Monday, March 30, 2009

From the "Sink your life savings in a boat" Dept.

Boston Globe story on the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation:
Just months before the start of last year's stock market collapse, the federal agency that insures the retirement funds of 44 million Americans departed from its conservative investment strategy and decided to put much of its $64 billion insurance fund into stocks.

... Bodie, the BU professor who advised the agency, questioned why a government entity that is supposed to be insuring pension funds should be investing in stocks and real estate at all. Bodie once likened the agency's strategy to a company that insures against hurricane damage and then invests the premiums in beachfront property.

... The Government Accountability Office is preparing a new review of the investment policy, but in the meantime it continues to place the agency on its list of federal programs at "high risk."

David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo comments, "Bush was able to do for the PBGC what he tried and failed to do for Social Security."

Fifteen Guys Named Joe

With the Senate Democratic caucus just two votes shy of a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) no longer has the clout he once did. But Senate colleagues have taken a lesson from him. In a Senate now dominated by Democrats, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) thinks Fifteen Guys Named Joe can have similar clout.

Last week Democratic Senators Bayh, Tom Carper (DE) and Blanche Lincoln (AR) took to the pages of the Washington Post to explain the raison d'ĂȘtre for their new Moderate Dems Working Group:

The stakes are too high for Democrats to fear a policy debate. Such debates produce better legislation. On nearly all important votes, a supermajority of 60 senators will be needed to pass legislation. Without Democratic moderates working to find common ground with reasonable Republicans, the president's agenda could well be filibustered into oblivion.

And you will help Republicans do that if you don't get what you want, is that it?

Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Losing sight

from Atlantic:
Wall Street is a very seductive place, imbued with an air of power. Its executives truly believe that they control the levers that make the world go round. A civil servant from Washington invited into their conference rooms, even if just for a meeting, could be forgiven for falling under their sway. Throughout my time at the IMF, I was struck by the easy access of leading financiers to the highest U.S. government officials, and the interweaving of the two career tracks. I vividly remember a meeting in early 2008—attended by top policy makers from a handful of rich countries—at which the chair casually proclaimed, to the room’s general approval, that the best preparation for becoming a central-bank governor was to work first as an investment banker.
As a former government regulator told me, you had people who wanted nothing more from their job than to be the good cop ... and then you had those who always wanted to be something else. They wanted to be one of the Big Money Boys. And they lost sight of who they served and what it was they were hired to do.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Behold AIG

Four years ago, I wrote a column describing the modern corporation as a science-fiction monster – an artificial life form neither biological nor technological, but legal, a soulless creation possessing only appetite and instinct. Behold AIG.

Friday, the New York Times reported that the insurance giant is suing the U.S. government for $306 million. After receiving almost $200 billion from U.S. taxpayers to keep it from collapsing, AIG has taken legal action against its benefactors – us – who hold an 80% stake in the company. All this while sparking national outrage by paying bailout-funded bonuses totaling $165 million to some of the same avaricious jerks that brought our economy to its knees.

Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Tom Friedman today cites Congress for more posturing than progress on the economy and the president for joking about his lousy bowling skills on Jay Leno’s show. Friedman writes, “There don’t seem to be any adults at the top.”

But Friedman’s reactions frame a much narrower time span than mine. In the context of the last eight years, I had the opposite reaction, at least to the president on Leno.

Obama was cool, friendly, confident and in control. Putting aside the “special Olympics” flap, when he joked his jokes were funny, self-deprecating and not mean-spirited. Watching was unexpectedly emotional. It was joyful, reassuring.

The last eight years have been, emotionally, somewhat akin to the experience of a four or five year-old losing his parents on a crowded city sidewalk. Surrounded by strangers in a strange, potentially dangerous place, you realize that the world has gone suddenly very wrong. Your parents are no longer beside you. Your head snaps around searching for them. The panic builds as you realize you are lost.

Then you spot them down the street and a sudden wave of joy and relief washes over you. The panic subsides. Everything is going to be all right now.

I’m not suggesting Obama is a parent figure, and things may not be all right, but after eight, long years of George W. Bush, Obama's appearance on Leno evoked that kind of emotional response. Congress may still be filled with childish fools, but there’s an adult in charge again at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Here on the left, we're shrill. We're unhinged. Amateurs. Unpatriotic. For eight years we warned America about war crimes, torture, rendition, phony intelligence, domestic surveillance, insider deals, greed, corruption and the gutting of the Constitution. We can't be taken seriously. Not like the professionals.

Not like these guys:

[h/t Scrutiny Hooligans]