How To Help The Victims Of Sandy Hook: Helping others can ease the heartbreak. Here are several ways to do it.
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Thing One: Hooray, A Fiscal Cliff Deal: That disturbance you feel in the Force is everybody in America preparing to be very angry all at once, which can only mean one thing: A fiscal-cliff deal is near.
Yes, it sounds like there's something for everyone to hate. Liberals, for example, are not going to be pleased with some of the concessions President Obama made yesterday, as reported by the Washington Post. He gave up on tax increases for people making $250,000 to $400,000, and it looks like the Bush tax cuts for everybody making below $400,000 will gouge a permanent hole in the federal budget. Maybe more troublingly, he also agreed to change the cost-of-living calculation for Social Security, which will have the effect of cutting benefits for thousands. So much for Social Security not being a part of any deal. And, to add insult to potentially real economic injury, the expiring payroll-tax cut has been dropped from negotiations, points out Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post. MoveOn.org has already objected to the cuts to Social Security benefits, notes Grim.
But there could also be some real howling from the right, because Speaker of the House John Boehner has already given ground on tax hikes. And Obama's latest offer includes some short-term stimulus, in the form of infrastructure spending and unemployment benefits. It also offers some protection, apparently, to protect vulnerable people from his Social Security tweak. Obama has asked to take the debt-ceiling debate off the table for two years. His offer also doesn't raise the retirement age for Medicare, which Paul Krugman suggests might have been a lot worse than the Social Security benefit cut. In a blog post last night, Krugman sounded almost willing to accept this deal -- all the more reason to expect House Republicans to hate it.
The only entities who will be truly happy with this news are CNBC and other purveyors of fiscal-cliff panic, and any idiots in the stock market who are buying and selling based on day-to-day fluctuations in talks. Allegedly there are some of these people: The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 100 points on news talks were going well, the Wall Street Journal theorizes.
Still, this is what real deals usually look like: They leave neither side satisfied. And it is true that a deal will clear the decks of this foolishness and allow people to get on with their lives, at least removing the cliff as a threat to the economy next year. But by cutting a deal early, Obama is taking a chance that his legacy will forever be stained by the thought that he could have gotten a better deal simply by letting the cliff happen -- particularly if he gives too much more ground.
Thing Two: Cerberus Leaves The Gun: The Newtown massacre is already starting to have a big impact on the gun industry. Private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, the former owner of Chrysler, announced that it was selling Freedom Group, which makes and distributes several guns, including the Bushmaster rifle used in Newtown, Aurora and other mass shootings. "It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level," the firm said in a statement. Cerberus said it wants no part of that debate, and doesn't want its investors to have to endure that debate either -- investors such as the California State Teachers' Retirement System, which said it was reconsidering its $500 million investment in Cerberus as a result of the shooting.
Thing Three: The Bank Fines Will Continue Until Morale Improves: Today might just be the day we get a massive settlement between Swiss bank UBS and regulators in the U.S., U.K. and Switzerland over charges that UBS bankers were constantly, habitually, obsessively manipulating the key benchmark lending rate known as Libor. The bank is expected to pay $1.5 billion or more in fines, and apparently three dozen individual bankers will be "implicated" in the settlement, according to the Financial Times. We have no idea what that means, but it may well mean that some individuals will actually get charged with crimes, which would be a Christmas miracle.
On the other end of the bank-fine spectrum, Morgan Stanley was fined a whopping $5 million yesterday by the Massachusetts securities regulator over improper banker-analyst relations during the disastrous Facebook IPO. That deal represented just a small fraction of the estimated $68 million it made on the deal, according to Reuters.
Thing Four: Dodd-Frank? More Like Coddle-Bank, Amiright? But don't worry, not all of the news is moderately bad for the banks. Peter Eavis of the New York Times points out that the Dodd-Frank financial reform law gives banks a shield from homeowner lawsuits, in order to entice them to make more mortgages available. Because that was a huge problem in the crisis, banks' stinginess with offering mortgages. Oh, wait. Anyway, the banks are doing what they do best, lobbying the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau furiously to write the rules as favorably toward the banks as possible -- though it's not even entirely clear why such unprecedented protections are needed.
Thing Five: Still More Insider-Trading Convictions: Two former hedge-fund managers were found guilty of insider-trading yesterday, in the latest in a string of court victories for the government in its dragnet. Both men, Anthony Chiasson of Level Global Investors and Todd Newman of Diamondback Capital Management, worked for hedge funds founded by former employees of, you guessed it, SAC Capital. The hedge fund run by Steven A. Cohen has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but its name crops up more and more in this years-long investigation.
Thing Six: En Fuego With Bribery: The New York Times, which first busted Walmart for bribery in Mexico back in April, has a front-page opus today, in which it lays out in painful detail the ways in which it says Walmart de Mexico was the Babe Ruth of bribery, " an aggressive and creative corrupter." It poured millions into the pockets of local officials to get its stores and warehouses built, the NYT writes, often circumventing environmental or public-safety laws.
Thing Seven: Amgen's Mystery Crime: Amgen, the world's biggest biotechnology firm, is set to plead guilty to some mystery criminal charges today, Bloomberg reports. The company has said it expects to pay about $800 million in fines over charges that it improperly sold and marketed drugs, including its anemia drug Aranesp.
Thing Seven And One Half: Guns For Sale: Guns apparently don't just sell themselves; they need advertising, just like anything else. Which results in some of the creepiest, most embarrassing ads you'll ever see. Via Mother Jones, here are 20 of them.
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Calendar Du Jour:
10:00 a.m. ET: NAHB Housing Market Index for December
Heard On The Tweets:
The weirdest part of being a lady online is the daily dudes offering unsolicited advice about stuff they don't know much about.
— Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) December 18, 2012
Home Alone 2012:Mom: Where R U?Kevin: home, U?Mom: oops lol I'm in ParisKevin: thought I made u disappearMom: lolKevin: srslyMom: oh
— Veronica (@MyPolishFace) December 17, 2012
Breaking: Social media company wants to make money, will compromise your privacy to that end.
— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) December 17, 2012
I mean, yeah, absolutely, if you're offering, I'll take some cheese with my whine. I like cheese.
— Nic Cage Match (@NicCageMatch) December 17, 2012
“Ooh look at me, the door to my house is a circle!” - my impression of a hobbit
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) December 17, 2012
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