March 15th, 2012
By Barry Secrest
Axelrod states that the difference between the two, aside from Maher's X-rating, is because Limbaugh is the political boss of the Republican Party as compared to Bill Maher and his comments, as just being " a commedian." Except, there is one very major problem, Rush has not endowed any political operative with any major money, while Maher has given a cool $ 1 million to Obama's Super-Pac.
So, the question becomes, who is the more politically active and influential within the respective parties? The massive donor or the massive talker?
Meanwhile Rush's brush with radio-death has passed, while Maher's just appears to be getting started, as individuals gauge the differences and find the Democratic side of the story sadly lacking, as per usual.
March 15th, 2012
Uk Daily Mail
By Toby Harnden
What David Cameron described as his "guys night out" watching basketball with President Barack Obama in the swing state of Ohio was cheesy and embarrassing enough. But has there ever been a speech given by a British prime minister that was quite as cringeworthy as Cameron's "toast" to Obama at last night's State Dinner?
Watch the video. Cameron starts speaking at the 8:20 point and almost immediately hails Obama's "strong and beautiful words". It's downhill from there.
He takes a cheap shot at Richard Nixon - the easiest possible target in front of a gathering of Obamaphiles - and his own Tory predecessor Ted Heath. He makes corny jokes about cricket and Watergate ("call in the plumbers" - Geddit?) and then lauds Obama's "strength, moral authority and wisdom". No mention of Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher.
Then comes what must surely be one of the most obsequious things Obama - who is well used to adulation - has ever heard. Obama, says Cameron "has pressed the reset button on the moral authority of the entire free world".
What? Pass the sickbag. Whichever way you look at it, that's ridiculous. Under Obama, despite his campaign promises and indeed an executive order when he took office, Guantanamo Bay has remained open. Drone strikes have increased exponentially - it being judged easier to kill suspects than capture and interrogate them. Military trials outside the federal system continue, as does indefinite detention without trial.
Certainly, Obama has delivered some "beautiful words" around the world, starting in Berlin before he was even the Democratic nominee and continuing in Cairo. In Strasbourg, he apologised for the times when "America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive" towards its allies.
But Obama has certainly shown arrogance and dismissiveness towards the UK in a way that President George W. Bush never did. Israel considers the US an unreliable ally under Obama. Iran's green revolutionaries might question Obama's "moral authority" after he allowed them to be crushed by Tehran's theocratic regime, as might the Syrian rebels and civilians currently dying at the hands of President Bashar Assad.
Then there was this passage, in which Cameron chucks in the names of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King for no apparent reason at all - other than, presumably and patronisingly, because Obama is black: "Half a century ago, the amazing courage of Rosa Parks, the visionary leadership of Martin Luther King, and the inspirational actions of the civil rights movement led politicians to write equality into the law and make real the promise of America for all her citizens.
"But in the fight for justice and the struggle for freedom, there is no end, because there is so much more to do to ensure that every human being can fulfill their potential. That is why our generation faces a new civil rights struggle, to seek the prize of the future that is open to every child as never before. Barack has made this one of the goals of his presidency, the goal he's pursuing with enormous courage."
What on earth is Cameron talking about? Gay marriage? Obama's against that, publicly at least. Healthcare reform? Or maybe it's just what it sounds - utter vacuity.
As I argued in this newspaper piece, Cameron is foolish to have ignored the Republicans during this trip. Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee, was in New York yesterday and today and was presumably available for a meeting. Cameron's predecessor Gordon Brown met candidates Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain in Washington in April 2008. President Obama met Cameron in London in April 2009 when the Tory was opposition leader.
He only added to this error by his fawning praise of the man he referred to earlier in the day as "Mr President Barack" - which only reinforces the sense that the UK the much junior partner in the much-vaunted (in the UK) "special relationship".
For a British prime minister to align himself with one side in American politics is a rookie error. To do it with the party on the opposite side (supposedly) of the political spectrum is pure folly.
And, of course, 41 of the 364 guests were - surprise, surprise - major Obama fundraisers. The White House drew up the guest list but if there's anyone with backbone in Downing Street (maybe a forlorn hope, I know) there will be a protest about the way Cameron was used to entertain Democratic donors being rewarded for their largesse in an election year.
Come next year, Cameron - assuming he is still in office - may very well find himself having to deal with a President Mitt Romney. If so, the first thing he'll have to do is mend some fences.
More From The Daily Mail
Goldman Sachs sees $2bn wiped off market value after trader attacks firm's 'toxic' culture in public resignation
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March 15th, 2012
The Hill /
"Our goal is to save Medicare from bankruptcy and ensure seniors have affordable, high-quality health care — a crisis President Obama has only made worse during his time in office," Graham said. "Allowing seniors access to the Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) program, which members of Congress and federal employees use, will give them more choices and lower their out-of-pocket costs."
According to a synopsis from Paul's office, the bill would:
• slash the deficit by $1 trillion over the first 10 years and reduce Medicare's 75-year unfunded obligation by almost $16 trillion;
• offer seniors "richer benefits, higher quality health care, and better access to doctors and providers" while cutting their premiums to $1,900 per year — less than the $3,500 seniors currently pay for Medicare benefits and supplemental insurance, or Medigap;
• charge seniors the same premium regardless of their health status or pre-existing conditions;
• subsidize three-quarters of the cost of the average plan while offering additional premium assistance and cost-sharing through the Medicaid program for low-income seniors;
• cap total out-of-pocket costs; and
• create a new high-risk pool for the highest-cost patients within the FEHB program.
Paul acknowledges, however, that adding seniors to the federal program would drive costs up for its current 8.5 million enrollees by about 24 percent.
"Federal employees are the one group of people who may have a legitimate argument with the Congressional Health Care Plan for Seniors," Rand's synopsis says. "Asking them to share their health care with the elderly will cause their premiums to increase."
Indeed, as soon as the bill was unveiled the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association expressed concerns that the bill would destabilize the federal workers' program.
"This is a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of proposal that would both bring down Medicare as we know it and threaten the stability of the FEHBP," said association president Joseph Beaudoin. "As for the senators' notion that America's seniors should be in the same health care system as America's elected officials, they seem to have forgotten that starting in 2014, members of Congress will no longer be covered by the FEHBP but will be in state-based health care exchanges."
March 15th, 2012
March 15th, 2012
BLS Note: Obama's top contributors
|University of California||$1,648,685|
|JPMorgan Chase & Co||$808,799|
|Sidley Austin LLP||$600,298|
|National Amusements Inc||$563,798|
|Skadden, Arps et al||$543,539|
|Latham & Watkins||$503,295|
By SUSANNE CRAIG and LANDON THOMAS JR.
Until early Wednesday morning, Greg Smith was a largely anonymous 33-year-old midlevel executive at Goldman Sachs in London.
Now everyone at the firm — and on Wall Street — knows his name.
Mr. Smith resigned in an e-mail message to his bosses at 6:40 a.m. London time, laying out concerns that Goldman’s culture had gone haywire, putting its own interests ahead of its clients.
What the e-mail didn’t say was that about 15 minutes later, an Op-Ed article he had written detailing his criticisms was to be published in The New York Times. “It makes me ill how callously people still talk about ripping off clients,” he wrote in the Op-Ed article.
The Op-Ed landed “like a bomb,” inside Goldman, said one executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The article reignited a debate on the Internet and on cable television over whether Wall Street was corrupted by greed and excess. By noon, television crews crowded outside Goldman’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan. More than three years after the financial crisis, the perception that little has changed on Wall Street — and that no one has been held accountable for the risk-taking that led to the crisis — looms large in the public consciousness. While it was an unusual cry from the heart of a Wall Street insider, many questioned whether it would prompt any change.
Goldman disagreed with the assertions in the Op-Ed article, saying that they did not reflect how the firm treated its clients. Top executives have previously said that despite some rough times of late, clients have stuck with the firm.
Friends of Mr. Smith, who had a list of Goldman’s business principles taped on a wall by his computers in London, say they were not surprised by his public farewell. “He has a really high moral fiber and really cared about the culture of the firm,” said Daniel Lipkin, a Miami lawyer who went to Stanford with Mr. Smith. Mr. Lipkin learned about the Op-Ed on Wednesday from Mr. Smith. “He sounded confident and felt good about his decision to go public,” he said.
Although he isn’t highly paid by Wall Street standards — earning about $500,000 last year, according to people briefed on the matter — Mr. Smith is part of what some Goldman staff members and alumni refer to as a sizable, yet silent contingent within the investment bank. These people are increasingly frustrated with what they see as a shift in recent years to a profit-above-all mentality.
Evidence of this shift, they say, can be seen in the accusations brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2010 that the firm intentionally duped certain clients by selling a mortgage-security product that was designed by another Goldman client betting that the housing market would crash. More recently, a Delaware judge criticized Goldman over the multiple, and potentially conflicting, roles it played in brokering an energy deal. (In both cases, Goldman has denied any wrongdoing.)
The reaction on Wall Street to Mr. Smith’s resignation ranged from those cheering him to others criticizing him for resigning in such a public way. Some within Goldman sought to portray Mr. Smith as a lone wolf — he did not manage anyone — who had failed to become a managing director. (There are about 12,000 executive directors, the equivalent of being a vice president in the United States, but only about 2,500 managing directors among Goldman’s 33,300 employees.)
Still, the ripple effects were felt beyond Wall Street. Shares of Goldman fell 3.4 percent. And media coverage was worldwide. “Goldman Boss: We Call Our Clients Muppets,” screamed the front page of The London Evening Standard.
Others were less surprised. One Goldman client who spoke on the condition of anonymity called the letter “naïve,” saying that the firm had been trading against its clients for years. “Come on, that is what they do and they are good traders, so I do business with them.”
Another Wall Street executive said it was “unforgivable” for Mr. Smith to make his opinions so public and he should have taken them privately to the firm’s senior managers. While Mr. Smith may have tried to raise his concerns with his superiors in meetings, as a fairly junior employee, he did not have much of a voice.
Goldman’s top two executives, Lloyd C. Blankfein and Gary Cohn, said in a letter to employees: “We were disappointed to read the assertions made by this individual that do not reflect our values, our culture and how the vast majority of people at Goldman Sachs think about the firm and the work it does on behalf of our clients. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But it is unfortunate that an individual opinion about Goldman Sachs is amplified in a newspaper and speaks louder than the regular, detailed and intensive feedback you have provided the firm and independent, public surveys of workplace environments.”
But questions about Goldman’s culture persist at a time when the firm — and the rest of Wall Street — are undergoing a transition as the postfinancial crisis framework of regulations known as Dodd-Frank takes hold and as some profitable businesses show little sign of returning to their precrisis highs. It is not a hospitable environment for trading, yet Goldman remains very much a trading firm. Mr. Blankfein, a former gold salesman, comes from the trading business, as does the man who is seen as the most likely to succeed him as chief executive in the next year or two, Mr. Cohn.
Mr. Smith started at Goldman in sales. Born in Johannesburg, Mr. Smith is a grandson of Lithuanian Jews who emigrated to South Africa. His father is a pharmacist and his mother is pursuing a career in social work.
He won a full scholarship to Stanford and after graduating in 2001 landed a spot at Goldman, where he quickly worked his way up in the organization. A table tennis player, Mr. Smith won a bronze medal in the event at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
He was sent to London about a year ago to sell United States derivative products to European and Middle Eastern investment funds.
What motivated Mr. Smith to come forward now? People close to him said he had high hopes for an internal report that came out after the S.E.C. case, which Goldman settled.
In 2010, Goldman embarked on an internal study that looked at the way it did business. The report reaffirmed the firm’s principles and outlined changes aimed largely at bolstering internal controls and disclosure.
But Mr. Smith thought it fell on deaf ears among senior managers, his friends say.
“I think this was the ultimate act of loyalty,” said Lex Bayer, a friend of Mr. Smith’s from high school in Johannesburg, who went to Stanford with him. “He has always been an advocate for the firm, but he wanted Goldman to do things the right way. In his mind, this was the only way that he could change the culture of the firm.”
He may not be alone inside Goldman. At staff meetings, Goldman’s leadership has been peppered with questions about the firm’s public reputation, say people who have attended those meetings, but who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.
Mr. Smith is making a considerable financial sacrifice in publicly criticizing Goldman. Most Wall Street employees sign nondisparagement and nondisclosure agreements before they join a firm. If Mr. Smith did, Goldman may take legal action and refuse to release stock options he has accumulated. Mr. Smith may also find it difficult to find work on Wall Street after such a public resignation. A spokesman said that Goldman tried to contact Mr. Smith on Wednesday. It is not known whether he responded.
Mr. Smith did not speak publicly about his decision to leave Goldman. On Wednesday, Mr. Smith received messages of support from clients of Goldman.
“You do not know me, but I am a client of Goldman Sachs,” one of them said. “We trade a lot with Goldman and we know that we have to be very careful when we do so,” the person said. “We understand your message.”
People who have spoken to Mr. Smith said that he was flying back to New York on Wednesday night to see his family and friends. These people say Mr. Smith still has no concrete plan for what to do next. He tells friends that he wants to effect change in Goldman’s business practices, although it is unclear what that change would be.
Recruiters say it may be tough slogging for Mr. Smith to find work again on Wall Street, at least in the near term.
“There is a rule of thumb when interviewing — you don’t bad-mouth your old boss. No one wants to hear it,“ said Eric Fleming, the chief executive of the Wall Street recruiting firm Exemplar Partners. “You can argue something like this needed to be said, but if you hire the guy who said it you are taking the risk he will do it again.”
Related from the NY Times