Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: February 2, 2009


TARP News: Wells Fargo to Pay Back U.S.

money
According to this report, Wells Fargo is prepared to put some money back into the federal coffers:

Good news out of the failing financial sector, finally. Wells Fargo Bank reports it will pay back the federal government $371.5 million in its first quarterly bailout installment.

Wells Fargo is believed to be the first major bank receiving TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) to do so.

In an internal memo obtained by The Remmers Report, Wells Fargo said the quarterly dividend of $14,861.11 per share is payable Feb. 15. The feds purchased 25,000 shares of Fixed Rate Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock last September and is the only holder of record of the Series D preferred stock.

“Since credit began contracting 18 months ago, Wells Fargo has made almost half a trillion dollars in new loan commitments and mortgage originations,” said Chief Financial Officer Howard Atkins. “Last quarter alone, we made $22 billion in loan commitments and $50 billion in mortgage originations. That’s more than $70 billion or almost three times the amount of the U.S. Treasury’s investment in Wells Fargo. We believe we’re leading our industry in lending to creditworthy customers during this difficult economy.”

It is ironic that initially Wells Fargo signalled (sic) Treasury it did not want TARP funds and when it did, negotiated the takeover of financial giant competitor Wachovia.

The payment would represent only about 1.5% of the TARP funds given to Wells Fargo, but it’s a start I guess.


Lawyering The War on Terror

If there is one sure way to roll back any gains the US has made in the War on Terror over the past eight years, it would be to shift the focus from military and intelligence gathering, to a crime fighting stance. That is exactly the position the Obama DOJ appears to be taking:

The Justice Department, probably more than any other agency here, is bracing for a broad doctrinal shift in policies from those of the Bush administration, department lawyers and Obama administration officials say.

Eric H. Holder Jr., whom the Senate is expected to confirm on Monday as the nation’s 82nd attorney general, plans to take the oath of office that evening to demonstrate a quick start, which will include overseeing the creation of a new detention policy for terrorism suspects.

Mr. Holder will have to contend with that and other issues rapidly. Lawyers inside and outside the department say he will face crushing time constraints. Chief among them is a pledge by President Obama to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Mr. Holder and a department task force must find a solution to the question of what to do with the remaining prisoners there and any apprehended in the future.

“This will be a sea change of what went on before,” said an Obama administration lawyer, noting that the principal authority over detention policies will move from the Defense Department under the Bush administration to the Justice Department.

What to do with the GITMO prisoners is a piddling concern compared to how the administration plans to fight terrorism. Released prisoners can potentially be tracked. The hands of national security however, once tied, are difficult to free. handcuff-terroristFighting terrorism as if it were an issue of law enforcement will potentially, and dangerously, bind our hands in that endeavor:

The department has to decide by next month whether it will reverse course from the Bush administration, which had repeatedly invoked the so-called state secrets doctrine to shut down legal challenges to several lawsuits dealing with national security. Officials also face a February deadline on whether to extend habeas corpus rights to detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

Above are two prime examples of how the policy switch advantages the enemy at the expense of the citizens. In the first, the folly of fighting terrorism through the courts could not be clearer. It is nearly impossible to build a public case based on state secrets. In the law enforcement model, the prosecution is not allowed to have secrets, and defendants are entitled to see the evidence against them as well as to confront all witnesses. That is because our nation is founded on the principle that the people, from whom the government derives its power, should enjoy the benefit of presumptions and the government should be required to make its case. When trying to confront our nation’s enemies, however, we do not want to allow them the same benefit. By engaging them in courtroom battles rather than in military/intelligence ones, we do just that.

Specifically, allowing state secrets to become part of a legal case allows the enemy to see what cards we’re holding. It is a surefire way to devalue our national intelligence. Indeed, any time sensitive information is available to more than a few people it eventually becomes public, and lawyers sworn to secrecy are no different (see e.g. Lynne Stewart). Yet, despite these dangers, the Obama DOJ may be considering backing off the positions staked out by the previous administration:

The case dealing with the state secrets doctrine, which allows the government to rebuff lawsuits by invoking national security concerns, involves al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. A federal trial judge in San Francisco ruled that the government could not invoke the doctrine to block a lawsuit by al-Haramain, which has asserted that the government illegally listened in on its conversations.

The Bush administration used the doctrine to block more than two dozen lawsuits. In timing that was a bit of a surprise, the Justice Department lawyers who have handled the lawsuit filed a motion with the court an hour before Inauguration Day that held to the same position.

Some Obama administration figures regarded the filing before midnight on Jan. 19 as a rear-guard action to make it more difficult to reverse course.

The Justice Department has to file a new brief by Feb. 13. Jon B. Eisenberg, who represents al-Haramain, said the schedule meant that “Holder and company have to decide pretty quickly if they want to keep opposing this case with the state secrets doctrine.”

If the DOJ opts to forego the state secrets doctrine as a defense, then it will be left with two undesirable choices: (1) make national intelligence discoverable in a court of law, or (2) drop the case altogether and set the defendant free. Neither choice is satisfactory, but both are the inevitable outcome of pursuing terrorism under the rubric of law enforcement.

Similarly, extending habeas corpus rights to prisoners detained on the battlefield is an exercise in futility. Of course, that ship sailed with the ruling in Boumediene v. Bush. I’m not sure what argument the government could make that any prisoners under the control of the U.S., regardless of where they are being held, are not entitled to some sort of habeas proceeding. And since the very procedures deemed constitutionally valid by the Supreme Court in Hamdi were struck down as inadequate in Boumediene, I don’t know what options are actually left to the Obama administration other than the unsavory prospect of field executions.

Again, these are the inevitable results of waging war as if we were fighting crime. The two arenas are decidedly distinct, and the tactics and strategies of one do not translate well into the other. If we insist on treating terrorists as criminals, cloaked with the protections of our Constitution and privy to the secrets that ensure our security, then we invert the promise of a national defense. The end result is to allow the enemy to be in control of our security interests rather than the other way around.


Human Rights Watch – Headed Down The Same Road As NOW

When Bill Clinton was found to be a womanizer and serial abuser, the silence among women’s rights groups, such as NOW, was deafening. Since Clinton was a “progressive” and since he believed in the progressive agenda they shared, most feminists were quiet about his violation of various women’s rights. He was excused from the same level of condemnation the likes of Bob Packwood endured.

Seems we’re about to witness the same phenomenon among human rights groups concerning the Obama administration’s decision to continue the rendition program.

Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism — aside from Predator missile strikes — for taking suspected terrorists off the street.

You’d expect, given this decision, to see the usual suspects, like Human Rights Watch, condemn the continuation of the program begun under Bill Clinton and continued through the Bush administration, wouldn’t you? I mean if they really were more concerned about human rights than politics. And principled consistency.

But Darren Hutchinson over at Dissenting Justice (a “progressive blog”) seems to have caught HRW in a NOW moment. Hutchinson quotes and links to HRW’s written position on rendition – a position it has held for at least the Bush years:

The US government should:

Repudiate the use of rendition to torture as a counterterrorism tactic and permanently discontinue the CIA’s rendition program;

Disclose the identities, fate, and current whereabouts of all persons detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody by the CIA since 2001, including detainees who were rendered to Jordan;

Repudiate the use of “diplomatic assurances” against torture and ill-treatment as a justification for the transfer of a suspect to a place where he or she is at risk of such abuse;

Make public any audio recordings or videotapes that the CIA possesses of interrogations of detainees rendered by the CIA to foreign custody;

Provide appropriate compensation to all persons arbitrarily detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody.

He then quotes the Washington advocacy director for HRW, Tom Malinowski apparently modifying the previously unequivocal position of HRW:

“Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place” for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “What I heard loud and clear from the president’s order was that they want to design a system that doesn’t result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured — but that designing that system is going to take some time.”

Malinowski said he had urged the Obama administration to stipulate that prisoners could be transferred only to countries where they would be guaranteed a public hearing in an official court. “Producing a prisoner before a real court is a key safeguard against torture, abuse and disappearance,” Malinowski said.

Given their previous position, this is simply capitulation with a huge dollop of hypocrisy added for taste. Suddenly the ‘new’ rendition isn’t like the old rendition because there’s a progressive in town. The fact that the same agency which has been running the program for the last 16 years will continue to do so is waved off as unimportant. And the fact that the incoming administration which roundly condemned the practice previously but now sees utility in its continuation is studiously ignored by HRW.

Now there are “limited circumstances” where there is a “legitimate place” for such practices. Obviously, those “limited circumstances” never existed previously and only suddenly emerged on January 20th around noon. Apparently they think that such a radical shift in position will go unnoticed and unremarked upon.

Wrong.

Hope and change.

~McQ


Who Is The Looter?

MoDo is in full anti-capitalist mode and boy I guess it feels good to finally let loose:

The president’s disgust at Wall Street looters was good. But we need more. We need disgorgement.

Disgorgement is when courts force wrongdoers to repay ill-gotten gains. And I’m ill at the gains gotten by scummy executives acting all Gordon Gekko while they’re getting bailed out by us.

18 billion taken from the government vs. 885 billion taken from the people. In which case are you sure “disgorgement” will never occur?

And that begs the question: who’s the looter here?


Old Habits? Or Business as Usual?

Please ignore the outrage you hear from Congress about Citi almost buying a new airplane. Apparently that’s an inappropriate expenditure, but this is appropriate:

New York’s Charles Rangel and five other Democratic members of the House enjoyed a trip to the Caribbean sponsored in part by Citigroup (see above) in November – after Congress had approved the $700 bailout for financial firms (including Citigroup).

The members no doubt will object to the terms “junket,” but that shoe fits. The National Legal and Policy Center, a watchdog group, has asked Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to investigate the Nov. 6-9 excursion to the island of St. Maarten.

It was called the Caribbean Multi-Cultural Business Conference, but “the primary purpose … for most participants appeared to be to take a vacation,” said the NLPC. And not only was the timing lousy, but “corporate sponsorship of such an event was banned by House rules adopted on March 1, 2007, in response to the (lobbyist Jack) Abramoff scandal,” the group pointed out.

Joining Rangel on that trip were Donald Payne of New Jersey, Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Donna Christenson, delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Your “most ethical Congress ever” hard at work watching over those Wall Street fat cats.

Hope and change.

~McQ


Transferring BDS to RDS

Here at QandO we’ve written fairly extensively about the incidence of Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) over the last few years.  We’ve wondered aloud, or at least in print, what the left would do once Bush was no longer available to hate?

Would it dissipate and change into OLS (that’s Obama Love Syndrome) or would it simply be transferred to some other someone on the right the left loves to hate?

Well, in what most people consider a rookie mistake, Mr. Obama gave us the answer.  He called out Rush Limbaugh (and ended up looking worse for it) and the BDS sufferers – who were experiencing withdrawal symptoms not related to Iraq – had a new figure on whom they could lavish their derangement anew.

With his explicit attack on Limbaugh during a Capitol Hill meeting last week, Obama has signaled the end of Bush Derangement Syndrome – the defining mental illness of the Democrats for eight years – and ushered in the age of Rush Derangement Syndrome.

You would think that victories in the presidential race and Congress would be enough for the Left. But no. Like Captain Ahab, Sen. Lindsay Graham still bristles at the “loud folks” in conservative talk radio. Democrats even drafted a petition denouncing Limbaugh last week, showing that trying to save the economy doesn’t wait for petty personal attacks.

Too bad Obama hasn’t learned the lessons of his predecessors. Limbaugh not only has survived countless protests, boycotts, media smears and political attempts to kick him off the airwaves. He has emerged each time with a higher profile, greater influence, and a strengthened hand.

Yes indeed, the transfer of power is complete.   Gotta love the left’s complete cluelessness about certain things.

Hope and change.

~McQ


Irony – It’s Becoming A Democratic Exclusive

Tom Daschle a few years ago [pdf]:

Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter.

Tom Daschle today:

“Daschle spokeswoman Jenny Backus said he had known since June 208 that his luxury car and driver provided by wealthy Democratic donor, longtime friend and business associate Leo Hindery might be taxable, but never expected the amount to be such a ‘jaw-dropping’ sum and ‘thought it was being taken care of’ by his accountant.”

Of course he did.  Let’s get real here – he never really checked or cared until he found out he was in line to take a cabinet post with the most ethical administration ever.  And then suddenly it was both important and a priority.

Say “hi” to Tim Geithner for us, will you Tom?

Hope and change.

~McQ

[Via Don Surber]


Bailing out … Brazil?

Every time I see one of these stories I just shake my head in wonder.

Obama and Congress are frothing at the mouth at those Wall Street types for paying out 18 billion in “bonuses”.  Of course, had Congress not acted like a panicked herd of wildebeast when Paulson came flapping around declaring the sky was falling, they might have written legislation which prevented such an occurrence.

But while they prefer to yell at others, the failure to be specific about what the money could be used was theirs – the Democratic Congress.

Well here’s round two.  The great, “we have to have it now or we’ll go under” auto bailout scam of 2008.  And guess what:

Right nowGeneral Motors plans to invest $1 billion in Brazil to avoid the kind of problems the U.S. automaker is facing in its home market, said the beleaguered car maker.

According to the president of GM Brazil-Mercosur, Jaime Ardila, the funding will come from the package of financial aid that the manufacturer will receive from the U.S. government and will be used to “complete the renovation of the line of products up to 2012.”

“It wouldn’t be logical to withdraw the investment from where we’re growing, and our goal is to protect investments in emerging markets,” he said in a statement published by the business daily Gazeta Mercantil.

So tell me, how many jobs will that billion create or preserve here, hmmm?

Hope and change.

~McQ


When Government Controls [insert appropriate issue]

All you need are people like the UK’s Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the government’s Sustainable Development Commission at the levers of power and you can imagine the liberty killing possibilities.

A report by the commission, to be published next month, will say that governments must reduce population growth through better family planning.

“I am unapologetic about asking people to connect up their own responsibility for their total environmental footprint and how they decide to procreate and how many children they think are appropriate,” Porritt said.

[...]

“I think we will work our way towards a position that says that having more than two children is irresponsible. It is the ghost at the table. We have all these big issues that everybody is looking at and then you don’t really hear anyone say the “p” word.”

Now when people start throwing the word “irresponsible” around, what could possibly be the result if there’s a friendly ear in government? Perhaps legislation to make “irresponsibility” illegal. And before you start with the “they’d never do something like that” nonsense, bring me up to date on how many two child families there are in China.

Yes friends, it’s Population Bomb 2.0. Coming to a shriek-fest, sky-is-falling, we’re-killing-Mother-Earth event near you soon.

As an aside, Porritt represents the most dangerous  type of environmental activists out there. He is what many like to call “watermelon activist”. Green on the outside, red in the middle. Check this out if you doubt the point:

Porritt, a former chairman of the Green party, says the government must improve family planning, even if it means shifting money from curing illness to increasing contraception and abortion.

Because, of course, in Watermelon World, that is the state’s job.

~McQ

[HT: RWN]