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Archive for March 19th, 2009

Good News and Bad News for Alternative Lifestylists

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 19th, 2009 4:44 am by HL

Good News and Bad News for Alternative Lifestylists

The good news: The United States now supports a U.N. statement urging governments everywhere to decriminalize homosexuality. The bad news: In the words of the State Department, “supporting this statement commits us to no legal obligations,” such as ending discrimination in employment, housing and the military in the U.S. itself.

AP via Google:

According to negotiators, the Bush team had concerns that those sections could commit the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In some states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military.

But Wood said a “careful interagency review” by the Obama administration had concluded that “supporting this statement commits us to no legal obligations.”

When it was voted on in December, 66 of the U.N.‘s 192 member countries signed the nonbinding declaration, which backers called an historic step to push the General Assembly to deal more forthrightly with anti-gay discrimination. It was endorsed by all 27 European Union members as well as Japan, Australia and Mexico.

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Our Justified Populist Rage

We are at the beginning of a great popular rebellion against those who showed no self-restraint when it came to lining their own pockets.

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Robert Gates: Hunt For Osama Bin Laden Could Take Another Decade

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 19th, 2009 4:43 am by HL

Robert Gates: Hunt For Osama Bin Laden Could Take Another Decade
How long might it really take to find al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden? U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggests the FBI’s 17-year hunt for…

Guantanamo Detainees May Be Released In US: Holder
Attorney General Eric Holder said some detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may end up being released in the U.S. as the Obama administration…

Obama Seeks Legal Authority To Stop Future Bonuses
President Barack Obama said he will seek legal authority over the financial system that will give the federal government power to step into contract issues,…

Mark Kleiman: Ayahuasca churches 2, Federal government 0
Another Federal district court has ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the worship of the American branches of Brazilian churches that make sacramental…

C. Victor Lander, Dallas Judge, Criticized For Racially Charged Quote
DALLAS — The top municipal judge in Dallas faces calls for his resignation over a racially charged column he wrote in a weekly newspaper. Administrative…


USA Today , LA Times continue to omit Bush Treasury’s role in AIG bonus controversy

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 19th, 2009 4:42 am by HL

USA Today , LA Times continue to omit Bush Treasury’s role in AIG bonus controversy

In March 18 articles, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times reported Republican criticism of the Obama administration over American International Group’s (AIG) employee bonus packages but did not point out that it was the Bush Treasury Department that worked with the Federal Reserve in carrying out last year’s bailouts and bought AIG stock notwithstanding the existence of these bonus contracts. On March 17, USA Today and the Times similarly ignored the Bush administration’s involvement in the AIG controversy, as Media Matters for America documented.

USA Today reporters John Fritze, Mimi Hall, and Adam Shell reported on March 18, “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner — who had come under criticism for his handling of the issue by Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. — promised in a letter Tuesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Treasury will recover all the money.” They further reported:

Republican lawmakers including Shelby questioned why President Obama and Geithner did not take action to stop the bonuses earlier. Shelby told CBS’ Early Show it was another example of Geithner being “out of the loop.” Shelby asked, “Where was Treasury before this money was paid out?”

At no point did USA Today mention that the Bush Treasury Department also “did not take action to stop the bonuses” when it approved the bailouts.

Similarly, Los Angeles Times reporters Jim Puzzanghera and Janet Hook reported on March 18, “[Sen. Charles] Grassley [IA], the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, asked Treasury Inspector General Eric Thorson to open an inquiry into the AIG bonus payments and determine whether top Treasury officials had some role in approving the payments, according to Grassley’s office.” Puzzanghera and Hook further wrote:

The inquiry could turn the heat back on the Obama administration, which has expressed outrage over the payments and wants to challenge them.

In a letter to Thorson obtained by The Times, Grassley asked whether Treasury officials made any previous efforts to block the bonus payments or demanded that the payments be waived before releasing taxpayer bailout funds to the company. Thorson also would examine whether there are contracts that compel the payments and, if so, when those legal obligations were created.

[…]

Democrats tended to blame corporate greed. Republicans harshly criticized Geithner, though they stopped short of calling for his resignation.

Geithner approved the bonuses last weekend after determining that they were contractual obligations by AIG that could prompt lawsuits if not paid. His decision came less than two weeks after federal officials agreed to extend AIG an additional $30-billion line of credit on top of the $150 billion in bailout funds the government had already sunk into the company.

“What I’d like a full explanation of is how the Department of the Treasury handed over $30 billion a mere two weeks ago and didn’t have any idea that this outrage was going to occur,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

The Times did not mention, however, that the Bush Treasury Department “handed over” a greater sum to AIG without addressing the company’s bonus contracts.

By contrast, in a March 17 Politico article, executive editor Jim VandeHei wrote that “[t]he bonuses were essentially a nonissue when AIG got its initial bailout money, almost $150 billion under President Bush in the two months surrounding the presidential election.” As Media Matters noted, The Washington Post reported on March 17 that “AIG disclosed its retention-payment program more than a year ago, and the amount of the bonuses — more than $400 million for Financial Products alone — had been widely reported.”

In a September 16, 2008, article about the initial bailout of AIG, The New York Times reported: “Fearing a financial crisis worldwide, the Federal Reserve reversed course on Tuesday and agreed to an $85 billion bailout that would give the government control of the troubled insurance giant American International Group.” In a November 10, 2008, article, the Times reported that the Bush Treasury Department and Federal Reserve announced a “revised bailout” of AIG, under which “the Treasury Department will use the Troubled Asset Relief Program [TARP], the $700 billion financial system rescue plan, to buy $40 billion of newly issued A.I.G. preferred shares.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who was quoted in the Los Angeles Times article criticizing the Obama administration’s recent handling of AIG, voted to pass the October 2008 TARP legislation — a fact the Times article did not note.

From the March 18 USA Today article:

As new details emerged about $165 million in bonuses paid by insurance giant AIG, lawmakers and administration officials sought ways to recoup the money either by imposing stiff new taxes on the extra pay or requiring the company to return it in exchange for future taxpayer aid.

[…]

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner — who had come under criticism for his handling of the issue by Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. — promised in a letter Tuesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Treasury will recover all the money.

[…]

Republican lawmakers including Shelby questioned why President Obama and Geithner did not take action to stop the bonuses earlier. Shelby told CBS’ Early Show it was another example of Geithner being “out of the loop.” Shelby asked, “Where was Treasury before this money was paid out?”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama had “complete confidence” in Geithner.

From the March 18 Los Angeles Times article:

Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, asked Treasury Inspector General Eric Thorson to open an inquiry into the AIG bonus payments and determine whether top Treasury officials had some role in approving the payments, according to Grassley’s office.

The inquiry could turn the heat back on the Obama administration, which has expressed outrage over the payments and wants to challenge them.

In a letter to Thorson obtained by The Times, Grassley asked whether Treasury officials made any previous efforts to block the bonus payments or demanded that the payments be waived before releasing taxpayer bailout funds to the company. Thorson also would examine whether there are contracts that compel the payments and, if so, when those legal obligations were created.

[…]

Democrats tended to blame corporate greed. Republicans harshly criticized Geithner, though they stopped short of calling for his resignation.

Geithner approved the bonuses last weekend after determining that they were contractual obligations by AIG that could prompt lawsuits if not paid. His decision came less than two weeks after federal officials agreed to extend AIG an additional $30-billion line of credit on top of the $150 billion in bailout funds the government had already sunk into the company.

“What I’d like a full explanation of is how the Department of the Treasury handed over $30 billion a mere two weeks ago and didn’t have any idea that this outrage was going to occur,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

In a contentious briefing dominated by the AIG issue, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that President Obama retained confidence in Geithner.

On Monday, Obama had ordered his administration to “pursue every legal avenue” to challenge the bonuses. Legal experts said that would be difficult and could lead to lawsuits.

Some lawmakers said they were concerned about the legality of a tax that would wipe out the bonuses in their entirety, but one tax-law expert saw no impediment to doing so.


Congress in a Lynching Mood

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 19th, 2009 4:41 am by HL

Congress in a Lynching Mood
The financial crisis has been widely interpreted as proof of the need for extensive government regulation of banks, insurance companies and other capitalist institutions. The antics of politicians now that they have a greater role, however, are a vivid reminder of why they can’t be trusted with such power. These days, every politician assumes that because he has a driver’s license and an ATM card, he must have all the necessary skills to run an automaker and operate a bank. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, for example, said Detroit should use its bailout money to become “a global, competitive leader in fuel efficiency.”


Cassano’s Million Dollar A Month Contract

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 19th, 2009 4:40 am by HL

Cassano’s Million Dollar A Month Contract
Here’s that agreement that Joseph Cassano signed with AIG in March 2008, which gave him a $1 million a month consulting contract, after he had run the company into the ground….

Seventy-Three AIG-ers Got More Than $1 Million Each In Bonuses
We’re learning a bit more about the breakdown of those AIG bonuses — thanks to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. In a letter sent to House Financial Services chair Barney Frank, Cuomo, who is probing the awards, wrote that…

Did Cassano And AIG Commit Fraud?
AIG chief Edward Liddy endured his anticipated ritual flaying today by Capitol Hill lawmakers angered by those bonuses. But, as Josh has been writing about over at TPM, there’s mounting evidence that some current and former AIG execs could have…


Mistaken Identity

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 19th, 2009 4:36 am by HL

Mistaken Identity


Dodd Not Considering Retirement

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 19th, 2009 4:35 am by HL

Dodd Not Considering Retirement
In an interview with the Hartford Courant, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) acknowledged he has been enmeshed in multiple controversies recently and that doesn’t help his re-election bid.

Said Dodd: “I’ve been getting whacked around the head for the last eight or nine months — part of it my own fault for not stepping up earlier. The backdrop doesn’t help. Jobs being lost. Homes being lost.”
But he said he’s not thinking of stepping aside for another Democrat in 2010.
“I’m running. I haven’t announced anything yet… I want to win. What I want more than winning is to do what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Wilkerson Blasts Cheney
In a guest post on the Washington Note, Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, argues former Vice President Dick Cheney made the country less safe.

Writes Wilkerson: “Cheney and his like are the evil people and we certainly are not going to prevail in the struggle with radical religion if we listen to people such as he…”

“But al-Qa’ida will be back… How we deal with the future attacks of this organization and its cohorts could well seal our fate, for good or bad. Osama bin Laden and his brain trust, Aman al-Zawahiri, are counting on us to produce the bad. With people such as Cheney assisting them, they are far more likely to succeed.”

Obama Signed Book Deal Just Before Taking Office
Just a few days before he took office, President Obama signed a children’s book deal that came with a $500,000 advance, the Washington Times reports.

“Analysts say there don’t appear to be any rules that would bar such transactions after a president takes office, but it’s unclear whether an incoming or sitting president has ever signed a book deal upon entering the White House.”

The project calls for an abridged version of his book Dreams From My Father for middle-school-aged children.

Disclosures released yesterday show Obama made 2.5 million last year from book royalties.


Which Is Worse These Days: Being Called Fat or Whore?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 19th, 2009 4:34 am by HL

Which Is Worse These Days: Being Called Fat or Whore?
In an interesting switch, food and sex have completely reversed their roles in society. And all within only a matter of two generations.

The Age of Stupid: New Film Gives Us a Painfully Realistic Look at Life in 2055
The central premise: We would be the first life form to knowingly wipe itself out. What does that say about us?

Rihanna and Domestic Violence: How We Are Messing Up a Teachable Moment
Rihanna’s abuse has sparked a national discussion about domestic violence. Unfortunately, most of it is offensive and unproductive.

Not Just Homeowners, But Renters Are Really Getting Screwed
Homeowners aren’t the only ones in trouble from foreclosures — renters, urban neighborhoods, and entire cities are at risk.

The Age of Stupid: New Film Gives Us a Painfully Realistic Look at Life in 2055
The central premise: We would be the first life form to knowingly wipe itself out. What does that say about us?


Presented By:

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 19th, 2009 4:33 am by HL

Presented By:

Engaging the Muslim World: Well what are we waiting for?
I, for one, welcome Cole’s book. It talks about engaging people and understanding them for who they are not who we believe them to be. There are plenty of people that feel Americans are not the principled people we…

Opacity
First there was an opaque financial system. Many billions of side bets were bet in a global casino. These were derivatives, and derivatives of derivatives. Trillions of dollars were bet to secure banks from the consequences of buying and selling…


In Nov. 2008, AIG?s Liddy claimed top execs would forego pay raises and ?2009 bonuses will be restricted.?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 19th, 2009 4:32 am by HL

In Nov. 2008, AIG?s Liddy claimed top execs would forego pay raises and ?2009 bonuses will be restricted.?
In November 2008, AIG succumbed to public pressure and announced that it would limit executive compensation. CEO Edward Liddy announced he would take a $1 salary, while his top 50 executive would “forgo pay raises through 2009.” In a letter to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Liddy made the following pledge: AIG is mindful that […]

In November 2008, AIG succumbed to public pressure and announced that it would limit executive compensation. CEO Edward Liddy announced he would take a $1 salary, while his top 50 executive would “forgo pay raises through 2009.” In a letter to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Liddy made the following pledge:

AIG is mindful that it must act prudently and, as such, must impose curbs on executive compensation. … To meet these objectives, AIG’s top seven executives (Leadership Group) will receive no annual bonuses for 2008. In addition, the top roughly 60 executives (Senior Partners) including the seven most senior AIG executives, will forego any salary increase through 2009 and their 2008 and 2009 bonuses will be restricted. […]

Finally, AIG is developing a funding structure to ensure that no taxpayer dollars are used for annual bonus or future cash performance awards for the top 60 members of management.

Read the full letter here.

Among those who received 2009 bonuses were James Haas (an executive VP), Douglas Poling (a general counsel, executive VP, and chief administrative officer), and Jonathan Liebergall (a director and head of municipal finance). It’s unclear whether they ranked among the top 60 executives at the company.

Update In his Washington Post op-ed, Liddy doesn’t address his previous statements. But he writes, “In all, total 2008 compensation for the top 47 executives is 56 percent lower than their total 2007 compensation. My annual salary is $1. … To prevent undue risk exposure in the meantime, AIG has made a set of retention payments to employees based on a compensation system that prior management put in place.”