Bailout recipients spend $10 million on lobbying – so far

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Firms getting U.S federal bailout cash spent millions on lobbying so far this year, including efforts to block pay limits and tougher oversight, filings show.

The leaders were General Motors Corp., which spent nearly $1 million a month for three months on lobbying, and Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase, which combined spent more than $2.5 million.

In all, major bailout recipients spent more than $10 million during the first three months of 2009 and more than $22 million in the six months since the Troubled Assets Relief Program began, Senate disclosure records indicated.

The disclosures come as Congress and the public show anger over bailout recipients’ complaints over caps on company bonuses and pay, and some strings tied to the government loans, the Washington Post said.

Advocacy groups and some lawmakers say firms should not be lobbying against stricter oversight while receiving billions from TARP.

What I always want to know is – who are the politicians welcoming these creeps with open arms? I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill informational tasks, the sense of what lobbying originally was about. I mean the long-lost bubba who brings the giftmas presents.

Man convicted of battering 14-year-old boy in the name of exorcism

A man accused of performing an exorcism on a 14-year-old autistic boy has been found guilty of battery and criminal confinement by a jury in Indiana.

Eddie Uyesugi, 24, now faces between two and eight years in jail on each felony count. Prosecutors say the 14-year-old boy suffered bruises, abrasions and two black eyes as a result of a ceremony Uyesugi conducted to rid the boy of demons.

Deputy prosecutor Darcie Winkle of Monroe County told jurors Uyesugi beat the boy and restrained him against his will for hours during an exorcism that took place in May of 2007.

Uyesugi defense attorney Matt Blanton said the boy’s grandmother sanctioned the exorcism and instructed Uyesugi to help her get the demons out of her grandson.

A criminal idiot hired by a superstitious fool.

All 12 arrested during anti-terror raids – released without charge

Gordon Brown embarrassed again by arrests based on insinuation
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This whole exercise has been a farce worthy of Mel Brooks. Gordon Brown’s flunkies should audition for “The History of the World, Part 3” – presuming “Part 2” is still dedicated to the Bush-Blair twins.

The government faced a barrage of criticism after police released without charge the remaining 11 suspects arrested a fortnight ago in the north-west of England over an alleged terror plot.

The last two men to be released joined nine others given their freedom last night and one freed on 11 April.

Opposition parties, human rights lawyers and Muslim groups accused the government of mistreating the suspects and botching the anti-terror operation…

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said: “In the vital task of policing open societies, it is inevitable that you arrest more people than you charge and that sometimes suspicion will never be converted into evidence. But national security deportation is an extremely shadowy process and we need assurances from ministers that these powers will only be used for public safety and not for political signalling.”

Gordon Brown had claimed the operation uncovered a “very big plot” against the UK.

We Posted about this when it got started by the Commissioner of Klutzy Car Exits and Silly Walks. Including Bob Quick’s resignation.

When push comes to shove, you can’t continue to abuse police powers if you turn up nothing more than people who read books the government doesn’t approve of – and make statements unacceptable at tea-party book signings.

“Pakistan is becoming a mortal threat to the world”

Students collect brick from the rubble of their destroyed school in Mingora
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Nuclear-armed Pakistan is becoming a “mortal threat” to the world, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Pakistan poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world,” Clinton said. “And I want to take this occasion … state unequivocally that not only do the Pakistani government officials, but the Pakistani people and the Pakistani diaspora…need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents…”

Taliban militants Tuesday took over the northwestern Pakistan district of Buner, just 60 miles from the capital of Islamabad. Militants were patrolling its streets with no signs of government law enforcement personnel, Pakistan’s English-language newspaper Dawn reported. The move came after the Taliban last week imposed Shariah, or strict Islamic law, in the neighboring Swat Valley as part of a peace agreement with the government.

“(We) cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by the continuing advances now within hours of Islamabad that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state,” Clinton said.

Nice to hear Hillary voice what some of us in the blogosphere have been saying for a while. Though, often, we have couched our criticism of the Zardari regime in terms as polite as possible – the politics of that government become no more palatable, understandable, except as a reflection of fear and inability to act.

The weak link in all struggles against Islamist terrorism has been and remains Pakistan. It’s time for the government of Pakistan to reach out to allies, foreign and domestic, to counter the Taliban threat.

Former law officers from the U.S. to train Mexican police

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The U.S. and Mexico are drawing up plans to dispatch up to 300 former U.S. law enforcement officials to Mexico later this year to train thousands of Mexican police investigators in their escalating fight against drug cartels, federal officials said.

Mexican government officials would select about 9,000 Mexican police for training at undisclosed locations in Mexico, one U.S. diplomatic and one federal law enforcement official said. The goal would be to quell rampant corruption and violence, much of it fueled by warring drug organizations.

The officials have been briefed on the proposal but asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to comment. They said the plan would create a law enforcement academy where Mexican investigators could be trained in narcotics and weapons trafficking, money laundering, fingerprint examination and other disciplines key to their battle against the cartels and other criminal groups. The State Department would oversee the U.S. side of the program…

Scott Erskine, executive director of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, said recruiters for the mission in Mexico have approached his group about the availability of former agents to serve as trainers…

The training plan is the latest in a series of steps the U.S. is taking to try to contain the violence in Mexico, where 7,000 have died in the past 14 months.


Can we end credit card loan sharking? Will Republicans help?

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A Congressional panel is expected to approve legislation…that would curb high credit card fees and penalties assessed by many banks that have benefited from the federal government’s financial bailout program.

The pro-consumer bill, which would mean sweeping changes for banks that issue cards, is an important test of the political will of Democrats who are pushing for U.S. financial regulation reform…

“It’s a new era in Washington,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat and chief sponsor of the House bill. “It’s taken three years of hard work, but I’m delighted that we’re on the brink of real protections for consumers.”

Her proposed legislation would halt credit cards from imposing arbitrary rate increases and penalties and certain billing practices on balances with different rates. It is expected to win approval by the committee, and later by the full House.

But it remains unclear whether Democrats in the Senate can muster the 60 votes needed in that chamber to advance controversial legislation amid stiff opposition from the banking industry. The Senate’s version of a credit card reform bill includes tougher language…

U.S. lawmakers have expressed anger that the same banks such as Bank of America, Citi and Chase with big credit card operations, charge excessive interest rates and fees while getting U.S. government bailout from the taxpayers who use these credit cards.

There was a time in this land when usury was illegal. States had laws generally prohibiting interest rates higher than 18%. Now, between payday loan sharks and the greediest banks on Earth, interest rates that blow through that old ceiling – are the rule.

Bank lobbyists infest the halls of Congress like never before – checking out who’s naughty or nice by their definitions. Keep an eye on the vote in Congress on this one – and you’ll see who is owned by Wall Street.

Celebrate Earth Day 2009

Earth Day 2009, April 22, will mark the beginning of The Green Generation Campaign which will also be the focus of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day in 2010. With negotiations for a new global climate agreement coming up in December, Earth Day 2009 must be a day of action and civic participation, to defend The Green Generation’s core principles: Family with windmills: Renewable energy for future generations.

Under the umbrella of The Green Generation, 100,000 people attended Earth Day on the National Mall in Washington, DC on Sunday, April 19th.

Secretary of State Hilda Solis, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Representative Edward Markey, green celebrities like Chevy Chase and Matthew Modine, and other representatives of the environmental community addressed the crowd and encouraged the world to join The Green Generation. The Flaming Lips, moe., Los Lobos and DJ Spooky added the soundtrack. Large-scale volunteer events in New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Austin, Atlanta, and DC had been going over the weekend, in partnership with Green Apple Festival, followed by thank you concerts for those who participated.

Our partners in Cleveland, Columbus, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Beijing, and Manila, among others, also brought out hundreds of thousands of people and sent a loud and clear message to the world: The Green Generation™ is here to stay! Activities are happening all through April. Find one near you!

Join in, folks, I remember the first Earth Day. I was in Amherst, Massachusetts for the celebration at UMass.

Terrific music. As I recall, my favorite group was Palestinian – from Springfield, Mass.

Freddie Mac CFO commits suicide!

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A top executive at Freddie Mac was found dead Wednesday morning from an apparent suicide, according to CBS affiliate WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C.

David Kellermann, the acting chief financial officer and senior vice president of the government-sponsored mortgage lender, was found dead in his home after his wife alerted Fairfax County Police to his suicide, authorities told WUSA.

According to Kellermann’s bio on Freddie Mac’s Website, the 41-year-old was with the company for more than 16 years and was named acting CFO in September.

That was the same month Freddie Mac was placed under conservatorship by the U.S. Treasury as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis.


Save a city by demolishing it?

Dozens of proposals have been floated over the years to slow Flint, Michigan’s endless decline. Now another idea is gaining support: speed it up.

Instead of waiting for houses to become abandoned and then pulling them down, local leaders are talking about demolishing entire blocks and even whole neighborhoods. The population would be condensed into a few viable areas. So would stores and services. A city built to manufacture cars would be returned in large measure to the forest primeval…

The recession in Flint, as in many old-line manufacturing cities, is quickly making a bad situation worse. Firefighters and police officers are being laid off as the city struggles with a $15 million budget deficit. Many public schools are likely to be closed…

Planned shrinkage became a workable concept in Michigan a few years ago, when the state changed its laws regarding properties foreclosed for delinquent taxes. Before, these buildings and land tended to become mired in legal limbo, contributing to blight. Now they quickly become the domain of county land banks, giving communities a powerful tool for change…

Nothing will happen immediately, but Flint has begun updating its master plan, a complicated task last done in 1965. Then it was a prosperous city of 200,000 looking to grow to 350,000. It now has 110,000 people, about a third of whom live in poverty.

Flint has about 75 neighborhoods spread out over 34 square miles. It will be a delicate process to decide which to favor, Dan Kildee acknowledged from the driver’s seat of his Grand Cherokee…

“If it’s going to look abandoned, let it be clean and green,” he said. “Create the new Flint forest — something people will choose to live near, rather than something that symbolizes failure.”

I suffered through the ungainly and crass disaster that was “Urban Renewal” in the 50’s and 60’s. Generally, that meant urban removal for poor people, regardless of color or ethnicity. This has as many high-sounding words; but, it’s going to take a lot of convincing for folks in Flint. I hope the politicians live up to those words.

Christopher Hill confirmed as US ambassador to Iraq – finally

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The Senate confirmed veteran diplomat Christopher Hill as U.S. ambassador to Iraq on Tuesday, voting 73-23 to put Hill in chargeof the largest U.S. embassy in the world.

Hill, a career Foreign Service officer, was the lead U.S. negotiator in the now-stalled North Korean disarmament talks. He will take over the Baghdad post at a time when President Barack Obama is attempting to wind down the 6-year-old war in Iraq.

His nomination made it past a key Senate test Monday as opponents failed to block the nomination. All 23 votes against the nomination Tuesday came from Republicans, several of whom argued that the nominee has no hands-on experience in the Middle East and speaks no Arabic.

But Sen. John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Monday that Hill had great experience “in negotiating complex, high-stakes, multilateral deals in conflict zones.”

“The entire resolution of Iraq as a success will revolve around the diplomacy that we apply to it and our ability to seek political reconciliation, which will be implemented by that diplomacy,” said Kerry, D-Massachusetts. Hill replaces Ryan Crocker, who was the top American diplomat in Baghdad from March 2007 until February.

Chris Hill has always been an honest man and a conservative. Qualities which didn’t used to be considered contradictory. Especially for a New England Yankee like Hill.

The honesty surely is what confounded both McCain and Brownback – prompting them to lead an attempt to stonewall Hill’s appointment,