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Obama Blows...

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com http://robalini.blogspot.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 11, 2009
      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist


      FEBRUARY 6, 2009
      Loopholes Sap Potency of Pay Limits

      President Barack Obama's crackdown on Wall Street pay contains
      loopholes, and may have limited impact in restraining compensation,
      according to some executive-pay consultants and management attorneys.

      Some compensation professionals already are pointing out potential
      holes in the rules, including tactics such as changing executives'
      titles or rearranging pay packages. Just as past attempts by the
      government to restrict executive pay largely backfired, these people
      warn, the new curbs also may have unintended consequences.

      The plan, announced Wednesday, includes a $500,000 cap on annual
      compensation for senior executives of companies that receive
      future "exceptional" government aid. Additional compensation would
      have to be paid in restricted stock or similar long-term incentive
      arrangements, which the executives could cash in only after the
      government is repaid, with interest.

      Other recipients of future federal bailout money would have to place
      tougher limits on severance packages and disclose luxurious perks,
      such as the use of company jets. Annual compensation above $500,000
      at these companies would be subject to a nonbinding shareholder vote.

      "The mix of transparency and accountability is powerful and strikes
      the right balance to allow banks to continue operating effectively
      while operating under common-sense guidelines that rein in excessive
      compensation," a Treasury Department official said Thursday.

      Many applauded the moves as a useful step to curb Wall Street
      compensation practices that may have led to excessive risk-taking.
      But some critics identified weaknesses, suggesting the restrictions
      be retroactively applied to companies that already have received
      federal bailout cash. They noted that the most stringent restrictions
      likely would affect only a few firms; others could avoid some of the
      curbs by putting extra pay to a shareholder vote.

      Some said the plan doesn't limit total compensation, because it
      allows companies to boost awards of restricted stock.

      "I am fearful that companies will look at this as an opportunity to
      grant more restricted shares and stock options to executives who
      already have an abundant amount of equity," said Jesse Brill, a
      securities and compensation lawyer who is chairman of
      CompensationStandards.com, an advisory Web site. He would prefer
      barring executives from cashing in stock until age 65 or two years
      past retirement to encourage long-term decision making.

      Michael Kesner, head of compensation consulting at Deloitte
      Consulting LLP, worries the plan allows executives to claim
      restricted-stock awards once the company pays back the government,
      and doesn't require companies to tie those awards to operating
      results or share-price gains, as many companies now do.

      "They're actually saying we don't care about performance," Mr. Kesner

      Others said the preliminary restrictions released by the Treasury
      Department are overly vague. For example, the $500,000 annual pay
      limit applies only to "senior executives." James F. Reda, a New York
      compensation consultant, said companies could give certain executives
      lower titles or assign them to head subsidiaries.

      "Now you're going to have executives ask not to be called a senior
      executive," said Steven Hall, a New York pay consultant. He warned
      that companies can't get too "cute," because they will embarrass
      themselves before a hostile public and government. "Being cute ain't
      going to work in the future," he said.

      There also isn't a clear definition of what constitutes a luxury
      perk. Companies could grant executives benefits such as medical
      exams, tax gross-ups and personal tax advice, said Sarah Anderson, an
      executive-pay analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal
      think tank in Washington. Gross-up payments from companies reimburse
      senior executives for taxes the executives owe on company-provided
      perks and other benefits.

      The Treasury official said the department plans to issue more
      detailed regulations, likely in a few weeks. He said each company's
      perk guidelines will be vetted and posted publicly.

      David Yermack, a finance professor at New York University's Stern
      School of Business, said the initial guidelines don't address many
      aspects of executive pay, such as deferred compensation and pension

      Mr. Yermack also said it isn't clear if companies would be allowed to
      boost executives' pay by repricing existing stock options. Such a
      repricing could be worth millions of dollars in potential

      Perhaps the broadest impact from President Obama's plan will stem
      from its endorsement of advisory shareholder votes on executive-pay
      provisions. Such "say-on-pay" votes have long been sought by
      corporate-governance advocates, but only a small number of companies
      have implemented such votes.

      Some bankers and compensation consultants said they worry the plan
      will prompt an exodus of talent from companies with regulated pay to
      other firms. But Alan Levine, an executive-compensation attorney at
      Morrison Cohen LLP in New York, said there will be plenty of
      qualified people willing to run big banks at annual salaries of

      "I think there's some guy at Citigroup who says, 'I don't care if I'm
      only making a half-million dollars, I'm going to lead this bank to
      recovery, and when we get out of this cloud, you're going to pay me.'"

      —Phred Dvorak contributed to this article.

      Write to Mark Maremont at mark.maremont@... and Joann S. Lublin
      at joann.lublin@...

      Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page C1



      Medical marijuana supporters fuming over Westside dispensary raids
      Three actions by DEA teams Tuesday point up the continuing conflict
      between federal and state drug laws. Some had hoped an Obama
      administration would change the dynamic.
      By Corina Knoll
      February 4, 2009

      A raid by federal agents of several Westside medical marijuana
      dispensaries has generated outrage among advocates of the drug, some
      of whom had expressed hope that the federal government would halt
      such crackdowns once President Obama took office.

      At least three groups of officers with the Drug Enforcement
      Administration simultaneously served search warrants on dispensaries
      Tuesday about noon, said Sarah Pullen, a DEA spokeswoman.

      "I can't get into details as to the probable cause behind the
      warrants except for the fact that they're dealing with marijuana,
      which is illegal under federal law," she said.

      State law, however, is a different matter. In 1996, California voters
      passed Proposition 215, which legalized marijuana for seriously ill
      patients and reduced criminal penalties for possession. But that
      conflicts with federal law.

      Medical marijuana advocates were hopeful when Obama, while on the
      campaign trail, said he supported prescriptions for medical marijuana
      as long as the drug was regulated and that he didn't plan to use
      Justice Department resources to circumvent state laws. Tuesday's
      raids showed that, so far, things haven't changed.

      "The local government is trying to implement Prop. 215, but while
      they're doing that we've got the federal government intimidating
      property owners and raiding facilities," said Don Duncan, co-founder
      of Americans for Safe Access, which promotes safe and legal access to
      marijuana. The group is planning a noon rally today at the L.A.
      federal building.

      "What would be best for the people in California is if the federal
      government backed off and let the local government regulate this

      L.A. City Council members placed a moratorium on new medical
      marijuana dispensaries in 2007 while they weighed whether to tighten
      city regulation of them.

      "Until we get something on the books, we're going to have more of
      these conflicts," Councilman Dennis Zine said.

      Federal agents make a handful of dispensary raids each year in Los

      "DEA has a legal right to do what they're doing," said Charlie Beck,
      chief of detectives at the Los Angeles Police Department. "Is it
      controversial? Yes."

      At the heart of the controversy are places like the Beach Center
      Collective in Playa del Rey, where an employee said DEA officers
      confiscated so much property Tuesday that it would not be able to

      "They took everything," said the 32-year-old employee, who asked not
      to be named out of fear of prosecution.

      "You name it, they took it -- right down to the television. The
      computer, patient files, medicine, cash in the register -- that's it,
      we're done."

      Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director of the Drug Policy
      Alliance Network, said it's up to the Obama administration to resolve
      the dispute.




      After Obama praises torture ruling, civil liberties group appalled
      John Byrne
      Wednesday February 4, 2009

      'Hope is flickering,' ACLU declares

      The American Civil Liberties Union, which has generally been harshly
      critical of President George W. Bush and praiseworthy of President
      Barack Obama, has fired a torpedo across the Obama bow.

      After the British High Court ruled that evidence of a British
      resident's rendition and harsh interrogation at the Pentagon's
      Guantanamo Bay prison must remain secret because of threats made by
      the Bush administration to halt intelligence sharing, the Obama
      Administration offered a terse statement seemingly expressing support
      to the BBC.

      "The United States thanks the UK government for its continued
      commitment to protect sensitive national security information and
      preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that
      enables both countries to protect their citizens," a spokesman said.

      In response, the ACLU's executive director, Anthony Romero, shot off
      a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking the Obama
      Administration to clarify their position. Romero also issued a
      sharply-worded three sentence statement to the press, saying Obama
      has now offered "more of the same."

      "Hope is flickering," Romero said in a statement. "The Obama
      administration's position is not change.. It is more of the same.
      This represents a complete turn-around and undermining of the
      restoration of the rule of law. The new American administration
      shouldn't be complicit in hiding the abuses of its predecessors."

      The ACLU called on Clinton to "reject the Bush administration's
      policy of using false claims of national security to avoid judicial
      review of controversial programs."

      Romero's letter to Clinton follows.
      February 4, 2009

      The Honorable Hillary Clinton
      U.S. Department of State
      2201 C Street, N.W.
      Washington, D.C. 20520

      Re: Clarification Requested on Position of the United States on
      Blocking Disclosure by a British Court of Its Report on Allegations
      of Torture

      Dear Secretary Clinton:

      The American Civil Liberties Union strongly urges you to clarify the
      position of the United States on the publication of the full judgment
      in a lawsuit brought by a Guantanamo detainee, Binyam Mohamed, in a
      British court. Earlier today, the High Court in Great Britain
      published a judgment denying publication of its report detailing
      allegations of torture. The High Court stated that the United States
      had threatened that full publication of the court's judgment would
      jeopardize intelligence cooperation between the two countries.
      Remarkably, the court reported that the British government claimed
      the U.S. position had not changed, despite the inauguration of
      President Barack Obama. We urgently request that you clarify the
      position of the United States in this matter.

      Two of the British justices severely criticized the position of the
      United States in working to block publication of the judgment in the
      torture case. Lord Justice Thomas and Justice Lloyd Jones stated
      today that: Indeed, we did not consider that a democracy [the United
      States] governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another
      democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports
      by its own officials ... relevant to allegations of torture and
      cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing
      though it might be. We had no reason ... to anticipate there would be
      made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States
      Government that it would reconsider its intelligence-sharing
      relationship, when all the considerations in relation to open justice
      pointed to us providing a limited but important summary of the

      The court's opinion specifically stated that attorneys for British
      Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the court that the United
      States' threat on the effect of publication on intelligence
      cooperation was continued by the United States, despite the
      inauguration of President Obama.

      Specifically, the justices stated that, "it was submitted to us by
      Mr. David Rose that the situation had changed significantly following
      the election of President Obama who was avowedly determined to eschew
      torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and to close
      Guantanamo Bay. We have, however, been informed by counsel for the
      Foreign Secretary that the position has not changed."

      The claims made by the British justices that the United States
      continues to oppose publication of the judgment in the Binyam Mohamed
      case--to the point of threatening the future of U.S.-British
      intelligence cooperation--seems completely at odds with both the anti-
      torture and transparency executive orders signed by the President. We
      strongly urge you to clarify the position of the United States and
      remove any threat related to the publication of the court's full

      Please let us know if you have any questions regarding this matter.


      Anthony D. Romero
      Executive Director

      Caroline Fredrickson
      Director, Washington Legislative Office

      cc: Joan Donoghue, Acting Legal Adviser



      February 6, 2009
      White House Faith Office to Expand

      WASHINGTON — President Obama signed an executive order Thursday to
      create a revamped White House office for religion-based and
      neighborhood programs, expanding an initiative started by the Bush
      administration that provides government support — and financing — to
      religious and charitable organizations that deliver social services.

      "No matter how much money we invest or how sensibly we design our
      policies, the change that Americans are looking for will not come
      from government alone," Mr. Obama said. "There is a force for good
      greater than government."

      In announcing the expansion of the religion office, Mr. Obama did not
      settle the biggest question: Can religious groups that receive
      federal money for social service programs hire only those who share
      their faith?

      The Bush administration said yes. But many religious groups and
      others that are concerned about employment discrimination and
      protecting the separation of church and state had pushed hard for Mr.
      Obama to repeal the Bush policies.

      Meanwhile, other religious groups were lobbying to preserve their
      right to use religion as a criterion in hiring. Some religious social
      service providers warned they might stop working with the government
      if they were forced to change policies.

      Instead of deciding the issue, the president called Thursday for a
      legal review of the policy case by case before determining whether
      religious groups can receive government money and selectively hire
      employees based on their religious beliefs.

      Mr. Obama told an audience in Ohio last summer, "You can't use that
      grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't
      discriminate against them."

      Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal minister who led religious
      outreach for Mr. Obama during the presidential race, will direct the
      new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
      Mr. DuBois said in an interview, "The president is still very much
      committed to clear constitutionality and legality in this program.
      He's committed to nondiscrimination."

      But Mr. DuBois said that after Mr. Obama gave his speech in Ohio "we
      have realized there's a tremendous lack of clarity in this area, so
      we'll review on a case by case basis."

      "If we are consistently finding the same thing, and presenting the
      same recommendations to the president," he said, then the
      administration might seek to recommend a change in the law.

      Asked whether his office would work with religious groups outside the
      mainstream, like the Church of Scientology, that may seek government
      grants for social services, Mr. DuBois said: "There's no picking or
      choosing or cherry-picking of groups. That was allowed before, but it
      will not be the practice moving forward."

      The president also announced the formation of a 25-member advisory
      council that includes religious leaders and heads of nonprofit
      groups, among them, several evangelical Christians, the president of
      Catholic Charities U.S.A., a rabbi, a Muslim community organizer and
      the openly gay director of a nonprofit group.

      Mr. Obama, who spoke about his Christian faith frequently during his
      presidential campaign, said Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast
      that religion should not be "wielded as a tool to divide us from one

      He called on believers of all faiths to set aside divisions "to lift
      up those who have fallen on hard times."

      "No matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is
      no religion whose central tenet is hate," Mr. Obama told an audience
      of Republicans and Democrats, diplomats and members of the
      clergy. "There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent
      human being. This much we know."

      Mr. Obama signed the executive order on Thursday away from the view
      of television cameras or an audience.

      Jeff Zeleny reported from Washington, and Laurie Goodstein from New



      Obama: "Everybody thinks they're economists"
      February 6, 2009

      The Associated Press reports:

      President Barack Obama says in Washington these days, everyone's an
      economist—or thinks they are.

      Obama introduced a team of outside economic advisers Friday at a
      White House ceremony in which he also renewed his demand that
      Congress act quickly on his economic recovery package.

      As the country struggles with the worst financial crisis since the
      Great Depression, Obama said there has been no shortage of advice on
      how to solve the nation's woes.

      "You've got some economists and some folks who think they're
      economists. By the way, these days everybody thinks they're
      economists," he joked.

      Obama made his funny while announcing members of his Economic
      Recovery Advisory Board — or more precisely, the board cobbled
      together by his globalist masters. It will be run by none other than
      Paul A. Volcker, the former Fed mob boss who thinks Americans have
      been living beyond their means for too long. "It is the United States
      as a whole that became addicted to spending and consuming beyond its
      capacity to produce," Volcker lectured the Economic Club of New York
      in April, 2008. "It all seemed so comfortable."

      It will all become exceedingly uncomfortable and sooner before later
      if Volcker and the globalists have their way.

      "As previously announced, the inestimable Austan Goolsbee will serve
      as the Board's Staff Director and Chief Economist," reports Jake
      Tapper for ABC News.

      Austan Goolsbee is the guy who told the Canadians back in April of
      2008 during the election campaign that Obama really didn't mean it
      when he declared he would "renegotiate NAFTA." It was just a parlor
      trick designed to fool the American people.

      "Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee told a recent CFR meeting that `free
      trade is not the enemy,'" the Washington Post reported on November 3,

      "Goolsbee is widely reported to have told Obama not to back a
      compulsory freeze on home mortgage foreclosures to help the
      struggling middle class in the current depression crisis, as demanded
      by former candidate John Edwards," Webster Tarpley wrote on February
      4, 2008. Tarpley also reveals Goolsbee's connection to the elitist
      occult Skull & Bones club.

      It is apparently a joke to Obama and his handlers that so many
      Americans are now talking about economics. Obviously, we should leave
      the economy up to Obama's board of establishment insiders, never mind
      the appointed boss of this globalist coterie of corporatist
      economists has stated you are living too high on the hog.

      Here is the full list of folks who will be punching your meal ticket:

      1. William H. Donaldson, former Chairman, SEC
      2. Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President & CEO, TIAA-CREF
      3. Robert Wolf, Chairman & CEO, UBS Group Americas
      4. David F. Swensen, CIO, Yale University
      5. Mark T. Gallogly, Founder & Managing Partner, Centerbridge
      Partners L.P.
      6. Penny Pritzker, Chairman & Founder, Pritzker Realty Group
      7.. John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers
      8. Jim Owens, Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar Inc.
      9. Monica C. Lozano, Publisher & Chief Executive Officer, La Opinion
      10. Charles E. Phillips, Jr., President, Oracle Corporation
      11. Anna Burger, Secretary-Treasurer, SEIU
      12. Richard L. Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO
      13. Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Dean, Haas School of Business at the
      University of California at Berkeley
      14. Martin Feldstein, George F. Baker Professor of Economics, Harvard
      15.. Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO, GE
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