Thursday, 26 March 2009

ANOTHER OBAMA NOMINEE WITHDRAWS

Ken Berwitz

Yes, another Obama nominee has had to withdraw his name because of personal impropriety.  At rough estimate, this is the 4,728th such loser...er, valued potential administration member who has had to do so.

From Josh Gerstein at www.politico.com:

Nominee for EPA No. 2 spot withdraws

 
 

President Barack Obama's nominee to be the No. 2 official at the Environmental Protection Agency, Jon Cannon, withdrew Wednesday after it was disclosed that he was on the board of a nonprofit group faulted for mishandling federal grant money.

Today I am voluntarily removing my name from consideration to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency," Cannon said in a statement released by EPA. "It has come to my attention that Americas Clean Water Foundation, where I once served on the board of directors, has become the subject of scrutiny. While my service on the board of that now-dissolved organization is not the subject of the scrutiny, I believe the energy and environmental challenges facing our nation are too great to delay confirmation for this position, and I do not wish to present any distraction to the agency.

A 2007 EPA inspector general's report on the foundation alleged a variety of irregularities involving $25 million in federal grants to assess water quality problems, including those at farms and pork processing facilities. The problems with accounting, improper cash advances and similar violations stretched from 1998 to 2005, according to the report. The foundation dissolved in 2006 and all directors resigned, the report said.

Cannon's nomination was formally sent to the Senate on March 12. During the Clinton Administration, he served as EPA's general counsel and as an assistant administrator of the agency. Since 1998, Cannon has been a professor of environmental law at the University of Virginia.

Im disappointed that Jon Cannon will be unable to serve as deputy administrator, and I thank him for his many years of dedication to the EPA," sadi the agency's newly confirmed administrator, Lisa Jackson, said.

If this were President Bush, the media would gleefully be providing a tally of how many nominees have had to withdraw. 

keith olbermann would do another "booooshed" routine and chris moutthews would talk over his guests about how inept the Bush administration is (as opposed to talking over his guests about something else).

But this isn't the Bush administration.  This is the Obama administration.  And no matter how many nominees have to withdraw, there won't be any conclusions by those same media about Mr. Obama's ineptitude.  keith olberman won't do an "obammmmmma'ed" routine and chris moutthews won't lose the tingle up his leg (which I hope, for his sake, ends at the top of the leg in question).

But listen to them squeal like stuck pigs if you call them biased.

 


RAHM $ FREDDY MAC

Ken Berwitz

The hypocrisy level is breathtaking.

As President Obama and the Democratic congress - who voted in favor of giving out those AIG bonuses - now try to cover it up by literally extorting the money back, we find out that Mr. Obama's chief of staff glommed onto over $300,000 of Freddy Mac money for doing next to nothing.

Here is the sorry, dissolute story, excerpted from an article in today's Chicago Tribune.  The bold print is mine:

Rahm Emanuel's profitable stint at mortgage giant

Short Freddie Mac stay made him at least $320,000

Chief of Staff

The White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel listens as President Barack Obama delivers remarks to open the White House Forum on Health Reform in the East Room of the White House. (Tribune photo by Zbigniew Bzdak / March 5, 2009)

Before its portfolio of bad loans helped trigger the current housing crisis, mortgage giant Freddie Mac was the focus of a major accounting scandal that led to a management shake-up, huge fines and scalding condemnation of passive directors by a top federal regulator.

One of those allegedly asleep-at-the-switch board members was Chicago's
Rahm Emanuelnow chief of staff to President Barack Obamawho made at least $320,000 for a 14-month stint at Freddie Mac that required little effort.

As gatekeeper to Obama, Emanuel now plays a critical role in addressing the nation's mortgage woes and fulfilling the administration's pledge to impose responsibility on the financial world.

Emanuel's Freddie Mac involvement has been a prominent point on his political rsum, and his healthy payday from the firm has been no secret either. What is less known, however, is how little he apparently did for his money and how he benefited from the kind of cozy ties between Washington and Wall Street that have fueled the nation's current economic mess.

Though just 49, Emanuel is a veteran Democratic strategist and fundraiser who served three terms in the U.S. House after helping elect Mayor Richard Daley and former President Bill Clinton. The Freddie Mac money was a small piece of the $16 million he made in a three-year interlude as an investment banker a decade ago.

In business as in politics, Emanuel has cultivated an aggressive, take-charge reputation that made him rich and propelled his rise to the front of the national stage. But buried deep in corporate and government documents on the Freddie Mac scandal is a little-known and very different story involving Emanuel.

He was named to the Freddie Mac board in February 2000 by Clinton, whom Emanuel had served as
White House political director and vocal defender during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals.

The board met no more than six times a year. Unlike most fellow directors, Emanuel was not assigned to any of the board's working committees, according to company proxy statements. Immediately upon joining the board, Emanuel and other new directors qualified for $380,000 in stock and options plus a $20,000 annual fee, records indicate.

On Emanuel's watch, the board was told by executives of a plan to use accounting tricks to mislead shareholders about outsize profits the government-chartered firm was then reaping from risky investments. The goal was to push earnings onto the books in future years, ensuring that Freddie Mac would appear profitable on paper for years to come and helping maximize annual bonuses for company brass.

The accounting scandal wasn't the only one that brewed during Emanuel's tenure.

During his brief time on the board, the company hatched a plan to enhance its political muscle. That scheme, also reviewed by the board, led to a record $3.8 million fine from the Federal Election Commission for illegally using corporate resources to host fundraisers for politicians. Emanuel was the beneficiary of one of those parties after he left the board and ran in 2002 for a seat in Congress from the North Side of Chicago.

The board was throttled for its acquiescence to the accounting manipulation in a 2003 report by Armando Falcon Jr., head of a federal oversight agency for Freddie Mac. The scandal forced Freddie Mac to restate $5 billion in earnings and pay $585 million in fines and legal settlements. It also foreshadowed even harder times at the firm.

Many of those same risky investment practices tied to the accounting scandal eventually brought the firm to the brink of insolvency and led to its seizure last year by the Bush administration, which pledged to inject up to $100 billion in new capital to keep the firm afloat. The Obama administration has doubled that commitment.

Freddie Mac reported recently that it lost $50 billion in 2008. It so far has tapped $14 billion of the government's guarantee and said it soon will need an additional $30 billion to keep operating.

Like its larger government-chartered cousin
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac was created by Congress to promote home ownership, though both are private corporations with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The two firms hold stakes in half the nation's residential mortgages.

Because of Freddie Mac's federal charter, the board in Emanuel's day was a hybrid of directors elected by shareholders and those appointed by the president.

In his final year in office, Clinton tapped three close pals: Emanuel, Washington lobbyist and golfing partner James Free, and Harold Ickes, a former White House aide instrumental in securing
the election of Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Senate. Free's appointment was good for four months, and Ickes' only three months.

Falcon, director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, found that presidential appointees played no "meaningful role" in overseeing the company and recommended that their positions be eliminated.

John Coffee, a law professor and expert on corporate governance at
Columbia University, said the financial crisis at Freddie Mac was years in the making and fueled by chronically weak oversight by the firm's directors. The presence of presidential appointees on the board didn't help, he added.

"You know there was a patronage system and these people were only going to serve a short time," Coffee said. "That's why [they] get the stock upfront."

Will Emanuel give the money back?  Since he has gotten immensely rich as a political hatchetman I'd think that $320,000 or so would be little more than a drop in the bucket for him.

Will his cronies do the same?  Look at what they did to Freddy Mac (and Fanny Mae) while taking their ill-gotten fortunes from the companies.

Do you think this congress will vote to retroactively tax Mr. Emanuel and the rest of them at 90%, the way they did with AIG employees? 

If you said "yes" to any of those questions I have another one for you:  Are you on drugs?

free` If you said "yes" to any of those questions I have another one for you: Are you on drugs?<<<< LOL (03/26/09)


THE US BROWNSHIRT CORPS?

Ken Berwitz

If you thought the previous blog was chilling, try this one on for size.  It comes to us via an editorial in today's Washington Examiner:

Expanded Americorps has an authoritarian feel

By Examiner Editorial
- 3/26/09

With almost no public attention, both chambers of Congress in the past week advanced an alarming expansion of the Americorps national service plan, with the number of federally funded community service job increasing from 75,000 to 250,000 at a cost of $5.7 billion. Lurking behind the feel-good rhetoric spouted by the measures advocates is a bill that on closer inspection reveals multiple provisions that together create a strong odor of creepy authoritarianism. The House passed the measure overwhelmingly, while only 14 senators had the sense and courage to vote against it on a key procedural motion. Every legislator who either voted for this bill or didnt vote at all has some serious explaining to do.

Last summer, then-candidate Barack Obama threw civil liberties to the wind when he proposed a civilian national security force thats just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded as the regular military. The expanded Americorps is not quite so disturbing, but a number of provisions in the bill raise serious concerns.
 
To begin with, the legislation threatens the voluntary nature of Americorps by calling for consideration of a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people. It anticipates the possibility of requiring all individuals in the United States to perform such service including elementary school students. The bill also summons up unsettling memories of World War II-era paramilitary groups by saying  the new program should combine the best practices of civilian service with the best aspects of military service, while establishing campuses that serve as operational headquarters, complete with superintendents and uniforms for all participants. It allows for the elimination of all age restrictions in order to involve Americans at all stages of life. And it calls for creation of a permanent cadre in a National Community Civilian Corps.
 
But thats not all. The bill also calls for youth engagement zones in which service learning is a mandatory part of the curriculum in all of the secondary schools served by the local educational agency. This updated form of voluntary community service is also to be integrated into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula at all levels of schooling. Sounds like a government curriculum for government approved service learning, which is nothing less than indoctrination. Now, ask yourself if congressmen who voted for this monstrosity had a clue what they were voting for. If not, theyre guilty of dereliction of duty. If yes, the implications are truly frightening.

I don't know about you but, to me, this concept is unsettlingly like 1930's nazi Germany and 1960's maoist China.

What is going on here? What is happening to our country?  And who will stop it before it's too late?


PRESIDENT 44, WHERE ARE YOOOUUU?

Ken Berwitz

There's a holdup in The Bronx,

Brooklyn's broken out in fights,

There's a traffic jam in Harlem

That's backed up to Jackson Heights,

There's a scout troop short a child,

Khrushchev's due at Idlewild,

Car 54, where are yoooouuu?

That is the theme song from the classic 1950's comedy, "Car 54 Where Are You?"  Please keep its lyrics in mind as you read Ralph Peters' rundown of how Mr. Obama is doing foreign policy-wise.  Then you can speculate, as I do, when the rest of our wonderful "neutral" media will start talking about it:

O'S FOREIGN FAILURES

NEW PREZ FLUNKING GLOBAL TESTS

Last updated: 3:47 am
March 25, 2009
Posted: 1:00 am
March 25, 2009

AMERICA'S enemies smell blood and it's type "O."

All new administrations stumble a bit as they seek their footing. But President Obama's foreign-policy botches have set new records for instant incompetence.

Contrary to left-wing myths, I wasn't a fan of the Bush administration. (I called for Donald Rumsfeld to get the boot in mid-2001.) But fair's fair. Despite his many faults, Bush sought to do good. Obama just wants to look good.

Vice President Dick Cheney was arrogant. Vice President Joe Biden is arrogant and stupid. Take your pick.

Don't worry about the new administration's ideology. Worry about its terrifying naivete.

Consider a sampling of the goofs O and his crew have made in just two months:

China: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (you know that gal married to the Saudi hireling) crawled to Beijing to tell the party bosses that human rights don't matter. Our "relationship" is more important than freedom and human dignity.

Beijing's response? A staged military confrontation with an unarmed US Navy vessel; continued screw-America currency cheating; a renewed crackdown on dissidents and, yesterday, a call for a new global currency to replace the dollar.

Thanks, Hill. You're a sweetheart.

Pakistan: With viral corruption throughout and Islamist fanatics sweeping half of its territory, Pakistan's coming apart. Its Dem-adored prez tries to ban opposition parties and gut the judiciary. It has nukes and seethes with hatred of America. And Islamabad controls our primary supply route into Afghanistan, using it as an extortion tool.

Obama's response? Billions in new aid for Pak pols to pocket. We'd be better off handing the money to AIG to pay out more bonuses.

Afghanistan: Obama's Vietnam. Am I the only American who remembers that candidate Obama had a plan to capture Osama bin Laden and fix our previous "mistakes" in Afghanistan? President Obama doesn't have a clue.

Iran: Obama tried to reach out, to talk. After all, talking got him to the White House. But America-bashing is what keeps Iran's leaders in office, it's their political essence. After 30 years of fierce hostility, hasn't anyone figured out that the senior mullahs need us as an enemy? Without the Great Satan America to blame, they'd have some real explaining to do to their homies. So O got the left-hand finger.

He wanted to chat with the Taliban, too. They told him he could stick it where the sun don't shine.

North Korea: Obama wanted a fresh start. North Korea's response? Threats of war with South Korea and the kidnapping of two American journalists. And the renewed pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, along with rocket tests.

Cuba: Obama would like to liberalize our relationship. The Castro boys told him to kiss off. They need an enemy, too. (Dear Mr. President: It's not always about us or how evil America is.)

Venezuela: Guess who else needs an enemy?

Mexico: The good news: Obama knows where it is on a map and recognizes that Mexico's government faces a narco-insurgency that threatens our country, too. His first action? Cave to the Teamsters, violate a lawful treaty on cross-border trucking, reignite fading anti-Americanism and undercut President Felipe Calderon.

Poland: Obama's stance on our bravest ally on the European continent? The Russians are more important than you are. He's sending the same message to Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia: Bolshie Biden, the commuting commissar, knows he's the man who can turn Russia into our best pal. After "Friend of Bill" Strobe Talbott tried and failed disastrously. And after poor W saw into Putin's soul, only to get his butt handed to him. "Uncle Joe" Biden has nothing to learn from past failures, though: He's got a re-set button.

Moscow's response to the Obama administration's bid for a new start? It threatens NATO members it once occupied and continues to back Iran's nuclear program. Plus, it bribes Kyrgystan to kick us off the critical-to-Afghanistan Manas airbase (then offers to help replace that supply lifeline, giving Russia a choke-hold on our troops).

Next, the Kremlin threatens massive re-armament and demands the abandonment of the dollar as the international reserve currency.

Obama's response? Push that re-set button again. And again.

At what point does naivete become cowardice?

As for our allies, Obama apparently needs them less than Bush did. O treated Britain's prime minister like the deputy Paraguayan veterinary inspector, and he blindsided the leaders of the Czech Republic, Poland, Mexico and Canada on issues ranging from missile defense to trade. But he'd like them to take the Gitmo terrorists off our hands, please.

The one bright spot thus far has been Iraq, where Obama quickly tossed aside his campaign promises. The O-man doesn't want to be on the blame-line for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Baghdad. And his MoveOn.org supporters can throw all the tantrums they want. (Breaking news, folks: O's a professional pol, not the messiah . . . )

Apart from Iraq a success Sen. Obama did all he could to prevent his foreign policy's an instant wasteland. By comparison, the Carter administration is starting to look like a model of manly strength, courage and patriotism.

I don't necessarily agree with every point that Mr. Peters is making.  But I agree with most of them. 

Personally, Mr. Obama's suckup to Iran was the one that most angered me.  Maybe your personal favorite is different, I don't know.  But can we agree that, diplomatically, he comes across as a flyweight who will be easy to take advantage of?


ER, DON'T USE THAT VACUUM ON THE CAR SEATS. THANKS

Ken Berwitz

This comes to us from the Associated Press.  Make of it what you will:

Man gets 90 days in jail in vacuum sex act case

The Associated Press 3/26/09

SAGINAW, Mich. - A man police caught performing a sex act with a car wash vacuum has been sentenced to 90 days in the Saginaw County Jail.

Jason Leroy Savage must also submit to drug testing.

The 29-year-old Swan Creek Township man was sentenced Wednesday in Saginaw County Circuit Court. Savage pleaded no contest to indecent exposure last month.

Police say Savage was arrested after a resident called officers early on Oct. 16 to report suspicious activity at a car wash in Thomas Township, about 90 miles northwest of Detroit.

Savage's attorney, Philip Sturtz, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

There is no truth to the rumor that, when coaxed away from the vacuum, Mr. Savage's penis was 31 inches long....and 1/8th of an inch in circumference.


IRWIN STELZER'S WARNING

Ken Berwitz

Irwin Stelzer is the director of economic-policy studies at the Hudson Institute.  He also writes about economics issues for the New York Post. 

 Here is today's column, which is a genuinely grim warning for us about President Obama's so-called "recovery" policies:

CHINA'S DOLLAR JITTERS

LOSING PATIENCE WITH OBAMA

By IRWIN M. STELZER

Last updated: 6:17 am
March 26, 2009
Posted: 2:47 am
March 26, 2009

IF you think you have reason to worry about this recession, consider poor Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, who's sitting on $1.2 trillion of our government's IOUs. Wen said a few weeks ago that he's "a little bit worried" that America might cheapen the dollar so much that he will end up cashing in those Treasury bills and notes for dollars that won't buy very much.

If he was a little bit worried a few weeks ago, he must be very worried now. The Fed plans to buy at least $300 billion of Treasury IOUs in the next six months, pour $1.45 trillion into the mortgage market one way or another and keep interest rates close to zero for an "extended period." And there's more in the Fed's "do whatever it takes" arsenal -- all of which means the presses will be working overtime turning out pictures of American presidents printed on green bits of paper.

The Fed's decision to pump trillions into the money markets comes on top of President Obama's proposal to drive the federal deficit to an astonishing 13 percent of GDP, quadruple what it was in the last Bush budget. He needs to borrow trillions to fund his so-called stimulus package, universal health care, a green energy system and the rest of his wish list.

Not to worry, says Obama: America will never default on its debt. But it now costs seven times as much to buy insurance against such a US government default as it did only a year ago.

And a default isn't the only risk: America can always inflate its way out of its obligations.

Obama claims the economy will soon be racking up growth rate of around 4 percent a year. Along with the tax hikes he'd impose on the top 2 percent of earners, the billions he'd charge for carbon-pollution permits and his reductions in age-related entitlements, he sees that growth driving the deficit down to a sustainable level.

Unfortunately, 2 percent of earners can't or won't carry the entire burden, the carbon-permit program might not produce the predicted revenues after Democratic congressmen from coal states chop away at it and Congress has told the president that any proposal to reduce the massive entitlement payments due the aging baby boomers will be DOA -- dead on arrival.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shook up everyone, including congressional Democrats, with a study showing that even if the economy grows as Obama predicts, his budget will pile up deficits of $9.3 trillion over the next decade, with the deficit coming to 13.1 percent of GDP this next fiscal year and remaining at astonishing and unsustainable levels right through 2019.

That is a lot more red ink than the president is predicting.

Democrats know that if the widely respected CBO is right, we're in for an inflationary binge of the sort that sent Jimmy Carter back to his peanut farm.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says he can drain all of the extra dollars he is printing out of the system when the time comes, and the Democrats say they'll trim the Obama budget. But Bernanke is haunted by his studies that show that the Great Depression was prolonged when the Fed tightened money too soon. So he'll stall. And the Democrats in Congress are led by Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel & Co. -- the same crew that delivered a budget for the rest of this year so laden with pork that the president signed it in private, no press allowed.

Meanwhile, poor Tim Geithner will try to peddle the trillions in Treasury IOUs needed to fund the Obama deficits and the Fed's programs. But China needs to keep more money at home to cope with its rising domestic needs.

Beijing will still buy some of our IOUs, because it has to do something with all the dollars it gets for the stuff you see on Wal-Mart shelves. But, at the first whiff of runaway inflation, Wen will press hard to get us to sign onto his new plan: We give up the dollar for some international currency.

At his press conference on Tuesday, the president, in one of his few unequivocal answers, said he wouldn't go along with any such plan. But he is the man who assured us he'd never approve earmarks -- then signed a budget with 9,000 of those congressional gifts to constituents.

China's patience with Obama's borrow-and-spend is plainly running short. If Wen decides that he'll continue lending to us only if we pay a higher interest rate, he will drive up rates here on mortgages, car loans and the like. That would nip our recovery in the bud.

Obamanomics, in short, might prove to be the worst thing to happen to us since Jimmy Carter.

Add to this the frightening spector of terminating the US dollar that Timothy Geithner, Mr. Obama's Secretary of Effing Up Our Economy, has floated, and realize just how scary this is becoming.

How many of us are sitting by with complete equanimity, as our country is being transformed from the world's only superpower to a second-tier "one of the guys" entity?  Are you?

Can you possibly be happy about what the Obama administration is doing?  How much debt it is running up and the policies - economic and social - that it is ramming through the Democrat-dominated congress?


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