Daily Archive: October 17, 2012

J.K. Rowling

Yeah, I know not everyone is as big a fan as I am but she’s also considerably left of ‘Pragmatic’ Villager opinion.

Part 1

Part 2

What Voters DON’T Care About

Not One Debate Question Last Night Touched on the Deficit

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Wednesday October 17, 2012 11:34 am

The deficit was arguably the primary point of discussion in the Jim Lehrer debate, and Martha Raddatz featured it prominently as well. Voters don’t seem to care. They’re far more interested in things directly affecting their lives, like jobs, women’s rights, immigration, gun violence, gas prices, all topics that didn’t come up previously. Heck, even foreign policy, or at least the foreign policy situation of the moment in Libya, rated more pressing a concern than actuarial projections of the federal budget 20 or 30 years down the road.

I’m not always partial to the idea of the wisdom of crowds, but in this case, the political class would do well to follow the public. Polling consistently shows that voters don’t care about the deficit, and last night’s breadth of topics showed the same.

The group that consistently cares more about the deficit are, simply put, rich people. They don’t want their hard-earned massive tax cuts to get clawed back because the deficit gets so high that they can no longer use the “job creator” charade to shield themselves. So they obsess about the deficit, as a means to cut anything but their tax cuts. That’s the game. And the rich spend tens of millions to make that a reality, shaping opinions in Washington. The Democrats have sought to become the party of austerity in many ways to curry favor to a political class that demands so-called “fiscal responsibility.” But in reality, without our large deficit, we would not even have the recovery we have, a recovery that has outpaced the rest of the world, particularly in Europe, where they are mired in far more damaging austerity.

The more politicians realize that the public does not share the concern of the Beltway establishment on the deficit, the better off they – and the rest of us – will be.

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Lesser evilism : Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a golden ticket winner!

Over at truthdig.com, Peter Scheer (Robert’s bro?) rails for lesser evilism:

Being an American citizen and having the right to vote-assuming your state hasn’t stolen that right through a felony charge, a voter ID law or a shifty election machine-is like having a golden ticket. The president of the United States is, for better or worse, the de facto emperor of the world, and you’re possibly one of a minority of people who gets to pick him.

[your enfeebled, minority rights to vote for “de facto emperor of the world” will not be wasted in this democracy…No, sir. ]

Voting isn’t simply a civic duty or a right; it’s a jackpot, one that corporations, political parties and perhaps the ruling elite are constantly trying to take away from you. The choices you make, and that includes the choice not to be involved, will decide where the bombs fall, where in the developing world the HIV drugs get distributed, how poor you have to be to get health care and whether someone whose life experience amounts to horse racing is put in charge of managing our government’s response to natural disasters.  

What a jackpot!  What a golden ticket!  You decide “where the bombs fall.”  

I identify with those progressives who say it is evil for President Obama to send robots across the night to bomb whole villages because someone’s name was added to a secret list we’ll never see. I think it is disgusting that a country that sings of the free and the brave would lock up and essentially torture Pvt. Bradley Manning for courageously defying the faceless imperial beast, as he is alleged to have done. President Obama has done many things in four years that make me grind my teeth.

Scheer leaves no clues as to whether this is vicious satire or not, but I admit to thinking the worst; so I’m climbing out of the interrogator’s window altogether while they freshen their coffee.

Cartnoon

Aoooooooow.  Originally posted here July 11, 2011.

Rabbit’s Kin

Don’t let the door hit you.

Citigroup’s Chief Resigns in Surprise Step

By JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG and SUSANNE CRAIG, The New York Times

October 16, 2012

In an interview, Mr. Pandit said that the decision to resign was entirely his own, adding that it was “something that I had been thinking about for a while” and that Monday “it occurred to me to go see Mike.”

For weeks, though, Mr. O’Neill and other board members had been mapping out the transfer of power during meetings that occurred, in part, while Mr. Pandit was in Japan last week attending a gathering of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, said the people briefed on the matter, who declined to be named because the meetings were private.



“This is a ludicrous management transition, the worst I’ve seen in my 25-year career,” said Michael Mayo, an analyst at Credit Agricole Securities.



Mr. Pandit presided over a turbulent chapter in Citi’s history, steering the bank back from the brink of collapse during the financial crisis when Citi received a $45 billion lifeline from the federal government, along with other federal support.



Mr. Pandit’s total direct compensation, which includes salary, bonus payouts and some stock awards, totals $56.4 million in his years as chief, according to the research firm Equilar. But his biggest payout from Citi was the $165 million that he received when the bank bought Old Lane Partners, the hedge fund he co-founded after leaving Morgan Stanley.

With Mr. Pandit’s exit, just two men who ran Wall Street banks during the financial crisis remain in their posts: Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs.



Some board members saw the Federal Reserve’s rejection in March of Citi’s proposal to buy back shares and increase its dividend payments as a reflection, in part, of Mr. Pandit’s poor relationship with the bank’s regulators, according to several people close to the bank.

Then some board members were angered when the final valuation of the wealth management unit, which is jointly owned with Morgan Stanley, was considered a coup for Morgan. The banks agreed to value the brokerage operation at $13.5 billion, and as a result, Citi took a $2.9 billion write-down during the third quarter.

Mr. Pandit’s resignation was a surprise on Tuesday because its third-quarter earnings, released the day before, were seen as relatively strong, excluding the write-down and one-time items.



Still, shareholders were apprehensive. Despite recent gains in the stock, the shares had fallen 89 percent since he took over. In April, they rejected a board-approved pay package that increased Mr. Pandit’s pay to $14.9 million in 2011, up from $1 a year in 2010. That rebuke surprised some board members, adding fodder for those who wanted to replace Mr. Pandit.

Citigroup’s $900 Million Man Departs Abruptly

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The media seems to have accepted the board’s effort to save face, which is that they were in the process of pushing Pandit out. But “in the process” is not the same as pulling the trigger. This was, in the words of analyst Mike Mayo, the worst transition he’s seen in 25 years. While Pandit presumably got some personal satisfaction by (probably barely) beating the board to the punch, it was a self-indulgent, immature move.



Pandit’s much bigger win is that he is laughing all the way to the countinghouse. The behemoth bank paid $800 million to secure the services of Pandit, who had been a promising executive at Morgan Stanley before forming the hedge fund, Old Lane Partners, that Citi acquired. That price produced at least a $165 million payday for Pandit personally. The effective price of getting him on board may have been even higher, since the bank shuttered the fund a mere 11 months later, and may have taken losses on credit extended to it. Even though he took only $1 in 2010, he still wound up with $56.5 million over his tenure at Citigroup (Felix Salmon claims it was $96 million).

Pandit managed the impressive task of underperforming his closest cousin in the garbage barge category, Bank of America. Citi’s stock price fell 89% over Pandit’s tenure, while the Charlotte bank’s declined a mere 79%. Sheila Bair wanted his scalp, both out of the belief that managers of bailout-out banks, even relatively new ones, needed to suffer consequences, as well as her assessment that Pandit was not up to his job, in particular, that he was not on top of operational workings. But Pandit, a pick of Robert Rubin, got to keep his job thanks to the support of fellow Rubin protege Timothy Geithner. And the “strategy” he appears to have been given credit for, that of shrinking and focusing the bank, was demanded of him by regulators. Similarly, the offensive “the government made money on its investment in Citi” is patently false. It not only had to restructure the deal (a second bailout after the initial TARP infusion) but the Treasury provided a second huge gimmie, that of allowing Citi to preserve the value of $50 billion in deferred tax assets, which in 2010 counted for a full third of the bank’s tangible common equity.

The media is now dutifully recounting Pandit’s sins: Citi’s failure to get permission from the Fed to pay dividends this year; an exit from its JV of Smith Barney on terms that were way too favorable to its partner, Morgan Stanley (ahem, but where was the board on that one?); asking for $15 million in pay for 2011, a level that investors rejected. And I’m a bit of a loss at the idea that quitting after the third quarter earnings announcement allowed Pandit to exit with his head high. Nearly half of the quarter’s $3.3 billion in earnings (before the $2.9 billion after tax loss on the Smith Barney sale) came from the reversal of loss reserves.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

On This Day In History October 17

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 17 is the 290th day of the year (291st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 75 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1986, President Ronald Reagan signs into law an act of Congress approving $100 million of military and “humanitarian” aid for the Contras. Unfortunately for the President and his advisors, the Iran-Contra scandal is just about to break wide open, seriously compromising their goal of overthrowing the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Congress, and a majority of the American public, had not been supportive of the Reagan administration’s efforts to topple the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Reagan began a “secret war” to bring down the Nicaraguan government soon after taking office in 1981. Millions of dollars, training, and arms were funneled to the Contras (an armed force of Nicaraguan exiles intent on removing the leftist Nicaraguan regime) through the CIA. American involvement in the Contra movement soon became public, however, as did disturbing reports about the behavior of the Contra force. Charges were leveled in newspapers and in Congress that the Contras were little more than murderers and drug runners; rumors of corruption and payoffs were common. Congress steadily reduced U.S. assistance to the Contras, and in 1984 passed the second Boland Amendment prohibiting U.S. agencies from giving any aid to the group.

The affair was composed of arms sales to Iran in violation of the official US policy of an arms embargo against Iran, and of using funds thus generated to arm and train the Contra militants based in Honduras as they waged a guerilla war to topple the government of Nicaragua. The Contras’ form of warfare was “one of consistent and bloody abuse of human rights, of murder, torture, mutilation, rape, arson, destruction and kidnapping.” The “Contras systematically engage in violent abuses… so prevalent that these may be said to be their principal means of waging war.” A Human Rights Watch report found that the Contras were guilty of targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination; kidnapping civilians; torturing and executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat; raping women; indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian homes; seizing civilian property; and burning civilian houses in captured towns.

Direct funding of the Contras insurgency had been made illegal through the Boland Amendment the name given to three U.S. legislative amendments between 1982 and 1984, all aimed at limiting US government assistance to the Contras militants. Senior officials of the Reagan administration decided to continue arming and training the Contras secretly and in violation of the law as enacted in the Boland Amendment. Senior Reagan administration officials started what they came to call “the Enterprise,” a project to raise money for their illegal funding of the Contras insurgency.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


Art Glass 46

Demanding Answers from the Candidates

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Romney/Ryan tax plan is not serious. As Matt Taibbi, contributing editor of Rolling Stone, points out, we should all be rolling our eyes and laughing at this farcical plan. He also takes the mainstream media to task for not being offended by the dishonest tactics and lies that the Republican candidates are using to bamboozle the electorate into handing these two frat boys the White House.

I’ve never thought much of Joe Biden. But man, did he get it right in last night’s debate, and not just because he walloped sniveling little Paul Ryan on the facts. What he got absolutely right, despite what you might read this morning (many outlets are criticizing Biden’s dramatic excesses), was his tone. Biden did absolutely roll his eyes, snort, laugh derisively and throw his hands up in the air whenever Ryan trotted out his little beady-eyed BS-isms. [..]

The load of balls that both Romney and Ryan have been pushing out there for this whole election season is simply not intellectually serious. Most of their platform isn’t even a real platform, it’s a fourth-rate parlor trick designed to paper over the real agenda – cutting taxes even more for super-rich dickheads like Mitt Romney, and getting everyone else to pay the bill. [..]

Think about what that means. Mitt Romney is running for president – for president! – promising an across-the-board 20 percent tax cut without offering any details about how that’s going to be paid for. Forget being battered by the press, he and his little sidekick Ryan should both be tossed off the playing field for even trying something like that. This race for the White House, this isn’t some frat prank. This is serious. This is for grownups, for God’s sake. [..]

Sometimes in journalism I think we take the objectivity thing too far. We think being fair means giving equal weight to both sides of every argument. But sometimes in the zeal to be objective, reporters get confused. You can’t report the Obama tax plan and the Romney tax plan in the same way, because only one of them is really a plan, while the other is actually not a plan at all, but an electoral gambit. [..]

The proper way to report such a tactic is to bring to your coverage exactly the feeling that Biden brought to the debate last night: contempt and amazement. We in the press should be offended by what Romney and Ryan are doing – we should take professional offense that any politician would try to whisk such a gigantic lie past us to our audiences, and we should take patriotic offense that anyone is trying to seize the White House using such transparently childish and dishonest tactics.

Like Taibbi, I am no fan of the Obama/Biden administration, but this campaign by the Republican candidates is a bad joke being played out with the blessings of the traditional MSM. It’s time to get answers. This is serious business.

Justice Party Candidate: Rocky Anderson

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

If you watch only the major networks or read only the local newspapers you would think that only Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are vying for the Oval Office. There are other candidates running for President but the MSM and the two major parties have managed to keep them out of the debates. There are three other candidates: Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson; Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Today’s focus will be on Justice Party candidate, Rocky Anderson.

Ross Carl “Rocky” Anderson (born September 9, 1951) served two terms as the 33rd mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, between 2000 and 2008. He is the Executive Director of High Road for Human Rights. Prior to serving as Mayor, he practiced law for 21 years in Salt Lake City, during which time he was listed in Best Lawyers in America, was rated A-V (highest rating) by Martindale-Hubbell, served as Chair of the Utah State Bar Litigation Section and was Editor-in-Chief of, and a contributor to, Voir Dire legal journal.

As mayor, Anderson rose to nationwide prominence as a champion of several national and international causes, including climate protection, immigration reform, restorative criminal justice, LGBT rights, and an end to the “war on drugs”. Before and after the invasion by the U.S. of Iraq in 2003, Anderson was a leading opponent of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and related human rights abuses. Anderson was the only mayor of a major U.S. city who advocated for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, which he did in many venues throughout the United States.

Anderson’s work and advocacy led to local, national, and international recognition in numerous spheres, including being named by Business Week as one of the top twenty activists in the world on climate change, serving on the Newsweek Global Environmental Leadership Advisory Board, and being recognised by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the top ten straight advocates in the United States for LGBT equality. He has also received numerous awards for his work, including the EPA Climate Protection Award,[9] the Sierra Club Distinguished Service Award, the Respect the Earth Planet Defender Award, the National Association of Hispanic Publications Presidential Award, The Drug Policy Alliance Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award, the Progressive Democrats of America Spine Award, the League of United Latin American Citizens Profile in Courage Award,[14] the Bill of Rights Defense Committee Patriot Award,[15] the Code Pink (Salt Lake City) Pink Star honor, the Morehouse University Gandhi, King, Ikeda Award, and the World Leadership Award for environmental programs.[16]

Formerly a member of the Democratic Party, Anderson expressed his disappointment with that Party in 2011, stating, “The Constitution has been eviscerated while Democrats have stood by with nary a whimper. It is a gutless, unprincipled party, bought and paid for by the same interests that buy and pay for the Republican Party.” Anderson announced his intention to run for President in 2012 as a candidate for the newly-formed Justice Party

Logan native Rocky Anderson discusses run for U.S. president, need for more parties

Since announcing his run for the White House in January, Anderson has stressed the elimination of corporate influence in American government and on making the office of president more accountable. Other issues that top his list, he said, are climate change, equal rights and the regulation of banking and finance industries. [..]

Explaining the purpose of the new Justice Party, Anderson says his campaign is different because the two primary candidates are ignoring the country’s most significant challenges.

“Neither of the dominant parties will even discuss breaking up the banks that are too big to fail,” he added. “We just went through a major economic upheaval with tragic results for the American people … and yet the conditions that led to the economic meltdown are still in place, and it’s because these candidates and their parties have received millions of dollars from Wall Street firms.”

The candidate said he wants the White House to be held accountable for its aerial drone program, which Anderson says has killed “hundreds if not thousands of innocent men, women and children,” and tainted the United States’ reputation for global security.

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