Daily Archive: 12/07/2011

Dec 07 2011

The Fed Strikes Back And Fails

Poor Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, he got dissed by Bloomberg News investigation of his $7.7 trillion give away, so he sends a six page complaint (pdf) to Congress. Bloomberg News responded to Ben’s whining with a blow by blow response:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in a letter to four senior lawmakers today that recent news articles about the central bank’s emergency lending programs contained “egregious errors.”

While Bernanke’s letter and an accompanying four-page staff memo posted on the Fed’s website didn’t mention any news organizations by name, Bloomberg News has published a series of articles this year examining the bailout. The latest, “Secret Fed Loans Gave Banks $13 Billion Undisclosed to Congress,” appeared Nov. 28.

“Bloomberg stands by its reporting,” said Matthew Winkler, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News.

Yves Smith weighs in on the “food fight”:

First, it [the Fed] tries the sneaky device of complaining about all the bad press it is getting, and alludes in passing to the latest Bloomberg report (“one last week”). So are we dealing with the general or the specific? The attachment to the letter, which makes a series of specific claims of where the coverage allegedly was off beam, was rebutted with great speed and vigor by Bloomberg. So trying to have it both ways (attacking Bloomberg but trying to depict it as part of general critic wrongheadedness) backfired.

But what is even more striking is the tone and substance of the letter: overreaching words like “egregious,” the patently false claims that there is nothing new in the latest (and by implication, earlier) Bloomberg stories, that the disclosure issues are settled. If there was no new information given to Bloomberg, then why did the Fed fight so hard to prevent the release of information? The Fed has never been cooperative. Even with the Congressional Oversight Panel, the so called Sanders report coming out of Audit the Fed (and remember, the Fed succeeded in lobbying to narrow the scope of Audit the Fed), a new GAO report, the latest Bloomberg FOIA still pried loose more information. The Fed is clearly not interested in transparency, but keeps trying to claims that everything that anyone would want to know is public, and there really is nothing here to discuss any more. [..]

But the biggest lie in this fabric of Big Lies is that the banks were just suffering a wee liquidity crisis in the crisis, not a solvency crisis. If that was true, why did we need a TARP plus making failed credit default swap hedges good via the AIG rescue? In addition, Steve Waldman has described, long form, that bank equity is such an abstraction, in that there is a very high degree of uncertainty in the value of both assets and liabilities, that you need much bigger buffers of equity than anyone now has to properly deem a bank to be solvent […] The regulators determine whether a bank was insolvent. And since no regulator was willing to say a bank was insolvent (although Sheila Bair was clearly close to doing so with Citi), ipso facto, they were all solvent. Nice to have such accommodating people handing out grades.

The most laughable part of the Fed’s defense is the claim that Congress was fully informed about their actions. Really? Not according to Rep. Barnie Frank, former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who said “”We didn’t know the specifics.”

It is well past time for Congress to rein in the Fed. Anyone have a toga?

Dec 07 2011

December 7, 1941: This Is Not A Drill

Photobucket

Click on image to enlarge

This message was sent to all in the US Naval Fleet at 8:00 AM HST by Admiral Husband Kimmel, in charge of Pearl Harbor.

h/t Command Posts

Dec 07 2011

Punting the Pundits

“Punting 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 “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Katrina vanden Heuvel: It’s accountability time for banks and Wall Street

There’s a scene in the HBO adaptation of Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book “Too Big to Fail” where Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s adviser suggests he call Warren Buffett to ask for help with Lehman Brothers. “As what?” responds Paulson. “Warren’s friend? His former banker? The treasury secretary? No!” In the movie, Paulson understands the difference, that there are bright lines that he should not cross. In real life, it turns out, these were not the kind of distinctions Paulson was particularly concerned about making.

Missing from that movie – and other first drafts of recent financial history – was a bombshell recently uncovered by Bloomberg’s Richard Teitelbaum: Paulson gave his hedge fund friends inside information about government plans to seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, seven weeks before it happened. Common stock and some preferred stock would be wiped out in the process, he told them, meaning a bet against the giants was a bet that could make them millions. Those without connections to Paulson didn’t get a tip-off; worse, they got the opposite. On the same day that Paulson met with the hedge funds, he told the New York Times that markets would soon have reason for renewed confidence in both enterprises.

Yves Smith: Obama Road Tests Hopey-Changey Big Lie 2.0: He’ll Reincarnate as Teddy Roosevelt if You Are Dumb Enough to be Fooled Twice

Wow, I have to hand it to Obama’s spinmeisters. They’ve managed to find a way to resurrect his old hopium branding by calling it something completely different that still has many of the old associations. [..]

Team Obama may have planned to wheel this new, improved image out later, with the timing accelerated by Judge Jed Rakoff’s decision against a proposed $285 million settlement between the SEC and Citigroup over a bum CDO in which Citi allegedly wielded considerable influence over its contents so it could bet against it. The SEC has gone on a full bore media offensive against Rakoff, with enforcement chief Robert Khuzami’s becoming uncharacteristically accessible to the media and also using scheduled speaking engagements to take issue with Rakoff’s ruling. And on top of Khuzami’s own efforts, the media has taken up some other dubious plants by the SEC. The biggest howler is a story in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. Titled “Financial Crimes Bedevil Prosecutors,” not one of the sources for the story is a prosecutor!

Amy Goodman: Listen to the People, Not the Polluters

There is a growing consensus here in Durban that the United States is the main impediment to progress at these crucial talks. A consortium of 16 of the major environmental groups in the U.S. wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who directly oversees the U.S. climate negotiations. They pointed out that, while President Barack Obama originally campaigned on a promise to lead in global climate negotiations, “three years later, America risks being viewed not as a global leader on climate change, but as a major obstacle to progress.”

The fossil-fuel industry exerts enormous influence over the U.S. government, and over the U.S. public, with tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and PR campaigns to shape public opinion. Kumi Naidoo, who has been jailed many times for his activism, compared the struggle against apartheid to the fight against climate change: “If people around the world can actually unite-trade unions, social movements, religious leaders, environmental groups and so on, which we saw in the march on Saturday-I pray and hope that we will have a similar kind of miracle to get these climate negotiations to deliver a fair, ambitious and legally binding outcome.”

Naomi Wolf: The American hangover

Trends in American leisure activities reflect a change – frugality and making do are in, gaudy consumerism is out.

New York, NY – As turmoil stalks the US financial markets and protests fill its streets, Americans’ lifestyle choices are evolving in a telling way: Once seen by the rest of the world as an exuberant teenager – the globe’s extrovert, exporter of rock ‘n’ roll and flashy Hollywood movies – Americans are now becoming decidedly withdrawn, or at least inward-looking. Trends in leisure activities reflect that change: Frugality and making do are in; gaudy consumerism is out. [..]

Ronald Reagan asserted in 1980 that it was “morning in America”, but in the US now, it is the morning after. This drive towards an off-the-grid, eat-what-you-raise, bike-there-on-your-own, solar-powered collective fantasy is inevitable: Americans were pumped full of hope that more consumption would make them happier, and instead were left with a pile of debt. They were asked to admire the top of the income pyramid, only to find that they were looking at a pyramid scheme.

Maureen Dowd: Silence Is Golden

Hello chatter, my old friend.

The sounds of silence are a dim recollection now, like mystery, privacy and paying attention to one thing – or one person – at a time.

As far back as half-a-century ago, the Swiss philosopher Max Picard warned: “Nothing has changed the nature of man so much as the loss of silence,” once as natural as the sky and air.

As fiendish little gadgets conspire to track our movements and record our activities wherever we go, producing a barrage of pictures of everything we’re doing and saying, our lives will unroll as one long instant replay.

There will be fewer and fewer of what Virginia Woolf called “moments of being,” intense sensations that stand apart from the “cotton wool of daily life.”

Dec 07 2011

On this Day In History December 7

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 7 is the 341st day of the year (342nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 24 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1787, (In) Dover, Delaware, the U.S. Constitution is unanimously ratified by all 30 delegates to the Delaware Constitutional Convention, making Delaware the first state of the modern United States.

Less than four months before, the Constitution was signed by 37 of the original 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention meeting in Philadelphia. The Constitution was sent to the states for ratification, and, by the terms of the document, the Constitution would become binding once nine of the former 13 colonies had ratified the document. Delaware led the process, and on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, making federal democracy the law of the land. Government under the U.S. Constitution took effect on March 4, 1789.

Delaware  is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The state takes its name from Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, an English nobleman and Virginia’s first colonial governor, after whom (what is now called) Cape Henlopen was originally named.

Delaware is located in the northeastern portion of the Delmarva Peninsula and is the second smallest state in area (after Rhode Island). Estimates in 2007 rank the population of Delaware as 45th in the nation, but 6th in population density, with more than 60% of the population in New Castle County. Delaware is divided into three counties. From north to south, these three counties are New Castle, Kent, and Sussex. While the southern two counties have historically been predominantly agricultural, New Castle County has been more industrialized.

The state ranks second in civilian scientists and engineers as a percentage of the workforce and number of patents issued to companies or individuals per 1,000 workers. The history of the state’s economic and industrial development is closely tied to the impact of the Du Pont family, founders and scions of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, one of the world’s largest chemical companies.

Before its coastline was first explored by Europeans in the 16th century, Delaware was inhabited by several groups of Native Americans, including the Lenape in the north and Nanticoke in the south. It was initially colonized by Dutch traders at Zwaanendael, located near the present town of Lewes, in 1631. Delaware was one of the thirteen colonies participating in the American Revolution and on December 7, 1787, became the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby becoming known as The First State.

Delaware is the home state of Vice President Joseph Biden

Dec 07 2011

Love is Hard, but Rewarding

Alexis, only 34 months old today, had her tonsils removed.  As a scientist, I am not fully in agreement with that.  But her physician thought it the right thing to do.

Ashley, 19 years old, and the mother of Alexis, asked me to visit tonight.  I did!

Dec 07 2011

C’thulhu fhtagn

Then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.

I’ve been following what purports to be a conversation with a libertarian over at Naked Capitalism and I hardly know how to characterize it except as pathological.  It’s faith based and factually wrong in addition to being illegal, immoral, and selfish.

I’m not making the claim that it accurately represents libertarian doctrine or practice, or even the viewpoint of a real human being and not a fictional straw man construct.

Frankly I don’t know what to think.  I was appalled and horrified reading it and draw your attention because of those qualities.

By Andrew Dittmer, who recently finished his PhD in mathematics at Harvard and is currently continuing work on his thesis topic. He also taught mathematics at a local elementary school. Andrew enjoys explaining the recent history of the financial sector to a popular audience.

Simulposted at The Distributist Review

(h/t Think Progress)