Monthly Archives: September 2008

Harper is our Nixon?

Up here, we’re into week 2 or 3 of the Federal Election.  Nobody cares, except the candidates and the media.  The Media are attempting to justify the price of a full-court press romp across the country several times to the bean counters on Bay Street.  The Candidates are concerned as this is their job interview that will free them from having to achieve things in their jobs.  The rest of us, we care, not so much.

The problem we have is the potential Prime Ministers and their parties.  They are a grisly lot the PM-wannabe’s:  And the parties are all questionable choices in various vectors of vile.

The one who stands out as perhaps the most reprehensible is our current PM, Stephen “Steve” Harper.  Think back to the 1968 Richard Nixon:  No passion for anything.  A micro-manager of the worst kind.  Cosseted behind advisors, flacks and fartcatchers who knew The Boss was a nasty little punk, the spokesmeat would mouth platitudes they knew were lies because The Boss said so.  The constant look of the hunted in the eyes of the entourage, knowing that The Boss could have them shipped to Yellowknife for even the tiniest of slipups. 

That’s what we’ve got here, our own ‘68 Model Nixon.  He’s sold tax cuts to big business as good for Canada, in a lame impersonation of Reganoid trickle-down Voodoo economics, to the tune of $50 Billion dollars worth.  Harper has chopped arts subsidies to pay for it, as well as taken a run at ‘wasteful’ spending for things like festivals in small towns. 

He hasn’t cut the oil sands tax credit amazingly, as obviously no oil company wants to get involved in developing the largest oil reservoir in the world, outside of Saudi Arabia, unless the government is picking up the tab with a mammoth tax credit.  Nor has Harper allowed the various environmental entities to question how the oil companies are taking the oil out of the ground and shipping the crude to the US. 

Nor has Harper suggested that we process the crude into gas, oil, kerosene or other finished products before shipping it out of the country.  No, we just pull it out, as hewers of wood and drawers of water, left with a toxic aquifer and empty holes in the ground. 

Now this is not to suggest that Harper is a key conspirator in illegal acts:  That was the ‘72 Model Nixon.  No, Harper is a 1968 Nixon:  A political technician with no soul, mouthing exactly the right things at almost the right time.  His team knows that all they have to do is to not lose the election. Not win it, but the diametric opposite: Not Lose It.  Therefore every photo op, talking point and briefing note is completely Sanitized For Your Protection.

Consequently Harper appears wooden.  Not that he ever appeared anything but wooden, except to appear as cuddly and approachable as a cactus.  Like all political technicians, he has no real personal involvement in the campaign, it’s a technical job, like fixing a laser printer, or screwing with the tax laws.  Nothing personal, just doing the job ma’am. 

Harper is lucky, in that he’s not fighting the best the other parties can put up, so a technician’s campaign is exactly right.  Had the Liberal party chosen anyone but the life-size Pez dispenser called Stephane Dion as their leader, it might have been an interesting campaign. 

The New Democratic Party has Jack “Call me Jack Layton” Layton as their leader.  He’s a nice guy, but is so charismatically challenged he should get a blue parking pass to use the special spaces.  The Green Party under Elizabeth May is a cross between fiscal conservatives, libertarian democrats and Woody Harrelson mixed with Ed Begley Jr.  They mean well.

Then there is the Bloc Quebecois.  Gilles Duceppe is the leader of a regional collection of monomaniacs who can’t change the subject.  The stated objective of the BQ is to take Quebec out of Canada.  The problem is, nobody wants them.  Not France, not the US, not even Kim Jong-Il returns the BQ calls.  Duceppe is unknown outside the province of Quebec and six square blocks of downtown Ottawa.  He might as well be running a copy shop in St. Boniface for all his influence in national politics outside of Quebec.

No, we’re left with the political technician, the micro-managing bully and control freak who knows the election is his to lose.  Not to Win, but his to lose, just like the 1968 Richard M. Nixon.

Bailout The Base III

It looks like a marathon session has put the last touches on the Bailout The Base Bill and actually made it useful.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Henry the FrankenFinancier and a couple of bipartisan senators announced the deal overnight.

According to the summary (not the actual deal on paper) the taxpayer gets an ownership stake and a chance to make some profit.  Taxpayers are first in line for assets if one of the participating ‘banks’ goes Tango Uniform and the taxpayer gets a guaranteed profit. 

There are limits on executive compensation.  Plus the bill gives the government the ability to recover past bonuses based on promised gains that have turned to dried sewage flakes.  The range of financial institutions able to use the de-vestment toilet has expanded a bit, but nothing too foolish. 

Overall, based on Pelosi’s summary, the Bailout The Base Bill looks like a reasonable compromise:  Henry the FrankenFinancier doesn’t get to run the Treasury Department like is own private fiefdom.  The Taxpayer gets paid back first.  Henry only gets $350 Billion to start with with some serious strings attached.

There are two provisions I don’t see: 

1) Running the heads of the top five investment banks down Wall Street to Bowling Green Park, naked, chased by dogs and cops with nightsticks to the big bronze bull sculpture.  There, the Wall Streeters will be exhibited, publicly shamed and tormented in stocks built especially for the occasion.

Chief Shamers and Tormentors?  I’m thinking the laid off night shift from an auto plant in Detroit, Michigan.  However, that might become medieval rapidly, which is not the objective.   

Instead, we could get a twenty-voice chorus of chronic stutterers reading the speeches of Joe Biden, out loud, over speakers, to the guilty.  Or, we can get Brittney Spears cheap.  She can explain monetary policy to them.  For a week. 

2) No provision to take the head of the SEC, The Fed and the Secretary of the Treasury out for an afternoon duck hunting with Dick Cheney at the Undisclosed Location, no questions asked.  Not that The Patriot Act would let you ask.

There are things that are not great, but like all good legislation, it is a reasonable compromise, which is about all you can hope for.

PL’s Last Lap

PL has shut it down after his last lap.  Aged 83, Paul Leonard Newman has passed away.  You probably don’t know Paul Newman as PL, but those of us who go back a ways in motorsports knew him as PL, who happened to have an acting career as a sidelight. 

He was exposed to racing while training for the movie Winning, where he played a race car driver.  The movie sucked, but PL got the bug.  He drove in his first competitive event in 1972 and was one of the usual suspects in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) winning a few championships along the way. 

PL raced rocket-sled Datsuns/Nissans in the Trans-Am series when the series was the Home of the Crazed.  He wasn’t putting around as a back marker either, PL was known as a tough competitor who would use the chrome horn if needed.

PL also raced at LeMans in 1979 in a Barbour Porsche 935, as well as winning his class at the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona.  When he won Daytona he was 70 years old. 

He came back to shoe again at Daytona in 2005 at age 80 in a Crawford DP03 Ford Daytona Prototype.  The car DNF’d but his fellow seat mates were Sebastien Bourdais and Cristiano de Matta for heaven’s sake.  Interestingly enough, PL was diagnosed as colour-blind in those blue eyes when he tried to enlist as a pilot in WWII. 

He founded Newman/Haas with Carl Haas.  The team was a Champ Car threat every time they unloaded.  PL even had a foray in (then) Winston Cup as an owner, eventually selling his piece to The Captain, Roger Penske which is now the #12.

There was still the acting and the political activism and the philanthropy and the salad dressing, but I think, deep in his heart, PL was a gear-head.

So, we can observe his passing by noting the movies, his Oscar as Fast Eddie Felson in The Colour Of Money in 1986.  Or, being #19 on Nixon’s Enemies List, creating Newman’s Own to benefit the Hole in the Wall Gang Children’s Camp, or a wonderful quote of his regarding monogamy, which is “Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?  These are all good things. 

Or, we could find some old in-cockpit footage of PL smashing up and down the gears at Lime Rock in a wild-hair-up-the-ass Nissan Trans-Am car, winding it out as hard as he could, driving like he stole it.

I’m choosing B.  Thanks PL.

McCain Craters

Let’s see what the last few hours have brought us.  John McCain ‘suspended’ his campaign to rush to DC to help cut a deal on the financial meltdown.  A half-hour later, McCain has a sudden, uncontrollable need to buy a comb and leaves after the photo op. 

Barrack Obama looks around, says little and hits his Blackberry to say:  Get me tf outta here asap!  His handlers comply (“The Candidate has to pick up his dry cleaning”) and Obama goes back to prep for the first Presidential debate that John McCain may or may not show up for.

Overnight, Washington Mutual Bank is seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and sold to JPMorgan for a buck a pound.  The reason?  Washington Mutual was so far upside down that they were smiling out their assholes like an inverted acrobat at the No-Underwear Circus.

For some reason, the FDIC, unlike the Treasury, can actually get things done to protect depositors under current legislation, without the need for Star Chamber powers and a Masters of the Universe secret decoder ring.  Could it be that Banking Regulation is actually useful?

Which brings up a column by John Ibbotson of the Globe and Mail.  Short form is this: McCain has a long record of voting for deregulation of the finance industry in keeping with the Dutch Regan mantra of ‘keeping the government off the back of business’. 

Deregulation is exactly why the US financial industry is in the toilet.  There has been no oversight, policing, or regulation to keep the greed-heads from doing massive derivative deals on obscure reactions to a reaction, turned upside down and then bet against, all based on insider knowledge, innuendo and rumours.

By the way, McCain is also in favour of deregulating the health care and insurance industry.  Does that make you feel all warm and squishy inside? 

To paraphrase Ibbotson, then it follows that even hardcore Republicans should recognize that McCain is at least partly responsible for this mess.  McCain expressing concern and working the frown lines is at best disingenuous and at worst, as venal as could be defined in a family newspaper. 

Since this blog isn’t a family newspaper, I can go there.  McCain blaming the greedy bankers that he enabled and legislated for, is as bad as the kid who slaughters his family with an axe and then pleads for the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.

Which brings up Sarah Palin.  Isn’t the job of the Vice-President to fill in for the President, especially if the Prez is called to Washington to help untangle a national emergency?  Confronted with Palin’s inability to find her own ass with both hands and a snowmobile drive belt, McCain has ‘suspended’ campaigning instead of letting Sarah Palin show her leadership chops. 

McCain and his people know that having Sarah Palin drive the bus would be the equivalent of letting a sugar and Ritalin soaked 8 year-old play with an M2 with a full belt, at recess.  It almost makes me want to listen to Joe Biden.

Now what?  First, nobody with a brain stem can vote for McCain and Palin unless they are high.  Really high.  Five-hits-off-the-bong in the parking lot of the polling place high, after an afternoon demolishing-a-case-of-beer high.  Marion Berry high.

Second, even the Republicans recognize that their beloved President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy is trying to let Henry the FrankenFinancier take over everything at the expense of the rest of the country.  Which is why the Republicans are the ones throwing the bailout into the ditch, where it belongs. 

Interestingly, the photo op yesterday barely showed VP Shotgun Dick.  In the few shots where he could be seen (and reflected light), it looked like the veins on his forehead were standing out like a starving dogs’ ribs. 

Third, the McCain-Palin ticket is done.  Take the Blackberry’s back to the rental kiosk and hit the FedEx/Kinko’s with the resume. Roll up the banners.  It’s over.

The unstated danger is that Shotgun Dick is not happy.  His meat puppet didn’t deliver the needed Fear on Main Street.  His FrankenFinancier didn’t come through.  His application of voltages to the genitals of the Republicans didn’t work either. 

When Shotgun Dick isn’t happy, very bad things happen. The staff at the Undisclosed Location know that glower; the Cheney Death-Ray, which usually means there will be blood in the Jungle Room drains.

Watch closely.  There will be an attempt at distraction.

Bailout The Base II

More details about the Bailout The Base Bill are coming to light.  This afternoon Barack Obama and John McCain joined some other folks with President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy, Shotgun Dick, Henry the FrankenFinancier and a couple of other punks for a glass of Dr. Pepper and a chat around the big table.

Not long after 4 pm DC time, Johnny Mac and his folks left:  McCain had a sudden urge to go buy a comb.  Seconds later, Barack Obama needed to pick up his dry cleaning.  The bipartisan deal that President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy was preaching the night before, was nothing more than a strong arm job by the Decider Who Makes the Deciding Decisions. 

It turns out that the someone in that room wouldn’t go along with the salary caps on executive compensation, or Henry Paulson’s demand for utmost secrecy without oversight, the blank check secrecy provision. 

It also came to light that the $700 Billion dollar number was pulled out of someone’s ass.  Odds are it was Ben Bernanke’s ass.  As to how it got there, is another story involving Unnatural Acts and the Undisclosed Location, but we digress.  $700 Billion was pulled out of thin air to be a Big Number to make the Bailout The Base Bill more impressive and fearful. 

That Big Number, run through the Idiot Boy’s posturing over the last few days and last night was supposed to create deep seated Main Street Fear, just like the setup on the War in Iraq,(“Saddam Hussein has WMDs and He’s going to attack the Wal-Mart in Cooksville Tennessee on Thursday if we don’t invade now”).

So far, the Senate and the Congress are not buying the story.  Average Americans are looking at the scam and getting truly pissed.  Perhaps even, dare we say it, outraged?  Under the glare of something that is rare in DC, called scrutiny, the Bailout The Base Bill is turning out to be Serious but not the National Emergency that President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy is making it out to be.

The downside though, is that President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy could turn around and look at the stock market as a rationale.  Wall Street, being Wall Street and regulated by a fluffy kitten on Valium, can make their day to day results go up and down like a toilet seat in a mixed gender bathroom during a Harvard Skulls keg party. 

If the Wall Street Masters of the Universe decide to make Wall Street tank over the next two or three days, then The Idiot Boy might just force the Bailout The Base Bill through, Senate and Congress be dammed.  (“Ya’ll see what happened when we didn’t do no Deciding, so I’m the President who Decides the Deciding and we’re givin’ em $800 Billion”)

There are a few things the Bailout The Base Bill must have.  So here’s my version:

Wall Street?  If you want a suck at the Taxpayer Teat, here’s the deal:  You’re getting a maximum of $200 Billion in government financing to unscrew yourselves.  There isn’t any more money to be had and this $200 Large has some very big strings attached:

String 1:  Executive Compensation of any form for any VP or C-level officer, for any company that takes advantage of the de-vestment toilet will be limited to $150,000 a year for the next two years.  No more Gulfstream 5 executive jets, palatial homes and stock bonuses bigger than the GDP of Holland.  If you don’t like it, then piss off and don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.  Your kind is replaceable.  If you’re that shit-hot, then you can weather a two-year cut back.

String 2:  Your new partner is the United State Government, representing the Taxpayers who are footing this bill.  We own 49% for the next two years. We’re setting up a new Government Agency of grumpy, mistrustful and pissy bureaucrats who will be sitting in 49% of the new Board of Director chairs. If your company is as shit-hot as you say it is, then you can handle two years of very close scrutiny.

String 3:  You’re going to be paying 4% interest on the money we let you de-invest and we want it back, with interest, over two years, otherwise you lose your company to the Government.  And you stock and your jets and your houses and your Master of the Universe decoder ring. 

String 4:  In exchange for you taking advantage of this $200 Billion dollar bailout, we agree not to have your miserable butt dragged into Federal Court.  The Get Out of Jail card only lasts two years.  If you clean up your shit, we might make it longer.  Screw us and we let the FBI go medieval on your ass.  There’s lots of room at Gitmo.


Keep up the outrage folks.  Don’t let them panic you, or make you grab your ankles.  The Bailout The Base Bill is Bullshit and deserves your outrage.

First Draft – The Bankfather

I never know how these things wind up in my inbox.  Perhaps the Hollywood writer types have been drinking too many caffeinated beverages again….


INTERIOR DAY: DON POLLOI’s ornate office on a sunny Thursday afternoon. Drapes are closed but some shafts of light peek in. DON POLLOI is in a suit, savouring a large cigar. Several muscular men in dark suits ring the walls, their hands clasped in front of themselves. Two chairs are across from the Don’s desk. The Consigliere enters.

CONSIGLIERE: These are the two I told you about Don Polloi, the ones with the fakackta money thing. They’re with Georgie’s crew out of DC…

DON POLLOI: I talk with them for a moment, but just a moment. I don’t spend time with cafones like that so much

The Consigliere nods towards the double doors of the office. Two of the meatier bodyguards put a hand in their suits, open the doors and beckon the guests in. HANK THE SNACK and BENNY THE GEECH enter, heads bowed low, eyes darting from side to side and approach the two leather chairs in front of DON POLLOI’s desk.

DON POLLOI: Sit down, sit down. My friend here tells me you are associated with my good friend Georgie in DC. His father and I go back a long time…

HANK THE SNACK: Yes, we know Papa well. He speaks with respect and reverence of his relationship with you Don Polloi.

BENNY THE GEECH: He is a man of importance Don Polloi and a man of great dignity, as you are Don Polloi.

DON POLLOI: So why are you visiting me on this fine fall day when I could be busy with my many affairs of This Thing of Ours.

HANK THE SNACK: It’s about the money Don Polloi. We got a thing here. It’s a good thing…

BENNY THE GEECH: It’s a really good thing Don Polloi… it’s really good…

DON POLLOI: Everything is about money with you two. Everything. Or pussy, Money or mona is that all you two know from?

HANK THE SNACK: This one’s not about pussy this time. We need some backing for a money thing.

BENNY THE GEECH: It’s a money thing, like he said.

DON POLLOI: So explain this money thing.

BENNY THE GEECH: You know from banks that do investments Don Polloi? Well, they got themselves in shit up to their armpits

HANK THE SNACK: Like wearing a shirt and everything up to their armpits in shit

BENNY THE GEECH: Like he says. So’s they need a place to hide some of the shit, so they can go out in public again.

DON POLLOI: So’s a bank gotz shit. I care from shit how?

HANK THE SNACK: It’s like this. The banks need us to buy their shit and clean’em up so’s they can go to Dalluca’s and look like respectable men again. They wanna sell us this shit and if we buy it, they can be respectable again. Loans, like you know?

DON POLLOI: Loans I understand. Back in the day we’d loan some mook Twenty bucks on Monday and by Friday the vig would have him in for Forty. He’d pay Forty to get Twenty and that’s a good business.

BENNY THE GEECH: But this is not like Forty for Twenty, Don Polloi. This is bigger…

DON POLLOI: So why do you come to me with your ‘bigger’. You work for Georgie’s crew right?

HANK THE SNACK: Yes we do Don Polloi…

DON POLLOI: And you come to me before you go to your own capo?

HANK THE SNACK: It’s a little difficult Don Polloi

BENNY THE GEECH: It’s that injury of his Don…it’s that thing what he has.

DON POLLOI: Ahh. Papa Georgie told me of his thing. With the brain right?

BENNY THE GEECH: It’s a thing we don’t talk about you know? He gets, like you know?

DON POLLOI: Like with the towel head right? Stunata…

HANK THE SNACK: It’s, ahh, you know, from delicate like we don’t talk about it.

DON POLLOI: I understand. So does your capo know you have come to me?

BENNY THE GEECH: Papa does. He was the one who said we should talk with you about our thing, with the utmost respect, as it is in your territory, you know, with the Comissionone.

DON POLLOI takes a long drag on the cigar and sips from a crystal balloon glass of amber liquid

DON POLLOI: So if Papa Georgie says you should come to me with this thing, then it is the thing that we should talk about.

HANK THE SNACK: So it’s like we need to buy from these banks this stuff they don’t want no more, the strunza loans from barabi. They sell them to us and we sell em back later.

BENNY THE GEECH: But we sell the strunza back to the cafones with brains like a shekoo

DON POLLOI: So this I can understand now. You need some help up front and you get some back on the end. For this you come to me for help?

HANK THE SNACK: It’s a big number Don Polloi.

BENNY THE GEECH: It’s a really big number Don Polloi…

DON POLLOI: Stu cazzo you two fools. From big numbers I can do. How big?

HANK THE SNACK: 700 Billion, give or take

DON POLLOI: Madrone de mia! 700 Billion? You’re stunata! Both of you. Let me think now.

BENNY THE GEECH: For this we make by twice on the back end

DON POLLOI: What do you mean we by twice we make it up?

HANK THE SNACK: We sell it back to them next year. They said they’d buy it back

DON POLLOI: They said they’d buy it back for twice? And you believe them baboo?

BENNY THE GEECH: It’s like he said Don Polloi. They gave their word as men of honor and bankers.

DON POLLOI: (To himself) U pesci fet d’a testa. What kind of idiot do you two think I am for to get involved with bankers? Minche e cuaddu ti coddidi e seghidi i dentisi!

HANK THE SNACK: But Don Polloi….

DON POLLOI: You offend me with your dealing with bankers and their word and then you ask me for 700 Billion to buy their strunza and maybe make it back twice over next year? What kind of baboo do you take me for. Chiddu arrusti u so pesci nte ciammi di l’incediu! Get out of my fucking office. Sta migna!

Two beefy bodyguards step forward, hands in their suit pockets, right behind BENNY THE GEECH and HANK THE SNACK. BENNY and HANK now recognize they are in deep trouble.

BENNY THE GEECH: But Don Polloi, it’s not our idea. We were just coming to talk with you

DON POLLOI: Whaddaya mean it’s not your idea. What kind of strons give you this idea?

HANK THE SNACK: It’s complicated….

BENNY THE GEECH: Really complicated….

DON POLLOI: What some stuppaghiara from Philly? You two are all money and pussy and no brains… Tony?

The meatiest of the bodyguards puts and arm around the neck of HANK THE SNACK in a headlock and drags HANK’s arm out and stretches it across DON POLLOI’s desk. HANK tries to fight back but knows that he can’t out-muscle Tony.

DON POLLOI: You tell me right now, who the fuck came up with this shit?

DON POLLOI pulls a very large cleaver out of his desk drawer and pulls it back as if to chop off HANK THE SNACK’s hand.

HANK THE SNACK: Don Polloi, I beg of you, on the eyes of my children. I have been sworn to silence by a thing.

BENNY THE GEECH is now entangled in the arms of the second bodyguard who has BENNY’s arms pinned behind his back.

BENNY THE GEECH: It’s true. It’s a silence thing for swearing.

DON POLLOI raises the cleaver higher

BENNY THE GEECH: OK, Ok Don Polloi. I’ll tell…I’ll tell. It’s (sobbing) Don Cheney from Wyoming. He’s the brains behind our capo who told us about this thing. Then Don Cheney swore us to silence, as we would burn as the paper would burn. Oh God….

DON POLLOI drops the cleaver on the desk in disgust then flops in his chair. DON POLLOI looks off out the window muttering for a second.

DON POLLOI: Don Cheney…the minchia. Fuck. Goddam meco from out west. Bruno!

The CONSIGLIERE hustles up to the side of DON POLLOI. They exchange a few whispers as HANK and BENNY exchange terrified glances. TONY has not let HANK move his arm from the desk yet.

Suddenly DON POLLOI snatches up the cleaver and chops the hand off of HANK THE SNACK who screams ferociously and bleeds all over the desk. TONY loosens his grip on HANK’s arm just enough to let HANK pull the bleeding stump towards his chest, then TONY snaps HANK’s neck and lets the body drop to the floor.

BENNY THE GEECH: Jesus Madre di Mio Don Polloi, don’t kill me! Don’t kill me!

DON POLLOI pulls the cleaver out of the desk top and tests the blood smeared blade.

DON POLLOI: I will not kill you Benny. He will.

DON POLLOI nods to the other bodyguard, as a piano wire garrotte goes around BENNY THE GEECH’s neck. He is strangled.

DON POLLOI: Consigliere. We need to send a message to Don Cheney. This hand should suffice. If he’s going to try this shit, we go to the mattresses. If he wants a war, we give him a war. Putana!

DON POLLOI pushes the severed hand of HANK towards the CONSIGLIERE with the cleaver then tosses the cleaver to the desk top with a sigh. DON POLLOI crosses to the window and looks out on the day.

DON POLLOI: These fuckers never learn.

Bailout the Base and the FBI

Yesterday the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI admitted it was taking a look at the four major financial institutions that fired off the financial flameout on Wall Street.  Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers Holdings and American International Group (AIG) are all being exposed to the cold steely glint of the G-Men.  Last week FBI Director Robert Mueller put the number of large financial institutions under investigation at twenty-four.

There are two ways to look at this:  One is cynical, the other is hopeful. 

Wearing the Cynical Hat:  The pat response from anyone on Wall Street has to be :  “We cannot comment as there is an ongoing investigation.”  This would be the answer to questions like “What time is it?” and “Where is a mailbox when you need one?” as well as any questions from the Senate Banking Committee, the SEC or any reporter dumb enough to question the Masters of the Universe.

The Senate Banking Committee gets to give Czar Henry the FrankenFinancier most of what he wants, including secrecy, while backing away before the shit mist of outrage starts.  After all, “We cannot comment as there is an ongoing investigation.” It is an election year.  The Bailout The Base proceeds with a reasonable payday for the Masters of the Universe.

Eventually, two clerks, a broker and three night-shift cleaners are charged and convicted.  The clerks are fired, but get parole.  The broker gets a stern letter appended to his employment file.  The three night-shift cleaners get a hard 20 in the SuperMax in Denver. 

The Masters of the Universe build their own island in Caribbean with favourable tax, business, incorporation and social laws that include owning human souls as an inalienable right.  Delaware is turned into a workhouse/prison camp for those who can’t pay their mortgage, rent, car loan, or credit cards.  The IRS, outsourced to Kellogg Brown and Root, trains the Mafia to recover money from all the citizens left outside of Delaware.

Wearing the Hopeful Hat:  The Senate Banking Committee grows a set and slaps a set of executive compensation hooks into Czar Henry the FrankenFinancier’s Bailout The Base campaign.  One of the hooks is the US Government gets 49% ownership of the investment banks who want to use the de-vestment toilet.  The SBC says, in writing, they’ll sell off their 49% in two years. 

Czar Henry decides that he can’t deliver the Bailout The Base payday and resigns in a huff.  Paulson goes to sit on a sofa with Donnie Rumsfeld, drinking Diet Dr. Pepper cut with grain alcohol, while waiting for his duck hunting invitation from Shotgun Dick Cheney at the Undisclosed Location.

Several dozen senior level finance executives, including some CEO’s of big name companies are investigated and eventually convicted of title 5, Section 999 of the USC.  This would be “Being a Greed Head and an Asshole” without a permit from the government.  Christopher Cox, head of the SEC gets to be the ball-gagged and harnessed pony-boy of Michael Moore for six months, then turned over to Brittney Spears for another six months.  Ben Bernanke is sold for $1.75 a pound to Prince Bandar as a lotion swabber.

Eventually the US Government sells off their 49% ownership of the finance industry and turns a tidy profit.  Nothing crazy, but a break-even kind of $650 Billion that the investment banks had to pay back, with a nominal interest rate.

Then, life goes on.  The economy runs reasonably well, some folks make a buck, while others eventually dig out from under and break even.   The last airline left in the US (AmeriUniUSNorthSouthWestDeltaConti) begins to operate again, having been bought out by Amtrak and Proctor and Gamble under the Lifesavers brand.

The grass grows, the sun shines and things move forward.

Devil in the Details

Overnight some more details came to light regarding the US Fed bailout south of the border.  On the Wall Street Journal Real-Time Economics blog, they have posted what appears to be the legislative proposal from the US Treasury Department for authority to buy mortgage-backed assets.  I wish I was making this stuff up. 

(If you are too rushed for time to follow the hyperlink to the document, I have posted it after the end of this article.)

There are two sections that sum up how deeply disturbed this bailout is.  The italics are mine:

Section 8 is the first one:  “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

For those who failed Civics class in Grade 8, the short form is: “We can do whatever the hell we want if Henry Paulson says so.  The Constitution, The Bill of Rights, Congress and the Senate can go spoon a goose.”

The other smelly one is Section 2 (b) (2) “entering into contracts, including contracts for services authorized by section 3109 of title 5, United States Code, without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts;”

Short form?  “We can cut a deal with anybody we want to give us advice and pay them whatever the hell we want to pay them and keep it a secret too!  If we want to hire the CEO’s of all the big investment banks, we can pay them sums of money that would stun a Saudi prince.  Hey, why don’t we hire some Saudi princes too?  Isn’t Prince Bandar on the speed-dial?

The fun part is the scope of the law.  That would be Section 3: In exercising the authorities granted in this Act, the Secretary shall take into consideration means for– (1) providing stability or preventing disruption to the financial markets or banking system; and (2) protecting the taxpayer.

Notice the order of consideration.  Not that Paulson has to do it, but just the order of consideration that he must be mindful of.  Are you mindful of protecting the taxpayer Henry?  Yes?  Ok, off we go. Wheeeeee!

It should be interesting what title they’ll come up with for the Act.  I have a few suggestions:  The Bailout the President’s Buddies Act. 

Or, if they were truly savage, wrap it in the flag as An Act to Get Osama Bin Laden by Saving Banks from the Evildoers of the Axis of Evil Axis of Evildoing Doers of Evil.  Then make it part of Homeland Security so they can collect money from each taxpayer at the airport via the TSA.  An $800 ‘contribution’ per flyer should help.  Cash, Credit or Firstborn male children accepted.

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Here’s the actual framework of the Act.

Section 1. Short Title.

This Act may be cited as ____________________.

Sec. 2. Purchases of Mortgage-Related Assets.

(a) Authority to Purchase.–The Secretary is authorized to purchase, and to make and fund commitments to purchase, on such terms and conditions as determined by the Secretary, mortgage-related assets from any financial institution having its headquarters in the United States.

(b) Necessary Actions.–The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this Act, including, without limitation:

(1) appointing such employees as may be required to carry out the authorities in this Act and defining their duties;

(2) entering into contracts, including contracts for services authorized by section 3109 of title 5, United States Code, without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts;

(3) designating financial institutions as financial agents of the Government, and they shall perform all such reasonable duties related to this Act as financial agents of the Government as may be required of them;

(4) establishing vehicles that are authorized, subject to supervision by the Secretary, to purchase mortgage-related assets and issue obligations; and

(5) issuing such regulations and other guidance as may be necessary or appropriate to define terms or carry out the authorities of this Act.

Sec. 3. Considerations.

In exercising the authorities granted in this Act, the Secretary shall take into consideration means for–

(1) providing stability or preventing disruption to the financial markets or banking system; and

(2) protecting the taxpayer.

Sec. 4. Reports to Congress.

Within three months of the first exercise of the authority granted in section 2(a), and semiannually thereafter, the Secretary shall report to the Committees on the Budget, Financial Services, and Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committees on the Budget, Finance, and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate with respect to the authorities exercised under this Act and the considerations required by section 3.
Sec. 5. Rights; Management; Sale of Mortgage-Related Assets.

(a) Exercise of Rights.–The Secretary may, at any time, exercise any rights received in connection with mortgage-related assets purchased under this Act.

(b) Management of Mortgage-Related Assets.–The Secretary shall have authority to manage mortgage-related assets purchased under this Act, including revenues and portfolio risks therefrom.

(c) Sale of Mortgage-Related Assets.–The Secretary may, at any time, upon terms and conditions and at prices determined by the Secretary, sell, or enter into securities loans, repurchase transactions or other financial transactions in regard to, any mortgage-related asset purchased under this Act.

(d) Application of Sunset to Mortgage-Related Assets.–The authority of the Secretary to hold any mortgage-related asset purchased under this Act before the termination date in section 9, or to purchase or fund the purchase of a mortgage-related asset under a commitment entered into before the termination date in section 9, is not subject to the provisions of section 9.

Sec. 6. Maximum Amount of Authorized Purchases.

The Secretary’s authority to purchase mortgage-related assets under this Act shall be limited to $700,000,000,000 outstanding at any one time

Sec. 7. Funding.

For the purpose of the authorities granted in this Act, and for the costs of administering those authorities, the Secretary may use the proceeds of the sale of any securities issued under chapter 31 of title 31, United States Code, and the purposes for which securities may be issued under chapter 31 of title 31, United States Code, are extended to include actions authorized by this Act, including the payment of administrative expenses. Any funds expended for actions authorized by this Act, including the payment of administrative expenses, shall be deemed appropriated at the time of such expenditure.

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Sec. 9. Termination of Authority.

The authorities under this Act, with the exception of authorities granted in sections 2(b)(5), 5 and 7, shall terminate two years from the date of enactment of this Act.

Sec. 10. Increase in Statutory Limit on the Public Debt.

Subsection (b) of section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by striking out the dollar limitation contained in such subsection and inserting in lieu thereof $11,315,000,000,000.

Sec. 11. Credit Reform.

The costs of purchases of mortgage-related assets made under section 2(a) of this Act shall be determined as provided under the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990, as applicable.

Sec. 12. Definitions.

For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:

(1) Mortgage-Related Assets.–The term “mortgage-related assets” means residential or commercial mortgages and any securities, obligations, or other instruments that are based on or related to such mortgages, that in each case was originated or issued on or before September 17, 2008.

(2) Secretary.–The term “Secretary” means the Secretary of the Treasury.

(3) United States.–The term “United States” means the States, territories, and possessions of the United States and the District of Columbia.

Outrage? Where is it?

In watching the financial meltdown south of the border I am struck by something that I haven’t seen:  Outrage.  Good old fashioned middle-class outrage of the deeply offended kind.

Consider this:  In round-numbers, the US Government is going to bail out financial institutions to the tune of $1Trillion dollars.  Back of the envelope calculations are:  $200 billion for Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac, $85 billion for AIG and roughly $700 billion to set up the investment bank toilet

Total US Military budget for 2007?  $699 Billion while fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Will you be putting a “We Support Our Derivatives Traders!” magnetic ribbon on your SUV in place of “We Support Our Troops!”

Consider this:  Lehman Brothers investment traders have already pieced off their bonuses for this year and the cash is gone now that Barclay’s Bank is looking to buy the Lehman Brothers Investment shop.  Lehman’s set aside $2.5 Billion dollars to pay bonuses to their executives brokers and traders, before the Chapter 11 implosion.  Barclay’s is going to pay a premium for the investment brokers so they can grow their business.  A premium for a bankrupt shop? Am I the only one seeing a disconnect here?

Consider this:  Last year, the average pay of a CEO in the S&P 500 was $14.2 million dollars.

Consider this:  Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti said on Friday in the LA Times"voracious selfishness" of speculators and "stupid sluggishness" of regulators. And he singled out Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, with startling scorn. "Greenspan was considered a master," Tremonti declared. "Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most. . . .

OK, it’s over the top, but getting slagged by the Italian Government is like being told how to run a democratic and fair court system by the Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

Where the true disconnect is, is in the reaction of regular folks.  Ignore the posing of the politicians and candidates for the time being.  I haven’t seen public outrages.  I haven’t heard from Spike Lee, Michael Moore, or even Ross Perot.  Not one of the ‘intellectuals’ left, right or center, have stood up to say “This is bullshit.” 

Nobody is calling for the head of Christopher Cox on a stick.  Cox runs the Security and Exchange Commission by the way.  Conceptually Cox runs the regulator that is charged with keeping Wall Street in line with the principles of basic math. 

Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, who obviously is high, won’t add anything to the bailout to limit executive compensation.  Paulson says limits would ruin the recovery of the economy. A week ago Paulson said the economy was in great shape. 

All the jackanapes who are pocketing obscene amounts of bonuses and compensation as their companies wind down, are going to take their government money and run.  This isn’t just wrong, it’s obscenely wrong.

But still, the big issue facing the water-cooler brigade?  What’s the spread on Monday Night Football and what the hell was Heidi Klum thinking of appearing on the red carpet at the Emmy Awards in that outfit?

There are no protests in the streets.  If the government offered to buy out the cast of Grey’s Anatomy to stop producing the show, there would be battles supporting McDreamy that would make the Seattle WTO riots seem like a kaffeklatch.

There are no swamping of White House mailboxes with emails and snailmails saying “This is Bullshit”.  Nobody calls up their local, state and federal representatives saying “This is Bullshit”. 

So we get President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy’s hand-picked village retardate, Henry Paulson, a long-term insider with Wall Street’s arm up him to the elbow, working out the details of the bailout.  If it were me, I’d want someone from outside Wall Street putting this deal together. 

Letting Henry Paulson, or anyone from the SEC work this deal, is the moral equivalent of letting a drunk driver decide on who is to blame as he staggers out of the wreckage of his car and looks at the school bus full of dead kids next to the smouldering propane tanker.  You know how that one ends.  The drunk walks away just before the large, loud, explosion. 

The problem is this financial mess, created by home grown greed and no regulation by the lawmakers, will be paid for by you, the American Citizen.  Your kids are going to be paying for this one too.  If we could turn $1Trillion dollars over to the ecologically sound use of oil and development of alternative energy, you’d be self-sufficient in energy within a week and doing it the right way.  

But there goes the US populace, nodding in agreement, getting their pants down and stocking up on lubricant.  For heaven’s sake folks, you fought a revolution, a civil war, a couple of global world wars and innumerable police actions, over things even more vague; Korea and Viet Nam come to mind.

This financial meltdown is happening because your elected representatives and regulators did nothing to stop the self-appointed Masters of the Universe from Wall Street acting as facilitators of their own greed.  They’ve gamed the rules, ignored the laws and now they’re going to get their one last payday under President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy.

The true outrage is there is no outrage.  None whatsoever. 

Do You Have Any Grey Poup(on)?

The Republican Base looks like it is getting its bailout from the last gasps of President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy’s rule.  The Dow closed 400 points higher today on a report that the Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is considering the formation of a government-funded entity to help financial institutions.  This is not a new concept.

When the Savings and Loan scams came crashing down in the late 80’s and early 90’s, something called the Resolution Trust Corporation was created to catch the shards.  The RTC was set up by the Feds to manage and eventually liquidate all the non-performing loans that the S&L’s had written or bought.  Over time the RTC sold off loans, real estate and land in tiny packages of government-backed notes that contained some reasonable stuff along with a few pieces of financial fecal matter. 

This was during the reign of Dutch Regan and George H.W. Bush, by an amazing coincidence.  Henry Paulson was a partner at Goldman-Sachs at the same time.

The anticipated entity that Secretary Paulson might (or might not) create would act as a toilet for investment banks to squirt out their worst loans.  The water will be deep, nicely warmed, with a significant drop.  Even a high-fibre Lincoln Log of mortgage-backed securities, loans to ex-Nigerian government ministers and family members of Saddam Hussein won’t splash up on the banks, investment houses and financial institutions.

Over the next few years, if past-practice is followed from the S&L mess, someone will go through it, looking for the shiny bits in the sewage.  Those will be packaged up with a ribbon and sold in small slices backed by the US Government.

Which brings up the observation, as Daddy Bush and Dutch Regan bailed out Neil Bush from Silverado Savings and Loan, it would seem that President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy is going to bail out most of Wall Street as his last act as “The Decider Who Decides the Deciding as the War President against the Evildoers Axis of Evil Axis.”

Since Daddy is still alive along with Shotgun Dick and the rest of the Base, be assured that the lid of the investment toilet is going to be up and various contributors to their lifestyle will be invited to take a seat, read for a bit and go on with life as usual. 

As a taxpayer, you’ll get to wipe up for them.  The paper you’ll use is the American Dollar.