Bicolored Cactus Flowers wallpaper – Good Government Could Have Saved Us From The Financial Meltdown

Bicolored Cactus Flowers wallpaper

 

Gretchen Morgenson is not a hack. So I’m not sure what happened in her new book on the housing bubble and Wall St financial collapse – Fannie-Backwards, How did Gretchen Morgenson, one of America’s best financial reporters, get the story of Fannie Mae’s role in the financial collapse so wrong?

The first contention is speculative. But even if Fannie’s embrace of expanded homeownership was entirely self-serving, the second and more serious allegation is false. For starters, the timing is off. Fannie did start purchasing large numbers of sketchy mortgages, in an effort to defend its market share, but only around 2004. By then, subprime was a huge industry with plenty of buyers on Wall Street. As late as 2005, according to Reckless Endangerment, non-Fannie mortgage-backed securities packaged by Wall Street investment banks accounted for 55 percent of mortgage volume.

As Morgenson and Rosner obliquely acknowledge elsewhere in the book, other Wall Street firms created the subprime bubble precisely because Fannie would not buy those loans. Morgenson and Rosner admit this contradiction when they write of the Wall Street-financed boom in poor-quality loans that took off circa 2001: “Because higher-quality borrowers were still at this time the domain of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Wall Street could not hope to compete in this area. So the big investment firms stepped up their interest in alternative mortgage products offered to sub-prime or near-prime borrowers.” In other words, Wall Street went where Fannie prudently feared to tread.

We don’t do subtle Occam razor-like debates in the U.S. facts stopped mattering years ago. Fannie and Freddie did some things they should not have done. Both of them actually lost market share in sub-prime loans between 2002 and 2007. Private banks were the ones who kept feeding the beast. Making risky loans and selling them as securities. Wall St encouraged them to do so. Freddie and Fannie do not make loans by the way. They buy loans. The thing that got them into trouble, or at least one of the practices was not scrutinizing the loans they bought from banks. One could certainly make the argument that the banks themselves should have done a better job of vetting loans and adhering to some quaint old practices like not loaning more than their assets could support in the case of, I don’t know, a housing meltdown. Of course banks were thrilled that there was a Fannie and Freddie because technically speaking they could sell some of their loans, recover that capital and make more money off points on even more new loans. The ‘facts’ in Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon By Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner get down right sloppy. Anyone over forty knows this one,

Morgenson and Rosner contend that Fannie’s perdition began in the mid-1990s when the company started purchasing mortgages with down payments of just 5 percent. “Traditionally,” they write, “banks had required that borrowers put 20 percent of the property price down to secure a mortgage loan.” That’s an embarrassingly novice mistake. Veterans’ loans under the GI bill accepted zero down payments. For decades, the Federal Housing Administration has insured loans with down payments of 5 percent—and these loans were purchased by Fannie Mae. Private mortgage insurers, which began competing with the FHA in the 1960s, also offered insured loans with small down payments. How could Morgenson and Rosner have missed something so basic and central to the story? What made these loans safe and insurable and liquid in the secondary market was careful underwriting, of the property value and the borrower’s capacity to pay, not the down payment. It was the lack of serious underwriting that made subprime such a disaster.

Why is this Fannie/Freddie issue important. In ConservoWorld unions and working class Americas are thugs, and any government sponsored entity is evil. Another myth of ConservoWorld is that all private business Bears-Stearn, AIG Financial and all private enterprise are white knights that can do no wrong. Remember that initially, back in 2008, one of the tea smokers big populist complaints was they didn’t do anything wrong so how come they should have THEIR tax dollars bail-out Wall St. Once elected to Congress they did everything they could to defeat new financial regulations and later try to keep financial regulations from being implemented. Not much of a surprise since the tea nuts became largely a tool of plastic roots organizations like FreedomWorks. Sure there have been some genuine tea baggers, but even they tend to repeat what they have read in literature put out by front groups connected ultimately to Wall St. Few, if any of the tea baggers get the irony of their so-called pro-business anti-government platform. Government, including Obama and most Democrats, is for the most part an operating arm of financial interests on Wall St. It was the conservative mantra of deregulation or simply not enforcing the regulation we did have that lead to the financial collapse. Government has an important role to play as referee – enforcing the rules so consumers and investors don’t get the shaft. Whether they are tea bags or just plain old conservatives they’ll never admit we need a referee. If we have another recession as severe as this one, and we will if the financial reform regulation package passed by Obama and Democrats is not diligently enforced, conservatives will once again play the deaf, blind and babbling nonsense monkey. For Cons to admit that government can work for the people, that given a chance government can protect people from the worse excesses of the private sector is to admit their core philosophy is wrong. One fairly clever aspect of the government is always bad argument is the appeal to individual independence. We’re all tough rugged individualists in America and we don’t need no help from  gov’mint. We are a nation that prides ourselves on being as self-sufficient as possible. That is a good thing. Like many concepts in the larger general sense that one can be perverted. Raise your hand if you get a say in how AIG or Goldman or Bank of America runs their business and when they engage in crazy risk taking they’ll stop because you object. Yea, that doesn’t happen because even a big group of angry sign wavers has zip influence on Wall St bundling risky securities. The only way you as a rugged individualist can have a say is by empowering the government and a crew of experts to act as a watchdog on your behalf. I’m going to make a leap and say that the average conservative does understand that they cannot fight crime all by themselves. They understand the need for a modern well-educated and trained police force. Why do these same conservatives not understand the concept is exactly the same when it comes to regulating business and prosecuting white-collar crime. One last excerpt from that excellent article by Robert Kuttner,

So in the rogues’ gallery of scoundrels that caused the financial collapse, a fair reckoning would rank Fannie Mae fifth or sixth. Far higher on the list would be:

  *Alan Greenspan’s Federal Reserve, which lowered interest rates without increasing regulation, refused to enforce a 1994 law requiring prudent underwriting standards and turned a blind eye to abuses in the process of loan securitization.
*The Office of Thrift Supervision, which let savings banks under its supervision engage in outlandishly risky practices.
*The Wall Street firms that bankrolled subprime lenders and turned their high-risk loans into securities
*The credit-rating agencies that blessed toxic subprime securities with Triple-A ratings.
*The SEC’s failure to police those agencies.
*And, of course, the subprime lenders themselves.

Three Charts To Email To Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “Stimulus” just made things worse. Solution: Here are three “reality-based” charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.

Spending
Bush-Obama Spending Chart

Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.

The other two are at the link. At this point, thanks to the wing-nut noise machine and the abject failure of the mainstream media to explain anything, most of the nation has become riders on the bandwagon of austerity – the answer to our problems is to cut and cut some more. Cutting spending and cutting public sector jobs is just prolonging the recovery. Heck some of us might not even live long enough to see a complete recovery. For some very dark commentary/satire on the subject – Ghost Dogs and the New American Job Market

I’m going to tell my kids that if they want to achieve their dreams they’re going to have to lower the bar or take that bar and use it to fight off everything that wants to steal their dreams away from them.

 

Yosemite Winter Snow wallpaper – Conservatives Mistake Their Opinions for Reality

national parks, snow, river, forests, american landscapes

Yosemite Winter Snow wallpaper

 

It is not at all odd that some people do not like some things. Some people do like like oysters, some people don’t like horror movies, some people – generally called cranks – do not like much of anything. One can also qualify as a crank by ranting about something you do not like with some factually and logically challenged opinion passing itself off as insightful punditry. The later is very much the case for Iain Murray and David Bier. They seem to be batsh*t crazy eccentrics who, after many hours of assuring each other that their bizarre world views are in fact quite rational, have decided to get America on their dump the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) bandwagon. Which includes the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center. Do We Really Need a National Weather Service?

As Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast, news stations bombard our televisions with constant updates from the National Hurricane Center.

While Americans ought to prepare for the coming storm, federal dollars need not subsidize their preparations. Although it might sound outrageous, the truth is that the National Hurricane Center and its parent agency, the National Weather Service, are relics from America’s past that have actually outlived their usefulness.

The National Weather Service (NWS) was founded in 1870. Originally, the NWS was not a public information agency. It was a national security agency and placed under the Department of War. The Service’s national security function has long since disappeared, but as agencies often do, however, it stuck around and managed to increase its budget.

Today the NWS justifies itself on public interest grounds. It issues severe weather advisories and hijacks local radio and television stations to get the message out. It presumes that citizens do not pay attention to the weather and so it must force important, perhaps lifesaving, information upon them. A few seconds’ thought reveals how silly this is. The weather might be the subject people care most about on a daily basis. There is a very successful private TV channel dedicated to it, 24 hours a day, as well as any number of phone and PC apps. Americans need not be forced to turn over part of their earnings to support weather reporting.

The NWS claims that it supports industries like aviation and shipping, but if they provide a valuable contribution to business, it stands to reason business would willingly support their services. If that is the case, the Service is just corporate welfare. If they would not, it is just a waste.

First this is an editorial column expressing doubts of veracity by Fox News. When did Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda machine for the rabid right ever care about horrible little things like facts. Second, the claim that “private” enterprises such as Accuweather and Weather.com does a better job. Both those services get their baseline data from the NOAA. Anyone can read about what the NOAA does on its web site. Among its weather tracking activities it flies at least two weather tracking balloons a day, it monitors weather tracking stations not just across the U.S. but around the world – knowing what weather fronts are over Asia helps predict the weather for the U.S. NOAA has its own weather satellite system. NOAA has its own weather radar. Some local TV and radio stations have their own radar, but noone has the kind of comprehensive tracking systems used by the NWS or the NHC. What do Weather.com and Accuwetaher add to the mix. They employ their own meteorologists and their own proprietary weather modeling software to analyze the data they get from the NOAA. Sometimes, according to to this article, they get some local temperature projections a little better  than does the NOAA.

Fox -Murray-Bier state in their column that the weather is a national security issue and proceed as though that should no longer be a consideration. The alternative is to completely outsource an essential part of military intelligence to private contractors. They supply no financial figures or data of any kind to support the monumental shift of privatizing the NOAA. Typically conservative and thus typically arrogant. It is their opinion and that is all anyone needs to know. Privatizing or outsourcing is not always a bad thing, but the least we could expect is a cost/benefit analysis or a link to one. One of the draw backs to privatizing weather is the high probability of politicizing the weather. Joe Bastardi was one of the featured meteorologist at Accuweather and he is also a climate change denial nut – How many major scientific misstatements does Joe Bastardi have to make before In-Accuweather fires him as their chief long-range forecaster?

Just last month, he cooked the books in an official In-Accuweather video to smear some of the nation’s leading scientists.   I called for him to be fired and suggested referring to the company as InAccuweather until it does.  Bastardi did ultimately retract the video but couldn’t bring himself to admit that his accusation of fraud against NSIDC was not merely completely unwarranted but totally inappropriate and in fact based in part on his simple misreading of a graph.

Now he has a new official In-Accuweather video, his weekly “Global sea ice and temperature report.”  In it he claims the Navy believes Arctic ice is getting thicker, when in fact they have testified to Congress that it is getting thinner and will continue to do so.

Bastardi, who occasionally appears on Fox as a climate change denier, has sense left Accuweather to form his own weather forecasting company. Accuweather is not the only example of a preview of the privatization/politicization of the weather. Right-wing libertarians like the Koch brothers have paid “researchers” to create papers that, surprise, deny global warming. Organizations who have produced slews of paid for junk science about the weather include Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, National Center for Policy Analysis and the Heartland Institute.

Another wing-nut from Forbes tells American, Get Real: Hurricane Irene Should Be Renamed “Hurricane Hype”. Patrick Michaels uses a few antidotes about poor weather predictions to claim that all weather predictions must be privatized because everyone at the NOAA has a political agenda he doesn’t like. The only way around that is to let private weather companies with a clear political agenda predict the weather and decide when and who should evacuate. Michaels is sure he is correct. There can be no doubt that if the country would just get on his broken down mentally challenged 1972 Chevy Vega to the promised land of right-wing weather predictors, it’ll be nirvana in a cloud of cotton candy. In a live update stream from CNN this morning as Michaels was showing off his indisputable wisdom – New York’s East River rising; Holland Tunnel closed

New York’s East River and Hudson River topped their banks Sunday morning, sending water into Lower Manhattan, where hundreds of thousands of people had evacuated and millions more were hunkered down to wait out the massive hurricane centered just a few miles away.

[Update 8:57 a.m. Sunday] The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has now closed the north tube of the Holland Tunnel due to flooding, according to a statement. (If any of Patrick Michaels friends are killed in the tunnel – which warnings are over-hyped – just him him the funeral bill)

[Update 8:34 a.m. Sunday] The Hudson River is causing some flooding in the West Village, CNN’s Phil Han reported. Han said part of 10th Avenue has been blocked off and two cars just got stuck in the water.

[Update 8:20 a.m. Sunday] CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and Senior Producer Rose Arce report the Hudson River has overflowed its banks in lower Manhattan with flooding occurring as far as a block inland in the city’s meat packing district.

[Update 8:00 a.m. Sunday] The East River in New York City is topping the edge of its barrier wall, CNN’s Ali Velshi reports from river overlook. Rob Marciano in Long Beach, New York, screams to report over massive surf and high winds. The life guard building appears to have been ripped off its foundation. The streets of Long Beach are flooding.  Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras said tropical force winds will continue throughout the area for the next two hours.

By Saturday evening, the storm had already knocked out power in more than a million homes, forced more than a million people off the New Jersey shore alone and caused at least 10 deaths.

[Update 5:11 a.m. Sunday] Nearly 3 million customers across the East Coast are without power as Hurricane Irene churns northeast. Utility customers warned that the numbers are expected to go up as the storm swirls north.

Inside the shell of conservative reality there has been no flooding, no high winds, no property damage, no injuries and no deaths – its all “Hurricane Hype”. Facts and weather are well known liberal plots.

In other news:

C.I.A. Drone Is Said to Kill Al Qaeda’s No. 2. For an America hating Kenyan socialist Obama sure does kill a lot of terrorists.

Perry Says He Hasn’t ‘Backed Off Anything’ In His Book, Still Thinks Social Security Is Unconstitutional. Social Security has been challenged all the way to the SCOTUS and found to be constitutional see Helvering v. Davis and Flemming v. Nestor. Social Security keeps 20 million Americans out of poverty. Social Security is a large component of the social safety net. We have it, we need it, because while free markets are generally a good thing, they are not perfect. The right-wing conservative and libertarian position is that people should save and take care of each other. Look around. A lot of descent hard working Americans are out of work or underemployed. Not because they want to be but because market forces that caused them to be in such circumstances are beyond their control. Even before the financial collapse of 2007-2008 millions of Americans worked and yet could only pay their rent and utilities – the working poor. Rather than admit there is something wrong with a system where a full time employee does not make enough money to live on, we have cons and libertarians blaming low income workers for their plight. While there is very little debate about very wealthy people failing over and over again, yet never suffering the way the genuine middle-class or working poor has to pay. We have a free market dog-eat-dog system for the bottom 50% and plutocratic socialism for those at the top.

 

A Poll Tax by Another Name

AS we celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, we reflect on the life and legacy of this great man. But recent legislation on voting reminds us that there is still work to do. Since January, a majority of state legislatures have passed or considered election-law changes that, taken together, constitute the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

[  ]…Having fought for voting rights as a student, I am especially troubled that these laws disproportionately affect young voters. Students at state universities in Wisconsin cannot vote using their current IDs (because the new law requires the cards to have signatures, which those do not). South Carolina prohibits the use of student IDs altogether. Texas also rejects student IDs, but allows voting by those who have a license to carry a concealed handgun. These schemes are clearly crafted to affect not just how we vote, but who votes.

Conservative proponents have argued for photo ID mandates by claiming that widespread voter impersonation exists in America, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. While defending its photo ID law before the Supreme Court, Indiana was unable to cite a single instance of actual voter impersonation at any point in its history. Likewise, in Kansas, there were far more reports of U.F.O. sightings than allegations of voter fraud in the past decade. These theories of systematic fraud are really unfounded fears being exploited to threaten the franchise.

 

Republicans and their sugar daddy donors will spend millions, if not billions fighting ghosts, but nothing to fight real injustices. All the while complaining that our historically low taxes are too damn high.

The NYT published some corrections to its profile of one of the most corrupt Congress critters to ever serve Darell Issa(R-CA).

An article on Aug. 15 about Representative Darrell Issa’s business dealings, using erroneous information that Mr. Issa’s family foundation filed with the Internal Revenue Service, referred incorrectly to his sale of an AIM mutual fund in 2008. A spokesman for the California Republican now says that the I.R.S. filing is “an incorrect document.” The spokesman, Frederick R. Hill, said that based on Mr. Issa’s private brokerage account records, which he made public with redactions, the purchase of the mutual fund resulted in a $125,000 loss, not a $357,000 gain.

And the article, using incorrect information from the San Diego county assessor’s office, misstated the purchase price for a medical office plaza Mr. Issa’s company bought in Vista, Calif., in 2008. It cost $16.3 million, the assessor’s office now says — not $10.3 million — because the assessor mistakenly omitted in public records a $6 million loan Mr. Issa’s company assumed in the acquisition. Therefore the value of the property remained essentially unchanged, and did not rise 60 percent after Mr. Issa secured federal funding to widen a road alongside the plaza.

That still lives Issa on the hook for a verity of ethical violations and possible criminal activity, including the earmarks for roads near his property, carrying water for Wall St and treating some people who have appeared before his committee with kid gloves. Where is that Special Investigation Mr. Boehner(R-OH)? And why is Issa allowed to remain as a committee chairman with all of these ethical infractions ?

Temple of the Sun wallpaper – Another Day at Conservative Values Amusement Park

 Capital Reef National Park, Utah

Temple of the Sun wallpaper. The Temple is located in  Capital Reef National Park, Utah.

The Bush Cult is alive and well – Rupert Murdoch Set To Air 9/11 Documentary Glorifying Bush; Producer Says He’s Not Interested In ‘Facts’.

“It’s not one of those moments where you weigh the consequences or think about the politics,” [Bush] adds. ”You decide. And I made the decisions as best I could in the fog of war. I was determined. Determined to protect the country. And I was determined to find out who did it and go get them.”

In reality, within hours of the 9/11 plane hijackings, Bush’s Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld began drawing up plans to launch a war in Iraq “even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.” Indeed, Bush aides quickly went to work undercutting the proposed commission to study the events leading up the 9/11, and despite the growing evidence linking the terrorist act with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda group, Bush never made bin Laden a priority. By January 2002, Dick Cheney told the press that bin Laden “isn’t that big a threat.” The next month, Bush said bin Laden was “not the issue.”

Because Bush and the neocons would not get their priorities straight, what had become a relatively easy victory in Afghanistan turned into a quagmire and Bin laden escaped at Tora Bora. Conservatives are still rewriting the Civil War as being a conflict over state’s rights so their ongoing revisionism whereby Bush was Captain America in $2000 cowboy boots is just par for the course.

Why does Eric Cantor(R-VA) hate the ideals of our nation’s Founders

Cantor’s callousness turns preemptive

We talked earlier about House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) insisting that federal disaster relief in the wake of this week’s earthquake would no longer be automatic. Whereas Congress used to provide emergency funds after a disaster, without regard for budget caps of offsets, Republicans no longer believe in such an approach.

I said it was likely Cantor would take a similar approach with Hurricane Irene. This afternoon, the Majority Leader’s spokesperson confirmed this with Brian Beutler — if the hurricane does major damage, Republicans will only allow federal assistance if Democrats accept comparable cuts elsewhere in the budget.

In writing about the need for a chairty hospital Benjamin Franklin wrote,

But tho’ every Animal that hath Life is liable to Death, Man, of all other Creatures, has the greatest Number of Diseases to his Share; whether they are the Effects of our Intemperance and Vice, or are given us, that we may have a greater Opportunity of exercising towards each other that Virtue, which most of all recommends us to the Deity, I mean CHARITY.

[   ]…When the good Samaritan left his Patient at the Inn, he gave Money to the Host, and said, TAKE CARE OF HIM, and what thou spendest more, I will repay thee. We are in this World mutual Hosts to each other; the Circumstances and Fortunes of Men and Families are continually changing; in the Course of a few Years we have seen the Rich become Poor, and the Poor Rich; the Children of the Wealthy languishing in Want and Misery, and those of their Servants lifted into Estates, and abounding in the good Things of this Life. Since then, our present State, how prosperous soever, hath no Stability, but what depends on the good Providence of God, how careful should we be not to harden our Hearts against the Distresses of our Fellow Creatures, lest He who owns and governs all, should punish our Inhumanity, deprive us of a Stewardship in which we have so unworthily behaved, laugh at our Calamity, and mock when our Fear cometh. Methinks when Objects of Charity, and Opportunities of relieving them, present themselves, we should hear the Voice of this Samaritan, as if it were the Voice of God sounding in our Ears, TAKE CARE OF THEM, and whatsoever thou spendest, I will repay thee.

But the Good particular Men may do separately, in relieving the Sick, is small, compared with what they may do collectively, or by a joint Endeavour and Interest. Hence the Erecting of Hospitals or Infirmaries by Subscription, for the Reception, Entertainment, and Cure of the Sick Poor, has been found by Experience exceedingly beneficial, as they turn out annually great Numbers of Patients perfectly cured, who might otherwise have been lost to their Families, and to Society. ( all caps are Franklin. all emphasis mine)

There were more obscure Founders, perhaps Cantor and the Tea Morons are guided by one who wrote get yours while you can and screw everyone else. Nate Silver takes a look at what Hurricane Irene might cost –A New York Hurricane Could Be a Multibillion-Dollar Catastrophe

Time to think about the unthinkable. What if a major hurricane were to pass close to New York City, as several forecasting models now suggest that Hurricane Irene might?

Apart from the inevitable loss of life in the most densely populated part of the country, history suggests that the economic damage could run into the tens of billions of dollars, depending on the severity of the storm and how close it comes to the city. Unlikely but theoretically plausible scenarios could have the damage entering the realm of the costliest natural disasters of all time, and perhaps being large enough to have a materially negative effect on the nation’s gross domestic product.

Even a non-worse case scenario might mean billions in damage along the north-east coast.

Robertson Suggests Crack In The Washington Monument Was A Sign From God. The great thing about Robertson’s attacks on America are they are fact free. Limbaugh, Coulter, Cantor, Perry, Bachmann, Palin and Romney all use such “arguments” or rather beliefs they pulled out of some body cavity. So they cannot be argued with using tired old logical arguments based on facts. I admit to a certain envy. Opening one’s mouth and just letting the most base, unhinged, factless, gutless, anti-reason, anti-rational verbal turds fly out is one of the great selling pints of conservatism. facts and humanitarianism are such weighty burdens, it’s no wonder that many people are scared off liberalism and progress. Be a conservative and give in to human nature’s most base instincts.

Rick Perry Sought State Profits From Teacher Life Insurance Scheme

Two weeks before Thanksgiving in 2003, top officials from Texas Governor Rick Perry’s office pitched an unusual offer to the state’s retired teachers: Let’s get into the death business.

Perry’s budget director, Mike Morrissey, laid out a pitch that was both ambitious and risky, according to notes summarizing the meeting provided to The Huffington Post.

According to the notes, which were authenticated by a meeting participant, the Perry administration wanted to help Wall Street investors gamble on how long retired Texas teachers would live. Perry was promising the state big money in exchange for helping Swiss banking giant UBS set up a business of teacher death speculation.

All they had to do was convince retirees to let UBS buy life insurance policies on them. When the retirees died, those policies would pay out benefits to Wall Street speculators, and the state, supposedly, would get paid for arranging the bets. The families of the deceased former teachers would get nothing.

The meeting notes offer the most direct evidence that the Perry administration was not only intimately involved with the insurance scheme, but a leading driver of the plan.

It has been the case that sometimes corporations take out life insurance policies on active employees – say an accountant, a materials scientists, a top end programmer. In the case of their death the corporation receives all the proceeds to compensate them for the loss of a valuable employee and the cost to recruit and train a new one. A lot of people are disturbed by that, but one can see where is the companies might have a point regarding employees with special skills as business assets. There is a tint of vulture-like behavior about it, but it is not illegal or unethical. Perry and company were full on into the vulture behavior. These are retired teachers. Insurance companies – at least traditionally do not allow parties who do not have a real financial stake in someone’s life to take out a life insurance policy on just random persons or groups of people. As the article notes of course the practice of insuring employees has been abused, – “Corporations had been using mass purchases of life insurance policies on their employees for years as part of an elaborate tax avoidance scheme (the government doesn’t tax insurance premiums or death benefits). The employees themselves — affectionately referred to as “dead peasants” among insurance experts — received no benefit.”

Walmart took a particularly bad PR beating for the practice, in large part because the company was profiting from massive life insurance policies on rank-and-file workers whom it paid low wages.

How a state would team up with private entities who were going to bundle up these policies as securities – like the CDOs that were part of the Wall St meltdown is anyone’s guess. As a partner in such a scheme the state of Texas would have been liable for part of any losses. Former Texas Senator Phil Gramm(R) was at the center of this elaborate death pool/securities bundling plan. Why Gramm and his wife are not in the cell next to Bernie Madof is a testament to how much power he has.

IN GOPer: I Just Talked About Baseball With The Young Man I Solicited On Craigslist

State Rep. Phillip Hinkle, the anti-gay marriage Indiana Republican accused of offering to pay a young man he met over Craigslist for “a good time,” admits that he paid the man but contends that they didn’t do anything illicit — they just talked about “baseball and the view.”

[   ]…Hinkle said that when Gibson got there they just talked about “baseball and the view,” and that when Hinkle came out of the bathroom Gibson had left, and stole the money, the iPad and the Blackberry. “I went to the edge,” Hinkle said, “but I didn’t fall over the edge.”

“I got everything back but the iPad,” Hinkle told the Star, “and quite frankly, if that makes them feel good, so be it.” He noted that he won’t be filing a police report.

When asked why he arranged the encounter to begin with — and why he used his public e-mail address — Hinkle said. “I don’t know. I’m telling you, I don’t know.”

Hinkle told Matthew Tully of the Star: “Somewhere upstairs a button got pushed, and I want to know why. People keep asking: ‘What were you thinking?’ I honestly don’t know. It’s as simple as that.”

“I say that emphatically,” Hinkle also said. “I’m not gay.”

Except for the people who voted for him based on bizarre wing-nut ideas about what constitutes family values, no one cares whether Hinkle is gay. It is when you lie to everyone, lead a secret life, set up these unseemly rendezvouses in hotels where money is exchanged that people wonder about your judgment and who you really are. When constituents talk to Hinkle are they talking to a guy who knows who he is and what he is about, or are they talking to a guy who’s life is a lie.

Conservatives Wish Obama Had Super Powers and Other News

Conservatives wish Obama had super powers

 

Conservatives Can’t Decide If Obama Was Too Busy Golfing Or Biking To Stop The Earthquake

Following the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that shook the D.C. region this afternoon, conservative media figures have responded the only way they know how: by twisting it into an attack on Obama’s vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft put up a post announcing, “Earthquake Rattles Washington DC – Obama Goes Biking”:

Meanwhile, Matt Drudge’s above-the-fold coverage of the earthquake featured a series of links about the story and a link telling readers that “Obama was on golf course…”

In other words if President Obama was Superman he could have flown back to D.C. like a speeding bullet, dived into the earth and pushed the tectonic plates back together all before Hoft and Drudge could clean the daily droll off their keyboards. Some conservatives already believe Obama has super powers. The president could create jobs without dealing with obstructionist Republicans but has chosen not to. Obama could have repaired the deep structional damage conservatives did to the economy, but doesn’t want to reveal his secret identity and those midnight energy charges he gets from the UN and George Soros. These would be the same conservatives who created the cult of personality around George W. Bush, the guy who ignored the Presidential Daily Brief that said terrorists might use planes in a terror attack. Of course if Obama did have super powers it would be the conservative version of the prosecution of the X-Men.

digby notes this comment from the conservative Gateway Pundit’s site,

To bad that all, ALL the liberals weren’t in that tunnel going out into Virginia from the Capital and our representatives buildings, and it caved in taking them all out! Then that way the largest majority in Washington would be the conservative Republican’s. Then when Obama came back from Martha’s Vineyard he’d have no one to support his crazy ideas that are destroying this nation. You know that Obama is good friends with Maurice Strong who thinks he runs the world with all his bogus organizations and even more bogus NGO’s. Our conservative Republican’s could defund all the U.N. agreements where we don’t know where the money goes. America could begin returning back to where it ought to be. And if all the liberals were dead, Obama couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it. I would like to see him in a situation like that, and I would like to see America in a situation like that, where we would have a small conservative government that got the things done that it is supposed to do and that’s all.

Another how’s that civility going for you moment. If Obama was as effective a liberal as so many on the Right gives him credit for his approval ratings would go up at least 10 points. digby has more on the Maurice Strong conspiracy theory. Another new one to me. Strangely the theory rests on the proposition that conservatives are proud supporters of the US auto industry. These would be the same conservatives that advocated letting GM and Chrysler go out of business.

As conservatives try to find ways to blame Democrats for earthquakes and the lack of bedrock glue, it’s a good time to remember that government can play a role in detecting earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters, but needs the Koch brothers country club fees to do so – CantorQuake: Trembling at the Heart of GOP Claims We Don’t Need Government

Back in March, after the Japanese earthquake, Eric Cantor defended Republican plans to cut funding from the USGS and warning systems to help in case of a disaster.

This is the epicenter of the freak 5.9 Richter earthquake that just hit Virginia.

The USGS is the United States Geological Survey. And don ‘t ask me why Eric Cantor(R-VA) and the people who vote for him hate America.

This report is generating some buzz. Apparently it is not confirmed, but very very unfortunate if true – East is all shook up after strong earthquake for region

That excludes the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument, which will be closed indefinitely after engineers found cracks near the top.

Tuesday’s temblor also prompted precautionary shutdowns of 10 nuclear power plants in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and the evacuation of the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.

Some Tweeters started a rumor the monument was leaning. As of today there is no truth to those reports at all.

I disagree with Walter Shapiro’s assertion – Rick Perry: The God-Fearing, Know-Nothing, Pistol-Packing Embodiment of Liberals’ Worst Nightmares.

3. The Living Constitution. The GOP presidential field has more self-appointed constitutional scholars per capita than any group since the Founding Fathers assembled in Philadelphia. Not too long ago, Bachmann refused to fill out the entire 2010 Census form because she contended that it went beyond constitutional requirements.

But even by these standards, Perry stands out for his creative cut-and-paste approach to the Constitution. With the exception of the states-rights claims of the Tenth Amendment and the right-to-carry provisions of the Second Amendment, it seems like the rest of the document is more or less fair game to the governor. In an interview last year, Perry raised doubts about whether the Social Security system was constitutional. And in his book, Fed Up!, Perry ominously claims, “With the passage of the Sixteen and Seventeenth Amendments, states handed over a significant chunk of their sovereignty and wealth to the federal government.” Not since the days of William McKinley or even earlier has a serious presidential contender warned about the threat of a federal income tax and the direct election of senators.

Perry’s association with dominionists who claim to be modern-day prophets should concern anyone who cares about sanity. Perry’s gun fetish? Who cares, I’m probably a better shot than most conservatives who think guns are not just to protect your home or bring home a rack of deer ribs, but have magical powers. Most liberals are not motivated by fear, they’re motivated by getting us on track to live up to our ideals. Shapiro is right on the details of what makes Perry almost uniquely unqualified to hold any public office or be out on the street without a chaperon. Perry is Ann Coulter in pants. He knows how to use the wing-nut dog whistle,

But whatever his underlying beliefs, Perry could give both Bachmann and Palin lessons in liberal baiting. The swagger and the bristling self-confidence suggest a political leader who is often wrong, but never in doubt. It is all so reminiscent of another wrong-way-Corrigan president. Intellectually, it is easy to remember the Texas-sized enmities that divide the Bushies and Perry. But emotionally, every time liberals hear that Perry twang and those dropped “g’s,” the instinct is to quake at stumbling into a horror-movie remake entitled, Mission Accomplished 2: Return to the White House.

Speaking of fear. I’m waiting for the day that conservatives actually address liberal public policy. Not the public policy that twist into something that fits the demonizing narrative that admittedly has served them so well. They can’t talk about liberals without lying. They can’t recount the liberal record – we won two world wars, contained the Soviet Union and after WW II oversaw the greatest economic expansion in the history of mankind. Liberals largely conquered the kind of soul crushing poverty that had plagued the nation from the days of Ben Franklin. Conservatives like to say there is no poverty in America, look at all these poor people with refrigerators and color TVs. Yea that’s right, generally the poor no longer sit in dark shacks or tenements with no modern conveniences because things like the minimum wage, Social Security and other anti-poverty initiatives worked. Shapiro points to this article – Whatever Rick Perry’s Record Is, It’s Not Conservative

Then there’s the one major proposal that Perry did, in fact, pass into law—the state’s business tax. This tax increase on business was crafted in 2006 as part of a school-finance reform. The idea was to cut local property taxes and replace the lost revenue with a new business margins tax. This 2006 tax “swap” was the one instance during Perry’s decade as governor when he proposed a wide-ranging plan and successfully pushed it through the Legislature mostly unchanged. It will likely be remembered as his signature legislative accomplishment.

The problem is, it’s been a disaster. Small businesses hate it because they’re forced to pay regardless of whether they’re turning a profit: it seemed to be the very definition of a “job-killing” tax.

Conservatives really do not get how to use taxes and spending as incentives. They have notions, lamebrain thoughts and knucklehead myths driven by their agenda. On the list of the top Ten Conservative Myths of All Time is that conservatives are pro free market. If that were true there would be a virtual army of lobbyist out of work – no more need for special legislation to benefit. If that were true we never would have gutted regulation that gave birth to the infamous 12 too big to fail financial institutions.

Study: 8 in 10 pols lack econ studies

Almost 80 percent of lawmakers might need to crack open an economics textbook before the congressional recess ends, a new study on Tuesday suggests.

The vast majority of members lack an academic background in business or economics, according to a study by the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit group that takes a conservative stand on fiscal issues. Only 13.7 percent majored in business or accounting, and 8.4 percent have an economics degree.

Two words: George Bush. Our Harvard MBA president. Most legislators, especially in the Senate have economic advisers. Five more words: economists and the housing bubble; How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?

Few economists saw our current crisis coming, but this predictive failure was the least of the field’s problems. More important was the profession’s blindness to the very possibility of catastrophic failures in a market economy. During the golden years, financial economists came to believe that markets were inherently stable — indeed, that stocks and other assets were always priced just right. There was nothing in the prevailing models suggesting the possibility of the kind of collapse that happened last year. Meanwhile, macroeconomists were divided in their views. But the main division was between those who insisted that free-market economies never go astray and those who believed that economies may stray now and then but that any major deviations from the path of prosperity could and would be corrected by the all-powerful Fed. Neither side was prepared to cope with an economy that went off the rails despite the Fed’s best efforts.

Anyone who has watched Inside Job knows that the conservative crown prince of unregulated economic nirvana, Alan Greenspan, was warned about the housing bubble and did nothing.

Black and White Gears wallpaper – Republicans Have Oxymoronic Positions on Jobs and Taxes

Black and White Gears wallpaper

Blue Tint Gears wallpaper

 

Did you know that CBS can do a great impression of the way Fox News does its reporting. The thinking seems to be, let’s put up these numbers without any historical background on thew hows and whys – National debt has increased $4 trillion under Obama

The latest posting by the Treasury Department shows the national debt has now increased $4 trillion on President Obama’s watch.

The debt was $10.626 trillion on the day Mr. Obama took office. The latest calculation from Treasury shows the debt has now hit $14.639 trillion.

It’s the most rapid increase in the debt under any U.S. president.

The national debt increased $4.9 trillion during the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush. The debt now is rising at a pace to surpass that amount during Mr. Obama’s four-year term.

Mr. Obama blames policies inherited from his predecessor’s administration for the soaring debt. He singles out:

“two wars we didn’t pay for”
“a prescription drug program for seniors…we didn’t pay for.”
“tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 that were not paid for.”

Mark Knoller does the president says this, but is not courageous enough to state or explain that the road to the national debt was paved by conservative policies and a financial elite that thought they could not fail. When Bush 43 left office the debt was 82.2% of GDP. President Obama inherited that and an economy that was sinking faster than the Titanic. Since the economy is struggling GDP is down and revenues are down because there are fewer people on payrolls. Now is not the time to worry about deficits. Now is the time to create jobs with spending.A chart from the NYT I’ve posted before,

 

Knoll leaves it looking as though the Fox-Bachmann-Perry urban myth about Obama and some wild spending spree is true. The fact remains America is now paying for the new car Republicans bought on credit than drove into a tree.

What digby said about job creation and taxes – Jobs schmobs. Republican have discovered a great new meme, taxes are not high enough. Americans making minimum wage to around $40k a year are not paying their fair share of taxes. Gosh aren’t we all just red-faced embarrassed that people making the lowest incomes in America are only paying payroll taxes, sales taxes, possibly property taxes, possibly state income taxes and all the incidental fees like license renewals and permit fees. Its like this, those raking in the cash should pay in proportion to the tremendous wealth they have. As of 2007  the upper 10% of the wealthy owned 71.5% of the nation’s wealth. The bottom 50% owned 2.5% of the nation’s wealth. In order for that to make sense in terms of merit for work or intangible contributions like patentable ideas etc. we have to believe that 10% of America is doing all the work and half the country are lazy bums.

To add my two cents to what digby said about Obama and a push to create a jobs program ( series of incentives for business really). Republicans have two itched in stone policies about job creation. 1) President Obama does not have a jobs program, shame on him. 2) We oppose any jobs program that President Obama proposes. We know the Konservative Kool-aid Klub is going to hate on Obama no matter what he does. I just wonder if the general public is paying attention to how conservatives have tried to sabotage the recovery and the nihilistic messages they’re sending.

Being a little simple-minded conservatives have taken to jumping on any “incivility” by any Democrat anywhere since Obama mentioned the general lack of civil discourse a few months ago. The commentary usually begins with some variation of – how’s that civility going. Why has the issue of civility become a sore spot. Because Obama hurt their feelings. Right-wing pundits ranging from Limbaugh to Coulter to Pat Robertson to Glenn beck actually make a living off ad hominem attacks on anyone who is to the left of Eva Braun. The conservative brain is still capable of compartmentalizing that reality and thinking of themselves as The Civil voices in discourse. With those psychological proclivities in mind, conservatives are very upset that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said – “As far as I’m concerned — the Tea Party can go straight to Hell.” Considering the general tone and tactics of the tea smokers that seems rather tame to me. And leave it to the teahadists to make Waters look like a Sunday school teacher on her best behavior – South Carolina Tea Party Chair Posts Joke About Killing The Obamas On Facebook

Shery Lanford Smith, the chairwoman of Sumter Tea Party in South Carolina is under fire after posting a joke about killing President and First Lady Obama on her Facebook profile last Thursday. In the joke, the Obamas’ helicopter pilot says to his co-pilot, “I could throw both of them out of the window and make 256 million people very happy!” Smith continued, “If you’re one of [the] 256 million, pass it on,” which implies “she herself would be happy to see the Obamas killed.” The joke has been circulating for years in various forms and “have included the names of multiple political figures.” Smith defended the post, “It’s just a joke…I had no idea it would be an issue.”

 

Than Shery Lanford Smith realizes that if someone should say that if some day she should start to feel violently ill stock up on ice, she’s going to need it, that is just a joke.

Black and White Sea Coast Clouds wallpaper – Some Thoughts on Foreign Policy

Black and White Sea Coast Clouds wallpaper

 

How did conservatives respond to intervention in Libya. This handy chart from back in March of 2011 by Alex Pareene is a classic case of the non-existence of principled conservatism – Need to attack President Obama’s handling of this complex situation but don’t know how? Our flowchart can help. Limbaugh’s declaration that Obama was “nagged” into intervention by women and Newt Gingrich’s crystal ball moment declaring Obama would give up before the job was finished give you an idea of the range of unhinged analysis by the Right. That things turned out alright is cause for celebration or at least a sigh of relief. Though Glenn is right about the use of the military in such adventures without a declaration by Congress is illegal. Just because things ended well does not mean the the legal issues do not matter. One thing about Glenn’s post that is problematic until he offers up some evidence, the US lead the way to using military force. Not that it justifies the illegality, but one can see why Obama did not seek what would have been Republican support for intervention. Just as they used the debt ceiling to take hostages they would have voted against intervention for purely political reasons. That is just where we are as a country. Conservatives generally have put a full stop of even pretending to go through the careful consideration phase, they go right into the reactionary phase: they’re against anything Obama does, even if it was previously a conservative policy, simply out of maliciousness. If anti-Americanism is to act in a way that is contrary to the country’s interests than what better example could we have than the punish America to get at Obama crowd. Libya: Huge Win for Libyans, A Win for Obama, Challenges Next

As it turns out, the combination of intelligence support provided by the US, the technical and financial and logistics support provided behind the scenes by Qatar and the UAE, the military interventions by French and British forces, and more helped give the Libyan rebels an opportunity to regroup after early setbacks and push Qaddafi’s forces back steadily and firmly to the battle inside Tripoli that we saw last night.  A key part of the success were the Berbers organizing their village militias west of Tripoli and pushing towards Qaddafi from one direction while the Benghazi-based rebels pushed from the other — putting Tripoli in a vise.

Barack Obama’s gamble in providing limited support for a conflict, in which other countries played lead roles, now seems like a winning move.  It’s hard to replicate the conditions of Libya in other cases because Qaddafi had a habit of making unnecessary enemies — most importantly in the Arab League, whose vote in favor of imposing a No Fly Zone over Libya was the trigger that led to everything else that has been possible.

Not so much from critics on the liberal isle, but conservatives could be grouped into two major camps. Those who were against any intervention because of X or Y, or those who thought along the lines of its too late or not enough force was being used. Declaration of war issues aside Obama was on time and used just the right amount of force. The US did not lead in the way we usually do, but did not follow. It was a Goldilocks moment. We were right in the middle of an international support effort that allowed Libyans to determine their own destiny. No action on this scale goes perfectly, but this is a good example of the way change is made. Libya stands in very stark contrast to Iraq – the way not to conduct military interventions.

Wingnuttia keeps having to spin new narratives for Obama the Marxist Kenyan anti-Christ who doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. Two professional know-nothings John McCain(R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham(R-SC) serve up an example of the kind of spin to expect from the Right – The right’s bizarre response to Libya events

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, among the earliest voices calling for intervention in Libya, wasted little time in congratulating the rebels and slamming Obama for not intervening earlier:

The end of the Qadaffi regime in Libya is a victory for the Libyan people and for the broader cause of freedom in the Middle East and throughout the world. This achievement was made possible first and foremost by the struggle and sacrifice of countless Libyans, whose courage and perseverance we applaud. We also commend our British, French, and other allies, as well as our Arab partners, especially Qatar and the UAE, for their leadership in this conflict. Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower.

McCain and Graham, both of whom had warm personal interactions with Gaddafi in the past, have now gotten exactly what they wanted from the administration’s decision to intervene. But GOP partisanship demands that they not acknowledge the president’s role in assembling the global coalition that aided the rebels. Indeed, with the Republican Party wedded to a contradictory image of the president as foreign policy weakling and iron-fisted domestic dictator, we’re going to see a lot of bizarre rationalizing of what happened in an attempt to preserve this narrative of the Obama presidency.

 

 

For those keeping score. Bush/Cheney and the neocons spent about $4 trillion dollars responding to Islamic extremism – They squandered victory in Afghanistan and Iraq ( The latter of which was both supposedly the center of the kind of extremism responsible for 9-11 and the fly paper with which we would catch all the world’s terrorists). President Obama elbowed the authoritarian Hosni Mubarak out of office, helped put Libya on the path to a more democratic state and helped bring Bin Laden to justice. Conservative could learn something from this just as they could have learned something from the financial collapse caused by conservative policies, but we all know they will not. Conservatives have that commonality shared by all extremists, such as communists or fascists. When they fail it is never because of the fundamental flaws of their beliefs, it is because the enactment of their policies was not pure enough.

Not a good reason to become involved in a conflict, but a nice incidental benefit of helping Libya – Oil Prices Will Tank, Stock Prices Will Soar

Watch what happens to oil prices if and when the Qaddafis lose and leave.

In short order, Libyan oil production will ramp up.  As it does, oil prices in world markets will fall and oil futures markets will reflect the expected increase in production of oil from Libya.  The key prices to watch are those trading in Europe, like Brent.  US oil prices (WTI) are no longer the leading indicator of world prices intersecting with world supply/demand.  Excess inventory at Cushing, OK is complicating the pricing structure.

We expect oil prices to fall when highly desirable, sweet Libyan crude production is fully resumed and enters the pipeline.  Maybe, they are going to fall by a lot.  This will come as a much-needed boost to the US economy and to others in the world.

 

Not only gas prices, but food commodity prices should fall as well. Business Insider is also of the opinion that we are not slipping back into the first recession or a new one, but simply a very slow growth period. Lower energy prices might be just the boost we need to rev things up a bit. Though don’t expect gas prices to drop significantly for months.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) Does a Classic Non-Denial Denial of His Corrupt Behavior

It is probably impossible to make any story about U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa(R-CA) interesting. Even though Issa has been plagued by charges of corruption, ethics violations and using his committee to political office to pursue purely political attacks rather than genuine ethics violations by others. As a conservative Issa is guilty of the usual assortment of ad hominem attacks on the opposition, rumor mongering scare mongering, making tiny stories about Democrats into mountains and making disturbing actions by fellow conservatives into mere mole hills. In other words one of the most corrupt, unethical and just plain weird people to ever serve in Congress has the conservative playbook memorized to the letter. Issa and his apologists are very upset about this NYT profile – A Businessman in Congress Helps His District and Himself. That story did contain an obvious error which the NYT corrected as follows,

Correction: August 16, 2011 An article on Monday about the business empire of Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, misstated the worth of the companies involved in his splitting up of a holding company. The split entailed separate multimillion-dollar companies, not multibillion-dollar ones.(emphasis mine)

before we move on to Issa’s complaints about that story I find the level of outrage by Issa and the Right contains equal parts shrill tragic comedy and deeply hypocritical. We live in Rupert Murdoch’s world of Fox News, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal where falsehoods are turned out faster than cheap factory hard candy. We have an internet with sites such as Human Events and Commentary which spew factless falsehoods like their was a world shortage and they are out to save us all with more stories about Obama’s birth certificate or Bill Clinton’s Arkansas mob. Conservatives have a relationship of inconvenience when it comes to facts. Facts are generally horrible things when it comes to conservatives, their actions and their agenda. When it comes to simply taking an honest look at conservatives if you do not have every I dotted, every T crossed, that axiomatically means everything you say is a lie. Such is the case with the NYT story. The larger story is true, but some details may not have been told as well they they could have been. In his reply to the NYT Issa has doubled down somewhat by fudging on the truth. What are Isaa’s problems with the story. I’ll do them one by one with some background.

Issa itemizes thirteen errors as to which he has requested that the Times issue corrections: * The title, “Helping His District and Himself” implies that Rep. Issa has engaged in self-dealing. The only evidence the story offers for this assertion are factually flawed assertions.

In addition to his regular responsibilities as a Congressional Representative Issa is the Chairman of Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In both duties there are plenty of potential for abuse as Issa is one of the few members of Congress that has not put his business interests in a blind trust. he actively manages those businesses while he votes on issues that pertain to them and that might affect their profitability. As the McClatchy-Tribune News Service notes in an editorial Issa should have seen the public’s suspicious coming considering the circumstances – Rep. Issa’s empire is ripe for conflicts

On his congressional website, Issa calls the New York Times article a “hit job” riddled with factual errors. The Times has corrected one mistake. The newspaper says it “misstated the worth of companies involved in his (Issa’s) splitting up of a holding company.” But the larger substance of the article has not been challenged. That is – Issa continues to run his expansive business empire while also serving as a member of Congress. Other congressmen with similar wealth have put their holdings into blind trusts to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Issa has not. That raises obvious questions of conflict. It’s impossible to know when Issa’s official actions are intended to benefit the American people, his constituents or his own narrow self-interest. In addition, given the extent of his involvement in his private business, his ability to devote sufficient attention or energy to his congressional duties is called into question. After all, serving in Congress is supposed to be a full-time job.

Issa’s second objection to the article,

* The lede, “Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego, Darrell Issa, the entrepreneur, oversees the hub of a growing financial empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.” The building where Rep. Issa’s office is located does not overlook a golf course as the reporter Eric Lichtblau implies he personally observed.

Anyone can use Google maps to see that Issa’s office building ( though not his office, which the NYT did not specify) is close to the Shadowridge Country Club Gulf Course. The website for Issa’s building states the building comes “with direct views to golf driving range.” maybe many people in the building cannot see the course, but one can certainly see the building from the course. is this the terrible wrong that Issa has been done. It seems like a lame compliant. The NYT and other newspapers have been using ledes like that for years. I wish they’d stop, but that does not mean they are factually wrong and in this case not especially significant.

* “Mr. Issa has … split a holding company into separate multibillion-dollar businesses.” Rep. Issa does not own a single multi-billion business (The Times has issued a correction for this error).

As noted the NYT has corrected this part. Americans who care about ethics are still waiting for the Right to correct the billions of lies they not only tell, but repeat without shame.

* “As his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.” The only examples the New York Times raises of Rep. Issa’s public actions benefiting his private holdings are the erroneous examples previously noted.

The rest of us see the potential for conflict and actual conflict ( details to follow), Issa don’t see nut’in. Which is actually part of the problem. Issa, like so many conservatives are incapable of honest self-assessment. How can someone chair an ethics committee and not see where there might be the potential for conflict for anyone conducting business deals affected by legislation you vote on. Blind trusts are not perfect. You can still vote on legislation that benefits you, but at least your hands are not on one side of the equation.

* “In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $10.3 million.” The story erroneously reports the property’s purchase price which was, in fact, $16.6 million. It also fails to mention that at the time he sought funding for his district he did not own this property.

This is what the NYT wrote,

He has secured millions of dollars in Congressional earmarks for road work and public works projects that promise improved traffic and other benefits to the many commercial properties he owns here north of San Diego. In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $10.3 million. His constituents cheer the prospect of easing traffic. At the same time, the value of the medical complex and other properties has soared, at least in part because of the government-sponsored road work.

I agree the NYT could have been clearer. Issa and his company paid $10.3 million and assumption of a July 1999 loan originally for $6.8 million. The outstanding balance was $6.27 million.They should have included the loan assumption. One blogger (AssRocket at Powerline) says that as such Issa has not profited at all from the acquisition because the property tax assessment on the property is still $16.6 million. OK we’ll round off and say the tax assessment of $16,560,657 is $16.6. Does AssRocket own a home or any business property. Anyway, the assessment value of a property is frequently based on market value, but if the property were put on the market today, especially with the new roads, it is not unreasonable to think they would get more for the Vista building on the open market( the building’s office space is fully rented). It is also true that assessment value cannot exceed market value. Issa is not being honest in his complaint. The complaint itself is an admission that he has purposely left out what the market price would be if he were to sell it tomorrow. Since the assessment value has not gone up substantially Issa claims that is proof the earmarks for road construction he asked for and voted on did not benefit him personally. First the obvious, he hasn’t sold the property yet, so that is at minimum an open question. We also do not know how much he has benefited by way of income from the building. If Issa is only as good a businessman as the average dilettante he is charging more in rent than he is paying on the mortgage ( small loan+property tax costs in this case). So again I detect some false outrage combined with withholding facts on Issa’s part. Issa says that the earmarks are not an ethical issue. TPro’s timeline and Issa himself says differently.

– February 20, 2008: According to the letter provided by Issa’s office, the San Diego Association of Governments requested $2 million in taxpayer earmarks for widening and improving the West Vista Way road in Vista, California. – March 4, 2008: Issa releases the list of over $200 million in earmark requests that includes the $2 million request for the improvements on West Vista Way. – October 8, 2008: Issa negotiates the purchase of the Vista Medical Plaza for $16.6 million. The building is situated next to West Vista Way and along the area where the earmarked improvements are targeted. – February 2009: A few months after closing the deal on his multi-million dollar Vista Medical Plaza office building, Issa pushes for his West Vista Way earmark in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009. Unlike any of Issa’s other earmarks, Issa secured two separate earmarks for West Vista Way into the bill: one for $245,000 and another for $570,000. – February 2009: Although Issa publicly listed over $200 million in earmarks for the FY2009 budget, he only secured a few. He did not obtain a million dollar Boys and Girl grant, nor did he secure one for a flood control grant in his district. Out of all of the earmarks he publicly listed, the West Vista Way one seemed to fair better than most. – March 11, 2009: President Obama signs the Omnibus into law, granting a total of $815,000 to the West Vista Way project for Issa. Issa later begins advertising his Vista Medical Plaza and its “Excellent Access with Freeway Visibility.” As we noted yesterday, Issa has said that an “earmark is tantamount to a bribe.” Issa’s fellow House Republicans in the San Diego area have a long history of earmark related scandals. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) got caught enriching himself off of land deals boosted by the earmarking process. Former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) was embroiled in a similar controversy.

Issa, according not to the NYT, but to himself says that he used bribes to provide what common sense says is a propriety improvement that will increase the future value of property he owns.

* “But beyond specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses, Mr. Issa’s interests are so varied that some of the biggest issues making their way through Congress affect him in some way.” The New York Times fails to provide accurate examples of “specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses.”

The earmarks are concrete enough unless one has a tendency not to see elephants when they walk into a room.

* “After the forced sale of Merrill Lynch in 2008, for instance, he publicly attacked the Treasury Department’s handling of the deal without mentioning that Merrill had handled hundreds of millions of dollars in investments for him and lent him many millions more.” The New York Times fails to note that Rep. Issa’s transactions with Merrill Lynch have been appropriately disclosed in his annual ethics filing.

This is what is called a classic non-denial denial. he doesn’t deny there was a conflict, only that he has filed his relationship with Merrill on an annual ethics filing. Even a few conservative probably fell out of their chair laughing after reading that one.

While Issa fought to block the SEC investigation of Goldman Sachs, he quietly bought $600,000 worth of Goldman Sachs bonds. While Issa was accusing the Treasury of a “cover-up” in their role in Bank of America’s purchase of Merrill Lynch, he didn’t mention that he had completed transactions with Merrill Lynch totaling $1 billion over the last decade. Many of Issa’s staffers epitomize the K-Street ‘revolving door.’

Pardon us rubes if we see a certain Congressman’s fingerprints all over the money and assume that just maybe he is using his authority to get back at people he feels done him wrong. Issa again,

   * “Then, Mr. Issa brushed aside suggestions that his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota made him go easy on the automaker as he led an investigation into the recalls.” Rep. Issa’s former company is not a supplier to Toyota.

yes it is true that DEI Holdings(Issa’s company) does not have a direct contract with Toyota. They sell aftermarkets parts which Toyota uses on its cars. Legislation that affects Toyota would affect DEI’s bottom line. Conservatives like to claim they are the business experts and all the sudden they claim to be utterly naive think the rest of us are dumb as pumpkins. Issa and others have cleverly claimed( well for conservatives hiding something its clever) that Issa does does run Direct Electronics anymore. The problem with that is he is on their Broad of Directors and has a financial stake in how the company does.

  * “In one 2008 sale, months before the stock market crashed, his family foundation earned $357,000 on an initial investment of less than $19,000 — a return of nearly 1,900 percent in just seven months, the foundation reported to the Internal Revenue Service.” This assertion is based on an incorrect document. The actual purchase price was not $19,000, but $500,000 and resulted in a $125,000 loss. * “That suggests the foundation may have acquired the shares from a third-party broker.” This assertion is based on the false 1900 percent claim.

Foundations and their taxes are difficult to investigate. Issa may have something here unless the NYT can supply some documentation for those numbers. lastly,

* “Mr. Issa is keenly interested in Goldman’s performance.” This statement lacks a basis in fact as Rep. Issa does not have investments dependent on Goldman Sach’s performance.

Yea sure, While Fighting To Block SEC Investigation Of Goldman Sachs, Rep. Darrell Issa Bought Goldman Sachs Bonds

Issa went on a buying spree of high yield Goldman Sachs bonds at the same time he was running defense for the investment bank in Congress. From February to December of 2010, Issa bought 12 Goldman Sachs High Yield Fund Class A bonds, each worth up to $50,000 (view page 10 the disclosure here). Many of the bonds were purchased in the months after he filed his letter to the SEC. The $600,000 in new Goldman Sachs investments added to Issa’s multimillion dollar accounts managed by the company, valued from $5.1 to $15.5 million.

Issa has used his office to pursue frivolous and politically motivated investigations – Politico Compares Darrell Issa to John Belushi as Upton Disses His Investigation of Obama’s Fuel Economy Deal

Last Friday, California Republican Darrell Issa called for an investigation into the negotiations between the Obama Administration and auto companies in the lead-up to an historic increase in fuel efficiency for America’s fleet of trucks and cars. [  ]…Other Republican leaders in the House aren’t going along with this “green scare” tactic. Congressman Fred Upton, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, is featured in Politico’s Morning Energy with this snarky headline: “We’ve not decided to take that [Issa investigation] course,” Upton said. “We’ve had some discussions with the auto companies. They believe. They signed the letters of intent. And we’ll see how it plays out.”

The revoling door of lobbyists in D.C. does not reflect well on either party, but Issa, the chairman of a committee that should be setting a better example acts as though he could care less about changing the game – Top Staffer for Rep. Issa’s Committee Maintains Financial Relationship With Lobbying Group More abuse of his authority – Issa Admits He Has No Proof For His Conspiracy That Obama White House Is Colluding With SEC After Leading Bush Admin Charge To Kill FOIA( Freedom of Information Act), Issa Issues First Subpoena On Obama FOIA

In January, Issa made clear that he intends to scrutinize logs of FOIA information, possibly revealing the identities of various journalists and citizens who have issued requests to the government. As the New York Times has noted, Issa’s “extraordinary” demand “worries some civil libertarians” and could have a chilling effect to journalists. While Issa’s spokesmen have brushed aside criticism and claimed that the chairman’s purpose is aimed at improving government responses to the FOIA process, Issa’s personal record on FOIA undercuts his credibility. During the Bush administration, Issa was a loyal partisan who repeatedly tried to crush attempts at expanding FOIA and greater government transparency, even at the DHS, his current subpoena target…

A conservative taking two opposing views on an issue in order to carry out a bitter partisan agenda. Just par for the course. As Issa has found a new love for FOIA he has played the other side as well. Arguing aginst more government transparency – Transparency

Yesterday the House Committees on Government Oversight and Reform and Small Business held a joint hearing entitled, “Politicizing Procurement: Will President Obama’s Proposal Curb Free Speech and Hurt Small Business?”  The irony of this title was not lost on us, nor most others.  The hearing was ostensibly held to address a draft executive order currently being considered by the Obama administration that would require government contractors to disclose political contributions before receiving government contracts, something CREW strongly supports.  For more background on the proposed executive order, see here.  Taking a page out of his standard play book, however, Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) once again used his power as head of the Oversight Committee to politicize the legislative process.  This time he refused the request of Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) to allow the one witness who supports the administration’s draft executive order to testify. It is no surprise the House Oversight and Government Reform and Small Business Committees would hold a hearing on this change in policy, even if quite frankly it is a rather modest step.  But by vetoing the one witness requested by the minority – something CREW has experienced firsthand — Chairman Issa revealed the true political motivation underlying the hearing – skewering the public record to support his, and his party’s, opposition to the executive order.  Ironically, Chairman Issa is the co-founder of the Bipartisan Transparency Caucus and loves to tout how “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”  Yesterday “Mr. Transparency” simultaneously denied the public a truly informative hearing with diverse views on the proposal and turned reality on its head by – to quote Rep. Cummings – making sunlight the “infectant.” Unchecked by any counterbalancing testimony, the committee members were free to spin and spew misinformation and fear mongering.  One tired distortion heard repeatedly yesterday, for example, is that President Obama secretly wants to misuse the new disclosure information to create a “Nixonian” enemies list.  President Obama has no role in the procurement process, and the draft executive order explicitly states that every stage of the contracting process must be “free from the undue influence of factors extraneous to the underlying merits of contracting decision making, such as political activity or political favoritism.” The notion that federal contracting officers would use the new disclosures required by the draft executive order to punish foes by awarding or withholding government contracts is absolute malarkey.  In the extremely unlikely case that contracting officials would abuse their authority in this way, this draft executive order would allow the public to hold our public officials accountable. As far as CREW is concerned, yesterday’s hearing only served to tarnish the integrity of the committee and therefore disserved the American public.

If the public is getting the impression that Darell Issa is corrupt, dishonest, a hypocrite, a partisan sniper wasting tax dollars, whose fault is that, Issa or the NYT. Issa could resign from his committee assignments. Ask for a special ethics investigations into his activities and according his his accounts anyway, clear his name. I wouldn’t take bets on that happening. And House Speaker John Boehner(R-OH) has too many skeletons in his closet to force Issa out.