Thursday, March 26, 2009

Let The Revolution Begin…The Smell Is In The Air And The Words Are In Print!

Let The Revolution Begin…The Smell Is In The Air And The Words Are In Print!



The Latest From Late Night Comedians

Jay Leno: "How many watched the President's news conference last night? ... He got a little testy there, you know. When he was asked why he waited three days to speak out against the AIG bonuses, President Obama said he likes to know what he's talking about before he speaks. So, yet another reversal of the Bush policies."…BUT SERIOUSLY NOW THE NEWS…


Levin Declares Obama Administration Desired Takeover Authority “Unconstitutional”



Although Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., was ridiculed for raising that question in a congressional hearing on March 24, conservative talk show host, constitutional lawyer and legal commentator Mark Levin, told Fox News Channel's "Your World with Neil Cavuto" on March 24 that government was indeed exceeding the constitution. According to Levin, there is nothing in the Constitution that would allow the Obama administration to expand the government's ability to seize non-banking financial institutions as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has proposed.

"It's unbelievable," Levin said. "There is no constitutional authority for this. I thought the American people like capitalism. I mean look, we luxuriated in this society as a result of the market system."

Levin, former chief of staff for Attorney General Edwin Meese currently has the bestselling book on, "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto."


My pitchfork now has a purpose | |
By | 
Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase, is clearly getting weary of all this vox populistuff. A couple of weeks before the ABC report, he fought back in a speech at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce conference. ...
The Virginian-Pilot -

For days now, I've been standing rather sheepishly amid an angry mob of American taxpayers, awkwardly shifting my pitchfork from hand to hand, unsure what I'm supposed to do with it when I'm not waving it in the air.

Now, at last, I know.

The answer was inadvertently supplied to me by JPMorgan Chase. It's been in the news lately for its plans to spend almost $120 million to buy two new corporate jets and another $18 million to renovate a hangar at Westchester Airport outside New York City.

When ABC News aired a report on JPMorgan Chase's plans, the angry mob of American taxpayers - still fuming over all those bonuses at AIG - began a-grumbling and agitating anew.

The financial giant, you see, received $25 billion in federal bailout money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. And this - this - is the thanks we get? Two fancy new jets and a fancy hangar?

"It's a remarkably boneheaded decision," corporate watchdog Nell Minow told ABC. "It's completely tone deaf."

But the folks at JPMorgan Chase quickly barked back at the watchdog and ABC's riffraff-rousing report. A bank spokesman told The New York Times that the new jets are merely replacing two of JP-Morgan Chase's four existing corporate flying machines.

What's more, the spokesman said, "We will not purchase any replacement plane or make any related expenditure until after we have repaid TARP funds in full."

So, you see, they're not wasting our money. It's a different pile of money entirely. Any display of wretched excess will be postponed until after we taxpayers have been made whole.

Oh, I know: Some of you may wonder if it's possible - in these austere times - that JP-Morgan Chase execs could just retire those older jets and make do with the two jets left in its fleet. And maybe the hangar renovation could be scaled back to a new coat of paint and a potted fern by the window?


Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase, is clearly getting weary of all this vox populi stuff.

A couple of weeks before the ABC report, he fought back in a speech at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce conference. "When I hear the constant vilification of corporate America, I personally don't understand it," he told the crowd. "I would ask a lot of our folks in government to stop doing it because it's hurting our country."

Perhaps Mr. Dimon is right. Rather than mocking corporate folks and their jetstream of bonuses and perks and really awful decisions over the past decade or so, perhaps we should pat them on their backs and offer our help.

Here's what I have in mind:

ABC News described the JP-Morgan Chase aircraft, rather redundantly, as "corporate luxury jets" and noted that the hangar will feature quarry tile, reclaimed wood (salvaged from foreclosed homes, perhaps?) and "a vegetated rooftop garden."

The latter caught my eye.

In the spirit of the Obamas, it seems the thrifty folks at JP-Morgan Chase intend to plant vegetables to help stretch our dollars a bit further. Which set me to thinking: Perhaps they could use some help turning their compost pile. My trusty pitchfork and I stand ready.

I'm not asking for much in the way of compensation. Certainly not a seven- or eight-figure salary, with yearly six- or seven-figure bonuses, plus stock options and free, unlimited rides on corporate jets.

No, my plan is much more austere. As it happens, I have a modest credit card balance with

JP-Morgan Chase. I think I could easily pay off my debt with vegetables I help grow on the corporate jet hangar's rooftop garden.

I'm thinking tomatoes. And, out of newfound respect for all that corporate America has done for all of us in recent years, I promise I will not deliver these tomatoes overripe. Or by air.



RealClearPolitics - Articles - America: Concentrate or Hang
Obama's economic advisors are solid, experienced professionals who understand what happened in the 1930s. They aren't radicals. We need to let them work. And we need to keep our minds on the big picture. Concentrate or hang. ...
RealClearPolitics - Articles -

President Obama's meeting on his budget plan with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill led two out of three network newscasts, and is covered at length in today's major newspapers. A number of media reports suggest the President's plan may have sparked a sharp Democratic split over spending. On ABC World News, for example, George Stephanopoulos said, "The President's budget director says the budgets are 98% similar, but the Senate Democrats proposed budget cuts about $100 billion a year out of the president's budget, and it has four key changes from what the President is calling for." The Financial Times notes "the White House sought to play down differences between its blueprint and rival plans unveiled by Senate and House Democrats this week that would cut some of the president's key commitments."

Much more positive toward the Administration was the lead story on the CBS Evening News, which reported that "it looks like the President will get most of what he wants." Along similar lines, the AP refers to a "springtime show of unity."

Also very positive is the AP assessment of the President's overall approach to the current budget talks. Obama, says the AP, "is emerging as a president who avoids confrontation where possible, yields ground strategically and prefers the soft sell to the hard." The Hill, however, reports that while Obama's meeting with Democratic lawmakers was "roundly described as positive," it "appears to have left" key issues "unresolved."

The Washington Post reports, "Obama defends his proposal to cut the tax deductions that wealthy Americans can claim for their charitable donations by arguing that the shift would not have an adverse effect on giving, but two independent analyses concluded that the proposal could result in a drop of as much as $3.87 billion for the already reeling nonprofit sector."

The Washington Post says "Centrist Democrats who have complained that Obama's spending plan would drive the annual budget deficit to unacceptable levels held their tongues during the 45-minute lunchtime meeting." The New York Times reports, "some Democrats said they remained concerned about the spending and tax proposals tied to Mr. Obama's ambitious domestic agenda."

In addition to some apparent unease from moderates, The Hill reports "Obama is facing mounting pressure from his party's left flank to cut defense spending so more money can be spent on social programs."

Liberal Groups Target "Moderate Democrats" The Politico reports " and Americans United for Change, the labor-backed organization that serves as the White House's chief third-party operation," yesterday "began airing ads... urging moderate Democrats in both the House and the Senate to get on board with the president's budget."

During the March 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Gretchen Carlson hosted Michael Franzese, the former caporegime of La Cosa Nostra's Colombo crime family, to discuss similarities in the way Democratic leaders and progressive figures are "operating" and "the way we used to operate on the street." Kilmeade began the segment by asking, "So, is this a big stretch to think that, all of a sudden, the Washington, D.C., has become our Godfather?" Asked by Carlson what he would "call" Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Franzese replied that Geithner is "like an underboss to me. I mean, he's doing the work of, you know, the whole family, and he's kind of the guy out front, and looking to exercise control." When Kilmeade later asked how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) would fit "in the mob," Franzese replied that Pelosi and Frank are like "the lady and the guy that [President] Obama is kind of stuck with to appease the rest of the family," and also referred to Obama as "the boss." Carlson also asked Franzese about financier George Soros, whom Carlson described as "a very wealthy man who's made his political views very well known to the left." Franzese replied that Soros is "[t]he guy in the shadows that's kind of, you know, pulling the strings on the whole party. I think this guy maintains a lot more control than we may think."

During the segment, Kilmeade and Carlson aired on-screen graphics featuring an image of the iconic puppet strings from The Godfatheralong with photos of Geithner, Pelosi, Frank, and Soros: (More)

House Considers Less Stringent Bonus Bill

The House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday considered a less punitive tax bill in response to the AIG bonus controversy, and media reports suggested cooling passions ruled the day as lawmakers considered the White House's opposition and potential unintended consequences. The AP reports lawmakers are "softening their stance on denying bonuses to employees of bailed-out financial institutions after President Barack Obama warned them against alienating the industry." Less than a week "after pushing through legislation to impose a 90 percent tax on the bonuses, the House Financial Services Committee prepared a considerably milder proposal that would let Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and financial regulators decide if employee compensation was 'unreasonable' or 'excessive.'"

The Politico reports House leaders aren't "quite as hot about taxing AIG now that many of the company's top bonus-getters are returning their cash voluntarily and the White House is signaling caution." On CNN's Situation Room, when asked whether Congress acted fairly with its bonus tax, Sen. John Ensign responded, "Typical of the House of Representatives, they acted too quickly before finding out exactly who was responsible, who shouldn't have gotten the bonuses maybe in the first place."

The Wall Street Journal reports amid the "flap over bonuses at American International Group Inc. two of the company's top managers in Paris have resigned." Representatives of "the Federal Reserve, AIG's lead U.S. overseer, are talking with French regulators and AIG officials to deal with the consequences of a complicated legal scenario in which the departures of the managers in Banque AIG, a subsidiary of AIG's Financial Products unit, could trigger defaults in $234 billion of derivative transactions."

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports some AIG employees, "vilified for receiving bonuses amid the $173 billion bailout of their company, are fighting back. Wednesday, employees at the insurer gave a standing ovation for Jake DeSantis, an executive in AIG's financial-products division, who was the first to publicly refuse to return his retention bonus despite an outcry over the payments." The Financial Timesreports DeSanti's resignation letter shows AIG "paid more than $40m in controversial retention bonuses to staff at its troubled financial unit in December, three months ahead of schedule."

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, University of Chicago law professor Richard A. Epstein says, "Bills now winding their way through Congress would tax between 70% and 90% of bonuses paid to any executive earning in excess of $250,000, if he or she is employed by a business that received more than $5 billion from U.S. bailout funds." While "any sensible system of limited government should consider the proposed bills unconstitutional," a "constitutional attack against any such law that might emerge faces an uphill battle. Since the New Deal, if not earlier, the courts have allowed Congress and the states to decide which economic activities to tax, and how."

Geithner Comment, Clarification Send Dollar On Wild Ride

The Wall Street Journal reports Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner "briefly unsettled currency markets when he appeared willing to entertain a Chinese proposal that an international currency supplant" the dollar as the "premier global reserve currency." Taking questions at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Geithner said he was "'quite open' to the idea of a larger global-finance role" for a "melded currency used by the International Monetary Fund." Currency traders took the comment "as implied support" for a suggestion by Zhou Xiaochuan of the People's Bank of China that some "cross-border currency" take the "dollar's place in central-bank reserves around the world." The Washington Post reports Geithner soon clarified his comments, saying the US "would do whatever it takes to make sure the dollar would remain the world's dominant reserve currency." The New York Times says the dollar, which "plunged" after Geithner's first comment, "rebounded later" on Geithner's clarification. The Washington Times, however, says the "damage may already have been done. By afternoon, a poor showing of buyers at a Treasury bond auction sent interest rates sharply higher, raising fears about the U.S. ability to sell a massive load of $2.5 trillion of debt this year."

The Wall Street Journal editorializes, "As if the dollar didn't have enough problems," Geithner "took China's bait" before his clarification. Geithner "is learning on the job, and yesterday's lesson is that it isn't smart to fool with currency markets when you are already tempting fate with a gigantic U.S. reflation."

Geithner Seeks Stricter Regulations On Financial Firms The Wall Street Journal reports Geithner will call today "for changes in how the government oversees risk-taking in financial markets, pushing for tougher rules on how big companies manage their finances as well as tighter controls on some hedge funds and money-market mutual funds." The move comes "just days before" Geithner and President Obama travel to London to discuss the financial crisis with world leaders. The Los Angeles Times reports the Obama Administration plans "an aggressive new push to regulate large financial corporations" that would "wreak havoc on the nation's economy should they fail."

The Washington Post reports on its front page that sources say the plan "would extend federal regulation for the first time to all trading in financial derivatives and to companies including large hedge funds and major insurers" like AIG. The White House will also "seek to impose uniform standards on all large financial firms, including banks, an unprecedented step that would place significant limits on the scope and risk of their activities." The New York Times, also on its front page, reports that if regulators "decided that a company had become 'too big to fail,'" they would "subject it to much stricter capital requirements than smaller rivals and much closer scrutiny," The Hill reports, "Financial industry trade groups on Wednesday generally supported the new resolution," but the Financial Times reports that the plan "may prove worrying to creditors."

Despite Positive Data, Economists Wary

The AP reports, "Glimmers of hope for the economy - better home sales and higher demand for goods, plus optimism from the White House and a nearly 20 percent rally in stocks - have some people wondering if the worst is over." But "many economists" say "not so fast" because "layoffs are still mounting and home prices are still falling in an economy shrinking at an alarming rate. A recovery anytime soon doesn't seem likely."

The New York Times reports in "a glimmer of surprisingly upbeat economic data, manufacturing orders for goods like metals, machines and military equipment rose last month for the first time after six months of declines, the government reported on Wednesday." The Commerce Department "reported that orders for durable goods rose 3.4 percent in February after a downwardly revised 7.3 percent decline in January."

The Washington Post reports after "several months of relentlessly grim economic news, analysts have been looking for any indication that the pace of the economy's deterioration is slowing. Recently, they have had at least some reason to hope." On CNN's Situation Room, chief business correspondent Ali Velshi reported "mortgage rates for 30-year fixed are now down to 4.63%, the lowest rate in about 60 years for a mortgage," existing home sales "in February compared to January [are] up 5.1%," in February "new home sales were up 4.7%," and "durable goods were up 3.4%." Velshi went on to say, "We have four things that are going on here that are very, very significant. It's having quite an impact on consumer sentiment and it could be...a turning point."


Obama Wades Back Into Politics

The AP reports, "In a pair of political firsts as president," Barack Obama emailed a fundraising pitch on behalf of Scott Murphy (D) in the NY20 special election and "was the main draw at two" DNC "fundraisers on Wednesday." The New York Times adds that two Democratic National Committee fundraising events "underscored the challenge he faces in engaging in politics as so many Americans are facing hard times. On one hand, Mr. Obama is trying to pull the nation together, using his platform as president to tamp down populist anger at Wall Street bailouts and expressing sympathy for people who are losing their homes and jobs. On the other, he is trying to capitalize on his popularity to raise money to help pass his ambitious agenda." Bloomberg News reports the events brought in more than $3 million.

NY20 Seen As Early Referendum On Obama

The Wall Street Journal reports that the NY20 race "is turning into an early referendum on the Obama administration's economic agenda, especially the $787 billion economic-stimulus package," while USA Todayalso says that the race is "providing an early look at how President Obama's economic policies may play out on the campaign trail in 2010." The Politico reports that Vice President Biden yesterday "recorded a radio ad for" NY20 special election candidate Scott Murphy (D), "a Democratic source told Politico."

Democratic Primary Battle Looming In Kentucky Senate Race

Roll Call reports "a source close to" Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway "said this week that the Democrat will run for Senate in 2010 and that he is expected to announce his candidacy as soon as early April," which would set up a primary battle with Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo (D) for the right to take on Sen. Jim Bunning (R), should he run for reelection.

CQ Politics | SpyTalk - Mystery of Ex-FBI Agent Missing in Iran ...
Robert Wexler, D-Fla., specified the modes of approaches to Iran, urging the Obama administration (and U.S. allies) to "raise in all appropriate bilateral and multilateral fora [sic] the case of Robert Levinson. ...
SpyTalk -

During the March 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity and Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich put forth several falsehoods in support of Gingrich's claim that Democratic economic policies are moving the country "towards a political dictatorship." During the segment, Gingrich also declared that the description in National Review contributing editor Jonah Goldberg's book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, of "what a liberal fascist's economics would be like" is "frighteningly prescient" and could serve as "sort of an introductory guide to how the left is thinking this year."

Hannity and Gingrich spewed the following falsehoods concerning Democratic economic proposals and policies:

  • Discussing what he claimed was evidence of "the biggest power grab," Hannity falsely asserted, "They have asked for, in just the last week, the Obama administration, the right to limit executive pay even for companies that are not getting a bailout." In fact, in his March 24 written testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made clear that in referring to restrictions on employee compensation, he was talking only about "financial institutions that are receiving government assistance." Indeed, during the March 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs explicitly rejected the claim that the administration sought to "put a cap" on executive salaries at firms not receiving bailout funds, stating: "[T]here are not plans to do something broad like that."
  • Gingrich went on to claim, "We are seeing the biggest power grab by politicians in American history. The idea that they would propose that the Treasury could intervene and take over non-bank, non-financial system assets gives them the potential to basically create the equivalent of a dictatorship." In fact, in his March 24 written testimony, Geithner addressed authorizing the government to manage troubled non-bank financial institutions, but not "non-financial system assets." Geithner stated, "The U.S. government does not have the legal means today to manage the orderly restructuring of a large, complex, non-bank financial institution that poses a threat to the stability of our financial system." He further stated:

As we have seen with AIG, distress at large, interconnected, non-depository financial institutions can pose systemic risks just as distress at banks can. The Administration proposes legislation to give the U.S. government the same basic set of tools for addressing financial distress at non-banks as it has in the bank context.

The proposed resolution authority would allow the government to provide financial assistance to make loans to an institution, purchase its obligations or assets, assume or guarantee its liabilities, and purchase an equity interest.

The U.S. government as a conservator or receiver would have additional powers to sell or transfer the assets or liabilities of the institution in question, renegotiate or repudiate the institution's contracts (including with its employees), and prevent certain financial contracts with the institution from being terminated on account of the conservatorship or receivership.

This proposed legislation would fill a significant void in the current financial services regulatory structure with respect to non-bank financial institutions. Implementation would be modeled on the resolution authority that the FDIC has under current law with respect to banks.

  • Gingrich subsequently asserted that "Congress had passed the authorization in the stimulus bill for AIG to pay those bonuses" and that "the money that was being paid to AIG employees" was "under a provision which the Congress itself had passed a month ago." But asMedia Matters for America has repeatedly documented, theAmerican Recovery and Reinvestment Act did not create the right for AIG -- or any company -- to pay bonuses. Rather, AIGreportedly disclosed that it had entered into agreements to pay those bonuses more than a year ago, the Bush Treasury Department approved the AIG bailout with this agreement in place, and the relevant provision in the recovery act actually restricted the ability of companies receiving money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program to award bonuses in the future.

From the March 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: I want to get into, and I think all of the media is ignoring this, and the fact that he got a pass last night during this press conference is very, very troubling to me, and very specifically, I think this moves America down the road to socialism, the biggest power grab.

They have asked for, in just the last week, the Obama administration, the right to limit executive pay even for companies that are not getting a bailout. They saw it yesterday. We saw in the -- I believe it was The Washington Post -- they're actually seeking the right to seize firms. They want to use the reconciliation process to pass their health care bill, and cap and trade, which would eliminate the need for Republican votes in the historical sense, and even some Democrats are opposing.

Can you explain to our audience how dangerous this power grab is?

GINGRICH: Sure. Look, I think if you read Jonah Goldberg's book on Liberal Fascism and you read the chapter on what a liberal fascist's economics would be like, it's frighteningly prescient. I think he ought to, you know, re-issue it as sort of an introductory guide to how the left is thinking this year.

We are seeing the biggest power grab by politicians in American history. The idea that they would propose that the Treasury could intervene and take over non-bank, non-financial system assets gives them the potential to basically create the equivalent of a dictatorship. You don't want to do what they want, they take over your company.

You do what they want, Congress retroactively -- and this is what made last week's lynch mob like a third-world government, when the Congress literally got out of control, panicked, panicked because people were mad at it and it turned out that the Congress had passed the authorization in the stimulus bill for AIG to pay those bonuses. The Congress had approved it. The people at AIG were acting what they thought was the rules set by the government. Suddenly, they're being attacked. They are retroactively losing their money.

Why would anybody want to invest in a country --

HANNITY: Now, wait a minute.

GINGRICH: -- where [Rep.] Barney Frank [D-MA] and [Sen.] Chris Dodd [D-CT] can go back and retroactively take money away from you?

HANNITY: So if we put all these things together -- that they control executive pay, that they can take over firms, retroactively tax people or target individuals as they did -- you used the term dictatorship. That moves America towards a dictatorship?

GINGRICH: Sure. Look, it absolutely moves you towards a political dictatorship. The Constitution specifically prohibits the kind of bill that they passed in the House last week, to go back retroactively and confiscate 90 percent of the money that was being paid to AIG employees, under a provision which the Congress itself had passed a month ago. I mean, I think people need to look carefully at what despicable behavior this is.


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