Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Stopped Clock Alert

There's a reason I keep Rick Moran's Right Wing Nuthouse on the blogroll. When he's wrong, he's a wingnut train wreck. But when he's right, he's pretty damn right. This is one of those second examples as he takes several of my favorite lefty bloggers out back and reads them the riot act for wanting Democratic Party ad dollars on their blogs.
I realize it is difficult at times to follow liberal logic but aren’t they the ones who refer to the righty blogosphere as an “echo chamber?” And yet here we have them grousing that no one wants to pay them to perform as a lock step, unified message machine for the White House and Democratic Congress. That kind of irony is usually found in great literature, not the grubby, grasping whinings of a bunch of overhyped, underwhelming partisan pikers.

Methinks they have an elevated opinion of their own importance.

Adds John Amato, the founder of Crooks and Liars: “These groups actually believe that we should promote their stuff for free. Do they not understand that we need funds to sustain our viability?”

When was the last time someone walked up to you and said, “I will wash your windows if you help me sustain my viability.?”

Holy crap, what kind of double talk is that? The libs want money. They want to feel the greenbacks bulging in their pockets. They want to caress those Hamiltons, smell those Grants, make love to those beautiful Benjamin Franklins.

Three things:

1) It does make you look like an ass to dump on the demise of obviously echo-chamber GOP-funded right-wing blogger sites like Pajamas Media and then turn around and pull this crap. Obama does stupid things too, he needs to be called on them, and it's hard to do that with DNC dollars funding your blog.

2) The rest of Rick Moran's post devolves into a pretty standard wingnut rant which is pretty damn funny, as he ends up pretty much ruining his own post.

3) I'll never make money doing this, but I like writing.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Hey. Tea Party people.

Where the hell were you assholes when Bush was doubling our national debt and trashing the Constitution?

Just curious, since you're getting massive free publicity from FOX News and all. No conflict of interest there or anything.

Programming Note

This show is either going to tank instantly, or be the smash hit of the TV season.
Fox has ordered a one-hour unscripted series that turns real-life company layoffs into a reality contest.

The show's working title is "Someone's Gotta Go." Employees are called to a meeting and informed there will be layoffs, but with a reality show twist: The staff will be allowed to determine who is fired.

The employees will have access to the company's internal information -- budgets, HR files, salaries, etc. -- to help make their decision.

It's the anti-"Apprentice": Instead of contestants vying for a dream job, they're fighting to keep the lousy one they already have.
It's either going to be an absolutely brilliant metaphor for 2009 America (let's face it, if you can't immediately name one person in your department that needs to honestly be canned, that person is YOU) or it's going to be a complete "Lord of the Flies" train wreck, only with TPS reports.

Most of us are living this little scenario anyway.

Cartoon Of The Moment

Matt Bors, Cagle Cartoons

The Constitution: Also approved by one out of one Zandars.

Why Not Bail Everyone Out?

Because at this point, we're giving away money to banks and automakers, why not life insurance companies too?
The Treasury Department has decided to extend bailout funds to a number of struggling life-insurance companies, helping an industry that is a linchpin of the U.S. financial system, people familiar with the matter said.

The department is expected to announce the expansion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program to aid the ailing industry within the next several days, these people said.

The news will come as a relief to a number of iconic American companies that have suffered big losses made worse by generous promises to buyers of some investment products. Shares of life insurers have fallen more than 40% this year. Their troubles led to a string of rating-agency downgrades that, in a vicious cycle, made it more difficult for some insurers to raise funds.

The life-insurance industry is an important piece of the U.S. financial system. Millions of Americans have entrusted their families' financial safety to these companies, so keeping them on solid footing is crucial to maintaining confidence. If massive numbers of customers sought to redeem their policies, it could cause a cash crunch for some companies. And because insurers invest the premiums they receive from customers into bonds, real estate and other investments, they are major holders of securities. If they needed to sell off holdings to raise cash, it could cause markets to tumble.

Here's the obvious question. If what Treasury and the Fed are doing is supposed to be making the economy better and we've hit bottom, how come we keep having to expand the bailouts?

The answer is quite simple. While the worst may be over for some sectors of the economy, the pain is just getting started for virtually everyone else. The financial meltdown is spreading to the rest of the economy. The financial nuclear reactor may not have exploded, it just irradiated everything around it, and now that sickness is going to take a heavy, heavy toll on the economy.

It's going to get a lot worse, and soon.

But The Problem Is The Unions!

Over at Digby's place, Dday details JP Morgan Chase, arguably the greediest bank ever. Not only did the bank take billions in TARP money, it's pushing for Chrysler to go into bankruptcy so that it gets paid first as one of Chrysler's main creditors, a move that could cost 200,000 auto jobs and wipe out thousands of union pensions and will certainly add to the ranks of Michigan's unemployed.

But that's not the "incredible asshole" part.

Guess which bank runs Michigan's unemployment insurance debit card program and charges unemployed workers egregious fees to do so?

What a bunch of great guys!

Dude, You Just Got Curbstomped By An Economist

Jim Cramer versus Nouriel Roubini? Oh hell no.

Just weeks after "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart took Cramer to task for trying to turn finance reporting into a "game," famous bear economist Nouriel Roubini criticized Cramer on Tuesday for predicting bull markets.

"Cramer is a buffoon," said Roubini, a New York University economics professor often called Dr. Doom. "He was one of those who called six times in a row for this bear market rally to be a bull market rally and he got it wrong. And after all this mess and Jon Stewart he should just shut up because he has no shame."

Cramer recently wrote in a blog that Roubini is "intoxicated" with his own "prescience and vision" and said Roubini should realize that things are better since the stock market bottom in March.

Roubini said in 2006 that the worst recession in four decades was on its way. He has attracted attention for his gloomy — and accurate — predictions of the U.S. financial market meltdown.

Roubini said the latest surge is just another bear market rally following the pattern of other rallies after the government intervened. He expects the market will test the previous low because of worse than expected macroeconomic news, disappointing earnings and because banks will fail after the stress tests come out.

"Once people get the reality check than it's going to get ugly again," Roubini said.

Roubini said Cramer should keep quiet.

"He's not a credible analyst. Every time it was a bear market rally he said it was the beginning of a bull and he got it wrong," Roubini said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Roubini is f'ckin hardcore, yo.

Catapulting The Propganda

If at first you get caught lying, then just get Michele Bachmann to do it again.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) penned an op-ed today that cites an influential MIT study on cap-and-trade legislation, despite the author of the study complaining that Republicans have misrepresented the findings.

Bachmann wrote: "According to an analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the average American household could expect its yearly energy bill to increase by $3,128 per year" if cap-and-trade were implemented. The study had been cited by Republicans before, including Minority Leader John Boehner.

The author of the study, MIT's John Reilly, told the St. Petersburg TImes that the $3,128 figure was not in his original study, adding that Republicans had arrived at that number themselves. Reilly estimated the actual cost to taxpayers to be around $30.

"It's just wrong," Reilly said of the GOP number. "It's wrong in so many ways it's hard to begin."

Gosh, I'm sensing a pattern here. But repeated public lying is standard GOP tactics, so I can't say I'm surprised.

Epic Walk The Plank Fail

US Merchant Marines 1, Somali Pirates, 0.
A U.S. official says the crew of an American-flagged vessel hijacked off the coast of Somalia has retaken control of the ship and has one pirate in custody.

The official said the status of the other pirates is unknown but they were reported to "be in the water." The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

I'm guessing they are in the water without the benefit of, you know, a boat.


[UPDATE]...or maybe not. CNN is reporting the crew has the ship, but the remaining pirates have the captain.

Running From Bunning

The latest Kentucky political survey from Public Policy Polling is bad, bad new for the Kentucky GOP. Jim Bunning? Toast.
Jim Bunning’s approval rating is just 28%, he trails the four most likely Democratic candidates in hypothetical contests, and fellow Republican Trey Grayson looks like a much more formidable possible candidate, the newest survey from Public Policy Polling finds.

54% of voters in the state disapprove of Bunning’s performance, and even among
Republicans just 42% think he’s doing a good job. Grayson, the Secretary of State
mentioned most as the possible GOP candidate were the incumbent to step aside, is
viewed positively by 46% of voters with just 19% holding an unfavorable opinion and
35% not sure.

Congressman Ben Chandler leads Bunning by 14 points, Attorney General Jack Conway
is up 9, Auditor Crit Luallen has the 8 point edge, and Lieutenant Governor Dan
Mongiardo’s advantage is 7.

Grayson is more competitive, trailing Chandler by 6 and Conway by 4 but leading
Luallen by 2 and Mongiardo by 4.

“If there was ever any doubt Republicans would be better off with Jim Bunning retiring
these numbers can put that to rest,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy
Polling. “It looks like he would lose to any of the Democrats being mentioned as
possible candidates. Trey Grayson may want to rethink his decision not to run unless
Bunning retires.”
Numbers like that mean Bunning's seat is a dead lock for the Democrats if he runs for reelection in 2010. And Bunning's just crazy enough to do it.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Steve Benen ponders the following:
Meanwhile, I suspect one of the problems with the Tea Parties is that it's not altogether clear what they're rallying for. They're conservatives who don't like the Democratic domestic policy agenda; this much is clear. But usually there's some kind of point to organized political events, and the Tea Parties are still a little vague.

I take it they don't like the economic stimulus package, but that's already passed. They don't like budget deficits, unless they're run by Republican presidents. They don't want their taxes to go up, but Obama has already passed a significant middle-class tax cut, which by most measures, is the largest tax cut ever signed by a U.S. president.

So, angry, right-wing activists are going to get together to demand ... what exactly? A 36% top rate instead of a 39.6% top rate? A $3.1 trillion federal budget instead of a $3.5 trillion budget?
Ahh, but the reason it doesn't seem like there's an organized point to the tea party mania (and the reason for all the paranoia from the right about the media and George Soros and the original cast of Rent and Mean Joe Greene and The Smurfs and whoever the hell else is persecuting Malkinvania this week) is the fact that they don't want the bad publicity should they let slip what the real deal is:

Destroy. Obama.

It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. Of course, that's the point. These folks have always needed an enemy or a scapegoat to hate. Now that the economy is in the tank, guess who that scapegoat is?

Yes, it really is that simple, folks.

Here endeth the lesson.

We've Got Trouble,Right Here In Lewisburg, Tennessee

And that starts with T, and that rhymes with B, and that stands for "bond derivatives".
Lewisburg is one of hundreds of small cities and counties across America reeling from their reliance in recent years on risky municipal bond derivatives that went bad. Municipalities that bought the derivatives were like homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages who refinanced by taking out lower-interest, variable-rate mortgages. But some local officials say they were not told, or did not understand, that interest rates could go much higher if economic conditions worsened — which, of course, they did.

The municipal bond marketplace was so lightly regulated that in Tennessee Morgan Keegan was able to dominate almost every phase of the business. The firm, which is based in Memphis, sold $2 billion worth of municipal bond derivatives to 38 cities and counties since 2001, according to data compiled by the state comptroller’s office.

After The New York Times made inquiries, the Tennessee comptroller, Justin P. Wilson, ordered a statewide freeze on bond derivatives and a review of the seminar taught by Morgan Keegan and others.

Representatives of Morgan Keegan pointed out that they saved cities and counties money for years by delivering lower interest rates, and that the economic decline that created the turmoil in the bond market was beyond their control. Moody’s credit rating agency on Tuesday issued a negative outlook for the fiscal health of municipal governments.
Everyone sing along now: "Nobody could have predicted, etc." It's a nice excuse. "It's not our fault the city couldn't pay up and didn't understand wheat they were getting into"...
In Lewisburg, the fallout from the bad bonds confronted the city of 11,000 people at an inopportune moment. Unemployment just nudged past 10 percent, businesses like Penny’s Home Cooking are shuttered, and a sprawling new corporate park sits mostly empty. A nearby employer, Sanford Pencil, the maker of Sharpie pens, is preparing to move to Mexico.

Unlike most states, Tennessee was one of the few where the legislature passed a law intended to regulate the sale of these complicated municipal bond derivatives to local governments. But the profusion of those deals and the various roles of Morgan Keegan have left leaders of those cities and counties furious at both the firm and the state.

In Claiborne County, north of Knoxville, officials said they were recently told by Morgan Keegan bankers that extracting themselves from a municipal bond derivative would cost $3 million, a sum the poor county cannot afford.

I told the Morgan Keegan man here in my office, ‘It seems to me, you are all trying to slip paperwork by us like a small, shady loan company,’ ” said Joe Duncan, the mayor of Claiborne County.
It wasn't just homeowners who got played by the banksters, but entire cities and counties too.

Ahh, but I'm sure these city and county governments were run by poor minorities and the Big Mean Democrats forced companies like Morgan Keegan to sell derivatives to them, right?

Another Vote For Plan N

While Wall Street and the financial world mulls over Tim Geithner's statement that he may indeed get tough and fire executives of bailed out companies, TARP Oversight Panel chair Elizabeth Warren has officially suggested that America should go the full Plan N route.
A congressional panel overseeing the U.S. financial rescue suggested that getting rid of top executives and liquidating problem banks may be a better way to solve the economic crisis.

The Congressional Oversight Panel, in a report released yesterday, also said the Treasury may be relying on too rosy an economic scenario to guide its $700 billion bailout, and declared that the success of the program after six months is “mixed.” Three of the group’s members disagreed with at least some of the findings.

All successful efforts to address bank crises have involved the combination of moving aside failed management and getting control of the process of valuing bank balance sheets,” the panel, headed by Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren, said in its report.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has revamped the Troubled Asset Relief Program to focus on injecting capital into banks and removing up to $1 trillion in illiquid securities from their balance sheets via public-private investment partnerships. The government is also working to unfreeze credit markets through a Federal Reserve program that provides loans to investors in some asset-backed securities.

Warren, in an interview on Bloomberg Television, said yesterday that while “things may be getting a little better” under Geithner, the Treasury still needs to be more transparent about how it is spending the taxpayers’ money.

“We still have a long way to go, a very long way,” she said.

A long way indeed, but Elizabeth Warren is a woman after my own heart, for sure. The pressure is growing for Plan N to be implemented, but everything depends on the results of the bank stress tests being fair and brutally objective to identify the banks that need to be targets of Plan N.

With ample evidence however that the stress tests are just a dog and pony show, it's looking more and more like Plan N will be avoided at all costs until it's either the last option, or worse, far too late to implement it.


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