Friday, April 30, 2010
Hooray! Hooray! It's the First of May.
Your Two Minute Ed
Your Dylan Dally Moment
Before and during the HCR debate
35 years ago the Vietnamese War ended
Today Vietnam celebrates the end of the war.
Another Arizona toon
Investigations and downgrades kick Goldmine Sachs stock in the balls
Open and honest derivative trading would cost Goldmine Sachs $3.9 Billion
At the NYT's Dealbook, Cyrus Santi has word of a rather staggering new report by Bernstein Research which projects that Goldman Sachs could see a 41 percent drop in earnings if strict derivatives reform moves through Congress. The total, per Santi's calculations, would be equivalent to $3.9 billion hit to Goldman Sachs last 12 months of income...Their loss is America's gain.
As the WSJ notes, derivatives reform would strike a big blow to JP Morgan's earnings. The bank's CEO Jamie Dimon has supported greater regulation for derivatives -- but he recently noted that even a neutered bill could cost the bank "several hundred million to a couple billion dollars" per year.
BP has a dismal safety record
Did Rush Limbaugh set up the oil rig explosion?
- Rush lives and works in Florida.
- Rush makes large amounts of money, more than he can spend on all the drugs and underage hookers in the DR.
- Rush is always trying to blame those he doesn't like for what he himself does and says.
- The radical right wing has never had any qualms about killing people.
How difficult would it be for Rush to pay a large sum of money to a roughneck to sabotage the platform on the chosen day so Rush could blame environmentalists?
Let's face it Rush the Talking Pig had the money and the motive to do it. A little investigative work would probably uncover his access as well.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Your Fathers Music Blogging
Your Dylan Dally Moment
With an intro like this
Nobody had seen a Palouse worm since the 1980s, but it appears they were around all the time, going about their business underground. As Jim Robbins reported in The Times, spunky scientists from the University of Idaho recently located two by burying electrodes that sent shock waves through the ground and encouraged the worms to shoot up to the surface.No problem, she just provides us with a litany of state legislative activity around the country. And it is quite clear there is something in the water, even in Arizona which doesn't have any.
Good work, University of Idaho scientists! We’re all happy to hear the giant Palouse earthworms are still with us. Even though it turns out that they’re actually not all that big.
I am telling you this because my actual topic today is state legislatures. We all know how hard it is to keep anyone’s attention when discussion veers off in this direction, so, yeah, I was going for a cheap thrill.
State legislatures are frequently the subject of derision, but lately they have been freaking out with such alarming intensity that you’d think a mad scientist had surrounded state capitols with electrodes just to see what would come popping out.
Trumka vs Haynes & bimbo
Quote of the Day
Everyone in Washington claims to be on the side of families and to support reform. But the test is who votes to paper over problems with another regulatory system designed to fail and who votes for real Wall Street accountability even if it means that some donors will be disappointed.Elizabeth Warren pronouncing the Republican proposals for consumer protection as just so much punk. Ms. Warren, you are not the only one deep-down tired of "Bullshit As Usual".
I'm tired of hearing politicians claim to support families and, at the same time, vote with the big banks on the most important financial reform package in generations. I'm deep-down tired of it.
Stepping up Music Blogging
The Taliban is getting stronger
A Pentagon report presented a sobering new assessment Wednesday of the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, saying that its abilities are expanding and its operations are increasing in sophistication, despite recent major offensives by U.S. forces in the militants' heartland.Glad to see the Pentagon is still optimistic. I guess they think Obama is good for another 5 years in the Kabul Quagmire. Time enough to promote the next generation of polished brass meatheads.
The report, requested by Congress, portrays an insurgency with deep roots and broad reach, able to withstand repeated U.S. onslaughts and to reestablish its influence, while discrediting and undermining the country's Western-backed government.
But the Pentagon said it remained optimistic that its counter-insurgency strategy, formed after an Obama administration review last year, and its effort to peel foot soldiers away from the Taliban will show success in months to come.
President Obama sounds a warning
Obama already has openly criticized the Supreme Court for a January ruling - one led by the court's conservative members - that allowed corporations and unions to spend freely to influence elections. Obama has vowed to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens with a like-minded justice who will not let powerful interests crowd out voices of ordinary people.But is it too late in the wake of "Citizens United"?
On Wednesday, when asked about judicial activism as he spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One, Obama spoke of judges who ignore the will of Congress and the democratic process, imposing judicial solutions instead of letting the political process solve problems.
"In the '60s and '70s, the feeling was, is that liberals were guilty of that kind of approach," Obama said. "What you're now seeing, I think, is a conservative jurisprudence that oftentimes makes the same error."
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Arizona Music Blogging
And how can we forget Diaper Dave Vitter
The 3rd wave of RNC fake Census mailers expected soon
Moments ago, the House passed a new bill that seeks to ban misleading Census mailers once and for all.If the last law didn't apply to the Republican National Committee, why should this one?
The new legislation, prepared by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the top GOPer on the House Oversight committee, would close any loopholes in the existing law that already bans deceptive fundraising mailers of the sort sent recently by the RNC.
The new bill passed the House by voice vote.
"Republicans and Democrats, we are united in our efforts to stop the RNC from using Census mailings for political gain and to fundraise for the RNC," Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said a few minutes before the vote.
How to make your mark in the world
How Wall St. fraud happened.
R.I.P. Allen Swift
Fed keeps rates the same, lower than a snakes asshole.
Your Daily Satire
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Who Wants to Beat a Millionaire|
Once again into the breach
For their Banker buddies, the Republicans have again blocked open debate on the financial reform bill, preferring to work back room deals beyond the light of public scrutiny. This should regain all the money that Michael Steele has lost for the RNC.
They did it to themselves
In response, Prime Minister Maliki said the charges were false and that “there are no secret prisons in Iraq at all,” a claim that seems to be spurious on its face.But then MoI went that extra mile to show he has the right stuff to be a client of the US.
Speaking on government-controlled Iraqiya TV, Maliki said the torture charges were "lies," a "smear campaign" orchestrated by foreign embassies and the media that have been tooled by his opponents for political gain.
Maliki went even further, positing that opposition lawmakers encouraged prisoners to hatch fake torture charges by “rubbing matches on some of their body parts” to give themselves scars.Great defense there. The prisoners tortured their own bodies to make him look bad and besides, we were only doing what the Americans taught us in Abu Ghraib.
He then said it was somewhat acceptable because of the scandal over the US-run Abu Ghraib prison.
“America is the symbol of democracy, but then you have the abuses at Abu Ghraib,” Maliki remarked, according to Dagher's report. “The American government took tough measures, and we are doing the same, so where is the problem and why this raucousness?”
Maliki, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
There is still a lot to be done
They began arriving before dawn on a cold, misty morning, people of all ages lining up by the hundreds, some in wheelchairs, others hobbling on crutches, many of them missing teeth, all of them seeking the same thing: free medical care.There may have been a health insurance bill passed a few months back but there are still many, many people who need help until Congress gets rid of the Republicans and does something good for this country. It wasn't too long ago that National Association of Free Clinics filled this same building with the same kind of volunteer effort to help people. This time it is Remote Area Medical which was founded to help people in primitive third world areas and has now found the need in the richest country on Earth to be just as great. Until we can destroy the GOP and deliver this country from oppression please give something to help their efforts at the links.
It was a scene that could have been playing out in a Third World country or perhaps some place like post-hurricane New Orleans, except that it wasn't. It was unfolding in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, and the hundreds who showed up weren't refugees of a disaster or a civil war, just mainly working people without health insurance.
One of them, Kenny Gillett hadn't seen a doctor in two years, not since the 47-year-old welder lost his job and insurance when his employer went broke.
Adriana Valenzuela, a self-employed and uninsured cosmetologist, brought an 8-year-old son with a mouthful of cavities. Frank Carodine, a friendly white-haired man of 57, who rolled up in his wheelchair, said he had lost parts of both legs to diabetes, which was now ravaging his right eye. He needed glasses.
"I've got coverage for my diabetes, I go to a clinic, but it doesn't cover eye exams," he said.
Remote Area Medical
National Association of Free Clinics
New Poll Up To Your Right
Your Two Minute Ed
So his toupee is not too tight after all
Democrats were surprised on Monday evening when Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) did an abrupt about-face and became the only Democrat to help filibuster legislation to revamp Wall Street regulations.Poor old Warren would have had to prove he could cover his bets. Despite the smile and folksy ways, old Warren is just another greedy fuck gambling on Wall St. And speaking of the nose on his face, with a schnozz that big you just have to wonder when Ben's heart is going to quit on him, like he quits on the Democrats.
The removal of a provision that would have dramatically benefited financial tycoon and Nebraska native Warren Buffett, it was said, played a role in the Senator's flip.
"He was on board until today and the only thing that changed was the removal of that provision," said one Democratic aide, who definitively said Nelson changed his vote because the Buffett carveout was removed...
Earlier in the day, Senate negotiators agreed to remove a provision that Nelson had inserted last week, which would have exempted any existing derivatives contracts from being subjected to new capital requirements. That provision had been pushed by Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which has $63 billion in existing derivatives contracts and would have to set aside $8 billion to cover potential losses on those contracts if the legislation were to pass.
Carl Levin imitates South Park
Why, O, Why did they pull him over
Willkommen in der Vaterländischen
They are Republicans. They lie. That's what they do
The Nebraska Democratic Party filed a mail fraud report against the Republican National Committee on Monday for sending out deceiving mailers that appear to be a "Census Document." A member of Congress has also confirmed that the U.S. Postal Service was investigating the matter.There are several things you can do if you get one of these mailers. First you should contact your local post office about an illegal mailing. Second, fill out the questionaire in the most progressive manner possible. And last, return the prepaid mail envelope, without any donation, to the RNC. This will support your Postal Service.
In a letter (pdf) sent to the Postal Inspection Service on Monday, Victor Covalt III, a bankruptcy lawyer and Nebraska Democratic Party official accused the RNC of "attempting to wrongfully trade off and profit from the 2010 Census."
He also charged the Committee with violating a recently-passed law, by not including "an accurate return address including the name of the entity that sent such matter," in its deceptive mailers.
A new crime of breathing while undocumented
What would Arizona’s revered libertarian icon, Barry Goldwater, say about a law that requires the police to demand proof of legal residency from any person with whom they have made “any lawful contact” and about whom they have “reasonable suspicion” that “the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States?” Wasn’t the system of internal passports one of the most distasteful features of life in the Soviet Union and apartheid-era South Africa?She does not call for a boycott, saying that each person must act according to their own conscience. But she makes it clear that you would need a conscience as withered and foul as Rush the Talking Pig to support Arizona.
And in case the phrase “lawful contact” makes it appear as if the police are authorized to act only if they observe an undocumented-looking person actually committing a crime, another section strips the statute of even that fig leaf of reassurance. “A person is guilty of trespassing,” the law provides, by being “present on any public or private land in this state” while lacking authorization to be in the United States — a new crime of breathing while undocumented. The intent, according to the State Legislature, is “attrition through enforcement.”
Quote of the Day
It is surely not inspiring for radicalised people with the potential for violent action to see terrorists tried in ordinary criminal courts and sentenced to long prison terms. But it surely is inspiring to them to see terrorists treated as a special class of prisoners to be held by the military, imprisoned without trial and tortured. This is the kind of treatment that makes jihadists believe that they can indeed be the fighters for a cause that they aspire to be.Nigel Inkster and Alexander Nicoll, writing in an article published in the International Institute for Strategic Studies journal Survival and making the argument for trials in civilian courts and closing Gitmo. Their logic is sadly beyond the comprehension of your average radical right winger.
Your Daily Satire
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Law & Border|
Monday, April 26, 2010
Republicans proudly stand up for the banks
And you too Ben Nelson, but I think you just have a toupee that is too tight.
Your Dylan Dally Moment
Tom Tancredo has never met a batshit crazy idea he didn't like
Former Congressman Tom Tancredo -- the same guy who said we should send the president back to Kenya and said a Supreme Court nominee is part of the "Latino KKK" -- said this weekend that the new Arizona immigration law goes a little too far.Just to be fair, Tom says it is OK to ask for papers but only if you have a real reason to stop someone. No profiling please.
"If I had anything to say about it, we'd be doing it in Colorado," Tancredo told Denver news station KDVR. But, he said, "I do not want people here, there in Arizona, pulled over because you look like should be pulled over."
The Legacy of Caribou Barbie
The state has committed to spending $5,000 on its share of the multi-state suit challenging the constitutionality of the mandate that people buy health care insurance or pay a fine. The 20-state consortium, led by Florida, aims to end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.A penny saved is a penny earned, you betcha!
But Alaska has vowed not to spend a penny more than $5,000 to be a part of the litigation, said Bill McAllister, a spokesman for Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan. Sullivan and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell re-emphasized their commitment to low-cost legal action after they were criticized by the only Democrat in Alaska's congressional delegation: Sen. Mark Begich. Begich suggested the suit would be pricey and called it of "dubious merit."
"Regardless of the arrangement between Florida and their law firm, regardless of what it actually costs to get this done, the state of Alaska will not spend more than $5,000 on outside counsel," McAllister said in an e-mail.
US chickens aren't worth what they used to be
When Godfrey Davies learned he needed surgery to remove polyps blocking his nasal airways, the self-described bargain shopper set out on a mission to find an affordable surgeon. He quickly learned a good deal is hard to find.True, he had his polyps removed by a socialist but I don't think the polyps would have noticed any difference. When given a chance to revisit their price quote, the best the Americans could do was $17,860. Any way you look at it, he was ahead of the game in Wales.
"The total numbers they were throwing at me were just incredible. I couldn't believe it," he says.
Davies, who is semiretired from his real estate business and uninsured, says he received estimates from two surgeons. When hospital, anesthesia and incidental fees were all tallied, the cheapest price he could find in Indianapolis, Indiana, was $33,127 -- which he would need to pay out of pocket.
"I was speechless." Davies recalls. "It was absolutely out of the question financially for me to have this done under those circumstances."
Frustrated that his bargain shopping saved him so little, Davies called on family in the United Kingdom for assistance. When they told him they had found a private hospital in Wales that would perform the surgery for $2,930 [or £1,897], Davies didn't think twice.
He purchased a $768 round-trip ticket, and on March 18, he boarded a flight to the UK to have his polyps removed there at a savings of nearly $30,000.
Tom Toles Today
Damned activist judges
Conservative judges are regularly invoking their alleged fealty to the "original" intentions of the Founders as a battering ram against attempts to limit the power of large corporations. Such entities were not even in the imaginations of those who wrote the Constitution. To claim to know what the Founders would have made of Exxon Mobil or Goldman Sachs or PepsiCo is an exercise in arrogance.Equally important as the SCOTUS nominee are the many judges at the various levels of the judicial system. By blocking Obama's nominees, the radical right is working to upset the balance between honest judges and conservative judges.
What liberals forgot during the years when their side dominated the judiciary is that for much of our history, the courts have played a conservative role. But today's conservatives have not forgotten this legacy. Their goal is to overturn the past 70 years of judicial understandings and bring us back to a time when courts voided minimum-wage laws and all manner of other economic regulations.
Iraq court makes first move to fix election
A special electoral court in Iraq disqualified a winning candidate in last month’s election on charges he once was a member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, two officials said Monday. The decision was the first concrete move to change the preliminary results of the vote that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s coalition narrowly lost.A fix both clever and clumsy. If the recalculated votes don't deliver the election to the right people then they will just have to throw out enough of the "wrong" winners to deliver an acceptable outcome.
The court’s ruling intensified a political crisis that remains far from resolved, raising tensions and even the specter of violence. The court’s decision, at a minimum, will delay the formation of a new government through the months when the Obama administration has pledged to withdraw its combat troops, leaving a force of only 50,000 after September.
The disqualified candidate won a seat in the new 325-member Parliament on a slate led by Ayad Allawi, a Shiite who served as interim prime minister after the American invasion in 2003, the officials said.
The court, however, also disqualified 51 losing candidates, and the votes they received will be discarded, requiring a recalculation of the winners — and losers — across the ballot, the officials said.
The director of the commission charged with purging former Baath loyalists also disclosed that he had asked the court to bar nine additional winning candidates, though the court has yet to rule on that. That would clearly change the outcome since all of the candidates belong to Mr. Allawi’s winning coalition, which had edged out Mr. Maliki’s bloc by two seats, 91 to 89.
The Ratings Agencies were the lynchpin of the fraud
The rating agencies began as market researchers, selling assessments of corporate debt to people considering whether to buy that debt. Eventually, however, they morphed into something quite different: companies that were hired by the people selling debt to give that debt a seal of approval.It is all well and good to identify the problem, but what to do about it. Even The Shrill One has no real ideas at this point.
Those seals of approval came to play a central role in our whole financial system, especially for institutional investors like pension funds, which would buy your bonds if and only if they received that coveted AAA rating.
It was a system that looked dignified and respectable on the surface. Yet it produced huge conflicts of interest. Issuers of debt — which increasingly meant Wall Street firms selling securities they created by slicing and dicing claims on things like subprime mortgages — could choose among several rating agencies. So they could direct their business to whichever agency was most likely to give a favorable verdict, and threaten to pull business from an agency that tried too hard to do its job. It’s all too obvious, in retrospect, how this could have corrupted the process.
Republican politics stalling Wall St reform
National Spokeschicken responds to Sue Lowden
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Something New Music Blogging
Too Big to Fail, not really
Edward Kane, a finance professor at Boston College and an authority on financial institutions and regulators, said that it was not surprising that substantive changes for both groups are not on the table. After all, powerful banks want to maintain their ability to privatize gains and socialize losses.When The Powers That Be are major stakeholders in the status quo, that is all you are going to get.
“To understand why defects in insolvency detection and resolution persist, analysts must acknowledge that large financial institutions invest in building and exercising political clout,” Mr. Kane writes in an article, titled “Defining and Controlling Systemic Risk,” that he is scheduled to present next month at a Federal Reserve conference.
But regulators, eager to avoid being blamed for missteps in oversight, also have an interest in the status quo, Mr. Kane argues. “As in a long-running poker game in which one player (here, the taxpayer) is a perennial and relatively clueless loser,” he writes, “other players see little reason to disturb the equilibrium.”
The Ups and Downs of Wall St. and Goldmine Sachs
To award the audience a bonus, “This American Life” concluded with a Broadway song commissioned from a co- author of the satirical musical “Avenue Q.” Titled “Bet Against the American Dream,” it distills a complex financial saga to its essence: Those who shorted the housing market shorted the country.
Go online, listen to it and laugh. But the fact remains that those who truly hurt America are laughing harder still, all the way to the bank.
Lightfoot Lindsey throws hissy fit
Voicing regrets, Sen. John Kerry said Saturday he is postponing the much anticipated unveiling of comprehensive energy and climate change legislation scheduled for Monday. The Massachusetts Democrat made his announcement after a key partner in drafting the bill, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, threatened to withhold support if Senate Democratic leaders push ahead first with an immigration bill.Why yes sweet Lindsey it is a political ploy that also just happens to be the right thing to do. In a situation like this, the rightness of the cause easily overrides any taint from the games you like to play. So please just shut up, bend over and take it like Rush Limbaugh.
Graham is angry that Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is considering that. Legislation to overhaul immigration laws and grant legal status to millions of long term immigrants unlawfully in the country could create problems for Republicans in the midterm elections. It's a top priority for Hispanic voters – and most Republicans are opposed. Reid's idea amounts to a "cynical political ploy," Graham asserted.
Mitch The Chin says No to financial reform bill
"We don't have a bipartisan compromise yet but I think there is a good chance we're going to get it. What I'd like to see is an opportunity to prevent the Democrats from doing to the financial services industry what they just did to the health care of this country," said McConnell. "And Ironically, Chris, my view is very similar to that bastion of conservatism and tool of Wall Street, The Washington Post editorial page, which said this morning that this bill needs to be improved."Given the extra surprise on Mitch's face, the hand up his ass must have tweaked him for revealing the true position of the WaPo editorial page.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Getting a hand job will clean your garage
From the pen of Tony Auth
China is stretching its sea legs
China calls the new strategy “far sea defense,” and the speed with which it is building long-range capabilities has surprised foreign military officials.And the unspoken element of this is that China can now afford to have such a navy without stressing their economy. If they can, then they will. Nothing shows you have arrived like a fleet.
The strategy is a sharp break from the traditional, narrower doctrine of preparing for war over the self-governing island of Taiwan or defending the Chinese coast. Now, Chinese admirals say they want warships to escort commercial vessels that are crucial to the country’s economy, from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca, in Southeast Asia, and to help secure Chinese interests in the resource-rich South and East China Seas.
In late March, two Chinese warships docked in Abu Dhabi, the first time the modern Chinese Navy made a port visit in the Middle East.
The overall plan reflects China’s growing sense of self-confidence and increasing willingness to assert its interests abroad. China’s naval ambitions are being felt, too, in recent muscle flexing with the United States: in March, Chinese officials told senior American officials privately that China would brook no foreign interference in its territorial issues in the South China Sea, said a senior American official involved in China policy...
The naval expansion will not make China a serious rival to American naval hegemony in the near future, and there are few indications that China has aggressive intentions toward the United States or other countries.
But China, now the world’s leading exporter and a giant buyer of oil and other natural resources, is also no longer content to trust the security of sea lanes to the Americans, and its definition of its own core interests has expanded along with its economic clout.
In late March, Adm. Robert F. Willard, the leader of the United States Pacific Command, said in Congressional testimony that recent Chinese military developments were “pretty dramatic.” China has tested long-range ballistic missiles that could be used against aircraft carriers, he said. After years of denials, Chinese officials have confirmed that they intend to deploy an aircraft carrier group within a few years.
China is also developing a sophisticated submarine fleet that could try to prevent foreign naval vessels from entering its strategic waters if a conflict erupted in the region, said Admiral Willard and military analysts.
Another shoe drops
Goldman Sachs's CEO and other top officers are accused in a pair of shareholder lawsuits of lax oversight in deals involving risky mortage-backed securities that later went bad.Hopefully this will be the anvil to the SEC's hammer. If they try to avoid the SEC by saying they did not know what was happening, they play right into the shareholders suit that accuses the Blankfein Gang of not doing their job. Either way, Goldmine's reputation is shot and that was their most valuable asset.
The lawsuits filed Thursday in New York State Supreme Court name Lloyd Blankfein and the firm's entire board of directors as defendants...
The two suits, filed by shareholders Robert Rosinek and Morton Spiegel, accuse Blankfein and other officers of "systematic failure" over 3 1/2 years for not properly vetting 23 mortgage-linked deals at the center of the SEC suit. Those deals, called Abacus, led to $1 billion in losses.
Mark Fiore explains Wall St.
Remember that big pool of mortgages Goldmine Sachs & Paulson bet against?
Rating agencies, the roundheels of Wall St.
The rating agencies made public computer models that were used to devise ratings to make the process less secretive. That way, banks and others issuing bonds — companies and states, for instance — wouldn’t be surprised by a weak rating that could make it harder to sell the bonds or that would require them to offer a higher interest rate.Funny thing about Wall St., they were in bed with each other and it was the rest of the country that got fucked.
But by routinely sharing their models, the agencies in effect gave bankers the tools to tinker with their complicated mortgage deals until the models produced the desired ratings.
“There’s a bit of a Catch-22 here, to be fair to the ratings agencies,” said Dan Rosen, a member of Fitch’s academic advisory board and the chief of R2 Financial Technologies in Toronto. “They have to explain how they do things, but that sometimes allowed people to game it.”
There were other ways that the models used to rate mortgage investments like the controversial Goldman deal, Abacus 2007-AC1, were flawed. Like many in the financial community, the agencies had assumed that home prices were unlikely to decline. They also assumed that complex investments linked to home loans drawn from around the nation were diversified, and thus safer.
Both of those assumptions were wrong, and investors the world over lost many billions of dollars. In that Abacus investment, for instance, 84 percent of the underlying bonds were downgraded within six months.
But for Goldman and other banks, a road map to the right ratings wasn’t enough. Analysts from the agencies were hired to help construct the deals.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Another totally incompetent and clueless CEO
The chairman and chief executive of Moody's Corp. said Friday that he didn't know that his company continued to give investment-grade ratings to complex financial instruments backed by shaky subprime mortgages even after it downgraded billions of dollars worth of such deals in the summer of 2007.If he was not aware of how his company was performing its major and most lucrative function, just what the hell was he being paid for? He is either a liar or he owes the stockholders every penny they ever wasted on this clown.
His admission came during a daylong hearing by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is looking into the origins of the nation's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Moody's chief Ray McDaniel, under questioning, said that he didn't think his company had continued to rate complex deals backed by U.S. mortgages after it and competitor Standard & Poor's jolted the markets in July 2007 with massive downgrades of earlier deals.
"I apologize, I do not recall that," McDaniel said.
From the pen of Rex Babin
Arizona Governor inserts head firmly up her ass
Chicken Lady update
4482 ChickensI guess we keep the vegetables for spare change.
PS: A flu shot is only 5 chickens
Remember when Music was Music Blogging
When you pick on someone in advertising
A Tale of Two Mines
Earlier this year, in the subterranean workplace of a southern West Virginia coal mine, methane kept building up because of a lack of fresh air. Odorless, explosive, this natural gas must be dispersed from where miners work, and yet it became such a familiar presence at the mine called Upper Big Branch that entire sections had to be evacuated four times this year alone.Speaking out is not acceptable, but killing 29 miners is a cost of doing business. Nice world Massey Energy.
Many of the miners suspected they knew a major source of the gas buildup: a coal shaft, unused for years, that passed down through several old mines before reaching theirs. According to a longtime foreman at the mine, who provided previously undisclosed details of its operation, the shaft was never properly sealed to prevent the methane above from being sucked into Upper Big Branch.
Instead, the foreman said, rags and garbage were used to create a poor man’s sealant, which he said allowed methane to permeate the mine, displacing much-needed oxygen.
“Every single day, the levels were double or triple what they were supposed to be,” said the foreman, whose account of the shaft was corroborated in part by records collected by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. The foreman, who is now working with federal prosecutors and elected officials investigating the mine, asked not to be identified because speaking out is not acceptable in the culture of his company, Massey Energy.
The other mine is also non-union and according to miners releases more methane than Upper Big Branch. Still the safety record of TECO Coal Corp's E3-1 mine is vastly superior.
E3-1 has not had an underground fatality since it opened in July 2004; nor does it have anywhere near the number of violations accumulated by Upper Big Branch.Two different companies with two different views of safety. Safety requires a degree of respect for miners as people, something Don Blankenship does not seem capable of.
TECO is not immune to violations and accidental deaths; for example, an inadequately supported roof collapsed in 2006, killing a worker in a TECO-owned mine across the road from E3-1. But the operators at E3-1 say they build on experience, and strive toward vigilant safety practices, including routinely trying to double the required amount of fresh air that is directed into the mine’s chambers.
“This mine is gassy; it liberates methane,” said Robert J. Zik, the company’s vice president for operations. “So if we don’t do it right, you’re going to have a problem.”
“The mine has to be ventilated,” Mr. Zik added. “Otherwise, it will destroy the company. I don’t think TECO Coal could have an accident like Massey’s and survive.”
TECO executives and miners, who spoke openly and on the record during a reporter’s tour of the E3-1 mine last week, say that their training, procedures and equipment generally exceed what is required by Kentucky and federal regulators. The company says it rewards safety, provides an 800 number for anonymous complaints and fosters an open-door management style.
The differences in safety practices between TECO and Massey are often stark. Where TECO workers rigorously inspect the mine for safety problems before every shift, Upper Big Branch has had dozens of violations related to pre-shift examinations, some for failing to conduct them at all, others for not documenting that they had been done. All TECO miners get weeks of safety training, but in September an inspector ordered dozens of Massey miners out of Upper Big Branch because they lacked proper training.
Several years ago, TECO fired a mine foreman for failing to rehang a ventilation curtain that had fallen to the mine floor and contributed to a fire. At Upper Big Branch, inspectors more than once found curtains improperly hung or lying on the mine floor, a practice workers said was routine and encouraged because the plastic sheets get in the way of equipment.
No more justice in California
Jon Stewart speaks out for Freedom of Expression
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|South Park Death Threats|
George Soros speaks out against derivatives
Whether or not Goldman is guilty, the transaction in question clearly had no social benefit. It involved a complex synthetic security derived from existing mortgage-backed securities by cloning them into imaginary units that mimicked the originals. This synthetic collateralised debt obligation did not finance the ownership of any additional homes or allocate capital more efficiently; it merely swelled the volume of mortgage-backed securities that lost value when the housing bubble burst. The primary purpose of the transaction was to generate fees and commissions.Something like this will probably have little influence on the Perfumed Princes of the Senate. This is an election year, in their world money talks and reality walks.
This is a clear demonstration of how derivatives and synthetic securities have been used to create imaginary value out of thin air. More triple A CDOs were created than there were underlying triple A assets. This was done on a large scale in spite of the fact that all of the parties involved were sophisticated investors. The process went on for years and culminated in a crash that caused wealth destruction amounting to trillions of dollars. It cannot be allowed to continue. The use of derivatives and other synthetic instruments must be regulated even if all the parties are sophisticated investors. Ordinary securities must be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission before they can be traded. Synthetic securities ought to be similarly registered, although the task could be assigned to a different authority, such as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
A good day for God
The Russians have told the Scientology cult to keep its crap out of their country.
Kudos to both for some clear thinking.
What else were they going to do.
Senior staffers at the Securities and Exchange Commission spent hours surfing pornographic websites on government-issued computers while they were being paid to police the financial system, an agency watchdog says.Some were probably hired during the Cheney/Bush administration but all who had worked during that time were fully aware that attempts at policing the financial systems would get them fired. Another Republican value exposed, porn is more acceptable than regulation.
The SEC's inspector general conducted 33 probes of employees looking at explicit images in the past five years, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.
Krugman begs to differ
On Thursday, President Obama went to Manhattan, where he urged an audience drawn largely from Wall Street to back financial reform. “I believe,” he declared, “that these reforms are, in the end, not only in the best interest of our country, but in the best interest of the financial sector.”This is the fight that Main St wants to see and Wall St is busy bribing Congress to avoid. Obama himself, chose to go into the lions den and say "Nice kitty" instead of looking for a lion skin rug. Paul does a nice job of showing why this was the wrong choice.
Well, I wish he hadn’t said that — and not just because he really needs, as a political matter, to take a populist stance, to put some public distance between himself and the bankers. The fact is that Mr. Obama should be trying to do what’s right for the country — full stop. If doing so hurts the bankers, that’s O.K.
More than that, reform actually should hurt the bankers. A growing body of analysis suggests that an oversized financial industry is hurting the broader economy. Shrinking that oversized industry won’t make Wall Street happy, but what’s bad for Wall Street would be good for America.
Unknown Music Blogging
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Your Two Minute Ed
Your Dylan Dally Moment
Yesterday we learnd about Nevada's Chicken Lady
Bell's made his comments last week, during discussion of a proposed state law that would attempt to nullify the federal health care insurance mandate in the state of Tennessee. Here is a transcript of a dialogue in committee between Bell and Democratic state Rep. Joe Towns, courtesy of the Nashville Scene, as Bell explained that many people get along without insurance:The big question is how many head of lettuce does it take for a triple bypass operation?
Bell: They're some of the healthiest people you have ever seen. They pay cash when they go to the doctor. They work out arrangements with the hospitals if their children have to be hospitalized. This is an individual choice that we're talking about.
Towns: You're saying they pay cash? For organ transplants and cancer and heart cases, they pay cash?
Bell: I said they pay cash or work out other arrangements. I know for a fact. I know someone in the medical field who has been paid with vegetables from the Mennonite community.
Towns: That's an anomaly. That's not how the system works. I can't take a sack of vegetables down to the utility company and pay my utility bill on my house. Nobody's going to take vegetables for payment. We can't run the country on vegetables and horse trading.
The New Eden
Gail Collins has the best definition of derivatives, ever!
Try to think of derivatives as being like the Tribbles in that classic “Star Trek” episode. For all of history, there was no such thing. Then somebody found the first ones, which looked cute and made soothing noises. We liked them fine, until the population grew to be worth about $600 trillion. When they got into the financial engine, all hell broke loose.And she also noticed Blanche Lincoln's hard left turn on her legislation regarding de-tribble-atives.
And there is absolutely no political percentage in allowing them free run of the ship.
So it’s pretty easy to figure out what caused Lincoln’s hard line on financial reform. She is tacking to the left the same way John McCain, struggling in a hot primary in Arizona against a Tea Party-type opponent, is tacking to the right.Interesting times inside the Beltway.
But let’s give her credit for never having gotten desperate enough to claim that cars full of illegal immigrants were “intentionally causing crashes on the freeway.” Unlike some former mavericks we could mention.
Hawaii working on bill to deal with birthers
But it should be.
Dick "dick" Cheney endorses Rubio
The 11 Worst Governors
CREW's unranked list of the 11 worst governors includes:Washington DC is not the only governmental center infested with vermin.
* Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS);
* Gov. Donald Carcieri (R-RI);
* Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-NV);
* Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA);
* Gov. David Paterson (D-NY);
* Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA);
* Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX);
* Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM);
* Gov. Mike Rounds (R-SD);
* Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC); and
* Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA).
WellPoint sees no value in paying for breast cancer treatment
None of the women knew about the others. But besides their similar narratives, they had something else in common: Their health insurance carriers were subsidiaries of WellPoint, which has 33.7 million policyholders -- more than any other health insurance company in the United States.This is not entirely new, but it is good to remember that despite the new law to combat this practice, any company that would let people die to save money will probably break the law rather than pay claims.
The women all paid their premiums on time. Before they fell ill, none had any problems with their insurance. Initially, they believed their policies had been canceled by mistake.
They had no idea that WellPoint was using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted them and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies, according to government regulators and investigators.
Once the women were singled out, they say, the insurer then canceled their policies based on either erroneous or flimsy information. WellPoint declined to comment on the women's specific cases without a signed waiver from them, citing privacy laws.
That tens of thousands of Americans lost their health insurance shortly after being diagnosed with life-threatening, expensive medical conditions has been well documented by law enforcement agencies, state regulators and a congressional committee. Insurance companies have used the practice, known as "rescission," for years. And a congressional committee last year said WellPoint was one of the worst offenders.
But WellPoint also has specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel their policies, federal investigators told Reuters. The revelation is especially striking for a company whose CEO and president, Angela Braly, has earned plaudits for how her company improved the medical care and treatment of other policyholders with breast cancer.
Army still thinking about Franklin Graham invitation
Subdued Music Blogging
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
If somebody offers you a meal of Kentucky tuna...
Asian carp are reviled as vanquishers of native species, feared as hefty jumpers able to break a boatman’s jaw, and scorned as, well, carp. But even as Northern states battle to keep them from ravaging the Great Lakes, officials in the South, where the alien species have multiplied like guppies, are working to transform the carp into marketable assets.These invasive species can be a real problem in established ecosystems. The only real way to control them is to unleash the planets most voracious predator, man.
First, the rebranding. In January, Louisiana wildlife officials rolled out the Silverfin Promotion, enlisting chefs to create recipes for what they called the tasty white meat of the bighead carp and silver carp, the two dominant invaders.
“A cross between scallops and crabmeat,” declared Philippe Parola, a noted seafood chef whose new recipes include silverfin almondine.
Meanwhile, would-be carp exploiters in Kentucky, after trying the fish smoked, canned and in fried balls, concluded that it tasted remarkably like tuna and proposed labeling it Kentucky tuna.
Moodys won't produce, gets a subpoena
It's the first subpoena issued by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to compel compliance, the panel's chairman, Phil Angelides, said during a conference call with reporters. The commission faces a December deadline to produce a report documenting and explaining the causes behind the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.I can understand Moody's reluctance. If it was my top grade rating that got everybody to pay top dollar for a mountain of manure I wouldn't want anyone to see how I did it either.
Until now, every party contacted by the commission has either complied or indicated a willingness to comply with its requests, Angelides said. Moody's -- one of the three major credit rating agencies accused of contributing, if not worsening, the financial crisis -- is the only party delaying the panel's investigation.
Angelides said the panel is after "essential documents and e-mails relevant to our investigation." He wouldn't specify what the commission is looking for. The commission first sent its request for documents on March 10, Angelides said.
Your Two Minute Ed
Your Dylan Dally Moment
Having trouble paying for your medical needs?
Astroturf on Wall St
Stop Too Big To FailIt is a fake group but it did manage to fool some people who should know better. TPM has the details.
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