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Hump Day Afternoon Open Thread

This video is dedicated to all the Obama worshippers justifying their love for Mr. Teleprompter Jesus.  Too bad Ireland’s not laughing.  Keep holding on to that Precious!

On a more serious note, watch this next one, from HBO’s miniseries John Adams.  Jefferson, the flawed, but brilliant founding father that he is, WAS RIGHT.

What would Thomas Jefferson think of the AIG Bonus giveaway bonanza?   Would Hamilton be passing blame to a crony senator who actually tried to block the bonuses?

Open thread-it!

Tuesday: Yeah, why *are* we giving bailout money to foreign banks?

Gretchen Morgenson, finance reporter for the NYTimes, gave an interview to Terry Gross yesterday.  Terry must be on the road to Kool-Ade sobriety.  She didn’t sound nearly as hopeful about Obama’s Change-tastic administration.  Come to think of it, even I didn’t expect Obama to be this bad.  It simply boggles the mind how  strongly the finance giants have him in their grip.

There weren’t any standout quotes from the interview.  Morgenson is calm and direct, unlike Adam Davidson on Planet Money who was boiling mad over the bonuses on yesterday’s podcast. ( Anger is good, Adam.)  But Morgenson asks some great questions like why is US taxpayer money bailing out foreign banks like HSBC?  She gives a little bit of the background of the credit default swap industry and says that the whole ingenius concept of this nifty little “instrument” that brought the world economy to its knees started in London.  Well, that’s something we didn’t know before.  Was this some kind of British revenge for that Independence thing?  Were they just waiting for the right moment to unleash havoc?

Terry seemed to be pretty bummed about the bonuses that AIG employees are getting.  The retention bonuses are a way of keeping the bastards from fleeing the company in pursuit of greener pastures, like that’s going to happen.  Morgenson thinks that AIG’s insistence that they must be paid because of some unbreakable contract is a form of blackmail.  Plus the instruments are so confounding that only the geniuses that put them together can resolve them.  She’s also pretty skeptical about the legalities of the contract.  Bankruptcy judges are in the habit of breaking contracts to satisfy creditors so why not in this case?  If I were an auto worker, I’d be ready to march on Washington over this bull$#@% argument.  The UAW has been forced to renegotiate labor contracts to keep the auto industry from going under.  Hmmm, do you think Obama will get their endorsement next election season?

But let’s think about this bonus-retention idea for a second.  Are the AIG guys saying behind closed doors, “Give us the money with no strings attached and we’ll get you out of this mess.  If you don’t, we pull the plug on the world’s markets.”?  Because if they are, I’d call their bluff.  No, seriously.  Call me crazy but that sounds like terrorism and we don’t negotiate with terrorists.  What we do with terrorists is declare them enemies, put them in jail while they’re awaiting trial and seize their property.  Then we can force the shareholders to “take a haircut” as Morgenson says, provided pension funds are covered with the bailout money first.  I mean, why are Geithner and Summers playing patty-cake with these people?  It’s not rocket science anymore.  These are bad guys.  They are holding a financial gun to our heads.  Throw their asses in jail already, impose some huge bail so they don’t flee and make them sit in a cold and lonely cell until they come to their senses.  I give these cushy bastards a weekend before they crack.

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The Funniest Thing I’ve Read All Day

The Establishment?

The Establishment?

This is hilarious. Howard Fineman of Newsweek says that “The Establishment” is turning against Barack Obama.

Luckily for Obama, the public still likes and trusts him, at least judging by the latest polls, including NEWSWEEK’s. But, in ways both large and small, what’s left of the American establishment is taking his measure and, with surprising swiftness, they are finding him lacking.

But who is “they?” Fineman provides no examples of Establishment figures who have been whispering in his ear, nor does he bother to clearly define what he means by “The Establishment.” In my mind, the term refers to the ruling class of a country–the top government figures as well as the heads of the most powerful corporations and foundations, and the most influential members of the national media. Here’s Fineman:

If the establishment still has power, it is a three-sided force, churning from inside the Beltway, from Manhattan-based media and from what remains of corporate America. Much of what they are saying is contradictory…

Continue reading

Read it and weep: “the seemingly unbridgeable chasm” that is the gender wage gap

Crossposted from Heidi Li on Equality at 51 Percent.

All quotes from Why Is Her Paycheck Smaller? By HANNAH FAIRFIELD Published: February 28, 2009 – The New York Times (Click graphic to go to large interactive chart). Full story here.

Nearly every occupation has the gap — the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between the size of the paycheck brought home by a woman and the larger one earned by a man doing the same job.

link to chart in New York Times on wage gap

“There’s no measurable way to explain the gaps within occupations,” said Barry T. Hirsh, a labor economist at Georgia State University. “Other wage gaps, like racial gaps, can be almost fully explained by factoring in the differences in education, geography and age.” (emphases added)

This is economic misogyny plain and simple; embedded in our economic habits deeply and seemingly insurmountably – although with enough political and legal action not actually insurmountable is a belittling of women’s work compared to men’s. This sort of systemic, measurable inequity is, to borrow a phrase from Mario Cuomo, a “sin against equality.”

Obama’s Choice: Save the Economy or Save the Bankers

With the help of Dakinikat’s and Riverdaughter’s posts and my own reading, I’ve been trying to understand what is happening to our economy and how that is going to affect Americans. I came across an economist and historian named Michael Hudson who used to work on Wall Street and is now a Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC).

Hudson is really good at explaining the financial disaster we are going though, and he does it in plain English. In the interview posted below (taped yesterday in London) Hudson argues that governments around the world are deliberately shortchanging their own economies, because the financial sector give so much to politicians. Here’s the money quote (it appears about 4:54):

“…the largest contributor to the political campaigns is the financial sector, and the government has a choice: they can save the economy or or they can save the creditors who made the bad loans. They’ve said, ‘We don’t care about the economy; we’re bailing out the creditors. That’s our constituency.”

Here’s another interview with Hudson by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. This one is from February 15. In this interview Hudson explains in more detail why Obama’s recovery plan is “awful.” It is the “greatest transfer of wealth in American history,” and it is turning the U.S. into an oligarchy with a whole new class of wealthy financiers.

In the end, says Hudson, the debts will have to be written off; because you simply can’t get blood from a stone. If people don’t have the money to pay their mortgages, they can’t pay them. In the meantime, Obama is pouring trillions of dollars of our tax money into the banks.

What can we do about it? I don’t know, but I agree with RD and Dakinikat that we all have to get up to speed on economics as best we can. This country is in real trouble, and the “vast majority of baby boomers have accumulated little to no wealth.” These people are close to retirement, and their houses have lost value and their 401Ks are in the crapper.

And the combination of falling house and stock values means that the vast majority of people near retirement have accumulated little or no wealth, meaning they will be almost completely reliant on Social Security and Medicare to support them in their retirement years.

These are the findings of “The Wealth of the Baby Boom Cohorts After the Collapse of the Housing Bubble,” a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a non-partisan research firm.

We cannot allow the rapidly developing Obamagarchy to destroy social security and medicare just as we are very likely headed into a Depression that could be worse than the Great Depression my parents lived through. And we are more poorly prepared now than people were at the time of the 1929 crash. In those days, people had some savings. We are really going to have to stick together as a people and remind ourselves again and again that this is our country. It doesn’t belong to Obama or to the bankers. This land is our land.

A letter to President Obama (or should I say “Jock in Chief”)?

(crossposted from Heidi Li’s Potpourri)

Dear President Obama:

One of your Cabinet Secretaries, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is striking a chord with women abroad and at home as she mixes in, with her discussion of global warming and economic security, the issue of women’s empowerment, as a matter of democracy and social justice. Might you consider taking a lesson from the Secretary of State? If you did, you would incorporate her message about the importance of women to democratic politics and economic security into every aspect of your own programs and many of your public statements.

Those of us interested in the emancipation of American women would be delighted to hear you echo Secretary Clinton when she states, “I think that it’s imperative that nations like ours stand up for the rights of women. It is not ancillary to our progress; it is central” or “We have to highlight the importance of inclusion for women. We have to make clear that no democracy can exist without women’s full participation; no economy can be truly a free market without women involved.” (Secretary Clinton, February 20, 2009).

You, Mr. President, are in a flurry of summits, initiatives, and speeches, leading up to the announcement of your budget this Thursday, February 26, 2009. Those who wonder whether you understand the significance of women in the U.S. economy need to hear you speak at home in terms your Secretary of State speaks abroad. We need to hear this partly because many of us doubt whether you are as forward thinking about women’s issues as we would expect a Democratic president who will be seeking our votes again ought to be but also because we doubt you are as forward thinking about economic matters as we expect a Democratic president to be. Women do not dominate the boardrooms and executive suites of Fortune 500 companies; they do depend heavily on Social Security; they are a major source of small business initiatives in this country. When you discuss “entitlements” or “business” this means something different to the majority of women than it does to the majority of men.

Even in symbolic ways, we need you to do better if you want us to trust your commitment to women’s empowerment. Just recently you cooperated with Men’s Journal, a men’s lifestyle magazine, that along with so many other publications, decided to devote a cover story to you. This is the cover:Mj_cover

For those who cannot read the headline, running alongside a photo of you holding a football in your hands, it says: “Barack Obama, Jock in Chief: His Moves, His Trash Talk & His Weekly Power Basketball Game.”

Mr. President, I am not sure whether you are proud of being depicted as a trash-talking jock-in-chief – that seems to me to fulfill both sexist and racist stereotypes you yourself might find personally offensive. But the magazine editors certainly mean this headline to be laudatory, although they would never write the same sort of headline about a woman president or cabinet secretary and mean it to have the connotations of hipness and coolness they meant this one to carry. (“Trash-talking” is not a phrase used to praise powerfully positioned women.)

You, Mr. President, could by word and deed use your bully pulpit to discourage this sort of sexist pigeonholing not only of yourself but therefore of what power is supposed to look like or be like. I have written before about the need for you to convene a Presidential Empowerment of Women Advisory Board, to be as significant and influential with you as you suggest your PERAB and PIAB (Economic Recovery and Intelligence boards, respectively). This is becoming more urgent, not less. If you want the American economy and American democracy to remain strong, you must empower the 51 percent of the population who are women to participate as fully and on fair terms in our society.

Yours truly,

Heidi Li Feldman, founder and president, 51 Percent

Try Squaring This Circle

Crossposted from Heidi Li’s Potpourri

Two headlines, side by side, at Rasmussen:

Comment: I understand that one could tell a statistician’s story that would make sense of these headlines and some others on Rasmussen’s home page today, such as: Confidence in U.S. Banking System Plummets
and
Voters Predicted Congress Would Approve Stimulus Package Without Reading It

But to me, this sounds like a population in panic, mistrustful and nervous about its government and its banking system. When people are gripped by fear they do not reason coherently. In any event one could believe the latest measures by our Congress, taken at the urging of President Obama, will do some good but not very much. This is sort of how I think of Jimmy Carter’s entire domestic-side Presidency. Maybe some of what Carter urged did some good, but not very much. And that’s part of why he ended up a one-term wonder. (True enough, the Iran hostage rescue debacle didn’t help either.)

President Obama needs to stabilize the fear that he unleashed in his inaugural address and his primetime press conference. Maybe he thought being grim and scary would ensure action – it worked for Bush when he wanted to send U.S. troops to Iraq – but grim and scared people do not function well in most social environments.