Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Last Call

There was some state primary news made yesterday in my old home state of Nebraska, where Tea Party candidate State Sen. Deb Fischer literally came out of nowhere to blindside AG Jon Bruning to take the GOP Senate primary race against Democrat Bob Kerrey.

Her late surge, perhaps unprecedented in modern-day Nebraska political history, upended a Senate race that appeared to be settled as recently as 10 days ago with the GOP prize within the grasp of Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning.

Fischer suddenly gained momentum with late endorsements from 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln, then rode the momentum of a weekend TV ad blitz mounted by Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and his political action committee.

The super PAC ads purchased by Ending Spending supported Fischer and roughed up Bruning with attacks on his character and ethical behavior as attorney general. Within days, his support collapsed and the race was scrambled.

In other words, Joe Ricketts just bought himself a senator on the cheap in the last week of the campaign.  Fischer raised less than 15% of Bruning's war chest, but she had Moose Lady on her side.  Thanks, Citizens UnitedBob Kerrey is already crying foul.
As for Kerrey, the former senator took his own jab at Fischer, noting that a super PAC funded by former Omaha businessman Joe Ricketts funneled money into her race, helping her over the finish line.

Kerrey decried the large amount of money pouring into campaigns and asked what Ricketts expected in return.

“When he calls on her, what's he going to get?" Kerrey asked. "Does he want lower taxes? Probably. Does he want less regulation? Probably. And when you put that kind of money up, the question's going to occur."

The main attack on Bob Kerrey is that he's been outside Nebraska too long.  But now, Fischer's neatly purchased primary bought with money and influence from outside the state goes a long way towards blunting that criticism completely.  We'll see how the race polls now, and if Kerrey has a chance.  I'll say he has more of one than against Bruning, but not by much.

Would be nice to keep the seat blue, however.

Meet Pete, Austerian Elite

If you've not heard the name of Wall Street tycoon Peter J. Peterson, you've seen the ads his foundation has put out.  If America has a king of the Austerians, it's this guy.

Peter Peterson, a Wall Street billionaire who has been calling for cuts to Social Security and other government programs for years, is hosting a "fiscal summit" Tuesday that brings together Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, former President Bill Clinton, Rep. Paul Ryan, House Speaker John Boehner, Tom Brokaw and Politico's John Harris, among a host of other elites who will gather at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.

Now, how can a guy like Peterson have that much pull with Clinton, Paul Ryan, Orange Julius, and the Village press?  Real simple:  He's spent close to a half a billion dollars in 4 years in order to convince Democrats, Republicans and the Village that it's time to end government programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

According to a review of tax documents from 2007 through 2011, Peterson has personally contributed at least $458 million to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to cast Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and government spending as in a state of crisis, in desperate need of dramatic cuts. Peterson's millions have done next to nothing to change public opinion: In survey after survey, Americans reject the idea of cutting Social Security and Medicare. A recent national tour organized by AmericaSpeaks and largely funded by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation was met by audiences who rebuffed his proposals.

But Peterson has been able to drive a major shift in elite consensus about government spending, with talk of "grand bargains" that would slash entitlements, cut corporate tax rates and end personal tax breaks, such as the mortgage deduction, that benefit the middle class.  

That's right, much like the Koch Brothers, Peterson is putting his fortune where his ideas are, and those ideas are that the majority of the tax burden in this country has to fall on the middle class while the rich are spared.  The idea of our "spending crisis" and "debt crisis" in the Village press comes directly from Pete Peterson hosting summits like this and spending hundreds of millions of dollars of his own personal fortune in order to talk America's lawmakers into throwing the middle class and the poor under the bus.

Peterson is in this debate for the long haul: He's even working on children. Earlier this month, Columbia University's Teachers College released a new curriculum about the federal budget and fiscal policy that will be distributed free to every high school in the country. "Understanding Fiscal Responsibility" was introduced at a ceremony featuring Peter Orszag, a former Obama administration official who left to join Citigroup. The Peterson Foundation has already given $1.6 million of a promised $2.4 million for the curriculum.

The first two lessons are titled "Social Security and the National Debt" and "Medicare and the National Debt." The curriculum wants teens to ask, "How high a value do we place on guaranteeing quality health care to the elderly?"

Another effort to persuade America's youth about the shakiness of the entitlement programs is a joint venture between the Peterson Foundation and mtvU, the campus-based network created by MTV Networks, called Indebted. Peterson has already shelled out nearly $2 million to fund this effort to convince college students that Social Security won't be there for them, so therefore it should be slashed now -- a self-fulfilling policy prescription if ever there was one. 

So yeah, stuff like this makes Peterson one of the most dangerous guys in America, a billionaire trying to buy trillions in government spending cuts so that they can be given directly to the the richest Americans in tax cuts and loopholes.  Pete Peterson is literally quite rich enough to buy our government.

And he's been doing it for the last five years.  Think about that.  And now with Citizens United, he can buy the Congress he needs to make his twisted fantasies of millions of Americans losing their safety nets to make him billions come true.

Ain't America great?


Greek Fire, Part 56

And the Greeks fly too close to the firmament and get torched.  The good news is they've come up with the latest bailout payment and for now won't default.  The bad news is the government is no go, and that means more elections in a month and a huge question mark as to what happens next.

“The country is once again headed to elections in a few days under adverse conditions,” Evangelos Venizelos, the leader of the socialist Pasok party said. “The Greek people told us they didn’t want elections but a coalition government, that they want Greece in the euro.

I wouldn't bet a lot of money on that last part there.

Venizelos spoke after he and other party leaders met Papoulias today in Athens. A second election in less than two months threatens to extend the political gridlock that has left the country without a government since the last vote.

Greece’s political impasse means elections will probably be held next month, with polls showing that could boost the anti- bailout Syriza party to the top spot. The country may run out of money by early July.

The standoff has reignited concern the country will renege on pledges to cut spending as required by the terms of its two bailouts worth 240 billion euros ($306 billion) negotiated since May 2010, and, ultimately, leave the euro area. 

I wouldn't bet a lot of money on that last part there, either.   Greece is at this point facing the "Grexit" from the euro, and it's going to cause mass chaos in the rest of the eurozone.  Been talking about this for a long time now.  We're in the endgame now.

In Which Bon Yearns For A Clue Bat

This is the kind of stupidity that often ends in someone being really hurt.  Second degree burns is nothing to sneeze at, but when you put a nut like this in a situation it could have been worse.

(CBS) PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Police are on the lookout for 52-year-old David Timbers, who they say threw a cup of hot coffee at a doughnut shop employee, causing second-degree burns in a dispute over $2.40, CBS Philly reports.
The entire incident was caught on tape on May 8 inside a Fresh Donuts store in west Philadelphia. Timbers is seen arguing with the clerk and insisting that he paid for his sandwich. The clerk maintained that he didn't, which added to Timbers' frustration.
"I paid her! She told me I didn't, so she can take that and keep the sandwich," said Timbers on tape.
Police said Timbers grabbed a cup of hot coffee from the employee's hand and threw it at her. The victim suffered second-degree burns on her arm.
Cameras inside the store show that Timbers indeed never paid $2.40, according to police.
It could have been a legitimate mistake on his part, right up until the point of assault.  Two dollars isn't worth hurting someone for, bleah.  We see self-important jerks like this every day, I hope for each one of these that goes off, ten are silenced by common sense.

Doctor Sleep

Taking part of the sting away from the Gunslinger delay, we have a sequel to The Shining to look forward to.  Titled Doctor Sleep, it follows Danny Torrance through his adult years, and brings him back to his original strength as one of the strongest "shiners" that ever existed.

Here's a clip from

Way back in November of 2009 we got word that Stephen King was working on a sequel novel to The Shining, the book on which the classic Stanley Kubrick horror film of the same name is based. Well, King has been hard at work on the book titled Doctor Sleep, and the reason we're so interested in it is because of the potential for a film sequel. Apparently the book is slated to hit shelves on January 15th next year, and there's a good chance a studio could pick up the film rights to the book before then. In the meantime, how about we give you the official synopsis that just made its way online from the most official source.Read on!

You can always read more at to stay in the loop.  Right now there are no movie deals, but it's very possible.  It would take a brave director to compete with the original, a horror standard, but someone will likely bite at the challenge.

Either way, the book is coming, and that is enough to put a perk in my day.

Dimon Dog Days, Part 2

Would Presidents McCain or Romney have given the green light to the FBI launching a probe into the country's biggest bank?  I'm thinking not.

The FBI has opened a probe into trading losses at JPMorgan Chase & Co, stepping up the pressure on the bank after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve said they were also looking into the wrong-way bets that led to the losses.

Yet at the same time, shareholders backed embattled Chief Executive Jamie Dimon at the bank's annual shareholders meeting in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, voting against a proposal to split the CEO and chairman roles.

Though shareholders mostly gave Dimon a pass, pressure mounted on the bank to reclaim some of the millions of dollars it paid to the executives who oversaw the trades. Dimon said JPMorgan would pursue more disciplinary action against those who were responsible.

"We will do the right thing. That may well include clawbacks," he told reporters after the annual meeting.

The timing on any such move was not clear, though, and the various regulatory probes could add complications. A source familiar with the FBI investigation, opened by the agency's New York office, described it as being at a preliminary stage.

Granted, this is very much an election year ploy, and Dimon remains on the NY Fed board (and personally I don't think Dimon is very long for that particular position.)  Still, no matter what the Obama administration's motives here are, the results are what matters and it comes as a warning to the rest of the banks in Big Casino land that there's actually a price when you come up snake eyes and expect the taxpayers to foot the bill.

Dimon too will be under tremendous pressure to give up any bonus cash along with executives in order to pay back losses.  The stockholders will most likely insist, especially the big hedge fund guys and big pension fund holders.

The Dimon Dog's days may be numbered.  We'll see.

The Search For Justice

A television station in Orlando is reporting that the FBI is close to officially charging Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, with a federal hate crime.

WFTV has learned charges against George Zimmerman could be getting more serious.
State prosecutors said Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, profiled and stalked 17-year-old Trayvon Martin before killing him, so the FBI is now looking into charging him with a hate crime.

Zimmerman admitted to killing Martin in February during a confrontation. However, he claims the shooting was in self-defense. He's facing a second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. But if Zimmerman is charged and found guilty of a federal hate crime involving murder, he could face the death penalty.

If the Justice Department decides to go that route, they're going to have a lot to prove to a jury.  Frankly, I don't think it's going to get past twelve people unless the FBI has evidence that so far has not been made public involving Zimmerman and his intent.  That could be the case.  From what I've seen so far, there's not enough there to prove a hate crime to a jury, and that's the important part.

We'll see what the FBI decides to do as far as its ongoing investigation.


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