Thoughts from a Yellow Dog Democrat living in Olympia, in the great BLUE state of Washington

I am a liberal because it is the political philosophy of freedom and equality. And I am a progressive because it is the political path to a better future. And I am a Democrat because it is the political party that believes in freedom, equality and progress. -- Digby

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Caroline Kennedy is Qualified

I don't understand why a smart, educated, poised young woman who happens to be a Constitutional lawyer and has written 6 books on the Constitution and our Courts is being nagged with these questions of how she's qualified. What's wrong with these people?

Where were they when Liddy Dole decided to be a Senator? What were Margaret Chase Smith's unique qualifications? Where were the calls for bona vides from Jean Carnahan who said she would represent Missouri in the US Senate, if her late husband, Mel Carnahan won the election? Here's a smart essay on other women who went to Congress or the Senate based on nothing more than they were the widow or daughter of the person who previous held that seat:
. . .12 were widows who succeeded their late husbands. Three women directly succeeded their fathers: Representatives Susan Molinari of New York, and Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
The elections of Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri, Lois Capps of California, and Mary Bono of California—each succeeding her late husband—to the House between January 1997 and April 1998 were portrayed by the national media as a testament to the power of the marital connection. . . . Earlier widows in Congress, such as Mae Ella Nolan of California, Katharine Byron of Maryland, and Irene Baker of Tennessee, were to various degrees involved in their husbands’ political careers. . . . in 1998, Lois Capps succeeded her late husband, Walter, a theology professor-turned politician. Having worked as a nurse and medical administrator for decades, Capps eschewed her husband’s focus on religious issues and became an advocate for health care professionals and reform within the industry. . .

We have a long history of putting women in seats of power based solely on their family connections. It used to be the only way a woman COULD achieve these positions (this happened even in private or public companies). Many of these women were wildly successful.

Now times have changed and women are able on their own accomplishments to have success but when a qualified and smart woman wants to throw her hat in the ring it seems like because her name is Kennedy it's being held against her. I don't understand it.

This isn't a solely USA phenomen: Was Indira Gandhi the MOST qualified person to lead India after her father Nehru? Probably not, but she successfully led that country for 11 years until her assassination.

Caroline Kennedy is qualified and it would be wonderful to see her more active on a national basis. Anybody that ignores her qualifications is a sexist.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bob Corker

I've been a little concerned that I might be coming off bitter and angry lately. Here's the time when we're all supposed to be hopeful, happy, and energetic and I'm feeling pissed off and calling people names like 'idiot'. But then this morning Trapper John over at Daily Kos has given me a gift of validation.
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said yesterday that a crisis like the U.S. automakers’ fight for survival can create opportunities by forcing people to look at things in new ways.

The first-term Republican might just as well have been talking about his own career. . . .

"I’m hard-pressed to think of another member who’s been here such a short period of time who’s made such an impression on colleagues of both sides of the aisle," says Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Majority Leader Harry Reid seconded McConnell’s assessment. "I’ve been extremely impressed with Bob Corker," says Reid, a Nevada Democrat. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat, says Corker did a "magnificent job." . . .

[Chris] Dodd says wage-reduction demands had more to do with jabbing the Democrats’ loyal union constituency than with reforming the automobile industry. . . . Still, "you’ll hear no criticism from me about how Bob Corker handled himself," Dodd says. "I respect him immensely for stepping up and making the effort."
Let's make this very plain. Bob Corker just led the charge to kill the American auto industry, and with it some 10% of the American economy, because he wasn't allowed to bust the UAW. As such, Bob Corker is definitionally one of the most traitorous and despicable human beings ever to track slime across the floors of the Senate. He is attempting to take advantage of the financial crisis to literally dismantle the American middle class. He is beneath the contempt with which partisans regard even their most radical and craven domestic political opponents. And to see three of the most prominent leaders of the party that portrays itself as the party of working Americans line up to commend this sanctimonious puppet of big money, this enemy of working Americans . . . well, it's disgusting. There's really no other word for it.

There is a sickness in the Senate if the people who are supposed to fight for working Americans have anything but utter revulsion for Bob Corker.

I love you, Trapper John! Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone in my pissed off, revolution, and outrage. I've got to see something hopeful happening in the Senate and Congress before Obama can reach me.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Romney is (Still) a (Dangerous) Idiot

Former Governor Mitt Romney was on Meet the Press this morning. He again reaffirmed he's an idiot. He said:
... Right now, those companies (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) suffer about a $2,000 per automobile cost disadvantage. Part of that is labor, part is benefits and part is a legacy cost associated with retirees. As long as that $2,000 disadvantage is on their back, they can't be competitive.

How can this man walk around without assistance? Does he notice that even though the auto companies (including the Japanese and other imports) can't give cars away these days? It doesn't matter if the cars cost $2000 more or less. Price isn't the reason cars aren't selling.

Then he reinforced the BIG lie:
Labor costs, labor costs, legacy costs--labor costs and legacy costs and benefits are $73 an hour.
. At least Governor Grandholm was there to dispute it but David Gregory didn't give her a chance.

Romney's other big lie was joined by fired and disgraced former TI CEO Carly Fiorina and wined about how the credit markets have dried up.
We have a recession, a deepening recession right now because credit is unavailable.

Bull shit. The problem is that people are scared to spend or buy right now because they don't know if they'll have a job next week. There's money to lend but a lack of credit worthy folks looking to borrow.

Idiot Romney and fired and disgraced Fiorina can whine about high wage workers and how they need a tax cut all they want. They are both a joke just repeating old outdated Republican talking points.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Greedy Merrill Lynch's Shell Game

TPM and others are all up in arms because Merrill Lynch's former CEO John Thain wants his $10mm bonus, only 30% of what was promised in his contract. TPM and others are outraged because we tax payers have given Bank of America TARP money and they feel it shouldn't be used to pay failed executives' salaries.

Good point BUT the real story has been completely missed. Michelle Leder over at footnoted noted:
But things aren’t all that bleak, judging by a careful reading of some of the recent merger documents. That’s because according to this filing from Nov. 3, MLPFS stands to collect $25 million “payable upon the consummation of the merger”. And who is this MLPFS? Here’s what the filing says:

“MLPFS is an internationally recognized investment banking firm with substantial experience in transactions similar to the merger. Merrill Lynch selected MLPFS as its financial advisor because of MLPFS’s qualifications, expertise and reputation. MLPFS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Merrill Lynch. Certain members of management of MLPFS are also members of management of Merrill Lynch and have interests in the merger that are different from, or in addition to, the interests of stockholders of Merrill Lynch (no shit Sherlock!)
Of course, that was buried on pg. 62 of a fairly lengthy filing, so you definitely would have had to be looking for it. Equally interesting is that while Merrill gives lots of fairness opinions on all sorts of mergers, it doesn’t usually do it under the MLPFS moniker. And, there’s also the fact that Bank of America retained two other companies — Fox-Pitt and J.C. Flowers — to issue fairness opinions, in addition to using their own folks.

There was also this 8K filed by Bank of America on Nov. 21, which provided some further information on the hiring of MLPFS: “MLPFS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Merrill Lynch, and thus its employees have actual or potential financial interests in the merger, including the prospect of continued employment with the successor entity after the close of the proposed merger.” (I added the emphasis)

So $10mm to a CEO that at least found a merger for the company and preserved some stock value and some jobs (unlike Lehman Brothers) is the BIG outrageous news and $25mm to "management" to supposedly do reduntant work already accomplished by others hired by B of A is completely ignored. Why is TPM and WSJ falling for this shell game? Thain will probably get the bonus and meanwhile the $25mm unnecessary payment will slip through completely unnoticed.

Now Harry Reid is participating in the shell game:
"The TARP program, from which Merrill Lynch has taken billions of taxpayer dollars, was designed explicitly to limit executive compensation, bonuses and golden parachutes. While American families struggle to keep their jobs and their homes, I question the chutzpah of asking for a $10 million taxpayer-subsidized bonus..."

Ahem -- Harry? What about the $25mm???

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Auto Company Bail Out

I grew up in Detroit and still have friends that work in the auto industry so I've been watching the events surrounding this bail out with a lot of interest. I have so many emotional responses that it's hard to come up with a cognizant solution or overall opinion. Here's some of the facts and issues I'm struggling with:

- The troubles at the auto companies weren't sudden occurrences like the executives testified to this week. They have been on a downhill slide for awhile -- at least 2006.

- The market for auto loan backed securities is still working and hasn't dried up like they said.
- Credit unions started experiencing declining vehicle lending beginning in 2005 so this wasn't a sudden occurrence.

- Imported car sales exceeded domestic auto sales in July 2008 but they had been gaining market share for decades

- GM had the exclusive patent on the hybrid engine and decided in the 90's to license it to Honda and Toyota. We know where that went.

- Since 1990 US automobile manufacturers have spent $59.8 million in lobbying and influencing Congress (including PACs and direct contributions. Add another $198.6 million from auto dealers.

- The GOP 2008 Platform targets and blames unions for our economic problems
and we could see the anti-union/labor commitment from Republican members of the Senate Committee on full display during the hearings.

- The Detroit Free Press describes the impact on the number of workers best (also check out their great interactive map):
The automotive industry directly employs more than 2 million workers in the United States. That is more than 43,000 workers, on average, in every state, and includes employees who engineer, build, distribute and sell both foreign and domestic cars and trucks. In all, those jobs generate $65 billion in income for those workers, or about $29,437 per job. While Michigan is the top state for automotive-related employment, with more than 240,000 workers, even Alaska employs nearly 2,500 workers in the auto industry.

- But I think Daniel Gross interprets the testimony right:
But it almost doesn't matter whether the Big Three file for Chapter 11 protection. To a large degree, the markets are treating the auto companies as if they're already in bankruptcy.
The sad fact is that the U.S. auto industry has essentially failed. Even if car sales come roaring back from their current anemic pace next year, there's no guarantee the Big Three will return to health, that they'll be able to stay current on debt payments and raise capital from tough-minded investors. The executives and union leaders speak as if the bailout money is simply needed to tide them over until the sun comes back out. Exuding and instilling such confidence is a big part of their jobs. But increasingly, it seems that the federal funding they're requesting is necessary to help manage failure, not to stave it off.

So what do we do? Do we have every man, woman, and child in the USA give them $115 so they can dissolve the companies in an orderly fashion? I guess we do -- otherwise we shock the economy into a depression and it may take us decades to recover. This way, for $115 we might be buying some time so these 2 million workers can be absorbed in other industries. A slow death is preferable to the quick death of bankruptcy.

But PLEASE let these CEOs be banned from EVER managing anything ever again.

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