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News Roundup – Egypt, George Will, Robert Reich

Over 500 people have died in Egypt. Over 3700 have been injured. President Obama made a statement earlier today. “While we want to sustain a relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual while civilians are being killed in the streets. The Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen over the past several days.” As expected, President Obama stopped short of specifically stating that what is happening in Egypt is a coup. Yet, as the violence escalates, I believe we will have to, President Obama will have to, withdraw our $1.3 billion in military aid from Egypt. Look for Al Qaeda to try to exploit this. No matter what kind of diplomatic mumbo-jumbo comes out of the State Department and the White House, whatever’s going on in Egypt, it is clearly not a democracy.

Just to make sure that we know that George Will is still alive and kicking, he wrote one of the most unhinged, neoconservative pieces of gobbledygook that I’ve read in a while. Now, President Obama is worse than Nixon. Yes, he is talking about the Affordability Care Act. The fact that the administration stated that they’re going to wait a year before implementation represents an offense worse than Watergate. Nope, I don’t understand it either. Let’s be clear. Presidents have pushed the envelope of presidential power for as long as we’ve had a Republic. It is up to Congress and the Supreme Court to push back. Currently, we have a completely dysfunctional Congress. They can’t agree on what time of day it is, let alone whether something the president does is right or wrong. As usual, George Will is way off base.

Robert Reich continues to be one of the best progressive voices on the economy. The following is a presentation on income inequality. It is wonderful.

By | 2013-08-18T22:42:26+00:00 August 15th, 2013|Foreign Affairs, Party Politics|Comments Off on News Roundup – Egypt, George Will, Robert Reich

Roger Ebert dead at age 70

roger ebert

I truly love movies. Back in the day, when I had time, it really didn’t matter what kind of movie was in the theater, if I had time I would go. I saw Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (one of the worst movies of all-time!!!). Nope, I wasn’t drunk. I went to the movies because I loved all of it. In the late 1980s, the sound systems got better. We got stadium seating and nice comfortable chairs. I really and truly love going to movies.

In both high school and college I took film criticism courses. I learned about jump cuts, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and D. W. Griffin. I learned about lighting and how it can tell a story. I simply loved movies but when I read about movies in the newspaper (we had newspapers back then) I despised the contempt most film critics had for just about everything. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about see Richard Corliss from Time Magazine.) Then, somehow, there was Roger Ebert. He was a guy who can enjoy a regular movie.  The rest of the film critics, at least to me, seem to hate movies and love to find flaws which they can pick apart. It wasn’t that Roger Ebert didn’t see the flaws. He did. But he was able to see past the flaws and enjoy the movie anyway.

Almost none of the formal, stuffy-nosed critics liked the 1977 classic Star Wars. Roger Ebert did. As a matter of fact, Ebert was with us, the regular folks. He loved it. That may be one of the reasons that I truly enjoyed listening to and reading Roger Ebert. He was genuine.

I will truly miss Roger Ebert. As a matter fact, the last year or so, I’ve been following his tweets. He embraced technology, another aspect to enjoy about his personality.

My heart goes out to his family.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Roger Ebert loved movies.

Except for those he hated.

For a film with a daring director, a talented cast, a captivating plot or, ideally, all three, there could be no better advocate than Roger Ebert, who passionately celebrated and promoted excellence in film while deflating the awful, the derivative or the merely mediocre with an observant eye, a sharp wit and a depth of knowledge that delighted his millions of readers and viewers.

“No good film is too long,” he once wrote, a sentiment he felt strongly enough about to have engraved on pens. “No bad movie is short enough.”

By | 2013-11-03T18:22:18+00:00 April 7th, 2013|Movies|Comments Off on Roger Ebert dead at age 70

What to do with WaMu?

The Senate opens hearings today into the failure of Washington Mutual. Washington Mutual was among a group of banks that jumped into the subprime mortgage sector headfirst. Jumping into anything headfirst is not usually a good idea until you know how deep the pool truly is. It is estimated that over $700 billion of these subprime mortgages were handed out between 2004 and 2007. These were those famous adjustable-rate mortgages. Washington Mutual handed out over $133 billion in these adjustable mortgages. The former CEO Kerry Killinger stated that WaMu wasn’t being treated fairly by the government. He whined that WaMu “should have been given a chance to work its way through the crisis.” What I want to know is whether anyone in that hearing run over to Mr. Killinger and cry tears of sadness for this millionaire.

When people are given the wrong incentives, we shouldn’t be surprised when they do the wrong thing. Specifically, loan originating officers were given incentives to generate loans. It really didn’t matter what kind of loan. It didn’t matter whether the loan was fraudulent or legitimate. During Washington Mutual’s own internal investigation back in 2005, they found the two offices in California where over 50% of their loans were fraudulent. (At one location was over 80%.) Yet, the practice continued. Why? The money was too good. (Oh, I forgot to mention that their own risk officers were excluded from important meetings. This means that either these risk guys are lying to protect their butts or WaMu knew what they were doing was fraudulent and they didn’t want to rish telling them.)

In Michael Lewis’s book, The Big Short, he describes an incident where a immigrant farm worker who made no more than $14,000 a year was given a loan for $750,000.

Lower middle class and upper lower class Americans were hit the hardest by these fraudulent practices. They were specifically sought out by these banks. These are Americans that are holding down one or two jobs. Both parents are working. They’re working extremely hard and they are very close to being able to afford a nice house, in a nice neighborhood with good schools. Something always gets in the way of their dream house. These are everyday expenses that they simply cannot afford — car breaks down, they need a new refrigerator, Johnny was hit in the head with a baseball and needs stitches. So Washington Mutual, IndyMac, Wachovia and others preyed on these Americans.

Here’s my whole problem with these shysters. They made tons of money off of unsuspecting Americans, off of Americans who wanted to believe in the American dream. When the banks collapsed, the Americans were kicked out on the street. Banks who were deemed too big to fail were rewarded for their size and they were allowed to buy the smaller failing banks at fire sale prices. Bankers who lost their jobs were given a little pot of gold on their way out the door. Bankers who kept their jobs were given big fat pay raises for acquiring new assets. Real, honest-to-goodness, hardworking Americans who believed that they would never be given a mortgage they didn’t qualify for were asked to bend over (and kicked in the seat-of-the-pants repeatedly).

So, I hope that something meaningful will come out of these Senate hearings. I hope this is not just a dog and pony show.

By | 2010-04-13T22:58:14+00:00 April 13th, 2010|Corporate Wrongs, Economy, Senate|Comments Off on What to do with WaMu?