Blue Dogs break with Dems on balanced-budget amendment
By Russell Berman - 11/16/11 08:30 PM ET
The conservative-Democrat Blue Dog Coalition officially endorsed the House Republican balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, breaking with Democratic Party leaders and the White House.
The support from the 25-member bloc keeps GOP hopes alive that the measure, scheduled for a final vote Friday, could gain the two-thirds support necessary to pass.
“We were advancing a balanced-budget amendment when balanced-budget amendments weren’t cool,” a co-chairman of the coalition, Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), told reporters on a conference call.
Another Blue Dog leader, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), said he expected “a significant majority” of members to support the amendment, and sent a blunt warning to Blue Dogs who might oppose it.
The decision to endorse the measure puts the Blue Dogs directly at odds with the Democratic leadership and with a longtime ally of the coalition, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.). Hoyer supported a similar amendment when it gained 300 House votes in 1995, but he is opposing it now because he said he cannot trust the Republican Party to make responsible fiscal decisions and waive the requirement in an emergency.
I haven't checked for position statements from the Third Way/New Dem sites, but it seems likely there will be some ample overlap there with that bloc as well.
Today marks 10 years.
The Patriot Act, 10 Years Later
Oct 24th, 2011
Posted by Ateqah Khaki
This Wednesday will mark 10 years since the Patriot Act was enacted. Pushed through Congress without debate, the massive surveillance bill was hastily passed just 45 days after 9/11, and was the first of many changes to surveillance laws over the past decade that made it easier for the government to spy on innocent Americans.
Since the Patriot Act was first enacted, lawmakers have authorized extension after extension, refusing to make any meaningful changes to the law. This is despite the fact that — according to Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) — there are two versions of the Patriot Act: one that the public sees, and a secret interpretation that the government keeps to itself. Senator Wyden has stated, “When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.” Furthermore, since its passage, the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General has repeatedly found widespread blatant abuse of the statute. Yet, earlier this year, Congress passed a four-year extension of expiring Patriot Act provisions, which are now set to expire on June 1, 2015.
Our new infographic illustrates some of the most troubling aspects of the Patriot Act, and our new timeline contextualizes the Patriot Act alongside other laws and government surveillance programs expanding suspicionless spying on ordinary Americans (as well as ACLU efforts to fight unchecked surveillance).
Supercommittee Democrats Offer Major Capitulation
George Zornick on October 26, 2011 - 2:52pm ET
Very distressing news broke during this morning’s meeting of the supercommittee: aides told Reuters that Democratic members of the committee have proposed $2.5 to $3 trillion in deficit reduction measures, including $400 billion in cuts to Medicare—a half of which would come from benefits.
The Democratic proposal consists of an even split between tax increases and spending cuts, and also $200 to $300 billion in new stimulus spending that would be paid for because interest payments on the debt would be lowered if the plan passed. The $400 billion in Medicare cuts would be split evenly between beneficiaries and providers. It was reportedly a formal proposal advanced by Senator Max Baucus, though Clyburn is said to object to the Medicare cuts.
The supercommittee has largely been deliberating behind closed doors, but as far as anyone knows the Republicans have not proposed anything this concrete. This begs serious questions, once again, about Democrats’ negotiating techniques in the ongoing budget and debt ceiling dramas
But this magnitude of Medicare cuts, presumably meant to entice Republicans, is astounding and out of line with previous Democratic proposals. President Obama’s own deficit plan calls for $320 billion in healthcare savings, only seven percent of which—not 50—would affect beneficiaries. I thought at the time perhaps Obama’s proposal would push the supercommittee left; instead, it’s gone far to the right, thanks to Baucus and the Democrats who support his plan.
Exclusive: Democrats seek up to $3 trillion in budget savings (Reuters)
Testifying at the hearing, Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf said whatever the committee decides, spending on entitlements like Medicare is unsustainable.
"Entitlement programs, mandatory spending is a growing share of federal outlays, in some cases. Growing rather rapidly and without addressing that path of spending, it would be extremely difficult to put the budget on a sustainable path," he said.
Elmendorf has warned the committee that he needs its recommendations much sooner than that in order to officially score the savings. Like the beginning of November-- which is next week.
Democrats Balk at Non-Defense Spending Cuts, Float Alternative Proposal to Super Committee
Published October 26, 2011
October 23, 2011 6:02 pm
US to assist Kenya’s fight against al-Shabaab
By Katrina Manson in Nairobi
The US is discussing how to assist Kenya militarily and financially in its fight against al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia, as Kenyan troops close in on southern rebel strongholds in its neighbour, a failed state prey to terrorism and piracy.
“We are talking with the Kenyans right now to figure out where they need help,” US ambassador Scott Gration told the Financial Times in an interview at his residence in Nairobi.
Kenya invaded Somalia in an unprecedented large-scale incursion last week following three separate kidnappings of foreigners holidaying or working in Kenya.
What started as an operation justified on the grounds of “hot pursuit” is rapidly expanding into a wide-reaching air and land offensive intended to wipe out Islamist al-Shabaab group, which is accused of running terror training camps.
Kenyan Explosions Leave One Dead, 20 Injured After Warning by U.S. Embassy
At least one person died after two bomb blasts in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, where police stepped up security after the U.S. Embassy warned the country faced an imminent attack as Kenya’s army continues an assault on Somalia.
Panetta: Military's Role to be Discussed With Iraq
October 22, 2011
Associated Press|by Robert Burns
ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT -- Once all U.S. troops in Iraq have left by year's end, Washington will negotiate with the Iraqi government on a possible American role in training the country's land and air forces, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday.
Speaking to reporters aboard his plane en route to Bali, Indonesia, Panetta said the U.S. and Iraq have not yet agreed even on the number of U.S. military personnel who would be assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to facilitate Iraqi arms purchases and to conduct initial training.
"That remains to be worked out," Panetta said shortly after President Barack Obama announced that all U.S. troops would depart Iraq by the end of the year.
Panetta offered no estimate of the number of U.S. troops that the Pentagon might be willing to provide as trainers or for other functions in Iraq after this year, but he noted that the U.S. keeps thousands of troops in some other Persian Gulf nations as part of normal security cooperation and training partnerships.
Stars and Stripes
En route to Asia, Panetta focuses on events in Mideast
By Chris Carroll
Stars and Stripes
Published: October 21, 2011
IN FLIGHT OVER THE BERING SEA -- Just hours into a trip designed to reinforce the U.S. commitment to a strong military presence in Asia, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Friday that American troops would soon leave two Middle Eastern conflicts behind.
Though the hope of some troops staying on has now been dropped, negotiations will continue after they leave about the possibility of smaller numbers of troops returning to Iraq for training or other missions.
“Once we’ve completed the reduction of the combat presence, then I think we begin the process of negotiating with them to determine what will be the nature of that relationship,” he said. “What kind of training to do they need, what kind of security needs do they (have), and how can we provide it in an effective way?”
Smaller numbers of troops returning?
Email Warned That Bank Up For Bailout Was ‘Disastrous’
by Marian Wang and Paul Kiel
ProPublica, Oct. 20, 2011, 11:51 a.m.
(snip - see intro)
“Wow… you guys are either making a big statement with this one or your ‘gatekeeper’ is incompetent,” warned the anonymous missive, sent in October 2008 to the Treasury and obtained by ProPublica through a Freedom of Information Act request. “This is one of the worst loan portfolios in the country run by one of the worst CEOs (and a lying CEO at that).”
The warning went unheeded. Treasury pushed ahead and provided United Commercial Bank with funds under a part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program that was aimed at bolstering healthy banks.
When the anonymous tip reached the Treasury, timestamps on the email chain show that it was quickly forwarded to upper-level Treasury officials, including Neel Kashkari, who was then Assistant Treasury Secretary and in charge of TARP. (A spokesman for the investment management giant PIMCO, Kashkari’s current employer, said he was traveling and unavailable for comment.) Other Treasury officials pulled the bank’s securities filings, which disclosed that the bank’s auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, declined to continue on as its auditor.
The email was also forwarded to several FDIC officials with a note that said, “We were provided the following feedback on UCBH,” United Commercial Bank’s parent company. “Thought you should be aware. Let us know if you received similar feedback and how/if you are responding.” The Treasury Department funded the bank only after its primary regulator certified it was financially viable. That regulator was the FDIC.
Update earlier today on the current court case:
Failed TARP Bank’s Shabudin, Yu Plead Not Guilty in Fraud Case
What Really Has Wall Street Worried
It isn't Occupy Wall Street. It's the prospect of a shifting market and pay cuts and layoffs
October 20, 2011
On Oct. 18, Goldman Sachs reported that it lost $393 million in the third quarter, excluding dividends for preferred shareholders, after the value of some investments fell and revenue declined in trading, asset management, and securities underwriting. Michael Karp, chief executive officer of New York recruitment firm Options Group, says Wall Street pay will fall 30 percent this year, and more for executives. It will be flat or down even in businesses doing relatively well, such as emerging markets and commodities, he adds.
Karp says he met last month over tea at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York with a trader who made $500,000 last year at one of the six largest U.S. banks. The trader, a 27-year-old Ivy League graduate, complained that he has worked harder this year and will be paid less. The headhunter told him to stay put and collect his bonus. “This is very demoralizing to people,” Karp says, “especially young guys who have gone to college and wanted to come onto the Street, having dreams of becoming millionaires.”
New rules from the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, taking effect starting in 2013, will more than double capital requirements for banks, cutting into profitability. To reduce their vulnerability to market swings, banks including Goldman Sachs and UBS have cut leverage by more than half, meaning they are using less borrowed money to boost trading profits.
“Sharply” falling earnings will lead to almost 10,000 financial-services job cuts in New York City by the end of 2012, according to an Oct. 11 report by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The biggest global banks already had been cutting jobs at the fastest rate since 2008 when Bank of America said last month that it will eliminate 30,000 positions. London-based HSBC, Europe’s largest lender, aims to shed the same amount. UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, is shrinking after a $2.3 billion trading loss disclosed in September.
( bold mine )
Was watching for this pleading today: This was a TARP bank. NO Tarp funds were repaid. This is a case with both criminal and separate SEC charges.
Failed Bank’s Shabudin, Yu Plead Not Guilty in Fraud Case
October 20, 2011, 2:46 PM EDT
Karen Gullo and Pamela MacLean
(see intro and background)
The bank failed in November of that year and was taken over by the government, which has paid out $397 million. The failure has cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s insurance fund $2.5 billion, the SEC said in its complaint. No TARP funds have been repaid.
United Commercial was one of the 10 biggest bank failures to result from the 2008 credit crisis, the SEC said.
Shabudin and Yu were released today after the judge ordered them each to post a $500,000 property bond. The next court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4.
The criminal case is U.S. v Shabudin, 3:11-cr-00664, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco). The SEC case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Wu, 4:11- cv-04988, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).
Banks got bailed out. We got sold out. This is just more of what OWS is talking about.
TV stations drop misleading ad by group pushing Ohio anti-union bill
By Dustin Ensinger | 10.13.11 | 12:41 pm
Building a Better Ohio, a group formed to support anti-collective bargaining legislation that will go before voters in November via a veto referendum known as Issue 2, is up with a new television ad featuring Marlene Quinn, a 78-year-old Cincinnati woman, extolling the virtues of the union-busting legislation.
The problem is, Quinn is not a supporter of Senate Bill 5. In fact, she is adamantly opposed to the anti-union legislation, and made that clear in an anti-SB5 ad that aired prior to the Building a Better Ohio ad.
Building a Better Ohio took footage of that previous ad and manipulated it, adding in its own narration to make it seem as though Quinn supports SB5 in order to avoid layoffs of firefighters.
For his part, Kasich (R) told the Columbus Dispatch he is not responsible for the misleading ad. However, he also added that “what they’re doing is fine.”
Execs of TARP-Supported Bank Charged with Hiding Millions in Losses
A federal grand jury in San Francisco has indicted two former bank executives of the now-defunct United Commercial Bank for misrepresenting loan losses to federal agencies as the bank took money from taxpayers through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Specifically, the charges include conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, falsifying corporate books and records, and lying to auditors.
The indictment alleges that beginning in September 2008, Shabudin and Yu, along with others, used fraudulent accounting maneuvers and techniques to hide the bank’s true financial condition from the U.S. Department of Treasury, investors, depositors, regulators, and the bank’s independent auditor.
“Shabudin and Yu are the first senior executives of a TARP bank charged in connection with a scheme to defraud investors, which included the Treasury, and by extension the American taxpayer, Christy L. Romero, acting Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) said in a statement.
After the bank failed in November 2009, the FDIC became the receiver and, to date, has paid out approximately $397 million as a result of the seizure. The indictment estimates total losses to the FDIC will be approximately $2.5 billion, and further alleges that none of the TARP funds have been repaid. United Commercial Bank was the first TARP recipient bank to fail.
Read more: http://www.dsnews.com/articles/execs-of-ta...
Here's another write-up:
Ex-execs of failed United Commercial Bank indicted
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Federal authorities filed criminal and civil fraud charges Tuesday against former executives of San Francisco's United Commercial Bank, accusing them of hiding losses that led to the bank's multibillion-dollar collapse in 2009.
Again, these are not allegations of wayward bankers' "creative loopholes." Conspiracy to commit fraud and FRAUD. They were given $298 million in TARP. Allegedly had understated their operating losses in Sept 2008 by 50 percent. The indictment was unsealed last Tuesday. One of them was arrested . The other surrendered in court, and both are scheduled to be back in court on October 20.
I want to see jail time.
Major Banks Accused of Defrauding Veterans, Taxpayers
While five major banks continue to deliberate with the state attorneys general for a settlement involving violations in mortgage documentation, the same five banks, plus several others, also face charges for committing fraud against veterans and taxpayers.
Two Georgia-based mortgage brokers – Victor E. Bibby, president and CEO of U.S. Financial Services, Inc., and Brian J. Donnelly, VP of operations of U.S. Financial Services, Inc. – brought the case before a federal court in Atlanta. The case was just recently released to the public.
Bibby and Donnelly accuse 13 banks of “a brazen scheme to defraud both our nation’s veterans and the United States Treasury of millions of dollars in connection with home loans guaranteed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs,” according to the court filing.
The banks allegedly “submitted hundreds of thousands of false and fraudulent documents, records and claims,” following which “(t)ens of thousands of IRRRL loans have gone into default or resulted in foreclosure.
more at the link: http://www.dsnews.com/articles/major-banks...
Banksters deeds charges here adding up to hundreds of millions of damages to Americans in FRAUD.
In other news:
JPMorgan Rebuffs Reports That AG Settlement Is Imminent
JPMorgan Chase used its third-quarter earnings call with investors Thursday to rein in expectations about when a mortgage servicing settlement might be reached with state officials.
CEO Jamie Dimon described the settlement talks as “getting bogged down” because of the many varying demands of each of the 50 state attorneys general, a couple of which have already pulled out of the negotiations because they disagree with the terms of the proposal under consideration.
JPMorgan is one of five major mortgage servicers involved in the negotiations, and Dimon’s remarks don’t jibe with the flood of media reports coming out this week citing unnamed sources who claim a final settlement agreement is just days away.
Dimon told his company’s investors, “We would love to have some kind of settlement. We think it’s actually good for everybody to get (it done) and move on,” but he was quick to add, “if it’s reasonable.”
The loose noose of Iran sanctions
Oct 12, 2011 10:37 PM by
Jill Dougherty -
WASHINGTON, DC - Intent on punishing Iran for a brazen alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil, the Obama administration is in diplomatic overdrive, urging countries around the world to cut whatever ties they still have with Tehran and "isolate" it from the international community.
"We will work with our international partners to increase Iran's isolation and the pressure on its government. And we call upon other nations to join us in condemning this threat to international peace and security," a steely Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.
Soon after American authorities detailed the allegations and tied the plot to elements of Iran's military, the Treasury Department invoked new economic sanctions against top members of the Quds Force, the part of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that allegedly directed the assassination plot. Treasury says a top member of the Quds approved up to $5 million to pay for the plot.
But the administration's headlong press for more sanctions raises a question: If sanctions work, why didn't they stop Iran from allegedly making a down payment on the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador?
see the article for the rest of the admin action today:
Congress getting classified briefings from admin. Wendy Sherman from State Dept will be on the Hill tomorrow. Susan Rice is very busy, too.
Still and ever.
Obama jobs council offers up Republican-friendly proposals
Erik Wasson - 10/11/11 10:55 AM ET
The council, led by GE head Jeffrey Immelt, a Republican, late Monday released its interim report focusing on medium-term reforms that could boost employment. Among its recommendations are easing environmental and health regulations and reducing taxes on investors.
(snip- see more introduction at link)
For start-ups, the council is recommending extending a capital gains tax exclusion for small businesses and lowering the rate to 10 percent from 15 percent for investors in startups. It calls for the easing of Sarbanes- Oxley accounting rules and requirements in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
Multiple sections of the report call for visa reform, including easing green cards for science and engineering graduates and allowing more highly skill workers and entrepreneurs to obtain temporary visas.
The foreign investment section includes a watered down recommendation to “explore tax reforms” but does specify what new corporate tax rates should be or whether loopholes should be closed.
The Multibillion-Dollar Leak
Draft of 'Volcker Rule' Hits Internet, Rocking Wall Street, Washington; 'Proprietary Trading' on Line
SCOTT PATTERSON And VICTORIA MCGRANE
OCTOBER 7, 2011
Bankers, lobbyists and lawmakers from Wall Street to Washington scrambled to dissect, analyze and react to a leaked proposal for one of the most controversial elements of the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law: the "Volcker rule."
Billions of dollars are at stake for big banks, which have been working for months to shape the rule aimed at curbing risky trading activities that played a part in the financial crisis.
The latest frenzy erupted late Wednesday when a website posted a 205-page draft of a memo, dated Sept. 30, that laid out critical elements of the proposed Volcker rule.
The leak left regulators fuming and opened a new front in Wall Street's battle to soften the blow of the proposed rule. The draft gave banking industry lobbyists several days to discuss it before Tuesday, when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is scheduled to consider issuing a version for public comment.
See also ProPublica Sept 22
Regulators Weaken Dodd-Frank Draft Regs, Allow More Risk
by Marian Wang
Sep. 22, 2011
The regulatory agencies in charge of finalizing some of the most controversial rules mandated by the financial reform law are leaning toward making them looser and more favorable to banks and other traders, according to recent reports in the financial press.
As we noted in June, federal regulators were still puzzling over how restrictive the ban on proprietary trading—banks trading on their own behalf—should be, given that banks are still allowed to hedge against risks. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has argued for banks to be given more leeway in what types of trades would be permitted as hedges under the rule, but critics charge that banks could use the opportunity to take more risks rather than hedge against them.
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