Global FDIC supported at Davos

World’s leading bankers at the World Economic Forum in Davos have decided to support a new insurance levy on financial institutions to fund a bailout in future.

Led by Deutsche Bank, most major banks have agreed to back the idea, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has described as “practical”. The levy would go into a fund to rescue banks in financial distress, instead of using taxpayers’ money for the purpose…

US President Barack Obama had earlier revealed plans to force banks to pay into a pool fund to provide compensation for a failing financial institution.

David Cameron and Chancellor Darling have both backed the plan.

The levy is among a number of options outlined by the IMF, which will be presented to G20 ministers in April.

So, we get a few sentences of agreement, right now. The details will be presented to the G20 in a couple of months when we’ll have a clearer picture, the financial institutions in question will have a finished agreement to vote up or down.

To me, it makes as much sense as the FDIC did back when it was born in 1933 – to cover the buns of American banks. It’s worked ever since.

In fact, if the Republican flunkey-monkeys in Congress hadn’t killed the Glass-Steagall bill in 1999 – and the matching range of oversight regulations – we might not have fallen into this killer recession.

They really run a tight legal ship in Canada, eh?

Canadian officials are investigating more than 300 people who claimed to have shared a home in Mississauga, Ontario, says the (Toronto) Globe and Mail.

Now, that’s high population density!

The newspaper said Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating the alleged cases of citizenship fraud, a crime that Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently deemed a rising matter of concern in Canada…

A building manager at Palestine House, which resides in the same building as the address in the fraud investigation, told the Globe and Mail that individuals also received child benefit checks at the address despite the fact they did not live at the address.

Then, in a completely unrelated report…

At least four Toronto-area drivers who had their licenses suspended in court drove away when they left, a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. report said Tuesday.

The broadcaster aired a report it compiled last week in which news crews followed the first four men whose licenses were suspended and recorded them driving away.

The charges the men faced weren’t published, although the CBC said one of the men who drove away from the courthouse has 34 driving convictions and nine license suspensions.

Those of us who have survived absolutely identical standards of policing and jurisprudence – down here in New Mexico – actually are heartened to know we haven’t an exclusive patent on bureaucratic incompetence.

CIA agents moonlighting isn’t a problem – says the CIA.

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein says she wants answers about a Central Intelligence Agency policy that allows the agency’s employees to moonlight for private companies.

The CIA policy — first reported by POLITICO’s Eamon Javers in a story drawn from a forthcoming book — is also being reviewed by staff members of the House Intelligence Committee, spokeswoman Courtney Littig said.

CIA spokesman George Little on Monday defended the policy, saying that employees’ requests to work for private companies are considered on a case-by-case basis. “The agency reviews requests for outside employment using yardsticks of legality, propriety and, of course, security,” Little said. “There’s a rigorous process to all this — one that’s been in place for decades…”

But longtime agency watchers said they were shocked to learn that agents are allowed to work for private firms — and that the practice raises a number of serious concerns, including the possibility that moonlighting agents will have conflicts of interests.

I’m surprised, and I think it looks bad,” said law professor John Radsan, a former CIA employee who has written extensively about internal checks on the intelligence community. “Ideally, [agents] should be fully employed, their loyalty should be fully to the government, and they should be looking to make their careers there.”

An FBI official said Monday that the bureau has strict limits on outside work by its employees. “Our agents are prohibited from outside employment, period,” said the official, who asked not to be named…

Feinstein, a California Democrat, has focused on the CIA’s use of contractors before and hammered CIA Director Leon Panetta on the issue during his confirmation hearings last year. The number of CIA contractors doubled between 2001 and 2006, Feinstein said then. Panetta said the situation was bad for morale and that the agency had a “responsibility” to do more intelligence work in-house.

That’s what he said. It appears he’s done nothing about it.

After years of government ethics standards being worth less than the paper they’re printed on, I don’t feel reassured by claims of a “rigorous process”. There’s another process that’s been in place much longer. It’s corruption and cronyism.

Extortion and bullying complaints in California Republican primary

Photographs by David McNew/Getty Images

Accusing his rival, Meg Whitman, of trying to illegally “manipulate” the election for governor and intimidate him into quitting the race, Republican Steve Poizner on Monday reported her campaign to state and federal law enforcement authorities.

Poizner, the state insurance commissioner who is squaring off against Whitman, the billionaire former EBay chief, in a GOP primary in June, gave reporters an e-mail received by one of his advisors from her consultant Mike Murphy. In it Murphy asked, “Is there anything we can do to get SP to reconsider this race?” He added, “We can spend $40m+ tearing up Steve if we must…”

This was followed by an offer to bankroll a campaign in 2012 for Congress against Diane Feinstein.

In Poizner’s letter to law enforcement agencies, he said Murphy had threatened in a call to another aide to put the candidate “through the wood chipper.”

Poizner told reporters that the attempts at coercing him to drop out violated state and federal law.

Whitman “does not have the right to try to manipulate this election process by clearing the field through intimidation and threats,” Poizner said. “Voters need to have choices…”

Murphy said he had attempted “to avoid a costly and unnecessary Republican primary,” let Poizner out of a sinking campaign and unite Republicans behind his own candidate to defeat Democrat Jerry Brown.

Har! Throw some Amerika First Teabaggers and anti-abortion nutballs into the mix, as well. Let ’em all stew together.

You’ve been to mass, this morning? Let’s check your prints!

A Polish priest has installed an electronic reader in his church for schoolchildren to leave their fingerprints in order to monitor their attendance at mass, the Gazeta Wyborcza daily said on Friday.

The pupils will mark their fingerprints every time they go to church over three years and if they attend 200 masses they will be freed from the obligation of having to pass an exam prior to their confirmation, the paper said.

The pupils in the southern town of Gryfow Slaski told the daily they liked the idea and also the priest, Grzegorz Sowa, who invented it.

“This is comfortable. We don’t have to stand in a line to get the priest’s signature (confirming our presence at the mass) in our confirmation notebooks,” said one pupil, who gave her name as Karolina.

Not only is God watching you; but – Father Grzegorz is checking up on you.


President Obama on Net Neutrality – again

Here’s the full interview with YouTube folks.

I should’ve watched it live.

Instead I watched a scrappy EPL make-up match between Sunderland and Stoke City. A Coca-Cola Championship-level match in hi-def made sparkling by the worst job of refereeing Howard Webb has ever offered.

And he’s my favorite referee. Usually.

Yes, Obama’s my favorite president. After FDR. Who had dead legs, the balls of a brass monkey and the heart to provide leadership to a Congress even more reactionary and cowardly than the present incarnation.

While Obama and Genachowski support net neutrality, they don’t own as many lobbyists as TWC, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and all the corporate creeps embedded in the cable and telecom industry. Keep poking ’em with a stick, folks.

Pope condemns equality laws before his first UK visit – Good start!

The Pope and his international Shari’a Court
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Pope Benedict XVI has condemned British equality legislation for running contrary to “natural law” as he confirmed his first visit to the UK later this year…His comments relate to laws that came in last year preventing adoption agencies from discriminating against gay couples and also Harriet Harman’s equality bill, currently going through parliament.

The pope, whose visit is expected in September, made the comments after hearing representations from English and Welsh bishops on their concerns about the place of religion in an increasingly secular society.

They told him sexual orientation legislation that came into effect on 1 January 2009 had forced the closure of half the Roman Catholic adoption agencies because the law making it illegal to discriminate against gay applicants went against their beliefs…

It is also thought the pope was referring to the equality bill, which narrows the special exemption enjoyed by churches allowing them to exclude people whose lifestyles do not fit in with the religious ethos of an organisation when hiring staff. The bishops cited it as another restriction of their freedom of religious belief.

His remarks drew swift criticism from the National Secular Society, which said it would stage protests during the visit.

Terry Sanderson, the society’s president, said: “The taxpayer is going to be faced with a bill for £20m for the visit – in which he has indicated he will attack equal rights and promote discrimination.”

You must realize that priest-commanders feel only their own sanctimonious flock are worthy of freedom of choice and opportunity. Centuries of discrimination and bigotry translated to simpler modes – like whether or not someone can have a job or a life partner or a family means nothing to religious cabals with a history of corruption that stretches over centuries.

Air Force deploys a half-dozen Predators to Haiti

Six Predators started flying missions over Haiti from a Puerto Rican airport Jan. 27, marking the first time the Air Force’s unmanned RQ-1s have flown humanitarian missions or operated out of a civilian airport.

The Predators have flown two round-the-clock orbits over Port-au-Prince, feeding full-motion video of roads and buildings, devastated by the Jan. 12 earthquake, to service members, relief organizations and Haitian officials.

“We have focused a lot on roads and infrastructure because they want to see what is intact,” said Maj. Jeff Bright, the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing detachment commander during a Jan. 28 telephone interview from Puerto Rico.

The Air Force didn’t receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration until Jan. 25. Predators and MQ-9 Reapers had never before received FAA approval to operate out of a civilian airport

“This is an open deployment. We are going to be here as long as we are needed,” Bright said.

The hardest part of the deployment thus far has been receiving approval from the FAA, the detachment commander said. Service officials have been in discussions with the FAA about operating at civilian airports for years, but saving lives in Haiti served as a motivator to move this mission along, Bright said…

The Air Force declassified the feeds from the Predators to allow relief organizations such as the Red Cross, U.S.A.I.D. and the United Nations to have access to them. Having live video feeds rather than still imagery from a Global Hawk or a U-2 — which have also flown over Haiti — allows commanders to move quickly to different regions of Port-au-Prince depending on need, Bright said.

As regulars know, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. Using military forces for peaceful tasks ain’t the end of the world – except in the minds of those consumed by hatred. It’s one of the tasks envisioned by many when the Cold War was declared over back in the Clinton days.

Allowing public access to unencrypted transmissions from the birds is a qualitative step forward.