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The interview was nearly over. on the Fox News Channel last Wednesday evening, Sean Hannity was coming to the end of a segment with Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, the chair of the House Republican Conference and a vociferous foe of President Obama's nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill. How, Pence had asked rhetorically, was $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts going to put people back to work in Indiana? How would $20 million for "fish passage barriers" (a provision to pay for the removal of barriers in rivers and streams so that fish could migrate freely) help create jobs? Hannity could not have agreed more. "It is … the European Socialist Act of 2009," the host said, signing off. "We're counting on you to stop it. Thank you, congressman."
There it was, just before the commercial: the S word, a favorite among conservatives since John McCain began using it during the presidential campaign. (Remember Joe the Plumber? Sadly, so do we.) But it seems strangely beside the point. The U.S. government has already—under a conservative Republican administration—effectively nationalized the banking and mortgage industries. That seems a stronger sign of socialism than $50 million for art. Whether we want to admit it or not—and many, especially Congressman Pence and Hannity, do not—the America of 2009 is moving toward a modern European state.
There is certainly a great deal of slack-jawed shock going around these days, especially in progressive circles, where pundits, commentators, analysts and kibitzers continually find themselves reeling from yet another "inexplicable" move by the Obama Administration to uphold the core principles of their predecessors: enriching the rich, extending the empire, and enhancing the authoritarian power of a thoroughly militarized state.
Congressional Offices Don't Have the Stimulus Bill, Lobbyists Do
February 12, 2009 04:14 PM ET |
By Paul Bedard | Washington Whispers | US News & World Report
Investigation looks into political pressure in bailout distribution
A special inspector at the Treasury Department is auditing the Troubled Asset Relief Program after reports that members of Congress exerted pressure and that banks actively lobbied for the money.
By Ralph Vartabedian | LATimes
Amid growing public consternation with the federal banking bailout, the Treasury Department's special inspector general has opened an examination of political influence in handing out some of the $350 billion in federal bank bailout funds, The Times has learned.
The audit, which has just begun, is broad in scope but will focus on lobbying activities by financial institutions and what the special inspector general, Neil Barofsky, has called "outside influences."
By Dave Lindorff
Hand it to Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). The conservative senator from the Granite State turned down an appointment to the position of President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Commerce citing “irreconcilable differences.”
Citing the latest Senate vote on Obama’s economic stimulus package, for which Gregg voted “no,” Gregg said, “ We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy."
A Short History of US Government Handouts
by Stephen Lendman
Global economies are withering while Washington conceives "Financial Recovery Plan(s) from Hell," according to economist Michael Hudson in his latest February 11 article. Bankers demand more trillions, "or (they'll) plunge the economy into financial crisis." What they want they'll get, and here's where things now stand.
On February 10, Bloomberg.com reported that Treasury Secretary Geithner "pledged government financing for as much as $2 trillion....to spur new lending and address banks' toxic assets, seeking to end the credit crunch hobbling the economy." Hudson calls it "Stage One of a two-stage plan," so far unannounced, to transfer trillions more to corrupt bankers who caused the problem in the first place, yet taxpayers will get little more back than the bill.
By Sam Hananel, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Rep. Hilda Solis of El Monte edged closer Wednesday to winning confirmation as the nation's next labor secretary, after more than a month of delays over questions about her husband's unpaid taxes and her work for a pro-union group.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee cleared her nomination in a voice vote with only two Republicans voting against her. The action sends the nomination to the full Senate for a final vote likely this week.
A committee vote scheduled last week was abruptly postponed after news that Solis' husband had paid about $6,400 to settle outstanding tax liens against his auto repair business.
White House officials said the Democratic congresswoman and her husband were not aware of the liens until a newspaper reported them and that Solis was not involved in the business. But committee leaders said they wanted more time to review key documents.
Fraud 'Directly Related' to Financial Crisis Probed
FBI Agents Could be Reassigned from National Security Due to Booming Caseload
By Jason Ryan | ABCNews
TARP IG...Barofsky currently only has around four FBI and IRS agents to oversee how $700 billion is tracked.
The FBI has opened investigations into more than 500 cases of alleged corporate fraud, including 38 that involve major firms and are "directly related" to the national economic crisis, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole told Congress today.
The surge in white-collar investigations is putting such a strain on the FBI that Pistole said the bureau is considering reassigning agents from national security, which has been the bureau's priority since the 9/11 attacks.
"The FBI has more than 530 open corporate fraud investigations, including 38 corporate fraud and financial institution matters directly related to the current financial crisis," Pistole told the Senate Judiciary Committee today.
The 38 companies, he said, "are significantly large companies, businesses everyone knows about but I cannot comment publicly."
Unapologetic CEOs: What Did the Banks Do With Your Cash?
Bank CEOs, With $125 Billion in Taxpayer Money in Hand, Testify and Defend Before Congress
By Matthew Jaffe and Scott Mayerowitz | ABCNews
The heads of eight major banks that received $125 billion in taxpayer bailout funds were largely unapologetic for their role in helping to create the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression as they testified before Congress this morning.
The CEOs said they are trying to lend out more money and pledged to return to profit, be more transparent and repay taxpayers as soon as possible.
Yet they warned that there was still much work to do and that it would take time for the financial system to right itself.
Call Congress and the President. Congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121. White House: 202-456-1414. If your member is a current co-sponsor, thank your rep. and ask him or her to stand firm for HR 676 and actively seek additional co-sponsors. If your member was a co-sponsor in the last Congress, ask him or her to sign on immediately as a co-sponsor in this Congress. If your member has yet to co-sponsor HR 676, ask him or her to please become a co-sponsor, select one or two talking points here.
For four decades, the world experimented with Keynes’ theories and the result was oversized States, punished by inflation, in which waste and a lack of efficiency grew apace with excessive public spending and bureaucracy, until the world began to return to civil society the vigor and role stolen by the governments.
Kucinich: "Save Homes" FOX 02-10-09
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement on the ongoing foreclosure crisis:
“According to today’s Wall Street Journal, Moody’s economy.com claims that nearly five million families could lose their homes to foreclosure between 2009 and 2011. Now is the time for our government to take a controlling interest in mortgage-backed securities and then direct loan modification, lowering principle and interest rates, extending terms of payments and keeping people in their homes.
“Banks are not lending money. They are hoarding money, because they fear their own balance sheets understate their losses. Instead of giving the banks more of taxpayers’ money in the hopes that banks will loan the money to keep people in their homes, the government must take charge to save the homes of so many American families. Keep people in their homes, the banks will get their money as well.
“Its time to stand up for the dream of American home ownership by saving the homes that are in jeopardy.”
The following chart shows the breakdown of the proposed federal discretionary budget for fiscal year 2009 by function area.
The discretionary budget refers to the part of the federal budget proposed by the President, and debated and decided by Congress each year. The part of the budget constitutes more than one-third of total federal spending. The remainder of the federal budget is called 'mandatory spending.' Fiscal Year 2009 will run from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009.
Note that this chart includes the war-related spending requested by the administration as supplemental to the regular budget proposal.
Sometimes it's the small gesture that defines the end of an age. Richard Fuld, CEO of Lehman Brothers, the single financial firm the Bush administration allowed to collapse into bankruptcy in what may someday be thought of as the slow-motion Crash of '09, made one of those gestures recently. Just to be clear, we're talking about a man who, between 1993 and 2007, took home a tidy $466 million in pay. (That's no misprint, though it's a pay level that it would take factories of workers cumulative lifetimes to reach.) Then, in 2008, the year his firm would collapse, Fuld was awarded another $22 million in what was called "retirement pay."
But that's the big picture. Here's the small one that catches our shape-shifting moment perfectly. Fuld was recently outed for "selling" his wife their jointly held $14 million, 3.3 acre Florida beach-front mansion -- one of five houses the two of them owned, including their 8-bedroom main domicile in Greenwich, Connecticut -- and the lovely touch is the selling price: $100. That's right, one hundred bucks "in a possible attempt," writes the British Times, "to move assets beyond the reach of infuriated investors of the collapsed bank." Smooth move, Dick! Just petty and sleazy enough for a $488 million man.
Excuse Me, Mr. President
Does Obama base his economic plans on liberal and conservative economists' advice because that's the best way to write a good plan?
Does he claim Iran is building nuclear weapons because nobody in that room will challenge him?
Does Obama believe that logic and information have some impact on senators? Or does he think he can get members of the public to influence senators? Or is he just afraid to put one more Democrat in the senate, eliminate the filibuster excuse, and ignore Republicans? Or is it not fear but an ideology that actually places bipartisanship above all else? Or is that a cover for a politician with an agenda that pretends to be something it isn't who actually appreciates the filibuster excuse?
A CNN reporter asked Obama when he would get out of Afghanistan and whether he would allow the media to cover the arrival of caskets with dead soldiers at Dover Airforce base, and Obama refused (at some distracting length) to answer either one.
The Washington Post's reporter chose to ask about steroid use in baseball.
Helen Thomas asked if Pakistan was harboring terrorists, and he said yes. She also asked -- perhaps in response to the nonsense about Iran -- whether the President knew of any nations in the Middle East that posessed nuclear weapons. Obama pretended he did not, naming neither Iran, which everyone knows does not possess nuclear weapons, nor Israel which everyone knows does.
Sam Stein of Huffington Post asked about Leahy's "truth and reconciliation" proposal and prosecutions of Bush officials, and Obama avoided answering either with anything he hadn't said before.
Mara Liasson of National Petroleum Radio pushed Obama for even MORE bipartisanship, and he seemed to agree.
Was there complete agreement in the room that the war on Iraq is over despite being, you know, not over? Are reporters actually forbidden to ask about it?
With investigative reporting, interactive features, and (not least) help from you, ShovelWatch.org will be tracking the stimulus bill dollars as they travel from Congress to your neighborhood. With your help, ShovelWatch.org will make sure that one of the biggest, fastest appropriations ever has a big, fast army to track whether it is well spent.
Once upon a time a man appeared in a village and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.
The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them.
The man bought thousands at $10 and, as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He next announced that he would now buy monkeys at $20 each. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.
Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so scarce it was an effort to even find a monkey, let alone catch it!
Murdered Mexican General A Victim – But Of What?
by Richard C. Cook | February 9, 2009
The incident was horrifying. As reported in the Washington Post:
“CANCUN, Mexico -- The general didn't get much time. After a long, controversial career, Brig. Gen. Mauro Enrique Tello Quiñones retired from active duty last month and moved to this Caribbean playground to work for the Cancun mayor and fight the drug cartels that have penetrated much of Mexican society. He lasted a week. Tello, 63, along with his bodyguard and a driver, were kidnapped in downtown Cancun last Monday evening, taken to a hidden location, methodically tortured, then driven out to the jungle and shot in the head. Their bodies were found Tuesday in the cab of a pickup truck on the side of a highway leading out of town. An autopsy revealed that both the general's arms and legs had been broken.” (“Warrior in Drug Fight Soon Becomes a Victim: Mexican General Seized, Slain in Cancun” by William Booth, Washington Post, February 9, 2009)
But who is it that really murdered the general and his companions?
Of all places, it was Iceland that went bust first. It happened so rapidly -- the island's staggeringly indebted banks collapsed, as did the country's currency, in little more than a single week. If you weren't one of Iceland's many inhabitants who suddenly found themselves desperately impoverished, it seemed like a perfect metaphor for our dystopian planetary moment and, as the economic meltdown continues, it's being used just that way.
Richard Cook Describes "The Cook Plan"
There are not words for this sort of immoral arrogant gall.
By Dave Lindorff
If the disaster of the so-called "stimulus" bill just passed by the Senate doesn't convince President Obama and his advisers that the strategy of "bipartisanship" that he has been espousing is a political suicide, nothing will.
The Republican Party, with the willing help of conservative Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Democratic turncoats like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), has forced Obama to agree to a joke of a stimulus package that is nearly half composed of tax breaks which will do nothing to bolster the economy (since most of the money will end up either paying down credit card debt or buying Chinese and Sri Lankan imports) and that is stripped of $40 billion to help struggling state and local governments.
Fresh from its rout in November, the GOP is, in fact, openly trying to sabotage Obama's economic stimulus plan, because the last thing Republicans want to see is an economy on the upturn in 2010 or 2012.
The global economic crisis could trigger political unrest equal to that seen during the 1930s, the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said in a German newspaper interview Saturday.
"The crisis today is spreading even faster (than the Great Depression) and affects more countries at the same time," Pascal Lamy told the Die Welt newspaper.
Questioned about the risks of political instability, Lamy -- who wraps up his four-year term as WTO director-general in September -- responded that that was "the main danger".
"This crisis weighs heavily on politics and puts peace in danger," he said.
"Some democracies are old and sufficiently stable to overcome such problems, (but) others are going to be confronted by unrest and inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflicts."
Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) Scolds SEC Officials at Hearing
Some things never change. When President Obama spoke last week of “shameful” bonuses for bankers and the financial community’s “irresponsibility,” he echoed charges leveled nearly a century ago by Louis D. Brandeis.
Brandeis, a commercial lawyer, leading reformer and future Supreme Court justice, described a dangerous combination of avarice, lack of accountability and poor oversight in “Other People’s Money, and How the Bankers Use It,” one of the best-known exposés of the Progressive era.
List of Banks Receiving Funds From $700B TARP
This list includes all the banks receiving funds from the Treasury's $700B Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).
The following is a list of TARP recipients as of January 31, 2009:
Town Hall Meeting in New York Canceled Due to Death Threat Against Monetary Reform Advocate Richard C. Cook | February 7, 2009
Due to a death threat against monetary reform advocate Richard C. Cook, a Town Hall meeting scheduled to be held on February 27, 2009, as part of President Barack Obama’s “Organizing for Change” initiative, has been canceled. Cook had been asked to speak at the meeting and present his program called “Bailout for the People” that he has been advocating as a solution to the economic crisis.
The meeting had been organized by New York City activists to provide Cook a forum at a time when the Obama/Biden administration is soliciting ideas to address the deepening recession where over 1,500,000 people have lost their jobs in the last three months. Over the next several weeks, hundreds of Economic Recovery Meetings will be held around the country leading up to public hearings by Vice President Joe Biden’s economic recovery task force.