Monday, August 31, 2009

Tax Payers Get Wall Street Profits

Just in case you missed this, it appears that taxpayers made some money from the Wall Street Bailout as reported by The Daily Beast article below:

Here's a surprise: Almost a year after the U.S. government pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the nation's biggest banks, taxpayers are starting to see a return on their generosity. While critics said they'd never see the money again, the U.S. has made a profit of about $4 billion from eight of the biggest banks that have fully repaid their debts to the government. The government has earned an additional $35 million from smaller banks that have paid back their obligations. The government is far from in the clear—The Treasury Department could still take a hit from guarantees on toxic mortgages, not to mention the bailouts of AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and GM and Chrysler.

The New York Times reports that the $4 million dollar figure does not include the roughly $35 million the government has earned from 14 smaller banks that have paid back their loans. The government bought shares in these and many other financial companies last fall, when sinking confidence among investors pushed down many bank stocks to just a few dollars a share. As the banks strengthened and became profitable, the government authorized them to pay back the preferred stock, which had been paying quarterly dividends since October.

But the real profit came as banks were permitted to buy back the so-called warrants, whose low fixed price provided a windfall for the government as the shares of the companies soared.

“Taxpayers should heave a sigh of relief that the investment in the banks protected them from even more catastrophic losses from more bank failures,” said Aswath Damodaran, a finance professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University.

Far be it from the cable media to report some positive news about TARP, the nearly year-old Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"I Want to Be Like Mike!"

Recently, Olympian Michael Phelps was involved in an automobile accident. He was not at fault, but he was cited for driving without a valid license. The police said he told them that he had consumed a beer about an hour before the incident. So they saw no need to give him a breathalyzer because he was so forthcoming.

What!!!! It must be great to be Michael Phelps. Keep in mind Phelps has a DUI conviction on the books, but they simply took his word. During Michael Jordan’s glory days Gatorade coined the phrase "I Want to Be Like Mike". Well, in this new millennium, the Mike we should strive to be like is Phelps. This guy has the Baltimore Police spokesman say on camera that while Phelps was driving on an expired license it was alright because he has probably been too busy to renew it, and that’s just fine because we love ourselves some Michael.

If I ever get pulled over, I hope the police extend the Phelps package to me. A citation, but no real blame, and no real need to test me for alcohol because I too will assure them I’m not drunk. Sadly, this would not be my scenario because they would not be blinded by my Olympic gold.

The Tale of Two Michaels

THIS is the astonishing picture which could destroy the career of the greatest competitor in Olympic history. In this photo, Michael Phelps, who won a record EIGHT gold medals for swimming at the Beijing games last summer, draws from a bong.

It was on November 6, weeks after his Beijing triumph, that 23-year-old Phelps surprised students at the University Of South Carolina in Columbia by showing up unannounced at a house party. He was visiting Jordan Matthews, a girl he was secretly seeing who was a student there. Our source revealed: "Michael came to visit Jordan but ended up just getting wasted every night.

"He didn't know many people so you'd think he'd be a little shy. But he was loud, obnoxious and slamming beers from the get-go.

"Every girl wanted a piece of him and every guy wanted to be his best buddy. He couldn't get enough of all the attention."

Drink has got Phelps into trouble before. In 2004, aged 19, he got 18 months probation for driving while under the influence. His wild behaviour is in stark contrast to the grim regime which took him to the top of his sport. He once described his life, saying: "All you do is eat, sleep, swim; eat, sleep, swim; eat, sleep, swim."

"I'M SORRY", says MICHAEL PHELPS in his statement to the public.

"I engaged in behaviour which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgement," Phelps said.

"I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again."

Phelps, who earned £4million last year in endorsements, has resumed training for the 2012 games.

Here's the sentiments of one comment from "Nigel":

No one is perfect. Michael Phelps made a mistake and he is sorry for that. He did apologise.

I also believe that he has learnt the biggest lesson in all his life, something that he will not wish to repeat again ever.

The best way that we really do learn is by making mistakes and correcting them. This is the way the creator has created us.

Can we now give the guy a break.

Pouring Water on a Drowning Man

Michael Vick has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. His detractors are preparing to protest wherever he goes. Vick has served his time and now it is time to leave him alone. His crimes were horrific, but in this country once you do your time you should be able to come out of the prison system and make a living. He has been punished and he will continue to be punished. Judge Henry E. Hudson sentenced Michael Vick to 23 months in prison -- exceeding the 12-18 months that prosecutors recommended. It was surprisingly severe for a first-time criminal, charged with crimes that some observers believe are routinely ignored by law enforcement officers, and whom prosecutors recommended not be sentenced to more than 18 months. Still, it wass within Judge Hudson's discretion, as he could have sentenced Vick to up to 60 months.

Vick lost everything, including a $135 million dollar contract plus a lucrative endorsement with Nike. He lost his home and two years of a promising career. In 2008, Vick filed for bankruptcy with $20.5 million in debts and $16 million in assets. He will never be asked to endorse anything. He will never make the kind of money he would have made. If he has lost his skills, he’ll be cut, but he deserves a second chance. He now has to live on $300,000. For the man who at one point was the highest paid player in the NFL, this is a drastic change. Vick will earn an estimated $5 million a year over the next few years with the potential of earning $8 million in 2010 with incentives.

In a recently aired show on 60 Minutes, James Brown of CBS Sports interviewed Michael Vick. When asked about his conviction for animal cruelty, Vick claims he’s sorry about what he did to the animals. He continues to apologize for his actions and promises to work with the Humane Society as they tour schools educating children on the care of animals. There’s really is nothing Michael Vick can say to satisfy his critics. For the rest of the football season he will be asked the same questions and he better not flinch when he answers.

The public will wonder if Vick is truly remorseful or is his remorse generated by the need for money? If you say Vick has served his time now let him work, you’ll be accused of sanctioning his acts of cruelty. There’ll always be some people who enjoy pouring water on a drowning man. I won’t be one of them.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The American Way: Debate Not Hate

The right to freedom of speech and the right to bear arms are outlined in the U. S. Constitution. Discussing and debating issues is an American tradition solidly based in our right to free speech. I'd guess that the uproar that we are witnessing in the recent townhall meetings on healthcare is not just a reflection of citizens concerned about healthcare. These are people who hate President Obama and they are dangerous. They simply can not deal with having a black president and they will take every opportunity to fight anything he proposes.

President Obama has been in office for 7 months and as far as the extreme right is concerned, he can not do anything right. I wonder where this vocal concerned group was hiding for the past 8 years? Where was the outcry when President Bush took us to war, garnering public support with midleading documents and untruths? We have lost over 4,000 lives in Iraq over the false information the Bush Administration provided. Where was this group then?They were probably still looking for the weapons of mass destruction. None of President Obama’s policies have killed anyone. Debate is fair, but this is not debate. This is plain and simple hate. We've seen, time and time again, that this kind of blinding hate leads to violent action.

The Baltimore Sun reported the following:
“ The Secret Service is investigating a man who authorities said held a sign reading “Death to Obama” outside Wednesday’s town hall meeting on health care reform in Western Maryland. The sign also read, “Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids,” referring to the first name of President Barack Obama’s wife, said Washington County sheriff’s Capt. Peter Lazich.”* Threats to the president are not taken lightly. This took place at a townhall meeting in Hagerstown, MD conducted by Senator Ben Cardin. The signholder was arrested after several people who were attending the rally alerted the authorities. You can call the president a lot of names and hide under the banner of free speech, but when you start making verbal or written threats that is not free speech—that’s a crime.

Huffington Post reported the following:
A man was spotted Monday afternoon carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle and a pistol at a pro-health care reform rally next to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Arizona where President Obama was speaking.

The local paper The Arizona Republic reported:

A man, who decided not to give his name, was walking around the pro-health care reform rally at 3rd and Washington streets, with a pistol on his hip, and an AR-15 (a semi-automatic assault rifle) on a strap over his shoulder.

"Because I can do it," he said when asked why he was armed. "In Arizona, I still have some freedoms."

Two police officers were staying very close to the man.

It should be noted that CNN has video from the scene, and according to their reporter at the event, Ed Henry, there was another man, also carrying an assault rifle at the event. The Associated Press is now reporting that there were actually about a dozen armed people among the protesters in Phoenix.

These are just some of the reports about someone bringing a gun to an event where the President was speaking. Last Tuesday a man was arrested before Obama's New Hampshire health care town hall for carrying an unlicensed loaded gun. Also outside the New Hampshire town hall, a man was seen with a (legal) handgun strapped to his leg, holding a sign referencing the famous Jefferson quote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

I guess these actions don't disturb Obama supporters. I'm not hearing any pushback at all. Seems like folks are just throwing their hands up as if there's nothing to be done about all of this. That's not how President Obama got elected. We didn't throw our hands up and walk away. Now is the time for action. Stop standing on the sidelines watching the parade go by. Get involved!

Debate-not Hate. That's the American Way. Well, at least I thought we wanted to go in a new direction when President Obama was elected. Now I wonder.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Silent Majority-Shades of "High Noon"

Barack Obama won his bid for the presidency by a substantial margin. The night his election was announced massive crowds gathered in Grant Park, Chicago, IL to celebrate the victory. Several months later, the inaugral crowds were huge, despite the frigid weather in Washington, D. C. History in the making was the watch word.

The new president set about the task of unravelling the myriad of problems he inherited: the economy, massive job losses, the possible catostraphic failure of the financial system and the end of the U. S. Auto Industry to name just a few. Let's not forget the two wars the country was waging in Iraq and Afghanistan. As he tackled the enormous challenges facing America, his supporters watched and wondered.
When will he get to my pet issue, my pressing cause, my pet peeve, my problems and worries. The supportive crowd seemed to fade into the distance, while the oppositions capitalized on the country's fears and insecurities spewing poisoned criticism at every turn. What ever the issue, they just said "NO".

Now the biggest issue on the nation's table is health care reform, one of the central planks in Obama's platform. While the country rally for "Change we can believe in" during the campaign, Obama supporters seem to have faded into the sunset as time get tough and then tougher. It reminds me of the old Western "High Noon" with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. When it came time to face the bad guys, the men remembered their families and their crops and every other thing that would prevent them from standing with our hero in this fight to the finish. They tucked their tails between their legs and slinked into the darkness.

We keep hearing from the nay sayers and the critics and any one else who wants to maintain the status quo. We worry that we may have to pay more or that we might not be able to choose our doctor and that the government would make decisions about who will live and who will die. We scream "Don't touch my Medicare." We forget that Medicare, the Veterans Administration health care program and the congressional health package are precious, valued health care systems for so many of our citizens. Yet, we fear government involvement in administering a health care program.

This country has been talking about reforming health care for 60 years and still can't make it happen. Congressman Dent says "This will be Obama's Waterloo." He expects the president to fail. Barack says he has an excellent health plan as do the members of the Legislative Branch. He reminds us that it's not about's about us (the people of the United States). This is our best chance to reform health care, if we keep our heads, sift through all the misinformation and if we support the president and make our wishes know. We've got to get out there, fight lies with truth, and set the record straight.

Passing comprehensive health insurance reform will not be easy. Every President since Harry Truman has talked about it, and the most powerful and experienced lobbyists in Washington stand in the way.

But every day we don't act, Americans watch their premiums rise three times faster than wages, small businesses and families are pushed towards bankruptcy, and 14,000 people lose their coverage entirely. The cost of inaction is simply too much for the people of this nation to bear. There comes a moment when we all have to choose between doing what's easy, and doing what's right.

This is one of those times. And moments like this are what this movement was built for. So, are you ready?

Please commit now to taking at least one action in your community this month to build support for health insurance reform. Don't keep your support for the POTUS a secret. Let's show our president that he is not alone.

Nuttier Than A Fruit Cake

You have to pay attention if you really want to know what's going on in the world of politics.

First, we had the Tea Party folks, then came the Birthers, followed by the Deathers, and now you can welcome the Town Hall Turfers. Republicans all and each one is nuttier than the other. They say "Just say No to Health Care Reform." Here's the way conservative John Batchelor lays it out in his August 9th Daily Beast Blog post "The GOP Freak Show":
The sad-eyed Townhall Turfers now follow the saucer-eyed Birthers and the cranky Tea-Baggers as the latest political fad that the weakling Republicans not only cannot get away from but also cannot get enough of, like chocolate sauce on anything.

...Republican Party chief Michael Steele used the passive aggressive rhetoric of denial to aggrandize the reports of brouhahas at town halls, “We’re not encouraging people to be angry to the point of being mean, or nasty, or brutish. There is legitimacy to the protest. How people protest—I have no control over that.”

Forget John Bohner, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor. As always the biggest nut of all is Sarah Palin. Her Facebook page tells the story as reported in The Daily Beast:
"In her first communication since officially resigning as Alaska's governor (and just days after telling the media to quit "makin' things up"), Sarah Palin stated Friday on her Facebook page that health-care reform, or what Palin calls Obama's "death panel," may kill her infant son, Trig. "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil," Palin writes. Palin's spokeswoman pointed to page 425 of the House Democrats' bill when asked what Palin was referring to, which contains a section that refers to "advance care planning consultation" for seniors, which includes voluntary discussions of living wills, power of attorney, or the decision to reject "extraordinary measures of life support." The proposal, which has nothing to do with euthanasia, has been widely circulated by conservative critics of the administration as part of a false rumor that health care reform would pressure senior citizens into killing themselves. As for Palin's description of mandatory Sparta-style murder of Down Syndrome babies, the paranoid vision doesn't match up with any component of any health care plan being discussed."

Republicans may not have a health care plan to compete with President Obama's, but some critics of the administration (such as Aunt Sarah) seem to have come up with their own imaginary version of Congress' proposals that operates in a parallel universe to our own. President Obama used his radio address on Saturday to take on some of the most egregious myths about the proposed health care reforms, including a false but widely circulated rumor cited by Sarah Palin this week that claims senior citizens would be pressured into killing themselves under Obama's reform plan. "Let me explain what reform will mean for you. And let me start by dispelling the outlandish rumors that reform will promote euthanasia, cut Medicaid or bring about a government takeover of health care," Obama said. "That's simply not true." The president said the attacks were part of a plan to derail "the best chance of reform we have ever had" by "the defenders of the status quo and political point-scorers in Washington."

Stephen Foley's August 10th post on "The Independent" Blog reports:

"Recognising that he has lost control of the debate over US healthcare reform, President Barack Obama has begun pleading with the American people not to listen to misinformation from right-wing opponents.

The White House will this week launch a website dedicated to health reform, filled with fact sheets and videos to explain the complex proposals drafted on Capitol Hill. The aim of the legislation is to extend health care coverage to the 40 million people in the US without insurance and to drive down costs but Republicans have opposed most of the plans, saying it would ration treatment."

It's interesting to watch the reports of how the money is changing hands with various members of Congress receiving large contributions from folks who want health care reform to fail miserably. These legislators don't mind standing in front of the camera and mouthing stupid rehtoric about their fears about proposals for changes in health care, but they do not fear the sizeable windfalls they are getting from insurance and drug companies. Some like Aunt Sarah will take advantage of every opportunity to keep a public profile regardless of whether or not they have enough information to address the issues. (We're still trying to find out what magazines and news papers she reads. Prorbably, it's the Sunday comics.) Well, if we don't know and don't understand the issues, we can make it up as we go along. Why not, everybody's doing it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ghetto Girl

Joni L. Reynolds, an African-American mother, writes a blog called Ebony Mom Politics. Here's one of her posts.

"Many blacks from Oak Bluffs are elated that the Only One- in-Chief may be joining them. "People are going to lose their minds!" Tonya Lewis Lee says.

At the same time, there's also a bit of wariness among the wealthiest ones, an uncertainty whether Obama will affirm them. "Obama is more a man of the people," says a Vineyarder who's part of black high society. "He doesn't seem to identify with affluent black people. His wife definitely doesn't; she is basically a ghetto girl. That's what she says--I'm just being sociological. She grew up in the same place Jennifer Hudson did. She hasn't reached out to the social community of Washington, and people are waiting to see what they'll do about that." (New Yorker Magazine)

To call a Harvard lawyer a "ghetto girl" is absolutely ludicrous.

The dynamics of black society is very difficult to understand. We are probably the only race that has prejudices against other members of our own race. This anonymous member of the black elite simply said was what is said among her group.
If Mrs. Obama were light-skinned with hazel eyes maybe she might be a little more tolerable, even though she was raised on the wrong side of the track.

Here's as response to the post thst I thought worth sharing:

This is a really interesting piece. I am a historian and I study class, in particular classism within the black community. It is my belief that the black elite are a very insecure group of people. They are caught in between two worlds, the white world, which rejects them, and the black middle and working class, which they can't relate to. They are in so many ways a tragic group of people with no real community to call their own. E. Franklin Frazier's "The Black Bourgeoisie" explains it better than I can. And Lawrence Otis Graham's "Our Kind of People" is a revealing book that really speaks to this insecurity. I would recommend them both as good reads. The Obamas, secure and comfortable with themselves, don't need to be associated with the black elite. They have nothing in common with them. They are not out to prove anything to anybody. They are not trying to be white, nor are they embarrassed by their middle and working class brethren. They are who they are, take it or leave it. And they certainly are not tragic. So I guess that would mean, yes, Barack is "a man for the people" and in my opinion this is a good thing. Because if he was in bed with the black elite, how then would he be any different than GWB, who was in bed with the Texas elite? In regards to the comment about Michelle being a "ghetto girl" again this is a clear indication of how insecure and fragile the black elite is. This is merely testimony to how threatened they are by her. That this common woman form "the hood" is their first lady. That most likely if a black elite family had put in their bid for the white house (which I don't think they aspire to anyway), they would h ave not even made it past the Iowa Caucasus. And here is this "common man" with his "ghetto" wife who is not only accepted and loved by "the masses" but also accepted by the white community as well. A feat the black elite will NEVER master! It is pure jealousy and quite fascinating. Sad too.

The photo shows the first lady giving a speech at the Norfolk naval base to mark the return of the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group and the USNS Comfort. The first lady wore a Talbots Swirl Cotton Dress in Sunset Orange, on sale for a very reasonable $38.99. Mrs. O accessorized with a vintage silk flower pin worn at the shoulder. She's my kind of "Ghetto Girl". You go girl!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beating the Tribal Drums

Read the newspapers and magazines. Watch the news and political commentary. It all adds up. You’ll hear the tribal drums pounding the same old message, ‘us vs. them.’

Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings

President Obama named Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David Souter, a liberal named by a Republican president, and she's not expected to alter the court's ideological balance. Sotomayor stands on the verge of making history as the Supreme Court's first Hispanic justice. She’s a 55-year-old appeals court judge of Puerto Rican descent who was raised in a New York City housing project, educated in the Ivy League and served 17 years on the federal bench. Republicans call her ill-suited for the bench. Three-quarters of the Senate's 40 Republicans say they’ll vote "no" on her confirmation, contending she would bring liberal bias and personal sympathies to her decisions.

Republicans have been particularly critical of Sotomayor's position on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The National Rifle Association is strongly opposing her and has threatened to downgrade any senator who votes to confirm Sotomayor in its closely watched candidate ratings. The warning has made little impact on Democrats, many of whom have rallied behind the judge despite their perfect or near-perfect ratings from the NRA, but it obviously has influenced some Republicans who were initially considered possible supporters but have since announced their opposition, citing gun rights as a key reason.

Seat a Hispanic female on the Supreme Court? Lose our guns? Say it isn’t so...

(Sotomayor was confirmed by a Senate vote of 68 to 31, getting 9 Republicans to vote in her favor. Chief Justice John Roberts will swear her in Saturday at the Supreme Court.)

Gates Affair

Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is black, was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after a confrontation at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a white police officer, Joseph Crowley. When asked about the incident during a July 22 news conference, President Obama said police “acted stupidly” in making the arrest. The incident and the president’s comments set off a whirlwind controversy about the state of race in our country.

Racial profiling, police-community relations, class issues, racial issues and other talking points flooded the air waves. Glen Beck called the president a racist. Rush Lindbaugh spoke to his belief that the president has a deep seated hatred of whites. Lou Dobbs supported the’”Birther” movement, while Republicans in Congress struggled to decide which side of the issue to take.

Do you think that constructive dialogue on race might be needed to move the country forward? Duh!

After accepting Obama's invitation to discuss the July 16 incident over a beer at the White House, both Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. Joseph Crowley thanked Obama for the cold ones served on a patio near the Rose Garden. Neither they nor the president offered apologies for their roles in the affair.

Poster President

After the Obama waffles and Obama bucks, what other racist insults toward our president can we expect? Well, there was the poster of Obama in a Hitler uniform, moustache and all, featured at the infamous Tea Parties in April. Posted throughout Los Angeles this weekend , another controversial Obama poster raised plenty of eyebrows, but this one doesn't have a thing to do with hope. An unknown artist made his or her mark by putting up posters of Obama drawn as Heath Ledger's Joker from "The Dark Knight" on Los Angeles freeway on-ramps. The creepy image, with the caption "Socialism," has also been reported in Atlanta, Ga., making some wonder if there's more of an organized movement. As expected, plenty of people are offended about the president being compared to a terrorist.

According to an article this morning by Associated Content: "As if it isn't enough to equate President Obama to a sadistic, murdering terrorist, a more typical charge of socialism is made in the bottom of the Obama Joker poster. Nothing more specific is spelled out, and no one as of yet has figured out where these posters come from, or who made them."

Should we forget the spirit of hope that swelled within many of us during the Obama Campaign for Change? Should we dust off the life-long fear and distrust of “the others”? Better yet, should we go back to sleeping at the wheel and save ourselves the agony of listening to the hate-mongers?

I definitely won’t. Anything worthwhile takes time and effort and I’m in it for the long haul. I’ll watch, read, and learn and put the lessons to good use so that our country can live up to its great potential. I won’t accept the tribal anthem “us vs. them”. I’ll keep working until the watch word is “we”, “We the people of the United States of America.”

"The greater danger for most of us is not
that our aim is too high and we miss it,
but that it is too low and we reach it."
- Michelangelo