Google, Haiti, and Taxachusetts

Saturday, January 23, 2010

There have been so many juicy topics to cover, it’s been difficult to keep away. Every time I’m moved to write, though, I really have something else to do or simply don’t want to devote the time to it. That said, here is, in summary, how to think about the following issues:

Google/China: Yes, if Google was #1 in China this wouldn’t have happened, but they’re not and it did. As a result, this is one of the great humanitarian corporate moves of all time. Perhaps the greatest (there’s not a lot of competition, I’m guessing). Google should follow through and close their business there. As arguably the most important corporation in the world, the move will properly shame China and the many companies that remain in that authoritarian country. Here’s a question that any one doing business there should ask: Would I want to live here?

Haiti: Nothing to do in the aftermath but help. In the long term, I’m with David Brooks and Bret Stephenson. Let’s stop giving money to countries “in need.” It does nothing, and may actively do harm. It’s difficult, because it is human nature to try to help fellow humans in need, but it’s also the right thing to do. Certainly, what the first world has been doing for decades has not worked.

Taxachusetts: I would have voted for Scott Brown too. Seriously. I would have voted for a cardboard cutout against Coakley. Although she was inept, I would have done it to send the message. I have said, many times, that if Obama and this Congress can’t get it done, then there is no hope for us. Year one has been an epic, unmitigated failure. Iraq, Afghanistan, secrecy, deficit spending, bank coddling, and worst of all, the healthcare nightmare. I blame Obama for not using his robust post-election strength to strong arm Pelosi (failure) and Reid (failure) immediately. Weak, poorly managed, pathetic. Obama, where are your balls? It’s time to lead.

And, btw, why do you need the 60 votes? Make an exceptional bill and let the GOP filibuster. Call their bluff. If they do it, and the bill dies, you hang it around their neck. Now, the bill dies, and it’s a Dem failure. Disgraceful.

(But then there would be no healthcare bill, someone wails. So fucking what? Paul Krugman can cry to his cats. This is not the most pressing issue in America. Budget restraint, financial reform, and confiscatory, punitive taxes on very wealth bankers, should be the priority. Followed by a 10% spending cut across the entire government, no exceptions.

We are going to have to suffer, period. Let us start suffering already so we have a shot at not fucking our children.)

The bottom line for me, in all this, is that I have really given up hope. I don’t believe our Congress (and the state legislatures) are capable of introducing the change (ethics, responsible spending) that is necessary.

Something very, very bad is going to happen in the next ten or twenty years. War with China, epic depression/inflation/default, or, in the best case scenario, a benevolent military coup (and a draft) that reforms the government in a way that makes it possible for America to function properly.

David Petraeus, are you out there? Rome needs you. Cross the Rubicon. Cast the die!

P.S. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Nevertheless, letting it stand.


Dodd’s Downfall

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jonathan Karl of ABC News reports:

Last month, the Senate unanimously approved an amendment to the stimulus bill aimed at restricting bonuses over $100,000 at any company receiving federal bailout funds. The measure, which was drafted by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., applied these restrictions retroactively to bonuses received or promised in 2008 and onward.

But then…

The provision was stripped out during the closed-door conference negotiations involving House and Senate leaders and the White House. A measure by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., to limit executive compensation replaced it. But Dodd’s measure explicitly exempted bonuses agreed to prior to the passage of the stimulus bill.

Here’s the exact language from Dodd’s measure in the stimulus: “The prohibition required under clause (i) shall not be construed to prohibit any bonus payment required to be paid pursuant to a written employment contract executed on or before February 11, 2009…”

How can he possibly explain this?

I have not been impressed with Dodd’s false populist outrage, nor with his disclosure of his role in the unfolding of this crisis. If New York (and London) is the epicenter of this financial earthquake, Connecticut with its hedge funds and insurance industry, represents a second locus of major instability. Dodd, like Schumer, along with the entire GOP, bears serious responsibility for the lack of oversight and regulation preceding these events.

I can’t wait to hear why this language was inserted into the bill.


Look! Congress is Doing Something…

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Holding another hearing as markets plummet day after day.

Senate Banking Committee hearing on AIG on now.

CNBC has it.

Here is what will happen. They’re furious, everyone is too blame (including Congress), and some CEO (or someone) should give back their bonuses (or something). But, if AIG collapses, the world will truly meltdown and we will all be living in Dubya Towns in the local park.

What should really happen? Richard Shelby (and Chuck Schumer) should be publicly flogged along with every Senator who opposed and worked against appropriate regulation of financial markets. AIG was allowed to be as stupid as they wanted to be because the GOP (and certain Democrats) has fought against regulations and sought to deregulate business and finance at our extreme peril.


Borrow from Children!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A brilliant idea! The solution to all our financial problems!

I have to say, I am rapidly becoming disillusioned with Obama and the Dems. I think the stimulus is a huge waste of money and will ultimately prove to do more harm than good (not that the GOP tax cut solution was better; it wasn’t). If Obama isn’t going to do the right thing, no one ever will.

I am completely in favor of a cheaper, immediate, short-term burst of stimulus in the form of unemployment aid, state aid, and the like. But this bill is crap and we’re borrowing or printing money to pay for every cent of it. Eventually, we are going to have to cut costs, live within our means, stop borrowing to consume.

Right now, it looks like America is heading for default or hyper-inflation, and in either case, it’s going to look a lot worse than it does today.

It’s a good thing America is too big to fail.

Or is it?


Brilliant Congressional Theater

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The big bank chiefs in front of the House Financial Services Committee.

It’s on now.

CNBC has it.


Most Scandalous Bonus Scandal Ever!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

$25 million for three months work while Merrill Lynch was losing money hand-over-fist and taking taxpayer loot.

My question is, forget the taxpayers…what about the shareholders?

Where are these people? Where are the lawsuits? Clearly, these companies are in violation of their fiduciary responsibilities vis-à-vis shareholders. Where are the pension funds? The huge hedges? Hello? Anyone?

From the NY Daily News:

Four of his top deputies faced no such change of fortune, however, pocketing a total of $121 million as Merrill evaporated.

One beneficiary was Peter Kraus, a Thain hire who started at Merrill in mid-September and quit Dec. 18, the day Bank of America took over.

He walked away with a $24.9 million bonus for those three months of work, which figures to about $249,000 a day. The day he quit, his wife closed on a $36 million luxury Park Ave. co-op, records show.

Kraus declined to answer questions, although a source familiar with the matter said the amount was guaranteed in his Merrill contract.


Obama Disappointment

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I’ve been stewing about this for a couple of weeks.

It’s a matter of integrity.

I know that it’s probably hard to find qualified people who are outside the Beltway and have paid their taxes, but I am sorely disappointed with Geithner.

He clearly lied. Before Congress, no less. His excuses were B.S. and everyone knows it.

And yet, Obama supported him and he was confirmed. In one simple move, Obama killed my enthusiasm.

Now I am simply left hoping for the best, but I am not, after all I gave this time around, inspired any longer.

It’s still the same shit as always. It just talks the talk better than most.

Was Geithner really worth it?