So, Hump Day.
The New Guy
John Podesta Exclusive Extended
Back to the Future
Alas, no Wednesday Sam Bee.
Jul 27 2016
Last night the Democrats made history nominating former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to be their candidate for President of the United States
Breaking a historic barrier, Democrats triumphantly chose Hillary Clinton as their White House nominee Tuesday night, the first woman ever to lead a major political party into the general election.
Delegates erupted in cheers as Clinton’s primary rival, Bernie Sanders, helped make it official when the roll call got to his home state of Vermont – an important show of unity for a party trying to heal deep divisions.
“I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,” Sanders declared, asking that it be by acclamation.
During the traditional roll call of the states, there were some booing and a few protests with Senator Bernie Sanders supporters put duct tape over their mouths and walked out. According to reporters on the convention floor and delegates, It was less of a disruption than the press made it out to be. The night belonged to the first woman nominated to be president and the next president of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Tonight the main speakers are Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama. The convention will officially gavel in at 4:30 PM ET.
The late night hosts Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers had their say about the evening’s events. Stephen put Hillary’s nomination in perspective, “we have finally caught up with Sri Lanka.”
And Seth had a message for the Bernie or Bust bunch, “Bust Won”
Jul 27 2016
The problems at Deutsche Bank
by John Kay
July 22, 2016
In the years before the global financial crisis, bank CEOs competed like schoolboys to demonstrate that ‘my return on equity is larger than yours’. The display was led by Josef Ackermann, chief executive of Deutsche Bank from 2002 and chairman from 2006 to 2012, who announced a target of 25 per cent return on equity. In 2008, as the global financial crisis broke around him, he proudly announced that this target had been achieved.
Return on equity (RoE) is a ratio of profit to shareholders’ funds, and there are two ways to increase a ratio. You can raise the numerator – the profit – or you can reduce the denominator – the equity capital. Reducing equity is easier. RoE is a seriously misleading measure of profitability. For businesses that are not very capital-intensive – such as asset management, or other professional service firms such as accountants – high returns on equity are achievable because the capital requirement is so small. Capital-intensive businesses – in the modern economy they are principally banks, utilities and resource companies – can achieve high returns on equity only through extreme leverage, as Deutsche Bank did.
Even as the thinly capitalised Deutsche Bank was benefiting from state guarantees of its liabilities, it was buying back its own shares to reduce its capital base. And whatever return on equity was claimed by the financial officers of Deutsche Bank, the shareholder returns told a different, and more enlightening, story: the average annual total return on its shares (in US dollars with dividends re-invested) over the period May 2002 to May 2012 (Ackermann’s tenure as chief executive of the bank) was around minus 2 per cent. RoE is an inappropriate performance metric for any company, but especially for a bank, and it is bizarre that its use should have been championed by people who profess particular expertise in financial and risk management.
The key to a high return on equity is to have little equity in your capital base – to have very high leverage – and Deutsche Bank achieved this to more dramatic effect than any large company in history. At the onset of the global financial crisis equity represented less than 2 per cent of the liabilities of Germany’s largest bank. How could anyone suppose that a trading entity with liabilities twenty, thirty, even fifty times its capital would remain stable, far less be an appropriate repository for the savings of individuals and the credit system of a nation? No other industry operates on such a thin capital base, and no financial institution would lend to a non-financial institution whose finances were so insecure. But Deutsche Bank was thought to be impregnable, like Citigroup and AIG – and, thanks to the German government and European Central Bank, it is. When government stands behind you, it is not necessary to be profitable to be politically and economically powerful – or well placed to provide handsome rewards to senior employees.
The search for high returns on equity, led by Deutsche Bank, encouraged banks to build these very large balance sheets based on positions in FICC. At Deutsche, the pursuit of return on equity produced a balance sheet in which shareholders’ equity amounted to less than 2 per cent of total assets and liabilities – a leverage ratio of over fifty to one. The risk capital available to Deutsche Bank – with shareholders’ equity of €54 billion in 2012 – is not much greater than the funds available to the largest hedge funds. In 2014 Renaissance had funds under management of $38 billion and Paulson $24 billion. (J.P. Morgan and Citigroup, with shareholder funds over $200 billion, are way ahead of any hedge fund, although these banks, like Deutsche Bank, are engaged in many activities other than trading.) But banks with large retail deposit bases have significant competitive advantages in trading, as a result of the size of the collateral they offer and the implicit or explicit government guarantee of their liabilities. The scale of their activities is altogether different – and with it the potential consequences of trading losses.
However this fifty-to-one ratio actually substantially understates the leverage at Deutsche Bank, because derivative contracts create leverage. Suppose that, instead of buying a share for $100, I acquire a widely employed derivative instrument, a contract for difference in respect of that share. Through the CFD I promise to pay you, whenever I close the contract, the difference between the share price and its current value of $100. For all practical purposes this is equivalent to borrowing $100 to buy the share, and the risk management processes of a bank will record an ‘exposure’ of $100. But so long as the share price remains around $100 the accounts will record this contract at its ‘fair value’ – which is zero.
The two global banks with the largest derivatives exposures are J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank. The derivatives exposure of J.P. Morgan is around $70,000 billion and of Deutsche Bank €55,000 billion. These figures are, respectively, about one-and-a-half times the total value of all the assets in the USA, and twenty times German national income. But the numbers in the balance sheets of these banks are much lower. Deutsche Bank declares its investment in derivatives at €768 billion: not a small amount, but only a modest fraction of the bank’s exposure.
Credit risk is the supposed purview of regulatory capital requirements. And one response to the global financial crisis has been to require that more derivative contracts be cleared through exchanges. The objective is to enable assets and liabilities with the same counterparty to be offset. This measure is intended to reduce this risk in banks, at the price of creating new risk within the exchanges themselves. But whatever the extent of hedging, the sophistication of risk models and the impact of regulatory supervision, the scale of activity takes the breath away. One-tenth of 1 per cent of €55 trillion is €55 billion, and a loss of that amount would destroy either bank.
Deutsche Bank draws up its primary accounts under IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards), the European accounting standard.11 Under US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), derivatives disappear almost completely from the balance sheets of American banks. The indefatigable ISDA (which commissioned that legal opinion from Mr Potts) naturally believes GAAP is superior, and has provided data comparing major banks under the two systems. Judged by size of balance sheet as reported in annual accounts, the five largest Western banks are all European, led by France’s BNP Paribas. But if IFRS is used, the top places are taken by Bank of America and J.P. Morgan.
I suspect most readers – and certainly the writer – will simply feel at a loss to cope with these figures. €55,000,000,000,000 is a number beyond comprehension – beyond the comprehension of politicians, regulators or, importantly, the people who run Deutsche Bank. The scale of Deutsche Bank’s everyday activities – deposits of €577 billion, and loans of €397 billion – is itself extraordinary, yet insignificant relative to the bank’s total financial exposure – only 1 per cent of it. The amounts of support that the British and US governments put behind their country’s banking systems – estimated at £3 trillion and $23 trillion respectively – were sufficient to buy all the non-housing assets of these countries, yet far below the potential size of the indebtedness of these banking systems.
To help you grasp the enormity of the figures being discussed I’ll remind you that 1 Light Year == 5.88 Trillion miles, so the figure we’re talking about here is 10 Light Years of Euros.
Jul 27 2016
It has been clear since the Euro Crisis began that unless the European Union adopted more Keynesian pro-Growth fiscal policies and more democratic institutions it would ultimately fail, as the economic suffering inflicted on the populace would become unsustainable in any democratic society.
Instead what we have seen is an increase in Neoliberal control (the unaccountable European Central Bank, and the Trioka- the ECB, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission) and an explosion of anti-Growth Austerity policies.
Now the wheels are starting to fall off.
Early rebellions in places like Cyprus and Greece were not as easily disposed of as the anti-Democratic Technocrats suggested and not only have their policies failed economically, also Political resentments have increased, not just in the effected countries (including Portugal and Spain), but throughout Europe.
Brexit is an expression of that displeasure on the part of the voting class, you know, the people governments are supposed to represent.
That is only the first domino, I have pointed out recently that French citizens are desperately unhappy with their Government’s Neoliberal “reforms” and anti-EU sentiment there is higher than it ever was in England. Likewise Portugal and Spain are resentful that after suffering under years of Austerity they are being asked to endure yet more sacrifice despite fulfilling all the conditions imposed on them.
i have not yet talked about Italy (only the 4th largest economy in the EU after Germany, Britain, and France) but they may very well be the next to fall and it could happen as early as Friday.
Forget Brexit, Quitaly is Europe’s next worry
by Larry Elliott, The Guardian
Tuesday 26 July 2016 07.50 EDT
Put simply, Italy’s economy is floundering and has been for the past two decades during which time there has been virtually no growth and Italian goods have become less and less competitive in export markets.
Sluggish growth and high levels of unemployment are reflected in the high level of non-performing loans that are now hobbling Italian banks. Potential bad debts have almost doubled to €360bn (£300bn) in the past five years and now account for 18% of all outstanding loans.
Unlike Greece, Ireland or Spain, Italy did not go through a period of economic boom before the Great Recession of 2008-09. Instead, its performance has been unremittingly poor. The economy is 10% smaller than it was before the financial crisis and as a result unemployment is high, especially in the poorer southern half of the country.
In the days before it joined the euro, Italy would have been able to make itself more competitive by devaluing the lira. That option is no longer available.
The risk, therefore, is obvious. Europe suffers a fresh slowdown as a result of the shock imparted by Brexit. An already weak Italy suffers more than most and its banks start to fail. Small investors are told that European rules mean that they have to shoulder some of the losses.
Matteo Renzi’s centre left government loses power and is replaced by the Five Star Movement, which has pledged to hold a referendum on leaving the euro. Given the state of the economy, Quitaly could not be ruled out. If it happened, the single currency would collapse.
Italy Bank Crisis Looming With Rush to Rescue #3 Bank, Monte dei Paschi
by Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism
July 27, 2016
(T)he big Italian bank domino that observers have been watching most closely, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, will go critical this Friday if (more likely when) it fails the bank stress test. The non-trival problem is that implosion would be so large as to exhaust what is left of Italy’s rescue funds. Yet the ECB and European competition authorities have so far refused to give Italy a waiver under the new banking rules so that it can avoid subjecting small savers who were duped into buying bank bonds to bail-ins. Prime Minister Renzi has had a good bank/bad bank resolution plan ready to go since early this year, but using state funds to support such an approach as an alternative to bail-ins is verboten under the news rules.
So how are the Italians proposing to finesse this mess? A “private sector rescue”. That means having the less sick banks prop up the really diseased Monte dei Paschi. The net effect is to increase systemic risk, since it knits the banks together even more than before. We saw a variant of that in the US financial crisis, when bank regulators had the barmy idea of encouraging banks to buy other banks’ subordinated instruments, creating a major impediment to resolving mid and larger sized banks, since wiping out those instruments would produce losses at other banks, potentially a cascade of failures.
However, the healthier banks have nixed a straight-up equity purchase. As you’ll see, the latest plan looks unworkable, since it calls for more fresh capital via a rights issue. And who pray tell will stump up for that?
Italian banks are full of bad loans. Italy was seeking authorization to use €40 billion in state funds to rescue its banks. An analyst cited in the Financial Times piece thinks it will take a mere €30 billion. Either way, even if the authorities manage to cobble together a scheme to keep Monte dei Paschi going, the bank failing its stress test would put even more pressure on Italian banks and Eurobanks seen as fragile, such as Deutsche Bank.
The plan in Italy seemed to be to try to hold the banking system together until the constitutional referendum in October. Renzi earlier said he’d resign if it failed but recently he’s tried retreating from that position. Commentators believe that if Italy were forced to resort to a bank bail-in, voters would take their revenge on Renzi in the polling booth. If his referendum failed, Renzi’s government may fall regardless. The pro-exit Five Star movement is the leading party in Italy right now, and it has promised it would have a referendum on leaving the Eurozone. So the political and economic stakes are extremely high.
The death watch over Monte dei Paschi has a Lehman-esqe feel. The powers that be were hoping they could hold off a financial crisis until after a key election, yet they were also deeply committed to not doing any bailouts. The Europeans may be about to learn that their “kick the can down the road” strategy has taken them to the brink of a precipice.
Jul 27 2016
“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.
Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt
Democrats could lose the election this November: just watch Hillary Clinton being booed at her own party convention. But, if that happens, it won’t be the fault of Sanders’ supporters. No – the blame will fall on the DNC. They could have played to the future of our country and the economic vision we desire. Instead, they gave us “super-predator” Clinton and milquetoast, pro-banking Tim Kaine. [..]
I don’t endorse the demagoguery of Trump. I also know that there are positive aspects to Obama’s record for the marginalized. Similarly, Hillary Clinton has policies that would be better for some American women and LGBT people, though Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to rain terror on people in other countries.
But I don’t know how any of the flaws of Trump can be explained to his supporters, especially when the Democratic party can’t offer an economic vision to their own angry voters. Indeed, the Democrats seem bent on putting up people and policies that will redistribute money to Wall Street and ignore the 99% when their base been screaming at them to stop this.
Americans might not regret casting a vote for Trump until it’s too late. By not being bold and changing its course right now, the Democratic party is increasing the risk of this happening.
Jessica Valenti: Michelle Obama’s epic speech showed us how bad the alternative is
It’s hard to imagine two political conventions more dissimilar than the ones we’ve watched this past month. The Democratic and Republican gatherings have played out as a study in differences: hope against fear; love against hate. And perhaps most starkly, they’ve demonstrated a shocking contrast in gender politics – authenticity against Republican fakery.
On Monday night, the DNC stage hosted women talking about everything from pay equity to disability rights. In Cleveland last week, Republican speakers promised they had women’s best interests at heart while stoking the crowd to yell “lock her up” and “guilty” in reference to Hillary Clinton, a move more reminiscent of a Salem witch trial than a 2016 political event. In Philadelphia, people are sporting feminist shirts and carrying pro-labor signs; shirts at the RNC said things like “Hillary sucks but not like Monica”.
The Democrats had Michelle Obama, bringing down the house in an epic speech on Monday where she tearfully noted, “because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States”.
Jul 27 2016
Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover
we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.
An armistice ends the Korean War; A House panel votes to impeach President Richard Nixon; A pipe bomb explodes at the Atlanta Olympics; The deposed Shah of Iran and comedian Bob Hope die.
Show me a good loser and I’ll show you an idiot.
Jul 26 2016
Pretty much the same deal as last week. On the first day Sam Bee did a show, Trevor did clips, Larry was pre-emmpted, and Stephen was live.
The Real Deal
Tonight everyone except Sam is on, I’m not sure if she’s going to do a repeat of her Wednesday special for the Democrats.
Jul 26 2016
Session Opens at 4:30 pm ET. Business- Nominations and Roll Call. How that goes? Your guess is as good as mine.
4:55 pm Nomination and Seconding speeches. Sanders up first.
Jul 26 2016
It is starting to dawn on the Quisling Blairite Neolib Tory-lites of the Parliamentary Labour Party that their coup de estate against Jeremy Corbyn is a massive failure despite their anti-demcratic machinations to disenfranchise their members.
Corbyn leads Owen Smith, a feckless non-entity who was nevertheless seen as more “electable” than the outright Conservatine Angela Eagle by their collective brain trust which seems to share but a single one between all 172 of their traitorous minds, by a margin of over 2 to 1 in a Party that has more than doubled its membership under his guidance.
THeir once solid front has started to crumble and unless salvaged by an unlikely Court ruling against the National Executive Committee (which is in the tank for the PLP just as much as it is now proven the Democratic National Committee was playing favorites for Hillary) the insurrection is kaput.
Sarah Champion won’t be the last one to come crawling back to Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet when reality sinks in
by Anna Rhodes, The Independent
Sarah Champion, who resigned from her post on the front bench less than a month ago, wrote to Jeremy Corbyn this week asking for her role of Shadow Home Office minister back – after betraying him during the “Benn revolt” of June. Yes, she’s managed to pull off that most difficult of manoeuvres, the un-resign.
Let’s remember that on the 29th June, she tweeted: “Jeremy’s position is now untenable if we’re to be effective” and “I can only do what’s right even though it’s breaking my heart.” Evidently, Champion has either had a huge ideological change of mind, or she’s covering her back, as she knows there’s no way that Owen Smith is going to win the leadership contest.
The polls are all showing Smith trailing behind Corbyn like a small child chasing an ice cream van on a warm summer’s day, and it’s safe to say that Champion has decided that there’s no way she’s taking the hit when the shit hits the fan on results day.
A smart move, one would say, considering that Corbyn, backed by his uber-supporters in Momentum, is threatening reselection of MPs following the boundary changes due to be put in place in 2017. With Owen Smith highly unlikely to hustle up the support to unseat Comrade Corbyn from his throne of mandates, it is no surprise that Champion has gotten in there first and graciously returned to the welcoming arms of her leader on high.
But the reality of the situation is that she will not just have to get back in Corbyn’s good books – she will have hundreds of thousands of angry pro-Corbyn supporters to prove herself to. Momentum tweeted “#WelcomeBackSarah”, but the welcome will presumably not be so gracious to all of the former Shadow Cabinet members who come crawling back following Corbyn’s re-election as leader. One can only envisage the smiling faces on the opposition benches in November – Emperor Corbyn flanked by Brutus and the conspirators.
One wonders how many other MPs will trail back over the coming weeks. This of course does not include Andy Burnham, who realised from the off that it would be a disaster to ditch Corbyn while running for Metro Mayor in an area with a strong Corbynite mandate. He was denounced at the time, but it’s highly likely he’ll be keeping his spot at the top table, while the rest will be simmering away with anger on the backbenches, or in the pub if they’re royally de-selected in 2017.
Labour MPs should get behind Jeremy Corbyn or get out
by By Chris Williamson, Politics.co.uk
Monday, 25 July 2016 8:51 AM
Despite what you may have read elsewhere, the Labour Party is in rude health. For the first time in decades, we are a mass movement party offering a bold prospectus to the country. Sadly one tiny branch of the party is struggling to come to terms with that fact.
The tiny branch in question is the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). I was a member of this branch for five years from 2010 until 2015.
I remember standing in a PLP meeting listening to Ed Miliband telling MPs that his reforms could lead to Labour becoming a genuinely mass party with 400,000 members, or more. When he sat down, he was cheered to the rafters by many of the same people who are now complaining that Labour has too many members.
Two years on and it seems many Labour MPs are no longer so keen on being part of a genuinely democratic political party. While they should be celebrating the democratic revival within the party, for some reason a number of Labour MPs don’t see it that way and have forced another leadership contest just 10 months after members last made their choice clear.
The unsuccessful coup attempt that preceded the leadership challenge was an inexcusable fit of pique that has baffled, angered and alienated hundreds of thousands of members and millions of supporters. Furthermore, the ongoing refusal by the majority of the PLP to take up positions on the frontbench, in order to hold the government to account, means they are effectively refusing to do their job. In any other profession this would lead to summary dismissal for gross misconduct.
The PLP’s petulant behaviour has already brought the party into disrepute and in less than two months they must come to terms with whoever is elected leader of the party. If it is Jeremy Corbyn again, they need to stop the sniping and start selling the message of hope that Jeremy represents.
They should celebrate the fact that Labour’s membership is touching 600,000 and is still growing. It is a number Ed Miliband, and those cheering him in that PLP meeting two years ago, could have only dreamed about But it is now a reality. Labour’s members are a huge asset and should be nurtured not neglected and insulted.
People have been inspired to join in huge numbers because of Jeremy Corbyn’s integrity and policy agenda. He won the Labour leadership last year because he offered an alternative to austerity and the stale old politics of the last three decades.
His plans to ensure a future Labour government would make the economy work for everyone, not just the top one per cent, was a refreshing change to the austerity-lite that Labour had previously offered.
His commitment that a future Labour Government would build council houses and regulate private sector rents struck a chord with millions affected by the housing crisis.
His pledge to scrap tuition fees and reintroduce student maintenance grants was greeted with acclaim by everyone who is dismayed by the commodification of higher education.
His promise to renationalise the railways and take a stake in our utilities is hugely popular with the vast majority of the British public who are sick of being ripped-off by these privatised industries.
His determination to substantially increase the minimum wage, invest in hi-tech manufacturing and stop corporations offshoring skilled and semi-skilled jobs is acknowledged as plain common sense.
His guarantee that a future Labour government would repeal the anti-trade union legislation, clamp down on tax evasion and stop British dependencies being used as tax havens would improve the living standards of millions.
And his resolve to renew the nation’s infrastructure, create a million green jobs and eradicate fuel poverty is welcomed by campaigners, trade unions and businesses alike.
Jeremy Corbyn is offering the country a new consensus; a consensus that works in the interest of the majority of the British people. This is precisely why he is being traduced by the very establishment who want to preserve the status quo. That establisment includes those Labour MPs who are attempting to sabotage Labour’s efforts to build a fairer, compassionate, and more secure and prosperous country.
Despite all the attacks, I believe Jeremy’s innovative and hopeful policy agenda will once again secure him the Labour leadership, and enable him to go on to be a great reforming prime minister. If the PLP are unable to accept that then they should consider another job.
Jul 26 2016
It’s not just in the United States that the incompetence of Neoliberal elites and failure of Neoliberal policies is causing it to lose its grip on political power in areas which democracy has not yet been totally stifled. We see it in Britain with the Brexit vote and the seemingly inevitable re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Likewise in France where September is almost certain to bring a violent reaction to Holland’s sell out on Labor Laws.
Other European nations on the brink include Spain, Italy and… Portugal.
Here’s an interesting report from Real News Network on recent activity.
What started off as a financial crisis in Europe has now turned and become a crisis of the eurozone. There has been unprecedented wave of mass strikes, signifying the discontent of the working classes. In Greece, for example, people elected the leftist SYRIZA Party and voted no to austerity debt deal offered to them by the Troika. In France, there has been consistent strikes against efforts to reverse labor rights by the so-called socialist government. Among other interesting developments in Portugal, the people elected a socialist party which vowed to curb E.U. austerity. In the U.K., they voted for Brexit. Some claim that this was due to the antidemocratic neoliberal structures of the European Union.
So what exactly are the limits of the European project? And how does the left seize the moment to build a popular movement of the left across the continent?
Podemos does have this idea–or a part of Podemos says it’s possible to restructure. At the same time, a part of Podemos is organizing what we call Plan B, which is a conference that is gathering a lot of different left-wing activists and intellectuals, left-wing economists to think about exiting the European Union in a coordinated way from the left, and exiting the euro particularly. So Podemos is doing both things, which is exactly what I think the left needs to be doing right now. We need to rethink strategies, and in a coordinated way, preferentially.
(T)here’s different people from different parties in the European context that are coming together to discuss: what do we need, for example, to leave the eurozone? What kind of policies of reindustrialization would we need? Who could we count on, for example, if there is an exit from one of the Southern European countries? How could this be coordinated with other countries and the left of other countries? And discussing the relation of forces that we’re in today, and try to build a common analysis from the left, as there was a common analysis of the need of reform in the European Union and not leaving it. This is kind of an effort to rethink a new strategy in a coordinated way. And I think this is a very important thing that is happening.