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Saturday, February 27, 2010

US Health Insurers Reap Record Profits in 2009

By Kate Randall
February 26, 2010 "WSWS" --Feb. 19, 2010 -- 2010 -- The five largest US health insurance companies set new profit records in 2009, while the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression sent millions of Americans onto the unemployment line and into poverty.
The five firms reported $12.2 billion in profits last year, an increase of $4.4 billion, or 56 percent, over 2008. At the same time, 2.7 million Americans who had been enrolled in private health plans the year before lost their coverage.
The profit figures were released last week by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a coalition of health advocacy and labor groups pushing for passage of the Obama administration’s health care plan. The Obama administration has cynically seized on the data in an effort to push for the legislation at a televised bipartisan health care summit set for February 25.

This Is One of the Biggest Wall Street Frauds Ever...

By Porter Stansberry:
February 26, 2010 "S&A Digest"- February 25, 2010-- One of the best lessons I've learned over my career as an investment analyst is the myth of excellent management or "great execution" is really just that – a myth.

When I see companies in troubled industries reporting quarter after quarter of great results, while all of their peers are getting killed, I know a fraud is going on. I remember in the early 2000s, WorldCom kept reporting profits when all of the other long-distance carriers were getting killed. I knew it couldn't last. And it didn't. WorldCom's accounting was revealed to be a fraud – the company was counting its network access costs as capital expenses. Once the real numbers came out, the company collapsed in what was the largest bankruptcy in American history at that point.

About three years ago, I saw Goldman Sachs reporting quarter after quarter of unbelievable results when all of the other investment banks were hurting. I spent a lot of time looking at its numbers – which didn't make any sense. It reminded me of Enron. It kept reporting bigger and bigger profits, but lost more money every year in cash. And its debt balances kept growing.

I wrote a lot about this in The Digest, but I never officially recommended shorting Goldman in my newsletter because I literally couldn't figure out how Goldman Sachs was doing it. I couldn't find the smoking gun... but I knew a giant fraud would be discovered there, eventually.

In October 2008, I figured out part of the big secret: Goldman had insured all of its subprime exposure via AIG. This allowed it to book huge profits on its subprime investments long before they were actually paid off because the bonds were insured. Of course, it was all a sham – AIG didn't have nearly enough money to pay off any of the insurance. (See the October issue of PSIA for more details.) A source close to the company even told me how big the exposure to AIG really was – $20 billion. That's roughly 100% of the profit Goldman claimed in 2006 and 2007, at the height of the credit bubble. Goldman completely denied my report and claimed it had zero exposure to AIG.

As was subsequently revealed in the spring of 2009, my report was right on the money. Goldman had roughly $20 billion in exposure to AIG and received roughly $14 billion of money the federal government used to bail out AIG.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Syncronized Stalling!!!! Let's start over, go step by step CRAP

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That Sh*t Was Jedi! Stewart Encouraged By Health Care Progress

Ken Lewis, Former Bank Of America CEO, Left With $83 Million In Pay

Former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, who retired at the end of last year, took a package of stock and benefits valued at $83 million with him when he left, the Wall Street Journal reports:
Mr. Lewis, who retired Dec. 31, got 2009 compensation of $4.2 million. That came largely from an increase in the value of his pension benefits. The former CEO agreed last fall to give up his 2009 base salary and any chance at a bonus at the request of Treasury Department pay czar Kenneth Feinberg. Mr. Feinberg made the request based on concerns about the amount of benefits Mr. Lewis could collect upon retirement.
Lewis did not receive a salary or bonus in 2009, although he was paid just over $32K in various perks, according to the Associated Press:
Lewis, who stepped down as CEO on Dec. 31, received no salary or bonus. His compensation was limited to perks including tax services, home security and parking, according to a preliminary filing disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Lewis' 2008 compensation was valued at $9 million. He resigned after almost a year of strife that followed the bank's purchase of Merrill Lynch. He was succeeded as CEO by Brian Moynihan, formerly head of the bank's consumer banking division.
Moynihan's 2009 compensation, including salary and stock awards, was valued at $6.03 million, up 32 percent over 2008, according to the filing.
Both Lewis' and Moynihan's pay was dwarfed by the bank's head of global banking and markets, Tom Montag, whose 2009 pay was valued at $29.9 million. The bulk of Montag's pay was in restricted stock. Bank of America said Montag's stock award was a "contractual commitment" made by Merrill Lynch, which hired Montag in April 2008 before the company being acquired by Bank of America.
Bank of America received $25 billion in government bailout money at the height of the credit crisis in fall 2008. It received an additional $20 billion in January 2009 to help offset losses it absorbed as part of the Merrill Lynch acquisition. The bank repaid the money in December, but rancor over the Merrill deal continued.
Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed civil charges against Bank of America and Lewis, saying the bank misled investors about Merrill Lynch before it acquired the Wall Street bank in early 2009. LinkHere

Will republicans sabatage reform

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McCain Assails Reconciliation, Forgetting He Once Said The GOP Laid ‘The Groundwork’ For Its Use

Today at the White House bipartisan health care summit, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tried to argue against the Democratic majority using reconciliation to pass health care reform. He first claimed to be an anti-reconciliation champion, falsely equating the “nuclear option” to pass judicial nominees (which he opposed in 2005) with reconciliation in general.
He then admitted that reconciliation has been used in the past, but “never before” for something as costly has health care and that using it now would all but ruin the U.S. Senate as an institution and “harm the future of our country”:
MCCAIN: The last time when there was a proposal that we Republicans in the majority would adopt a 51 vote majority on the issue of the confirmation of judges. There was a group of us that got together and said no that’s not the right way to go because that could deal a fatal blow to the unique aspect of the United States Senate which is a 60 vote majority. And we came to an agreement and it was brought to a halt.
If a 51 vote reconciliation is enacted on one-sixth of our gross national product. Never before has there been –- there’s been reconciliation but not at the level of an issue of this magnitude and I think I could harm the future of our country and our institution which I loved a great deal for a long, long time.


Shelby Dismisses The Adverse Effect Of His Holds On The Pentagon, Says He Has No Clue If Nominees Are Qualified

Earlier this month, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) quietly and selfishly put a blanket hold on dozens and dozens of President Obama’s pending nominees in order to secure pork for his state. Some of the nominees who were caught in Shelby’s hold included the candidates for “the top Intelligence officers at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security as well as the number three civilian at the Pentagon.”
In a new interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Shelby is unapologetic about placing the holds, saying that he wanted to get the “attention” of the administration and was, ironically, concerned about the “lack of transparency and openness and fairness” in the tanker contract affecting Alabama. “I don’t think I abused the rules,” said Shelby defiantly.
Shelby has released most of the holds, but they remain in effect on three Air Force positions. Shelby dismissed the Pentagon’s statement that these holds are inhibiting the agency’s work, and admitted that he has no idea whether they are qualified:
BASH: I spoke with Geoff Morrell over at the Pentagon and just asked him what the impact is of not having these three people in place — one of whom, as you know, is the number two at the Air Force. He said, “Without these people, we’re not firing on all cylinders.” And he also said, “It does adversely affect the organization.”
Are you worried about that? This is a time of war –
SHELBY: The Pentagon is a big place. I don’t think one or two will affect anything except on the margins.
BASH: Do you think that the nominees you have holds on are qualified?
SHELBY: Oh, I don’t have any idea. I looked at them closely and we’ll see. Sometimes that’s not the issue. LinkHere

Bunning Whines About Missing Basketball Game, Tells Dems ‘Tough Sh*t’ On Unemployment Benefits

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed an extension of unemployment benefits on a voice vote. The Senate, however, has yet to act on the same measure, as various senators are throwing up procedural roadblocks. On Wednesday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) asked for unanimous consent to approve an extension, only to see the motion blocked by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) over “a dispute over how [the bill] should be funded.”
Late last night, Democrats made repeated attempts to pass the extension by unanimous consent, and Bunning blocked them all. He then complained that the Democrats’ insistence on trying to ensure that unemployment benefits not expire had caused him to miss a college basketball game:
I want to assure the people that have, heh, watched this thing until quarter of twelve — and I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9 o’clock, and it’s the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina, since they’re the only team that has beat Kentucky this year — all of these things that we have talked about and all the provisions that have been discussed, the unemployment benefits, all these things. If we’d have taken the longer version of the job bill…we wouldn’t have spent three hours plus telling everybody in the United States of America that Senator Bunning doesn’t give a damn about the people that are on unemployment.

At one point, while Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) were asking him to relent, Bunning was overhead blurting out “tough sh*t” as he sat in the back row.
Not only did Bunning’s antics go on all night and ultimately prevent an extension from passing, but other Republicans went to bat for Bunning, arguing that the Democrats should simply respect Bunning’s hold. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said, “I believe we’re stooping to a low level. This is not the way the Senate functions. Everybody in the country now knows that the senator from Kentucky has a hold on this bill. … That’s something that we honor in this body.”
“I just don’t think one senator ought to be able to heap this kind of suffering and misfortune on people who are already struggling in this economy,” Durbin said. “This is a wild pitch you are throwing tonight because it is pitch that is hitting somebody in the stands.” 1.1 million workers are scheduled to have their unemployment benefits expire next month, and 5 million will lose their benefits by June.
Update Sen. Durbin tried once more to pass the extension by unanimous consent this morning, and Bunning objected again. LinkHere
Last night and today, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) filibustered an extension of unemployment benefits, telling Democrats who were trying to pass the bill “tough sh*t.” Benefits will expire for many workers on Sunday. Both Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) have supported Bunning, with Cornyn saying, “somebody has to stand up, finally, and say enough is enough.” But not all Republicans are pleased with Bunning’s antics. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said that he is trying to contact Bunning because the bill also contains transportation funding that, if allowed to expire, will lead to furloughs of employees of the Federal Highway Administration:
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said the money for road projects runs out over the weekend. Inhofe’s office also said employees of the Federal Highway Administration will have to be furloughed beginning next week. Inhofe, who is a key player on transportation issues in Congress, said he has tried to contact Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., who blocked action on the bill that would have extended roads funds and jobless benefits.
“I’m going to call in all my chits,” Inhofe said. “We are great friends.”…Inhofe said he hopes to get the impasse resolved by the time the Senate returns on Monday.
According to the latest National Journal ranking, Inhofe is the most conservative member of Congress, while Bunning is the third most conservative.

Rockefeller: ‘The health insurance industry is the shark that sits right below the water.’

Today, the White House has been hosting the Bipartisan Health Care Summit, where “the one topic that Democrats keep hammering on over and over is the problem of insurance companies refusing to cover people with preexisting conditions.” For example, during the summit today, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) ripped into the abusive behavior of insurance corporations, saying that the industry “is the shark that sits right below the water”:
ROCKEFELLER: The health insurance industry is the shark that swims just below the water and you don’t see that shark until you feel the teeth of that shark. … This is the way they operate. Nobody has any oversight over them. They’re not under any anti-trust rules. They can do what they want. … This is a rapacious industry that does what it wants.

The “rapacious” behavior that Rockefeller condemns includes raising premiums to increase their profits, denying coverage to women who have had Caesarean section pregnancies, and rescinding coverage of customers for frivolous reasons. Kevin Drum notes that Republican “have been relentlessly trying to talk about everything but this. They’ve barely acknowledged the preexisting conditions problem at all.” LinkHere

A Bipartisan Meeting on Health Reform

Man threatens to blow up Australian embassy after Olympics 'outrage'

Man allegedly threatened to blow up embassy
Was outraged over Korean disqualification
Australian judge received death threats

A KOREAN man has been arrested in Seoul following a threat to blow up the Australian embassy because he was outraged by a decision made by an Australian skating judge at the Winter Olympics.
The Herald Sun reports the man, known only as Mr Kim, made the threats through Korean rail company Korail.
He was traced by his telephone number and arrested.
Major Korean news website Joins.com reported the embassy was searched for 40 minutes and five staff were evacuated.
Officials at the embassy confirmed the incident with AAP, a staff member saying it turned out to be a hoax but "Korean authorities responded very quickly and it was resolved".
Joins.com reported Mr Kim was angry that Australian short track speed-skating judge Jim Hewish had disqualified the Korean team from the women's 3000m relay final after their last skater crossed the line first on Wednesday (Vancouver time).
The gold went to arch-rivals China.
Mr Hewish, who received death threats and prompted a tirade of 16,000 angry emails to the International Olympic Committee after another decision against a South Korean skater in 2002, told AAP it was "business as usual'' and he'd be back at the Pacific Coliseum to officiate tomorrow.
"As far as we're concerned there was no controversy,'' Mr Hewish said, not wanting to be drawn any further on the specifics of the incident.
"The Koreans are a bit upset but you know, that's understandable I guess.''
Read more about the Olympic threat to the Australian embassy at the Herald Sun

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Unfrikingbelievable" Blackwater takes guns meant for Afgan Police

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A Terrorists by any other name.

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American Health is not a business goal.

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Justice Report Provides Gruesome New Details About CIA Program

Michael Isikoff Feb 21, 2010 06:40 PM
The long-awaited Justice Department report on the lawyers who wrote the so-called torture memos provides gruesome new details about the CIA’s harsh interrogations of high-level Qaeda suspects, highlighting issues that could ultimately complicate the Obama administration’s efforts to try the detainees in federal court or even before military commissions.
The Obama Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder, has struggled to figure out ways to bring detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), and as many as 20 to 30 others to justice without having their trials get bogged down over claims that they were tortured or otherwise abused by the U.S. government.
But some of the fresh details in the report suggest the Justice Department’s challenge is even more daunting than they had publicly acknowledged and that concerns about what the CIA was doing troubled more than a few high-level Bush administration lawyers for some time.
Much of the attention so far has been over the CIA’s use of waterboarding (in effect, simulated drowning), a technique that was actually used against only three detainees: KSM, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged architect of the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.More

Michael Isikoff Feb 20, 2010 06:08 PM
A crucial CIA memo that has been cited by former Vice President Dick Cheney and other former Bush administration officials as justifying the effectiveness of waterboarding contained “plainly inaccurate information” that undermined its conclusions, according to Justice Department investigators.
Cheney has publicly called for the release of the CIA’s still classified memo and another document, insisting their disclosure will bolster his claim that the rough interrogation tactics he vigorously pushed for while in the White House yielded actionable intelligence that foiled terrorist plots against the United States.
But a just released report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility into the lawyers who approved the CIA’s interrogation program could prove awkward for Cheney and his supporters. The report provides new information about the contents of one of the never released agency memos, concluding that it significantly misstated the timing of the capture of one Al Qaeda suspect in order to make a claim that seems to have been patently false. More

Afghan-American Pleads Guilty to N.Y. Subway Bombing Plot

Mark Hosenball Feb 22, 2010 04:05 PM
Afghan-American and sometime Queens, N.Y., resident Najibullah Zazi on Monday pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges relating to an alleged plot to bomb the New York City subway system shortly after last year's 9/11 anniversary.
Federal officials said that Zazi, who was born in Afghanistan but emigrated to the U.S. with his family, on Monday entered a guilty plea in federal court in Brooklyn to three terrorism-related charges: conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction within the U.S., conspiring to commit murder overseas, and providing material support to terrorists. The first two charges each carry potential sentences of life imprisonment, said one of the officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing the case before an official government press conference, scheduled for later Monday afternoon.More

Zazi Guilty Plea a Boon for Obama Officials

Michael Isikoff Feb 22, 2010 05:00 PM
Today’s guilty plea by Najibullah Zazi to terrorism charges in federal court provides fresh ammunition for Obama administration officials to argue that traditional law-enforcement methods can be just as effective, if not more, in questioning terror suspects than subjecting them to “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
By pleading guilty to plotting what he called a “martyrdom operation” and agreeing to cooperate about his Al Qaeda contacts in Pakistan, Zazi becomes the fourth major terror suspect to cut deals or at least begin plea negotiations with the FBI in recent months. Those suspects have already produced a bonanza of intelligence about the inner workings of Al Qaeda and its affiliates that is being actively used by security services around the world, according to current and former U.S. counterterrorism officials and numerous press reports.
Since last summer alone, the terror suspects who are publicly known to have cooperated with the FBI include Bryant Neal Vinas, a former Long Island, New York truck driver who has acknowledged providing Al Qaeda with information about New York area transit systems; David Coleman Headley, a Chicago resident who had contacts with a high level Al Qaeda linked figure in Pakistan and conducted scouting runs for the November, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian suspect who tried to blow up the Northwest airlines flight on Christmas Day. Officials say Abdulmutallab began cooperating about his contacts with Al Qaeda in Yemen after the FBI reached out to two members of his family in Nigeria—one of them his mother—and brought them to Detroit to persuade the suspect to begin cooperating. More

Most Passports Used by Dubai Hit Squad Members Appear to Have Been Counterfeit

Mark Hosenball Feb 24, 2010 06:46 PM
Intriguing details keep emerging in the killing of a Hamas operative in Dubai last month. It turns out that most of the European passports used by suspected members of the alleged hit team were counterfeits—but not all, according to two diplomats who are familiar with investigations into the matter by authorities in Britain and Ireland. According to another European diplomat, the German passport used by one suspected hit-team member is believed to be an authentic document issued by the German government, but it was issued to a man who had stolen the identity of another man currently living in Israel.The suspects who have been identified so far used 12 British passports, six Irish, three French, three Australian, and one German, according to information that has been made public by Dubai law-enforcement authorities. A dossier released on Wednesday identifies 14 new suspects in the Jan. 19 murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, bringing the total to date to 25. More Nicole McCabe says her identity was stolen as probe reveals Kevin Rudd was briefed years ago over fears spies were harvesting Australian passports. Israel blamed More

EXCLUSIVE: Madoff Whistleblower Tells All

In an explosive new book, Bernie Madoff whistleblower Harry Markopolos tells the inside story of how he uncovered the $65 billion fraud, claims that he exposed State Street's alleged fraud of pension funds and admits that he considered the idea of killing Madoff if he was ever threatened by the Ponzi schemer.
The mild-mannered fraud investigator's new book, "No One Would Listen", is set for release next week, with a foreword by short-seller and Greenlight Capital president David Einhorn who calls Markopolos a "hero."
Super-Whistleblower's Other Cases
Or you can just call Markopolos the super-whistleblower. Among the revelations in the book, he writes that the Madoff case is just the tip of the iceberg of his multiple probes of financial shenanigans:
"The very first whistleblower case that I developed became the first of my cases to be unsealed" -- when California's attorney general, Jerry Brown, charged the State Street Corporation last October with a $56.6 million fraud against the state's two largest pension funds, announcing that he hoped to receive $200 million in overcharges and penalties.
Markopolos writes:
The amount was only the tip of what my team and I believe was nothing more than a fraudulent iceberg. Basically, our complaint alleged that the bank has executed more than $35 billion in currency trades for the pension systems since 2001, and what foreign exchange traders were doing was falsely claiming that buy trade orders were made at or at near the highest exchange rates of that particular day, while sell orders were executed at or near the lowest exchange rates of the day, allowing the bank to pocket the difference. It remains to be seen whether the bank will choose to go to a jury trial to prove its innocence or will settle the matter before it goes to trial.
Asked to confirm Markoplos's claims, the California AG's office sent the following statement to Huffington Post:
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Former investment manager Harry Markopolos, who investigated investment adviser Bernard Madoff in the 90's, testified before the House Financial Services Subcmte. on his experiences with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This is the second in a series of hearings on the alleged Madoff investment scheme. Washington, DC : 4 hr. 39 min.

"Democrats are p*ssies."

Why do Democrats even need Republicans to buy in to their plans when reconciliation can be used to pass reform with only 51 votes?

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Blue Cross parent hiked rates after paying out $39 million in bonuses

Insurer's 39% rate hike linked to 103 lavish company trips
California's Anthem Blue Cross justified its whopping 39 percent insurance premium hike by citing rising medical costs. But, it turns out, its parent company Wellpoint, Inc. has been spending tens of millions on large executive bonuses and fancy retreats.
According to congressional investigators, Wellpoint dished out over $1 million in bonuses to each of 39 executives, and spent at least $27 million on 103 lavish company trips, McClatchy reports.
The revelation throws something of a wrench into the claim by WellPoint's president and chief executive officer Angela Braly that the rake hikes were an effort to remain financially solvent, which she said before the House committee.
"Raising our premiums was not something we wanted to do," Braly said. "But we believe this was the most prudent choice given the rising cost of care and the problems caused by many younger and healthier policyholders dropping or reducing their coverage during tough economic times."
She claimed the company's decision was "actuarially sound and in full compliance with all requirements in the law."
Braly herself was paid $4.01 million in total compensation in 2009. In 2007, however, her total payout was substantially more, at $14.9 million.
Lawmakers grilled her over the increases, concluding through a series of obtained e-mails and company documents that WellPoint has worked to reduce costs by promoting plans with higher co-pays and cost-sharing, according to The Money Times.
"One question we asked is where does all of this money go?" asked Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) on Wednesday at a House subcommittee hearing. "Corporate executives at WellPoint are thriving, while its policyholders are paying the price."
The revelation of Blue Cross's rate hikes has led to controversy and fueled the resurgence of the health care reform debate in Congress, which lawmakers from both parties will hold a lengthy televised meeting about Thursday.
Saying that Blue Cross' rate hike signals a failure of states to effectively regulate private insurers, President Obama has called for a federal Health Insurance Rate Authority commission to oversee insurance practices. LinkHere

Companies infused eight lobbyists for every federal lawmaker into the health care debate.

A new analysis by the Center for Public Integrity shows that corporate interests attempted to exert an unprecedented amount of influence in the health care debate over the past year. More than “1,750 companies and organizations hired about 4,525 lobbyists — eight for each member of Congress — to influence health reform bills in 2009.” These groups included 207 hospitals, 105 insurance companies, 85 manufacturing companies, and 745 trade, advocacy, and professional organizations. Overall, “[b]usinesses and organizations that lobbied on health reform spent more than $1.2 billion on their overall lobby efforts.”

In June, Senate Republicans met with health care lobbyists in order to “recruit stakeholders to oppose options such as a government-funded insurance plan and a mandate requiring employers to help pay for heath insurance.” Republicans also requested that health care lobbyists be given at least 72 hours to review any legislative language in the Senate Finance Committee. A recent Center for Responsive Politics analysis found that “federal lobbying soared to record levels last year,” with “about $1.3 million spent on lobbying for every hour that Congress was in session in 2009.”

Just when you thought Wall Street couldn't get any more clever in their attempts at predatory lending, they have.

Just when you thought Wall Street couldn't get any more clever in their attempts at predatory lending, they have.
Big Banks have created an exotic financial instrument that is the equivalent of a payday loan for cash-strapped state and local governments, innocently labeled an "interest rate swap."
In the United States, states and local governments cannot run deficits. This year states face a $357 billion budget shortfall and local governments are facing an additional $82 billion budget shortfall. States have begun cutting basic services like snow removal, reduced garbage pickup, and in Colorado Springs they went to the pawn shop - selling police helicopters on the Internet.
In a desperate effort to meet budget needs, states and local governments over the last decade have gone to the big banks to ask for exotic instruments known as interest rate swaps. These desperate state and local governments were taken advantage of in the same way that Greece was by Goldman Sachs. Likewise, these swaps are threatening the economic health of local cities and states.
These interest rate swaps have cost American taxpayers $28 billion alone in fees and excessive interest. The money which could have been used for badly needed basic services instead goes to help the big banks develop more sophisticated practices to steal money off of regular Americans. Big banks led by Goldman Sachs used deceptive marketing to get states and local governments to buy these swaps.
How do they work? State and local governments take out variable rate bonds to pay for infrastructure projects. In the typical deal, these governments agreed to "swap" interest rates on variable-rate bonds. The government would pay the bank a fixed rate in exchange for a variable payment that would track the interest actually due on the bonds. Make much sense to you? Me neither, at first. That's why banks loved these things.

Ain't that the truth!!!!!! Have they made mistakes sure as hell have, but you want to think of the alternative Hmmmmm, the party of no?

Who's to Blame for Stalling Key Parts of the Obama Agenda?
The Obama Administration has been forced to make some compromises. But to their credit they have not trimmed back their ambitious agenda -- their goal of transforming the American economy -- to deal with the massive problems they faced from the day they took office.

Those who don't live in the nation's capital may so far have been spared the columnist-generated imbroglio over who is "to blame" for the fact that many of President Obama's flagship initiatives have yet to pass into law.
Many candidates have been nominated: Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senior Adviser David Axelrod, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, former White House Counsel Greg Craig, Attorney General Eric Holder, and even White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers.
The correct answer: None of the above.
The people who are responsible for the difficulty of making fundamental change within the first year of the Obama Administration don't have familiar names. They are the people who run the huge insurance companies, oil companies and Wall Street Banks. They are the people who will lose if the rest of America wins. They are the folks whose recklessness and greed caused the collapse of our economy and cost seven million Americans their jobs.
Not surprisingly, these people have not rolled over and played dead when their interests have been threatened. And their ability to protect the status quo has been strengthened by the rules of the U.S. Senate that have empowered some of their chief defenders, such as Joe Lieberman and Mitch McConnell.
They've used their massive financial muscle to mislead everyday Americans. They have been perfectly willing to lie and distort and inflame fear. They are the authors of bogus "death panels" and "government takeovers." They are the source of massive political contributions, and the fear that politicians who cross them will pay a price.
They have financed a "populist" uprising on the right.
In short, they have done everything that anyone familiar with American political history would assume they would do. Power surrenders nothing without a struggle.
Change turns out to be harder than a lot of people thought and hoped. But what the hell did we expect. The other side plays hardball.
To beat them, we have to start where we are and get where we want to go. We can't start where we wish we were...or wish our opposition out of existence.
The Obama Administration has been forced to make some compromises. But to their credit they have not trimmed back their ambitious agenda -- their goal of transforming the American economy -- to deal with the massive problems they faced from the day they took office.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Right Wing toys with violence

Public Option

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Republican fondness for earmarks

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Robert Kuttner: Moment of Truth

Co-Founder and Co-Editor of The American Prospect
There is nothing dysfunctional about "Washington." The Republicans have simply decided to use the filibuster to block anything that President Obama proposes, and the president, thus far, hasn't quite mustered the nerve to take them on. Our most strident partisans must learn to occasionally sacrifice short-term tactical political advantage for the sake of the nation. Otherwise, Congress will remain stuck in an endless cycle of recrimination and revenge. LinkHere

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Colin Powell Rejects Dick Cheney's Claims, Says U.S. Is Not Less Safe Under Obama (VIDEO)

Dick Cheney's charges that the country is less safe because of the way Barack Obama has handled national security matters don't hold water, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday. "To suggest that somehow we have become much less safer because of the actions of the administration, I don't think that's borne out by the facts," Powell said on CBS's "Face the Nation." LinkHere

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Ron Paul takes CPAC presidential straw poll - Palin pulls in only seven percent.

Source: CNN
Ron Paul takes CPAC presidential straw poll
Posted: February 20th, 2010 06:23 PM ET

From CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby

Washington (CNN) – Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a stalwart foe of government spending, won a blowout victory Saturday in the annual Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll.

With participants naming "reducing the size of federal government" as their top issue, the 74-year old libertarian hero captured 31 percent of the 2,400 votes cast in the annual contest, usually seen as a barometer of how the GOP's conservative wing regards their potential presidential candidates.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney finished second with 22 percent of the vote, ending a three-year winning streak at CPAC. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin finished third with 7 percent of the vote, followed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at 6 percent and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence at 5 percent.

They were followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who tied at 4 percent. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour rounded out the results.

Five percent of participants voted for "Other" and six percent were undecided.

The announcement of Paul's win, a surprise victory unlikely to have a major impact on the 2012 presidential contest, drew a volley of loud boos from the CPAC audience.

That discontent could be seen in the poll results: A majority of participants said they wished the Republican Party had a better field of candidates to choose from. LinkHere

CPAC fueled by oil industry cash.

Source: Think Progress
CPAC fueled by oil industry cash.The extremist Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is being fueled by Big Oil. CPAC’s “Radio Row” — featuring “top conservative talk show hosts” — is officially sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the “only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry.” ThinkProgress is at the convention and took a picture of the prominent API sign:

Although API concedes that oil and gas pollution “may be helping to warm our planet by enhancing the natural greenhouse effect of the atmosphere,” the participants at CPAC believe global warming is a hoax. On the other hand, one would expect that the attendees — who decry groups with “allies like Iran” — would not want to take money from oil companies doing business in countries with ties to terrorism. LinkHere

I can't believe I watched anything coming out of Faux.

Lady Michelle Obama taped an interview with Fox News' Mike Huckabee that aired tonight in which she discussed her efforts to battle child obesity, an grave problem she believes "we can really fix."
Huckabee has been a strong supporter of the First Lady's efforts, in part due to his own struggles with obesity.
Despite the tensions between Fox News and the Obama administration, the 20-minute interview was light and breezy. As their conversation progressed, they touched on topics like whether she watches Fox News (Obama said she doesn't watch much television news) as well as the fascination with her famously-toned arms. LinkHere

More Palin Hypocrisy: Tripp Has Government Provided Health Insurance

The dangers of "death panels" were explained to Americans on Sarah Palin's Facebook page. Oh, sweet Lord, she must not sleep at night...her grandson could be the next victim of "socialized medicine".
Recently released documents from the custody battle show clearly Tripp Palin Johnston has socialized health care through Indian Health Services and the Alaska Native Medical Center.
Palin's family has federally funded health care afforded to them...but if you had it Barack Obama might kill you. Put this on the list of Palin's Greatest Hypocritical Hits...volume 97.

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