AIG to Pay $450 Million in Bonuses

AIG, recipient of billions of taxpayer bailout dollars continues making the same horrible decisions that bankrupted the company.  To make matters worse the bonuses are going to those who underwrote the credit default swaps which caused the financial and economic meltdown.  AIG simply needs to be nationalized, split up and sold off.  Banks are essentially insolvent but the Treasury continues pouring money into these financial black holes.

We need to take over these companies, keelhaul the CEO’s and replace top management.  The solution used in the S&L crisis worked well and is a recipe for this problem.  Companies simply do not comprehend the new reality.  Maybe they need some shock therapy.  

Congressman Paul Kanjorski issued this statement about AIG:

“Recent reports that AIG will pay out retention bonuses to employees at a failed business unit is simply outrageous,” said Chairman Kanjorski.  “We are in extremely difficult economic times, and AIG knows this from personal experience.  After gaining access to more than $170 billion in taxpayer money to keep itself afloat, AIG has now decided to provide an average of $1.1 million to about 400 of its employees at the very business unit that caused the company to collapse.  I have already personally told AIG’s Chairman that this decision is mind boggling and wrong.  AIG needs to reverse course.”

Chairman Kanjorski added, “AIG should be at the beck and call of the taxpayers, but instead it continues to play games behind our backs.  The taxpayers now have an 80 percent stake in the company.  Moreover, the average family in the United States takes home about $60,000 a year, yet AIG seems to think that some its employees deserve more than twenty times that amount in bonuses.  Despite AIG’s fall from grace, it still just does not get it.  Fortunately, there is a new sheriff in town, and the Treasury Department must work to fix this problem promptly.  Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank agrees with me that the Capital Markets Subcommittee should also convene hearings to examine this issue.”

This latest report of corporate excess at AIG comes just a few weeks after Chairman Kanjorski and Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) inquired about some of AIG’s plans to accelerate the payout of $367 million in deferred compensation to several thousand AIG employees and agents.  As a result of their inquiries, AIG announced that it would defer spending $93.3 million in payouts to employees.

Leave the Republicans Behind

Barack Obama went to Capital Hill to meet with Congressional Republicans blocking his economic stimulus bill.  GOP leadership is calling for a unanimous Party vote against the bill.  Why then is the President still including tax cuts and pork for their districts in the law?

Republican policies caused this meltdown but they are insisting that their failed ideology be the solution to the problem caused by their failed ideology.  It is time to strip the tax cuts from the bill along with the $20 billion in pork barrel projects designed to gain Republican support.  It is time to simply leave them behind, create a bill which maximizes job creation and allow them to answer to their constituents.

Republicans have delayed this package by saying it doesn’t offer immediate relief.  Since immediate relief doesn’t exist their actions simply obstruct the cure while the patient dies on the table.

Forget about the Republicans, do what is needed and move on to the next priority.  There’s an old saying, lead, follow or get out of the way.  The Republicans need to get out of the way.

Kanjo Amends Stimulus Bill to Aid Local Governments

Congressman Paul Kanjorski is presenting an amendment to the economic stimulus bill to provide assistance to local governments being harmed by the Bush recession.  It would involve revenue sharing, something done previously under, I believe, Richard Nixon (if memory serves).  The deep recession is straining local and county governments as more residents need services due to losing jobs, homes and healthcare.

“As the recovery bill currently stands, very little of the legislation focuses on aid to local governments which face massive deficits that harm needed programs and jobs for residents,” said Chairman Kanjorski.  “For 15 years, a General Revenue Sharing program effectively provided aid to municipalities and counties throughout the country.  This program should be a model for a piece of the recovery package to help local governments, just like Luzerne County in Northeastern Pennsylvania, that need funding help now.  We must not ignore the problems our communities face, and we have the opportunity to implement a program that has proven results.”

Luzerne County Corruption Tied to Privatization

Luzerne County privatized its juvenile detention facility and now two of its senior Judges have resigned amidst corruption charges.  President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan are accused of sentencing juveniles to the private facilities in exchange for kickbacks.  They both resigned their seats pending prosecution.  Gort42 has been following the case carefully since they quit the bench last Friday.

This began when an advocacy group suspected corruption on the bench according to The Times-Tribune:

Last April, an advocacy group accused Ciavarella of violating the due process rights of hundreds of juvenile defendants by forcing them through proceedings without properly apprising them of their right to an attorney.

The state Supreme Court declined to intervene in the cases, despite Ciavarella’s admission that he was “wrong” to skip directly to sentencing and his decision to abdicate his juvenile court duties.

Last May, an attorney in a legal malpractice case accused Ciavarella of an “obvious display of favoritism” toward the plaintiffs and their attorney, the former owner of the Pittston Township juvenile detention center, Robert Powell. The plaintiffs won a $3.4 million judgment.

Th elarger issues are with corrupt judges, something I have written extensively about on my former local blog, and privatization of government.  When you start governing on a for profit basis you open huge new areas for corruption.  These judges got kickbacks for sentencing kids to jail instead of handling these cases properly.  Instances were alleged to occur frequently where jail wasn’t the best solution for a juvenile but the judges sent them anyway so they could profit quite handsomely.

Government should not be run on a for profit basis and when it is obvious that corruption is endemic in a county system someone must investigate.

Rabbit At Rest

Berks County native and acclaimed author John Updike died yesterday at his home in Massachusetts.  The writer of the award winning “Rabbit” books won two Pulitzer prizes and was widely considered one of America’s greatest living authors.  Opinions on his talent differed widely but I enjoyed his skills.  The Rabbit books were set loosely in Berks County which he called “Diamond County” (Berks is shaped like a diamond).  Natives could discern Mt. Penn, his native Shillington (actually Plowville) and other neighborhoods in the book series.

Updike wrote many types of literature from novels toshort stories to book reviews.  He was associated with The New Yorker for most of his life.  He died of lung cancer.  Biographical articles mention him smoking while a student at Harvard so this is a logical consequence.  It is a shame to lose such a gifted writer.

Hoeffel Calls For Castor Investigation

On the heels of Bruce Castor’s sensational self incrimination during the Vince Fumo trial Joe Hoeffel has  called for an investigation.  Hoeffel and Castor are both Montgomery County Commissioners and Castor previously served as County District Attorney.  Risa Ferman succeeded fellow Republican Castor in the position and now is in an uncomfortable spot.  Doe she investigate her former boss or appear to be a political prosecutor who only investigates her opponents?

Bruce Castor testified for Vince Fumo and confessed he used the same operative as Fumo and at the same taxpayer expense.  It was also revealed that he used his office for political activity along with his official email account.  I can attest to that latter charge as I received political emails from Castor and reported it at the time (it was a well covered story).

Joe Hoeffel’s statement:

“In view of Bruce Castor’s testimony under oath yesterday in federal court, I am today asking District Attorney Risa Ferman to use her newly formed public corruption unit to investigate Commissioner Bruce Castor’s apparent violation of the Montgomery County Code of Ethics and possible violation of state and federal laws while he was district attorney.

“In court yesterday, Commissioner Castor admitted, under cross examination by the federal prosecutor in the trial of State Sen. Vince Fumo, that he had then Assistant District Attorney Christian Marrone do fundraising and other political activities related to Mr. Castor’s candidacy for state Attorney General.  The prosecution produced emails that were clearly political between Mr. Castor and Mr. Marrone sent on the county email system.  Mr. Castor also admitted that he held political meetings with Mr. Marrone in his county office and that Mr. Marrone conducted campaign activities on county time.

“This is a clear violation of our ethics code and a possible violation of state and federal statutes, and I believe that this type of activity is exactly what District Attorney Ferman had in mind when she christened her corruption unit.

More Gloom, More Doom

Every day is bringing more bad economic news.  Layoffs have gone from 700-1000 per company to 8-9,000.  The list of those newly unemployed, newly without healthcare, seems endless.  Remember that when people lose their jobs, be it Corning, Caterpillar, Home Depot, Weyerhauser or others they also lose their healthcare benefits.  Most won’t be able to afford the $1200/month to opt into a Cobra coverage increasing the country’s healthcare crisis.

Congressman Jim Clyburn told CNN this morning an incremental approach can fix this crisis.  He favors expanding SCHIP, Medicare and establishing community health centers.  This won’t do anything but put a band aid on a cancer.  Clyburn is clueless because by the time someone goes to that community clinic they’re usually so ill they either die or the care costs multiple times more than if we had truly universal healthcare.

Instituting a single payer “healthcare for all” plan would be a huge economic stimulus in its own right.  In fact China is doing exactly this as an economic stimulus.  Millions of jobs would be created in the healthcare sector because people could actually get medical care.  It would also relieve companies of a huge financial burden.  They could avoid layoffs and be more competitive.

CitiGroup shocked our consciousness when it announced the purchase of a new corporate jet.  The $60 million state of the art luxury jet closely matches the $40 million Citi just got in taxpayer funded bailouts.  Your tax money is going to France!  I know how excited you are to hear this news.  This as stupid as Congressional Republicans wanting to give you another $10/week to buy more stuff from China.

Congressional Republicans are obstructing Obama’s stimulus plan by claiming it won’t have an immediate effect.  For some strange reason they suppose such things can be instantaneous.  Maybe this an outgrowth of our “I want it, I want it now, and I don’t want to pay for it” mentality.  Economic stimulus is not instant pudding.  Jobs take time to develop if they are to have long lasting effects.  THERE IS NO QUICK SOLUTION TO OUR ECONOMIC PROBLEM.  Bush’s checks last year had but a temporary effect.  The idea of just giving workers ten or twenty dollars more to go spend at Wal-Mart for products made in China helps the Chinese economy not ours.

Infrastructure jobs will take time.  It may be a year or two before the full effect of this plan is felt.  These will be American jobs which will support middle class lifestyles.  They will build critically needed projects which last for generations.  If done smartly they will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels.  The Republicans in Congress oppose these goals by opposing this plan.

House Democrats Set to Revoke Reforms

The new Democratic leadership in Harrisburg has scheduled a vote today to revoke several important reforms passed following the pay raise debacle.  That action was passed at 2 am one infamous night and legislation was subsequently passed by new “reform minded” legislators to restrict all House business to the hours before 11 pm.

Today Speaker Keith McCall and Majority Leader Todd Eachus will repeal that reform along with others.  These “deforms” have not been aired publicly but were distributed among the Democratic Caucus members.

Now is the time to discover which House members elected since the pay raise are true reformers and who has sold out.  Today we discover who we can trust and re-elect next year and who is just as corrupt as the leadership.  Now is the time for anyone truly dedicated to reform to make their voice heard when they cast their vote.  We will publish the names of all state House members who vote to revoke these reforms.

From Democracy Rising:

The Democrats’ proposals will make it much harder for citizens to know what their government is doing in time to express their opinion either for or against proposed laws. They would repeal reforms adopted with great fanfare just two years ago through the Speaker’s Commission on Legislative Reform. Among dozens of proposals, House Democrats propose to:

   * Render meaningless the rule requiring the House to stop session at 11:00 p.m. unless three-fourths of the members vote to continue.

   * Repeal the rule allowing citizens and their representatives at least 24 hours to see amendments before voting on them, at least 24 hours to consider bills after their last amendment, and at least 24 hours before a vote on a report by a conference committee. Conference committee reports, such as every budget and the Pay Raise of 2005, are often the most complicated, controversial and important laws proposed in any session. As in the past, the proposal would allow action after as little as six hours.

   * Repeal the rule prohibiting the Rules Committee from amending bills after they have been considered by another committee.

Castor Admits Being A Crook

The Vince Fumo trial continues to be very interesting.  The defense began yesterday and called their first witness:  Bruce Castor.  He is the former Montgomery County District Attorney and now Commissioner.  I had an eye opening email exchange with Castor when he was running for County Commissioner.  All of his emails to me, political in nature, originated from his County email address and server.   They were written and sent on County time.

The prosecution established that Castor used his office for political work including emails:

Pease introduced e-mails, apparently kept and provided by Marrone, showing Castor campaigning on state time and using his county office for campaign meetings and governmental e-mail account for political communications.

Castor acknowledged telling federal investigators in a pretrial interview that he regretted using the county e-mail system for politics. “I probably shouldn’t have done that,” he told the investigators.

Castor testified yesterday that he did the same things Fumo did, some of the same things Vince Fumo is on trial for in federal court.  It seems that Christian Marrone who was an important prosecution witness once for Castor in the DA’s office doing the same illegal activities he performed for Fumo.  Castor and Marrone had a falling out when Castor ran for state Attorney General and Marrone supported his primary opponent Tom Corbett.  Marrone got fired for supporting Castor’s opponent, something to be expected.  The fact Castor hired Marrone to do similar political work on taxpayer time that he did for Fumo shows if one is a crook both are crooks.

If Vince Fumo is on trial for this we should expect to see Bruce Castor in the docket next.  Foolish move Bruce but it isn’t your first.  One would think a District Attorney would know better than to do political work on County time.  Unfortunately this is all too common in Pennsylvania.  So common that Vince Fumo’s defense is essentially that “everyone does it.”  That doesn’t make it legal.

Gitmo: How the Media Gets It Wrong

The news networks and papers have been having a field day telling people how former Gitmo prisoners became terrorists after being released by George W. Bush.  They are doing this in response to Republican talking points distributed in an attempt to keep the President from closing the concentration camp in Cuba.  Make no mistake, Camp Delta is a concentration camp.  People were rounded up with no probable cause they committed any crime, often in return for bounties to turn in any Arab, many were children, and all were abused, humiliated and some were tortured.  They were denied all rights to due process by the American government.  This defines Camp Delta as a concentration camp.

The GOP wants to keep it open and in business.  The Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld policy of opening a concentration camp and using torture was a complete failure and the presence of former prisoners on the fields of terror is proof of its failure not reason to keep the Camp open.  This is nothing more than the logical, sequential outcome of a policy which was designed to fail from the outset.  You cannot treat humans in this way and not expect to come out of it transformed.  We, as we all predicted, created more terrorists because of our failed policy.  Those 14 year old boys we captured, detained and abused will be the Osama Bin Ladens of the next generation.

Our children and grandchildren will be the victims of Bush’s failed policies but the media ignores this aspect of the story.  It is more sensational to tell the public 61 former prisoners have returned to the battlefields.  That figure isn’t true but it does serve to underscore the failure of the policy.  If only four or five prisoners were radicalized to the extent the joined Al Qaeda as the result of American torture, abuse and humiliation that would be awful.. The media isn’t portraying this as the reason Gitmo failed and why it must be closed however.  Not seeing the forest for the trees they obliviously report this as evidence Gitmo should remain.

How quickly we shed our morals and values after 9/11.  How quickly we listen to a news media which gets the story wrong time after time.  Gitmo’s Camp Delta created more terrorists and we have that evidence.  That is the reason it must be closed.