Thursday, August 30, 2012

Last Call

So Mitt, as you take the podium tonight at the GOP Convention?  About Bain & Company?  That free market "success story" that's your main qualification for being able to fix America, Inc.?

You didn't build that.  Mitt ran the company into the ground in order to raid the joint. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson investigates:

According to the candidate's mythology, Romney took leave of his duties at the private equity firm Bain Capital in 1990 and rode in on a white horse to lead a swift restructuring of Bain & Company, preventing the collapse of the consulting firm where his career began. When The Boston Globe reported on the rescue at the time of his Senate run against Ted Kennedy, campaign aides spun Romney as the wizard behind a "long-shot miracle," bragging that he had "saved bank depositors all over the country $30 million when he saved Bain & Company."

In fact, government documents on the bailout obtained by Rolling Stone show that the legend crafted by Romney is basically a lie. The federal records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Romney's initial rescue attempt at Bain & Company was actually a disaster – leaving the firm so financially strapped that it had "no value as a going concern." Even worse, the federal bailout ultimately engineered by Romney screwed the FDIC – the bank insurance system backed by taxpayers – out of at least $10 million. And in an added insult, Romney rewarded top executives at Bain with hefty bonuses at the very moment that he was demanding his handout from the feds.

What a surprise.  Mitt Romney used taxpayer money to save his company, then he and his executives pocketed the cash.   But Mitt set that option up on purpose:

With his rescue plan a bust, Romney was forced to slink back to the banks to negotiate a new round of debt relief. There was only one catch: Even though Bain & Company was deep in debt and sinking fast, the firm was actually flush with cash – most of it from the looted money that Bill Bain and other partners had given back. "Liquidity is strong based on the significant cash balance which Bain is carrying," one federal document reads.

Under normal circumstances, such ample reserves would have made liquidating Bain an attractive option: Creditors could simply divvy up the stockpiled cash and be done with the troubled firm. But Bain had inserted a poison pill in its loan agreement with the banks: Instead of being required to use its cash to pay back the firm's creditors, the money could be pocketed by Bain executives in the form of fat bonuses – starting with VPs making $200,000 and up. "The company can deplete its cash balances by making officer-bonus payments," the FDIC lamented, "and still be in compliance with the loan documents."

What's more, the bonus loophole gave Romney a perverse form of leverage: If the banks and the FDIC didn't give in to his demands and forgive much of Bain's debts, Romney would raid the firm's coffers, pushing it into the very bankruptcy that the loan agreement had been intended to avert. The losers in this game would not only be Bain's creditors – including the federal government – but the firm's nearly 1,000 employees worldwide.

Mitt then used that "perverse leverage" to then rip taxpayers off for millions.

In the end, the government surrendered. At the time, The Boston Globe cited bankers dismissing the bailout as "relatively routine" – but the federal documents reveal it was anything but. The FDIC agreed to accept nearly $5 million in cash to retire $15 million in Bain's debt – an immediate government bailout of $10 million. All told, the FDIC estimated it would recoup just $14 million of the $30 million that Romney's firm owed the government.

It was a raw deal – but Romney's threat to loot his own firm had left the government with no other choice. If the FDIC had pushed Bain into bankruptcy, the records reveal, the agency would have recouped just $3.56 million from the firm.

Romney scammed the FDIC into taking a bad deal or a horrible deal, and either one would leave Romney and Bain's top executives with fat sacks of green.

Of course, we're not 100% positive if Mitt profited from this, after all.  He's hiding his financial information and we don't know for sure.  But it would be insane to assume he didn't personally profit from this "eat this crapburger or eat bullet to the head" choice he locked the FDIC into, and went to great lengths to set up.

Are there any questions as to why he's hiding his tax info after reading this?

The Fattest Of All The Cats

You knew it was coming:  Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone expose' on Mitt Romney's days at Bain Capital, and it's everything that you'd expect from the caustically truthful author.

And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a "turnaround specialist," a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.

Mitt's plan is to run America like a business:  One that he's about to take apart and sell off in the largest hostile takeover in the history of the world.  He's going to streamline, rightsize and synergize  the 99% right out of the American dream and keep the rest for himself and his buddies.

By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions – placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you'll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It's almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.

America, Inc. is about to be vivisected for parts, folks.  The looting of the US treasury began in earnest four years ago with the bank bailout.  That was just a test run.
The unlikeliness of Romney's gambit isn't simply a reflection of his own artlessly unapologetic mindset – it stands as an emblem for the resiliency of the entire sociopathic Wall Street set he represents. Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions – it's dusted itself off, it's had a shave and a shoeshine, and it's back out there running for president.

And if he wins (which almost certainly means the GOP will gain the Senate as well) then we'll deserve exactly what we'll get.  Forget the new Gilded Age:  we'll be in the new Feudal Age.

Do read the whole thing.  Taibbi eviscerates everyone involved with aplomb.

Voting While Black

Earlier this week Rachel Maddow took on the True The Vote jokers and exposed their real agenda:  targeted voter harassment against minorities, especially African-Americans and Latino voters.

The group had its first test run in its home district of Houston in 2010. ”True the Vote appears to have targeted mostly black precincts, sending white challengers to stare down voting booths filled with black voters,” Maddow said. ”There were so many reports of an intimidating atmosphere in Houston that election that the Federal Justice Department sent observers in on election day.”

True the Vote’s shadowy backers have injected a massive infusion of cash into the organization’s coffers, which will enable them to station “a million” poll watchers at every district they deem questionable in the country.  They have held seminars in Colorado, Florida and Ohio, all hotly contested swing states.

In Ohio, the practice has its origins in the 1800s, when precinct captains were charged with the duty of challenging any person who showed up to vote and appeared to have a “distinct and visible admixture of African blood.”  The voter would then be subject to a barrage of questions about their heritage and background with the aim of intimidating them to the point that they would leave rather than face this type of harassment.

The same laws are being taken advantage of today by True the Vote to the very same end, silencing the voice of the black electorate.  Ohio’s Secretary of State, John Husted was scheduled to speak at True the Vote’s Ohio summit on Saturday, but backed out when Maddow and producers contacted his office about the group.  Maddow invited Husted to come on the show and explain his connection to the group, but as of last week, the Secretary’s office stopped answering and returning calls from the “Maddow Show.”

What went on in Houston and Harris County, Texas in 2010 will now be repeated across the country in 2012.

The conservative group alleges that there's massive voter fraud in Harris County, and the poll watchers they've trained have been accused of intimidating voters. But at Moody Park, Republican candidate Fernando Herrara, the challenger to Democratic state Rep. Jessica Farrar, said he knows of instances in which election officials have only shown voters how to vote the straight Democratic ticket. He believes that in certain polling areas, he's losing 5 percent daily due to illegal voting practices that favor Democrats. Only a few minutes after he voiced his concerns that voters were getting manipulated, a Harris County investigator arrived to serve him with papers. It turned out Herrera had been accused of voter intimidation.

Before this election it was rare to hear of even one complaint from a voter. So far this cycle, there have been more than 55 in Harris County—many of which allege voter intimidation. True the Vote has promised it will have over 1000 poll watchers out on election day to ensure the process is fair, but so many poll watchers also heightens concerns about intimidation.

Groups of True the Vote "patriots" will be in minority districts across the country intimidating, harassing, and accusing minority voters of not voting Republican enough (it must be ILLEGAL!) in order to try to tarnish and delegitimize any Democratic wins, particularly an Obama reelection victory.  These jackasses screaming about "millions of fraudulent votes and we have proof!" will be the catalyst for House investigations, national Voter ID legislation, and hey, even impeachment proceedings probably.

It's not like the GOP is interested in truth, remember?  Voting Democratic while black is a crime, folks.

Science Explains Why Gullible Old People Believe Paul Ryan

FRIDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Whether it's an email from an unknown gentleman on another continent pleading for money or a financial scammer selling a promising penny stock, the young and old tend to be more easily duped than middle-aged people.
Now, researchers have pinpointed the area of the brain responsible for this gullibility and have theorized why it makes children, teens and seniors less likely to doubt.
The ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex of the brain -- a softball-sized lobe in the front of your head, just above your eyes -- appears to be responsible for allowing you to pause after hearing or reading something and consider whether it's true, according to a study published recently in the journalFrontiers in Neuroscience.

The rest of the article explains how this vital part of our brain isn't formed until our early 20s, and declines as we age.  So now it makes perfect sense.  Biologically speaking, Mittens and Co. have a better chance with the older Americans.

Oh yeah, and being white helps too, I'm sure.

Springfield City Council Sticks It To Us Again

There will be a special podcast coming this weekend, in which I go into detail about how our city government decided to weasel out of doing their duty.  But for now, I'm going to tackle this issue because it is happening all over the country.

It's time to legalize pot and move on to bigger fish, or so I think.  But even if one felt differently, I think we can all agree that moves like this are cowardly and defy the processes we should be given.  Rather than spare us the cost of a pesky vote, Springfield City Council instead passed a measure to decriminalize marijuana.

Only to keep it from going to a public vote, they passed it so they can gut it and make it completely useless.  Heaven forbid voters get a chance to be heard.  They ran a nice public dog and pony show to give the impression they give a damn, but in the end they went for the highest bidder.  The E-verify measure they passed was illegal in places, yet it went in as law and instead of fixing the illegal parts council members were trying to figure out how to make them work.

Funny how they can find a way to make it work when it benefits them.  We would try to vote them out or run for office, but they just squashed votes for council seats, saying it was too expensive.  That is the same reason they gave for not wanting the marijuana measure to go to vote.


Thanks to Rob Wolfe from Randomly Walking for pointing out this little nugget of dumbassery:

Hunter Spanjer says his name with a certain special hand gesture, but at just three and a half years old, he may have to change it.
"He's deaf, and his name sign, they say, is a violation of their weapons policy," explained Hunter's father, Brian Spanjer.
Grand Island's "Weapons in Schools" Board Policy 8470 forbids "any instrument...that looks like a weapon," But a three year-old's hands?
"It's a symbol. It's an actual sign, a registered sign, through S.E.E.," Brian Spanjer said.
This is taking ridiculous to exciting new levels.  First of all, unless he is a black belt his hands are not weapons.  What they are doing is the equivalent of banning words like "buns" and "suns" because they rhyme with guns.  But even so, in preschool, this is unacceptable.  They are making a very young child painfully aware of his handicap and insulting his name.  We may be able to see the nuances of this issue, but rest assured he cannot.

As for nuance, it's still all crap.  Banning hand gestures is ridiculous enough, but when it is a child's name it just makes sense that they get over themselves.

We Just Stopped Giving A Damn, Ma'am

Steve Benen points out that the Romney camp no longer cares about the truth, and dares the media to do something about it.

[On Tuesday], Team Romney abandoned the pretense of caring about honesty altogether.
Mitt Romney's aides explained with unusual political bluntness today why they are spending heavily -- and ignoring media criticism -- to air an add accusing President Barack Obama of "gutting" the work requirement for welfare, a marginal political issue since the mid-1990s that Romney pushed back to center stage.
"Our most effective ad is our welfare ad," a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O'Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABCNews and Yahoo! News. "It's new information."
The claims are "new," of course, because the Romney campaign made them up. Sure, it's "new information," in the same way it would be "new information" if Obama said Mitt Romney sold heroin to children -- when one invents a lie, its "newness" is self-evident.

Romney pollster Neil Newhouse added, "[W]e're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."

So guess what, Village media?  When you rolled over for Palin in 2008 and the Tea Party in 2010, you inherited Mittens and his crew saying now that truth is meaningless in this election, and that there's nothing you can do about it.  The threat is implicit:  if you point out Mitt is lying, you're biased and the campaign will bury you, and the Republican party will remove your access.

Mitt's campaign is daring the Village to even try to call them out.  With only a few exceptions, it won't happen.  Why?  The Village destroyed its own credibility with the Both Sides Do It!/View From Nowhere.  Not pissing GOP politicos off became more important than telling the truth about them (and to a lesser extent, some Democrats).

Now we're at the point where the Romney campaign is daring the media to report the truth, and no doubt already threatening vengeance.  They have FOX and Rush and Hannity and Huckabee and whatever media outlets they've bought.  They don't need the broadcast networks and the newspapers anymore.

Paul Ryan's GOP convention speech Wednesday night exemplified this new dynamic as he told outright lies about Medicare, the debt ceiling battle that cost the US a credit rating notch, the Bowles-Simpson commission, and a Wisconsin auto plant closing that Ryan blamed on Obama...when the plant closed in 2008 before Obama took office.

Ryan criticized Obama for — yes — not using government funds to prop up an auto plant in his district.

“A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years,’” Ryan recalled. “That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.”

Ignoring the inconsistency of a Republican chastising Obama for not bailing out more auto manufacturers, the plant in question closed before Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

They don't care anymore.  They're just making stuff up in order to win.

And all sides know it.

How Obama Rolls

The Obama administration is set to finalize new fuel efficiency standards that will make new cars sold in 2025 meet significantly higher mileage per gallon.

The Obama administration finalized the rule requiring automakers to roughly double the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks by 2025, the White House announced on Tuesday.

Regulators unveiled the auto fuel efficiency proposal last November after nearly a year of negotiations among the administration, automakers and environmental groups.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that the efficiency rule could reduce oil use by 2 million barrels per day.

That standard, 54.5 MPG, means we'll be moving in the right direction on new cars and trucks.  Keep in mind gas prices have tripled in the last 12 years.  12 years from now?  Not sure how much gas will be, but I'm pretty sure like the $1.25 a gallon I recall complaining about in 2000, today's $3.75 a gallon or so will be a fond memory 12 years from now...and you'll be thankful for your car getting that kind of mileage.

We'll see how it goes.


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