Christie – Nailed

From the NY Times

A series of newly obtained emails and text messages shows that Gov. Chris Christie’s office was closely involved with lane closings on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge in September, and that officials closed the lanes as retribution against the mayor whose town was gridlocked as a result.

Mr. Christie has insisted that his staff and his campaign office had nothing to do with the local lane closings, and said that they were done as part of a traffic study.

But the emails show that Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff in Mr. Christie’s office, gave a signal to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to close the lanes about two weeks before the closings occurred.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” she emailed David Wildstein, Mr. Christie’s close friend from high school, and one of his appointees at the Port Authority, which controls the bridge.

The editorial board of the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper is not amused.

His attempts to laugh this off now appear to be dishonest, though we can’t yet be sure that he personally knew about the correspondence of one of his top aides. Still, Christie bears responsibility either way. If it turns out he did know, he is obviously lying and unfit for office — let alone a 2016 presidential run.
And even if he did not, his officials are liars. If Christie can’t control them, how can we trust him as a potential future leader of our country?

How about a class-action suit by all those trapped in traffic that day — business deals lost, baby-sitters doing over-time, urinary pain and suffering?  Looks like a slam-dunk to me.

The Donor Class and Streams of Dark Money — Bill Moyers

From Bill Moyers at Tom Dispatch

The historian Plutarch warned us long ago of what happens when there is no brake on the power of great wealth to subvert the electorate.  “The abuse of buying and selling votes,” he wrote of Rome, “crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections.  Later on, this process of corruption spread in the law courts and to the army, and finally, when even the sword became enslaved by the power of gold, the republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.”

We don’t have emperors yet, but we do have the Roberts Court that consistently privileges the donor class.

We don’t have emperors yet, but we do have a Senate in which, as a study by the political scientist Larry Bartels reveals, “Senators appear to be considerably more responsive to the opinions of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle-class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect on their senators’ roll call votes.”

We don’t have emperors yet, but we have a House of Representatives controlled by the far right that is now nourished by streams of “dark money” unleashed thanks to the gift bestowed on the rich by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case.

We don’t have emperors yet, but one of our two major parties is now dominated by radicals engaged in a crusade of voter suppression aimed at the elderly, the young, minorities, and the poor; while the other party, once the champion of everyday working people, has been so enfeebled by its own collaboration with the donor class that it offers only token resistance to the forces that have demoralized everyday Americans.

Read All


SIGTARP proves that some bankers aren’t too big to jail

We’re heard a lot about the lack of prosecutions on Wall Street for the players that brought the world economy to its knees, and almost lower still.  There is one outfit, however, that takes its defend and protect mandate seriously — and of all places, from the heart of the hated bailout: the Inspector General’s Office of TARP


Since 2008, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program has pursued criminal charges against 107 senior bank officers, most of whom have been sentenced to prison. Created to supervise the government bailout of the auto and financial industries, the agency has found dozens of cases of bank executives who misused bailout funds.

SIGTARP has a staff of 170, a budget of $41 million and an enforcement track record that rivals agencies twice its size. The agency’s work has resulted in $4.7 billion in restitution paid to the government and victims. Lawmakers are holding SIGTARP up as a model and questioning why other agencies are not producing similar results.

Sure, these aren’t the biggest fish in the predator pool, but at least an example is being set and other regulators are being goaded. Go Christy Romero!

Time to Bing Google?

Like many of you I started using the Google search engine way back when.  The clean interface and quick results of a search were much better than the awful AOL and Microsoft searches.  I went on to use Gmail for my corporate and personal accounts.  I enjoy  the cloud accessibility of Google Docs.



Enough may be enough.  Not only is my gmail account regularly unavailable or slow, or the search engine pops up with messages that the security certificate has been compromised, but today I learn that Google is not only in bed with the infamous James Imhofe of Oklahoma but is drawing the bathwater too. For Shame!


In a shameful act of corporate hypocrisy, Google on Thursday will host a fundraising lunch for Sen. James Inhofe, the delusional or dishonest Oklahoma Republican who famously declared that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

It’d be unconscionable for any organization to lift a finger to help the antiscience lawmaker translate his medieval beliefs into public policy or spread more dangerous misinformation on the gravest challenge of this generation.

 But it’s especially galling and disappointing for a company whose self-proclaimed mission is improving the lot of humankind through the power of accurate information. Never mind a company that has publicly stressed the importance of clean energy and whose own chairman called out climate change deniers as fabulists.
[If the Chron stops you from reading this because you aren’t a subscriber, find the discarded business section of today’s (July 10, 2013) paper at your coffee shop  and look for the James Temple column. Or, go to the library, or e-mail me and I’ll send you the whole article.  It’s hot!]
So I am slowly trying Microsoft’s Bing search engine, as well as several others.  Mail may soon follow…perhaps a nice, stable, local provider?

PG&E Cut Back Inspections Against Own Engineers Advice

Oh let’s hear it for more self-regulation!

PG&E dramatically slashed spending on gas transmission pipeline safety in the three years before the San Bruno explosion — so much so that the company’s own engineers warned that it was tempting fate, newly released documents show.


SF Gate/ 

Big Banks Bigger Than Ever and Their Regulators Still Sucking Up to Them

Neil Barofsky, the former Inspector General for TARP has a new ‘page turner’ of a book, Bailout: How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street,  about his efforts to monitor the program, and the shit he caught for doing so, not the least by out-going Secretary of Treasury, Timothy Geithner.

PR Blurb says:

In this bracing, page-turning account of his stranger-than-fiction baptism into the corrupted ways of Washington, Neil Barofsky offers an irrefutable insider indictment of the mishandling of the $700 billion TARP bailout fund. During the height of the financial crisis in 2008, Barofsky gave up his job in the esteemed U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York City to become the special inspector general overseeing the spending of the bailout money. But from day one his efforts to protect against fraud and to hold the big banks accountable were met with outright hostility from Treasury officials. Bailout is a riveting account of Barofsky’s plunge into the political meat grinder of Washington, and a vital revelation of just how captured by Wall Street our political system is and why the banks have only become bigger and more dangerous in the wake of the crisis.

Barofsky was interviewed at length by Mitch Jeserich on  KPFA’s Letters and Politics, here.  He was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2000 to 2009 before he came to the IG job, and so no slouch when it comes to understanding and going after corporate crime.  It’s a long interview but you’ll learn a lot about Wall Street, Treasury, Geithner, Obama and more.  Worth it. 

GOP: How to Win When Losing

Sam Wang, a professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton looks at a curious set of facts:

HAVING the first modern democracy comes with bugs. Normally we would expect more seats in Congress to go to the political party that receives more votes, but the last election confounded expectations. Democrats received 1.4 million more votes for the House of Representatives, yet Republicans won control of the House by a 234 to 201 margin. This is only the second such reversal since World War II.

And this was no accident, no lucky summation of individual state voting district re-drawings.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington-based political group dedicated to electing state officeholders, recently issued a progress report on Redmap, its multiyear plan to influence redistricting. The$30 million strategy consists of two steps for tilting the playing field: take over state legislatures before the decennial Census, then redraw state and Congressional districts to lock in partisan advantages. The plan was highly successful.

GOP ♥ Financial Fraud

From Krugman:

… the consumer protection bureau serves a vital function. But as I said, Senate Republicans are trying to kill it.

How can they do that, when the reform is already law and Democrats hold a Senate majority? Here as elsewhere, they’re turning to extortion — threatening to filibuster theappointment of Richard Cordray, the bureau’s acting head, and thereby leave the bureau unable to function. Mr. Cordray, whose work has drawn praise even from the bankers, is clearly not the issue. Instead, it’s an open attempt to use raw obstructionism to overturn the law.

What Republicans are demanding, basically, is that the protection bureau lose its independence. They want its actions subjected to a veto by other, bank-centered financial regulators, ensuring that consumers will once again be neglected, and they also want to take away its guaranteed funding, opening it to interest-group pressure. These changes would make the agency more or less worthless — but that, of course, is the point.

How can the G.O.P. be so determined to make America safe for financial fraud, with the 2008 crisis still so fresh in our memory? In part it’s because Republicans are deep in denial about what actually happened to our financial system and economy. On the right, it’s now complete orthodoxy that do-gooder liberals, especially former Representative Barney Frank, somehow caused the financial disaster by forcing helpless bankers to lend to Those People.

In reality, this is a nonsense story that has been extensively refuted; I’ve always been struck in particular by the notion that a Congressional Democrat, holding office at a time when Republicans ruled the House with an iron first, somehow had the mystical power to distort our whole banking system. But it’s a story conservatives much prefer to the awkward reality that their faith in the perfection of free markets was proved false.

Going After the Market Mobsters

Jesse Eisinger from ProPublica, via the NY Times, reminds us again how culpable big brokerage firms, and their employees, were for the late, unlamented, financial catastrophe.

On March 16, 2007, Morgan Stanley employees working on one of the toxic assets that helped blow up the world economy discussed what to name it. Among the team members’ suggestions: “Subprime Meltdown,” “Hitman,” “Nuclear Holocaust” and “Mike Tyson’s Punchout,” as well a simple yet direct reference to a bag of excrement.

Ha ha. Those hilarious investment bankers.

Then they gave it its real name and sold it to a Chinese bank.

… documents suggest a pattern of behavior larger than this one deal: people across the bank understood that the American housing market was in trouble. They took advantage of that knowledge to create and then bet against securities and then also to unload garbage investments on unsuspecting buyers.

NY Times

Let’s hope that the new Chair of the SEC, Mary Jo White –as proposed by President Obama– will go after these corporate mobsters as hard as she did John Gotti when she was United States Attorney in New York.

NY Times

UBS About to Settle

Every time the venerable Swiss banking hulk appears in the news my mind swings instantly to one of the first of the new breed of GOP nasty-guys who monopolized my anger button: Texas Senator and John McCain adviser Phil Graham. 

Former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm has emerged as the key behind-the-scenes economics/Wall Street guy for John McCain and is being touted as the treasury secretary in waiting. Since 2002, Gramm has been an executive with the U.S. operations of UBS, the giant Swiss Bank. Anunintentionally hilarious interview with Gramm on theWall Street Journal editorial page last week asserted that Gramm has “been a key instigator of some of the biggest money-making UBS deals of recent years.” The interview was noteworthy not just for first-class butt-kissing, but for deliberately gliding over the avalanche of disasters in the past year that has turned UBS from a respected Swiss titan of discretion and risk management into a laughing stock. As this one-year chart shows, UBS’s stock lost nearly 70 percent of its value and now stands at levels not seen since 2002, when Gramm signed up. [Slate]

Named one of the top 25 responsible for the financial melt-down by Time magazine and the man who opined that his fellow citizens (who he hoped would vote for his man McCainn) were “a nation of whiners” he makes hackles rise every time he opens his mouth.

Sweet merciful crap, will this guy ever just shut the hell up already? Economics-wise, he’s History’s Greatest Monster. He and his wife Wendy were prime shakers behind energy deregulation—leading directly to the Enron scandal and collapse (Wendy both helped deregulate Enron and then went to work for them at a tidy salary, ka-ching, because that is how the Phil Gramm household operates.) His deregulation penchant also brought us all the unregulated glory of credit default swaps, leading Time magazine to call him out as one of the 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis. Oh, and then he fled from the senate to a sweetheart lobbyist position at UBS, just in time for UBS to wreck itself mightily in the subprime mortgage business, get called out for intentionally cheating customers, and be probed for assisting client money laundering. If there’s one guy who knows how to cause epic, nation-shattering economic fiascos, it’s Phil Gramm. If you told me he was one of the four horsemen of the economic apocalypse, my only reply would be to wonder if maybe he wasn’t actually two or three of them.

Hunter at Daily Kos

Anyhoo, UBS was in the news today:

UBS, the Swiss banking giant, is close to reaching settlements with American and British authorities over the manipulation of interest rates, the latest case in a multiyear investigation that has rattled the financial industry and spurred a public outcry for broad reform.

UBS is expected to pay more than $450 million to settle claims that some employees reported false rates to increase the bank’s profit, according to officials briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

If the bank agrees to the deals with various authorities, the collective penalties would yield the largest total fines to date related to the rate-rigging inquiry and would increase the likelihood that other financial institutions would face stiff penalties.

You  think Graham is going to stand up and say a word of contrition? Nah.  He’s saving his mouth for some nasty words for the poor, about whom he once said that food stamps should be cut because “all our poor people are fat.”