Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Senate healthcare debate Day 2: partisan warfare by amendment


sort of partisan warfare by amendment is likely to continue through coming weeks, as the Senate continues work on the bill while majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Nevada tries to line up a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes.

Senator Reid has even promised Senators they are going to have to work on weekends as he tries to meet his self-imposed deadline of passing a bill by Christmas.

House has already passed its version of the bill. If the Senate does the same, then the two chambers will have to set up a conference committee, consisting of senior members of the House and Senate. And this committee will have the power to mash the two bills together, throwing bits out here, adding bits there, to make them identical. For a big bill such as healthcare reform, this could be the crucial stage

Senate healthcare debate Day 2: partisan warfare by amendment | csmonitor.com

Thomson shouldn't be Illinois GOP's trump card

An opinion article from Chicago Tribune. 

Republicans are handing Democrats a ready-made issue, making the GOP look like they oppose job creation in a community that badly needs help.

recent Gallup Poll found that by 59 percent to 36 percent, Americans believe that Mohammed should be tried in a military court. More important for Republicans, independents favor a military trial by 63 percent to 32 percent.
Illinois Republicans should take their cue from that: Instead of wasting time crabbing about a less than major threat that the Thomson prison decision poses to us, they have a winner in hanging the decision to try the detainees anywhere in the United States around Democratic necks.

Click on the following for more of Mr. Byrne’s opinion:  Thomson shouldn't be Illinois GOP's trump card -- chicagotribune.com

Debate over Gitmo Prisoner Transfer turns Political in Illinois

Update on where our politicians stand on Gitmo.

Durbin will hold a closed-door briefing on the issue with the state's entire congressional delegation, according to the Hill newspaper. Pentagon and Justice Department officials will be in attendance at the meeting, along with Illinois state officials, the Hill reports.

Republican representatives from Illinois maintain the move would be a bad idea. GOP Illinois Reps. Mark Kirk, Aaron Schock, Pete Roskam, Tim Johnson, Mark Kirk, John Shimkus, Judy Biggert and Don Manzullo have introduced legislation to ban funding for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S., the Hill notes.

Click on the following for more details:  Debate over Gitmo Prisoner Transfer turns Political in Illinois - Political Hotsheet - CBS News

Poison to stop carp creeping toward Great Lakes | Crain's Chicago Business


the fish toxin rotenone will be spread Wednesday evening near Lockport. Solano says by Thursday the poison should produce 200,000 pounds of fish carcasses, which will be taken to a landfill.

The poisoning is scheduled at the same time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to deactivate an electronic barrier on the canal for maintenance. The barrier was designed to repel the carp by giving them a non-lethal jolt.

Poison to stop carp creeping toward Great Lakes | Crain's Chicago Business

Legalized video gambling still at least a year away, regulators say

it will take at least a year to purchase and set up a centralized computer system to monitor the machines. At the same time, lengthy background checks much be performed on what will likely be thousands of applicants wanting video gambling licenses, said Mark Ostrowski, administrator for the Illinois Gaming Board.

number of communities opting out of video gambling is not large enough yet to impact revenue projections. The state estimates it will rake in anywhere from $288 million to $534 million once video gambling is fully implemented.

Click on the following for more details:  Clout St: Legalized video gambling still at least a year away, regulators say

Dekalb County board to explore remote attendance at meetings

under the Open Meetings Act, if a quorum of members are physically present at a meeting, a majority vote can allow the member-in-question to attend the meeting “by other means,” either a video or audio conference.
The absent member must give advance notice unless “impractical,” and the law doesn’t apply to closed meetings

an official can be allowed to attend remotely if he or she is ill, disabled, has a job conflict, is doing business on behalf of the county or has a family emergency.

Click on the following for more details:  County board to explore remote attendance at meetings | Daily Chronicle


Australia has overtaken the United States, the heartland of the McMansion, to boast the world's largest homes, according to a report by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Click on the following for more details:  study-australians-have-the-worlds-biggest-homes: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

Prosecutors ask where money for bail came from in pot case

Great story regarding McHenry County marijuana growing case—the county pays for public defender and the defendant makes bail.

During the bond-reduction hearing, prosecutors argued that Koeckritz was a flight risk, partially because his father owns a large international home-improvement manufacturing company as well as a $16.9 million home in Florida.

Koeckritz’s attorney, Special Public Defender George Kililis, said the money came from Koeckritz’s father. But in the Nov. 23 motion for a hearing, prosecutors assert the money came from the illegal production and distribution of marijuana.

Click on the following for more of the story and readers’ comments:  Northwest Herald | Prosecutors ask where money for bail came from in pot case

Corrupt government: Letter to Editor of Northwest Herald

Read the letter and the seventy-plus comments.

To the Editor:

So the Senate Ethics Committee cited Roland Burris with providing “incorrect, misleading, and incomplete information” on his appointment to the Senate.

Sen. Dick Durbin says the statement “speaks for itself.”  I think it says he fits in with all the other members of Congress, the president, his Cabinet, and members of his administration.  At least he didn’t cheat on his taxes, as far as we know. …..

To read more go to:  Northwest Herald | Corrupt government

Racetrack owners make push for slot machines

Excellent summary of gambling in Illinois.

racetrack officials, including those at Arlington Park, hope to use to finally convince lawmakers to bring 1,200 or more slot machines into each of their facilities, essentially making them casinos. The proposal has been floated countless times before, but has always failed to gain enough support.

lawmakers essentially legalized an unlimited number of slot machines last year when they decided every bar, club, truck stop and liquor-pouring restaurant in Illinois could have five each.

the slot machines at the state's five existing racetracks and one that is currently shuttered could bring in up to $200 million.

Government forecasters told lawmakers Tuesday that the state's smoking ban and the economy have sent revenue losses at the state's nine casinos down 18 percent overall, and about 11 percent at the four suburban casinos in Elgin, Aurora and Joliet.


Click on the following for more details:  Daily Herald | Racetrack owners make push for slot machines

19 Lake Co. board members refuse raises; 4 still in line for pay hikes

As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 644,356 people in Lake County compared to Boone County’s 41,786.

2009 fiscal year, the annual salary for nearly every county board member was $39,370. County Board Chairwoman Suzi Schmidt earned about $80,000, plus extra stipends, because of her extra duties.

Daily Herald | 19 Lake Co. board members refuse raises; 4 still in line for pay hikes

US auto sales struggle to gain much ground; GM, Ford, Toyota are steady; Chrysler sags again

Sales were flat compared to last November, according to Autodata Corp. Even higher incentives couldn't push the needle much beyond the dismal lows seen a year ago, when a credit freeze and the financial meltdown kept car buyers at home.
Fuel-efficient cars showed continued strength, as did crossovers …. Truck sales were again weak.

Sales incentives rose 2 percent to $2,713 per vehicle

Chrysler continued to underperform the industry, selling only 63,560 vehicles last month, a decline of 25 percent. Chrysler's sales dropped 38 percent in the first 11 months of the year, steeper than the 24 percent drop for the industry overall. The automaker announced an array of sales incentives, including zero percent financing and cash rebates.  One good sign: Chrysler's market share rose to 8.4 percent from 7.9 percent in October, an indication that consumer have gained confidence in the company after getting details of its five-year business plan earlier this month.

Click on the following for more details:  US auto sales struggle to gain much ground; GM, Ford, Toyota are steady; Chrysler sags again -- chicagotribune.com

39 Chicago-area banks with seriously delinquent loans on books

A Texas ratio tallies up a bank's past-due loans and bank-owned real estate and compares them with the levels of a bank's core capital, typically shareholders' equity, and the money set aside for potential loan losses. A score of at least 80 percent is considered a cause for concern. A Texas ratio puts a bank's asset problems in the context of its capital and reserve levels, so it's considered a good predictor of difficulties.

accelerating crisis in the community banking sector in Chicago," Barr said. If the trend continues, it will hurt the area's economic recovery

Click on the following for more details:   39 Chicago-area banks with seriously delinquent loans on books -- chicagotribune.com

McHenry County Board Bans Video Slot Machines 13-10-1

with the help of all three Democrats on the county board. (Counting only Republicans, the vote would have been tied 10-10.)

Perhaps also influencing the vote was the leadership that Democratic Party State Rep. Jack Franks has taken on the issue. He attended a Patriots United debate on the subject after returning from one of this fall’s veto sessions.

Click on the following for more details:  McHenry County Blog | McHenry County Board Bans Video Slot Machines 13-10-1

Food stamps and the poverty debate

food security" in 2008 – the highest number since tracking began in 1995. That suggests almost 15 percent of households nationwide struggled to get enough to eat, versus about 11 percent in 2007.

for a family of four to be eligible, their annual take-home pay can't exceed about $22,000.

most of America's poor "are not on the verge of literal starvation." But they may not get adequate nutrition, and if they're using food stamps, may not have access to high-quality foods

Click on the following for more details:  Food stamps and the poverty debate | Daily Chronicle

Robert Reich: The Housing Crisis and Wall Street Shame

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My PhotoOne out of four homeowners is now under water, owing more on their homes than the homes are worth. Why? The biggest single factor behind the housing crisis is rising unemployment. According to the latest ABC-Washington Post poll, one out of every three Americans has either lost their job or lives in a household with someone who has lost a job. Today it takes two and sometimes three incomes to buy the groceries and pay the mortgage or the rent. So if one of those incomes is gone, a homeowner can't make the payment.
The scourge of unemployment is splitting America into three groups: (1) the third just mentioned, whose households are in danger of losing their homes and whose kids are surviving on food stamps (that's up to one in four children in America today); (2) the vast majority of Americans who are managing but worried about keeping their jobs and homes; and (3) a small number who are taking home even more winnings than they did in the boom year 2007.
Prominent among category (3) are Wall Street bankers, many of whom are now concluding their most profitable year ever. Goldman Sachs is so flush it's preparing to give out bonuses in a few weeks totaling $17 billion. That will mean eight-figure compensation packages for lots of Goldman executives and traders. JPMorgan Chase is rumored to have a bonus pool of around $5 billion. The three other major Wall Street banks are ratcheting up their compensation packages so their "talent" won't be poached by Goldman or JPMorgan.
Wall Street is booming again in large part because the rest of America -- categories (1) and (2), above -- bailed it out to the tune of $700 billion last year. The Street has repaid some of that but, according to the bailout program's inspector general, much of it is gone forever. For example, the taxpayer money that bailed out giant insurer AIG went directly through AIG to its "counterparties" like Goldman Sachs -- to whom Tim Geithner, according to the inspector general, gave away the store. As Goldman Sachs prepares to dole out some $17 billion to its executives and traders, it's worth noting that Goldman received $13 billion a year ago from the rest of us via AIG and Geithner, no strings attached.
Which brings us back to homeowners who are falling further behind. The $75 billion federal program designed to bribe banks to modify mortgages has been a bust. No one knows the exact number of mortgages that have been modified (that will be reported next month) but housing experts I've talked with say it's a tiny fraction of the number of homeowners in trouble. Seems that the big banks can't be bothered. "Some of the firms ought to be embarrassed," Michael Barr, the assistant Treasury secretary for financial institutions told the New York Times.
Barr says the government will try to use shame as a corrective, publicly naming institutions that have moved too slowly. But the banks have done almost nothing to date. "We've made dramatic improvements, and we continue to try to get better," says a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, but as a practical matter JPMorgan has done squat.
Shame? If we've learned anything over the last year, it's that Wall Street has none. Ten months ago Wall Street lobbyists beat back a proposal to give bankruptcy judges the right to amend mortgages in order to pressure lenders to reduce principle owed, just like Wall Street lobbyists are now beating back tough regulations to prevent the Street from causing another meltdown.
Shame? For Wall Street, it all comes down to PR, at minimal cost. Goldman Sachs, attempting to preempt a firestorm of public outrage when it dispenses its $17 billion of bonuses, is setting up a crudely conceived $500 million PR program to help Main Street.
Shame won't work. Only political muscle and courage will. Congress and the Obama administration should give homeowners the right to go to a bankruptcy judge and have their mortgages modified.
And while they're at it, resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act that used to separate investment from commercial banking, so Wall Street can't continue to use other people's money to gamble.
Finally, before Goldman hands out $17 billion in bonuses, claw back the $13 billion Goldman took from AIG and the rest of us and add it to the pool of money going for mortgage relief.

For more of Mr. Reich’s opinions and analysis go to:  http://www.robertreich.blogspot.com/