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Archive for February 21st, 2009

And the Israeli PM Goes to …

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 21st, 2009 5:41 am by HL

And the Israeli PM Goes to …

Net and Peres

In a political blast from the past, former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been chosen to form Israel’s next government, ending a nine-day struggle between the candidates and paving the way for a coalition arrangement with a strong right-wing bent.

The Guardian:

Binyamin Netanyahu, the leader of Israel’s rightwing Likud party, was chosen today to form a new coalition government that would see him emerge as the country’s next prime minister.

Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, gave Netanyahu the mandate after three days of negotiations with all 12 parties elected in last week’s polls. Netanyahu’s Likud came a close second in the elections but he was chosen by the president because he won the backing of a majority of elected MPs thanks to the strong performance of rightwing parties in the vote. He has six weeks to put together a majority coalition.

The Likud leader promptly called on his rivals—Tzipi Livni, whose Kadima party won the vote by a single seat, and Ehud Barak, of Labour—to join him in a broad national unity government. Even without their support he could put together a coalition but it would have only a slim majority and could run into international criticism for its rightwing policies.

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Pentagon Report: Guantanamo Is Humane

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 21st, 2009 5:40 am by HL

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CNBC’s Kudlow said housing plan “hurt[s]” Americans while benefiting Fannie and Freddie — but government holds majority shares

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 21st, 2009 5:39 am by HL

CNBC’s Kudlow said housing plan “hurt[s]” Americans while benefiting Fannie and Freddie — but government holds majority shares

During the February 20 edition of CNBC’s The Call, while discussing the Obama administration’s Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, co-host Larry Kudlow — echoing remarks by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) — claimed that “the people who win here are Fannie and Freddie. The Americans who paid their taxes on time and their mortgages on time get hurt.” In fact, as economists Paul Krugman and Dean Baker have noted, the government — that is, the American taxpayer — now owns most of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or, in Baker’s words: “[T]hese companies are currently in government conservatorship, with the shareholders having lost almost all their ownership stake, and the executives replaced by the government.”

A September 2008 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report noted:

Stockholders’ voting rights are suspended during the conservatorship, and both firms’ CEOs have been replaced. Dividends on common and preferred stock have been suspended, although the shares continue to trade.

[…]

[T]he government has received warrants to buy up to 79.9% of GSE [government-sponsored enterprise] common stock for $0.00001 per share.

Kudlow’s remarks were first noted on Media Matters for America Senior Fellow Duncan Black’s blog, Eschaton.

Kudlow’s remarks echo a February 18 statement by Boehner, who claimed of Obama’s housing plan: “Why should we reward Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with $200 billion in taxpayer dollars without first reforming these housing entities that were at the heart of the economic meltdown?”

In a February 19 post about Boehner’s remarks, Baker wrote:

The [Washington] Post might have asked House Minority Leader John A. Boehner that question when he complained about the Obama administration’s plans to raise the amount of capital put into the mortgage giants from $200 billion to $400 billion. Since these companies are currently in government conservatorship, with the shareholders having lost almost all their ownership stake, and the executives replaced by the government, it is not clear who Mr. Boehner thinks is being inappropriately rewarded by this action.

Similarly, in a February 20 blog post, Krugman wrote:

The most valuable lesson I learned from the year I spent in Washington (1982-1983, on the staff of the Council of Economic advisers — I was the senior intl economist, the senior domestic economist was a guy named Larry Summers. What ever happened to him?) was the extent to which senior government figures have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.

So when I read something like this:

“Why should we reward Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with $200 billion in taxpayer dollars without first reforming these housing entities that were at the heart of the economic meltdown?” House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

and people ask what on earth Boehner might mean when he talks about taxpayers “rewarding” institutions that are owned by taxpayers, I go for Occam’s Razor: Boehner doesn’t have some complicated notion in mind, he either doesn’t know that the government took over F&F months ago, or he just doesn’t get this “government-owned” concept. [emphasis in original]

On February 18, the Obama administration announced: “Today, using funds already authorized in 2008 by Congress for this purpose, the Treasury Department is increasing its funding commitment to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure the strength and security of the mortgage market and to help maintain mortgage affordability. … Treasury is increasing its Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements to $200 billion each from their original level of $100 billion each.”

From the February 20 edition of CNBC’s The Call:

RICK SANTELLI (CNBC Business News on-air editor): I guess my question is, how many people in that 10 percent that aren’t current on their mortgages — how many of those do you think are the case you describe versus investors that were looking at houses as investments — trying to flip them — and how can you separate the two?

JULIAN EPSTEIN (Democratic strategist): I don’t think the majority were investors. And I agree with you, I don’t have much sympathy for the speculators. But I do think a lot of families got into doing things like getting — getting loans for additional kitchens and equity loans and that kinds of things and bathrooms. And —

KUDLOW: So why should we bail them out?

EPSTEIN: — and I don’t think —

KUDLOW: So why should we bail them out?

EPSTEIN: — I don’t think that we should —

KUDLOW: It’s called personal responsibility.

EPSTEIN: That must be Larry.

KUDLOW: Let’s put a little torque into this debate.

EPSTEIN: That’s got to be Larry.

KUDLOW: It’s called personal responsibility. It’s called raising the safety net.

EPSTEIN: Because, Larry —

KUDLOW: It’s called rewarding those who were irresponsible versus penalizing those who were responsible. By the way, can we go the nation’s —

EPSTEIN: I don’t think it’s that simple, Larry.

KUDLOW: Can we — I do think it’s simple.

EPSTEIN: It’s not that simple.

KUDLOW: But hold on a second. I want to go back to my pal Santelli. Let’s check out this morning’s National Review Online website, which has Rick Santelli featured once again with Sarah Palin. The Palin-Santelli ticket in 2012.

MELISSA FRANCIS (co-host): Why is he behind her? I think he should be in front.

KUDLOW: We can debate that. They may have to run off in a primary — that is exactly right. Now coming back to my friend Julian Epstein — who is a very good man and a great American — the reality is, Julian, this mortgage bailout thing, which has given another Bronx cheer from Wall Street, doesn’t even help to securitize mortgages. It is another welfare plan.

The people who win here are Fannie and Freddie. The Americans who paid their taxes on time and their mortgages on time get hurt. Come on, you know and I know this is a welfare entitlement transfer approach. It is not any economic growth. Just like the stimulus package.


Subsidize Bad Behavior?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 21st, 2009 5:38 am by HL

Subsidize Bad Behavior?
President Obama’s massive mortgage-bailout plan is nothing more than a thinly disguised entitlement program that redistributes income from the responsible 92 percent of home-owning mortgage-holders who pay their bills on time to the irresponsible defaulters who bought more than they could ever afford. This is Obama’s spread-the-wealth program in action. Team Obama is rewarding bad behavior. It is enlarging moral hazard. It is expanding its welfarist approach to economic policy. And with a huge expansion of government-owned zombie lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Team Obama is taking a giant step toward nationalizing the mortgage market. Reporting from the Chicago commodity pits, my CNBC colleague Rick Santelli unleashed a torrent of criticism over this scheme. Santelli said: “Government is promoting bad behavior. … Do we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages? This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage? President Obama, are you listening? How about we all stop paying our mortgages! It’s a moral hazard.”

Mysterious Khmer
You wouldn’t have thought it possible. But then, you underestimate the ingenuity of the New York Times. The house organ of the liberal church in America, the Times covered opening day of the trial of one of the worst killers in 20th century history without mentioning the “c” word even once.


Post Ombudsman Responds, Unconvincingly, On Will Column

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 21st, 2009 5:37 am by HL

Post Ombudsman Responds, Unconvincingly, On Will Column
After days of radio silence from the Washington Post, the paper’s ombudsman, Andy Alexander, has sent out the following statement (via Think Progress) about the George Will column that misrepresented the facts on global warming: Thank you for your e-mail….





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Why Is the U.S. Deporting Assets While Ignoring Threats?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 21st, 2009 5:34 am by HL

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Has The Jewish Community Finally Woken Up?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 21st, 2009 5:33 am by HL

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ThinkFast: February 20, 2009

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 21st, 2009 5:32 am by HL

ThinkFast: February 20, 2009
Writing in Time, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) lays out “the case for a truth commission.” “People would be invited to come forward and share their knowledge and experiences, not for purposes of constructing criminal indictments but to assemble the facts,” he writes. “If needed, such a process could involve subpoena powers and even the authority […]

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Writing in Time, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) lays out “the case for a truth commission.” “People would be invited to come forward and share their knowledge and experiences, not for purposes of constructing criminal indictments but to assemble the facts,” he writes. “If needed, such a process could involve subpoena powers and even the authority to obtain immunity from prosecution in order to get to the whole truth.”

Health care reps — “from big insurance companies to lobbyists for consumers, doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies” — are “inching toward a consensus.” They agree that “comprehensive health care legislation should include a requirement that every American carry insurance.” The various groups have been secretly meeting in a Senate room for months, with the blessing of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

“I’m excited because this president is taking urban America out of the desert it’s been in for eight years,” said Adolfo Carrion, Jr., the new head of the White House Office of Urban Affairs. Derek Douglas, formerly of the Center for American Progress, is headed to the new office as well.

For the budget he will present next week, President Obama “has banned four accounting gimmicks that President George W. Bush used to make deficit projections look smaller.” The move away from budget gimmicks, one of which used to be not including the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will create “a budget that is $2.7 trillion deeper in the red over the next decade than it would otherwise appear.”

Demand at food banks across the country increased by 30 percent in 2008 from the previous year,” according to a survey by Feeding America. Even food pantries in upscale communities are seeing an uptick in demand. “These are people who never really had to ask for help before,” said Brenda Beavers of the Salvation Army.

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LaHood Talks of Mileage-Based Tax, but White House Dismisses Idea

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 21st, 2009 5:31 am by HL

LaHood Talks of Mileage-Based Tax, but White House Dismisses Idea
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggested yesterday that the Obama administration might embrace a new and controversial way to pay for highway and transit projects: charging motorists a tax for every mile they drive.

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The Case for a Truth Commission

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 21st, 2009 5:29 am by HL

The Case for a Truth Commission
Senator Patrick Leahy, Time

Reflections on Obama’s First Month
Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard

Holder’s Hot Air
Vincent Carroll, Rocky Mountain News