’t stop fighting for you,” he thundered in a campaign-style speech in economically sagging northeastern Ohio, remarks that provided a likely preview of the themes in his first State of the Union speech next Wednesday.

Trying to shore up public support, Obama urged people to “stand by me, even during these tough times.”

Like you stood by us Mr. President? When did you fight for us anyway?

Obama acknowledged that the healthcare overhaul — suddenly in limbo on Capitol Hill — had run into a political “buzz saw.” He dismissed concerns that his lengthy focus on healthcare meant he had taken his eye off the economy, the country’s No. 1 problem.

“Let me dispel this notion that we were somehow focused on that (healthcare) and so as a consequence not focused on the economy. First of all, all I think about is how are we going to create jobs in this area,” Obama said in Elyria, Ohio.

The president’s switch to a more populist tone followed his own admission in an ABC News interview earlier this week that he had lost a direct connection with everyday Americans.

I’m not so sure he ever had a connection with “everyday Americans”–those gun-toting bitter knitters? And those uppity women who don’t know their place? No, I don’t think so.

If Mr. Obama wants to make a “direct connection” with “everyday Americans,” he is going to have to give them more than “just words.” He is going to have to pretty much do a complete about face and become as “transformational” as he pretended to be when he was campaigning. He is going to have to stop impersonating Herbert Hoover and start impersonating Franklin Roosevelt. I’m really not sure if he is capable of that, but if he manages to do it, I’ll be the first to cheer him on.

From the Toledo Blade:

A defiant President Obama assured Ohioans yesterday that he will continue to fight for health care, banking, and energy reform despite recent political setbacks that some argue have endangered his agenda.

He made the promises at Lorain County Community College even as Ohio announced its unemployment rate had hit 10.9 percent in December, up from 10.6 percent the month before. The national jobless rate is 10 percent.

“I did not run for President to turn away from these challenges,” he told a town-hall meeting of about 1,300 people.

“I didn’t run for President to kick them down the road. I ran for President to confront them once and for all. I ran for this office to rebuild our economy so it works not just for the fortunate few, but for everybody who’s willing to work hard in this country,” he said.

Uh huh. Talk is cheap, Mr. President. Now lets see some action. Continue reading

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Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Newspaper reading

  • Forget the 100 Days nonsense. Here comes the first test for Obama.
    Justice Souter to Retire From Court

    Justice Souter, 69, has been a reliable member of the court’s liberal wing, and President Obama is unlikely to appoint a successor who would significantly alter the court’s ideological makeup. He is likely to select a candidate young enough to serve for decades, bolstering the court’s aging liberal faction. Most observers expect he will nominate a woman to join the seven other men and one woman remaining on the court.

    White House Cheat Sheet: Souter Retirement (Further) Roils Political Landscape

  • Nobody is safe from the “swine” flu
    Obama guard on Mexico trip ‘has swine flu’

    A US security aide involved in Barack Obama’s recent visit to Mexico became the latest probable victim of swine flu yesterday, though the White House was quick to point out that the president was in no danger of contracting the virus.

    “The Gaffetastic One” makes life miserable for “The One”
    Biden’s Remarks Derail President’s Temperate Message

    On Thursday, Mr. Biden upended the Obama message machine on NBC’s “Today Show,” saying he would advise his own family not to ride a plane, take the subway or put themselves in any confined spaces. The appearance infuriated airline and public-transit industries and highlighted how difficult it is for the administration to find the right message about the new flu — and how different the careful president is from his free-speaking second.

  • Charles Krauthammer endorses torture uses the nonsensical “ticking bomb” scenario from 24
    Torture? No. Except . . .

    Here’s a must-read for all torture fanatics
    When Israel Confronted and Rejected Torture

    Reading about the Bush administration’s convoluted attempts to justify torture takes me back to reporting I did 12 years ago on the anguished debate in Israel over its secret service’s use of violence in interrogations. That was two years before the Israeli Supreme Court banned the practice. “This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it,” wrote the president of the court, Aharon Barak.

  • I have listened to many interviews from William Cohan about his latest book House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street. The book has been languishing in my shopping cart for a while but that’s about to change. How did I miss this diatribe from Jimmy Caine (former Bear Stearns CEO) about Timmy: (via NY Magazine, h/t Brad Delong) (I tried to fill in the blanks)
    Bear Stearns’ Jimmy Cayne’s Profane Tirade Against Treasury’s Geithner

    “The audacity of that p(ric)k in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature and this whatever was good enough to get a loan,” he said. “Like he was the determining factor, and it’s like a flea on his back, floating down underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, getting a h(ar)d-on, saying, ‘Raise the bridge.’ This guy thinks he’s got a big d(ic)k. He’s got nothing, except maybe a boyfriend. I’m not a good enemy. I’m a very bad enemy. But certain things really—that bothered me plenty. It’s just that for some clerk to make a decision based on what, your own personal feeling about whether or not they’re a good credit? Who the f(uc)k asked you? You’re not an elected officer. You’re a clerk. Believe me, you’re a clerk. I want to open up on this f(ucke)r, that’s all I can tell you.”

  • Thank Goodness thehere are some sane people in the midst of totally insane creeps
    Marriage of Saudi Arabian girl, eight, annulled

    An eight-year old Saudi Arabian girl who was married off by her father to a man in his 50s has had the union annulled, it was reported yesterday. The case, which had generated local and international outrage, ended with an out-of-court settlement.

Florida Blogger in David-and-Goliath Battle with Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs, NYC, from Telegraph UK

Goldman Sachs, NYC, from Telegraph UK

On Saturday, April 11, The Daily Telegraph reported that investment giant Goldman Sachs has retained Chadbourne & Parke, a Wall Street law firm, to shut down the website of Mike Morgan, a Florida blogger and registered investment advisor.

Morgan, who just set up his blog in late March, is currently gathering volunteers to help him research the bank’s influence on the U.S. Government and the stock market. Morgan’s website is here. He has scheduled a conference call and “webinar” for tomorrow night, April 15 at 6PM for volunteers who want to help him research Goldman Sachs, their role the the financial meltdown, and their possible manipulation of the stock market through their dealings with AIG. He also wants to call attention to Goldman Sachs’ influence on the government through their large donations to politicians such as President Barack Obama and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. Morgan discloses that he did lose money from his investments with Goldman Sachs.

From the Telegraph:

According to Chadbourne & Parke’s letter, dated April 8, the bank is rattled because the site “violates several of Goldman Sachs’ intellectual property rights” and also “implies a relationship” with the bank itself.

Unsurprisingly for a man who has conjoined the bank’s name with the Number of the Beast – although he jokingly points out that 666 was also the S&P500’s bear-market bottom – Mr Morgan is unlikely to go down without a fight.

He claims he has followed all legal requirements to own and operate the website – and that the header of the site clearly states that the content has not been approved by the bank.

Continue reading

I’m No Economist, but I Think We Need Prosecutions!

The face of greed

The face of greed

I’m hooked on the economics blogs these days. Blame Dakinikat for starting me on a (probably hopeless) quest to understand the economic meltdown. I have been mathphobic since the eighth grade when I was horribly traumatized by algebra. And geometry! Don’t even get me started. When I was an undergrad, I was forced to take two math classes–basic math and statistics. Fortunately, those of us in the psych department were assigned a good humored, patient professor who cracked jokes about our having post-traumatic stress from high school math and had developed simple ways to explain mathematical concepts. Thanks to that kind and supportive professor, I was also able to survive two mind-numbing semesters of graduate statistics without too much anxiety.

Despite my lifelong troubled relationship with numbers, I am determined to understand what is happening to our economic and political systems to the best of my ability. These days, when I first get up, I open up The Confluence (my home page), quickly see what’s happening and then I check all my favorite econ blogs to find out the latest news and views.

This morning via The Market Ticker, I found this ABC News story on Joseph Cassano. (By the way, Cassano donated $2,500 to Obama’s primary campaign and $2,300 to his presidential campaigns. Isn’t $2,300 the maximum?) But back to ABC News:

The FBI and federal prosecutors are reportedly closing in on the AIG executive whose suspect investments cost the insurance giant hundreds of billions of dollars. The government is investigating whether or not 54-year old Brooklyn-native Joseph Cassano committed criminal fraud in virtually bankrupting the company. Continue reading

Saturday: Things that make you go “hmmm”, episode 2

I used to be an NPR junkie, that is, until TalkingPointsMemo became my gateway drug to blogging about 5 years ago.  I used to wake up to Bob Edwards and drive home to Robert Segal.  Then they started to all sound like my neighbors, moderately Republican and pro-business.  Gone were the days of Maria Hinajosa telling us about “Nine year old Ruiz sits outside the flimsy clapboard house on the outskirts of this west Texas border town.  He draws his name in the dust with rock.  It’s the only word he knows how to spell because he can’t walk to school and there is no bus provided to this bare enclave of maquilladoros and their families who live without running water or electricity.  Ruiz says he wants to be a surgeon and his greatest wish is to go to school…”  Well, you get the idea.  There I am with Ruiz, sobbing into my Cheerios over his lost childhood dreams.  During the Bush Administration, the bleeding heart liberals took a frickin’ hike and we got stuck with Juan, Cokie and Steve.  Um, no thank you.

What to do to fill up the empty space between commutes?  I listened to music for awhile, then audiobooks, but they tended to lack the immediacy of the moment that news provides.  Then I discovered podcasts and started to load up on the suckers.  My new iPhone gives me the luxury of accessing the iTunes podcast store directly and since most podcasts are free, I indulge greedily.  Yesterday, my faves didn’t have any new material to listen to and I needed to pick something in a hurry.  So, I picked the PopSci (Popular Science) podcast “Who protects the internet?”

So, there I am, driving along, listening to fascinating facts about cables and warehouses and termination points in Miami and NY from across the ocean.  There’s stuff I never new before like, did you know that there is a fleet of ships on the world’s oceans, just floating aimlessly until they get a call about a broken cable?  Then they rush to the site of the break, pull up the cable and repair it.   Those of you who are looking for new careers and don’t get seasick might want to look into this.

Then the PopSci guys start talking about how many lines crisscross the world’s oceans and how much redundancy is built into the system.  The answer is, there is redundancy but not enough to make all transmissions worry free.  Occasionally, the breaks can take whole countries offline for a couple of days.  There are several commercial lines and a government line for secure defense transactions and stuff and the finance industry put in its own internet cable just for their own business…

???

The finance industry has its own internet?

Am I the last person in America to know about this?  The finance industry has its own separate internet cable system.  It’s a parallel internet system.  What kind of access does the US government have to the finance industry’s internet?  Can the NSA tap into this cable system and record all of the transactions like it can on the regular commercial lines?  And what do they use it for, besides high speed transmissions of trades? Anyone got any info on this?  Speculation?  Tin foily hat theories about how it can be used?

In other news:

  • Ruh-Roh, Krugman has read Geithner’s detailed plan to bailout the banks and it doesn’t look good.  He writes about it in Despair over financial policy.  Let this be a lesson to you, Paul.  Never take your shrillness on vacation to Yurp and leave the Obots to their own devices.  It sounds like the finance industry is going to get everything it wants, sort of like economic terrorists who threaten to bring the world to its knees if we don’t fork over the cash.  Now, what kind of ace would they have to have up their sleeves to pull such a thing off?
  • It’s spring!  Break out the cleaning buckets.  Today is the day I purge the garage and pick up the clutter.  Let us know in the comments about your cleaning plans and what your favorite new cleaning gadget is.  I just ordered a steamer cleaner.  It should arrive on Monday, which is too late for today’s marathon but should be perfect for next week.  Also, if you have kids, what’s your trick for getting them to help out?
  • One of my pet peeves is too much sugar in just about everything from spaghetti sauce to crackers to coffee.  I love Starbucks coffee (Oh, yes I do.  So sue me.).  And I love a good vanilla latte but if you get the regular recipe vanilla latte, the damn thing makes your teeth hurt, it’s so sweet.  But if you ask for half the sugar, you also get half of the vanilla strength.  I like the vanilla taste, just not all the sweet.  I actually had an argument with the last barista.  She said, “Well, you could get the sugar free sweetener instead.”  No, I just want the vanilla not the sugar. “The sugar-free has all of the sweet taste, just none of the sugar.”.  I *know* it does.  BUT I DON’T WANT THE *SWEET* TASTE!!!.  “Well, you sound sure.” {{sniff}}”  Grumble.  If Starbucks cared as much about sugar as it does about how fat your milk is, it would cut the sugar in the syrups in half and leave the damn sugar packets out for people who just can’t start their day without a sugar buzz.  But noooooo, it looks like the sugar problem is only going to get worse.  The NYTimes reports that manufacturers are replacing high fructose corn syrup with real sugar now.  Isn’t that special?
  • Gawd, he is such an amateur.  Can someone please tell Obama that he has a well-respected, well-liked, intelligent Secretary of State to handle relations between the US and Iran.  This video was so badly handled Obama is starting to make bags of hammers look brilliant. (H/T fif)

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“Don’t expect too much from me,” says the POTUS

r4284908795

The B.O.T., Barack Obama Teleprompter.

I’m just lucky that I still have some Tums handy:

From Yahoo News/AP

Obama seeks patience, warns of expecting too much

LOS ANGELES – Facing largely adoring crowds far from Washington, President Barack Obama on Thursday asked Americans to back his far-reaching economic and health policies, but warned them not to expect too much from him or the federal government. With many Republicans and even some Democrats in Congress resisting his budget plans, Obama went into full campaign mode in California, using television, friendly audiences and his massive e-mail list to counter his critics.

Also known as propaganda units and NBC, owned by General Electric, a massive donor to Obama’s Presidential Campaign.

Without naming names, he mocked Republican officials who call his plan too costly even though they presided over huge deficits while they controlled Congress and the White House.

“Where have you been?” he said to several hundred people at a raucous town-hall meeting in Los Angeles. “What have you been doing?”

Was that on the Teleprompter?  (Who by they way, The B.O.T., a.k.a, Barack Obama’s TelePrompter, has a new blog all on his/her/it’s own, here).

In his second California town hall in as many days, Obama mixed cockiness with humility.

Humility only is shown when it’s on the B.O.T.

He told Americans not to expect “something for nothing” from their government. Improvements to the economy and health care will take time and require unusually large deficits for a while, he said.

Only if you’re AIG or one of the 13 bailed out conglomerates that didn’t pay taxes.

“Nothing is free,” he said. Responding to a woman’s complaint about cuts in jobs and salaries for teachers in California, Obama urged people not to ask the federal and state governments to cut taxes and improve services at the same time.

So which are you going to do, Obama?  You already promised that 95% of the population is going to get their taxes cut, which equals about $13 extra dollars a week to the average working American.  How about concentrating on the economy instead of picking out your NCAA teams? Nero Dribbles while Rome burns.

“At some point you’ve got to make some choices,” he told the crowd, which loudly cheered him repeatedly. Obama also asked the country for patience and forbearance. “We are not always going to be right,” he said. “And I don’t want everybody disappointed if we make a mistake.”

Uh, how many are you going to make?  I’ll leave to WMCB to comment on that:

WMCB, on March 19th, 2009 at 8:15 am Said: I point out to them that this ENTIRE election was all about what a big mess Bush would leave, and who had the experience and work ethic and smarts to clean up that mountain of mess. Obama and his supporters assured us all that he was fully aware of the scope of the task, and could do the job. Could do the job handily, with great success, like no other! So no use now whining “But…Bush left such a huge mess!” Yeah, dipshit, we knew that. Cleaning up that mess is the job he APPLIED FOR, and wanted so badly, and insisted he was qualified to do, so STFU and do it or face the people’s anger.

Oh but Obama needs a compass apparently:

The important question, he said, is “are we moving in the right direction” and is he keeping his main campaign promises.

Then there’s a little dribble of “Hope” for foreclosed homeowners:

Obama also announced fresh aid to struggling homeowners in California. He said California was receiving $145 million to help communities hardest hit by the home foreclosure crisis. He said the money would be used to buy up and rehabilitate vacant homes, and provide loans to poorer and middle-income families to help with home assistance. He announced a new Web site to help people around the nation:http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/.

We all here at the Confluence support aid to homeowners a la Hillary’s plan adopting FDR’s plan like she proposed in Fall 2008.  We believe that taxes are good if the general public is receiving and benefitting fromn these services, as all card carrying liberals that we are.  We know how important it is for the government to do FOR the people, BY the people.  But what Obama is saying is, “if we f___k up, hey, don’t blame it all on us” while AIG and and other bailout baneficiaries skip out paying taxes while taking the bailout money in hordes out of our Treasury. If we can’t count on our government, or expect you to do the right thing because appraently you’re pre-empting the clusterf__k you’ve created, President Obama, then WHO do we trust?  This happened on your watch not on Chimperor’s and Darth Cheney’s.

Is integrity above your pay grade?


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Thursday: A Series of Unfortunate Events

There has been plenty of finger pointing in the past couple of days.  Tim Geithner is getting his under-the -bus moment this morning on the front page of the NYTimes.  What did Tim know about the AIG bonuses and when did he know it?  The WH is starting to float the “complete confidence” meme, which is sort of the equivalent of “Have you thought about resigning?  No, no, take your time.  We’ve got about a week as these things go.  Has anyone seen Sheila Bair?”

In the whole scheme of things, the $165 million is drop in the bucket, as those who like those drops are quick to point out.  But people who have studied scandals know that at some point, they have a life of their own.  This scandal has legs and it’s getting the royal treatment in the media.  Unlike the more esoteric scandals of the Bush administration where the offense had something to do with some obscure violation of historical significance, this scandal is one that the common man can relate to: Those finance guys are getting money for royally f^&*ing things up and while we’re forced to give up compensation benefits.  Our hard earned money that could have been used to fund major healthcare reform and badly needed infrastructure projects, is getting sucked up by the same obscenely rich people that got to do whatever they wanted under the Bush administration.   We voted for a Democrat who turned out to be *what* exactly?

(It was all sadly predictable but we won’t go there for our new readers who may have voted for the messiah.)

Planet Money was busy yesterday trying to put the anger in perspective.  There are three possible culprits for the accelerating meltdown: Washington, Wall Street and the macroeconomic moment complicated by the “Greenspan Put”.  I’m not sure I totally understand this last concept.  Maybe Dakinikat can unpack it but from what I gather, Alan Greenspan brought the Fed interest rate down to something like 1% so the Giant Pool of Money that investors had back in the late 90’s and 00’s couldn’t make money off of US Trearsury bonds.  The money had to go somewhere so it got rolled into risky instruments.  At some point in there, Alan Greenspan hinted (obscurely to us but loud and clear to people in the know) that the US would guarantee these risks.  And Voile!  Here we are, guaranteeing like there’s no tomorrow.  It’s rather puzzling coming from a Randian fan like Greenspan to have the government step in and bail investors out but finance has a logic of its own.  There’s probably internal self-consistency to Greenspan’s philosophy that our small minds simply cannot grasp.

Well, that is why we are the little people and are not given the power to do anything.  We might use it recklessly.  For instance, did you know that even though we taxpayers own something like 80% of AIG, guardians have been appointed on our behalf to actually administer the company? Yep, there are three trustees who are supposed to look over AIG lest we get our grubby, unsophisticated mitts on it and take away all of the bonuses.  And we aren’t allowed to say what happens to the rest of the money that went to Goldman Sachs and other banks either.  We might put a stop to it, doncha know.  It would be unseemly.  Wasn’t it nice for the Bushies and the Obama adminstration to appoint these Mr. Poe’s of Mulctuary Money Management for us?

Don’t worry your pretty little heads.

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