Friday, February 27, 2009

Bad Actors

I watched Obama's body language, facial expressions, in his speech to the Marines at Camp Lejeune today and twice, yes twice, I believe BHO was scowling. Did Barry's handlers tell him this crowd might not be receptive, not the adoring tingling fans he's accustomed to playing?

Pundits say Obama received a resounding welcome - they did cheer when he mentioned their pay raise, but overall I thought the crowd was subdued, the applause light. I wonder Bubba, do you think they screened the audience for troops who were pro-Obama as the "left" said was done for Bush?

(Answered my own question - "Before President Barack Obama's arrival, service members were asked to greet the president with a "rambunctious" welcome." )

Of course, the bumper sticker to buy now is Out of Iraq in 18 Months - but leaving 35-50,000 troops in country, to cleanup ... or train, advise, and guard that huge embassy ... it isn't really out of Iraq, it's a bone from Obama (or boning). Actually, his plan is only a remake of the Bush idea of "redeployment to other areas in the region."

Because, amidst all the Obama's praise for US troops and the 3-phase withdrawal plan by August 2010, I guess I missed the part where Barry told us that most of those "returning" troops will actually be detouring to the other war - Afghanistan, along with Pakistan. (Again, a remake, Redeployment Part Deux).

And as with nearly all remakes, many of the lines and scenes are same ol' same ol' - BHO has assured the hawks that if the situation on the ground changes - so will the planned withdrawal - which, come to think of it, didn't Iraq War (starring Bush) have approximately the same withdrawal time line? Oh, that's right ... it was called a "horizon for troop pullout," subject to change if conditions in Iraq began to erode, the U.S. would reconsider troop withdrawal.

You see the change Bubba? You change the Bush "timeline" to the Obama "timetable" but keep "if the situation on the ground changes." More or less the same script but a new star playing the president, although many other bad actors return to play the same roles.

Show time! Plunder & Pillage, At Home & Abroad, Part III. Or is it IV?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Medical Reform School

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama would reform the healthcare system with a 10-year fund of $634 billion in a budget proposal he put forward on Thursday. He offered few details but the budget reflects new priorities:

* It stresses a shift from an unwieldy paper-based health system in which doctors and clinics share little information to health information technology, including electronic records.

_______ Ah, remember when computers first came on the scene a few decades ago and we were told by boasting giddy voices the machine would reduce paperwork. Well, anyone who has ever worked in most any field knows that never came true and never will - simply because so much still has a hard copy from which the information is entered into the computer; and a hard copy is excellent CYA if anyone tampers, screws up, or loses electronic records. And those never ending printouts that have to be filed.

* Obama is gambling that although costly in the beginning, the system will reduce errors caused by poor communication and scribbled prescriptions, save tens of thousands of lives every year and billions of dollars that go into the federal Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs.

_______The majority of deadly errors made are human stupidity and carelessness - and that will continue whether done from a keyboard or handwritten. Currently, written medical information (rx, orders, tests, etc.) are seen by several sets of eyes (physicians, nurses, pharmacy, transcribers, techs), hence more chance of spotting errors. With higher tech methods and a single person directly entering the incorrect drug or dosage or a procedure, it will almost certainly go unnoticed. People tend to have faith that if a computer says so - it must be correct, never mind that computers are only as smart as the person entering the data; even if the computer says you cannot give that much heparin to a newborn how long will it take to chase the chain of command to set it right, and if it's an emergency? Have you seen the young doc whizzing through the hospital p.c. touch screening prescriptions, procedures, labs, etc.? Have you seen him proofread or double check anything? For the love of god, he has to tee off at 3.

* The budget includes a controversial $1.1 billion measure for the federal government to get into the business of comparing medical treatments. This is often left up to the private sector now, and drug companies have little interest in proving the benefits of cheap, generic treatments although studies have shown they often work better against disease such as heart failure and diabetes.

_______ Another government bureaucracy is born. Billions of dollars to compare the fact that Dollar Store aspirin works as well as Percocet on that stress headache - but you can't get high on aspirin, and since you eat narcotic pain killers like candy for those headaches you can't substitute an aspirin because it eats your stomach - better to be a prescription hophead.

* It allocates $6 billion for cancer research at the National Institutes of Health. Cancer is the No. 2 killer of Americans and costs billions of dollars. For instance, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates the average hospital cost for a single lung cancer patient in 2006 was $14,200 or about $1,900 a day. The total cost for all lung cancer patients was about $2.1 billion in 2007.

_______ Over the last few decades trillions have been spent on cancer research, and some advances have been made for certain types of cancer, yet the 3 oldest ancient forms of treatment are still the norm - cut, burn, poison. Overall, this money would be better spent on preventive health maintenance rather than research on how to cut, burn, poison us more effectively. Besides, there is ample cancer research already, here and worldwide.

NIH will hand out the $6 billion in the form of grants; the same NIH which a couple of years ago "Following a string of high-profile scandals, the US government ... pushed for stricter oversight of grants given by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The trend has many researchers worried that they might have to start accounting for their time and money or face being investigated."

What? Hold researchers and their institutes accountable? Have you lost your mind? These men are gods, gods, I tell you. Also, can someone tell me who the US government "pushes" when it wants stricter oversight? Does it push itself, reluctantly?

The typical "scandal" involves doctors/researchers, recipient of grants, who were also receiving payments from pharmaceutical companies. Or testing drugs on minority foster children.

But! There will be "government oversight." Yessirree, because someone in the government is going to push for it.

* The budget proposes cleaning up inefficiencies and reducing overpayments in Medicare, the federal health insurance plan for people over 65 and the disabled, which covers 45 million people and makes up 13 percent of federal spending.

_______Whut? No more medi-millionaires/billionaires? Like Bill Frist and HCA.

* The budget says that using more competitive bids for Medicare will save more than $175 billion over 10 years. Critics call this unrealistic.

_______ When the government claims it will save money anywhere at anytime on anything, I call it bullshit.

"Competitive bids" - that's politicalspeak for top companies who work out an arrangement and take their turn feeding at the trough. Sort of like mafia dons agreeing on how much and who gets a cut of the take.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Hear That Train a Coming

A couple of things struck me as oddly ludicrous about BHO's speech last night. One, it resembled a State of the Union address - but it's too early in his term for that. Is there a reason we're getting so much of the new president so quickly? Is time running out or something?

Barack does give a good speech. Average Joes come away feeling euphoria and hope - we will rebuild, we will recover, we are not quitters, the hardest-working people on Earth, now is the time to act boldly and wisely, build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.... rah rah rah.

So .... if we're going to boldly and wisely build a new economic foundation ... why are the hardest-working people on Earth using old Europe ideas?

That's right Bubba, in particular the Italian model from the first half of the last century: Increased State intervention in industry. Italy's Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (IRI) was set up in 1933 to help ailing industries and banks; a giant State firm, using public money to buy shares and "bailout" ailing industries.

IRI was meant to be temporary, but is still around today, offering government genius and business wisdom from experts.

OBAMA: Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector -- jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Remember, Benny Il Duce made the trains run on time - he too was big on public works projects. Infrastructure stuff Bubba, infrastructure. Il Duce rail system was mostly propaganda, although Italian railways were repaired post WWI, rail efficiency was hyped to convince Italians of the efficiency of fascism. (Gosh, I hate to use that word.)

In the US, such efficient antics are labeled as necessary, mandatory or else, stimulus packages, a financial stability plan. Brought to you now by the Obama and Tim Geithner. Tim, former employee of Kissinger & Associates (yes, Henry), was a director at IMF, worked under Robert Rubin, etc., you can be sure Tim & friends know how to make and burst bubbles. And Tim was vetted by progressive obamamites?

I suppose Democrats/progressives now favor public liability for private debt? Last September they were shouting "Bush bailouts perverse ... an insidious act of vile turpitude..." Last September progressive/liberal bloggers claimed Bush was using fear to force congress to hand him a $700 billion blank check.

I guess when you own man is turpitudy the word has a different meaning. And don't worry Bubba, VP Biden is going to handle the oversight on this blank check. (Maybe Joe can hire his son and brother to help with oversighting.)

So Bubba, if you mistake what's going on as change - remember the definition of politics: Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. (Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914) - The Devil's Dictionary. )

There is less strife of interests these days Bubba, because, if you do away with the hollow party rhetoric, both parties are on the same track, and you are going to pull the train. Chooo chooo you think you can, you think you can.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

For My Daughters & Granddaughters

I Hope You Dance

Monday, February 23, 2009

Robbin' Hoods

The president signaled in his campaign that he would support addressing the retirement system’s looming financing shortfall, in part by applying payroll taxes to incomes above $250,000. But that would ignite intense opposition from Republicans, especially with the economy deep in recession.

Consider too that the super-rich collect most of their income from investments - and investment and corporate income is taxed differently (lower) than earned income - so BHO's plan to tax those "rich folks" making 250K is not going to touch the wealthy elite. Obama today says he will allow the "Bush tax cut for the rich" to expire as scheduled in 2010, but wait and see on that one.

"There were ... 132.6 million tax returns filed in 2005 that had a positive AGI, not just the returns from people who earn enough to owe taxes. From other IRS data, we can see that 90.6 million of the tax returns came from people who paid taxes into the Treasury. That leaves 42 million tax returns filed by people with positive AGI who used exemptions, deductions and tax credits to completely wipe out their federal income tax liability. Not only did they get back every dollar that the federal government withheld from their paychecks during 2005; but some even received more back from the IRS. This is a result of refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit." (EIC, or the yearly bribe to the miscreant and/or poor so they don't revolt.)

Earning $250K today puts you in the top 1 or 2 or 5% of earners, depending on who and which stats you look at. Many folks in the remaining 95% believe more taxation on those at $250+K is a good idea.

Consider this though - the majority of these $250K earners are two income earner households, who may be living better than you, but they are nowhere near club members of the wealthy elite. And not everyone earning $250K is corrupt and feeding at the public trough; most are not hiding assets in offshore banks. Many of them are small business owners - not multinationals living off government contracts and nepotism. They are the upper middle class, the largest group of taxpayers, standing between the ├╝ber-rich and the nonworking/working class poor. But, as in all backward nations, there can only be two classes - rich/poor - so let us hurry and rid ourselves of these upper middles.

The problem in not that taxes are too low on income earners of $250,000 - the problem is government spending. Only the village idiot would think it's a good idea to raise taxes on wage earners and give the government more funds; the village idiot is always convinced these funds will trickle down to him.

Umbrellas

Citigroup Inc. is in talks with federal officials that could result in the U.S. government substantially expanding its ownership of the struggling bank, according to people familiar with the situation.

While the discussions could fall apart, the government could wind up holding as much as 40% of Citigroup's common stock. Bank executives hope the stake will be closer to 25%, these people said.

Any such move would give federal officials far greater influence over one of the world's largest financial institutions. Citigroup has proposed the plan to its regulators. The Obama administration hasn't indicated if it supports the plan, according to people with knowledge of the talks.

When federal officials began pumping capital into U.S. banks last October, few experts would have predicted that the government would soon be wrestling with the possibility of taking voting control of large financial institutions. The potential move at Citigroup would give the government its biggest ownership of a financial-services company since the September bailout of insurer American International Group Inc., which left taxpayers with an 80% stake.

The talks reflect a growing fear that Citigroup and other big U.S. banks could be overwhelmed by losses amid the recession and housing crisis. Last week, Citigroup's share price fell below $2 to an 18-year low. Bank executives increasingly believe that the government needs to take a larger ownership stake in the institution to stop the slide.

----------What does it all really mean? Bailing out who exactly?

Well, obviously the major shareholders of Citigroup. And who would that be?

MAJOR DIRECT HOLDERS
Holder ----------------Shares Reported
MAHERAS THOS ........ 2,440,092
FORESE JAMES ..........1,809,500
PANDIT VIKRAM ...........1,707,503
PRINCE CHARLES .......1,612,732
MILLS WILLIAM .............1,373,229

TOP INSTITUTIONAL HOLDERS (in Citigroup)
Capital World Investors
Barclays Global Investors UK Holdings Ltd
STATE STREET CORPORATION
VANGUARD GROUP, INC. (THE)
Capital Research Global Investors
AXA
DODGE & COX INC
Bank of New York Mellon Corporation
MORGAN STANLEY
UBS GLOBAL ASSET MANAGEMENT (AMERICAS) INC

TOP MUTUAL FUND HOLDERS (in Citigroup)
GROWTH FUND OF AMERICA INC
INVESTMENT COMPANY OF AMERICA
WASHINGTON MUTUAL INVESTORS FUND
VANGUARD 500 INDEX FUND
DODGE & COX STOCK FUND
SPDR TRUST SERIES 1
INCOME FUND OF AMERICA INC
VANGUARD TOTAL STOCK MARKET INDEX FUND
SELECT SECTOR SPDR FUND-FINANCIAL
VANGUARD/WINDSOR II

Own any stock, or maybe your employee pension invested in such companies? Has your retirement plan been giving merit pay to talented investment managers who invested in companies that need bailout? Hmmm. Let's look at one - take Vanguard Windsor II.

Vanguard month-end ten largest holdings as of 01/31/2009
Rank Holdings
1 Occidental Petroleum Corp.
2 Wyeth
3 Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
4 International Business Machines Corp.
5 Verizon Communications Inc.
6 Imperial Tobacco Group ADR
7 AT&T Inc.
8 ConocoPhillips Co.
9 JPMorgan Chase & Co.
10 Philip Morris International Inc.
Ten largest holdings = 28.9% of total net assets.

Tobacco, pharma, oil, big business ....

Seems like only yesterday Prince Walid bin Talal of Saudi Arabia was the biggest shareholder in Citigroup - oh wait, it was 1991 when the prince first invested in the financially reeling Citicorp. My my, 18 years ago Citigroup's predecessor, Citicorp, was reeling from loan losses in Latin America and real estate.

Travelers Group and banking giant Citicorp wowed the business community with the announcement in April 1998 of plans for the largest merger ever to hit Wall Street. The merger was finalized in October and a new financial powerhouse – Citigroup – was born.

Citi"group", now barely 10 years old - not even out of puberty, and reeling again.

But! Long before Citi, group or corp (aka Citibank), the company operated under the name of National City Bank.

And what/who is National City Bank?

Recap:
On June 16, 1812, with $2 million of capital, City Bank of New York (now Citibank) opened for business in New York City. In 1968, First National City Corporation (later renamed Citicorp), a bank holding company, became the parent of Citibank. After the 1929 market crash the federal government rescued NCB with multimillions. In fact, DC lawmakers blamed National City for the bubble/crash of 1929 and passed the Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act, which Bill Clinton and congress would eventually do away with.

In the 1980s, Citi ran into trouble over loans made to in Latin America. Citi faced billions of dollars in potential losses when Mexico became insolvent in 1982. The federal government came to the rescue with the Brady Plan to help sell Latin American debt and have the banks write off some of it.

Citi needed help again during the recession of the early 1990s. Holding $10 billion in bad loans, related to leveraged buyouts or commercial real estate, their stock price fell and rumors of bankruptcy began to circulate. Again, the Federal Reserve came to the rescue with several interest rate cuts.

In 1998, all Citicorp divisions merged with all divisions of Travelers Group to form Citigroup Inc. Citibank continues under the Citigroup umbrella.

Get ready folks, you have a lot of large, reeling umbrellas to hold.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bipartisanship?

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) has constantly been in the news lately, but his latest remarks about possibly nationalizing some American banks generated front-page news in The Hartford Courant and The New York Times.

Dodd, chairman of the Senate banking committee, was just one of several prominent officials who have raised the possibility of a bank takeover in recent days. Stocks in major banks such as Bank of America had been beaten down and continued to trade lower when the markets opened Friday, as fears of nationalization hovered.

Dodd told The Courant that his remarks were not intended to advocate nationalization. They were "merely suggesting it was a possibility."

"This idea of nationalizing banks is not comfortable," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). "But I think we've got so many toxic assets spread throughout the banking and financial community, throughout the world, that we're going to have to do something that no one ever envisioned a year ago, no one likes. To me, banking and housing are the root cause of this problem. I'm very much afraid any program to salvage the banks is going to require the government... I would not take off the idea of nationalizing the banks."

---- Oh sure, placing banks under ownership and control of government, temporarily (wink wink), is a great idea. The government is good at running things and good at implementing policies on a "temporary" basis.

In the dreams of Karl Marx - "Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly"...

Change you can believe in - are we there yet?

Apparently, for now, the idea of nationalizing banks has been dismissed as absurd - until it's done. And then you will see, socialist management is just as incompetent as capitalist management. Probably because it's the same managers, using the same word list: Room for debate, insolvent, government injected capital, majority stake, last resort, momentum, distinguished economists say ____ (fill in blank), and toxic assets.

Yessiree - let's dump all this salvaged toxin into the cook books of the federal government - we're gonna spin straw into gold and live happily ever after.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Doom Doom Everywhere

..."a return to the "violent extremism" of the 1920s and 1930s." Or so Dennis Blair our intel chief says.

This phrase/quote is all over the net with articles of doom and gloom. Prepare - judgment day is coming sayeth the expert bloggers and think tankers, and I particularly cannot stomach Chris Hedges (author of above Alternet piece), even if he is a Bush critic.

HEDGES: The specter of social unrest was raised at the U.S. Army War College in November in a monograph titled "Known Unknowns: Unconventional 'Strategic Shocks' in Defense Strategy Development."

That monograph was written Nov. 2008 by Nathan Freier, retired military brass; his last military assignment as the Director of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), and now paid by government funded stink tanks to come up with scary bullshit and justification for contingency spending on scary bullshit. The military has always raised the spectre of social unrest. Riots and unrest were common between 1750 and 1800 and between 1800 to 1850, and again between 1850 to 1900, and again between 1900 to 1960, and again. Note we get major wars along the way ... war puts those unrested folks to work ...

To elucidate how genius Mr. Freier is, he also comments in the pdf report that "Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait was a strategic surprise." Do you believe DoD was surprised when Saddam invaded Kuwait?

HEDGES: The corporate thieves, those who insisted they be paid tens of millions of dollars because they were the best and the brightest, have been exposed as con artists. Our elected officials, along with the press, have been exposed as corrupt and spineless corporate lackeys. Our business schools and intellectual elite have been exposed as frauds. The age of the West has ended. Look to China. Laissez-faire capitalism has destroyed itself. It is time to dust off your copies of Marx.

Yep, we're all just aching in our bones to live like a billion Chinese peasants.

Freier's paper states "DoD is now doing valuable work on strategic shocks. This work must endure and mature through the upcoming political transition. "

I guess some folks haven't dusted off their Marx and are going to be shocked when Obama drags us into WWIII on the way to the upcoming China-styled political transition?

Or maybe Freier was thinking the political transition to a Black prezident might cause white folks to riot and revolt? Surely he wasn't thinking the Obama administration would really change anything at DoD.

Or maybe Freier was just thinking of his curriculum vitae.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Valentine

Late, again. ;)

Monday, February 09, 2009

More Oinkers

The French Kiss Off Award
to Representative Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) for $211,509 in olive fruit fly research in Paris, France.

The Taxpayers Get Teed Off Award
to House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) for $3 million for The First Tee in the defense appropriations bill.

The Cold Hard Cash Award
to Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) for $165.7 million in defense pork.

The Tax Dollars on Drugs Award
to Representative John Murtha (D-Pa.) for $23 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center.

The Pantheon of Pork Award
to Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.VA) for $386 million in pork.

The Narcissist Award
to Representative Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) for $1,950,000 for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.

The Pig in Sheep's Clothing Award
to Montana Senators Max Baucaus (D) and Jon Tester (D) for $148,950 for the Montana Sheep Institute.

The Unidentified Fiscal Object Award
to Representative Ann Esshoo (D-Calif.) for $1.6 million for the Allen Telescope Array.

The Money Doesn't Grow on Trees Award
to Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) for $344,540 for the city of Chicago GreenStreets Tree Planting Program.

The Porky and Bess Award
for $7.9 million for 36 theaters in 21 states.

The Pacific Fleeced Award
to Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) for $173.2 million in defense pork.

The Taxpayers Get Steamed Award
to Maine Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (R), and Rep. Thomas Allen (D-Maine) for $188,000 for the Lobster Institute.

This Pork Was Made for Walking Award
to Representative Virgil Goode (R-Va.) for $98,000 to develop a walking tour of Boydton, Virginia.

The Return to Sender Award
to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for $196,000 for the renovation and transformation of the historic downtown Post Office in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Obama Diddly

Obama Orders Pay Limits Pay at Banks Getting Aid

Makes good headline but has more holes than a sieve.

Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama called bonus payouts at banks getting rescue funds “shameful” as he and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced the government will require financial companies getting aid in the future to cap compensation of top officials at $500,000 a year.

--- Key words - "in the future." Remember folks, tomorrow never comes. Also "pay" is not the issue with these executive fatcats - the bulk of their compensation comes in the form of stocks, perks, bonuses, benefits, etc. The average CEO salary in 2007 was $610,170. Cap pay at $500,000 but top officials will still receive obscene "compensation."

“In order to restore our financial system, we’ve got to restore trust,” the president said at the White House as the administration set out new rules for companies that seek “exceptional” assistance from the Treasury. “And in order to restore trust, we’ve got to make certain that taxpayer funds are not subsidizing excessive compensation packages on Wall Street.”

---- Key word - "excessive." Okey dokey - compensation packages for Wall Street. Who determines what is an "excessive" amount? Gee, I wonder if those boys on Wall Street can give the appearance their packages are from company profit and not taxpayer funds. A little Halliburton style bookkeeping of cost overrun goes a long way. Or heck, start a war and watch real revenues increase.

Obama also urged Congress to finish work on economic stimulus legislation, saying that a failure to act “will turn crisis into a catastrophe and guarantee a longer recession.”

--- Key words - "crisis ... catastrophe ... guarantee recession." Got fear? Extortion 101.

Reacting to public outcry over bonuses paid to bankers getting government bailout money, the administration is imposing conditions that would force greater transparency for expenses such as corporate jets, office renovations, entertainment and holiday parties, and restrict severance pay when executives leave the company.

--- Key words - "greater transparency." Does not mean there will be fewer jets or parties or pay packages, but that the public will continue to clearly see the payoffs ... er, bonuses.

While pay would be limited, there are provisions that would allow additional compensation in the form of restricted stock that can’t be sold until taxpayers have been paid back.

--- Key words - "additional compensation ... until paid back." Cook the books.

Outrage among the public and lawmakers has been building since October, when Congress passed a $700 billion financial-rescue plan for financial firms. Lawmakers complained that the first half of the fund was doled out with little public accounting of how the money was spent. A New York state comptroller report that $18.4 billion in bonuses were paid out to Wall Street executives and employees as the U.S. sank into a recession further inflamed Americans.

--- Key words - "first half of the fund doled out." The best and the brightest had no idea the rescue money would be used for bonuses, winky-wink.

“For top executives to award themselves these kinds of compensation packages in the midst of this economic crisis is not only in bad taste, it’s a bad strategy, and I will not tolerate it as president,” Obama said.

--- Key words - "in the midst of this economic crisis." Bad taste, bad strategy?! How about immoral and evil?

Rules apply to companies that in the future take “exceptional” amounts of bailout money from the Treasury, as Citigroup Inc. and American International Group Inc. have in the past. They don’t apply to companies that have already taken rescue money, although those companies must in the future agree to strict monitoring and oversight.

--- Key words - "future ... exceptional ... don't apply to already taken money." Who determines the amount of "exceptional?" Isn't it convenient that looting laws for the ruling political class never apply to money already taken? Always rules for "the future" but never any vision.

The compensation restrictions announced today are part of a wider White House plan to overhaul rules governing the remaining $350 billion in the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

--- Key word - "overhaul." A doublespeak term pols use; means nothing will change but the "rules" will be overhauled to read as if change has been made. And isn't the program acronym interesting TARP? A tarp is a cover, sometimes used to protect, sometimes to hide something.

On Wall Street, there is concern that compensation curbs would infringe on a company’s ability to attract top-notch employees, and that would lead to a talent drain, Meredith Whitney, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., said on Bloomberg Television. “If you cap compensation, the best and the brightest are still going to figure out a way to make money and it may not be on Wall Street, when those minds are needed most,” Whitney said.

--- Keyword - "attract talent." Brain drain, words often used by the best and the brightest in snakeoil sales.

Under the guidelines announced today, top executives at financial institutions would be required to hold stock for several years before they can sell it, thus holding them to long-term objectives, rather than making a quick buck. Rules would require a “say on pay” feature, giving shareholders a voice on compensation, though it would be nonbinding.

--- Key words - "several years ... nonbinding." Three years is considered long-term, and a long time if you are a top executive holding those multi-million quick buck packages. And those new rules would say a shareholder can have a pay say, but your say won't mean diddly binding squat.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Made In a Handbasket

Free trade critics are backing what free trade supporters (including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) oppose: A federal proposal that would require goods and equipment used in what could be a $1 trillion federal economic stimulus program be “American-made.”

U.S. Sen Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is sponsoring the “American-made” rule for construction and other equipment that would be used in the economic stimulus program, which funds public works, water, transportation and other construction projects as well as broadband communications deployments and energy research.

Free trade critics such as the U.S Business and Industry Council back the idea, saying it will help American manufacturers and be sent overseas.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes the restriction, worrying it will spark trade retaliation from other countries.

---- As I have always been a proponent of federal contracts using "American made" products, I lean toward support of the above rule - but the likelihood of passing such a rule is nil to none - if a snowball freezes and it does pass, move out of the way of the oncoming political gravy and hog train.

Both progressive and conservative bloggers say the idea is a replay of the 1930s Smoot Hawley Tariff act, the Great Depression era, yadayada, etc. According to these exspurts we have been down this "protectionism" road before, and this made-in-America road rule will lead us to bread lines, double digit unemployment rates, and worldwide misery, as if the world is currently one well-fed, employed and joyful global village?

Yessirree, blogging geniuses are claiming Smoot Hawley created the Great Depression, fostered nationalism worldwide (think nationalism/Hitler). Last week and next week they will tell you the Great Depression was caused by too much credit, or wealth disparity, and/or that only the New Deal saved us - none of it true but never let facts stand in the way of a good-sounding blog post. (These wise guys are usually the first to claim the US needs to return to the gold standard, never mind that the gold standard didn't prevent the Great Depression.)

Made in America rule is not the same as a tariff act - the current debate bans the purchase of foreign construction material for public works projects. Nor does the rule necessarily mean all those made in China items will be gone from the shelves of Wal-mart or beyond your price range because of retaliatory trade practices. Smoot Hawley hiked the tariff on over 800 imports, such as sugar, cattle, shoes, matches, and eggs. Canada retaliated by cutting shipments of bacon and eggs - should they do so again, woe be to us and Mcmuffin?

Spending large sums of the $1 trillion Obama package at home on "goods and equipment" makes sense to me. An oft heard refrain from some folks goes something like this: If Americans made a decent product then Americans would buy made in America.

Swooshing over the heads of such folks is the fact that for average Joe Consumer - most everything he buys, even what he considers the expensive brand name, is still cheap foreign made with cheap labor and cheap materials. Joe is just stupid enough to pay extra for a name label. I remember the era of "you get what you pay for" but have noticed in the last 20 years that is no longer the case. Goods and products that once were dependable for quality are now shoddy. Planned obsolescence.

The drawback to senator Dorgan's rule is the more than likely chance that those corporations in America (many foreign owned) will gouge the taxpayer for the cost of those made in America goods and equipment. Without stringent oversight we will have $600 toilet seats, $800 screwdrivers, and a poor-quality infrastructure that continues to crumble. You do realize, there is no such animal as "stringent oversight."

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