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Wow. Here's a Very Bad Way to Handle the Financial Crisis

A CEO in India has been beaten to death by a mob of fired workers. Yikes....

| Tue Sep. 23, 2008 12:09 PM EDT

A CEO in India has been beaten to death by a mob of fired workers. Yikes.

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Pakistan Update

PAKISTAN UPDATE....Just in case the imminent collapse of the American financial system doesn't have you quite worried enough, here's a report from the LA Times about the imminent collapse of Pakistan:More than any other terrorist attack in this volatile country,...

| Tue Sep. 23, 2008 12:09 PM EDT

PAKISTAN UPDATE....Just in case the imminent collapse of the American financial system doesn't have you quite worried enough, here's a report from the LA Times about the imminent collapse of Pakistan:

More than any other terrorist attack in this volatile country, the devastating truck bombing of the Marriott Hotel over the weekend has presented government and military leaders here with a stark choice: Go all out against extremists or risk the nation's collapse into chaos.

That is the growing consensus among many Pakistani analysts and commentators, who fear that without rapid, determined and ironfisted action by officials and security forces, this nuclear-armed land is in danger of becoming a failed state, with Islamic radicals in control.

....The descent into violence and fear here has been sharp.

In a country where suicide bombings were relatively rare five years ago, more than 300 people have been killed in such attacks this year. What seemed at first to be a threat confined to the nation's fringes, in the rugged and uncontrollable border and tribal areas, has now penetrated urban centers, including the very heart of this leafy, broad-avenued capital.

As usual, the real state of play is pretty murky. But murky in a bad way, not a good one.

In the meantime, it appears that the Pakistani military didn't open fire on a U.S. helicopter that didn't fly into Pakistani airspace. That's the story, anyway.

Treasury Bailout and Dodd Bailout Now Open for Your Comments

Courtesy of publicmarkup.org, a project of the Sunlight Foundation. Who else?...

| Tue Sep. 23, 2008 12:52 AM EDT

Courtesy of publicmarkup.org, a project of the Sunlight Foundation. Who else?

Capping Executive Pay on Wall Street: McCain Takes the Lead?

The idea of capping executive pay on Wall Street is really catching on. You would think the strongest measure on...

| Tue Sep. 23, 2008 12:35 AM EDT

The idea of capping executive pay on Wall Street is really catching on. You would think the strongest measure on that front would be found in the version of the bailout proposed by Democrat Chris Dodd. Actually, it's coming from... John McCain?

Dodd is proposing to penalize executives who take "inappropriate or excessive" risks. The executive compensation and severance packages could be reduced if that is "in the public interest," the proposal says. It would also force executives to give back profits they earned that were based on company accounting measures that are later found to be inaccurate.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has supported giving shareholders a bigger say in executive compensation in the past, said today that taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill for "golden parachutes" for officers of companies that have crumbled in upheaval on Wall Street.
"The senior executives of any firm that is bailed out by Treasury should not be making more than the highest paid government official," McCain said at a campaign event in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The president is the highest paid federal official, with a salary of $400,000 a year.

McCain is really, really committed to this new populist, foe-of-Wall Street posture. And, for what it's worth, take a second to reflect on how quickly and how fundamentally the economic meltdown has changed the political landscape in this country — the two parties are competing to see who can twist the screws tighter on Wall Street fat cats. Did you think even six months ago that such a scenario was possible in this country?

New York Times Seems to Think Tonight's Heroes Premier is About Credit Cards and Whininess

I've always believed part of science fiction's power comes from its ability to offer both a narrative and a symbolic, fantastical metanarrative, that can either reinforce or supplant the apparent meaning of the narrative. Also, granted, I've been known to insist on, ah, somewhat sinister readings of current sci-fi hits, even when everybody thinks I'm nuts. But in discussing tonight's mildly-anticipated season premier of...

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 10:28 PM EDT

mojo-photo-nbcheroes.jpgI've always believed part of science fiction's power comes from its ability to offer both a narrative and a symbolic, fantastical metanarrative, that can either reinforce or supplant the apparent meaning of the narrative. Also, granted, I've been known to insist on, ah, somewhat sinister readings of current sci-fi hits, even when everybody thinks I'm nuts. But in discussing tonight's mildly-anticipated season premier of Heroes, Times writer Alessandra Stanley seemed to reveal more of her own personal issues than elucidate any metaphorical meaning. Basically, she wants those damn kids off her lawn. She has no sympathy for the super-power-endowed mutants, calling the show a "venting of [their] self-pity," and then makes a bit of a leap to those brain-searingly annoying spots for Freecreditreport.com:

Gallows Humor of the Bailout Variety

You always want to be on the lookout for these blank check scams: Dear American: I need to ask you...

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 10:17 PM EDT

You always want to be on the lookout for these blank check scams:

Dear American:
I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.
I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.
This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.
Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.
Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

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24 Days and Counting

24 DAYS AND COUNTING....The Washington Post is miffed:John McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate 23 days ago. Since then, Ms. Palin has not held a single news conference with the national media....Meanwhile, Mr. McCain, who...

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 8:16 PM EDT

24 DAYS AND COUNTING....The Washington Post is miffed:

John McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate 23 days ago. Since then, Ms. Palin has not held a single news conference with the national media....Meanwhile, Mr. McCain, who once referred to the media as his base, has himself become inaccessible. He promised to hold weekly news conferences as president but has not held a news conference as a candidate in more than a month. A candidate who stiffs the media on the campaign trail isn't likely to perform better once in office.

It's really pretty amazing. Can they get away with it? Or will the press eventually succumb to Steve Schmidt's comical bleatings about how unfair everyone is being to John and Sarah? Wait and see!

And speaking of comical bleatings, it seems that conservatives are finally coming out of their fetal crouch on the Wall Street mess and going on the offensive, desperately trying out new and innovative ways to convince America that a financial crisis brought on by deregulation is the fault of — yes! — Democrats. Fannie Mae! CRA! Sarbanes-Oxley! They'd probably toss in repeal of Glass-Steagall just for the hell of it if it hadn't been quite so obviously the brainchild of McCain's consensus future secretary of the Treasury. Their campaign to alter reality isn't working so far, which gives me renewed faith in the common sense of the American public, but I don't expect them to stop trying. By this time next week they'll be blaming the fact that FDR screwed around with the price of gold in 1933.

New Study Puts The "Perma" Back In Permafrost

It's not perfect, but it's something: A new study from researchers at the University of Alberta says that Arctic permafrost may be less vulnerable to global warming than previously thought. The study, which will be published tomorrow in the journal Science, found that a permafrost ice wedge in Canada's Yukon Territory is more than 700,000 years old, meaning that it withstood two previous cycles...

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 6:38 PM EDT

It's not perfect, but it's something: A new study from researchers at the University of Alberta says that Arctic permafrost may be less vulnerable to global warming than previously thought.

The study, which will be published tomorrow in the journal Science, found that a permafrost ice wedge in Canada's Yukon Territory is more than 700,000 years old, meaning that it withstood two previous cycles of intense warming. Lead researcher Duane Froese said that the findings mean we're further from a widespread thawing—and the catastrophic release of carbon and other gases that would accompany it—than earlier predictions have suggested.

Great, right? Not so fast, says Froese. While deep, ancient frost like the chunk he studied may be safe, the top layers of permafrost, formed much more recently, remain in serious danger. And it's those layers that could cause the most damage.

Still, it's heartening to know that at least some parts of the Earth are more resilient than we think they are. Of course, 700,000 years ago, no one was trying to see how far they could push that resilience.

Emmys Political References: And the Winner Is...

I'm embarrassed to admit I even watched part of the Emmys telecast last night, though in my defense it just happened to be on during dinner, and I was flipping back and forth to Die Hard With a Vengeance, at least. The ceremony managed to exaggerate the most infuriating aspects of awards shows, extending the pointless blather and witless tributes while cutting off speeches...

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 6:12 PM EDT

mojo-photo-emmypolitics.jpgI'm embarrassed to admit I even watched part of the Emmys telecast last night, though in my defense it just happened to be on during dinner, and I was flipping back and forth to Die Hard With a Vengeance, at least. The ceremony managed to exaggerate the most infuriating aspects of awards shows, extending the pointless blather and witless tributes while cutting off speeches after about three seconds. Apparently America agreed, as the broadcast achieved the lowest ratings in the history of the Emmys. Congratulations.

One of the few highlights of the show was waiting to see what sly (or not-so-sly) political reference would come next. There were quite a few, with winners and presenters perhaps inspired by the stultifying boredom of the rest of the ceremony. In any event, please welcome Party Ben to present the five nominees for best political commentary at the Emmys broadcast last night.

Dodd Takes the Lead, Proposes Progressive Bailout

Politico (totally "in the tank," by the way) has a copy of Chris Dodd's alternative to Treasury Secretary Paulson's bailout...

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 5:39 PM EDT

Politico (totally "in the tank," by the way) has a copy of Chris Dodd's alternative to Treasury Secretary Paulson's bailout plan for Wall Street. While Dodd provides the Treasury Department with the authority it needs to buy up all of Wall Streets "distressed assets" (that's the point of the $700 million), it comes with a bunch of provisions that Paulson neglected. Basically, Dodd is trying to seize this opportunity to achieve progressive goals that would not be manageable in a more market-, deregulation-, and Wall Street-friendly environment.

Authority for bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure. This was considered a poison pill in a housing bill that passed Congress earlier this summer, but it has gained much more currency now that Washington wants to bail out Wall Street.
A provision that would require the Treasury to take a 65 percent portion of 20 percent any profits [sic] it makes from the newly purchased assets and put it into the federal government's HOPE program, an affordable housing program.
An oversight board that not only includes the chairman of the Federal Reserve and the SEC, but congressionally appointed, non-governmental officials.
Limits on executive compensation. This is a major stumbling point for Paulson in his negotiations with Congress, but cracking down on Wall Street executive salaries will be a major selling point for lawmakers. Dodd and Frank have put in place what's known as a "claw back" provision aimed at revoking compensation that executives received based on fraudulent claims.
An independent inspector general to investigate the Treasury asset program, appointed by the president.

Democrats control the Senate. If they want to, they can play hardball. They can tell the Republicans, "We insist that all or most of these provisions pass. If you block them, your buddies on Wall Street burn. And we tar you as playing obstructionist games during a time of national crisis." The Republicans can respond by holding up the bill and then arguing in the press that any inaction in a Democratic-controlled Congress is the fault of the Democrats. But with the public likely in favor of the common sense measures included in the Dodd bill, that would place the GOP in a very tight spot.