The Regulators Are Coming

Remember when we were talking about speculators being responsible for spiking gas prices? Seems like said speculators may be in for a nasty shock:

I’ve been following this for a while, and it’s encouraging news if the commodities regulators follow through. These guys have been driving up the cost of oil with the same sort of shady tactics used in the financial markets. Good for the Obama administration if they take this aggressive approach:

WASHINGTON — Reacting to the violent swings in oil prices in recent months, federal regulators announced on Tuesday that they were considering new restrictions on “speculative” traders in markets for oil, natural gas and other energy products.

The move is a big departure from the hands-off approach to market regulation of the last two decades. It also highlights a broader shift toward tougher government oversight under President Obama.

[snip]

In the case of oil and gas trading, regulators made it clear that they were willing to move, without waiting for Congress to act on Mr. Obama’s overhaul, invoking their existing powers.

Woot! You go, guys!

You know, I often wish Obama would do a better job – his Bush Mark II impression on various detainee issues and sundry other national security issues being the prime examples – but when I get news like this, I’m reminded just how much he doesn’t resemble Bush.

Once we get the man disabused of certain notions, I think he’s going to turn out to be a delight. Well, to folks who don’t make their livings fucking over the financial markets, that is. This is change I can believe in.

Cons Want to Ensure You Can’t Afford College

Because, of course, their corporate buddies don’t want to stop getting paid for providing services the government can provide just fine itself, thank you very much:

The corporate lobbyists continue to line up to obstruct President Obama’s budget reforms. An excellent example is the proposed rollback of the privatization of the student loan industry, which has caused lots of consternation among… the private student loan industry (which, incidentally, got a bailout last year). They think direct government lending of student loans, which would save $94 billion dollars over a decade, would just be a terrible outcome for, well, them, and they’re leading a fight based on, get this, the fact that Pell grants would be mandatory and not subject to the whims of appropriators. “Make grants for higher education more uncertain!” certainly sounds like the stuff of popular outcry.

Oh, indeed.

Between this and my post below, a question is forming: why are regular ol’ people stupid enough to fall for this Con “party of fiscal responsibility” bullshit when it’s clear that all the Cons do is rob from the taxpayers to enrich their corporate buddies?

Cramer Never Learns

I think Jon Stewart needs to bring this buffoon back on the show and issue a further spanking:

When I heard Jim Cramer “call” a new bull market the other days I actually laughed out loud. Not because I have any knowledge about that one way or the other, but because he’s been so spectacularly wrong so often that I find it amusing that he’s got the chutzpah to proclaim anything more controversial than that he expects the sun to come up tomorrow.

But Nouriel Roubini took him downtown:

Just weeks after “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart took Cramer to task for trying to turn finance reporting into a “game,” famous bear economist Nouriel Roubini criticized Cramer on Tuesday for predicting bull markets.

“Cramer is a buffoon,” said Roubini, a New York University economics professor often called Dr. Doom. “He was one of those who called six times in a row for this bear market rally to be a bull market rally and he got it wrong. And after all this mess and Jon Stewart he should just shut up because he has no shame.”

[snip]

Roubini said in 2006 that the worst recession in four decades was on its way. He has attracted attention for his gloomy — and accurate — predictions of the U.S. financial market meltdown.

Roubini said the latest surge is just another bear market rally following the pattern of other rallies after the government intervened. He expects the market will test the previous low because of worse than expected macroeconomic news, disappointing earnings and because banks will fail after the stress tests come out.

“Once people get the reality check than it’s going to get ugly again,” Roubini said.

Roubini said Cramer should keep quiet.

“He’s not a credible analyst. Every time it was a bear market rally he said it was the beginning of a bull and he got it wrong,” Roubini said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Roubini did an admirable job wielding the Smack-o-Matic, there. I wonder if there’s any possibility he and Jon can tag-team Cramer? That would be a show to remember…

South Carolina Needs a New Governor, Stat

What an incredible assclown:

The antics are getting pretty crazy today in South Carolina, where GOP Governor Mark Sanford, a steadfast stimulus opponent, has come up with a new way to refuse his state’s stimulus cash on the eve of tomorrow’s deadline: Say that tomorrow isn’t a deadline at all.

Sanford’s claim is so startling that the Republican Speaker of the House blasted his “nonsense,” and another local Republican official asked folks to “pray” for South Carolina as the loss of the much-needed money looms.

Virtually every legal analysis — including one done by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service — has concluded that Sanford’s deadline to accept his state’s $700 million in stim money is tomorrow. But Sanford — an apparent contender for the 2012 GOP primary — held a press conference today in his office, where he announced that the deadline was, in fact, bogus.

The fact that members of his own party are saying that “It’s time for the nonsense to stop” and “I’m asking you to pray for us, because that’s about all we have left” should be the equivalent of a ten-ton clue-by-four walloping Sanford upside the head. I think we may have a winner in the America’s Dumbest Governor sweepstakes, although Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin did their best.

If any one of these dumbfucks ends up with a shot at the presidency, I’m giving up on this country.

Not Ready for the Pointy Scissors Yet

This, my darlings, is how stupid Cons are:

This chart was put together by the Republican staff of the House Budget Committee, to help promote Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) piece on the GOP’s alternative budget. You’ll notice, of course, that it shows those wacky Democrats with spending projections that fly right off the map several decades from now — before some of the lawmakers of 2050 are even born — while those nice, responsible Republicans take a more modest approach.
paul%2520ryan%2520budget.gif

Conor Clarke calls this “crazy,” and “pretty stupid,” before explaining, “As near as I can tell, Paul Ryan and his staff just took the CBO projections that ended in 2019 and drew a random line, extending upward at about a 45 degree angle, until 2080. There’s no real attempt to make it look scientific.”

And if it were just one silly chart, it would be easier to ignore. But the problem with today’s budget blueprint from the House Republican caucus is that it takes a similarly ridiculous approach to just about everything. It’s one thing to offer bad ideas. It’s another to offer bad ideas without doing your homework. But House GOP lawmakers are offering proposals that are just insane. Reading through the party’s new report, one notices that we’d get just as serious a proposal from a group of children with crayons.

Actually, most children seem to have a better grasp on reality, so if I had a choice between Ms. Smith’s first-grade class and the Cons as our budget gurus, I’d pick the first-graders without an instant’s hesitation.

Dday continues the spanking for Steve Benen, whose Smack-o-Matic arm was getting tired:

I’m beginning to think the Republican Party is a giant episode of “Punk’d.”


What amounts to the alternative budget, seen here and described by Paul Ryan in the Wall Street Journal, consists mainly of those innovative and fresh ideas like cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy, freezing spending in the middle of a recession, and drilling for oil.

[snip]

They also helpfully scored the competing budgets over a 70-year time-frame, and while I think they’re off a bit in 2072, you can plainly see that government under Robot Obama, who will be governing until he is 117, will explode in size.

These fuckwits aren’t fit to govern. They aren’t even mature enough to use the pointy scissors. If these dumbshits end up inexplicably becoming the elected majority again, I’m moving to New Zealand with PZ.

When Numbnuts Advise Novices

Digby has a great point here:

I just heard CNN’s week-end money team giving stock tips to their viewers to “recession proof” their lives. Now, I don’t doubt that there are great buys to be had in the market and that some people may be in a position to invest right now and make some big bucks over the long haul. But if the hosts of the show also feel it’s necessary to first explain what a stock is and tell them that the odd letters on the screen stands for the company’s ticker symbol, I think maybe stock picking may be over the heads of their audience.

Is it just me, or does it seem like the teevee “news” has become one long series of infomercials? I know there’s a sucker born every minute, but at the rate these fuckwits are going, they’re going to bankrupt their supply before the next generation of suckers come of age.

Great Minds

Digby and I are thinking alike, which gives me hope for the eventual greatness of my mind:

I was just reading this interesting piece about narcissistic personality disorder and musing about the mindset that believes it’s ok to take down the world economy and then dictate the rules by which it is fixed.

So we don’t agree on the actual pathology, but at least we’re on the same track. Woot!

If we have any clinical psychologists in the audience, they should feel free to weigh in. Who’s closer to the proper diagnosis of the Wall Street fucktards, Digby or your own cantinera?

The Sociopaths of Wall Street

The cluelessness from Wall Street just gets worser and worser:

Via TPM, a Wall Street Journal article that says, basically, that at first the Obama administration did not particularly seek out Wall Street’s advice:

“In late January, as Treasury Secretary Geithner prepared his proposal for handling the banking crisis, administration officials avoiding seeking input from Wall Street. “Those people are tainted,” said one aide at the time. “Why would we consult the very executives who got us into this mess?” (…)

[snip]

But then Obama decided that it was important to reach out more to Wall Street, and did. More Wall Street people were consulted; the administration worked harder to win them over.

Here are the passages from the article that really got to me. (Emphases added.) First:

“Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his colleagues worked the phones to try to line up support on Wall Street for the plan announced Monday. (…) Some bankers say they turned the conversations into complaints about the antibonus crusade consuming Capitol Hill. Some have begun “slow-walking” the information previously sought by Treasury for stress-testing financial institutions, three bankers say, and considered seeking capital from hedge funds and private-equity funds so they could return federal bailout money, thereby escaping federal restrictions.”

Second:

“But as the furor intensified, Mr. Obama’s words to Congress — “we cannot govern out of anger” — seemed to take on less importance. Last week, he was asked by reporters on the White House South Lawn whether anger was getting in the way of pushing through banking reforms. “I don’t want to quell anger,” he replied. “I think people are right to be angry. I’m angry.”

Bankers were shell-shocked, especially when Congress moved to heavily tax bonuses. When administration officials began calling them to talk about the next phase of the bailout, the bankers turned the tables. They used the calls to lobby against the antibonus legislation, Wall Street executives say. Several big firms called Treasury and White House officials to urge a more reasonable approach, both sides say. The banks’ message: If you want our help to get credit flowing again to consumers and businesses, stop the rush to penalize our bonuses.”

I think it’s important to be really, really clear about what this article claims. Both the stress tests and the attempts to get credit flowing again are essential parts of our attempt to solve the enormous economic problems we now face, problems that these very firms are largely responsible for. If the banks are “slow-walking” the stress tests and threatening not to help get credit flowing, that just is threatening not to help get the country out of the economic crisis.

That would be an absolutely appalling thing to do under any circumstances. It would be doubly appalling since these very people bear a lot of responsibility for that crisis. But the fact that they are making these threats not over some large issue of principle, but over their bonuses — that’s just breathtaking.

As if that wasn’t enough chutzpah, we also learn this:

Last month, ThinkProgress reported that in a House hearing, seven out of eight bailed-out bank CEOs said their companies still “own or lease” private planes. ABC News provides more details today, reporting that JPMorgan Chase — which received $25 billion in TARP funds — “is going ahead with a $138 million plan to buy two new luxury corporate jets,” complete with “the premiere corporate aircraft hangar on the eastern seaboard…”

But they think it’s okay, because they’ll wait until they’ve paid back the TARP money. They don’t seem to comprehend that Americans don’t expect them to return to their same old habits after we’re done saving their asses from their own bad decisions and cooked books.

As I was reading this, it occurred to me that their behavior fits the definition of sociopathy to a T:

Imagine – if you can – not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern of the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken. And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools. Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless. You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience that they seldom even guess at your condition.

[snip]

Maybe you are someone who craves money and power, and though you have no vestige of conscience, you do have a magnificent IQ. You have the driving nature and the intellectual capacity to pursue tremendous wealth and influence, and you are in no way moved by the nagging voice of conscience that prevents other people from doing everything and anything they have to do to succeed. You choose business, politics, the law, banking or international development, or any of a broad array of other power professions, and you pursue your career with a cold passion that tolerates none of the usual moral or legal encumbrances. When it is expedient, you doctor the accounting and shred the evidence, you stab your employees and your clients (or your constituency) in the back, marry for money, tell lethal premeditated lies to people who trust you, attempt to ruin colleagues who are powerful or eloquent, and simply steamroll over groups who are dependent and voiceless. And all of this you do with the exquisite freedom that results from having no conscience whatsoever.

We’re not dealing with normal people. We’re letting sociopaths dictate the terms
of their own rescue. I somehow doubt that will go well.

Eliot Spitzer Watches the Magicians’ Hands

It’s always nice to have a reminder that the smoke and mirrors are a distraction calculated to prevent us from seeing what’s really going on (h/t):

Everybody is rushing to condemn AIG’s bonuses, but this simple scandal is obscuring the real disgrace at the insurance giant: Why are AIG’s counterparties getting paid back in full, to the tune of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars?

For the answer to this question, we need to go back to the very first decision to bail out AIG, made, we are told, by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, then-New York Fed official Timothy Geithner, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last fall. Post-Lehman’s collapse, they feared a systemic failure could be triggered by AIG’s inability to pay the counterparties to all the sophisticated instruments AIG had sold. And who were AIG’s trading partners? No shock here: Goldman, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, and on it goes. So now we know for sure what we already surmised: The AIG bailout has been a way to hide an enormous second round of cash to the same group that had received TARP money already.

[snip]

The appearance that this was all an inside job is overwhelming. AIG was nothing more than a conduit for huge capital flows to the same old suspects, with no reason or explanation.

Eliot Spitzer, you may remember, knows Wall Street well. As a prosecutor, he made their lives hell. He’s definitely a man worth listening to as these companies scramble for every last cent they can wring from taxpayers. He sees them for what they are.

Read the whole thing. Screw your outrage to the sticking place, and then start shouting before 10am Eastern. We can turn their smoke-and-mirrors into a conflagration. We can turn the magicians’ tricks against them.