Morning Links

Monday, December 22nd, 2008
  • Vice President Cheney says that if the president does it during wartime, “as a general proposition,” it’s legal.  And of course, we’re currently in a “war on terror” defined broadly enough to ensure it’ll go on in perpetuity.
  • A cool $1.6 billion of federal bailout money thus far has gone to pay the salaries, bonuses, and perks for the executives who put the banks in the position of begging for a bailout in the first place.
  • Schadenfreude:  The Oregon prosecutor who made national headlines last year by charging two seventh-grade boys with felony sex abuse for swatting the behinds of their female classmates now faces assault charges of her own.  She allegedly punched her husband in the face.
  • In Afghanistan:  “As U.S. coalition tries to stamp out opium, farmers turning to pot.”
  • Passenger Twitters yesterday’s scary plane crash in Denver.  Best tweet: “You have your wits scared out of you, drag your butt out of a flaming ball of wreckage and you can’t even get a vodka-tonic. Boo”
  • American Express cuts customer’s credit line because, “Other customers who have used their card at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express.”
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  • 28 Responses to “Morning Links”

    1. #1 |  Bill | 

      “A cool $1.6 billion of federal bailout money thus far has gone to pay the salaries, bonuses, and perks for the executives who put the banks in the position of begging for a bailout in the first place.”

      Yes, and they’re being rewarded for exactly what they were hired for: their connections with Washington, DC and the ability to kiss up and schmooze with people who can steal from the taxpayers to prop up these businesses. Oh, and did I mention utter shamelessness?

      Of course, it’s pretty funny to see Barney Frank describing these bonuses as bribes to get the execs to do what they were hired to do in the first place. Somebody needs to tell Rep. Frank about the wonderful world of campaign contributions and “access”, ’cause he’s missing out on a heck of a revenue source.

    2. #2 |  Jason | 

      Bailout: welfare for failures.
      Punish success, reward failure…excellent strategy.

    3. #3 |  Microblog 2008-12-22 | 

      […] Oregon district attorney who charged two 7th graders with assault for slapping girls on the rear, now facing assault charges herself, for slapping her husband in the face. (Via Radley Balko); […]

    4. #4 |  Chris Grieb | 

      On Oregon DA has she been suspended from her job?

    5. #5 |  Mike T | 

      I firmly advocate a Christian response to this woman’s hypocrisy: by the standard that she meted out to those boys, shall it be meted out to her. In the spirit of Christmas and celebrating the life and ministry of Jesus, I say let her be charged with everything from assault and battery, to attempted homicide as punishment for her hypocrisy.

    6. #6 |  Mattocracy | 

      The Oregon prosecuter said her husband attacked her and was drunk. I know we all want to think this woman is getting what she had coming to her, but something tells me otherwise. The cop on the scene even said her husband smelled like booze. Maybe all the law and order officials in Oregon make shitty arrests. I don’t know.

    7. #7 |  BK | 

      The bonuses story is false. Most if not all of these bonuses were paid at the beginning of the year, before the shit hit the fan. Thain, for example, earned his bonuses as a sign on condition, not as a performance reward. The bonuses didn’t come from TARP, they were awarded before the existance of TARP and before any Wall Street failures. The story is just sensationalism.

    8. #8 |  Bronwyn | 

      AmEX called us at home a couple of Saturdays ago, as we were putting our coats on to go to Costco. It was a courtesy call, they said, to prevent our being embarrassed. They refused to speak to me, and would only speak to my husband

      We were not allowed to use our cards until we paid our bill.

      What bill? The one we just got two days ago? The one that isn’t due for two weeks?

      Have I or my wife, over the past 12 years of doing business with you, ever been late or delinquent in our payments?

      Is there a limit on these cards?

      But I’m not allowed to use it until I pay this not-even-close-to-being-due bill?

      We’ve never been so insulted and canceled the cards then and there. I still have my Blue card, a holdover from my grad school days, because it’s all the plastic we have left. As soon as we can, we’re going to ditch AmEx altogether. Fuck ’em. We’ve sent gobs of money to them over the years, and even more just for the privilege of being able to pay them, and this is how we’re treated?

      No thanks.

      It makes me wonder how many other people are giving AmEx the finger.

    9. #9 |  MassHole | 

      No one could have predicted a bunch of Nixon retreads would wipe their ass with the constitution.

    10. #10 |  Ben (the other one) | 

      Cheney’s incorrigible, and deserves impeachment, even after he’s left office; any doubt on that score is amply resolved by Barton Gellman’s book, Angler.

      Two points on Cheney’s crazy war powers theory: First, you would think that an avowed originalist would at least feel the need to explain how his theory of monarchical executive power in wartime squares with Article I, Section 8’s rather explicit delegation to Congress of the power to “make Rules for the government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.”

      Second, his claim in the Fox News interview, that the President’s ability to summon Armeggedon at any time by calling for the nuclear “football” kept near him is an insubstantial constitutional argument against Congress’s role in war powers. Just because the President could unleash nuclear war doesn’t make doing so in the absence of a Congressional declaration of war constitutional.

      As if Cheney and Bush ever really cared about the Constitution, anyway.

    11. #11 |  Andrew Williams | 

      Cheney quoting Nixon. Wow. Didn’t see THAT one coming.

    12. #12 |  Spleen | 

      Everyone knows the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply during war-time. The Founding Fathers probably would have mentioned that fact in the Constitution, but just didn’t think about it. After all, it’s not like they had much experience with war themselves…

    13. #13 |  Ben (the other one) | 

      Re: Amex– stories like these suggest that the commercial credit market is worse than some recent analyses suggest. Under normal circumstances, it makes no business sense whatever for Amex to anger its best customers (I count myself in this group– I charge virtually every purchase to Amex and pay my bill in full on time each month). These people basically print money for Amex, earning between 2 and 3% in merchant fees with minimal expenses relating to administration and perks such as Amex’s Membership Rewards. The only things that could spoil this picnic for them are tight commercial credit (needed to float the costs for the 30-45 days between paying the merchant and receiving the customer’s check), and higher default rates.

      I fully expect to get this call, or something like it, too (e.g., I need to replace a car whose lease expires in January; I seriously doubt there will be any lease financing available, and I may have a hard time just finding conventional financing, too).

    14. #14 |  Sam | 

      Guys, why are you dinging BK’s post? He’s right. This story is about bonuses that were paid out in 2007. The story illustrates the irresponsibility of companies that were paying out huge bonuses to executives while in perilous economic situations. But this $1.6 billion did not come from bailout funds.

      That isn’t to agree to disagree with the bailout, but rather, to correct the misunderstanding of the story itself.

    15. #15 |  ddt | 

      We inquired about changing the interest rate on a credit card with Bank of America Their response? They closed the card, even though we never missed a payment. Thanks for the ding on our credit report for an ‘over the limit’ fee as a result.

    16. #16 |  Lori Wilson | 

      My late mother had a horrible battle with Amex in the 1980’s. She used her card to pay for an $18.50 (Canadian) tour of Vancouver B.C..
      Somehow this was translated into $185 US on her statement. It took over 6 months and an attorney to deal with these idiots. I wouldn’t have an Amex card if they paid me for every purchase.

    17. #17 |  Ben (the other one) | 

      I’m sure there are plenty of Amex horror stories, but I’ve always had a good experience with them. They rescued me with a cash loan in Israel once when my government-issued credit card (I was there on official business) was suspended by MC for no reason. They ate the cost on a dining room set that cost several thousand dollars when the store I had ordered it from when bankrupt.

      I have no doubt they’ve got their share of lousy customer service people and, occasionally, policies. But I don’t think the current wave of credit calls is something they really would do if they could help it.

    18. #18 |  perlhaqr | 

      “It’s not a fair practice,” said Travis Plunkett, legislative director at Consumer Federation of America, a consumer advocacy group. “I imagine this person feels this is guilt by association. It doesn’t work in the justice system, and it shouldn’t work when it comes to credit card charges.”

      Yet another candidate for a clue-by-four bitchslap.

      “Fair” does not apply here. They’re a business, they have every right to stop lending money to anyone they wish to stop lending money to, for whatever reason they choose, no matter how stupid their decision might be.

    19. #19 |  MikeL | 

      #8) That’s how you deal with a company that pulls that stuff. They do it too many times, they are out of business.

    20. #20 |  john | 

      Radley, it looks like Huffington took Cheney’s quote out of context, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

    21. #21 |  Cynical In CA | 

      perlhaqr, your point is valid in a free-market society. However, we labor under a corporatist/fascist paradigm, so any corporation that is protected by the laws of the U.S. and benefits from the restraint of trade engineered by those laws may reap what they sow, IMHO.

    22. #22 |  Bronwyn | 

      Ben (the other one)… in re car financing.

      Yeah, good luck on that! I’ve got a great score and an excellent history, but Wachovia doesn’t think I’m worthy of an 11k car loan.

      Wachovia can suck it.

      Although I say that, and I’m the one driving my dad’s car to work. So I guess I’m sucking it.

      This sucks.

      Here we are, hyper-responsible, doing everything and anything short of prostituting ourselves (mainly because we don’t have the time) to avoid defaulting on anything, to avoid laying people off, and we *still* get treated like dirt.

    23. #23 |  Cynical In CA | 

      It makes no sense to lend money in a deflationary recession. The banks just don’t think they’re going to get their money back. They can get money from the Fed at 0% and invest it in 10-year Treasuries at 2%. That’s a guaranteed return vs. guaranteed defaults. It’s a no-brainer for them.

    24. #24 |  Gabriel | 

      It makes no sense to lend money in a deflationary recession.

      It makes lots of sense to lend money during deflation: as the value of currency goes up, borrowers have to repay the currency they borrowed using more and more real wealth. If 5 bucks will buy twice as many big macs next month as it does today, then I have a strong incentive to make loans with today’s cheap money which will be paid back with next month’s expensive money.

      It makes much less sense to lend money during inflation. If I lent out $100 in 1929 dollars and get back $100 (or $105, or $110…) in 2008 dollars, I’ve lost the vast majority of the purchasing power (i.e. real value) of the money I once had. I’d have been much better served by putting the money to productive use myself.

      On a side note, the current economic environment is not in the least deflationary.

    25. #25 |  Cynical In CA | 

      Can I borrow $100,000.00, Gabriel? I swear I’ll be good for it after I lose my job because corporations all over the globe are retrenching, liquidating and trimming overhead. I’ll just be swimming in dollars like everyone else these days.

      Clue #1: there was more credit creation and lending going on in the last eight years than practically cumulatively in America’s history, with inflation anywhere from an “official” 4% to a more realistic 10%-12% per year. Gee, I wonder why all these professional bankers and investment brokers lacked your “common sense” and made these loans in an inflationary environment — what suckers!!! Gee, I wonder why it’s virtually impossible to get credit since the bubbles burst?

      Your post, utterly lacking in substantiation, is one of the most inane I’ve read in a long time. Do yourself a favor and educate yourself before you challenge John H’s record -550 karma score:

      Then get back to me.

    26. #26 |  JOHN H | 

      Same kind of deal. I just sent AMEX $500 to bring the balance down, with plans to use it for Christmas vacation travel. As soon as they received the $500 the credit limit was reduced to the remaining balance. I told them to cancel the card immediately and there was no argument. Screw ’em.

    27. #27 |  Cynical In CA | 

      Are you the real John H, or are you an imposter?

    28. #28 |  JOHN H | 

      Well, I’m A John H and not an impostor to myself.