Monday, January 30, 2012

Stock Shlock

Well, nobody in the Senate dared vote against insider corrupt stock trading, unless you count professional contrarian Tom Coburn, who votes against everything from healthy lunches for school children to a museum honoring women. And a North Carolinian named Richard Burr also nixed bringing it to a final vote this Thursday. I don't know why, and I don't care. He was probably just trying to be a thorn in Harry Reid's side.

As per usual, this bill has a cute and easy-to remember acronym: STOCK -- standing for Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge. Not as sexy as SOPA and PIPA, but very catchy and righteous-sounding.  As in, Congress is finally taking stock of itself before the citizenry goes all tar and feathers and puts them in the stocks. For a minute I thought it meant "stop counting on congressional intelligence if you want the country to function", but that's another bill for another day.  Since Congress seems hell-bent on defunding and privatizing education, I was rather surprised they are having much of anything to do with something so entitle-y/elitist as knowledge. As God warned Adam and Eve and the right wing nihilist Republicans, don't eat ye the apple of the Tree of Knowledge, of Good and Evil. Stay stupid and stay safe.

Senator Reid obeyed his master Barry and immediately scheduled the vote to make it seem like they're really not all a bunch of crooks, and so the prez has something to run on besides Lilly Ledbetter and killing bin Laden. From The Hill:
Reid said the legislation would help restore confidence in Congress by stipulating that profiting from privileged political intelligence is illegal. 

"Members of Congress and their staffers have the duty to the American people," Reid said. "They may not use privileged information they get on the job to personally profit. [This bill] will end any confusion over whether members of Congress can be prosecuted for the serious crime. They can be."
Thank God, because I was feeling mighty jittery and befuddled, wondering if Nancy Pelosi would end up going scot free because of all the Visa stock she and her multimillionaire husband bought right before she made sure that credit card debt would not be included in tough new bankruptcy legislation.

Lawmakers were shaken when 60 Minutes ran a report recently about Pelosi and practically everybody in Congress making some heavy-duty bucks from insider trading.  Most of them professed shock that it was going on, and that they were doing it. Again, from The Hill article:
"I was shocked by this report, I think we all were," (Mass. Sen. Scott) Brown said. "[M]embers of Congress should not be lining their pockets on insider information. Serving our country is a privilege. I believe we must level the playing field and show the American people that the United States Congress does not consider itself to be above laws that apply to everyone else.”
When the bill passes Thursday and goes on to the House for approval, no doubt the nouveau- and olde-riche millionaires will be back-slapping each other in another orgy of self-congratulation. I can already see their 9 percent approval rating skyrocketing off the charts as the engaged public audience applauds their courage and honesty.

And to be fair, 60 Minutes did not really break this story. All its information came from a little book published in November called "Throw Them All Out", written in the best old-fashioned muckraking tradition.  A journalist named Peter Schweizer actually looked through votes and stock trades and their timing, and put two and two together. The info has been hiding in plain sight for decades, if not centuries.

Congressional corruption, says Schweizer, puts lie to the notion that the two political parties are engaged in a constant battle royal. Of course, we knew they were really two phony factions of an oligarchic uniparty, especially when it comes to funding wars, the security state, indefinite detention and anything and everything that does not make life better for their constituents. "Republicans and Democrats are not so different as you think", he writes. "They work together to enrich themselves. They have designed the system to work so that they can make lots of money doing things that would get the rest of us sent to jail".

Schweizer is painstakingly bipartisan and absolutely relentless in exposing both Democrats and Republicans. Besides Pelosi, he puts the spotlight on John Kerry; Tom Carper; Melissa Bean; Jared Polis; James Oberstar; Jeb Bradley; John Boehner; Jim McDermott; Amo Houghton; Johnny Isakson; Sheldon Whitehouse; Max Baucus; Jim Moran; Dick Durbin; Rahm Emanuel;  Gary Ackerman; Dennis Hastert; Carolyn Maloney; Judd Gregg; Ken Calvert; David Hobson; Heath Shuler; Bennie Thompson; Maurice Hinchey; Jerry Lewis.... and last but least, Harry Reid!!

The bill will pass, and then Congress will hire its own lobbyists to punch it to shreds with the obligatory loopholes. Or they won't bother to fund it, or they'll appoint Joe Lieberman their impartial watchdog when he retires next year. 

Throw the bums out.

Ye Olde Village Stocks


Suzan said...

And hang them upside down on the flagpoles.

And see if anybody then still salutes?

Love ya,


Denis Neville said...

Wake Up! Congress Has Been Robbing You!

Legislation to bar members of Congress and staff from trading on insider information, sidelined in Congress since 2005, is suddenly on a fast, bipartisan track. In 2006, Reps. Baird (D-Wash.) and Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced the "STOCK" Act. It never attracted more than a handful of sponsors. Now, the STOCK bill has more than 170 sponsors and counting.

Amazing how they break the law and then conjure up a bill to let them off the hook so quickly when other important legislation takes forever.

Denis Neville said...

Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose

Eric Cantor plans to move an expanded version of the Stock Act through the House in February.

In a statement after the Senate vote, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., vowed that the House will "ensure action on legislation that meets the underlying goals of the STOCK Act in the most timely manner possible."

"Building upon the Senate bill, this common-sense proposal will not only deal with insider trading of stocks, but also prevent all federal officials and employees from using insider information for profit in other areas in a constitutionally sound way," Laena Fallon, a spokesperson for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, told CBS News. "As Leader Cantor has said, he strongly supports increased disclosure to prevent any sense of impropriety and ensure the public's confidence and trust in our elected officials."

Eric Cantor still wants to kill STOCK.

What Cantor wants to do is to broaden the bill so as to weigh it down with irrelevancies. Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose.

Throw that moose (bum) out!

James F Traynor said...


Zee said...

Ms. Garcia--

Excellent reporting!

"Throw the bums out?" I could not agree more!

Each and every one of the current crop, no exceptions, no exemptions, no "But MY guy is really honest."

With RARE exceptions, they are ALL crooks, or soon WILL BE.

And I no more trust YOU (meant generically, not personally) to trust YOUR GUY than you should trust ME to trust MY GUY.

So let's join hands and make a pact that ALL MUST GO!

Denis Neville said...

Should Senators own stock in companies that are directly affected by their votes?

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) doesn’t think so.

He is introducing a Senate bill today that would require all Senators to divest themselves of any stocks in companies that are impacted by their actions as a Senator.

Senator Brown told Greg Sargent that he “supports the STOCK Act, but that it isn’t good enough. His proposal would formally prohibit members from owning individual stock in any companies directly affected by any of their official duties. This rule already applies to committee staff and executive branch employees, but not officials elected to the legislative branch.”

“The STOCK Act really only deals with insider trading — that’s a small number of people,” said Senator Brown. “I want to see us go further. Why should members of the Senate vote on issues that affect the oil industry while owning oil industry stock? This is pure, it’s simple, it’s clean, it’s direct.”

This may be a bit too much for Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose (Congressman Eric Cantor), seeing Senator Brown, as the hunter, who wants to get his antlers, and the former squatters, stuffed and mounted.

Valerie said...

From what I can tell, most in Congress and in the White House are liars and cheats. They not only serve their corporate masters, they feather their own nests - all at our expense. I tip my hat to Brian Baird and Louise Slaughter and the six House members who co-sponsored the bill in the first place.

I agree with you, Denis. I think Eric Cantor is just dragging the whole thing out in the hopes that the public will forget about it. It needs to be passed and it needs to be passed now.

By the way, Louise Slaughter seems like a good egg! For one thing, she is a microbiologist - a real live scientist - and is not afraid to associate herself with the Occupy Movement.

James Singer said...

I really didn’t want to get involved in this discussion because it’s mostly beside the point. The problem is—I’m beginning to sound like crazy uncle Louie, here—there are too many conservative stupidos in the House. And nothing will get better until they are defenestrated and the electorate scares the living shit out of the wishy-washy middle. End of argument.

Denis Neville said...

Brand Spanking New Investigation into Banksterism (continued)

The entire working group gambit upsets William Black.

“Compare that staffing with the staffing levels we know from experience are required to be successful against elite accounting control frauds. The Working Group does not pass even the most generous laugh test. No one who has ever been involved in a successful, complex criminal investigation of a large organization could take this Working Group seriously. It lacks the capacity to conduct a competent investigation of any of the largest financial frauds – and there are scores of huge institutions engaged in MBS frauds and hundreds of large mortgage banks engaged in MBS frauds.

“The Working Group continues the sham and political symbolism at the expense of substance. The working group is a symbolic political gesture designed to neutralize criticism of the administration’s continuing failure to hold accountable the elite frauds that drove the crisis… This is a national disgrace and represents the triumph of crony capitalism.”

“The name of the working group makes its crippling limitations clear: the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. Attorney General Holder’s memorandum about the working group makes clear that the name is not misleading. The working group will deal only with mortgage backed securities (MBS) – not the fraudulent mortgage origination that drove the crisis (the only exception is federally insured mortgages).

“There are three fundamental problems, and the working group has not even addressed, much less resolved, any of the three fundamental defects.

“One, criminal prosecutions of elite financial criminals have to come from investigations initiated by those with the expertise and resources to detect and investigate “accounting control fraud” (the form of fraud that can hyper-inflate financial bubbles and cause catastrophic losses and financial crises)… Absent high quality criminal referrals from the banking regulatory agencies, DOJ may have episodic successes but it will fail utterly to prosecute any epidemic of elite accounting control fraud. Criminal referrals provide the road map that allows effective investigations and prosecutions.

“Two, DOJ has not provided remotely enough resources to investigate the large accounting control frauds.

“Three, DOJ has adopted a self-serving definition of mortgage fraud that implicitly defines accounting control fraud out of existence. DOJ has violated the central rule of investigating elite white-collar crime – if you don’t look; you don’t find.

Schneiderman's task force has already issued subpoenas…

“The subpoenas are civil subpoenas, not grand jury subpoenas. There is no indication that Holder is serious even now about conducting any criminal investigation of elite banks or bankers…the question is not whether the Working Group wasted a day or two in issuing civil subpoenas. The Obama administration has wasted three years before issuing these subpoenas…Civil subpoenas are the most preliminary form of investigation. DOJ should have been issuing grand jury subpoenas to every lender making liar’s loans and every entity packaging liar’s loans…”

Savvy politician that Obama is…in the occupied winter of our discontent…

Karen Garcia said...

Here is my response to Maureen Dowd's column on "Who's Tough Enough?"

Does anybody even know why Mitt Romney wants to be president? He acts like he is auditioning for American Idol with his off-key rendition of America the Beautiful. Yet the only platform he has to offer is "creative destruction".

This is a man who, when posing for aphoto-op in front of a foreclosed house in Florida to feel our pain, ends up sympathizing with the banks instead. To hear Mitt tell it, the banks are the victims too, reduced to such desperate straits that they were (are) practically forced at gunpoint to engage in a little creative robosigning. Waaah.

Meanwhile, the kinder gentler Democratic candidate seems to think we'll be impressed if he (or Joe Biden) can mention that bin Laden is still dead during every speech. It also takes a tough man to sign his name to a piece of paper authorizing a grunt to operate a joystick from a trailer in Nevada, for all those targeted drone strikes. Targeted assassinations are such a big state secret that the president brags about them during a Google town hall. Meanwhile, his administration, too, wants to grant immunity to banks practicing robosigning foreclosure fraud.

This is shaping up to be one nasty campaign season which will have little if anything to do with the electorate. The corporate media is complicit too, treating the whole for-profit political process as a series of Colosseum games for the entertainment of the masses. We deserve better, and we should be demanding better.

And I forgot to paste up this one for David Brooks's "The Great Divorce" --

Actually, David, I'm shocked that you would even give credence and column space to another work by the author of the infamous "The Bell Curve". That book was widely criticized for theorizing about a racial basis for intelligence, and was viewed by many as a thinly veiled homage to eugenics. Its research was, in fact, subsidized by the Pioneer Fund, a think tank founded in the 30s for the sole purpose of trying to legitimize the study of eugenics. The Southern Poverty Law Center has rightly categorized the Pioneer Fund as a hate group.

Now that the elites are shaking in their shoes over the power of OWS, it shouldn't really be that shocking that Murray has leveled his poison pen against poor people. And as for your suggestion that we "jam" the upper and lower classes together so they can each learn from each other, I would politely reply "thanks but no thanks". The .0001% got there the old-fashioned way: by sucking the life out of the real hard working people to enrich themselves. They are the hordes who hoard, and ought to be in jail, not roaming free in my neighborhood spreading their noxious fumes. The upper crust simply have no class. They're too stupid to realize, or too self-absorbed to care, that the cancer always dies right along with the host.

But speaking of the real discipline of medicine: neuroscientists have already discovered that the brains of banksters have the same abnormality as that appearing in drug addicts.

Denis Neville said...

Going into the “hopey dopey liberal mode”

Yves Smith asks, “Why is the Normally Astute Taibbi Sounding Like a Hopey Dopey Liberal on the Mortgage Settlement?”

And gets a bit granular “since quite a few folks on what passes for the left have gone into hopey dopey liberal mode.”

“Taibbi has taken up cheerleading the Schneiderman involvement in a Federal investigation committee as major progress and also amplified the messaging that the current version of the release in the mortgage settlement deal (which by the way is still more of a mystery than it ought to be) is a good deal. As we will discuss in due course, even a narrow deal around robosigning is in fact NOT a good deal.”

“This is EXACTLY what the Administration wanted. A mere gesture, appointing Schneiderman to a part time job co-chairing an under-staffed investigation, when the committee members who are likely not to be on the same page as him have the advantage of being in DC where the troops will be located and knowing their way around the relevant bureaucracies. The ONLY hope Schneiderman has of pulling this off is lots of very noisy, sustained pressure, NOT going all gooey-eyed at a blast of Administration PR.”

Denis Neville said...

Karen, commenting on Brooks (society for Murray, and hence for Brooks, includes only White Americans), “The .0001% got there the old-fashioned way: by sucking the life out of the real hard working people to enrich themselves.”

As Mark Twain wrote, “History does not repeat itself. But it does rhyme." - Mark Twain

Letter written by Jourdan Anderson, an ex-slave, to his former master in 1865. Be sure to read his letter to the end.

DreamsAmelia said...

Spot-on Dowd and Brooks comments!
The photo of "ye olde stocks" reminds me of George Carlin--theorizing we need to bring back stocks, tar and feathers, and the guillotine--however, amazingly, "The Great Compression" of the largest, most prosperous middle class in the post WWII era till Raygun '80, achieved that feat without any such spurs of shame or torture.

As long as a majority can't recognize what a monarchy we've established in all three branches of government, we'll keep voting in banks-sympathizers and pathological 0.0001%'ers and slapping the small "d" smiley-face democracy on our form of "self-governance": celebrity worship while ignoring the massive suffering of non-celebrities...

Pitamaken said...

If you must choose between two evils, choose the one you've never tried before.

Valerie said...

Thanks for those quotes on the "Working Group." That is so like Obama to give with the left hand and take with the right. Reminds me so much of Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - It looks like he is on our side but in fact, he is the one stacking the deck against it ensuring it will fail.

I will wait and see what Schneiderman does. It sure looks like his group cannot possibly do the job they need to do. I don't doubt that there are highly intelligent, highly committed people amongst them and Bill Black will surely be with them every step of the way, but it really is a David and Goliath situation and should they become successful despite the odds, I think we can count on Obama to pull the rug out from underneath them.

It is really sad to see these decent, capable people being picked off one by one by what should be OUR SIDE.