Back when the banks were in danger of failing, and Hank Paulson came up with his 3-page salvation page, you knew something didn't seem right. But everything was so fast, and so shrouded in the idea that "you-won't-understand-so-just-trust-us-to-solve-this."
It's worse than we thought.
Bank of America was to buy Merrill-Lynch. It was billed as a good business deal. Now it appears that BofA wasn't so sure, but was pressured to buy the firm. From TPM back in February:
Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed chief Ben Bernanke reportedly warned B of A CEO Ken Lewis that if his firm pulled out, Merrill would collapse. They added that such a move, in the Journal's words "could undercut confidence in Bank of America, both in the markets and among government officials."
But that was just the start. Two days later, on a conference call, Bernanke told B of A that if it abandoned the Merrill deal, and came back to the Feds in the future seeking more bailout money, the government would consider removing the firm's executives and directors.
The threats, of course, seem to have worked, since Bank of America went ahead with the deal -- getting an additional $20 billion in bailout money to help digest Merrill.
They have updated their information to include the fact that Congress has now subpoenaed all the documents from the Federal Reserve.
According to Reuters, the list of documents Towns is demanding includes the handwritten notes from a December meeting between Fed chief Ben Bernanke, BofA CEO Ken Lewis and others.
Nothing pretty is going to come out of this. When agents of the Federal government, in this case Paulson and Bernake force a company to make a bad move, at the expense of others (I'm thinking here of Lehman Brothers) there is going to be a lot more dirt to be discovered.
There is no doubt that the banks were in trouble, and that the system itself was in danger of imploding, but playing favourites and pushing the problem from one place to another is just plain wrong.
Ahmadinejad's "victory" complicates Obama's effort to reach out to Iran.
Tapper at ABC has lots of Iran updates, starting with yesterday morning, to give you a nice overview of just what happened yesterday.
How long until CIA Director Panetta apologizes to Dick Cheney?
South Carolina Republican apologizes for saying that Michelle Obama was descended from gorillas. (Surprise, a southerner.)
Health care costs are killing small businesses. Maybe if we just give Blue Cross another chance, which is what Democrats are talking of doing by killing the public option, the miserly insurance profiteers will find their hearts growing three times that day.
Newsweek: How lost are the Republicans? They're looking to Newt for answers.
Time for Norm Coleman to concede.
Cynthia Tucker: Republicans caused the budget deficit.
Iranians twittering their own revolution, very cool.
Shorter Republicans: Reagan, meh.
Shorter Democrats: When the cats away...
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei orders...probe of election?Opposition party banned. Disturbing. Nate crunches the numbers. The US response. Stay the course.Health care change you can believe in. Iranian election = Obama's fault. [...]
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Who's the boss? You are! (At least when it comes to Working America's priorities.)
During the workday, you probably answer to a boss. But when it comes to fighting for a just
Working America is fighting for the rights of working people at the local, state and national level every day. But we need your input to know where to act first. Help us fight for the issues that affect you most.
economy, Working America answers to you. With working families struggling to get by, it's those same working families who are experts on where change needs to come most quickly.
That's why every six months we ask you, our members, to set Working America's priorities. And now that another six months have passed, we need your vote again to determine our work for the remainder of 2009.
Now it's time for you to shape our priorities for the coming months. Please vote for your Working America priorities before June 30, and help guide our future work.
What matters most to you? Choose your top two priorities:
At Working America, we see the semiannual Priorities Vote as our most important campaign. Why?
Because we want to make sure our work addresses the most critical issues our members face.
Some of our goals may sound ambitious, but when we act together, there's no limit to what we can do.
So use your voice as a Working America member. Tell us what issues we should move forward in 2009 by voting for your priorities now.
Thanks for participating,
Working America, AFL-CIO
"His speech was deceitful and I call on those who listened to this speech not to be deceived," said Mr. Erekat, who added that Netanyahu would have to wait "1,000 years to find one single Palestinian who accepts his plans." Monday's Headlines: [...]
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Whoa...From the Kansas City Star:Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh has backed out of the[...]
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Let's start this week with some Monday punditry.
NY Times editorial:
There is no transparency or accountability in Iran, so we may never know for sure what happened in the presidential election last week. But given the government’s even more than usually thuggish reaction, it certainly looks like fraud.
She was in tears like many women on the streets of Iran’s battered capital. "Throw away your pen and paper and come to our aid," she said, pointing to my notebook. "There is no freedom here."...
Majir Mirpour grabbed me. A purple bruise disfigured his arm. He raised his shirt to show a red wound across his back. "They beat me like a pig," he said, breathless. "They beat me as I tried to help a woman in tears. I don’t care about the physical pain. It’s the pain in my heart that hurts."
He looked at me and the rage in his eyes made me want to toss away my notebook.
Our framework for financial regulation is riddled with gaps, weaknesses and jurisdictional overlaps, and suffers from an outdated conception of financial risk. In recent years, the pace of innovation in the financial sector has outstripped the pace of regulatory modernization, leaving entire markets and market participants largely unregulated.
That is why, this week -- at the president's direction, and after months of consultation with Congress, regulators, business and consumer groups, academics and experts -- the administration will put forward a plan to modernize financial regulation and supervision. The goal is to create a more stable regulatory regime that is flexible and effective; that is able to secure the benefits of financial innovation while guarding the system against its own excess.
The debate over economic policy has taken a predictable yet ominous turn: the crisis seems to be easing, and a chorus of critics is already demanding that the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration abandon their rescue efforts. For those who know their history, it’s déjà vu all over again — literally.
EJ Dionne: Paul's got it right.
Business has been on the ropes since last fall's financial collapse, but the first glimmerings of recovery are calling forth a capitalist counteroffensive.
It's hard to know whether President Obama's health-care "reform" is naive, hypocritical or simply dishonest. Probably all three.
It's hard to know if Robert J. Samuelson is mendacious, tendentious or simply a sore loser. Probably all three.
As Sarah Palin’s furious claims of being victimized by David Letterman once again became catnip for cable hosts, a more elevated female narrative was being played out in Washington’s Foggy Bottom. On Friday afternoon, Melanne Verveer, Hillary Clinton’s former East Wing chief of staff and founder of the Vital Voices democracy initiative, was sworn in as ambassador at large for global women's issues by her friend of 25 years, the secretary of State.
As a nation we've always delighted in amusing distractions framed by overheated whackomongers as matters of earthshaking import, whether it was Jefferson's paganism or Cleveland's paternity or Harry Truman's profanity. That's some needed perspective; nevertheless we must stop and ask if those weren't the good old days of rather silly but still sober distractions, since in the modern era we seem to have institutionalized frivolity in a chronically intoxicated way.
It's just one damn thing after another -- from empty sensationalisms of relatively brief duration, such as the cost of the First Couple's Saturday-night dinner in New York, to stories both superficial and prolonged, like the nearly endless coverage of a singular line from an eight-year-old juridical speech -- as we're pounded via the airwaves and cyberprint in a ruthless pursuit of all things meaningless.
After a while one loses discrete track of the rolling outrages; each begins with a slight tic, immediately detonates into The Story, and just as the smoke begins to clear, yep, there's another tic, instantly pounced on for our extended amusement.
It's relentless, it's seamless, and it has become, in large part, The News. This is not to suggest there's no longer any real and intelligent reporting on real stories of real importance, because obviously there is, although it may require some resourceful digging on your part to find it (or you can always just go to BuzzFlash.com, which has done the digging for you). Nor is this to suggest that the distractions delivered by cable, satellite and Internet tubes are the media's mother lode, quantitatively speaking. It is to suggest, however, that they tend to dominate with abandon.
This year's primo-silliest example, to date, consumed all of last week and it ain't over yet: the Letterman-Palin squabble, a matter of such intrinsic unimportance -- like, say, the sex habits of one William Jefferson Clinton -- as to demand hourly media updates.
Yet a winding and rather profound paradox underlies this particular distraction; which is to say, it was an oddly refreshing byproduct of what has become an influential source of biting political journalism -- the evening comedy shows of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, both of which came about and rose to vast popularity in no small part because the media weren't doing their job, that of biting political journalism.
To explain ...
Media watchers concede that some of the Letterman-Palin kerfuffle came from ultraconservatives' search for what you might call an "anti-Limbaugh," some presumably left-leaning media notable they can point to and scream, There, you see, they have their on-air lunatics, too. And, indeed, they have screamed pretty much that. The top man over at the conservative Media Research Center, Brent Bozell, for instance, charged that the Letterman affair "underscore[d] everything that conservatives are saying. If Rush Limbaugh had made a joke about Barack Obama's daughter, he wouldn't finish the sentence before they were calling for him to be fired. It is beyond a double standard. It is a rank hypocrisy, and everyone sees it."
In its rapid, disheveled descent the right has become less and less monolithic, however, so not everyone sees it, or even much gives a damn. Said, for example, former George W. Bush adviser Mark McKinnon: "If the right goes after Letterman, they make him look big and themselves small." And said GOP media consultant Fred Davis: "I think it's a mistake too many conservatives are making right now. They are trying to find anything to attack."
Not surprisingly, media watchers also saw an industrial structural force in play: the ratings game within Letterman's timeslot -- "the funnyman's need to break through the late-night giggle chamber, particularly with Conan O'Brien's new gig on 'The Tonight Show.' "
But here's the real whopper that acutely defines the aforementioned paradox:
"Observers have noticed a change to the 'Late Show's' comedy in recent years," reports the Politico. "Lauren Feldman, a professor of communications at American University, says that Letterman has become more 'serious and incisive' in interviews with politicians compared with previous points in his career," and Ted Johnson, Variety's managing editor, "sees Letterman's comedic shift as a response to the 'Jon Stewart effect.' "
Which is this, according to Bob Thompson, of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture: "[T]he one-two punch of Jon Stewart and [Stephen] Colbert.... [T]hey are the ones getting all the attention. All of the late-night comedians have to in one way or another come to grips with that. Letterman did so by becoming more political and more focused and acerbic in his political humor, trying to move in the direction of Jon Stewart."
Hence the nation is experiencing a heightened level of biting political journalism, loosely defined, by comedians, but not merely in light-hearted competition with the news media. No, comedians are actually filling the analytical void created by the media's incessantly even-handed treatment of both sides of every hard-news issue, even when the two sides are laughably uneven, which makes for rather easy comedy. Much of this stuff writes itself.
So yes, in itself the Letterman-Palin scrap was, is, a joke, a frivolous distraction. But broadly underlying it is a creative manner in the treatment of serious business: the deliverance of intelligent perspective to an audience sick of the bullshit. And that phenomenon may yet call the news media home for a reexamination of how they -- broadly -- cover, in actual fact, the intrinsically important issues of the day.
Hope is both the earliest and the most indispensable virtue inherent in the state of being alive.
If life is to be sustained hope must remain, even where confidence is wounded, trust impaired.
Born June 15, 1902
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