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Perfecting the Savings and Loan Shell Game

8:58 am in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

What was the banking bailout all about?

Just look at the acronym–TARP(Troubled Asset Relief Program). Did Paulson and Team Bush simply throw a tarp over their real intentions, covering up a final round of profiteering before riding into their own version of a sunset?

The NY Times ran an interesting piece in last Sunday’s paper:
"Bailout Is a Windfall to Banks, if Not to Borrowers"

One thing jumps out of the middle of the piece:

Most of the banks that received the money are far smaller than behemoths like Citigroup or Bank of America. A review of investor presentations and conference calls by executives of some two dozen banks around the country found that few cited lending as a priority. An overwhelming majority saw the bailout program as a no-strings-attached windfall that could be used to pay down debt, acquire other businesses or invest for the future.

Speaking at the FBR Capital Markets conference in New York in December, Walter M. Pressey, president of Boston Private Wealth Management, a healthy bank with a mostly affluent clientele, said there were no immediate plans to do much with the $154 million it received from the Treasury.

“With that capital in hand, not only do we feel comfortable that we can ride out the recession,” he said, “but we also feel that we’ll be in a position to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves once this recession is sorted out.”

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Obama Releases a Long-Held Detainee…Information

9:48 am in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

Many have been dismayed by the signals then-President-Elect Obama was sending about his Administration’s future role in investigating and prosecuting members of the Bush Administration.

Everything pointed to a "let’s move on" attitude.

But Obama has also spent a lot of time and energy telling us all that it is we…it is us…who will have to participate in the "change" he is leading.

Within hours of entering the Oval Office, Obama threw down the gauntlet.

“Starting today,” Mr. Obama said, “every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known.”

One of the first acts of the Obama Presidency was to reverse post 9/11 rules erring on the side of secrecy… a policy that clamped down on the Freedom of Information Act.

It was a crucial move by Team Bush, anticipating the crimes and misdemeanors they planned…and still working to pull a veil over the fun and games of previous Administrations…like those of the Reagan and Bush years. This effectively covered up the sins of the father, and the sins of so many working for the son.

Obama, though, has taken a huge step toward pulling back the veil of secrecy. Read the rest of this entry →

The War Behind Us is Ahead of Us

9:48 am in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

Generals always fall into the trap of fighting the last war.

That is a well-known adage of military history. Adages, like clichés, have a funny way of being true.

A new book, The War Behind Me, chronicles the heretofore hidden excesses and abuses the Vietnamese people suffered at the hands of the American military machine and the effort made by the Pentagon to keep those abuses away from public view.

This was particularly true after Seymour Hersh famously blew the lid off of the massacre at My Lai. The massacre was an outgrowth of the “Strategic Hamlet” program, a Pentagon brainchild that determined that “saving” a village from going Communist might very well mean destroying it.

Kinda like spreading democracy at gunpoint or keeping the peace by starting pre-emptive wars…it requires serious mental gymnastics to keep these contradictions straight.

In the case of My Lai, a young lieutenant—Lt. Calley—took the blame and the fall for being on the front lines of a bankrupt policy. The policy-makers sacrificed him to quell the public outcry and got away scot-free.

A lower-level cog in the machine was removed as a bad actor, a “bad apple,” while those who put him in an untenable situation blithely move on. Read the rest of this entry →

If the Shoe Fits, Throw it

9:07 am in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

You could almost feel the collective glee that spread around the world when Bush found himself dodging shoes over the weekend.

But it is also a moment of great sadness.

It was the first time in recent memory that the issue of the pain and suffering of the Iraq people has come up in the mainstream media. The only time it has come up in politics since the presidential campaign began two years ago.

What we’ve done to Iraq—yes, I am sorry…but it is “we”—never makes it into mainstream politics, into the mainstream coverage…into the mainstream consciousness of America.

We never heard Obama say that one reason we needed to get out of Iraq is because we killed tens of thousands of innocent people, destroyed their country, forced millions to become refugees and it was wrong…we are sorry and we will get out, pay reparations and prosecute the people who did this.

We never heard Obama or any major candidate even mention the death and suffering of the Iraqi people. Never heard the media ask one question about it. Not one.

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Just Holder it One Minute!

9:30 am in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

Sen. Arlen “Watch Me Pull a Magic Bullet out of My Hat” Specter placed a hold on the nomination of Eric Holder for Attorney General.

Kinda got lost in all Blagojevich mess. Lost in the manic-obsessive news cycle. Lost as the media shows us how Obama magically dodged that bullet.

But this is important.

Specter, maybe out of a partisan urge, or maybe because he has an actual concern for justice, has rekindled a long-forgotten firestorm called Pardongate. It seems that Eric Holder had a lot more to do with, and knew a heckuva lot more about, outgoing President Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich—the long-suffering money launderer on the lam in Switzerland—than either he, Clinton or Obama would like to admit.

Why is this important? Why is this something more than just another partisan dog and pony show?

Because it gets to heart of why some…perhaps many…are already squeamish about the Obama Administration. Just based on Obama’s appointments, it looks like we are seeing the resurrection of the Clinton Administration. It looks like he is going to blow by many of the crimes that preceded him. That he is sending signals that his change is loose, nickels and dimes, when we were all hoping for something more wholesale. He looks like he is telling “The Establishment” that he is going to be a “sound man” who will not rock the boat, nor will he turn over many rocks. Read the rest of this entry →

Jeb Invites the GOP to Jump back into the Shadows

5:39 pm in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

The burning Bushes are talking again.

President W is doing his best to "burnish" his legacy with mea culpas about Iraq and the economy to ABC’s Charles Gibson. Sorta like polishing the rails on the Titanic, it’s easy to understand his desire to create some semblance of shine for his long-since sunken presidency.

It’s almost nice to hear. Because it sounds like music…the music that plays during an exit…as in, exit stage right.

But the Bushes are not going to go away. They never do.

Enter Jeb Bush.

He made his first significant media appearance in recent memory…an interview with Newsmax. Weighing in on politics and the future of the GOP, Jeb suggested that the GOP set up a "shadow government."

You know what, Jeb? That is what the GOP has been doing for decades, and it gets us…as in USofA…in heaps of trouble.

Shadow Governments might work in parliamentary systems, but when a Bush suggests a shadow government, a far more troubling pattern of secret team shenanigans comes to mind.

The first shadow government proposed by a Bush was by not-yet-Senator Prescott…when he participated in organizing a fascist-style coup to overthrow FDR in 1933. It failed, although Prescott got off scot-free. Free enough to become a Senator.
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Obama’s To Do List

8:07 am in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

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We all have "to-do lists," but rarely is the very foundation of an entire, 230-year-old governmental system at stake when we jot down the do this and get that of day-to-day living.

Sorry Obama, but you have much more riding on your "to-do list" than picking up the cleaning, getting pet food and finally washing windows.

We live in a country where the legal system and government are based on precedent, and the last seven-plus years have seen a number of bad precedents set. If we go another 4 years without those changes challenged, it is likely that we will never get rid of them.

So, Mr. President-Elect, here is a to-do list that you might…really, you must…take on as soon as you settle into that chair…behind that desk…in that office:

1. End Torture: Okay, you’ve promised to shut down Gitmo. But that was sorta in the cards, so no props for that. How about re-defining torture along the lines of the Geneva Convention? Issue an Exec Order…or prod Congress to pass a law that includes waterboarding, extreme stress positions…all of it…as torture. Stop the semantic games about "enhanced interrogation," which Naomi Wolf points out in my film–The Warning–is what the Nazis called torture. Read the rest of this entry →