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As expected, the White House has just announced new restrictions on executive pay to be issued by the Treasury Department, in response to public outrage over cases of CEOs of bailed out firms raking in millions.

The limits set a limit of $500,000 on executive pay, for those firms receiving "exceptional financial recovery assistance" -- that is, firms that negotiated "bank-specific" deal with Treasury, including Bank of America, AIG, and Citi. Any pay beyond that must be made in restricted stock that can only be paid once the government has been paid back.

The restrictions also would give shareholders more say on executives' pay, and would make it easier for the government to "claw back" the pay of executives who had engaged in deceptive practices, among other provisions.

Last week, President Obama called the billions paid out in Wall Street bonuses last year "outrageous."

The White House's press release, with a detailed description of the new rules, follows after the jump ...

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The short answer is no. But conservative columnist Tony Blankley still does his part today to flog an already tired line of faux-skepticism about the Obama administration's alleged plans to "cut" defense spending in the upcoming budget.

Blankley claims that while total Pentagon spending for next year is in line for an 8% increase, the wild card of continuing Iraq and Afghanistan expenses raises the specter of a defense cut under Obama. It's almost as if he hasn't been keeping up with TPM alum Spencer Ackerman, who demolished this talking point as hogwash two days ago. (Robert Kagan was the first right-leaning pundit out of the gate on this one.)

The tale is a simple one: Pentagon officials, aiming to start budget negotiations from a wildly advantageous point, submitted a spending estimate that wasn't completely vetted by the departing Bush administration. The Obama folks knocked the number down to a more realistic number -- that still reflects a higher military budget.

If only the truth could prevent conservatives from hyperventilating with fantasies of Obama cutting defense spending.

Last night, Alberto Gonzales continued his failing effort to rehabilitate his reputation, talking to CNN's Campbell Brown about his record at DOJ.

Brown asked about the numerous findings that Gonzo had politicized the department, provoking the response from him that "you need to look at the overall record of the Department during my tenure."

But the lowest -- and saddest -- moment when he tried to explain his struggle to find a job since leaving government service.

He blamed the economy.

Watch the video:



Remember, this man was the Attorney General of the United States.

Harry Markopolos just warned that he's got another alleged fraudster in his sights.

"I plan to turn in a $1 billion mini-Madoff to the SEC's inspector general tomorrow," he said.

That may have put a scare into some on Wall Street.

Markopolos identifies another problem with the SEC:

"They were a captive regulator. Mr. Madoff was too big," he just told Congress. "They looked at Madoff and said: 'he's a big firm, we dont attack big firms.'"

Markopolos just put his finger on perhaps the key problem in the SEC's failure to catch Madoff:

"We need a highly trained finance team that is highly incentivized to look for frauds. Derivatives are too complicated otherwise," he said. "They had no idea how to do the math."

In other words, today's sophisticated Wall Street deals are simply too complex for the SEC's enforcement staff, as currently composed, to properly understand.

The only way to fix the problem, it appears, is to hire staff with more expertise.

"I gift wrapped and delivered the largest Ponzi scheme in history to them and somehow they couldn't be bothered to conduct a thorough and proper investigation," he just told Congress, referring to the SEC's performance on the Madoff case.

"They haven't earned their paycheck, and they need to be replaced."

The whistleblower on the Madoff case, Harry Markopolos, just gave his oral testimony, in which he ripped the SEC in unusually direct language. More to come.

Whatever you think of George W. Bush, I think you have to concede that, in some respects, he's been personally gracious towards Barack Obama and his family since election night. I say this with the obvious, massive caveat of the Blair House incident in which the government-owned guest residence across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House was not made available to the Obamas when they decided to move to Washington a little more than two weeks before the inauguration so their daughters could start at Sidwell Friends as soon as the Quaker school's winter break ended. Still, in its public pronouncements Bush has been generous towards Obama and the interaction between the families seems to have been nice, what with Jenna and Barbara showing Sasha and Malia their favorite hangouts in the residence.

The Obamas have said how much they appreciated the Bushes hosting them at the White House. Until now, one might have said the same about DIck Cheney who, along with his wife Lynn, hosting Joe and Jill Biden at the Vice Presidential residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

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Your eyes do not deceive you -- that was indeed Joe Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. Joe the Plumber, visiting the Capitol yesterday in coat and tie (tie and leather jacket, to be more exact).

Joe told reporters that he had met with Republican aides, ostensibly to offer his astute political messaging advice, but that no lawmakers were present for his visit.

When asked whether he had plans to see old pal Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Joe was non-committal. And when asked, wholly in jest, whether he planned to lay any pipe during his day in D.C., Joe was downright incensed. A moment of awkward silence followed the question. "All the puns have been made," Joe warned the reporter who queried him.

I don't know, Joe ... sometimes the puns deserve to be made again.

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