Wednesday, March 25, 2009

so, what's a "conservadem" cost these days?

Why is a Democratic Senator with a huge foreclosure problem in his state writing a bill to compete with House legislation designed to cram down mortgages and keep people in their homes? Might it have something to do with, um, money?

Just sayin’. . . .

Jane Hamsher went on The Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday night to explore why our Democratic president and a large Democratic majority in Congress has to worry more about a few Democratic Senators and their new coalition, led by the aforementioned Senator, one Even Bayh of Indiana.

Why is Bayh bucking his party—and, more importantly, his own state’s population—to go to the mat for the banks? Maybe this chart has something to do with it:


That’s a list of Bayh’s top campaign contributors from 2003 to 2008.

Just sayin’. . . .

(cross-posted on Firedoglake)

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

what dreams may come?

Perhaps much of this has been said before, but some of the fallout from Stewart vs. Cramer—the calls for changes in the way business “news” is handled—puts some long-simmering arguments about media consolidation back on the front burner.

Media conglomerates do not exist to deliver news, they exist to deliver shareholder value. It is in their interest to fluff the stock market and to curry favor with government regulators so that they can continue to acquire, conglomerate, consolidate, profit, and pay dividends.

There are individual reporters that try to do their jobs, but increasingly with less staff and more demands for additional content. Reporters are rewarded and promoted more often these days not for their clips as much as they are for their rolodexes and their ability to serve the needs of the parent company as detailed above. It is natural for them to want to get ahead and ensure job security. Pissing off powerful contacts doesn't really meet any of these needs as the industry is currently structured.

Is there a fix for this? Yes, but it's a very heavy lift. Roll back media consolidation. Re-impose limits on ownership that existed prior to 1996. Take away special wavers for multiple major channels in single markets.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

putting the racketeering back in the insurance racket

So, late Saturday/early Sunday, we learn that AIG, already recipient of some $170 billion of US government coin, is set to pay out $165 million in something called “retention bonuses” to the people in the financial products unit, the very division that brought the insurance giant to its knees. Cue the righteous indignation.

Righteous, but also rightful—this dispersal is outrageous. But while most behind the microphones, on the opinion pages, and in the halls of Congress will declare this the height of hubris, or a simple “screw you” to the American people, they will be missing a slightly more nefarious conclusion:

These are not retention bonuses--this is protection money.

I had a drink with a friend last week--she works for the NYSE in Europe--and she commented that in her 15 years in the market, the march of "progress" has been about who can come up with the next gimmick, the next algorithm that is slightly more nuanced, complicated, and arcane than the previous. Anything that can give you an edge over your competitors. She said you can see similar growth curves repeated in each of the derivatives as they came along: a slow growth start, then a rapid, steep climb, and then a rapid leveling off, followed by everyone rearranging the deck chairs while they scramble for the next hot gimmick. CDOs, CDSs fall into this pattern.

Do not assume that Edward Liddy, the government appointed chairman of AIG, fully understands what went on within the financial products unit, do not assume he understands their "gimmick," but assume that he knows that something is up and that these bonus babies know what it is.

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there's trying, and then there's doing

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has issued a subpoena to American International Group Inc. seeking a list with the names of executives receiving bonuses.

"We had given AGI up to 4 o'clock today to provide the information on the latest round of bonuses that they paid out," Cuomo said. "Four o'clock has come and gone."

. . . .

In the letter to AIG's CEO Edward Liddy, Cuomo said he was disturbed to learn over the weekend of AIG’s plans to pay millions of dollars to members of the Financial Products subsidiary through it’s Financial Products Retention Plan.

President Obama has said he wants every legal angle pursued in stopping these bonuses from going out—do you think he had this in mind?

And, as noted by Jane, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was involved in negotiating the size and scope of the FP bonus package—might Cuomo want to talk with him, as well?

(cross-posted on Firedoglake)

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Friday, March 13, 2009

battle of the network stars: ceo quits; MSNBC told to downplay Stewart - Cramer interview

Thomas Clarke, who has been CEO of financial news website The Street has announced his departure “effective immediately.”

Clarke’s abrupt departure comes less than a day after The Daily Show aired tape of The Street’s co-founder, Jim Cramer, explaining in a webcast how he, as a hedge fund manager, manipulated value to serve some publicly traded companies and investors at the expense of others.

If you have just crawled out from under a rock, Cramer was a guest on Jon Stewart’s show last night, and the general consensus is Stewart took Cramer, CNBC, and financial “journalism,” in general, to the cleaners.

Or, maybe you haven’t just crawled out from under a rock—maybe you have only been getting your news from MSNBC. The 24-hour news channel—and CNBC partner—was reportedly told by its corporate bosses that this was, you know, not of interest to its viewers:

A TVNewser tipster tells us MSNBC producers were asked not to incorporate the Jim Cramer/Jon Stewart interview into their shows today. In fact, the only time it came up on MSNBC was during the White House briefing, when a member of the press corps asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs if Pres. Obama watched. Gibbs wasn't sure if the president had, but Gibbs did. "I enjoyed it thoroughly," the Press Secretary said.

Cramer will apparently talk about his Daily Show performance on his Friday show (6pm Eastern); no word yet on what MSNBC shows like Hardball, Countdown, and The Rachel Maddow Show will do.

A search of CNBC’s website this afternoon showed only AP and Reuters wire copy on the Stewart-Cramer interview/battle-of-the-century—no original reporting. But, then, why should today be any different for CNBC?

UPDATE: Of the three primetime MSNBC news hosts, only Maddow made reference to the Stewart-Cramer dust-up on Friday night.

(a version of this post previously appeared on Firedoglake)

[Miss me? Don't forget, I am now Managing Editor at Firedoglake, and I occasionally post over there, as well as on my other blog, capitoilette.]

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