Federally Funded Frog and Fairy Folly

Originally published at NewsReal’s That’s What She Said blog. Please follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our feed!

There was actually a different “f” word that sprang to mind when I read about this at Verum Serum:

A $600,000 frog sculpture that lights up, gurgles “sounds of nature” and carries a 10-foot fairy girl on its back could soon be greeting Defense Department employees who plan to start working at the $700 million Mark Center in Alexandria, Va. this fall. That is unless a new controversy over the price tag of the public art doesn’t torpedo the idea.

Decried as wasteful spending that will be seen by just a couple thousand of daily workers who arrive on bus shuttles, foes have tried to delay the decision, expected tomorrow, April 1. But in an E-mail, an Army Corps of Engineers official said that the decision can’t be held up because it would impact completion of the huge project.

With a decision deadline of April 1, I figured this had to be an April Fools’ Day gag. No such luck. The proposal by artist Cheryl Foster is proudly displayed on the City of Alexandria website, along with equally absurd wastes of taxpayer dollars like a magnolia sculpture (pretty sure you can grow a magnolia for under six figures) and a “robust, maintenance free, colorful and uplifting” bench. Yes, a bench. An uplifting bench.

A member of the advisory committee overseeing the project says just 2,500 people will pass by the sculpture each day.

$600,000 for a giant toad the artist says will “magically radiate” light? I wonder how much she’ll knock off the price tag if we’re willing to forgo whatever dark enchantments she uses to produce that “magical” amphibian glow.

Check out the photo of the proposed sculpture at Verum Serum, and get ready to wish this out-of-control government spending was just an April Fools’ hoax.

Nannies: The Next Class Warfare Casualty


Originally published at David Horowitz’s NewsReal Blog

Forget the nanny state.  New York is well on its way to becoming the nanny-less state.

The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights passed by the New York State Senate earlier this month is being sold as a package of workplace protections for nannies, housekeepers, and other domestic employees.  But is the legislation really a human rights victory for low-wage women or is it a job-killer likely to burden both domestic workers and the families who employ them? Read more

Recession Choices

From a New York Times Magazine piece on how the recession is taking a toll on freelancers:

In April, Lisa Feuer sent me another message from her iPhone: “I’m at the food-stamp office now, waiting.” For months, she had been putting off this trip.

Maybe next month they can save her the trip by texting the food stamps to her iPhone.

And when was the last time the New York Times devoted this many column inches to old school food stamp recipients?  You know, the kind who don’t tote around the latest technological accoutrements.

That Pound of AIG Executive Flesh Won’t Pay Your Tax Bill

Grab your pitch fork!  Light your torch!  There’s a battle to be waged in the name of egalitarianism.  There are wrongs to be righted on behalf of the aggrieved proletariat.

No weapon is off limits to this populist mob of angry legislators, outraged officials, indignant journalists and seething private citizens. Punitive taxation, public shaming, intimidation, and even threats of physical violence are all fair play if the greedy rich at AIG are to get their just deserts.

Among the recent threats against AIG executives and their families:

Get the bonus, we will get your children.”

“I would be very careful when I went out side. This is just a warning. If I were ya’ll I would be real afraid.”

“Publish the list of those yankee scumbags so some good old southern boys can take care of them.”

“We will hunt you down. Every last penny. We will hunt your children and we will hunt your conscience. We will do whatever we can to get those people getting the bonuses.  Give back the money or kill yourselves.”

“The Revolution is coming. The family members of your executives are not safe. Your blood will run through the streets in the coming months.”

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo attempted to satisfy an increasingly bloodthirsty public by threatening to disclose the names of AIG bonus recipients if they did not return the payments.  And back in Washington, Rep. Barney Frank demanded the names of recipients and refused to keep them confidential in response to safety concerns.

To further address public cries for the heads of AIG executives, the House easily passed a bill to impose a 90 percent tax on executive bonuses at bailed out companies.  The legislation garnered support from most House Democrats and nearly half of Republicans, though it appears to be dead in the Senate.

Even President Obama wondered how AIG executives could “justify this outrage to the taxpayers” and with utter disregard for the sanctity of private contracts, asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to “pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole.”

One problem: block the bonuses and you lose the talent.

Why should you care if AIG suffers a blow to its executive workforce?

Forget your outrage that taxpayers are underwriting these bonuses and think for a minute.  Panicky legislators tossed barrels of cash at AIG many months ago and our only hope of getting those billions back is to ensure the company is skillfully dismantled by knowledgeable executives. If AIG assets aren’t sold off in an orderly, uninterrupted manner, your government’s investment will become your tax liability.

I know it hurts to say it, but keeping the remaining AIG executives at the company is in your best interest.

Many AIG executives worked for $1 salaries last year with the expectation that they would be compensated with bonuses if they remained at the beleaguered company.  This manner of structuring compensation helped AIG retain qualified employees to dismantle the company.  What we’re calling retention bonuses are essentially deferred salary payments postponed to ensure talent sticks around.

Even if you had the specialized knowledge, would you work for just a dollar a year?  Would you pass up a stable, high paying job at a solvent company out of sheer loyalty to AIG?  And where else should AIG management have looked to find expertise on dissolving these complex financial instruments and assets?  Could we spare the time for training and learning curves?

Unfortunately, the threats have worked and the strong-arming has paid off.   Jake DeSantis, an executive Vice President at AIG Financial Products, published his letter of resignation in the New York Times this week:

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down.

Like most current AIG executives, DeSantis was not responsible for the company’s massive credit default swap losses, but that hasn’t insulated him from the witch hunt conducted by Barney Frank, Andrew Cuomo, and others.  Rather than remain at AIG out of fear, he has elected to leave on his own terms.

News of two more AIG resignations was announced Thursday.   Mauro Gabriel, president and CEO of Banque AIG, and Jim Shephard, deputy CEO are leaving due to the hostile business environment at AIG.  There is some concern that a failure to find replacements could result in hundreds of billions of dollars in derivative contract defaults.

If that happens, good luck attracting qualified talent to help wrap up this AIG mess.

Will the rabble-rousing have been worth it then?  Will that pound of executive flesh fill the coffers at Treasury?  No, but that won’t stop the public hunger for class warfare from continuing to eclipse law, ethics, and even self-interest.

The Volunteer Workforce at Slate

Sure, Slate could pay photojournalists to document our increasingly grim economic situation, but these are tough times for everyone at Washington Post-owned media properties.  The editors figured, why pay for content when so many recent initiates into the hard knock life are roaming the urban wasteland with their Nikon DSLRs, sipping skinny lattes while recording the decaying vestiges of American society.  And thus, the Shoot the Recession project was born.

The lazy editor’s path to a photojournalism piece, to be sure, but if Slate can make a quick advertising buck from free reader-generated content, they might just survive the extinction threatening their brethren in the dinosaur media.

Greenville Tea Party Draws 2,000 Protesters

2,000 protesters gathered on the banks of the Reedy River Friday evening for the Greenville Tea Party. Frustrated citizens joined Americans in more than 50 cities to decry the grotesquely irresponsible bailouts, pork, and ill-advised stimulus measures that are turning current and future generations into permanent federal piggy banks.

The rally organized by the Upstate Young Republicans was nothing short of inspirational.  I know that sounds sappy, but as a lifelong New Yorker, I’ve never seen that many Republicans in one place and honestly, it was kind of validating to see that they exist in real life, not just in the cesspools known as blog comment sections.  The turnout was incredible, dwarfing my expectations and those of the organizers.  Looking at the crowd estimates, it may have been the most well-attended of all the Tea Parties held Friday.

The ground was muddy, the sky overcast, the air humid, and no one seemed to care.

Here are photos of some of the protest signs (please excuse my ailing camera):

It’s gotta be a sweet tea party if you’re in Greenville, SC.

Welcome Back, Carter!

Elections have consequences.

Obamanomics: trickle up poverty.

Speakers electrified the crowd with talk of constitutional freedoms and personal responsibility, eliciting roars of agreement that could be heard blocks away. Rob and I listened to a young mother explaining the history of the Revolution to her daughter (accurately!) and watched fathers hoist their children into the air to wave flags and banners. Samuel Adams (and his reincarnation Rick Santelli) would be proud.

While the protesters were clearly unhappy with the usual suspects – Obama, Pelosi, and Reid – there was a particularly special place in their hearts for South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Chants of “Lindsey Don’t Care!” spread through the crowd as speakers criticized his earmarks in the most recent omnibus spending bill.

Mentions of our other South Carolina Senator, Jim DeMint, were met with wild rounds of applause. His consistent fiscal conservatism and hard-line stance against the bailouts has earned him hero status here in Greenville.

Even Ron Paul’s supporters were out in full force, gearing up for 2012 with updated campaign signs.

The highlight of the event, however, was when a speaker asked people under 30 to raise their hands so he could apologize to them for the generational theft taking place.  Since I turned 29 again this year, I joined right in and the only person who gave me a funny look was my husband.

Here are a few more photos of the crowd taken from the Main Street bridge:

And one final shot of the crowd rushing toward the river bank at dusk to toss in their tea:

Many of the protesters brought trash bags full of leaves in lieu of tea. I must have missed the memo – did they do that in other cities?

Local photographer Jenny Marie Brown has more photos of the Greenville rally.

Other Tea Party coverage (I’ll add to this round up over the weekend – leave your links in the comments):

Michelle Malkin’s Tea Party photo album

My friend Bill Hennessy covers the hugely successful St. Louis Tea Party he organized (1,000+ protesters)

Gateway Pundit has more on the St. Louis rally

America’s North Shore Journal has a multi-city round up

Dan at GayPatriot attended the LA Tea Party on Santa Monica Pier

The Denver Tea Party at Slapstick Politics

Video of the Atlanta Tea Party from Blue Star Chronicles

Great photos of the San Diego Tea Party from Christa at Cheat Seeking Missiles

And finally, to all the Tea Party naysayers who think this movement isn’t going anywhere (I’m lookin’ at you, Cavuto): it’s on.

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